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
Sunday, June 28. 2015
We spent most of yesterday over in New Haven to have lunch with old friends and to catch a remarkable one-woman performance of the autobiographical "As I Remember It" at the Yale Rep by the unique modern dancer/actress/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade.
At 84, she is vividly theatrical, charismatic, humorous and sassy. She can still do more than just indicate dance movements. She can move. Her lifelong husband Geoffrey Holder died last year, but she is still truckin. Lives in Manhattan.
Mrs. BD was thrilled to meet and chat with this iconic dancer at a special reception afterwards, because she has mentioned her to me admiringly many times over the years. In person, de Lavallade is elegant, modest and charming, in great shape, and loves hors d'oevres. No surprise to me that she was hungry for treats and wine after holding the stage alone for 1 1/2 hours.
We had an hour or more to stroll around downtown New Haven and old Eli, which all looks better than it has in my lifetime. My pal, like my Dad, went to grad school there and never left the university. New Haven is a clearly Town and Gown city. The gown part is a strong and large faculty social club (which includes some local professionals outside the Yale community), as it has been for hundreds of years. Much of New Haven is blue collar or urban poor and there are parts you might not want to go to.
Somehow, the tired old city still has a handful of exclusive old jolly Waspy clubs for bow-tie wearing men. How did those survive? They do not run the city anymore - retreated into their private lives and gave it to the townies to screw it up with property taxes and oppression of job-creators.
A few pics below the fold -
Continue reading "A day in New Haven, CT, with Carmen de Lavallade"
Saturday, June 27. 2015
I love the Maine woods for hunting and fishing, and the crazy state of Maine in general (to visit) but my problem is that the water is too cold for comfortable swimming, unlike the Cape where it is just invigorating.
A family friend just sent me this snap of my Dad (L) and my Mom (R) with a friend on the friend's lawn on Monhegan Island, Maine. My parents had 5 kids at that point, so it was good for them to get adult-oriented breaks.
The list at that Wiki link of the artists etc. who have had summer homes on Monhegan is impressive.
Photo below is the harbor, with the Island Inn. 17 miles of hiking trails.
Saturday, June 20. 2015
A fun town to visit. Historic and salty. Been there a number of times. Excellent seafood restaurants, jolly pubs, comfortable antique hotels and B&Bs, and interesting architecture. Interestingly, also the oldest synagogue in America as was noted by George Washington. People like to visit the grand old "cottages" but they aren't too interesting to me although I guess you have to do it once.
A few friends of ours have recently bought weekend homes there. I don't want one but it is a pleasant location with plenty of good social activity around clubs and boats.
Salt Water New England - whoever she is - was there this week. Nice boat. Good photos. Too bad she didn't stop by the important and elegant Newport Flower Show where she might have met Mrs. BD and her good pals. Mrs. BD would have stayed longer for the parties, etc. but we have a wedding today. That magnificent show attracts people from all over the US and Europe and they even bus them in from the airport.
Thursday, June 18. 2015
What caught my attention, though I'm not sure if it caught my wife's, was the trail itself. I was an avid hiker/camper in my youth. My wife is not. El Camino is roughly 800 km, or about 500 miles, if started in Roncesvalles, France.
The history of El Camino is quite lengthy, a pilgrimage which preceded even the Christian era. With the growth of the Church, and the incorporation of many pagan rituals and groups within the Church itself, El Camino took on new significance as a means of penance. The attraction of Santiago de Compostela is related to the belief that St. James the Greater's (Santiago) tomb is in the church at that site. The belief was, for years, that the path offered an opportunity for penance and spiritual growth, as any pilgrimage seeks to provide.
There were, and to some degree still are, many paths to complete the pilgrimage. Which is one reason given to the rise of the symbol of El Camino, the scallop shell, with many routes ending at a single point. Other reasons for the shell include the belief that to 'prove' one completed the trip, a scallop shell was required to be taken as a token. Scallop shells also happened to provide other traveling purposes, such as acting as a plate for food, or large enough for a small drink of water. All the stories about the shell relate back to some myths about the arrival of St. James' body to Spain's shores.
Continue reading "El Camino de Santiago"
Monday, June 15. 2015
Sailed on that fine ship several times as a youngster out of Pier 40 in Manhattan. Nobody has ever regretted taking at least one (non-military) trans-Atlantic ship crossing (well, excepting Titanic, Lusitania, Andrea Doria, etc.) Elegant ship, no stabilizers.
When you get out of a harbor, a tiny little boat comes out to take the harbor pilot back to port. Regardless of weather or seas. Trans-Atlantic all very cool, especially when you run into nasty weather.
The HAL's ad used to be "Getting there is half the fun." In my view, way more than half.
Wednesday, June 10. 2015
My visit to the lake was very short, but deliberate. I had a full day of history in Rome at the Forum, Colosseum, Circus Maximus, and Catacombs. My family is not fond of 'history' or 'battle' vacations, so I decided the best way to handle this was to pack it into the drive from Florence to Rome. On that drive, we first stopped at Siena, and spent several hours walking the beautiful streets of this city. Siena was too short, and worthy of a separate post altogether. But for me, the visit meant we were only an hour from Lake Trasimeno, which was 15 minutes out of our way on the final ride to Rome.
As a result, it was easy convincing everyone that dad could have one more slice of history pie.
Along the way, I told the story of Hannibal and the battle, and why it was so significant. First, it was the largest ambush in history, and remains so. Second, it was one of the first examples of a military turning movement. Finally, it was a decisive victory for the Carthaginians, wiping out two entire Roman legions by a factor of at least six Romans to one Carthaginian. However, some estimates put this ratio at 11 to 1.
Continue reading "Lake Trasimeno"
Tuesday, June 9. 2015
Hiking into a deep valley on a Pacific Crest Trail Spur, you unexpectedly encounter a stone Victorian built by the old Mark Hopkins family (Central Pacific RR) at the end of a rough dirt track 10 miles from asphalt. Those American entrepreneurs had an amazingly bold sense of adventure!
Monday, June 8. 2015
We are a week returned from two weeks in Italy, during which we visited Rome, took an overnight train to Venice, rented a car and drove to Verona, then Rappallo, stopped in the Cinque Terre, stayed at a Tuscan resort in Barga, spent a day in Lucca, spent an hour in Pisa (which is all you really need, in my opinion) and then finished up with three days in Florence. On our final drive down to Rome, we spent 3 hours in Siena, then took a 30 minute side trip to Lake Trasimeno (being a history buff, I had to see the battlefield where Hannibal decisively defeated the Romans, losing only 1 man to every 10 of the Romans).
When I returned to the office, the first question most people had was "Which city was your favorite?" Florence and Venice, obviously, were amazing. But I'd opt for the Cinque Terre.
While not technically a city, it was far and away the most beautiful and wonderful place we saw.
Continue reading "Cinque Terre"
Sunday, June 7. 2015
Boat out from Fernandina, Florida to the island, along St Mary's River, up to Georgia. A famous place, but not too easy to visit so I'll give you a little tour.
- below the fold
Continue reading "Photo travelogue of our visit to Cumberland Island, Georgia - with Tern Porn and Turtle Tracks"
Saturday, June 6. 2015
The Nature Conservancy's Pine Butte Ranch. Hiking, riding, fishing, swimming, nature-watching, fossil-finding. It's sort of a Grizzly Bear preserve but you'd be lucky to see one - at a comfortable distance. Grizzlies do not like mountains - they like river bottoms and damp meadows best,
Even in summer, you can find snow and ice on the high hikes. June best for the wildflower bloom. That is like Eden. It's real America and, yes, there are firearms around. Europeans come there to experience the American West. My lad once got trapped in the outhouse by a Black Bear. Fire a couple of magnum rounds in the air and the bears run away.
The ranch lands abut the 1 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness. We all own that. They will give you a day-long trip to Glacier National Park too, if you want. Another astonishing wild place which we Americans own.
Friday, June 5. 2015
Yes, that would be the prosperous Mr. Paulson who just gave a half-billion to Harvard. It's my kind of rustic place with Southern food. These two pics are their own photos.
Tuesday, June 2. 2015
17 miles of beach with excellent Atlantic body-surfing surf - and nobody on the entire thing but Mrs. BD (in photo) and me. Tempted to try some nude surfing but would hate to sunburn sensitive body parts. (Also, with a good wave ride you can scrape the sand.)
We are not accustomed to swimming and surfing in 75-degree ocean water, as Cape Codders. In warm surf, I get tired before I become hypothermic. That's good, but the warmth feels decadent.
I will throw some pics together when I get the chance.
Monday, June 1. 2015
Wednesday, May 27. 2015
Heading down to Georgia now for a few days on an island nature preserve to get away from civilization. Hiking, biking, swimming, birding, snake-watching, gator-dodging. I want to see a big Indigo Snake and a Pine Snake. Will see Diamondback rattlers for sure because they are always sunbathing on bike paths. No stores, no TV, no a/c, no cars, no roads, no amenities etc. which is why it is somewhat expensive - but they have some electricity. No tennis or golf, and no pool - just Atlantic Ocean and lots of it. They do have an on-site naturalist, which is good. With luck, some fine greasy Southern cooking. It's been a while since I have had good biscuits and gravy, and my soul needs some. Shrimp 'n Grits would be welcome too.
Mrs. BD just warned me that, rustic as this place is, jacket and tie for cocktail hour and dinner. Also, trousers. It's a small, historic place you get to on a little fishing boat, like Little Saint Simon Island. I appreciate the maintenance of standards, just as they do at Gwynnie's hunting lodges in the middle of nowhere. I think it never hurts to wear jacket and tie on the plane, so you don't have to pack them. Civilized, too.
Set a good example, ya know? Why dress like a teen if you aren't one? Adults must represent dignity and appropriateness - in attire if not in behavior.
Monday, May 4. 2015
Archeologist- and historian-led travel to Turkey, Greece, or Italy: Peter Sommer
Yes, they do have gulet trips down the Turkish coast. Excellent tours.
For self-planners, For Over Thirty Years, Karen Brown Has Helped Travelers Plan Perfect Trips
We use her books exclusively
Saturday, April 25. 2015
Readers may recall how much we enjoyed our trip to rustic and wild Little St. Simon's Island. (Not Saint Simons Island - Little Saint Simons)
We have a similar trip planned to the famous Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island in Georgia. We love Georgia but, then again, we love almost anywhere. Again, no phones, no wifi, no TV, no shops, and no transportation other than bike or foot. Other than the old mansion (built by Carnegie), there is no other development. All nature sanctuary. Bring binoculars of course, bathing suit ... and mosquito spray.
Hikes and bikes, and sea, all day.
You get there by boat from Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Ha. I've been there! Had a fine seafood lunch in Fernandina overlooking the harbor. Huge plate of fried oysters with pepper salsa, as I recall, cole slaw on the side, and a couple of beers.
Pic is Greyfield Inn
Saturday, April 18. 2015
There is more theater in NYC than in London, and lots of it (Off- and Off-off Broadway) is affordable and excellent. Lots of actors in NY.
Union Square - just one of the hundred fun neighborhoods of Manhattan. Just slightly north of Greenwich Village.
Saturday, April 11. 2015
We have posted in the past about NY's cool Tenement Museum. They didn't have it so bad, considering what they were coming from.
Here's another one: MoMath - The Museum of Mathematics. Wonderful for all curious ages. E. 23rd st.
Sunday, March 29. 2015
Saturday, March 21. 2015
We like to let people - mostly possible NYC visitors - know about cool spots. We've covered Arthur Avenue, Jean George's cheap lunch, Keens for mutton chops, The Campbell Apartment, and lots of other fun places.
Here's another to add to your list: Club Macanudo. You can smoke!
The most pleasant clubs in NYC are private, large, old, and gracious (and permit smoking), but you need a friend member to get inside. Still, plenty of nice places for the proletariat.
Monday, March 16. 2015
An annual re-post for our travel readers -
Pic is JFK in a snowstorm last week. Managed to get out after an extensive de-icing of the airplane. Got lucky - the plane had managed to arrive the night before in a sleet storm.
I always forget something, so I have a travel checklist to run through.
Obviously one does not need everything for every trip - it depends on what your plans are - but I print it out, circle what I'll need for a given trip, then check them off when they're thrown in the bag. Perhaps it seems obsessive, but it is annoying to arrive somewhere and to find that you forgot to pack any socks. On my last trip, forgot to pack a t-shirt for snorkeling, had to buy one for $25. Mrs. BD does her packing her own way, and always brings too much stuff. That's what females do.
I travel too light, she travels too heavy.
My travel checklist below the fold. Obviously you just bring what you need for a given trip. Let me know what I have left out, and I will add items.
Continue reading "Bird Dog's recreational travel checklist of items - feel free to steal it if you want to"
Sunday, March 15. 2015
Or maybe it's already almost too late to plan for 2015. We have our plans mostly set - including a bit more of totally-cool north Africa and the Canary Islands. (Why? Ask Mrs. BD. She plans, I just show up with a passport, an absurd hat, absurd clothes, a credit card, and a cheap camera. I typically pack in 15 minutes, so it is ridiculous. Just remember - always throw in a tux for a formal ship.) I do love ships and I will always jump on one to go anywhere. This one has sails.
Readers know that the whole BD clan has been world-traveling for years, way before Maggie's existed. Between us, my own parents, and my in-laws, there are few spots on the planet which have been left unvisited. We have been a fortunate and adventurous clan.
I have a friend who took his kids (without Mom) on an around the world in 60 days trip which he planned himself. Bonding time with Dad. That's a whirlwind trip but a cool idea. Holland-America has a 115-day round the world cruise. We met a prof and his wife on a ski gondola in New Hampshire who had taken that during a sabbatical and loved it. How could you not? Leave all your cares behind...
I've been to plenty of places in the US and Canada too, before Maggie's, but it's fun to go places without a Wendy's or a Holiday Inn-type place. Never been to Orlando, and it ain't on my list. I guess I could say that my favorite places in the USA are Cape Cod, Montana, and New York City.
For fun, here's our Maggie's Travel and Travelogue with past travel reports, photos, and ideas. (Push "next page" at the bottom of the page to flip back through our old files.)
I have a bucket list, and I have not been everywhere.
Sunday, March 1. 2015
Pic: A salt marsh in Wellfleet, MA
A Canadian reader asked for a post on this topic. A complicated topic, because it depends on the season and on your interests. It's a varied place for such a compact area, with rivers, lakes, mountains, coasts, islands, rural lands, some charming antique towns, lots of decrepit small towns with tattoos, meth labs, and empty old mills; a handful of booming suburban towns of little interest, plenty of music, theater, and dance festivals, and a small handful of pleasant cities.
When driving around, one must bear in mind that most industry, and farming, fled New England in the past 60-100 years for more business-friendly and farm-friendly locations, so it is no longer the prosperous heart of America. Now it's mostly "Blue states", if you know what I mean.
For road food, I'd recommend diners, diner-like one-off places, and seafood shacks instead of fast food chains. There is even an excellent southern barbecue joint on Rte 91, as rickety as heck and the real deal (only during summertime - owner lives in Mississippi). With all the immigrants, there is good Thai food almost everywhere, but the Chinese food in New England tends to be terrible as does Italian food outside of cities except for pizza.
Rather than describing the places I know and enjoy, I'll list just a few and refer you to some good resources. For local flavor, I like Grand Manan Island (between Maine and Canada), Monhegan Island, Camden, Maine, Kennebunkport is touristy but Acadia Park, Cape Cod (Chatham, Wellfleet - lots of Quebec and Ontario license plates there in August), Block Island, The Massachusetts Berkshires - Lenox, Stockbridge, etc - Boston (haven't been there for years though), touristy Woodstock, VT, Stowe, VT, Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake (New Hampshire), Watch Hill and Newport (Rhode Island) - well, it's too much to list and I'll leave too much out so I'll quit there.
We like Karen Brown at lot (her guides for places all around the world are our favorites), and she avoids fancy modern hotels that can make you feel like you are anywhere.
Maybe readers can offer some of their favorite charming New England spots - with interesting things to see, do, and eat - in the comments.
Wednesday, February 4. 2015
Thursday, January 1. 2015
It's time for 2015 travel planning if we have not done that yet (most have done so already, I suspect, but some people are last-minute "planners").
I have a new case of a fellow who has developed a travel phobia. To be accurate, he has not really developed it, it has just been exposed by his frustrated family.
Many people with fears of all sorts never have them exposed because they find ways and excuses to avoid the things that make them uncomfortable. Typical excuses: "I hate cocktail parties," "I hate going to sports stadiums," "I don't want to go to that stupid place," "It's dangerous," "I hate cities," "Airplanes suck," "It's too expensive," "I don't need any new friends," etc etc.
Phobias are more often identified by avoidances than by real episodes of fear or discomfort. How does one tell what is a phobic avoidance from a plain dislike? Well, a little ruthless dose of self-scrutiny can answer most of your questions about your own fears and insecurities.
Like agoraphobics, travel phobics dart from place of safety to place of safety and familiarity no matter how often over-visited, never enjoy the trip or the adventures of life, and constrict their experiences and the richness of their lives in the process. Carpe diem. Life is short and shorter with each new day and each new year.
Men are particularly reluctant to admit flaws and weaknesses. Pride and shame prevent people from owning up to the personal weaknesses of their fears and frailties. I give blogger Ann Althouse, for example, credit for acknowledging her travel phobia (she feels that a driving trip from Madison to Austin is a daunting adventure). Properly naming one's fears, instead of making excuses, is the first step towards addressing them and conquering them.
What we term "simple phobias" are among the easiest things we shrinks have to deal with. In my experience, people with travel phobias and adventure phobias, once mastered, want to go everywhere and do everything.