Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mariam and March Madness

Mariam and March Madness

For anyone born in Indiana basketball is part of the DNA.  Thus it’s Big News with the Final Four right next door in Glendale.

And the March Madness Musical Festival is a stone’s throw away from my apartment.  I can see the ferris wheel turning from my balcony.  However windy weather had blown in some aches and pains for my 89 year old bones and I didn’t think it wise that I walk close to a mile for the action.
I watched about ten minutes of South Carolina and Gonzaga.  The sun came out.  I couldn’t miss the chance of a lifetime.   I changed shoes, put on a pullover for warmth (a mistake), put cell phone, ID and a few dollars in a (no larger than) 5x8” pouch and got a bottle of (unopened) water out of the refrg.  If the aches got bad, I’d turn back. 

Anticipation took over. The heavy grass on the west part of Hance Park slowed me down, but I could see the action ahead.  I entered the airport-looking security gate about a quarter to four.  Here the plastic sack, a handy way to carry my water bottle, had to be thrown into the garbage barrel.  Music sounds came across the park; I could hear Capital Cities on the stage.  

The price tag for the three day event – FREE.  That’s my kind of admission.  The information sheets read “Come early, Seating is on a First come, first served basis.”  The only seating I saw was of the BYOB type, that is Bring Your Own Blanket.  

Capital Cities belongs to the type of music called “pop.”  I didn’t know what this sound would be like since it would not be my kind of pop.  If they played Tommy Dorsey’s “Boogie Woogie,” I would understand it.  It didn’t matter, I liked the beat, and my feet kept moving.   One of the official “March Madness” photographers – the man carrying the big camera on his shoulder - recorded shots of me taking pictures of the crowd and he also has a couple of minutes of my feet dancing.  

My biggest surprise – and I don’t know why – the age of the crowd.  I’m mixed in with teens and what is called the “Millennials.”  (18 to 29’s)  I doubt if anyone even came close to 50 and definitely not near my 89.  Well, it pays off to get old.  These kids were super polite.  I was allowed and helped to get closer to the stage.  Longer arms held up my camera.  And amazingly, these youngsters wanted their picture taken with me.  In return I got my picture giving big hugs. 

The last time I was on a ferris wheel was in the 1950s at Riverside Park in Indianapolis and with a date.  I didn’t plan on standing in that long, long line to get on a free ride, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to get pictures from a top angle.  

After the ferris wheel made a couple of circuits and the Capital Cities band had moved off the stage, the time had come for me to head home.  The last picture I took is probably my favorite – four great big beautiful policemen protecting me.  That can’t be beat!!! 

For the record, my pedometer read 2.2 miles which doesn’t include the dancing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean

The Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean
89 Reasons to Stay Home
Nine Reasons to Go

I told my sister, “There’s a 50-50 chance this 89 year old body won’t be able to go.”  She didn’t seem concerned.  She knew the lure of the chain of nine eastern Caribbean islands would be cause to ignore any yelps from aching legs.  The West Indies which has the Caribbean Sea with the Lesser Antilles on one side, the Leeward Islands and the Atlantic to the east .  Michener’s tales and the Lonely Planet . . . . They called for me to come and explore. 

December 19th, 2016.  I had a Phoenix-Tampa nonstop, sister Nan and Mr. B. had a two day drive.  Then we had a fun night staying with friends from long ago.  On the next day I snuggled down into my nest in the back seat while we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. By early afternoon we were on board the Pacific Princess, the smallest ship in their fleet.    After dropping off luggage in our staterooms, we headed for the 9th deck and began acclimating once more to cruise ship routine – eating.  We quickly filled our plates, found a window side table and relaxed while the waiter brought us water and our choice of refreshing drinks.  

The first two days of this itinerary turned into choppy waters and rolling seas.  Swaying from side to side we progressed along the hall to various activities.    

Despite the sway of the ship no one appeared to be bothered with seasickness.  Six hundred passengers and there wasn’t a first-timer among them.  These travelers used their retirement years to meander the globe, both on land and water.   This two week trip served a purpose – to spend the Christmas holidays where it would be peaceful without a lot of whoop-de-la. 

We were at sea the first two days and explored the ship.  I tried the pool but the waves, even in this small area, were boldly swishing around from side to side, hitting me in the face.  I retreated to the hot tub and refreshing warm sunshine.  Evenings were taken up with the enjoyable shows and our continuing competition of Mexican train.

First stop:  St. John Virgin Islands.  We had booked a snorkeling tour, equipment included.  This area is famous for its coral reef trail and, in my imagination; I pictured gently paddling, face down, looking at the little fishies swimming around.

After a crowded van ride to Trunk Bay, we listened while our tour guide explained that the coral reefs were in eight to twelve feet of water. My swimming is only where I can touch bottom, so instead we found a cove with gentle white sand, laid out our towels and I gingerly waded into the water.  Whoops!  It was not the reported 80 degrees, it was downright chilly.  I retreated to my towel and watched others who were brave enough to try the equipment.  So much for my being able to boast of snorkeling feats.  

Saturday Dec. 24, 2016:  St. Kitts.  Our tour starts with the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the best preserved fort in the Caribbean, dating from 1690, built by the British to defend against the French.  The winding narrow honk-before-you-turn-the-curve road takes us up 755 feet with a way-out view.  

We had good rain pelting us by the time we reached Romney Manor, reputedly once the property of Thomas Jefferson.  We ran inside and stopped in amazement.  Rows of the colorful hand-printed Caribelle Batik, (the 2,500-year-old Indonesian wax-and-dye process,) were spread out in front of us.  How beautiful!  As the rain slowed we wandered around the grounds, among the beautiful crotons and other bright flowers, admiring the 350-year-old saman tree, the bell tower and other buildings.  

   Enough for one day.  Instead of exploring the town, a nap took priority.

December 26:  Our tour in Bequia (pronounced Beckway):   “Open-air transportation . . . along the Atlantic Coast with alternating ocean views to the Turtle Sanctuary.”    

Our ride in the open air tour van was a long one, with several spots for stopping and taking pictures of scenes pretty enough for a postcard. 

 When we reached the turtle farm, no reptile experts were around to tell us about raising them.
  We were allowed into a fenced area where Hawksbill turtles in tin basins tried in vain to climb out of their watery home.   My hands itched to turn those basins over, let these creatures loose on the sand and watch them skirtle to the sea.

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016:  Our excursion today will be to an area designated as “Tobago’s national treasure,” a protected marine area.  

At a sandy beach we climb aboard a glass-bottom boat and cruise off to Buccoo Reef.  When we reach the coral reefs those with their snorkel tubing pile off the boat, grab on to a long rope and are slowly pulled around over the reefs.

Next we cruise to shallow water, known as Nylon Pool and I go down the steps to swim.  These waters are said to “rejuvenate” and would reverse aging by 10 years.  This soft coral sand has a high level of minerals and anti-oxidants which work well as a natural exfoliate so rubbing it on your skin gives a “youthful glow.”

 I enjoyed swimming in the warm water but am still waiting to be told I look younger than when I left home.

For Wednesday in Barbados we have chosen a 4x4 Scenic Panoramic Drive, a leisurely guided safari through quaint villages and the forest.  Our trip will include the island’s first settlement and the beauty of seaside rock formations.  

I listened to our entertaining tour guide’s talk with interest, expecting to remember much of it without taking notes.  
However, I am beginning to slow down. I have worn my pedometer most days and including walking up and down our halls on ship, I have covered close to three miles on a tour day.
On this tour I snapped a lot of post card photos, but can’t tell you the story. 

Today’s nap time continued right on through supper time.  When hunger finally woke me up, I took the elevator to the 9th floor, selected choices from enticely-named dishes and enjoyed my variety.  The amount of food wasted from each plate hurts my frugal nature, but it is such fun to select dishes different from usual.  Even the deserts – custards and cakes and tarts – I try a couple and eat only part.  I know that my penalty will be paid on the scales at home. 

The last planned tour on December 29th is on Martinique, an overseas region of France.  
The four hour tour for St. Pierrre and Rum Distillery turned out to be well over five hours.  The roads took us around mountain curves and slow traffic.  We looked forward to the village of Saint-Pierre completely destroyed by a volcano.
 However, our views included, while driving a traffic-crowed road, the walls of former buildings and the frontage of shops built upon them.  Our half hour stop at a local museum was not worth the trip. 

When we reached the rum distillery, we wandered on our own, and found the place for the small free drink. 

The best part of the tour turned out to be Elizabeth, our tour guide with a Paris and London education.  Martinique, like many of these islands, no longer has banana or sugar or cotton based economy.  The land has been sold and jobs have disappeared.  Most of the income comes from tourism. We did not find “poor me” thoughts, but instead “use what we have to find prosperity.” 

Again I slept through our evening meal and when I woke up the sun was setting.  My absolute most pleasurable times were lying back in the lounge chair on the deck, rolling gently with the waves, following the clouds in their changing formations and smelling the breezes that come from a thousand miles away.  These times, these days pass by too quickly and I hold on to as much of them as possible.  

December 30th and our destination is Antigua.  No tours are planned, and we wander around St. John’s.  

December 31st, the last day of 2016, Virgin Gorda, the last island to visit.  We took the tender in after a late breakfast, and returned after 15 minutes. 
These Eastern Caribbean islands have been an experience that we enjoyed.  We learned that hard-working people are trying their best to make a living with what they have – absolutely beautiful landscape – and are doing it with a multi-generation love for their land and a built in cheerfulness.  

  A New Year’s Eve party was held on the 9th floor.   I went upstairs by myself. The dances were couple style so I watched until about 11:45 pm; then headed back to my cabin, out on the balcony, leaned against the rail and communed with the stars.  The ship’s loud horn blared out at midnight.  “Hello, Twenty Seventeen, what do you have in store for me this year?”

January 01, 2017.  I stayed in bed late and enjoyed so much the gentle sway of the ship.  Two more days at sea.  My preference:  deck and sun time.  Reading then putting the book down to be one with the ocean.   

Time to pack and put our suitcases out for pickup.  A quick breakfast in the morning and say goodbye to the Pacific Princess. 

After a drive to Tampa, another night with good friends, then flying back to Phoenix, home, and adjusting to life on land. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Time Travel: A Branson Smorgasbord

Time Travel: A Branson Smorgasbord:                                              A Branson Smorgasbord      We went to Branson for the shows . . . but I came home with the...

A Branson Smorgasbord

                                           A Branson Smorgasbord

     We went to Branson for the shows . . . but I came home with the memory of the outdoors . . . laying on my lounger chair outside the Minnie Winnie trailer . .  . smelling the clean fresh air . . . looking through the trees at the clouds rolling across the blue sky.  The shows were great but I would return to the Ozarks for the outside life.  

     After a rewarding family reunion in Indianapolis, we packed up and started out early for Branson.  It was a grueling ten hour trip of driving with quick stops only for snacks and stretching legs.  Arising at an early hour is tough on my 89 year old bones and the solution is a comfy nest in the back seat of the car and return to dreamland. 

     The route included a zig zag through St. Louie.  I had transferred planes many times here but had never seen the Gateway Arch.  We came close enough that I can now cross it off my Bucket List.  

     It was still daylight when we pulled Minnie Winnie into the Shenanigans RV park and tied her down.  After a quick meal from the refrigerator, we relaxed with three games of Mexican Train dominoes.  I was behind in our running competition but due to my rested condition while others had slaved, I won three games in a row.  So watch it, Mr. B.!!!

     The next day would be grocery store and organizing the days ahead.  We drove around hilly streets with all imaginable entertainment – from Ghost tours to Wax Works -- and menu choices from well-known fast food to the top priced elite.  Reservations had been made in advance for four shows and we knew we wanted outdoor time and possibly a train ride. 

     My report here will not be a review of the attractions we attended but rather impressions of our sampling of all that is offered. 

     The first show, the Haygoods Family Entertainment, was written for a younger audience.  The country songs came out with a rock pattern and streams of lights covering the audience.   I was ready to leave after the first 15 minutes but was glad we stayed when the talent -- some awesome solos – overcame the zooming lights.

     After looking over our table full of brochures and maps, we settled on the next morning plan of a Free Trolley Ride around the historic area and exploring Downtown.  However, sometimes Plan B turns out better than Plan A.  After waiting 30 minutes for the trolley, she told us that it was her lunch hour and she didn’t know when the next trolley would be coming.  We spotted the Branson Scenic Railway at the historic depot and walked across the street.  This turned out to be a winner and we made reservations for 2:00 pm the next day.  I also bought mighty fancy souvenirs for only 99 cents. 

     We walked a few steep blocks toward the main street of stores and spotted the Free Trolley Ride, ran for it and got on.  Progress indeed!  Three blocks of riding to reach the downtown and now that can be crossed off the list of To-do’s.  

     Back in the good ol’ days when I had been hunting for cheap antiques, this area would have been a goldmine to search the cubbyhole stores.  Now it was fun for about 30 minutes, my favorite place being Dickie’s with rows and rows of “five and ten cent store” type of variety. 
     Lunch time.  The recommendation was Landry’s Seafood House, which turned out to be the classiest joint we attended in Branson and worth every expensive penny.
     We barely could get in a nap before our evening show; I love my sleepy hour outside with overhead tree branches partially blocking out the sun and cloudy skies.   

     Our evening destination: “The Shepherd of the Hills”, an outdoor amphitheater with lots of action – a love triangle, the beautiful Ozark girl planning to marry a city slicker, but the rugged hometown boy overpowers the bad guys and wins the girl.  Lots of melodrama and excellent horse action.   

     At halftime the audience was invited to meet the actors and I couldn’t resist heading for the outdoor stage.  My feet moved dancing to the square dance music.   The good-looking “bad guy” with the drooping mustache and cowboy hat held out his arms to invite me to dance.  Do-se-do and swing me around.  When I ran out of air and had to quit, I gave him a hug and headed back to the grandstand.  On the way I asked one of the ushers for his name.  She said, “Ed.”  OMG, I ran back to my dance partner and told him, “Ed was my love, departing two years ago.”  He understood and embraced me again.  

     After the show we began our departure across the field to the stairs.  My partner came running toward me, held out his hand and said, “This is from Ed.”  He handed me one of the empty blank shells used in the gunfire.  My arms went around him and when I looked into his eyes, we both had tears.  We both knew that this was sent by my Ed.    

More attractions filled up our calendar and the days were passing too quickly.  We went to the morning show of the Blackwoods in the Starlite Theatre:  Gospel, Country and Patriotic with wonderful harmony plus a back screen showing various Blackwood family members with big name artists throughout the years.  We all loved them. 

     The other event for the day took us on the Branson Scenic Railway.  At 2:00 pm we boarded and ate a good lunch sitting high in the dome car. Our 1950’s train took us on a 40-mile round trip through the Ozark foothills.  Lots of trees with interesting shots of the engine rounding the curve.

     This was the last night for playing Mexican train dominoes.  The score had changed from day to day but our ending tally showed Mr. B ahead by one game.  I vowed to pass him on the next visit. 
     I had been looking forward to a hike through the woods, along the lake, someplace with a trail that was reasonably flat instead of steep climbs. Table Rock Lake was the answer.  We had an easy walk of a couple of miles plus bringing home some pretty camera shots of trees and lake  

     Our last show ranked high on our list of “likes”:  “Country Vault” with excellent renditions of favorite country singers.  

     The day had come to go home.  The three hour drive to Kansas City for a nonstop flight is transition time from “I don’t want to leave” to “Can’t wait to get home.”  Sister has taken such good care of the old lady and we have had so much fun together.  

    And yet I have been away from home for ten days.  Sunny weather and good friends are waiting for me.  After an uneventable flight, now I am eager to unload the pictures from camera to computer, find the brochures and tell you about my fun adventures.