We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, October 19. 2018
About a year ago our niece had a child. Shortly afterward, my in-laws felt it was time to go meet their great-grandchild. It became a family event. 5 of us flew from various locations to Arizona. We rented a van and took the 8 week old on her first grand family adventure, spending a weekend traveling through Sedona, up to Williams, and riding the Grand Canyon Railroad up to see the big hole in the ground.
A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of an old church in Europe, commenting "I wish we had old things like this here in the U.S." My tongue-in-cheek reply was "We do! The Grand Canyon is much, much older." In many ways, the Grand Canyon is much more beautiful than a church or any architecture man could devise.
I had never been to the Grand Canyon before. I can't say anything which hasn't already been said about its grandeur. I'll toss in a few pictures of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, but the reality is pictures simply can't capture the immensity and beauty.
We were on the South Rim, about mid-point of the canyon. It's 18 miles across at this location, and the North Rim is higher than the South Rim, so you look 'up' at the far side. Nowadays, there is no private property in the area, except for whatever was grandfathered in when the park was created. At this location, the El Tovar Hotel is right on the rim. We didn't stay, but it is a beautiful hotel if you enjoy the look of rustic West (I do).
The Grand Canyon Railroad is a fun way to get to there, especially if you're a family with kids. You don't get much time at the canyon itself, about 3 1/2 hours. However, you don't have to drive, you get to take in the scenery, the kids interact with cowboys and there is a train robbery on the ride home. It leaves at 9:15 am from Williams, Arizona (the last town bypassed by Interstate 40, and a town chock full of Route 66 memorabilia) and arrives at the canyon around 11:30. A tour guide gives a running commentary as cowboys stroll up and down the train strumming guitars and singing tunes for tips. There are a variety of vistas which are passed. High plains, forest, ranch, and mountains are all part of the two and a half hour trip. We saw elk, antelope, and jackrabbit galore.
I really enjoyed this trip, and there's so much to see I am inspired to return. I doubt I'd do the railroad again, and I'd like to see the canyon from several different places. I'd also like to go down into it, which I didn't have time to do. Always leave something for the next time. That's pretty much my motto when I travel.
Continue reading "The Grand Canyon"
Wednesday, October 17. 2018
Mrs. BD is planning a trip to Normandy with her Dad. She has already signed up a well-respected Brit guide who will drive them all around.
Flight to Paris, train to Normandy, guide pick-up at train and ride to their (first floor) rooms at a chateau. The old guy is not great with stairs anymore but what he lacks in agility he makes up with Rugged Determination. 7-day trip, with no doubt great food.
My father-in-law has been a history buff all his life. Always had regrets that he was far too young to get into the Army in WW2. His much elder brother was in the third wave at Omaha Beach, while another brother was stationed at the Bermuda air station for the entire war. Sheesh. Of course, I he had to take crap about that.
The old guy always wanted to tour Normandy, but his Mrs. would never OK it although they did travel everywhere on the planet - entire USA and Canada, Japan, Australia, China, Thailand, Scandinavia, Sicily, all of Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hawaii, Mexico, Bolivia, India - you name it. Always up for adventure into their 80s.
Besides it having been a final item on his bucket list, Mrs. BD felt it would inspire him to get into better shape after his quadruple bypass, multiple heart attacks, botched back surgeries, protsate cancer, and other medical misadventures not to mention arthiritis, etc. The anticipation has gotten him out walking distances again, and thus far has managed to lose 30 lbs. by eating rationally on my advice. After his PT he gets to his gym every day.
An American story: Second-generation Irish. Shanty Irish. Reluctant HS graduate, worked since age 8 (at first, in bowling alleys as a pin boy), later as A/C repair and the like until got onto the NYPD. Yes, he can be a pretty tough SOB when needed. I have his retired billy club but never used it on my kids. When he got that pension, became an entrepreneur with his Mrs and they built a very successful business together (she had been working on it for years already). They sold it in their 70s with a nice profit.
I do love this youthful old fellow. Love his stories about taking his baby sister to the outhouse in snowstorms in Jersey City, and their summers working on a farm in Spring Lake (NJ). No father (died young), 5 kids, wonderful but poor childhood (His baby sis slept in a dresser drawer), and wonderful successful and adventurous life. And, being Irish, a brilliant and entertaining story-teller so he has always been socially popular. Very much so - he is a fun guy and a great companion. When he was younger, we would go for 10-mile runs and he would try to tell me jokes the whole way while I would try to point out the birds.
I am so pleased with Mrs. BD's plan with him. I am not going. I want them to have this trip together. I think it will be his last international trip. His passport is up to date. God bless him, he still loves chances to get into NYC to see his old haunts and to stop into Irish pubs for a beer or two even if he needs a cane. Some people are just blessed with joie de vivre. Can't keep a good man down.
Monday, September 24. 2018
I agree with most of Bird Dog's review of The Labyrinth. In the comments you'll see I'd take task on the over-40 commentary. A good gym regimen is enough to keep you going and the fact one of our group did the scramble with a new hip says much about will as it does skill or fitness (admittedly, she runs marathons with that new hip, so she's not lacking in fitness). You DO need to be in shape. A good number of us emerged without our jackets, soaked in sweat. Those two fellows waiting at the top of Lemon Squeeze (both in late 20's, early 30's) were laughing in part from our dialogue, but also at the surprise of seeing a group of nine people aged 55+ emerging from that space. If you remember The Phantom Tollbooth, it pays to be Canby, as well. I can be young, I can be strong, I can be tall, I can be small. Be what you can be. It pays off in the scramble.
Hiking and some mountain climbing (my 2 experiences with rappelling were in New Mexico when I was 14), from my Boy Scout days, provided an edge. Mrs. Bulldog has only taken on hiking recently, though she does quite a bit of walking around town. Her 4 experiences of this sort of activity are limited to a climb up Quail Mountain at Joshua Tree with me in 2012, the Labyrinth, and our two previous hikes with Bird Dog and Mrs. Bird Dog.
More below the fold, with photos -
Continue reading "My Class Report on Mohonk"
Saturday, September 22. 2018
Let's visit Paris
Tuesday, September 18. 2018
It's not easy to get there, which is the point. We've been there. Not much to do there after looking at St. John The Revelator's supposed cave, and the magnificent Greek Orthodox monastery with its monks. Nice long hike up the hill of this desolate island. A few nice cafes on the harbor.
The cave was closed when we hiked by. As I recall, the water was chilly but we swam anyway. I picked up a pretty stone from the beach to give to my pastor. We had recently read Revelation in our study class.
Saturday, September 1. 2018
Just three of them jump to mind, but there must be many more examples where changing geography left cities built on sea-going commerce sitting on silted rivers, and further from the ocean.
I am thinking of Florence, Seville, and Pisa. Oh - Pompeii was a seaport too, which is partly why it was so full of whorehouses. Whorehouses and temples and fast food joints - that was Pompeii. Here's The lost harbour of Pisa revealed
Classic visit to Pisa (which is actually a charming antique town like San Gimignano or Siena): Grab a slice of pizza, take a selfie in front of the bell tower, then get back on the air-conditioned bus.
Other examples of cities which were once important seaports?
Sunday, August 19. 2018
Foggy drizzly Atlantic morning beach hike, Newcomb Hollow to Cahoon's Hollow, and back. Big shorebird migration last week. Hundreds of Least Sandpipers and Bonaparte's Gulls. Lots of Grey Seals people-watching. Great Whites seal-watching, I guess, too.
Besides multi-generational family tradition and the regular presence of my very high-energy sibs and their interesting kids (I went for an early morning jog - 5:30 or so, and ran past the town tennis courts. "Hey, Bird Dog - I have a spare racquet in my car". My brother and sis were playing tennis already, so we did Canadian doubles for an hour), I'll offer some reasons we love it there, and a few pictures, below the fold:
Continue reading "A Cape Cod state of mind: Why we love Wellfleet, MA"
Sunday, July 29. 2018
The best places to admire NYC’s incredible comeback
A friend had a birthday dinner at Danny Meyer's new place, Manhatta, recently. Loved it. Loved the views, too.
Monday, July 9. 2018
Backroads is a bit pricey, but they are excellent. The Dolomites—A Peak Experience in Italy & Austria. We've hiked quite a bit up there, but the bike trip sounds very cool if you're in shape for hill biking.
I like these: Self-guided hiking trips in Italy. Cheap. The Francigena Way appeals to me.
Tuesday, July 3. 2018
A friend just returned from a destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. It's a World Heritage site. He loved it - said it felt like Seville but with lots of Central American Indians. Turns out it is popular for expats and American retirees - 20% of its population is non-Mexican. Due to its altitude, it is always Springtime there.
10 Reasons Why People Fall in Love With San Miguel de Allende. There's one error in that HuffPo piece: There is no way that famous 1880 neo-gothic church facade was inspired by Gaudi. Seems unlikely.
I enjoy Mexico, but not Cancun and Cozumel and all those drunks and college trash. I think I'll plan San Miguel for next winter, then maybe hop over to Puerto Vallarta for some water and beach.
Wednesday, June 20. 2018
The rural scenery and the suppers (Tuscany = minimal pasta) should be excellent. Daily distances do not seem challenging (8-9 miles/day) but I don't know how hilly or uneven the route is.
Wednesday, June 6. 2018
This may come across as an ad, though it's not meant to be. It's a series of observations made while briefly visiting to Disneyworld this past weekend with my wife and extended family visiting from Ireland.
Despite my belief that Disney couldn't be so special, I learned Disneyworld really is a magical place. The magic, however, does not reside in what Disney does, how it is presented, or what it provides. That is all a manifestation of Disney’s corporate pursuit of perfection, a laudable and wonderful goal which its cast members manage to achieve daily. Before I explain the magic, I'd like to consider a few things Disney is capable of accomplishing each and every day.
Every morning, they restock and restore food and merchandise stocks to accommodate about 53,000 people. When you consider the average US town is about 20,000 residents, Disneyworld is a fairly large town (2 and a half times as large as the average US town). This town is renewed each day with new 'citizens' with a myriad of different tastes and desires. Many, if not all, share the love of Disney products of some kind, but there is no accounting for the plethora of other wants and needs that arrive daily. From the number of chicken fingers needed to the amount of spaghetti required, the slushies and ice cream served to mouse ears sold - Disney has quite a large number of items to prepare for each and every day. Yet Disney manages to fulfill its requirements in a more than adequate fashion. I'd go so far as to say they overachieve their goals each day, based on my experience.
Continue reading "The Real Magic of Disney"
Monday, June 4. 2018
Tuesday, May 8. 2018
View of the lake last weekend, with Shadbush in full bloom.
My kids are 4th generation Mohonk-lovers. A perfect New York State getaway for outdoorsy people. A classic old-timey place and somewhat kid-friendly.
The place has changed a bit over its 146 years. For examples, the rustic old Quaker place has decided to serve alcohol at meals, there is no longer a daily morning prayer service (sad - it was a good way to begin a day), dancing is permitted, and they built a lovely indoor pool. Also, it has become more expensive but the meals are far better than decades past when "Quaker simple" ruled and the only dessert was rice pudding. Still, no TVs and the rooms are plain although there are 130 working fireplaces. Just call down and they will bring you wood.
Also, a 110 year-old golf course and tennis courts.
The Smiley family, who have owned and run it since the beginning, gave around 10,000 acres to the Mohonk Preserve Land Trust, but the resort still has around 4000 acres of woods, gardens, pasture, the lake, etc. Of their 85 miles of hiking (or running, cross-country-skiing, etc) trails, many of them are wide, well-maintained gravel trails built in the 1870s for horse and buggies and designed to show the mountain views. Plenty of them are rugged enough, too.
You might call it a resort, but it's really not luxurious and is all about outdoor activity in all seasons. For us, it's about the hiking. I like to do an upper-body workout in the gym early, then do hikes after breakfast and skip lunch. Just bring a banana and an orange in the day pack. On our next visit, I want to focus more on bouldering and climbing trails than on plain hiking. My relatives like to use it for runs.
I am planning a bouldering day trip there soon for our hiking pals. As a reader reminded us, if you buy one meal online in advance you can get a day pass for everything.
More of my free ad for Mohonk below the fold, with snaps -
Continue reading "Free ad: Mohonk hiking and scrambling"
Friday, April 27. 2018
Thanks, Bruce. I want to do this: Hiking the Jordan Trail to Petra
Monday, April 23. 2018
I was asked today why I took a hike around Brooklyn. To non-readers of Maggie's, the answer isn't easy since I prefer to blog with a pseudonym and try to keep work and blogging separated, for a variety of reasons.
However, the answer I give is that I enjoy history, architecture, art history, and the company of people who enjoy these things as well. While the original hike was an attempt to meet some of our readers (and a chance for me to meet our editor for the first time), we knew just walking around aimlessly wasn't going to suit people's purposes.
After working with Bird Dog to put the first walk together, I began having some fun actually finding interesting and wacky things to look at around New York City. I saw a question in an open forum on another site which asked "What are some things about New York that nobody knows about and I should go see?" I felt qualified enough to answer that question, and most of the Maggie's hikers - certainly any who have gone on all four - should also feel qualified. As Bird Dog asked while we stood in front of a townhouse completely covered in mosaics, "Where do you find this stuff?" Most of it I've found just by scouring the internet. Places like Untapped Cities, Atlas Obscura, and New York Historical Society are obvious starting points. It's strange to say "places" for a virtual location, but our virtual world is an addition to our real one, and it should be used in that fashion. For many it is just a place to escape from reality, through games or social engines. That's fine. But it is also an amazing learning tool that is often underutilized.
Within those starting points, we can spin off further. Following links within articles which lead to stories about locations and art. Even the social engines are useful. Mrs. Bulldog, after all, found our DUMBO/Manhattan Bridge picture location because she is on Instagram and saw it was one of the best photo locations. Interestingly enough, her research on that also led to the addition of the Commandant's House (late editing note: when we visited this, I merely said the Commodore of the Navy Yard lived here. This was not incorrect, however, I missed that Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who opened Japan and whose flag was displayed on the USS Missouri during the signing of documents ending WWII, lived there), the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, and the Old Stone House. So even social media is useful in doing research, though we often malign it as useless.
Ultimately, it's good fun, it's great exercise (I was very stiff the next day, not sore), and it's a chance to socialize and learn from our surroundings and our fellow travelers. An annual mini-Canterbury Tales, if you will. A pilgrimage to nowhere in particular, except to exercise our bodies and minds.
Thank you all, again, for joining and looking forward to next year. I'm thinking Upper Manhattan. The Cloisters, Mother Cabrini, the High Bridge, Morris-Jumel Mansion, the old Polo Grounds, Battle of Harlem Heights, etc. Northern Manhattan is walkable today (it certainly wasn't in 1985, when I first moved here). If we're lucky, maybe take a gander at Yankee Stadium, even though it's not the original.
I promise to keep it under 10 miles this time.
Sunday, April 22. 2018
This was not the longest hike we've had, or so I thought. After reviewing the last three, I came to realize I'd bitten off a bigger chunk of steak than realized. We clocked in at just over 11 miles, and prior to yesterday, 10 was the longest. For some reason I had believed our hike two years ago was closer to 13 miles when in fact it wasn't even 9.5.
As always, an enjoyable group. We renewed friendships from previous years' hikes, made some new ones, and I even learned my cousin and his friends have never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, despite one of his friends working for Pinkerton. Kids these days!
Mrs. Bulldog and I enjoyed a cocktail with two of our fellow trekkers at Ryan Maguire's, near where we'd parked. We commented what a pleasant and interesting group of people we did these hikes with. Everyone is open to chat, friendly, full of fun and information. Good people, no microagressions were noticed, no need for safe spaces.
One thing I did not factor into the hike at all was the Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn. I really didn't think there was much left to look at. I was wrong. We did run into several items which discussed the battle and its locations. A plaque on a bank, just after lunch, indicated the spot Washington had used to observe the battle as it began down in Gowanus (then the Guan Heights) and the Old Stone House had more information about the holding action a Maryland regiment had engaged to allow the Continental Army to escape. I'm an old dog, but still learning new tricks.
Thank you all for putting up with my error regarding 7 Middagh Street. Where I'd first said it was the location of the Plymouth Church, on the ride home I was sorting through my notes and found I'd flipped addresses and that it was actually the location of a home which was shared (over time) by W.H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee, Carson McCullers, Paul & Jane Bowles, and Richard Wright. Thankfully, my error was offset by a wonderful view of lower Manhattan and New York Harbor - so plenty of picture opportunities. In fact, we did hit Plymouth Church two stops later, so we didn't miss anything at all.
Several intriguing spots were missed on the second half, and that's fine. It was getting late, and we had to get the (not in service) water taxi. But we did finish, found a great dive bar (Sonny's) that was unfortunately considered by many to be a great dive bar...it was far too crowded.
All in all, a fun day. Pictures below of the Manhattan Bridge (Mrs. Bulldog pointed out it's the most heavily posted picture on Instagram, and judging by the crowds clogging the street at 10:30, she was right), the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, and the Williamsburgh Bank Tower (once the highest building in Brooklyn).
It's easy to see why the DUMBO picture of the Manhattan Bridge is so popular...
Sunday, March 11. 2018
For Urban Hikers, Pocket Guide App. It's fun to get lost sometimes, though. Interesting things happen.
It's now good urban (and rural hiking) season. Get out there, friends, and do 9 miles with friends and family. Pizza and beer afterwards is the Maggie's Way.
Thursday, February 22. 2018
Yes, George Washington did go to Barbados, to visit with his brother for a while.
Barbados is a coral island situated a bit east and south of the other West Indies. Caribbean on its west side, Atlantic on the east. A popular winter getaway for Europeans and Americans. People tend to have their favorite islands, but I am not a big Caribbean fan. Its east coast gets a consistent pounding from the Atlantic, and a constant and welcome strong ocean breeze which makes the 75-82 degree temps feel cool.
- The island is an approximate triangle. The southern coast has the "city" of Bridgetown and is lined with mass market resorts and hotels like Sandals, etc.. The west coast has elegant old elite resorts like Sandy Lane where you dress for dinner. The north coasts are rugged. The interior is a combination of wild and agricultural. Except for the sugar cane, the agriculture (vegetables, cattle, goats, banana, plantain) is small-scale and not mechanized.
- The east coast, around 20 miles north to south, faces the raw Atlantic and is rocky (actually, coral rocks, boulders, and cliffs), rugged, with massive surf and is not safely swimmable due to crossing surf, sharp coral, and strong currents. Surfers drown there sometimes. There are only 3 little, simple places to stay on the entire east coast - no resorts, etc. We stayed in a nice little place on the east coast - 8 small suites - no pool, tennis courts, TV, or golf course and a little honesty bar in the dining shed which always had a gallon jar of rum punch.
- Photo is our porch, ocean surf behind the trees. During our visit there, the guests were French, Canadian, and Brits. One American, besides us. From Boston. I was reading Faulkner on this trip.
Our trip was not the conventional Caribbean getaway with "relaxing" and water sports. Photo travelogue below the fold -
Continue reading "Checking out the gnarly east coast of Barbados"
Monday, February 19. 2018
When I get my photos in order (I took around 40 snaps which is a lot for me, mostly corny landscapes), I will show and tell about some parts of Barbados many visitors never see, far from the beach resorts and the golf courses but never far from Flying Fish Sandwiches and rum. This pic from one of our hikes, along the north coast:
Bajan Rum Punch - The recipe is so deeply ingrained in Barbados' culture that its recipe is a well-known rhyme: "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak."
(Makes about 2 1/2 quarts)
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Wednesday, February 14. 2018
Here we go - planning a Maggie's Farm Urban Hike is a great Valentine's Day conversation for your spouse, significant other, or someone you'd like to impress. It's time for the first glimpse of the 4th Annual Urban Hike Itinerary. As we ate pizza last year outside of Chelsea Market, there was a general consensus that we needed to see the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights. As you know, there's nothing in Brooklyn aside from a bridge, some heights, and possibly Patty Duke's identical twin cousin. And for those of you into bad 1970's B movies, The Warriors. Fuhgeddaboudit. Leave the gun, take the cannoli (Clemenza's house is in Gravesend, Brooklyn, but Paulie was probably killed in NJ since we see the back of the Statue of Liberty).
As usual, all are invited and welcome. I expect this may be our most well-attended hike yet. Last year I was surprised to learn one couple was from my hometown (hope we see you again), while yet another travels quite a distance from the MidWest just to share a few hours with us. They've attended the last two, and I hope we see them again, as well (my wife and I speak about your wandering ways often). A number of people in my office heard about last year's hike and asked me to inform them about this upcoming one.
Last year we were all dazzled by the 'secret lair' of the Manhattan Contrarian (my wife is still gushing). I suspect we'll be equally dazzled by some new sights this year. So feel free to add comments, observations, or suggestions. Even if you're not plannning on joining us (please join!), but you have suggestions, we'll welcome them if they fit into the time span/distance. We encourage additions, we encourage any additional commentary during the walk which you find useful (last year we even managed to glom on to a professional tour at one location). This is all about knowledge sharing.
The current plan is to start in Manhattan, possibly at a Dunkin' Donuts on Fulton, by Gold, about 3 blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge. We'll walk over the bridge, then head north to Dumbo, east to Vinegar Hill, the Navy Yard, and Admiral's Row. We'll then double back to the Heights where we'll take a look at Roebling's apartment (I think I've got the right address - 110 Columbia Heights at Orange and Pineapple), a brownstone that isn't a brownstone, the Atlantic Avenue tunnel, the original Abraham & Straus (a New York thing, A&S was an iconic store), the Wyckoff Street Mosaic, Gowanus Ballroom, the Gowanus Canal, the Red Hook Warehouse and the Red Hook Grain Terminal. Some other places of note where there may be stops include 299 Sands St (King's County Distillery - but it's early in the hike so maybe not), 141 Lawrence (Circa Brewing), Cacao Prieto (chocolates!), Prospect Park (a bit of a stretch, but we'll see), 195 Centre St (Other Half Brewing), 40 Van Dyke (Sixpoint Brewing), and 218 Conover (Widow Jane's Distillery - great bourbon).
Tuesday, January 23. 2018
On Sunday we went to the Michelangelo show at the Met. It's been a must-see, especially for art scholars (which is not me - confirmed dilettante), because a show like this will not be assembled again in our lifetimes. It's a giant collection of "Il Divino's" drawings, sketches, and cartoons for his works in painting, architecture (Rome's St. Peter's), and military fortifications (for Florence - below). Few sculptures, because it's about drawings. However, his drawings are sculptural.
Mrs. BD and I reflected that Michelangelo indeed was enchanted by male bodies, but that muscular male bodies also offer more sculptural opportunities than female curves.
We have rambled over the remains of the fortifications he designed for Florence. You have to find them there, on your own. I can tell you where to look.
Saturday, January 20. 2018
Saturday, December 30. 2017
Many cool choices here: Holland America “Repositioning Cruises”
If you like oceans (and missed service in the Navy), the transatlantic trips are wonderful and relaxing. Lots to see on the Atlantic ocean, and amazing food.
Saturday, December 2. 2017
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