Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quest for the Near Past

It's been a while since I posted. For the past several months I've been concentrating on finishing and publishing my latest novel, The Journeys of Brothers.  

I've been interested in genealogy for over forty years, and if you count my conversations with my father's parents, his brother and his wife, my interest in the past goes back to childhood. They knew their parent's and grandparent's names. Children were named after these ancestors in a nearly specific order, always for someone who had passed on. 

The frustration one encounters in searching for ancestors is that there is little to no documentation for those who lived in Central and Eastern Europe before 1830. To sidestep this irritation, I have become more interested in how my ancestors lived rather than their name, date and place of birth. For lifestyle, there is abundant documentation.

In writing the novel I used the oral history that was shared by my father's mother and my father's sister in law. My mother also had bits and pieces that confirmed some of  what had been told to me. Women seem to know about family background more than men. What was surprising to me was to learn that my grandfather was supposed to go to Argentina with his brother, Ephraim, and not to Canada where he lived most of the rest of his life. Why did this happen? No one would say, but at any rate it provided a seed for one of several turning points in the novel.

Because their is so much rich material in developing the story that could not be included in the book, I decided to 'branch off' and create a blog devoted entirely to an elaboration of the story, an odyssey of two brothers. Please continue to follow me on


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pittsburgh and Detroit-A Tale of Two Cities


Detroit Decay


In the winter of 1954 Pittsburgh was about to celebrate its 200th anniversary. It was founded by the French in 1754 when they established a fort (Duquesne) at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers merged to form the Ohio. As a jumping off place to the west, it became the focal point of battles between the French and British and is often cited as the place where the French-Indian or Seven Year War, started. In 1758 the British overwhelmed the fort, destroying it. The next year a new, heavily fortified fort was constructed and named in honor of William Pitt the elder.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit began as a French colony, short name, Fort Detroit.(The year often cited was 1701, although there was a community there much earlier.) As in the case of Pittsburgh, Detroit was turned over to the British, officially, as the result of the Treaty of Paris that ended the French Indian War in 1763.

Both cities grew as industrial powerhouses, although Pittsburgh's start was earlier with the growth of the steel industry. Both cities had extremely dominant industries and both developed powerful labor unions.

A striking divergence occurred in 1954. Pittsburgh declared itself "The Renaissance City." The political leader, Mayor David Lawrence, and the financial leader, Richard King Mellon, as disparate a couple one would ever consider, recognized that the steel industry was declining and the city would have to promote the development of new industry to take its place. They also agreed that the defining character of the city, the smoke from industry, had to be reduced if new industry was to attract the talent needed to bring the city into the future.

Over the next decade, the city became the poster child for urban renewal (mostly privately financed) with focus on developing its education and health services and facilities. In 1963 I worked on a projected demography of Pittsburgh. The result indicated that over the period from 1964-94, the population would decrease in half, from 600,000 to 300,000 with only one of its wards (14) maintaining its population (about 50,000). This projection was remarkably accurate. Detroit experienced an unplanned decrease in population of about the same proportion as the white population found refuge from the decay of the central city by moving to the suburbs.

I remember my first experience in Detroit in 1987. I went for a walk from an office building at lunch only to find myself lost in an area of dilapidated houses with boarded windows, panhandlers, dope sellers and streets with broken pavement. Where were the leaders of industry? They were in a suburb called Gross Point, minding their mansions and their yachts on Lake Huron. Where were the political leaders? They saw their future, not in giving to Detroit, but with as much as they could take from Detroit.

Today, Pittsburgh is cited as one of the leading cities in America with a prosperous work force, relatively low unemployment, solid potential for graduates of its nationally recognized schools of higher learning and a sound system of public education.

Detroit is bankrupt.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part II: Highlights

Finding a great driver

Walking and walking and walking

The Art in Venice
     particularly liking the smaller museums

The Architecture in Vienna

Two outstanding tours in Vienna
      The Spanish Riding School Stables
       The Vienna Opera House

Hills and Steps in Praiano  - how the seniors do it - slowly


Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part I: Planning!

We are on the final two days of a three week trip to Sorrento, Praiano on the Amalfi Coast, Venice and Vienna.  It's cold and snowy today and so we are not venturing out yet, deciding instead to write some thoughts related to this trip.

We've never liked tours so we tend to figure and plan things on our own. For this trip, planning was more challenging.  Not exactly sure why but the usual fun and researching seemed to be more complex and less clear. We found Trip Advisor extremely helpful and in fact the suggestions we took, especially in hotel and hotel reviews were excellent.  The reviews alerted us to some things to ask for.  An example was a review posted for Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice that indicated that they had arranged a porter to meet them at the train station to help carry their bags to the hotel for 5 Euro's per bag.  We emailed the hotel arranging for this and were so glad we did.  While it was just a short distance from the train station to the hotel it was over a high bridge of the Grand Canal with lots of steps. Definitely would have been stressful for us even though we had packed very light!

We also learned that it is best to contact the hotel directly to make the bookings rather than go through Expedia which we had used in the past.  When we decided to change our reservation in Venice to 4 nights instead of 5 we called Expedia several weeks in advance.  They indicated that we should just tell the hotel upon arrival and that they had let the hotel know.  We learned upon checkin that the hotel knew nothing about the change and that the reservation should have been modified.  If Expedia would send them a confirmation of the change immediately they could still modify the reservation without any charge to us.  Well ..... that took quite a few phone calls, much explaining, and cost about 20 Euro's in phoning to accomplish!  We won't be using Expedia again.  The hotel couldn't have been more cooperative.

A big shout out and thank you to all the people who take time to write reviews in  The little details made a big difference.  For example sharing about the quality of breakfasts proved important.  We prefer to take breakfast at the hotel we are staying at and the raves of good breakfasts were very accurate for both Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice and Hotel Antiche Mura in Sorrento.

We rarely go for a US chain hotel when traveling abroad. However, Murray is a long time Hilton Honor member and he suggested we look at the Vienna Hilton which is centrally located and has a very high rating. We did and decided to give it a try, and are glad we did.  We were upgraded to a wonderful room on the Executive Floor and treated beautifully. We also elected the breakfast option and again were very glad we did. By selecting and prepaying in advance the breakfast proved to be an excellent value. The cost would have been 29 Euros per person if choosing it upon arrival.  While it is a great buffet with lots of different choices.... 29 Euro's ($40) per person for breakfast is just not in our budget.

Please note that we make no reference to a hotel in Praiano. The Margherita was planned by a writer's conference that Murray was a part of for its location. It was mediocre. The shower was abysmal, "hot" water trickled out at a temperature of about 90 degrees and there was no way to avoid climbing two flights to get to our room. The personnel were great. Praiano is expensive and the setting is beautiful, but there is a lot more to choose from along the Almalfi coast.

We are glad that we did take our time to carefully plan our hotels.  Factors such as location, quality of rooms, friendly staff and outstanding breakfasts have contributed to our enjoyment of the trip.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Generic drug substitutes have wide variances

BEWARE: Not all generic substitutes are alike. The FDA allows a generic to be approved if it is 80% to 125% as effective as the brand it is copying. My own blood pressure went out of sight when MEDCO (now ExpressScripts) changed its approved generic. Since I monitor my BP, I caught the change within a few days and worked with my physician to find an appropriate other generic substitute. 
ExpressScripts requires that a physician write an explanation as to why its "lowest price to them generic" is not suitable (you pay the same co-pay no matter which generic is used). You can't tell them anything. However, you can use the local pharmacy.

The problem is called "bioavailability." The FDA permits generics to be approved if they provide the same benefit as the brand within a confidence interval of 90%-hence within 80% and 125% of the effectiveness of the brand. In terms of the active ingredient, both generics and brands can vary within a narrow band (95%-105%) so if you get a generic that has bioavailability of 80% and it happens to have a batch that contains only 95% of the active ingredient, the pill you are taking is only 76% as effective as the brand.
I'll also caution you on the one a day pill pop. The manufacturers want you to be consistent, so they bundle their formula and convince physicians to prescribe daily dosing. This is especially true of statins for high LDL cholesterol and can lead to side effects, especially muscle pain and worse. I have cut my dosage to twice a week, keeping my LDLs controlled and saving a bundle on the 50c a day CRESTOR pill I had been taking.

Learning Dye Sublimation: Fun Way to Put Art and Photo's on Gift Items

When we began showing our art and photo's at Hillside Market last July, one of the owners kept remarking on how much she loved the pastel kitchen goddesses she saw on my website and was there a way that I could do something with them. I didn't want to sell the originals so how to use them?  Then my friend Regina suggested I put them on tiles.  Good idea but again how.

Driving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado from our home in Santa Fe, we stopped in Buena Vista exploring various shops and discovered Rock Run Gallery.  The owner/artist, Nora Larimar was putting her watercolor art work on tiles.  We had a lovely conversation and she graciously shared the process she was using and how I could find out more about it.

I googled dye sublimation and visited several websites explaining how to do it.  The best explanations were at a supplier.  They have video's that are helpful and I placed an order with them.  Much to my delight I was up and running within a few days of receiving the printer and heat press.  And the fun began and continues.

Images of pastel paintings that were sitting on a shelf, unframed and which I like very much are now on trivets and coasters (ceramic tiles) and on tea towels.  Murray's photographs and some of my oils are also great images to put on gift items.

Over the past few months we have seen several images receive repeated sales from the goddesses to sunflowers to Murray's photo of the Chama River.

It is great fun to come up with different images to fit a time of the year or a holiday.  For example we are featuring this rose on trivets and coasters for Valentine Day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Turning 70 - Vision for this Decade

Yesterday was my 70th Birthday.  Somehow that number seems overwhelming.  Rarely have I given much thought to my age.  But the past few days, as my birthday approached, I found myself getting quieter, to myself and a bit down.  Last night I attended a program of New Mexico Women in Film on Social Media. And to my delight I found myself re-energized, enthusiastic and looking forward to entering this decade with an exciting reworking of my mission and vision!

Besides family and friends, my life is focused on two passions: my work as a visual artist; and my role as President, Producer/Co-Director of Healing Voices-Personal Stories.

As a visual artist I see myself striving to create outstanding paintings that celebrate nature and abstract works inspired by music.  While my originals are created mainly in oils I have recently discovered dye sublimation enabling me to print some of my original art on tiles that sell at affordable prices.  I'll be sharing more about that in future blogs.  I'm showing both my originals and copies on tiles and tea towels at The Hillside Market in Santa Fe.

As President of Healing Voices-Personal Stories I am committed to creating films about domestic violence survivors as models for victims.  Key goals are to increase public awareness of domestic violence and to help victims to find a way out to rebuild their lives.

How exciting to have these two passions in my life and to know that as I enter this new decade I can do so with a renewed enthusiasm.  A special thank you to Robin Roffer, Kalyn Bastion of Social Media Pathways and Jordan Guenther, digital media manager of the New Mexico Tourism Office, for their excellent presentation last evening.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island- Part 7 Waimea

Waimea, at an elevation a of 2500 feet, has moderate weather, but is close enough to sandy beaches to permit a day trip if that is your pleasure. It is also a very convenient place to stay on the Big Island. From it you can reach Hilo, Kona, Waipi'o, Mauna Kea (and the observatories) and various gardens in an hour or two.  It is not convenient to Volcano NP which is at the opposite end of the island. Check out my blog on Volcano NP for details.

We could see Mauna Kea from our "Dream Room" at Aaah the View. The night sky was spectacular and we could view it lying in bed since besides there being the usual window to look out on the graden and creek, there was a window at 45 degrees with its own shade. B and B's in Hawaii are limited in what they can serve for breakfast. The two we stayed at provided substantial variety, but real cooking requires a professional kitchen, basically stainless steel. Fruit, yogurt, granola, coffee cake, coffee!, tea and hot chocolate were the main ingredients.

Waimea has the stores you can expect in a small town with prices that are reasonable, for Hawaii). The highpoint was dining at Merriman's (you must have a reservation).  e chef is know for unique recipes favoring organic locally grown and raised ingredients.

We also drove up to the visitor's center on Mauna Kea. The videos they run are excellent describing the international use of the summit for observatories.

Another treat was taking a short hike outside the center and seeing the very rare plant "silver sword."

Silver Sword on Mauna Kea

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 6 Waipi’o Valley

On the north end of the Big Island sits a community that has maintained itself for more generations than anyone can count. Waipi’o sits in a lush green valley several hundred feet down a steep one-lane road (with pull outs).

Most persons venture down on foot. We took the easy way. By accident we pulled into a tour office/café. JoAnne wanted a restroom and saw a sign. After using the facility, we struck up a conversation with the proprietor. We had just missed a shuttle tour, and the next one he could assign us to meant a four hour wait. Seeing our unwillingness to waste that much time, he made a call to one of the younger guides.

Douglas is a tall lanky, muscular native of the area. His grandmother had lived in the valley and his 90 year-old uncle still farmed there. As we descended, slowly and in high 4-wheel drive, the scene unfolded- the river fed by countless streams, springs and a high waterfall that brings water from the Waimea water shed swelled and quickened its pace, ultimately to the ocean. On its path the river supplies water for the farms and their major crop, taro, that is used for making the Hawaiian starch, Poi.

Douglas provided insight to the farming of taro and the fact that the entire plant is used, including the stem that is planted for the next yield. Many taro plants have a history as long as the valley, itself, providing crop after crop from one stem. Our guide didn't stop with enlightening us on taro. There is a kikui nut tree that is used for making candles because of the high concentration of oil. He showed us the oil by smashing one of the nuts that lay on the ground. Natives also polish the nut and string them for a necklace. I saw at least one of these necklaces on a guide at the University, but didn't know its source at that time.

We enjoyed taking pictures and walking near the river and a stream. On the return trip I felt sorry for the hikers who had a steep climb back to the top in high humidity. Before leaving, we surveyed the area that we had just explored from an observation point high above the valley.

Whether you hike it or wimp out, this is a highlight you should not miss.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 5-The Hilton

On the way to Waimea we decided to stop at the Hilton At Waikoloa Village. We had read about the art collection, sea turtles and dolphins so we just had to stop. Also we would have been too early for our B and B in Waimea (Aaah the Views).

There is plenty of visitor parking, and the maximum charge is $15 that can be offset by purchases made at the hotel (keep your receipts).

In the lobby two large parrots were squawking. Prominent is a train that circles the Hotel's park. We rode it noting each stop and where would like to get off and explore.

The Convention stop offered restrooms and a chance to visit an exquisite display of oriental art including a hall of large vases.

Walking the perimeter of a inlet we crossed a bridge and immediately saw the green turtles that reside and reproduce in that beach area. The garden is well kept and displays many varieties of floral plants and philodendron.

We knew nothing of the parking lot offset, but decided to have lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants. Service was what you'd expect from such a hotel. After lunch we watched as people played with the dolphins (or should I say, the dolphins played with the people). They are such graceful swimmers and can propel themselselves more than a body length into the air and jump through hoops.

After a couple of hours in HiltonLand, we drove around the village. The shops are for tourists, but upscale. We departed for Waimea, our next stop.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 4-Kona

We’ve been using the belt highway, and this day was no exception. The road passes the southern most point on the island as well as in the U.S. The bakery, advertised as the southernmost bakery in the U.S. enticed us with aroma of fresh bread baking. I had to get two items, an éclair and a Bismarck (chocolate and lots of it).

The road turns northward parallel to the ocean with plenty of glimpses of what is known as Blue Hawaii, for good reason.

We turned off the road on a hunch that the Beach Park shown on the map might be unusual. It was. Milolii has a sandy beach, but most impressive is that the local library is here. We wandered a bit. JoAnne pulled out her pastels and began to sketch the ocean, sky and rocks. I roamed looking for sea turtles. After the pause, we proceeded to our rest stop for the next three nights, the Areca Palms B&B in Captain Cook.

Our host and hostess were Steve and Janice Glass. We arrived at the end of the third quarter of the Super Bowl and had the luxury of viewing the final, exciting quarter. There was little TV for us. Maybe I’ve weaned myself from the obnoxious news programs I have the habit of viewing and falling asleep.

Janice loves to bake. One night when we returned I could almost eat the air it was so rich. Her breakfast preparations had panache. The emphasis was on fresh fruit, breads and yogurt. Both she and Steve provided excellent guidance for our stay. The first was the recommendation for dinner at Mi’s. Morgan (the M) had been a cook for a Four Seasons Resort of the Island. The
meal was gourmet.

On our first day in South Kona we visited the “Painted Church.” The walls and ceiling depict various Biblical scenes. The second stop was further down the hill on highway 160 to what is billed as a coffee farm tour. There was no one to take us on the tour, but we received a lesson in Kona Coffee and why the pure bean is so expensive. I bought three varieties to test if I could tell the difference.

We proceeded to the base of the highway and the “Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Honaunau). This is a Natural Historic Park under the Park Service. There is a trail called ‘1871’ that is a short hike through time. The ruins of old villages and an overview of the ocean slamming into the lava rock that has displaced it.

On returning, Steve provided us with another recommendation for dinner. He didn’t steer us wrong on this one. The Keei Café sits above the road in a cluster of shops. I had a broiled
swordfish with seasoning that was just perfect. It was served in a salad with strips of sliced green papaya. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

On the third day we drove into Kona. The recommendation was to visit the park near the old airport. Kona is the second largest city on Hawaii and we found a Target where we could stock up
on snacks and get two beach chairs so we could sit with back support.

Driving in the vicinity we spotted a community swimming pool. I truly wanted that exercise and what we discovered is that there was no charge for the facility. It is separated into a 25-yard section with about 8 lanes and a 25-meter section that also has 8 lanes. It was not busy so I had a lane to myself.

We used our chairs (for the first and last time) on the beach. At the end of our stay, we walked around a 0.7-mile course for runners and walkers. Half of the area is planted and maintained by various community groups. The place has at least one resident mongoose.

In the distance I spotted smoke. A fire had erupted on the main highway. As we left to return to Areca Palms, the traffic was backed up forever. There was no alternative. Cars from the main highway had been diverted to this smaller tributary and was bumber to bumper.

After breakfast we bid good bye to our hosts as we moved on to Waimea (next blog).

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 3- Volcano 2

The glowing crater at sunset is spectacular, but there is far more to see and do in Volcano National Park. The Chain of Craters Road is 11 miles long ending at sea level. Various stops along the way provide a chance to see the flora that eventually returns after eruptions. At one stop we encountered a pheasant looking for crumbs in the parking lot. While they are supposed to be rare, we saw at least six pairs of Nenes, the National Bird of Hawaii. They also could care less about our presence, except when they cross the road. These birds are closely related to Canada Geese, their ancestors probably blown off course several hundred years ago.

The drive arrives at vistas of the Pacific from various heights ultimately at sea level.

The drive is not a spectacular one and it is long. Signs of the devastation wrought by various eruptions can be seen along the road at pullouts. There is also a trail (Devastation) that provides a close up of nature's fury.

But you should not miss the lava tube. Avoid crowds by going early in the morning.

Not in the main part of the park, but off of #11 across from the Jaggar Museum is a short hike where the main attractions are the birds. Here you'll encounter wild chickens, roosters, an occasional pheasant and many small birds. The circular hike is about a mile and worth it.

On to Kona!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 2 Volcano

Our Hola Hola began with the short journey to the north to the tropical garden mentioned in Part 1. Distances on the Big Island are not vast like they are in the West. You need not drive more than an hour to see different vistas or explore new frontiers.

As we approached Volcano we spotted a sign for a glass maker. You're not permitted to place signage except on your own property. The glass factory backs to the main highway(#11), but we guessed as to how to get there. Making the next turn and driving a road that parallels #11 we came to the end and the glass factory. Inside a converted garage we were treated to a demonstration of glass blowing. Temperature of the furnace was 2400F.
A showroom adjoins the work space where casual and extremely intricate art glass was displayed. Another couple, serious collectors of glass, were discussing the purchase of one of the pieces. We were looking and came across of bud vase that was beautifully done, but must be categorized as 'casual.' We bought it. Having made two sales-one significant, the couple decided to close early and celebrate.

Our stay was set for the Lokahi Lodge. The office was separate from the residence units in the Volcano Village. The unit was spacious and we also had access to a large lodge room where we could work at a table and use our computers.

There were a few places to have a meal all of which were excellent. After dinner we drove back to the Park (we had been there earlier to ask questions at the Visitor Center). The featured attraction of the evening was visiting the area near the Jaggar Museum and watching the plume from the active hole. As darkness fell, the plume gave brighter and more intense color (see pictures). It reminded me of the Bessemer furnaces in the steel mills of Pittsburgh.

Along the drive to the Museum, many vent hole could be seen spewing steam-the picture of Hades.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 1-Hilo

We decided to circle the Big Island (natives refer to it as a Holo-holo). We began our trip in Hilo, one of the larger cities in the State and the largest on the Big Island (Hawaii).

We landed at 9PM local time which was really midnight our time in Santa Fe (or 2AM in New York). The humidity was the first thing that greeted us. The open-air area of baggage claim reminded us of times when we landed in Central America. Claiming our rental car (it took nearly a half hour since there was only one person at the Hertz counter and he was having problems with a couple who did not have reservations.Our hotel was listed as the Castle Hilo Hawaiian. We drove on Banyon Drive, but found no such hotel. The hotel at the address given was the Hilo Hawaiian-Oh well. The reception was fine and all was in order. We got to our lovely room, unpacked some things and went to bed.

We gambled for breakfast and found a fantastic place, Ken’s Pancake House. (IHOP should come and take note. This place is superior in so many respects.) The menu features pancake variations we had never seen or imagined. I ordered the Macadamia Nut Pancakes and JoAnne ordered the Coconut ones. We were both very satisfied. After eating we drove to a Farmer’s Market. It was colorful and full of native food and wares. JoAnne had a lively talk with artist Eide Hansamut who was selling prints of her fun paintings. We bought a bag of raw Macadamia Nuts that lasted the next six days.

The University’s Imiloa Center for Culture and Astronomy had received glowing reports from others and we decided to make it our next stop. They are developing a garden of native plants, but it is rather eager at this time. A charge of $17.50 per person, $15.50 for seniors, includes the exhibits (make sure to get a guide, no charge) and one show presented on an hourly basis. We chose the National Geographic presentation on weather in the solar system. That show and the accompanying display of the Hawaiian sky were impressive. I was mainly fascinated by the science exhibits while JoAnne focused more on the cultural ones.

Back to the hotel, I was tired from walking and standing. JoAnne ventured to an adjacent Japanese Garden (Lili-ukalani) and sketched for over an hour. Upon returning and reciting its splendors, I took my camera and shot many scenes of the Garden. On returning to the hotel, I noticed that each Banyon tree had a plaque of a prominent person, such as Cecil B. DeMille, Senator Richard M. Nixon, for cabinet personalities like James Farley and many others. I wondered whether they were there when the trees were planted.

The Hilo Bay Café was our destination for dinner located in a shopping center near an Office Max and Wal Mart. The setting is an unlikely place for the quality of the food and service. The recommendations it has received on Trip Advisory were deserved and we enjoyed a yummy dinner.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel, had breakfast again at Ken’s, and drove north to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The drive, itself, is worth the journey. While the entrance fee of $15 is pricey, the area is loaded with native and non native plants including many varieties of orchids. One descends on a short steep path, eventually reaching the orchid garden. A golf cart can be hired ($5?) to take one to the base of the trail or up to the start if one is not up to the steep decline. We spent two hours exploring and snapping pictures of the varieties of flora.

Finishing our time in Hilo, we set off for Volcano (next Blog).

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Ride on the Southwest Chief

Last spring on one of our drives around Santa Fe we took a road marked to Lamy and found ourselves at a rustic train station. Much to our delight we learned the Amtrak train Southwest Chief stopped daily on its runs to and from Chicago and Los Angeles. We had fun talking with the station master and decided that we would have to find an opportunity to take the Chief.

Murray and I had enjoyed taking trains like the Denver Zepher and the California Zepher back in mid 60's and so when we received an invitation to a wedding outside of Los Angeles we decided that this provided the opportunity to ride the rails again. We made our reservation about six weeks in advance and were pleased to get senior tickets at $55. The jump to a roomette was simply too much money so we decided to stay with reserved coach. So on a Thursday in August we made the short 12 mile drive to Lamy where, at no charge we could park our car in the small dirt parking lot. Typical of many days the train was late. We were in no rush and took that in good stride. When several hours later we boarded we sank into our spacious seats and became fascinated with some of the neighboring scenery that seemed fresh and new to us even through we were close to home.

We soon began exploring the train and found we really liked to hang out in the sightseer Lounge Car. While we had brought books to read, music to listen to and magazines along we found our time was spent enjoying conversations with fellow travelers and watching the scenery change. When the attendant came for dinner reservations, we made one and found it fun to be seated with strangers, enjoyed a lively conversation while eating a respectable dinner.

We arrived only slightly late into LA and were delighted with exploring the station before linking up with a reserved car to take us to the suburb where the wedding activities were to be held. The very dramatic art deco ticket windows and waiting room is roped off but it is possible to get good views and to take pictures.

Following wedding activities we boarded for our return trip home... again the train ran late but this just didn't bother us and we enjoyed our 15 hour trip back to Lamy. Certainly the trip has inspired us to explore other long distance train travel.

Some highlight to train travel:

1. So much more relaxing than flying or driving.
2. Meeting interesting people and having lively conversations.
3. Possible to plan a trip getting on and off the train along the way to visit places of interest.
4. Enjoying the rhythm of the train... a chance to let go of every day worries and just be present to the moment.

If you enjoyed this post on travel you might want to check out these posts:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Republicans hijacked term Conservative

When did we lose the modifier, "fiscal," from the brand name, "conservative?" The term conservative has taken all kinds of meanings over at least the past century. As a political economist, my training and therefore my belief structure is founded upon prudent (read that-sensible) personal and public financial principles (read that rules for living when related to personal, and laws and regulation when related to public). By that measure, I am a conservative.

The Republican Party has captured the label, "Conservative," but its actions are far removed from the intended definition. Viewing the most recent past, when this party was in control of the Federal Government, it managed to raid the Treasury in two ways. It cut taxes and sanctioned two unfunded wars. It is not a party of fiscal conservatism.

Now I get to the dilemma of current day conservatism dealing with progress. In its present day form, conservatives are antithetical to moving forward. This problem does not exist in fiscal conservatism, i.e., living within one's means. In my lifetime there were several balanced budgets, most the result of ending wars. These occurred between 1946 and 47 and 47-48 as a result of reductions after World War II. Again balances happened between 1950 and 51, 55 and 56 and 56 and 57, the first 3 within the Truman Administration, the last two under the Eisenhower Administration. During this time, the highest marginal tax rate that contributed to such result was 91% and the economy for the most part, thrived.

A balanced budget was achieved between 1999 and 2001. Both parties like to claim a budget surplus at the end of the Clinton Administration. The final outlays shown in the Report of the Treasury were deficits, but with the addition of off budget elements, there was a surplus. It is difficult to determine from published documents whether a budget led in the end to a surplus or deficit. The only telltale is whether the total deficit increased or decreased. The deficit clock on 6th Avenue in New York was turned off in 2000, but turned back on in 2002. Before 2001 it was a Democratic Administration in charge, succeeded by a Republican one that ran deficits for every year it was in power and turned the clock back on.

While my philosophy of fiscal conservatism concludes that government must balance its books, I consider this necessity to be one of over time and not every year. Thus, I am opposed to a Constitutional Amendment that would require a balanced budget for each year. This leads me to my final thought. During periods of recession it is necessary for government expenditures to exceed receipts. This principle stems from consideration of the components of Gross National Product (GNP), consumer expenditures, private and public investment, and other public expenditure. Those who call for reduction in public expenditure, especially investment, during periods of recession should review the economic history of the U.S., especially what occurred in 1929-30.

See similar posts
Payroll Tax Holiday
Deficit Reduction Act
Target, Walmart and China and Price of Oil
Universal Health Revisited

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Here's a fun parody that popped into my mind this week... while a bit late for the First Night of Chanukah very appropriate for tonight!

‘Twas the first night of Chanukah
When all thru the house
Every Creature was stirring
Even pet mouse
The wallets were laid
In a haphazard way
Expecting the gelt
That daddy would pay
Us children were shouting
Refusing to sleep
And Mama was crying
‘Keep this noise to a peep’
When out at the door
Came a knock so loud
I knew it was Grandpa
Who would bring in a crowd.
Dad sprang from his chair
To attend to the matter
Aunts and Uncles trooped in
O my, such chatter
Coins jingling in pockets
Enough for my rockets
Bundles of presents and toys
One for each girl and each boy
Mama, hands on hips, I could tell
She hadn’t expected
This visit from Hell
But ‘wait’ Grandpa shouted
Before anything’s outed
Light candles and recall
Judas Macabee and all

And now I have kids who dutifully shout
‘Not clothes,’ with a pout
‘Please mommy and daddy,
We’d rather have money
All that time in the store, waiting in lines
What happened to me-I opined
Have I been corrupted
By commercials that state,
‘It’s your duty to spend, buy all that you can, and even more’
‘Forget that plea from that old sage advisor
As he bade his good-bye, Grandpa always implored
“Don’t waste money, spend right
“Happy Chanukah to all, I’ll see you next night!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

If you are like me you might find yourself saying... where does the time go.  There are so many things on my to do list and somehow I just don't get through them.  The past five months blogging has been one of the things on the list that I have just not gotten to.  Why???  I'm asking myself that question.  It isn't for lack of ideas or adventures I've had.   Maybe its priorities.  Other things have demanded my attention and had to be taken care of.  That is clearly part of the reason.  And sometimes even though I have had the time I just haven't felt like it.  If I am to be honest, some of that may be due to my Mom's passing last May and this blog didn't feel like the appropriate expression of the grieving process.

This morning I decided to look at the traffic to the blog and was surprised how we continue to be picked up by the search engines and the posts that get a number of hits.  The statue of Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception is the top of the list receiving quite a few every week as does the one on Boquette Crime.  Of my Art Postings the one "She Paints Sea Shells" is the most popular.  Well.. that's some motivation.  To know that I might be providing some information to the general public.

I think back to the reason we started this blog.  Some friends and family had expressed that they liked the unique things we were doing in "retirement" and that it was providing inspiration for them. OK! Today I don't even like the word "retire."  I prefer Jane Fonda's term "Third Act" which I heard via a podcast on a  retreat she participated in at Upaya (which I listened to on their Dharma podcast  and highly recommend). The retreat explored the fact that we are living longer and encouraged us to find ways to make the 30 years that people often have after retiring from their formal careers meaningful.

For me each day has the potential to be an exciting adventure and it is up to me to make it so.  It is fun to share those adventures on this blog. So I'm committed to writing again and to encouraging Murray to do some writing too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perry-Mansfield's Evening of Dance - Preview Performance July 20th

I just returned from "Camp Night" at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp still very much under the magic created by young dancers and exceptional professional choreographers. In her 11th season at Perry-Mansfield, Director of Dance, Linda Kent, has put together an outstanding program. Several days earlier we had worked on a press release and when I asked her to describe what she thought we would be seeing she described it as "an astonishing variety;" "compelling physicality;" and "amazing artistry!" Well she was right on!!! And that is just scratching the surface of superlatives that I want to use.

It featured seven new works from seven different choreographers and a special presentation of excerpts from Paul Taylor's Runes. Each piece was extremely different and challenged the high school and college dancers in a variety of ways.

The opening piece, Slow Falling, by Rick McCullough performed on pointe opened the concert and showed the technical skill of the eight dancers. Excellent partnering and performances by Ellie Swiatkiwsky and Nehemiah Spencer were a highlight for me.
Aperture by Jennifer Golonka used fourteen dancers in interesting groupings that in Golonka's words "explores our relationship with photographs and memories." It is exciting to watch how Golonka's choreographic skills have been growing from summer to summer.
Fix Up, Look Sharp by Kyle Abraham, a 2010 Princess Grace Choreography Fellow, was a quartette featuring four outstanding dancers: John Rafffles Durbin, Delana Jerry, Nehemiah Spencer, and Ellie Swiatkiwky. The young audience caught the humor and the seriousness in it immediately! The quirky fresh movement was excellently performed and I particularly look forward to seeing this piece again. (I'll be heading out tonight too.)
The first half concluded with Paul Taylor's 1975 piece Runes staged by former Taylor Company Member Linda Kent. I had caught this piece in a tech rehearsal two days earlier and was thrilled to see how the dancers had grown in just two more days of rehearsal. Eleven dancers were tightly ensembled in this evening's performance in a thrilling section of jumps at the end. They have also captured the Taylor style of movement in their four and a half weeks of studying at Perry-Mansfield.

The second half opened with an aerial piece, Sweet Beatles, created by Janet Taisey Craft. Performed by six dancers to Beatles' songs the combination of aerial movement and on the ground choreographer blended well together with a nice sense of humor that kept the audience laughing and gasping one moment to the next. The next piece by Thang Dao called Heart Play was inspired by the title and text of Heiner Mueller's Heart Play and the program notes tell us that it explores the complexities and mysteries of relationships between two people and how an individual can lose oneself when heart is at play. Thang Dao is clearly a choreographer that I look forward to seeing more from. His use of the dancers was fresh and intriguing with unique partnering, use of chairs and formations with an emotional intensity. The score by Richard Bennett and Paula Jeanine Bennett worked well for the piece.
Ernesta Corvina's On the Path has a folk ballet flavor to it set to Traditional Celtic Harp. The dancers' performances were clean and spirited capturing the mood beautifully.
The program concluded with Antonio Brown's Groovestreet Manor, filled with surprises and a sense of humor combining characterization of seniors watching TV at a nursing home with lively contemporary jazz. The dancers captured both the characterization of the senior each was portraying along with the inner child making for a playful way to end a wonderful evening that simply flew by for this audience member.

A special congratulations to the technical staff. Costumer Tamara Cobus did an outstanding job. Lighting was superbly designed by Michael Jarett with JC Clementz Stage Managing the evening.

As a Board member of Perry-Mansfield and a former alumni I am so proud of what I saw. Thank you to Linda Kent, the choreographers, and all the support staff that made this possible. If you are anywhere near Steamboat Springs Colorado, or have friends in the area, tell them not to miss this concert. It officially opens to the public Thursday, July 21 and runs through Saturday July 23 starting each evening at 8. Call 970-879-7125 for tickets.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sarasota Hospice House - Making a Difficult Time Very Meaningful

On May 1, my Mom, Janet Klineman passed peacefully. Two and a half weeks earlier she had begun internal bleeding and at age 90 she elected to not do any testing and instead to work with Hospice. As we were discharged from Sarasota’s Memorial Hospital the ER doctor said we would be pleased with Hospice and he respected her decision.

Early the next morning we had a call from a staff member of Hospice who arranged to interview us and within a few hours Hospice was helping us adjust to this “transition” period. My sister joined me later in the day and together we began providing care for Mom at her apartment assisted by a Hospice nurse. We received a package of emergency medicine by Fed Express, which we kept in the refrigerator.

When it began to be difficult to care for Mom at home, the nurse suggested moving her to Sarasota’s Hospice House. Knowing how Mom wanted to be at home we included her in our discussions and the nurse assured her it would not feel like she was in a hospital setting and that all the rooms were spacious and lovely. As family members we would be free to come and go and even stay overnight if we wanted. And most important of all the staff would know how to care for Mom in the best way possible rather than my sister and I improvising and guessing what to do. Mom agreed.

A room was available later that day. Hospice arranged an easy transport. We were wonderfully surprised and pleased with Mom’s room. Spacious and airy with a screened in porch that overlooked a butterfly garden we immediately felt at ease and Mom was very pleased. Over the next 10 days we got to know the staff well and to appreciate their sensitivity and care. All was done to make Mom comfortable and to support us as family members.

Mom was alert and very present with us until about 24 hours before going into a deep sleep from which she did not wake. During the time she was awake we had many meaningful moments together which a storyteller friend of mine, Regina Ress, referred to as golden moments.

Mom had long been a supporter of Hospice and now having experienced it first hand I am too. I am most grateful to the Sarasota Tidewell Hospice House for the outstanding work they are doing. I commend the volunteer staff who were there to open doors, tend the garden, bring in therapy pets, and assist anyway they were needed. The professional staff was outstanding from the doctors to the nursing assistants. There were simply no weak links.

When Mom died one of the nurses suggested I quietly spend some time in Mom’s room before they called the funeral home. I was hesitant at first but so glad I did. Those twenty minutes of being able to sit quietly beside her even though she had passed has proven to be very meaningful. Thank you Sarasota Tidewell Hospice.