Sunday, August 29, 2010

A not so grand beginning to a grand day

When is 5 o'clock in the morning not really 5 o'clock?

When your wife wants to get up to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon!

It was actually 4 o'clock. The sun wasn't scheduled to make its appearance until about 6 a.m.

She just didn't know how to set the alarm on her cell phone or either she forgot about the time change. I don't know.

Recollection has it on the fateful morning, at our site in Mather Campground, we were up and running shortly after the alarm went off. My wive always likes to be early.

We cranked up our trusty van and headed over to the rim.

It was dark. No light in sight. And no other crazy people like us anywhere to be found.

It was easy to find a parking spot. And it was also easy to find a spot to stand at the rim where one could see the first rays unencumbered.

I told her to secure her location. The warning was because if anyone else was going to show up, they would take the best spot.

She positioned herself, wrapped up in her blanket with camera at hand.
l wandered around. The sun coming up over the rim may  be pretty,  but it was not my kind of shot. I wanted to have people in my photo.

Time dragged on and she held her position. One by one and in twos or more, people started showing up. I guess they figured getting there between 5 and 6 was good enough.

More and more people arrive. There was a big crowd. And my advice to my wife paid off. She maintained her front-row position and became surrounded by strangers turned friends who exhibited their exhiliration at being there at daybreak.

What is it about a sunrise? 

Back home, most of these people would still be snuggled in their beds. It was the same sun.

But it was the Grand Canyon. And the gathering was grand. And the sunrise was grand. 

Another experience that makes us a part of something way bigger than what we are.

And that itself is a grand feeling!

Next post: Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010 (hopefully before midnight)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Traveling back in time through music

Boston skyline 

Oftentimes I take a trip without leaving my house -- or the coffee shop I frequent here in Ocean Springs, MS.

I turn on my computer, plug in the earphones and make my way to You-Tube.

I have always found the song I was searching for. And finding one song leads to another. And thus, I take a trip in my mind mingling songs with the reality in my life.

I love the opening guitar chord (and the song too) to "Please Come to Boston" by Dave Loggins.

Boston was part of an itinerary back in 1977 when my wife Linda and I quit our jobs, packed up our five-year-old son and hit the road in a van to see a large part of the US. 

We enjoyed the historic sites and beautiful scenery from Patti Page's "Old Cape Cod" all the way up to Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor, ME.

Beach at Cape Cod

Also on that trip we came into contact with the "Country Roads" of West Virginia so aptly described in the song by John Denver.

Another time, while traveling along the Great Lakes from Detroit and in to Canada and over to Niagara Falls, I couldn't get Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" off my mind.

Although the boat and its crew of 29 went down in Lake Superior, there were similar boats we saw in the area to remind us the place in commerce that such boats and men played.

On another trip, as Linda went into the visitors center at a west Texas town, over the speakers outside, I could hear the refrains from one of my favorite country singers, Marty Robbins, God rest his soul, with his "El Paso."

El Paso

Its said you can't go back, but I would love to return to El Paso and find the campground where we stayed that time.

I don't remember the name or the location. We found it by accident, but what a great discovery. We pulled off a main thoroughfare and drove to where we could park our van in the rear.

The campground was secluded with a brick wall all around it. The restroom facilities, as well as I can remember, were the best ever. 

Clean, shining with inlaid tile throughout. Never have experienced such facilities since.

We didn't become acquainted with the rock band the Eagles music on a "dark desert highway" but it was on a desert highway, heading into Death Valley.

Along the side of the road with their thumbs stuck out (back then,1978, hitch-hiking was perhaps safer) was a Canadian couple -- David and Penny with their huge backpacks.

Death Valley National Monument

We decided to pick them up and they traveled with us for the following two days camping and visiting the sites in the area.

They were on the very beginning of what turned into an extreme odyssey -- a working trip around the world.

Years later we received word about their itinerary and its completion with their return to Canada.

They were fans of the Eagles and thought the cover shot of the "Hotel Calfornia"  album was taken at the Furnace Creek Hotel in Death Valley. It wasn't. The photo is of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

It was interesting though, thinking it might have been.

In 1973, on our first trip out West as a family, we covered some 7,000 miles in three weeks. 

Heading south out of Marin County in California, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and I found out what Tony Bennet was singing about.

During the past 37 years I've returned to the City by The Bay at least 15 times. The journeys will continue. The hunt to find where "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is so delightful.

These are just a few of the songs that rekindle memories of places visited and adventures enjoyed.

(Note: Except for the San Francisco heart, all photos were taken from internet sites)

Next post: Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sometimes foreign food can wait

The great thing, or not so great thing, about fast food chains (McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc ) is their familiarity.

Before going in the front door (since it has usually been visited many times before), patrons know what will be on the menu and how it will taste.

And it doesn't matter if it is Ocean Springs, where we live, Dallas, New York, San Francisco or anywhere in between.

And for the most part, prices are close to being the same. They may vary a few nickels or dimes, but not a whole lot -- even at locations outside the United States depending on currency evaluations.

Some people may go to the extreme of calling food at such places "homecooking" or even "comfort food" because of an affinity to find a place to their liking, for whatever reason, and then going back many times, as if returning to one's own kitchen, knowing exactly what is  available and what it is going to taste like.

At home, my wife and I frequent Whataburger -- too much. And sometimes Taco Bell. When we're headed out of town in the early morning, we usually don't eat breakfast at home, but stop off at McDonald's for breakfast burritos.

When visiting a foreign country, we desire to partake of the local cuisine -- at least 99 percent of the time.

We like to see the way things we eat back home are fixed abroad whether it is pizza, chicken, steak, paninis, pasta or whatever.

The foreign food expeditions are usually planned out so that we can enjoy a leisurely meal.

But sometimes it doesn't work out that way. When the plane, train or bus runs late and its been a long time since the last meal, anything goes.

Such was the case in Venice, Italy.

We had arrived by train from Florence and headed out on foot to search for our hotel. About two hours later, we found it. 

Then it was time to find some food. Where to go? What to do? Our stomachs were growling.

We seemed blinded to things around us as we headed toward St. Mark's Square.

The square was a mile or so away. We meandered through small alleys and pedestrian thoroughfares and upon turning one corner ( I doubt I could find that location again without the help of a map) -- a bit of home -- Burger King.

Whoppers, French fries and soft drinks -- it was ---- so Italian!

We satisfied ourselves and then headed on to sights unseen and adventures around every corner.

Burger King wasn't the only recognizable sign we saw. There was also a McDonald's located just outside the square.

Both offered "homecooking" and restrooms. What a relief!

Next post: Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When in Rome?

Yours truly and wife Linda

What do visitors to Rome talk about the most?

Is it the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican?

The ancient Colosseum?

Treve Fountain?

The Spanish Steps?

For some it could be something as mundane as a manhole cover -- at least for those who are fans of the 1953 movie "Roman Holiday" starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. 

Most movie-goers probably refer to the wallhanging as the the "Mouth of Truth" which in Italian is "La Bocca della Verita" and became somewhat famous in the movie.

The piece of art is located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. The man-like face was carved from Pavonazzeto marble. The sculpture is though to be part of a 1st century ancient Roman fountain and portrayed one of several possible pagan gods, often believed Oceanus. 

A report says that most Romans believe that the "Bocca" represents the ancient god of the River Tiber.

Starting in the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one's hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. The piece was placed at the church in the 17th century.

Visitors to Rome continue to ferret out the church, placing their hand in the mouth as the two lovers did in the movie.

On the particular day my wife and I came upon the scene in the early afternoon,  there were about 50 or more people from many nationalities crowded in the small space leading to the artwork. 

Everyone wanted to see the artifact and place their hand in the mouth. Cameras were handed back and forth as persons unknown to each other cheerfully shot pictures for posterity.

If there were couples, first a picture of one and then the other, and then both together.

None left with a partial limb. It was a fun and interesting time to be with those brought together by stars such as Hepburn and Peck.

It was one of the highlights of Rome, as were the previously mentioned "must see" sights of this wonderful city.

Next post: Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

JFK -- conspiracy theories live on

"X" on pavement on Elm Street (below passenger
 door on vehicle) marks spot where shot hit JFK

Movie director Oliver Stone's "JFK" movie was on TV this past weekend. It was the first time that I took time to watch it in its entirety.

I was in my second year at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg that fateful Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated.

School Book Depository (left) from where Lee 
Harvey Oswald took the fatal shots

The day wasn't that unusual, until that afternoon. I was walking to the journalism department when I heard the news.

There may have been some disparaging remarks about the president, I don't know. After all, the previous year, Kennedy was in office when James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi.

Flag flies over Dealey Plaza

Kennedy had federalized the Mississippi National Guard and placed them on the Ole Miss campus to help clear the way for the African-American's admission. 

That being said, the one remark I remember the most was "I'm glad it (Kennedy's assassination) didn't happen in Mississippi."

More than 45 years later I finally visited Dealy Plaza, the location of the unspeakable. My wife and I spent some time on a Sunday afternoon in the plaza. 

We easily found a spot to park about two blocks away. On that hot day in June, there weren't many tourists about, but there were some.

The plaza is in Dallas City Park and is named for George Bannerman Dealey, an early publisher of the Dallas Morning News and a civic leader.

There are marks on the road (Elm Street) denoting the spot where the shots hit Kennedy.

Reports indicate that, annually, more than 300,000 people still visit the Sixth Floor Museum that now occupies the top two floors of the former book depository. The building is where Lee Harvey Oswald is reported to have fired the shots that killed the president.

Throughout the plaza, there are entrepreneurs who promote walking tours. Others talk of conspiracy theories with sales of videos and other memorabilia.

Who really killed JFK? Lee Harvey Oswald, of course, unless you believe it was the CIA, the military-industrial complex or the Mafia.

Conspiracy theories abound. They always will.

Next post: August 8, 2010