WOW! Check out what my kids have been up to.

As I merrily make my random posts about mundain stuff I am doing, my children have been doing some pretty remarkable things. The assessment about remarkable just demonstrates that I am a conventional parent. Here I should make a short reintroduction of my children. My daughter, Emma, lives in Vietnam. Emma went to Vietnam to teach after graduating from UCONN. She now teaches and works for a marketing company in Hanoi. She recently married a guy she met in Vietnam, James. James is an expat from England teaching in Vietnam and is also a semipro soccer player (I guess it is called Football in countries outside the USA). My son, also a James, is a recent graduate of Penn State working in the wine industry and recently got a prestigious certification in that industry. Both offspring sent me something to listen to that they had done independent of their primary line of work. I was blown away by what my children had done. will share these here and will go in order of their birth.

Emma does a radio program in Hanoi. The one I will share with you here is an interview she did with her friend, Pearl. We met Pearl when we visited Vietnam a couple years ago. Pearl is a remarkable and fun young woman.

Pearl, Emma (During blonde phase) and Jim

Please Click on Link below

Jim, has from childhood been interested in the city of Hartford. His interest matured to an exploration of how the city of Hartford went from an historically significant cultural technology and commercial powerhouse to an insignificant wasteland of a city. He researched the issues and developed a podcast of his conclusions. After listening to the first installment of the series, I was completely blown away. This is a truly professional job.

http://theroadthatkilledacity.com/

Now Jim has an article in the local online version of the Hartford Courant, has been asked to do a radio interview and has many people reaching out to him.

Bravo and Brava to my kids.

Thoughts on Ukraine

It is hard to express emotions tugging at me regarding Ukraine. On one hand my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people. They are very much in my prayers. On the other hand I feel a great fear. Circumstances can spiral out of control; pulling many into the conflict. Terrifying.

Tina and I spent a day in Charleston. During the wonderful day we spent there, I was presented with a powerful moment of reflection. There was a stack of protest signs leaning against a court building.

In a park next to the building there was a statue dedicated to a local poet, Henry Timrod. These lines from one of his poems was on the back of the statue.

It seemed both timely and appreciated.

Homeless in Beirut

I think something is starting to get to me in a bad way. One of the primary reasons we are at our place in South Carolina is that there is a major repair being done. There were issues with the original construction, a settlement, now the remediation. New exterior stucco, new gutters and drainage, new exterior lights and new roof. We felt it to be prudent to be on site during the times when there was to be significant work being done, we made the trek south. We are fortunate in that we can go between South Carolina and Connecticut at will. We also planned to do some short trips, hence our visit to New Orleans. But, it is tough to be here right now.

  • The furniture is covered and moved away from exterior walls.
  • The windows are covered with plastic, it’s like being in a perpetual dense fog.
  • The exterior is covered with scaffolding.
  • Workmen need access to the inside for windows removal, trim repair and repainting.
  • Dust flies
  • It is noisy

The noise is interesting. Nail guns sound like small arms fire, there are thumps like distant artillery and some tool that sounds like a machine gun. The title of this posting sums up the experience we are having. That is if you take the negative to the extreme.

That’s the bad stuff. There is also good stuff.

  • At the end of all this we will essentially have a new structure.
  • The work that is being done is truly top quality
  • The project manager is open with communication, proactive with every issue (as are the supervisors), knowledgeable and smart. He is also a very pleasant individual.
  • We are able to get away during the day, movies, the gym, the beach and lunches out are all fun.
  • We are able to do some small interior projects at the same time. Tina is redoing the downstairs powder room.
  • The workmen are courteous, clean (they remove their shoes when they come in). And, there is a background of latin music on their radios.

I am reminded of what my mother used to say when I started to complain. She would use an old German expression “Quitchurbitchen”. It’s not German nor is it an expression but it got the point across.

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And Home Again

On our last day in New Orleans we had not yet decided our route home. We knew that we wanted to spend the morning at the Audubon Park but had no plans beyond that. But, the idea of spending the evening on a beach was appealing.

The Audubon Park is in a beautiful upscale neighborhood with a great walking path, golf course, water views and a multitude of birds.

Audubon Park

A little before noon we start heading back to South Carolina. Initially, as I mentioned above, we were thinking of stopping on a beach. The Florida panhandle is right here, what could be better? However, the weather was cold and windy so we decided to forego the beach. Tallahassee was the next potential stop. Well, we would up traveling all the way back to Bluffton. Probably a good decision as we made it back to our place a little before midnight. It took us right at eleven hours for the trip including rest stops (note that there is a time change in the middle of the Florida panhandle).

Full Day in NOLA

Today was indeed a full day. One of the prime attractions in New Orleans is the World War 2 museum. It is a huge well designed and totally modern facility. We were told that we could expect to spend a full day there. And, one could easily spend an entire day here. We, however, spent several hours then went to the very extravagant movie/experience at the museum. The “experience” was well worth the money and time. (This feature includes vibrating seats, snow falling during the “Battle of the Bulge” and very realistic small arms directed at the audience). As we have limited time in NOLA, we moved on to other activities.

Finally got the hang of the trolley system app. It really works well and is an excellent, inexpensive and fun way to get around. But, in New Orleans tradition, don’t expect fast.

We next went to one of the prime facilities that builds the Mardi Gras floats. The entire city is getting geared up for Mardi Gras. Bleachers are being assembled and houses are getting decorated

As we did a great deal of walking today we went back to our hotel, and decided to go to the penthouse bar. The penthouse bar “Hot Tin”, is a dog friendly place so we took Sheba. While there Sheba attracted a very interesting couple from Detroit. Tina and I spend a couple hours in fun conversation with them. It must be a New Orleans thing that people are very friendly and outgoing here even if they are from other parts of the country, something in the atmosphere.

Overlooking NOLA

That evening we went for a very elegant dinner, sans dog.

Dinner

The place we had dinner is famous for their “Mile High” ice cream pie. Since we are visiting close to Mardi Gras, the restaurant configured the pie in honor of a “King Cake”.

https://images.app.goo.gl/dMXkXTiMFJwva8V76

Link to a “King Cake” above.

First Day in the Big Easy

Upon first arriving in New Orleans I admit that I was a bit apprehensive. Many years after Katrina there are still signs of the damage the hurricane. Some business properties are still boarded up and blue plastic still covers some roofs. There is also a homeless issue; however, I believe this is an issue that predates any weather event. Using a ticket app in an unfamiliar city is a challenge. Fortunately all the trolly and bus drivers are helpful and accommodating. So, we did manage to get around. It is interesting how once a system is familiar, like the trolley app, a place becomes familiar and accessable.

We first ventured out for a breakfast of Beginets and Cafe au Lait. Interesting but give me Croissant and an Expresso.

We next explored the French Quarter where Tina and I found some very interesting shops. We did go to Bourbon Street but spent most of our time on Royal, one street over. The architecture in this part of the city is what we associate with New Orleans.

In the late afternoon we strolled through part of the Lower Garden District. Had a great early dinner at a really nice outdoor restaurant where we chatted with a couple who were lifelong residents.

Preparations for Mardi Gras are evident. NOLA has become familiar enough that the city has become truly enjoyable. Tina came to this comfort long before I did.

On to The Big Easy

Miles of great Beaches

Before leaving Biloxi we spent some time on the beach. Beautiful sand and few people since this is the off season. Stopped at an oyster place and had some really great local fare. Cajun oysters. I don’t believe raw oysters are the thing here. And, that is a good thing since I don’t do raw any more. It is interesting to me that eating oyster without cooking is not a thing near where they are harvested. In Washington State we wouldn’t think of eating them raw.

Went through a really nice small town named Pass Christian. Had a Vietnamese coffee and a Kings scone.

Made it to the Big Easy. Happened into a small place for a quick dinner. It turned out that there was a Jazz group setting up when we got there. The drummer was Wynton Marsalis’ brother, Jason. Truly accomplished in his own right. What a wonderful evening.

Peter Harris Trio

Montgomery and Biloxi

On our way to New Orleans we made a stop in Montgomery, AL. It was quite a notable city during the civil rights era of the 60’s. The city was a bit threadbare and sad. We stopped at MLK’s church, his parsonage and the state capitol. We also drove past the first CSA White House. We had previously visited the CSA White House in Richmond, VA. Don’t be mistaken, we have no allegiance to the CSA. My great grandfather fought for the North. But, historically interesting. Unfortunately, nothing was open for a tour. Covid and the fact that we are here on a Monday prevented any tours.

For me the most meaningful part of the visit to Montgomery was seeing the Dexter Ave. church and MLK parsonage.

Then we traveled to Biloxi to spend the night. Did not expect what we encountered in Biloxi. It is like a seaside version of Las Vegas. Casino after casino. I am not attracted to casinos, neither is Tina. Fortunately our hotel was a bit away from the casinos and on the beach. The beach is absolutely beautiful. Remarkably white sand. Went to a “beachy” place for dinner. Witnessed a remarkable sunset.

Biloxi

On the way to the Big Easy

Tina and I are on our way to the Big Easy, New Orleans, LA. Tina has never been to New Orleans and I have only been there once. As work is continuing on our place in South Carolina and going into a phase that will be very intrusive, we felt that it is an opportune time to get away. On the way we are planning to spend a little time in Montgomery AL and in Biloxi, MS.

Montgomery should be interesting since it was the site of so much civil rights activity in the last century. Referring to it so makes it sound like ancient history.

But our first stop is in Auburn AL. Home of the Auburn Tigers. Started the day with the best cinnamon roll in Auburn.

Best Cinnamon Roll in Auburn

And we made a stop at Auburn University

Home of the Tigers

LiveHD

To start this blog properly, I have to admit that I enjoy opera. Some would say that I am an “Opera Buff”. I have never figured out what a “Buff” is but, it doesn’t sound good. Certainly not masculine. To really be a”Buff” I believe someone would have to know a lot more about opera than I do. So, maybe, I am not a “Buff” after all. I have dragged my family to operas a number of times over the years. At times they have actually enjoyed them. It has been nearly a yearly event to go to the Met in New York City. Maybe it was the trip to the big bad city that my family enjoyed, not the opera. “Trip to the big bad city”, potential subject for a different blog; back to the point of this one. The Met periodically simulcasts performances live to theaters around the world. The Met calls these LiveHD. I have been intrigued by the idea of LiveHD but never attended until yesterday.

Tina and I are in South Carolina. Escaping some cold weather in Connecticut and overseeing some work being done to our place here. I happened to notice that the local theater was going to have LiveHD from the Met. A live performance of Rigoletto, how could I resist? I had never seen Rigoletto and wanted very much to see it; Rigoletto is one of the great Bel Canto operas. So, I used the theater ticket app on my phone, bought a ticket and Tina dropped me off at the theater. There were about twenty others in the audience. I was in familiar company, all grey-tops. The situation was great: I had a plush reclining seat, unobstructed view of the giant screen and a great sound system. There were some downsides: one individual clapped after every aria (that would be OK in the opera house but it was a bit much in a movie theater) and one guy’s phone started ringing as Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter, was dying in his arms in the last scene (old guys like me are sometimes challenged by technology, I do not think the guy with the phone could figure how to turn it off; although he struggled to do so). Also, no place to get Champaign between acts.

The performance was wonderful; as one would expect it to be from the Met. The cost was less than $30 not $300+ a seat in New York. But, it was not the Met. It had more of a feel of a movie than a live performance. Close up shots were interesting but a bit off putting to me. There is nothing in the world like a live performance at the Met. There is truly something magic about being in New York City and getting the full effect of the performance.

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There was something else about Rigoletto, something very personal. As I mentioned, I had not previously seen Rigoletto. And, unlike my admonition to everyone that goes to an opera, I did not read the libretto before I went. I truly wish I had; I will be reading it now for sure. For me, opera can bring out some real gut issues. Sometimes it is like looking into a mirror. And, like looking into a mirror there are things we see that we can do something about. I need to comb my hair or I need a shave or that mustache really looks silly. And there are some things that one cannot do anything about without a great deal of work. My nose isn’t right or my teeth are crooked. That is what it was like for me seeing Rigoletto. Rigoletto is about a guy and his relationship with his daughter, could have been a son as well. There are some things Rigoletto could and should have done differently. Then there is fate and the actions of others that he had no control over. Like life. Rigoletto was written in the middle of Verdi’s career. Unlike any other opera that Verdi wrote, he referred to Rigoletto as his opera. It must have been very personal to him. Perhaps Giuseppe and I have some things in common.

When I picked up Tina after the birth of our children I neglected to pick up the operating manual of how to maintain this creature that was secured in the approved and properly positioned safety seat. After all, when we picked up the dog we were given a list of instructions. Not so with a human child. How can someone be expected to raise to maturity the most complicated creature known to be in the universe without a book of instructions? I did make mistakes and, it is my prayer that I did little permanent damage. I take some delight in telling new parents that they will screw it up, we all do. Just keep doing the best you can. We all do the best we can. Rigoletto did what he thought was best for Gilda. Things did not work out so well for the court jester, Rigoletto.