April Fools PSA

While culling through the many comments attributed to my Epilogue post–recently featured on the WordPress Discover site–I came across one comment in particular that so startled me, I had to read it twice:

Screenshot (9)

I couldn’t believe my good fortune! Somebody felt so strongly about my post that they were willing to make me rich!

Yet on the surface, it all sounded too good to be true. I had to find out more information about this amazing opportunity before it slipped away. But how?

I thought about calling him, but not wanting to embarrass myself by appearing too anxious and maybe saying the wrong thing, I decided it was safer to dash off the following email to Harrison Wells instead:

Hi,

I got a communication from Harold Wood, who told me a story about a blank ATM card that could withdraw huge sums of money. Is this for real? Cause if so, it certainly sounds interesting.
What more can you tell me about it?
I have a bunch of questions, so the sooner you can get me answers, the sooner I can get my hands on this card!
1) First of all, it sounds a bit fishy, so is it legal?
2) Do I have to worry about where I use the card?
3) Do I have to worry about how often I use the card?
4) How much money can this card generate?
5) How long is this card good for?
6} How much is this card gonna cost me?
7) I got bills to pay, so how long will it take to get me a card?
8} What do you need from me to get started?
Thanks for all your help!
Regards,
Neal D
While, I waited patiently for a response from Harrison, I thought aloud, “How cool is it that he should have the same name as the founder of S.T.A.R. Labs from The Flash TV series.” I hoped he was as fast as The Flash when it came to writing me back.

Fortunately, Harrison didn’t leave me waiting very long, but his response was disappointing:

Date: 3/30/18 5:29 AM (GMT-05:00)
To: Neal <Neal_D@msn.com>
Subject: RE: ATM Card
Just got your mail I have answers to all your questions lets get started
Name
Location
Date of birth
Cell phone numberSent from my Windows Phone

It seemed Harrison was intentionally ignoring the answers to all my questions. He had eliminated the foreplay (the best part), and was going straight for my wallet. I felt let down–even betrayed. What kind of con was this anyway?

It was time to take greater control of the narrative…
Hi Harrison,
What’s up?
Before we get too personal, I think you forgot about that part in your previous email where you answer my questions first.
I am looking forward to your responses so we can get this party started.
Thanks for writing back.
Neal
Immediately after I dispatched the email, I began having second thoughts about my tactics:
Was I coming on too strong? Would Harrison continue to see me as an April Fool and valued patsy, or would he simply ignore me and concentrate on another dance partner who was less difficult and more willing to be be led?
Thankfully, he ramped up his customer service skills, and gave me short-hand answers to all my questions…
From: Harrison Williams <harrisonwells989@outlook.com>
Date: 3/31/18 3:17 AM (GMT-05:00)
To: Neal <ndl7@msn.com>
Subject: RE: ATM Card
Ok first thing its illegal
You don’t need to worry about where to use it
Yes you can only withdraw twice a week
It depends on the card you want
The card is durable for some months
$400usd
It depends on the encrypting of the card
Your information
Does are the answers to your question
Sent from my Windows Phone
Wow! Going down the list, I matched up the answers to my questions, and had a much better picture of the cost of committing a crime. For $400, I could risk it all and finance my next trip to Sing Sing, Leavenworth or San Quentin.
I immediately sent a public service announcement to my future self to serve as a reminder to ignore all blank ATM card invitations in the near future:
Dear Neal,
Let this email serve as fair warning… Any urge to get rich quick should be quickly dismissed and filed under scam spam.
Thanks for the heads-up, Harrison!

Sunrise, Sunset

Six million visitors a year gravitate to Grand Canyon National Park, hoping for a visceral connection with one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. They come to contemplate the Canyon’s enormity and marvel at nature’s possibilities. They come to walk the rim; hike the trails; or ride a mule/bike/train. Others may be inclined to climb the observation tower; watch a tribal ceremony; or dine at El Tovar. But no matter what the activity, It seems that EVERYBODY has arrived with a camera to document every moment of their Canyon experience as if it was a sacred rite.

Long lens, zoom lens, tripod, mono-pod, selfie-stick, large format, DSLR, compact, bridge, Polaroid, point-and-shoot, GoPro, iPads and iPhones–irrespective of the expense or complexity of the equipment–somebody is taking a picture of something or someone, almost always.

While not the world’s grandest canyon by size (Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal is nearly four times deeper, and Capertee Valley in Australia is longer and wider), The Grand Canyon more than makes up the difference in its spectacular and overwhelming beauty–so much so, that on average, 12 people will lose their life every year while posing or composing a photograph.

While the scenery is certainly breathtaking, I am more than satisfied to experience the canyon from a less risky perch, and push the photographic envelope in ways that are more within my control–like, capturing a sunrise/sunset sandwich–where different day-parts are recorded–from dawn (at approximately 5:15 am) to dusk (at approximately 7:45 pm).

almost sunup (3)
5:15 am
half sun up (2)
5:20 am
sunrise (2)
5:22 am
Grand Canyon sunrise (2)
5:23 am
sunrise1 (3)
5:24 am
sunglow (3)
5:25 am
sun over tree (2)
5:27 am
8am
8:00 am Colorado River
9am (2)
9:00 am
cliff shoes (2)
10:00 am
CU Colorado River (2)
11:00 am
rope clouds
Noon
bag people (2)
1st time seeing the Grand Canyon
bag ready
Waiting for the countdown
bag revealed
The big reveal at 2:00 pm
5pm (2)
5:00 pm
CU Mathers Point (2)
7:00 pm
stormy sunset (2)
7:10 pm
sunset (2)
7:20 pm
Mather Westbound (2)
7:25 pm
rainbow cloud (2)
7:30 pm
fire clouds (2)
7:35 pm
aurora cloud (2)
7:40 pm (fire-haired face mid-frame)
sunset cloud (2)
7:45 pm

and day is done…

Parody Paradigm

Dear Weird Al,

Last night, I took Leah to see your show at the Apollo Theater for her birthday, and she loved all of it.*

Leah at the Apollo

We highly approved of Emo Phillips as your opening act, and appreciated him opening up to us about his personal life. I never knew he was married and divorced. He mentioned that her name will forever remain nameless, but only if he can manage to be unseen at her gravestone with a sandblaster. Also, I didn’t know of his interest in playing chess with old men in the park, and how difficult it is finding 32 of them at once.

And then you took Apollo’s iconic stage…

Apollo Theater

with your long-time back-up band, and you guys were as tight as a vise grip. Whether it was your impressions of Bob Dylan in Bob, James Taylor in Even Worse, the Police in Velvet Elvis, or Gordon Lightfoot in The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, and many more…

set list

the crowd was enthusiastic, and all the applause was well-deserved.

Your stripped-down version of you, known as The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, neglected the familiar fat suit from Eat It, and you never donned a Reynolds Wrap hat from Foil, or a Jedi robe from The Saga Begins. Instead, you featured composed musicians seated on stools,

the band

playing original music from your library of clever parodies that we fondly remember from the 80’s and 90’s, and we loved all 100 minutes of it… although, we would have benefitted from cue cards on your rendition of Bob, for no other reason than to appreciate your insanity just a bit more:

Your twisted vision is a true testament to a society gone crazy on Crazy Glue, and koo-koo for Coco Puffs.

red Al

Your self-mocking and lampooning lyrics are delicately designed around intricate word puzzles that tell stories of ridiculous proportions, but still manage to make us smirk at ourselves with unwitting social commentaries about pop culture, religion and other uncharacteristic conventions of modern living.

Your wink-and-nod parodies–the product of a love affair mashup of music genres and sub-cultures–are at their best when you rip off the bandaid of political correctness and hypocrisy, and generously sing about the neurosis of our society.

With all sincerity, Weird Al, you are the court jester of a generation, and for that, I thank you.

Respectfully, Neal

P.S. I have dedicated a parody of my own to you–an homage of sorts, as a tribute to your talent and imagination that is rooted in a James Bond classic, The Spy Who Loved Me:

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Weird Al, you’re the best.

[It’s more fun if you play the audio and sing along]


Nobody doesn’t like butter.
Dairy is simply the best.
Starting out warm, straight from the bovine’s udder,

Baby, it’s a breast.


Whenever we’re beaching,

I can’t help from reaching
the strings to your bathing suit top.
I want to unbind them,
and simply remind them
of what it’s like to be there when they flop.

And nobody doesn’t like boobies,

cuz titties are always the best.
Your buttocks and legs, they only take second place.
Baby, it’s your breasts.

Whenever you’re nursing,

and people are cursing,
“You shouldn’t be flashing your breasts!”
They can’t stop their gawking,
while all the time talking–
Claiming it’s too lewd and lascivious.

Nobody doesn’t like butter

Soy milk just won’t pass the test
As for me, it’s always been half and half
Baby, baby, darlin’, it’s your breasts.

Baby it’s the breasts

Darlin’, it’s your breasts
Baby, like them best

Uh, uh, uh,

Oh, oh, oh,
uh, uh, uh, eyuh, eyuh
Uh, uh, uh,
Oh, oh, oh,
uh, uh, uh, eyuh, eyuh

*Special thanks to my son, Noah who arranged the “extra” of our extra special evening.

June 15, 2018 UPDATE

“Weird Al” just completed his 77th and last date of his Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, and has released a compendium of snippets from all the cover songs his band performed as the encore of each concert.

Oh, the power of their versatility!

 

 

The Aftermath, or If I Could Be Anywhere Else Right Now

It’s been 48 hours since arriving home after one year of steadily moving about the country. However, now that I’m physically situated in one place, it seems my mind continues to wander, yearning for places I’ve been or yet to experience. I fear I’m going through wanderlust withdrawal.

The feeling is eerily reminiscent of adjusting to the constant sway aboard a boat–to where I’ve finally gotten my sea legs–yet after docking, the motion of the ocean has robbed me of my equilibrium. Nothing seems normal to me. I still feel adrift, like a bobbing buoy.

Perhaps it’s some sort of jet lag (without the jet), or some kind of Post-Travel Stress Disorder, where my internal GPS continues to send rerouting instructions with every step taken, redirecting my brain and body back to the Airstream presently parked in Lakewood.

Acclimating to everyday life has been challenging, as I’ve yet to re-establish my new old routine, or shake off unsettling circadian rhythms of disorientation. Already, I’ve forgotten which cabinet holds the coffee mugs, or where to find the bottle opener, or what it was like to sleep on a king-sized mattress. Even after unpacking, I’m likely to open the wrong dresser drawer to find my socks.

Of course, it’s only been two days since landing, so I’m certain the confusion will abate and I will eventually adjust to a different way to fill my day without hesitation. But in the meantime, I will travel to my favorite places through my photographs, and dream about the possibilities.

One special destination–among more than a hundred visited in the past year–that still resonates to my core is reliving the beauty of Banff.

Mount Victoria (2)
Mt. Victoria watching over Lake Louise

Epilogue

We pulled the Airstream onto Colonial Airstream’s parking lot in Lakewood NJ, on St. Patrick’s Day, ostensibly marking our one-year anniversary Streaming thru America, and my one-year anniversary of blogging with WordPress under the same moniker.

Colonial Airstream

This has been a journey of a lifetime after a lifetime of journeys. It seems that everything I’ve done up until last year’s departure has prepared me for this adventure: as a NYC taxi driver, I honed my driving skills; as a restaurateur, I learned to cook using simple ingredients to create meals with complex flavors; as a camper, I grew up with an appreciation of nature and an affinity for adventure; as a producer, I perfected a perspective for planning and budgeting; as a carpenter, I mastered my mechanical skills; and as a special educator, I learned how to gain acceptance with the many special people we’ve met along the way.

This has also been a trip of numbers. As road warriors, Leah and I have travelled to 127 destinations: covering a total of 44,600 miles (5,500 flying miles) to thirty-six U.S. States; one Mexican State (Quintana Roo); and four Canadian Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia).

Cost-wise, Leah acted as bursar for the trip, and took responsibility for all data entry into a categorized spreadsheet. Using round numbers, our largest expense was campground fees at nearly $13,000. We stayed at a smattering of National Parks (only because gaining online reservations are fiercely contested up to a year in advance), a few State Parks, a handful of Provincial Parks, some County and City Parks, predominantly private RV parks (many Good Sam and KOA affiliates), and an occasional Walmart parking lot when we were transitioning between longer distances. As a rule, we rarely travelled further than a tankful of gas, or the rough equivalent of 400 miles.

Entertainment was our second leading expense at approximately $10,000, which covered films, concerts, shows, tours, park fees, and ample opportunities for sampling the best food of the area, from fine dining to dive bars.

Next, we spent nearly $8,000 purchasing food and groceries–including paper products, personal hygiene, and liquor–with the lion’s share spent at Walmart and Costco.

And our last largest expense was for gasoline and liquid propane, which ran us close to $8000. We made 115 trips to the pump for 3300 gallons of gas, yielding an average of 11.8 miles per gallon from coast to coast to coast, while towing mileage topped out at 10.1 MPG.

Living aboard the Airstream for a year was also an exercise in living with less. At 240 square feet from stem to stern…

2017-airstream-flying-cloud-27fb-2-e1521351550640.png

and cargo limited to a folded rear seat and 52.8 cu. ft. of storage behind the cab of our Ford F-150 pickup…

2017-ford-f-150-carry-on-seats-folded (4)

we learned to live efficiently, but never uncomfortably.

Leah and I scaled down to a small wardrobe of layering, using a combination of casual sportswear, appropriate outerwear and a wide variety of outdoor footwear to address most weather conditions.

The galley held two pots, two pans, two mix bowls, and Corel for four; a drawer of utensils and a drawer full of cooking and kitchen gadgets; a traditional assortment of spices and herbs; one presspot (mine), one two-cup percolator (Leah’s) and two coffee mugs; a tiny toaster, a hand mixer, a built-in microwave, a compact vacuum, and a VitaMix–my biggest indulgence for emergency frozen margaritas.

Electronics included: two mounted LED TVs, two tablets, one laptop, a color compact HP printer, a Kindle, a pair of UE Booms, Jaybird wireless earbuds, a Lumix DMZ-FZ300 for photography, and a tangle of cables and charging accessories.

The truck bed was home to a couple of stadium chairs, a CLAM screen enclosure, a 2000-Watt Honda generator, a hefty tool chest, and a portable Weber grill.

Our bicycles clung to the backside of the Airstream, tied to a Fiamma rack.

bikes.jpg

Getting along for 365 days was our biggest experiment, and a wild card for this trip’s success. While there was no denying our compatibility, we would often joke if we would still be smiling and talking to each other by day 365.

Our roles were defined early on, seemingly divided along gender lines: I did the routing, navigation and driving, the setups and breakdowns at RV sites, and all the general maintenance; while Leah acted as cleaning commando (inside and out) and laundry lieutenant. Invariably, Leah prepared a simple breakfast and packed a light lunch, while I played chef de cuisine for dinner.

Although our living quarters were tight, our door usually opened onto something spectacular, from sunrises…

sunrise (2)

Grand Canyon sunrise (2)

to sunsets…

Mt. Pleasant, SC

sunset

sundown panorama (2)

so most of days were spent exploring the extraordinary.

We brought along a cribbage board and backgammon set, thinking that when our conversation ran dry, we could always resort to games, but when it was the two of us together lounging in our lair, we either stretched out along the dinette streaming Netflix when internet allowed, or sought alone time at opposite ends of the trailer, separated by a sliding screen or a swinging lavatory door.

Our queenish-sized platform bed was roomy and comfy. And the only times we slept apart was for five days when I was fighting the flu. Otherwise, our sleeping cycles alternated between retiring together, or more often than not, Leah retiring early while I night-owled to edit photography du jour, or posted to my blog.

Although this blog is by no means the end, it has been a means to an end. Streaming thru America has given me a springboard to dive into my desire to write consistently for a audience bigger than one, and a jump-start to reinvigorating my passion for photography. Combining my writing and photography in a travel blog has been reaffirming and therapeutic, and the motivation I needed to pump out 160 posts of 100,000 words and 2800 photos along the way.

What started as a forum for family and friends has grown organically to a following of 1900 plus fans through WordPress and social media, with viewers from 140 countries along for the ride. I am awed and humbled every day that people from all over world find value in my words and pictures. And I am determined to keep going.

Long before we started out, Leah had already decided on our exit strategy–that once we’d completed our trip, and our Airstream had served its purpose, we’d put it on the selling block. But I had a different vision–that this trip would lay the foundation for future trips around the continent. While it would never be as epic as this particular journey, I could nonetheless foresee regional trips to faraway fields and streams for a month or two or three.

However, after shoving off and putting hundreds of miles behind us, the new and scary gave way to familiar and fearless, and Leah was hooked.

As it happens, there were so many destinations that we short-changed in favor of keeping the whirlwind spinning (see An Olympian Apology), not to mention sections of the country that we bypassed all together, that today we feel compelled to prepare preliminary plans to patch the holes in our past itinerary.

For now, the Airstream sits in the dealer’s lot awaiting its spring maintenance, although the fourth nor’easter forecasted to hit this area in as many weeks makes us yearn for the Texas heat spell we endured last April (see “We’re on the Road to Nowhere”).

When we return to Towaco, we’ll have a house to sell and a household to pack away for our anticipated move to St. Augustine (see Finally!). Then, in a few months, we’ll recapture the glory of living as seasoned road warriors, as we savor the feeling of hauling our reconditioned Airstream through the Shenandoah Valley and over the Blue Ridge Mountains to a long-term storage solution in Charlotte NC.

And before too long, it will be time to hitch up the Airstream like old times, and follow the road on a new course and a new adventure.

Until next time,

streaming thru america

Happy Trails!

Duty, Honor, Country

It’s a solemn ceremony choreographed with the precision of an atomic clock, executed by a regiment of warm-blooded automatons, and directed with the authority of a no-nonsense commander who only knows perfection. It’s a six-minute pas de trois that happens every hour on the hour during fall, winter, and night, and every half-hour during spring and summer–regardless of the weather or challenging conditions. And it’s a sacrament that’s never stopped since 1937.

The changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery is carried out with the pomp and circumstance of a Shakespearean ceremony, yet with the reverence of a canonization.

The rigorous training and commitment of the corps serving the monument is legendary. They are the best of an elite color guard from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, the nation’s oldest fighting force, serving since 1764.

The highly-selective unit is composed of impeccably dressed volunteers of similar stature, in peak physical condition, and with unblemished military records.

Sentinel (2)

As if marching to a metronome that only he can hear, the sentinel paces to the south, rolling his feet effortlessly along a catwalk of worn rubber,

guarding the tomb

His gait and silent cadence is measured and precise…19…20…and 21 steps, a broad leg sweep, and CLACK, his heels lock with the force of two magnets attracted to each other. He quarter-turns sharply to the east, and whip-snap, CLACK, his heels lock again.

facing east

One Mississippi, two Mississippi…until he reaches 21, and his feet quarter-turn north, and CLACK, his shoes revealing the effort from hours of spit-polishing only achieved through tubs of Kiwi and micro-sanding.

Spit and Polish

He executes a sharp shoulder-arms, repositioning his sparkling M-14 from his right shoulder to his left, as if popping with his prop–his weapon always closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel always stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.

After another 21 seconds of silence, the sentinel returns 21 steps north…

marching north (3)

and CLACK, quarter-turn, CLACK, quarter-turn, CLACK. Shoulder-arms, one Mississippi, two Mississippi…always counting, always focused, no matter the distraction.

The significance of number 21 corresponds to a 21-gun salute, the highest military honor posthumously bestowed upon any service personnel.

A crowd of spectators has lined the marble steps outside the Memorial Amphitheater in eager anticipation of the one-o’clock ritual.

Memorial Amphiteater

The hour tolls, and the sentinel on duty stands motionless, but at the ready.

sentinel awaiting replacement

From the opposite end of the plaza, the regiment commander appears beside the runway, and CLACK. In this ritual variation, the count-up to 21 continues, and marching resumes until the two honor guards pass.

passing (2)

Upon the commander’s return, he pivots to face the crowd of visitors:

Commander announcement

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please. I am Sgt. Davenport of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army, Guard of Honor, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This ceremony which you are about to witness is The Changing of the Guard. In keeping with the dignity of this ceremony, it is requested of everyone to remain silent and standing. Thank you.

Meanwhile, on the south side of the plaza, the relief-sentinel stands at attention and awaits formal inspection from the commander–now marching past the on-duty sentinel.

2nd pass

After a graceful, yet deliberate weapons and uniform check from head to toe…

head down inspection

undertaken with the scrutiny of a dermatologist examining for basal cells…the relief-sentinel is deemed mission-ready.

They parade across the plaza in lock-step…

parading

where they take up new positions in front of the shrine…

the ordered exchange

commander salutes

 

When the on-duty sentinel is officially relieved…

dismissing

the new sentinel’s patrol resumes for the remaining hour.

new patrol

However, on this particular day, at this particular hour, we were also witness to a wreath dedication ceremony from a local high school marching band…

carrying the wreath

placing the wreath

bugle

playing Taps

marching band honor

which only added to an already moving tribute and ceremony.

But there was one last vital piece of business remaining before our day was done: an obligatory visit to the gravesite of JFK to pay my respects.

JFK viewers

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963–the day before my 11th birthday–the announcement by Principal Simon came over the PA system, interrupting my Happy Birthday-song tribute. Immediately, the class went from cheers to tears in an instant, like a bipolar meltdown.

The pervasive sadness swept my home that evening, and I can’t remember when the sadness lifted. There was nothing any of us could do to keep from crying.

JFK quote
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility. I welcome it.

My 11th birthday was a turning point in my life–one of those moments where it’s impossible to forget where you were or what you were doing when you learned of something so profound, or horrific, or cataclysmic that you knew right then and there that your life had changed forever.

JFK grave

And while there’s no going back to a wrinkle in time, processing the tragedy is always hard to reconcile, even after all these years, as is wondering about the wonder that might have been.

The Sentinel’s Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me, never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance.
My standard will remain
Through the years of diligence
And the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect,
his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well-meaning crowds by day,
alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this Soldier in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

PBS has produced the following video which masterfully demonstrates the precision of the pageantry, and reflects the awe of the ceremony.

 

My Word!

It’s always a pleasure returning to DC’s National Mall…

mall (5)

where I like to keep an eye on my tax dollars by walking through the Smithsonian museums…

Smithson remains

to inspect the work being done by museum curators on my behalf.

nave (2)
Smithsonian Castle Commons

Aside from being a great depository of great aeronautical history at the National Air and Space Museum…

Spirit of St. Louis
donated by Charles Lindbergh

or interpretive history at National Museum of American History…

WE BUILD
Horatio Greenough

I’m always inspired when browsing through the Hirshhorn.

dry fountain
Gordon Bunshaft–Hirshhorn Fountain
rockface and car
Jimmie Durham–Still Life With Spirit and Xitle

where I get a chance to meander beside the curvy gallery walls, as I contemplate Mark Bradford’s updated Civil War cyclorama detailing Pickett’s Charge

Pickett's Charge panels (2)

or introspect on a retrospective of the 80’s, where everything is rele-vent again…

ON VEND DU VENT
Haim Steinbach–ON VEND DU VENT
SILENCE=DEATH (2).jpg
Gran Fury–SILENCE=DEATH
stripes
Jenny Holzer–Inflammatory Essays

or think deeply in the basement, where I’m reminded by Barbara Kruger’s BELIEF+DOUBT installation that words matter…

Belief

Bad Day

FORGET

Men's Room1

Women's Room

…and can make a difference…something I’d rather be doing.

First Flight

In the distance,

Kill Devil Hill

on a grassy sloped hill,

Looking down Kill Devil Hill

there stands a monument,

Wrights Monument

built of grit,

Brothers (3)

and will.

Brothers1 (2)

On a wing…

wing assembly

and a prayer…

Pea Island

The brothers moved

to Outer Banks

to dance

on open air.

Cape Hattaras

With gusting winds

kites on dunes

and dunes so tall,

dune patterns

the rail in place

to guide her,

following the rail

Orville readied

at the stick,

Orville at the stick

while Wilbur ran

beside her.

Sculpture1

Propellers spun,

the engine roared–

Original photo

the plane was

swept aloft.

The rescue crew

would cheer them on…

Rescuing Service

no matter

what the cost.

The Brothers Wright

achieved success–

Commemoration

a boulder

marks the sight.

granite and plaque

They passed the test,

and lit the way,

Bodie Island Light House

for they were

first in flight.

Monument and Family

*filed under picture story

Chapel Hill

There’s a triumvirate of college basketball competing in the middle of North Carolina, with rival sectors drawn by Duke’s Blue Devils at Durham, and North Carolina State’s Wolfpack at Raleigh, but completed by the Tar Heels of Carolina in the bucolic setting of Chapel Hill.

Campus map

In fact, consolidated ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) championships by the three powerhouses represent 48 titles out of 64 seasons, for a 75% margin of victory. Even now, as I write this, Carolina has defeated Duke 74-69 to compete against Virginia for its 19th ACC Championship and a place at the NCAA Championship table.

With a long legacy of league leadership, Leah and I concluded that a look around Chapel Hill might offer some insight into Carolina’s dominance.

Holding up the world

The campus was abustle, as classes were winding down in anticipation of Spring Break, and time was running out for research papers due by March 9th.

Clock Tower

We wound our way around to the sports complex where the public address system at Kenan Memorial Stadium blared a recitation of upcoming Tar Heel dates for Spring sports, which piqued our interest. Perhaps we could find the answers to some of our questions here, so we entered the Charlie Justice Hall of Honor.

Choo Choo

We were overwhelmed by the floor to ceiling showcases of memorabilia, photographs, trophies and historical artifacts detailing the history of Carolina football. As I positioned my camera to my eye to capture the glory days of Lawrence Taylor, I was suddenly greeted by the authoritative voice of an attendant behind a long arc of a desk who demanded to know our business.

“Uh, we were looking for access to the stadium, and though it might be through here,” I suggested.

“There is absolutely no photography allowed in the building,” she insisted. “Especially when the athletes are in the weight room.”

At the end of a corridor lined with decorated Tar Heel helmets on one side, and an assortment of NFL helmets on the other, was a glass wall offering a view of several oversized students pressing, curling, squatting and deadlifting 250 pounds or more.

I put my camera by my side. “If you could just tell us how to get to the stadium, we’ll be on our way,” I back-pedaled, not wanting her to think I was spying for a competing organization.

Pointing, she offered matter-of-factly,” Through those doors, and takes the stairs to the left of Choo Choo.”

We mounted the stairs, filed past security’s bag search, and entered a cavernous oval overlooking the first level.

Kenan Memorial Stadium

On the field, the Denver lacrosse squad was completing drills before their opening scrum with the Tar Heels.

lacrosse

When the match began, the 63,000 missing fans could not drown out the rap and disco music excerpts that echoed throughout the stands. Leah and I left with the score tied at 1 after 17 minutes of playing time, and with no greater appreciation for rap and disco music.

Denver v NCU

However, we did fall in love with Patrick Dougherty’s installation of weaving whimsy…

signage.jpg

as we passed the front lawn of UNC’s Ackland Art Museum…

Step Right Up installation

on our way to the truck before the meter timed-out,

Step Right Up installation1

which served as a visual metaphor for the intricacies of basket(ball) art of a different sort.

With rain forecasted for most of the following day,

Letterman's Lane

we decided to take our investigation indoors where it mattered most.

Museum entrance

Inside the museum, we had the run of the court,

exhibits1

dodging and weaving around interactive exhibits detailing every aspect of the game…

exhibits

that contributed to the success of a program that became a pipeline to the NBA!

Tar Heels in the NBA

When gauging the quantitative results of the team, one need not look any further than the volume of awards.

trophies

And if all-time National Championships were a deciding factor, Carolina has seven.

National Championships

Only Kentucky with 8, and UCLA with 11 have more.

Yet aside from great coaching (Dean Smith and Roy Williams have contributed to the second highest all-time winning percentage at .739) and recruiting amazing talent, Carolina also has the X Factor–

Jordan.jpg

–arguably the greatest player to ever play the game–and the museum has devoted a shrine of artifacts in his name.

Michael Jordan

Most illuminating are correspondence letters from Coach K…

Duke letter

and Dean Smith…

letter

that directed Michael Jordan’s path and launched him on a career that would shatter records and inspire a new age of athletes…

2017 Champs

to become future role models in their own right and not much of a secret after all.

Every Picture Tells a Story

It’s happy hour in the heart of Savannah’s historic City Market, where the American Prohibition Museum is surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants…serving alcohol–a decided irony for the two museum attendants who may be wondering whether they will ever attract any patrons, sober or otherwise.

unintended consequences (2)

 

*This photograph is a small part of a much bigger story about Savannah, Georgia…with pictures and words entitled L’Chaim–yet another irony, given the universality of the word when toasting with an alcoholic beverage!

 

L’Chaim

A second pass through historic Savannah on our way north left us with a day to cover a small part of the city left unseen from our last visit. Previously, Leah and I had budgeted two days in Savannah–between Thanksgiving and Christmas–as we ever-so-slowly slipped into our winter’s hibernation in Florida. Additionally, our obligation to celebrate Dad’s 93rd birthday in West Palm Beach (Happy Birthday, Dad!) on December 11th didn’t leave us much wriggle room for extra time.

Nevertheless, our first visit was rewarding, with memorable stops to: Bonaventure Cemetery, a fabled 18-century burial ground;

Bacon (2)

the revival of River Street, along the Savannah River;

Georgia Queen (3)

neighboring City Market, an 18th-century open-air marketplace;

unintended consequences (2)

Forsyth Park, with its famous oak-lined pathway…

Forsyth Park

leading to legendary Forsyth Park Fountain;

Forsyth Park Fountain

and finishing at the landmark Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the centerpiece of the historic district.

St. John exterior

But Savannah’s geo-positioning (part of the I-95 corridor) made it an easy transition point for routing our return home, and a welcoming destination for a second helping of Southern hospitality…and of course, we were not disappointed.

“So, we have another day here,” announced Leah. “How would you like to spend it?”

“You’re probably gonna laugh,” I stated seriously, “but just like Charlotte, there’s lots of Jewish heritage in Savannah, and there’s a historic congregation in the historic district we could check out.”

“But it’s Saturday, so there’s no way we’re getting in during the Sabbath,” she forewarned, so the best you could expect is an outside picture of the building.”

“Unless we attend services.” I added. “C’mon, it’ll be spiritually enlightening, and you can pray we made the right choice by relocating to St. Augustine.”

We arrived at Congregation Mikve Israel, walked past a uniformed police officer, and through the anointed doors…

doors

where we were met by welcoming ushers who immediately apologized for the temple’s appearance, and offered us a program outlining Catherine’s Bat Mitzvah. We were twice surprised.

Ordinarily, we would have taken a seat at the back of the temple making it easy to leave at our earliest convenience, but it seems that God had other plans for us.

We crossed a chuppah of scaffolding shrouding one-half of the sanctuary’s neo-Gothic architecture, and placing the back rows of the pews off-limits.

scaffolding

Instead, we took a seat closer to the altar among other congregants, while feeling somewhat out of place.

Bimah and Ark

We opened our siddurim to the selected text announced by Rabbi Haas, and subsequently followed the service to its conclusion, as it was meticulously led from the bimah by Catherine.

Catherine at the ark

While chanting familiar prayers with familiar melodies, I reflected on the original forty-two Sephardim and Ashkenazim who disembarked from the William and Sarah in 1733–having sailed aboard a London vessel bound for Oglethorpe’s fledgling colony in Georgia with their precious Sefer Torah in tow–

1733 Torah (3)
1733 Torah

in search of religious freedom and a fresh start.

1737 Torah
1737 Torah

As we prepared to exit after the last refrain of Adon Olam had echoed through the hall, we were approached by an elder of the congregation who encouraged us to stay behind and enjoy lunch with the other members in celebration of Catherine’s mitzvah.

There was no way of turning down Jack’s invitation. He wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. We feasted on lemon chicken, orzo with roasted vegetables, artisan lettuce with dressing, mixed fruit salad, and challah. The company at our table was as delightful and fulfilling as the meal.

During dessert…

cake

we lamented over a missed opportunity to learn more about Mikve Israel’s storied history, given that tours only occur on weekdays. However, a temple docent–conveniently seated at our table–volunteered to escort us to the second floor for a personal inspection of museum exhibits…

 

Wall of Presidents

GW decree
“… May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land – whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation – still continue to water them with the dews of heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.”

Ford's visit

A Colonial Congregation (2)

Historic Preservation (2)

Building for a Congregation (2)

and museum artifacts…

artifacts1

artifacts2

artifacts3

As serendipitous as this adventure was, I knew as I descended the stairs…

window and stairs

that I was meant to tell the story of Mikve Israel’s descendants: about their unwavering regard for their American Revolutionary roots, their continuing crusade for community; and their unconditional code of acceptance and inclusion.

Leah and I were invited to return and sample real Southern Jewish hospitality the next time we pass through Savannah, and I think that’s an invitation that I can easily accept, regardless of the obstacles.

scaffolding1 (2)

Fortuitous

The Spanish crown was ambitious in its exploration of the New World, establishing the first permanent European settlement at St. Augustine in 1565, and equally as keen on protecting its investment from marauding pirates, subversive Native American neighbors, and the French and British Empires by establishing a trio of forts along New Florida’s northern Atlantic coastline.

Spanish Defensive Network

Aside Fort Mose to the north and Fort Matanzas to the south, Castillo de San Marcos was the first and largest of the three, standing 33 feet high, with 14 feet thick walls of coquina blocks–

outside the walls (3)

–a bonded composite of crushed seashells quarried from nearby Anastasia Island–and able to withstand a cannon shot from an enemy vessel.

Lions Bridge passage

Completed 323 years ago, Castillo de San Marcos still stands as the oldest masonry and best preserved fortress in the continental United States, and a symbol of the colonial struggles that shaped the history of a nation.

cannon casting (3)

Protecting St. Augustine was an interwoven fabric of fort design,

moat

view from above

soldier readiness,

reenactor

and black powder weaponry.

interior (2)

The Castillo’s advanced architecture showcases the bastion system, named for the diamond-shaped spears jutting from the four corners of the fort walls–

fort exterior

each point armed with an array of cross-firing guns intended to sweep across a wide swath of defensible coverage.

guns and turret

Additionally, the coquina stone offered fortunate benefits to fortress defenses if fired upon, as soldiers quickly realized that the porous properties of its shell walls could absorb the impact of cannon balls, rather than the walls shattering into shards if built with brick or granite.

A soldier’s life of active duty at the fortress usually consisted of drills, repair, and sentry watch,

sentry turret

with little time ever devoted to battles. Otherwise, their time was spent protecting the larder…

provisions locker

practicing their faith, which guided all aspects of colonial life…

First mass

and working second jobs as carpenters, cobblers, and coopers to support their families when away from the barracks.

soldier bunk

Officer barricks

But when confronted by the enemy, cannon crews were so effective at discharging projectiles from a variety of guns when repelling an attack or seige,

Artillery and Amusettes

cannon defenses

cannon crest

Shot Locker loaded

that Castillo de San Marcos was never breached in its history.

ramparts (3)

The fort has been the centerpiece of a historic city that has changed flags six times, but always by treaty–never surrender or defeat.

Spanish flag.jpg

Legions of soldiers through the ages have passed through its chambers leaving behind their marks…

ship grafitti (2)

grafitti1

graffiti (2)

But the treachery of Renaissance politics that sparked an amazing race of New World discovery, launched a new nation forged in conflict, and a new world order that defies all labels.

 

 

 

Smoke on the Water

sand play

It was warm enough to sunbathe,

and frolic in the sand,

yet, I could not see the sun rays.

It was not what I had planned.

 

A walk along the shoreline

left dewdrops on my neck,

and I wondered whether sunshine

would be breaking on my trek.

 

But the coastal air was chilling

with a sea breeze ‘cross the grass.

And I was more than willing

to allow the fog to pass.

 

Yet Anastasia’s sea smoke,

like other-worldly stew,

it hangs on like a heavy cloak

so dense, it blocks my view.

 

However, if I’m patient,

the fog may one day lift.

The sun renewed and nascent,

is proof of nature’s gift.

Anastasia Beach fog (2)