Tag Archives: travel blog

Raining: The Flipside of Down


Washington, D.C.

Rolling through high-heeled streets,
Shimmering in a photo finish.

Small drops with big ideas,
Ya make that steal, or merely cop a feel?

Too much cotton for mirrors on the flipside of down,
But soaking floats color.

So dragging the horizon like an ephemeral plea,
She teases air from smog.

Small drops, what’s the big idea?

She prays for din to break silence,
Before fancying a prey on thunder.

Pattering in gardens of brick and cities of grass,
She won’t ride lightening to wit,
Why take a bolt, when Sun owns color?


Glasgow, Scotland


San Diego, CA


Sunday Night Drum Circle — Little Beach, Maui

Laid out…

Local drum circle on Sunday nights: It’s not in the guidebooks, but, if you are open to spending the evening on a nude beach listening to kettle drum, bongo, and tabla beats, it’s worth checking out. After the sunset, about 100 of us exited in a ritualistic procession led by three men wielding torches and lighting our way down a windy trail of rocks. My friend summarized the evening best:

“I finally understand what this whole peace-love thing is about!”

*Repost


TSA Body Scan: Will you say “No” Nov. 24th — National Opt Out Day?

“If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”

–John Tyner’s battle cry at San Diego International Airport, during an invasive pat down by a TSA screener.  And the new punchline for privacy advocates. On his YouTube video that captured the incident, we hear the overhead announcement, “Security is everyone’s responsibility,”  as Tyner dubs the phrase.
Tree Trunk — Balboa Park, SD
The instructions:  Step into the oversized, closet-like contraption.  Place your palms facing out on either side of your head so that your arms are about parallel with your shoulders.  Spread your legs shoulder length apart.  Now hold still…

If there is any confusion, look around, and you’ll probably see a cutout type drawing that will illustrate the position to assume.

“Is this safe?  How much radiation am I taking in?” I asked with a friendly smile, as I stepped into the box a few months ago at Nashville International Airport.

“You are getting more radiation by using your cell phone than going through this machine,”  the TSA screener responded, equally amicable.

Questions most are asking:  Is it safe for my health? Does it violate my privacy rights?

In the News:

  • San Diego, Calif — Monday, 32-year-old local resident, John Tyner, posted a YouTube video of his probing pat down, after refusing a full body scanner and body search at San Diego International Airport.  In the video, Tyner offers to go through the metal detector on several occasions and apologizes “for the hassle” following the TSA screener’s pat down.  He cancelled his American Airlines’ flight and is now being investigated by TSA.  Irony?  The clip has received more than 50,000 hits as of this morning. “If I don’t do it, nobody will,” Tyner says in the video.
  • New Jersey — Lawmakers are asking airport passengers to refuse the body scan for “National Opt Out Day” on Wednesday, November 24th, one of the busiest travel days.
  • Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, two pilots filed a federal suit against the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the full body scans and pat downs are a violation of their Fourth Amendment Rights (protects against unreasonable search and seizure).

Did They Serve Spam or Not?? That is the Question.

Tweet from Carnival Cruise Liner, Splendor: In regards to our last post, we wanted to clarify that while some SPAM was delivered, it was never served to guests. Tweeted November 11, 2010 (day ship docked in San Diego Bay)

San Francisco Examiner; here is the lede: Grazia Gala and her husband, Kishore Pradhan, expected sun, relaxation and rest on their seven-day cruise to Mexico. What happened instead were long lines, cold showers and Spam. –Today’s news

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/Glad-to-be-back-on-solid-ground-108337454.html#ixzz15SqgfM1f


Voyage of the Doomed: Carnival Awaits Spamcationers!

Reunions and cheers welcomed, but no stale Pop Tarts or Spam please!

–Passengers said they waited in line upwards of two hours for such tasty treats!

Above: The 113,000-ton Splendor, one of Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest ships, docks in San Diego Bay around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, after an early morning engine room fire rendered it stranded last Monday.

San Diego Bay, Calif.  The plethora of media, Veteran’s Day parade, warm weather and jubilation bathed the popular tourist destination in, excuse the pun, a carnivalesque vibe.  People gathered in the hundreds, and a laissez faire sense of community support welcomed passengers back to dry land San Diego style.

Tugboats reined in almost 3,300 passengers on the Carnival Splendor cruise liner from Baja, Calif to San Diego, docking at the Port of San Diego’s B Street Pier Cruise Ship Terminal.  The ship departed from San Diego on Sunday, November 7, 2010.

Above: Cindi Wolfe, of Ventura, CA, weaves past the crowd toward her family, who has just disembarked.

Series Below: Jeanne Ralston, age 85, is greeted by daughter, Cindi Wolfe.

Wolfe’s cheerful energy put her in the spotlight.  Ralston seemed to be keeping pace with her daughter, taking questions from reporters with thoughtful and animated ease.

Top of Ralston’s wish list:  Coffee.


Photo Story — Local Take: 4,500 Disembark in SD Harbor

“My son had brought two flashlights, so I think we were the envy of the ship.”

–Passenger Jeanne Ralston

Above: Passengers make their way down everyman’s catwalk as clicks, firing questions, flashes and cheers welcome them home.

Carnival Splendor docks in San Diego Harbor;  Thursday, November 11, 2010 (Veteran’s Day), 9:30-11:15 a.m. The morning is warm and breezy and the mood depends on one’s stage role.

North Harbor Drive:  4,500 passengers and crew disembark in small groups as hundreds of family, friends and onlookers wait.  On the adjacent artery, Pacific Highway, local residents prepare and gather for the Veteran’s Day parade.  Reasons to celebrate abound.  The warm breeze

Above: Jeanne Ralston of Ventura, CA, embraces her daughter, Cindi Wolfe.  Wolfe’s parents and brother were on the ship.

My son had brought two flashlights, so I think we were the envy of the ship,” Jeanne Ralston, age 85, tells the slew of media with an exaggerated eye roll and flash of smile.  Ralston and her husband were sporting dog tags in memory of their son in-law, Navy Commander Duane G. Wolfe, 54, who was killed during duty in Iraq on May 25, 2007.  Ralston said that crew members commemorated Veteran’s Day with a gathering that included a large American flag.

Above: Cindi Wolfe welcomes her family home.


Above: Retha Hoeffken of Cypress, CA, waits for her daughter, 29-year-old Heather Hoeffken, who is on the ship with her fiance.

Passengers praised the crew, however, some sensed indecisiveness and a lack of communication from upper management.

Retha Hoeffken said she spoke with her daughter yesterday morning for the first time since the ordeal started for her on Monday morning, when she learned about the fire while browsing the web.  Heather told her mother that passengers were not informed that there was, in-fact, a fire on the ship, despite smelling smoke. “When she called me she was crying.  She said, ‘I’ve never been this scared.’  They didn’t get any information,” Retha Hoeffken said.

“I’ve been making phone calls to Carnival, and they said everything was great.  They said they were being well taken care of, and they had flushing toilets and cold water and cold food…  They never asked me her name,” Retha Hoeffken adds. She said that the first thing her daughter wants to do is take a hot shower, upon getting home.

Above: People continue standing along the balconies several hours into the disembarking process.  (It was difficult to see if they were passengers or part of the ship’s crew.)  Every now then, instructions would blare from the ship’s loudspeakers.

Above: A front and center view attracts an on-going crowd, despite the lack of parking.  Plenty of hotels line the other side of North Harbor Dr.  San Diego International airport sits a few miles down the same artery and downtown’s Little Italy is a stone’s throw away.

Above: A family is taxied off the cruise ship docks.  Bystanders wave and cheer.

“Welcome home!”

“Come back to San Diego!”


Late Night Crab Fishing: Size Matters!

Ocean Beach boasts the longest concrete pier in the West Coast at 1,971 feet. Saturday night a couple of weeks back; Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA.

The night is chilly around 10:30 p.m., but I soon lose myself in the waves slapping against the cliffs (walking backwards and stopping often to do so). The scene changes from couples to family, friends, beer and soda alongside fishing gear. My friend asks a man who is leaving for his bait. We walk a little more than 3/4ths of the pier’s length and set up shop.

Inhale…ahhh… Trite truth: the air is scented with sodium induced crispness! Late night crab fishing is definitely an off-the-beaten-path San Diego experience!

It is Loc’s first time out. He spends an hour fishing, but, like everyone else with whom I spoke, his net comes up empty (except for his bait). But he says it’s fun.

A small cage with mackerel is hooked to the bottom of the net.

The net is tethered with a nylon rope and dropped 40 to 50 feet down.

A group of three men walk passed with their gear. “Catch anything?” I yell.
“Nah, going to Mission Beach!” one of them shouts back.

Louis, his wife and their son often spend weekends fishing.  Tonight, he says they caught small lobsters and released them back into the ocean.  Size matters!  Otherwise, you’ll be fined.

“She likes to get her hands dirty,” he says with a smile, while cocking his head back toward his wife.

An evening after a good rain is the best time to fish, Louis advises.

Update 11/11/10: Spoke with a friend of mine that ended up catching a crab after I left (before midnight).


Fresh Droplets — Stick Out Your Tongue!

San Diego, Balboa Park:  Photo taken with BB cell phone.  Poem inspired by a chance meeting during a morning walk through the rose garden this cloud-ridden week.

Fresh droplets,

Stick out my tongue,

Dewy rose,

My celli captures it beautifully!

Plumes of white brighten the dim sky,

Shades sparkle in pink, cream, yellow, red, green…

Gray palette:  Showcase petals and leaves!

Salty drops,

Her hand shakes,

Hushed cords,

No lightning or thunder. Only rain.

“…Sit for a minute?”


Between Seasons: Will you blossom or wilt?

Balboa Park, Rose Garden (recommend)

It’s October, and I watch a bee graze the stamen (that thin hair-like stuff in the center) of a pale yellow Julia Childs.

Some blooms have wilted, while other buds flourish — hard to tell if it’s spring or autumn.  Isn’t that the case sometimes in life too?

We wilt and blossom in the paradox until nature indicates a clear shift, and we are once again intimate with season.



Classic Kindness Strolls By — Luck?

Sitting at Starbucks…
“You dropped your dollar,” a man behind me in line says as I step away from the register. I thank him, pick it up and take my seat on an armless, cushiony, brown chair.

“That was really nice of him,” the woman sitting next to me comments. I don’t bother opening my book. She tells me she would have returned the dollar too.

Her name is Sandra. She used to be homeless, she says. . “I never thought it would happen to me. I guess sometimes you have to watch what you say.”

We chat for a few minutes. Then I tell her about my blog and ask if she’d be interested in sharing some of her story. She agrees.

Her soft brown eyes set upon mine, and she gingerly pats the back of her afro.

Sandra spent 1½ years on the streets of San Diego starting in December 1990, after getting laid off from her job at Longs Drug store in El Cajon. “I used to go around asking people to give me something to eat. I would never ask for money,” she adds.

Sandra would go to St. Vincent on Imperial Avenue to shower, but she chose not to stay there – too many rules and restrictions.

For her, the streets were more congenial. “Sometimes I was spit at. People would throw things at me. That was just for the first couple of nights. But knock on wood, people were really nice.”

Then on a summer day in 1991, Sandra was near the downtown courthouse, when she recognized an old friend. She called out to her. “She didn’t recognize me at first,” Sandra said. Her friend was in disbelief.

But she offered Sandra a way to put her life back on track:  A home.  “[She] took me under her wings and got me a job. I guess she trusted me enough to live with her.”

I start asking another question, but Sandra lets me know that this is all she is comfortable sharing. And it is more than enough.

I see Sandra every now and then at the CVS in North Park. She’s a cashier. If I get her register, I end the transaction with: Good seeing you again.

She responds: Good seeing you too.

Or vise-versa. Either way, it’s nice.


San Diego Health and Wellness: Want to Quiet the Cacophony of Thoughts?

San Diego provides a great opportunity for enhancing health and wellness.  During a recent trip to Manhattan and Washington, D.C., I was surprise to learn how many friends and acquaintances relate such ideas to L.A.  So, I thought a story on health and wellness in the San Diego area was in order.

On a Sunday morning…

Meditation is about connecting with your emotions, Courtney Kimpo, our instructor tells us.  About a dozen people, some seated on blankets resting on the bamboo floor and others seated in chairs, prepare to practice meditation (on Tuesday evenings that number jumps to 50 people or more).   Flickering candles line the floor before Courtney.

Today, we will go into relaxation, followed by concentration, and heart-centered meditation, she says.

Sounds easy enough.

But sitting in my chair, I am thankful that we are commencing with some stretches at the top of this hour-long session.  Having practiced meditation before, I can tell you that well-intentioned surrender to these gentle directives can ignite a misfiring of synapses.

A melodic flute charms the space, and we flow into part one: Relaxation.  Relax the muscles in your forehead, your face, Courtney coaxes with soft ease…

Open your eyes slightly and focus on the candlelight or the darker shades of bamboo on the floor, she suggests as the class transitions into concentration.  She guides our breath and our attention like a thread.  We end the session with a vibration of sounds that crest into a concert of “Om.”

I do not see colors or shed tears of joy, but I feel my heart beat.  I sense my spirit.  I brush something pure.

After the session, I ask Courtney if she has any suggestions for those of us for whom meditation does not come easy.

“Begin slowly.  Begin with patience.  Begin with a positive reading — something that brings you inspiration.  Try to connect with the joy of your heart center and know that everyone has challenging moments with meditation.”

A few minutes later, back out on Adams Avenue, I see Courtney again.  “Do you know what I really want to say?” she asks.

“What?”

“What I really want to say is if you are having a hard time getting into meditation, come to a Pilgrimage of the Heart meditation.”

I smile, and think to myself, see you next week.

Located in Normal Heights (10 minutes from downtown), Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studio offers free meditation on Tuesdays and Sundays.


NYC Parks: Rockin’ the Summer Freestyle!

We all know that city parks are a public service, but Manhattan’s parks add a bit more flare to this concept.  Would you expect anything less?

Union Square Park (above)

The weekend before last, some friends and I saw The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare in the Park) in Central Park staring Al Pacino as Shylock -– a free offering.  The moon was full.  The night was hot and humid.  The stage was minimal, and the costumes were authentic.  The trees barely swayed, but the performance and atmosphere charmed the moment.  A pseudo 16th century experience in 2010 — kinda cool!

Other fun parks:

Bryant Park Monday night movies in the summer.  Watch a movie on the big screen with hundreds of locals.  I like grabbing some eats and finding a table along the perimeter.  The evening bids a relaxing and communal local experience. Free.

Washington Square Park & Union Square Park – late afternoon, early evenings, and weekends –- best time for random art, music, and people watching.


San Diego Eats: Local Picks with Freshness and Flavor

I’m from the NE, where food preparation is arguably among the best in the country.  However, the west coast owns the freshness factor.  That being said, the following restaurants boast the preparation that an east coast food snob desires with a combination of ingredients that can only be served up on the west coast.  As you probably guessed, the price point reflects the food, but no worries, it’s not rock star style.  Keep in mind lunch and happy hour options for a financially savvy dining experience.

Sushi:  Hane (Sorry, no website!  Dare I say, it’s better than Nobu!)

Location:  Banker’s Hill

Atmosphere:  Understated.  Clean lines with a splash of color.

Fresh, melt in your mouth sushi!  Try the negitoro for a culmination of that descriptor.

Modern California Fare:  Market Restaurant

Location: Del Mar

Atmosphere:  Casual modern elegance. Warm hues that mix well with the selection of fare — unassuming, creatively, and fresh!

The combination of ingredients and subtle flavors will strike any true foodie’s fancy.

Spanish:  Tapas Picasso Restaurante

Location:  Hillcrest

Atmosphere:  Funky and intimate; a happenstance myriad of artwork with an aesthetic rhythm.

Rich textures and food combinations with personalized service and attention to detail.  And let’s beat a dead horse — it’s fresh!


Agitate Your Senses into Zen?

Agitation – A word that often conjures a negative connotation.  Perhaps misunderstood…

The other day my yoga teacher asked the class to agitate their necks while in mountain pose (upward dog) in order to release tension in the neck and shoulders.
Agitation in film photography usually refers to developing negatives or developing an image on photo paper.
Agitation is great for my contact lenses – keeps them clean and scratch free.
In our daily lives, however, “agitation” seems to wear a visor that flashes words like **annoyed**upset**roiled**.
So when my Vinyasa instructor mentioned agitation in the context of yogic practice – the word stood out like a nightgown-clad drag queen in a sacred temple.
And the utterance convened me to reconsider its meaning in my own life.  I looked up the entomology and according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Latin agitatus, past participle of agitare, frequentative of agere to drive — more at agent.
To drive… to direct movement…
Without agitation, would we ever really change?  Would we grow?  Maybe agitation drives an authentic path.

Washington, D.C. Hotspot

Chinatown in Washington, D.C. is today's hotspot for young professionals and graduate students.


Glasgow Speakeasies – A Drink Mate? Part IV

The Speakeasies

Evening Glow

Glasgow has more than 700 pubs – speakeasies that allow you to slip into the day’s social current.

My friend Abi  – a 30-something professional city dweller – and a score of locals turned me onto Ashton Lane’s pub scene in Glasgow’s trendy West End, as the real deal and not just a tourist aberration.  The cobblestoned pathway, narrow space, iron-rod outdoor seating, green plants and canopy of yellow Christmas lights cajole patronage from the borough’s large population of students and young professionals.

The vibe is laid-back-cool.  It’s as if the lane is saying, “No, I did not try, I am fabulous by happenstance, so relax, and have a pint.”  And when the temperature rises, beer gardens housed behind some of the pubs become prime real estate.

By the way, Ashton Lane is blocks away from Kelvingrove Park (85 acres).  Set in a 19th century Victorian design, the first purpose-built park in Scotland is the choice urban refuge to wind down, people watch, and picnic.

If watering-holes are your thing, reach past the tourist inside and ride on a Glaswegian tradition offered up by a local café owner, Donald Slessor, whose surname and lineage are denoted on the Scottish currency note.

Jump onto the underground – which is one big circuit – and pub hop from station to station until you get back to your starting point.  A groom or bride to be usually accompanies the party game – mere semantics.  The pints are stronger across the pond, so carry on with forethought.

Like a good ambassador, Slessor also suggests Café Ganolfi (www.cafeganolfi.com) as a “very chill” Sunday morning breakfast joint to nurse that hangover with good eats or a selection from the “huge array of alcoholic drinks.”  The café’s polished wood, stained glass window, and informal air make it a popular venue anytime of the day.


Greenspace: Your Natural Flow or a Parody of Fate?

Photograph by author

Bursting in with comet speed,
Tailing ethereal escapes,
Folding in and out of state,
The salacious flirt now spins retreat.

Exhales draw breath with renewed interest.
Green pastures bend to golden sandstone with a deadline footnote.
Spontaneous combustion takes the fall.
Sublime surrender in rubble razes ground.

With charming rescue, wildlife rings celestial bodies.
Coincidence swims with shouldered intent.
Accidents pour with pretext.
Either way, love now enters the equation…

Tripping skyward among insanely sunny showers,
Freefalling into a bed of mudded waters,

Eyes open!
Twisting wood and ocean hues are charging the horizon.
Smiling wildly at that spark of green before a setting sun,
Standing like a hanging man released from a parody of fate.

Is that sweat upon brow hovering over a grin?
Yes! The prism discovered its flood of light.

And so it goes, a fall trips spring…
Unearthed reflection now pitches universal color!


Pontificating Stations: Mind the Gap… and Wait?

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Beauty Bar in Manhattan speaking with a friend and fellow writer. As a New Yorker, he mentioned that the financial crisis seems to be leveling egos and raising existential questions amongst locals.  Substantive (ad-lib) chats with a swirl of humility are on the rise again in this financial and cultural hub, according to my friend and active Manhattanite for more than a dozen years.

As spring brings with it renewed life, perhaps ushering comfort into those extemporaneous exchanges with friends and strangers is the blessing.

mylove

(Spring Souls)

Can a soul be saved, if another soul waits?

The door you guard grants you passage to life.
You can shake your own hand on the other side.

But what if the shadows stop dancing?
Will you stand vigil?
Or spill into the night?

Do the walls coming down make you feel tall?
Or is it just another lie you fake?

Will you be callus and delete the past?
Perhaps lose yourself in task?
After all, it’s not the end of a life, right?

Can a soul be saved, if another soul waits?

I don’t know, but I will myself to turn the knob… and seek.


Starry Connections: Gujarat, India

Photograph by author

This poem is about a man I met in a small town in Gujarat, India.  His perseverance, humanity, and faith in the face of peril continue to inspire me.

Starry Connections

A barren star reflects his spirit,
But a flooded breath drowns his light.

A windy town plunges the boy,
Gasping, he resurfaces a man.

Life anew tethers his own,
Another vindicates the shells of his soul.

Succumbing to her calm,
He sips the air.
Trembling, he wakes.

Her water too icy to birth life,
Vindication takes a dive,
Still, he pays homage to the roots she anchored.

A flooded breath drowned his light,
But her gales blew him ashore.

And as his feet connect to sand,
He is reborn.

No longer does he flail in her starry springs.
He understands that her platform is meant to celebrate life.


Impressing Color: Red, White, and Blue

A reminder that a fresh palette lends itself to the authenticity of color and intent in stroke…

Philadelphia, PA, November 4th, 2008: The impromptu citizen urge to parade Obama’s victory along Broad Street  —  where the architectural awe of the country’s largest city hall drops back like an anchor dressed in Victorian splendor (courtesy of Scottish architect John McArthur, Jr).

election-night-2009

Photograph and Image by author


Glasgow: Glaswegians and Murphy’s Law – Part II

The River Clyde

The People

My quasi Type A persona continues to thaw, and it may have something to do with Murphy’s Law, which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Around here, Murphy is considered an optimist. Not following?

Maybe a page from a life-long Glaswegian who was honored last year with the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) medal – the first stage to knighthood, will clarify.

As we sit in his Strathclyde University office, just off of George Square – the heart of the city, Jim Wilson shares with me his encounter with a short, silver haired, homeless woman one evening on his way to the train station.

“‘Do you have any change to spare, son?’” said Wilson, relaying her words. Wilson answered, “no” and met her stare for what seemed like 10 minutes, he recalls.

With eyes dancing he continues: Then, she started to laugh and then circled around me and exclaimed, ‘No?! Neither do I!’

“You see life in all its fullness,” Wilson says. “It’s got the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that is the strength of Glasgow. Whatever your condition you will be accepted.”


Dance with Fire Beachside

Fire Dance Series
Little Beach Drum Circle, Maui — A beatnik evening against the backdrop of a setting sun. (See Sunday Night Drum Circle post to learn more about this local tradition.)

 

little beach, maui

little beach maui

maui’s beaches

little beach maui travel vibe

little beach, maui


Friday Night Politics, 35,000 Showed: Will You?

photographs by author

Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA; April 18, 2008; An observation and endorsement of “We the people…”

As the sun descends, I lay in the grass near Chestnut Street, the zenith of the long, downward-sloping expanse of Independence Mall. I can make out the prequel to a full moon under the blue sky; its depth washed out by the beach ball size, florescent flash emanating from the stage area several blocks ahead.

Meanwhile, families, students, and contented and forlorn locals of varied age and race continue converging on the green carpet separated by streets and walkways.

We wait for Barack Obama.

Imagine plays over the speakers: A performance from Live’s frontman Ed Kowalczyk. After a couple of solos, Will.I.Am, lead singer for the Black Eyed Peas, joins Kowalczyk in a rendition of Where is the Love.

As that anti-climatic moment wanes, we wait some more.

Pleasant enough, considering that Friday is enjoying its first warm spring day in Philly.

About an hour later, at 8:45 p.m., a cheer from the crowd, one of a string, but this one seems to linger. A microphone transmits Obama’s introduction. I start walking toward the stage and pass by the Liberty Bell.

Expectations are high after the speech he gave here last month, the one that now stands alongside the orations of Kennedy and M.L.K.

Absorbed by the encompassing bubble of bated hope and Obama’s words, I stop intermittently.

He speaks for 20-30 minutes.

He broaches a McCain presidency as more Bush policy, under new leadership. He addresses Clinton’s propensity to work within Washington’s fractured politics in contradiction to the new political stage he seeks to create. He cites our country’s economic, social, and military woes.

He does not say anything particularly brilliant. But it does not matter. His speech was earth shattering before he arrived.

Thirty-five thousand people, Obama’s largest audience to date, gathered on the land that birthed this country’s freedom for Friday night politics!

And in doing so, we expanded the footprint of our minds beyond our doorways.

We needn’t wait. But we did. And now our hopes and fears spill into 4 square blocks and trickle down the arteries.


US Citizens w/o Passports

Crossroads
Passing Through
Walker
The Walk

photographs by author

Tripping:  Crossing Borders and Erasing Labels

Imagine it: A trip outside of your element...

 

In a liberated moment, you settle in as the curious explorer discovering indigenous culture. Meanwhile, without suspect, your mind sneaks in briefs of self-subscribed philosophy.

 

The new information clashes with sound bites from its memory chip: ** But the newscaster said**But my friend said**But the infamous "they" said**But the text stated**

 

Should you choose to engage your wit in a duel of ideas, keep one eye open that first night. Socrates may stop by with cigars in hand. No need to fret, freewill is his baby.

 

Note: 20-30% of U.S. citizens own passports. The numbers are disputed, but exploration does not require a flight ticket.

 


Not Dickens’ Christmas Tale: Still, the Spirits Wander On

Trafalgar Square Christmas Cheer

Photograph by author

It is January, not the best time to take a trip to London. The cold comes and goes; and on a good day, 45 degrees is not so bad if you dress properly. Of course, the first semi-warm day and I decide to “layer.” 
 It is my husband’s last night here. I have to make somewhat of an effort, don’t I? By which I mean: jeans, a hoodie, a jean jacket, and boots. But they are really cute jeans – the type that require 3-inch heels to accommodate the longer cut that impresses slendering height. And the hoodie is a purple, synthetic, snuggly fit Armani with an oversized hood and white detailing on the cuffs. I’m not a label whore, but that’s got to count for something…

After rearranging the contents of our bags, we head out around 3 pm. We begin our excursion at Trafalgar Square, all the while snapping pictures and trying to climb the lions. (Admit it – it’s sometimes fun to play the blatant tourist). Then, a quick “oohing and ahhing” at the 10 Downing Street entranceway, followed by a snack across the street.

At 5pm, we stop in for mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The space feels blessed. Its cross-shaped intersection mends above the second largest freestanding dome in the world. On lookers and parishioners muse in the spirit of Christmas. Organs and reverberating hymns fill the cavity. The location has been a holy site since 604 A.D., although the edifice has been destroyed and reconstructed a handful of times; the latest design architected by Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London.

As night falls, we go to Leicester Square. A carnival has pocketed the space for the holidays. Bumper cars, a giant rotating stick that looks like it has two spinning wheels on each end (complete with slack-jawed figurines), cotton candy, dinging bells, and popcorn air dance with our senses. Even the English have taken a break for the holidays, releasing the stick momentarily. We take a spin in the bumper cars. The cars are faster here and you can really feel the jerk upon impact, so we take another. This time, I drive.

We end the night at a cafe – a perfect day.

The Morning After

I wish I could say the same about the next morning, but I can’t. My body burned and pounded.Great – down with the flu on the first solo day of my trip. And I have to change hotels again – the downside of getting hooked up with friendly rates in decent accommodations. But I mustn’t complain. Otherwise, I would be on a plane home, with the dollar being in a more terrible way than I am at the moment.

After checking into my new accommodations, I head for the Indian restaurant across the street.

“May I please have some Dal?” I ask, as I rest my arms on the white tablecloth.

“And…” the waiter prompts.

“…and Nann, and make that a large Dal?”

He continues staring through me. “That’s it,” I squeeze out, “Look, I am sick, and I can’t eat anything else.”

“Then you’ll have to take it to go.”

“That’s fine,” I quip and shift into my chair sideways; my eyes blurring out the triptych of windows on either side of the restaurant’s facade.

“Hello,” I say instinctively to the only other customer in the room – a small, unassuming woman with silver hair and olive skin.

“Where are you from,” she asks, taking note of my accent.

“Philadelphia.”

“Why are you here – holiday?”

“No, I’m here searching out stories about South Asians in London. Their stories begin about a generation or so before that of South Asians stateside…thought it would be an interesting comparison. I am a writer,” I said in jumbled order. Hey, I am sick over here. She nods. “Actually, I would like to hear your story if that’s okay. Do you mind if I come sit with you for a moment?”

With that, my conversation with Joyce began.


Photography – Blocks and Blurs

Philadelphia Winter 2007 by Pinkscript

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philly winter

Philly Winter


Haleakala, Maui: A Day Trip, Perhaps?

photograph by author

Haleakala Crater — a spell binding drive…

The sunrise at Haleakala Crater in Maui is at the top of “must see” tourist destinations. Being so close to the equator, the daylight is a 12-hour cycle, approximately 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Not keen on the idea of getting up at 3:30 in the morning and splinting yourself with layers of clothing in preparation for wintry 30-degree temperatures? Then opt for a day trip, and enjoy it!

As we were reminded by the hotel staff, the sun’s glows play off of the clouds — the more clouds the more colors. So if you are an early riser, make sure the weather forecasters bet on dawn paying its dues. We chose to take the trip midday (less crowded). It was December — the height of the rainy season.

Horses lounged in the lush green grass — only expending energy to refuel. Turnabouts offered glimpses of an ocean haze beyond the expanse of undulating land. As we sloped around each new ridge, yellow rays wavered in silver-grey plumes. Green pastures gave way to dry brush and rock-strewn sediment. Clouds gushed and twirled in a hurried tempo. And the blue sky consumed it all.

An approaching storm broke the enchanted Alice in Wonderland spell. And we hauled ass on our descent. We never made it to the crater — pretty close though. Rent a convertible and the ethereal wind-up will unshackle your reality. The vastness of space alerts your senses. And, without hindrance, primary colors intersperse with their complements as the landscape cuts into the sky.


East Village (NYC): Curry Tonight?

Saturday August 11th — Curry Row, East Village, NYC

A Sensory Experience:

The evening breeze kissed my skin, and the aloof aroma of curry spices — cumin, chilies, coriander, and turmeric — tagged along to mingle with my palate in a courting ritual.

Window air-conditioning units hummed in sync with the casual swish of passing vehicles; their cadence occasionally jarred by a sudden jolt in RPM’s.

Samplings of Spanish, Chinese, and German dialects rhapsodized in the background alongside English tongues, some cloaked in European accents.

A female, rapping with alarming purpose, stole the lead. I pictured a celli smoldering her ear as her head bopped side-to-side in rhythm. Her lyrical crescendo: Don’t fuckin’ call me again!

Inspired by the scents and sounds of Curry Row, the above vignette was experienced with eyes shut. I recorded the moment while waiting for some friends.

And now the rest of the story…

During my conversation with the guy behind the bar at Brick Lane Curry House (I am pretty sure he was more than a bartender), I learned that the row experienced a significant downturn about 6 years ago.

Curry Row continues to reinvent itself, after a New York Times article, written several years ago, echoed public sentiment: All of the food seemed to come from the same kitchen.

Numerous restaurants went belly up, surrendering to new restaurateurs with niche vision. The makeover invited ethnic variety. Everything from Ethiopian to Chinese restaurants line the street today.

Brick Lane Curry House, serves dishes inspired by restaurants housed on the famed lane in East London. Keep an eye out for a restaurant review in Time Out New York (scheduled for print in September or October). My friends and I enjoyed the extra kick of heat and spices in our meals — British Style.

True foodies — like my friend who used to be a chef on the row — will probably argue the authenticity of the eats. But prices are reasonable and metered parking plentiful by Manhattan standards.

The guy at Brick Lane mentioned that 50% of the street’s patrons are international travelers who track down Curry Row with their handy guidebooks. No wonder I heard so many dialects on a small stretch of 6th Street that I suspected would be inundated with locals. So, if you are looking to drop in on an international scene (or an exotic tryst) — in a city that is already the ultimate melting pot — while eating a decent meal, Curry Row is a flavorful option.


U2 – Honolulu

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A look back in anticipation of the new album coming out in 2008 along with some nostalgia from seeing Bono speak at the Liberty Medal Ceremony in Philadelphia last week…

Upon arriving at Aloha Stadium in our ghetto Limo (adorned with duct tape and all), we head to the parking lot and retrieve our general admission wristbands — ensuring our spot in the coveted inner circle. We arrive at 2:00 pm, and several hundred of us swelter under blue skies until the gates opened at about 5:00 pm.

Once inside, the pre-game begins. Fans from Amsterdam, London, Italy, Australia, and yes, Philly too, exchange stories about preceding shows in the tour — playlists, performances, surprise guests.

People share food, alcohol, and contact info. etc. I end up swapping my cell battery with a guy from London. You see, his battery died, and he was waiting on an all-important text from a friend — a message that could take him backstage (and the desperate look on his face seemed genuine). How could I refuse?

The concert: We rocked out in total Elevation (yeah, I know) — U2, Pearl Jam, and a surprise appearance by Green Day’s front man, Billie Joe. I lost my voice for the next two days.

It sounds totally impractical to fly 12 hours for a concert, but it is hands down my best concert experience (and I’ve been to my share). The camaraderie, the excitement…it was pure euphoria! By the way — Jeremy Piven stood next to me during the show…no big thing (actually, it wasn’t because I did not watch Entourage).


After Gazing Upon the Liberty Bell, How About Sensing Today’s Philadelphia?

Summer Zen -- Rittenhouse Park

photograph by author

Standing at the corner of Walnut and 19th Street, I watch as a Hugo Boss suit, French cuffs, Jimmy Choos, and Burberry Bags make their way up Walnut Street from the East. A Beatles tee, vintage jeans, Cargo shorts, and flip-flops make their way down from the West. They follow the perimeter of the square’s stonewalled entrance and cross into one of the park’s more ornate passageways alongside one another.

Located between University City and the swanky shops of Rittenhouse Row, the park and the city blocks flanking its perimeter share a symbiotic relationship that embodies the revitalization of Philadelphia and its residents.

The unique sense of community and artistic vibe Rittenhouse Park expresses has not gone unnoticed. In 2005, Robert Downey Sr., the namesake of his famous son, released the documentary, Rittenhouse Square. In the film, Downey expounds on the juxtaposition of the square and its’ residents. Urbanite, Jan Jacobs, has referred to the square as the perfect American neighborhood.

Crossing the street, I angle my way into the square’s urban refuge and notice the Hugo Boss suit. The man adorning it grins as a little boy, with his curly-brown locks tousling about, runs toward him. The spiky-haired guy in his Beatles tee swaggers toward a group of friends gathered around one of the many blankets dotting the grass.

The scene would put a smile on William Penn’s face, I imagine. During the late 17th century, Penn envisioned a city plan housing 5 park-squares, urban refuges, where people could congregate and share ideas. Adorned with Victorian architecture, residential high-rises, outdoor restaurants, pubs, specialty shops, hotels, bookstores, and the world famous Curtis Institute of Music, the surrounding bounty engages and attracts eclectic new acts that play harmoniously with its center-stage performance. Like a present-day Monet painting, the grounds capture the fluidity of color in style.

It is 6:00 p.m. on Friday. My husband and I are meeting at the park before getting together with some friends for a drink at Rouge. (The outdoor seating offers a front-row view of the park.)

Shaded by a bounty of trees, my strut shifts into an amble. I take a moment and inhale the scent of spring that permeates from the well-manicured gardens.

Fashionistas loiter about. A couple of twenty-something guys toss a Frisbee. An artist sets up his easel. Two women garbed in colorful Saris pass by.

Casting my eyes down one of the webbed walkways lined with benches, I see no sign of my husband near our usual bench. A call to his cell indicates he is on the other line. Brushing past a police officer (a normal presence in the park), I spot him near the reflecting pool. His eyes catch mine. He waves and puts up an index finger, indicating that he should be available within the minute.

Not holding my breath, I set my tote down on the nearest bench.

As I crack open my newly purchased Marian Keyes novel, the scurried activity of silver-haired men catches my eye. Preparing to engage in what I can only surmise to be the ultimate chess playoff, they set up three boards on three consecutive benches. Each player straddles the end of his respective concrete slab contemplating his attack. Their friends youthfully jostle about, keeping abreast of the action on all fronts.

With the strum of a guitar, my mind segues. Sure enough, it’s the dark-haired musician clad in his signature-black tee and jeans. As he plays, he checks out the scenery from atop a slab of concrete resting on columns that surround the plaza’s interior perimeter.

Having seen one another around, we both exchange a smile. Sitting in close proximity, our eyes rest on a homeless man with one arm stretched out over the reflecting pool. After a short pause, his arm unlocks, and he tosses a coin into the fountain. Once again the guitarist and I exchange a smile.

“Ready?” my husband asks.

“Let’s roll…”