Three Day Blow

   You can't beat getting yourself acclimated to the potential of the fall rainsweep of England, Scotland and Wales than by settling in to an old fashioned New England nor'easter. Since Carol took charge of the accommodations for this trip, we were confirmed in an upscale Atlantic beach inn outside Boston, complete with gas fireplace and a picture window view of the ocean delivering the three day blow.

Read More

End of Innocence

  Although I have a colonoscopy every, er, ten years as recommended (in case my doctor may be reading this) the sense of dread that decennial event conjures is a most familiar one. It matches exactly, for instance, the same dread I feel about going to a museum. In fact, the prep for a colonoscopy may actually be somewhat less dreadful, in that there is considerably more sitting done than you get to do at a typical museum.

Read More

Be-udiful

Next Saturday, Carol and I will be attending her 50th high school reunion in Yonkers, N.Y. My role will be her dutiful arm ornament. As jewelry, I'm closer to the kind left unclaimed in a pawn shop, rather than glittering off the wrist of a NY socialite. Plus Carol was the head cheerleader for her high school (Carol insists she was never the head cheerleader, but she's not telling this story, I am). Which means expectations could be high for someone like a Johnny Depp or a Michael Douglas to be draped around her. I can do Randy Quaid, or with dim-lighting, maybe a Paul Giamatti in a stretch of credulity, but my guess is some form of "looks were never important to me," will find its way into introductory conversations.

Read More

Napa Valley Tours, Jill White (guest contributor)

Top 6 Napa Valley Wine Tour

Are you searching for an incredible way to treat your wine lover friend in Napa Valley?  Do you personally enjoy visiting the wineries?  If so, it is going to be very hard to choose from the numerous wineries from Napa Valley. While most of the wineries at Napa Valley close at 5 pm, some are open even after 5 pm. When almost all the wineries need prior appointments, some are open for tasting without a booking. There are even wineries that specialize in red wines only and some others have white wines as well.

Just to make it easier for you, here are our picks of the Napa Valley wine tour.

Read More

Over a barrel

   I like wine. I like to drink it; I don't need to understand why I like to drink it, but I've learned in the past few years that a lot of livelihoods depend on me wanting to know why. So when I travel to California's wine country, which has become an annual event to visit friends, I include a winery tour, not so much for the sake of those livelihoods,  but for the same reason people who travel to New York and Paris visit MOMA and the Louvre: to advance their knowledge of art and culture sufficient to become annoying at parties.

Read More

They might be giants

   The giant Sequoia known as General Sherman that stands in California's Sequoia National Park is more than 2000 years old. It is 1000 years younger than the oldest known Sequoia. Interestingly, these forest giants require wildfires in order to germinate their seeds and grow new trees. In other words, these living trees have been around for at least 3000 years, and have survived through the life giving natural occurrence of forest fires. Today, thanks to the human encroachment of creeping suburbia, forest fires are suddenly  now a scourge that have to be dealt with - to read between the lines of the lumber industry  - by clearcutting, of course.

Read More

In praise of decrepitude

 

   I was reading a travel narrative, and the writer used a word that struck me in an epiphanal way. Theroux was describing his coastal tour of Britain (The Kingdom by the Sea) as "long coastal stretches of decrepitude."

   That I wanted Carol and I to see what he was writing about on our own upcoming trip ("...what had been villages well served by railway lines had become curiously anorexic-looking and tumble down, somehow deserving the epitaph from 'Ozymandias.'") struck me as very odd: I wanted to sightsee. As I read on ("defunct viaducts, abandoned cuttings, former railway stations, ruined railway bridges) it occurred to me Theroux was describing what 1500 years from now would be the ancient ruins of a then former world empire. The funny thing is the current existing sites of 1500 year-old ruins hold no interest for me. In fact little is more boring than a well-preserved and properly docented or audiophoned historic pile of slave-constructed rocks, except for maybe the section of medieval religious paintings in a typical European art museum.

Read More

The green mile

Anyone reading between the lines of this travel blog has to surmise that the way Carol and I eat and drink in Europe is not sustainable year round. Even when we spent all that time in Germany, we still found ways to turn the food pyramid on its head (thanks to some wonderful Italian restaurants there). Inevitably though, we wound up enjoying our last meal in Europe the way diners on death row enjoyed theirs. "When we get home, we're going on a diet," Carol would intone solemnly. I would receive those words with the same death row chill an inmate would experience in learning there'd be no intervention from the Governor.

Read More

40 years and still wandering

  Moses might probably understand, but that's about the only one. And even he would note I wasn't looking for any Promised Land.

   In June 1971, I left the United States, and spent the next nearly three years traveling abroad. Always with very little money, I amounted to little more than a vagrant for a good portion of that time. On the positive side, I was genuinely looking for some place and station in life where I belonged. It had never occurred to me in that time of my life that in order to find what you're looking for, you need some idea of what that is.

Read More

Oxford, the one in England

When I told my New Orleans family and friends I'd be spending my summer after college graduation at Oxford, they assumed I'd be heading to northern Mississippi. Probably to pick cotton, for all the good my degree in Political Science was going to do me. When I told them it was "the one in England," they still thought I was going to pick cotton. Planning to go back there this October after more than 45 years, I realize that picking cotton might have provided the needed structure in my life that neither childhood or adulthood has evidently provided.

Read More

Golf widow

Views like this make it tempting

Views like this make it tempting

 

   We were having a glass at Carol's daughter and son-in-law's golf club. The patio features a wonderful view of the course that routes through a valley with the purple and sage saddleback range in the distance. I commented on the panoramic view and the course's deep green under the fading sunlight. Carol looked at me, smiled hopefully and said, "Doesn't it make you want to get out and play again?" This is what my spudlike home life has spawned: a partner who willfully wants to turn herself into a golf widow, just to see me get off the couch once in awhile.

But not with this backswing

But not with this backswing

   Regarding the couch itself, Carol has rearranged it recently in order to better balance out the crater that forms on the spot where I consistently park my tuckus, and which I refer to as my office. I suppose a few expansive words of explanation are in order, though I may have written on this subject previously. (I don't keep track of these things, and may explain why my daughter's nickname for me is "Johnny Two Times.")

This relaxed means I haven't started yet

This relaxed means I haven't started yet

   First, as I've said, the couch is my office. Here I compose (or decompose, depending on one's point of view) my blogs, deliver my podcasts, read and what I like to call imagineering, but that Carol refers to "staring aimlessly into space as if you are dead." (Which may explain her occasional mirror check under my nose.) And, yes, it's where I occasionally catnap to recharge my creative juices, juices which do tend to pool up around the corners of my mouth.

   As you can see, golf would be a wholesale disruption of such a smooth-functioning, well-oiled creative machine. First is the tee time, which adds a strict structure to the day. You have to change shoes four times, shop for balls and tees, and perhaps worst of all, introduce yourself to upwards of three total strangers, at least one of whom probably voted for Trump and plans to do so again.

   I used to write about golf. I reviewed courses and equipment. I might as well have been reviewing neurosurgery for all I knew about those subjects. I once attended a golf equipment show as a "reporter." I examined and tested gear designed to improve your game. I tested a device that analyzed my swing using laser technology. The equipment representative had nothing to say about my swing, save that its outside-in, reverse-pivot, chicken-winged hack probably wouldn't work on a golf course, but I might have inadvertently given myself LASIK surgery in the process.

I am glad that Carol likes to drive

I am glad that Carol likes to drive

   Carol has offered to take lessons and join me on the links should I decide to take the game up again. She's never played, but believes, having read my experiences as a golfer, "it shouldn't take that long to get up to speed." I took that as a positive statement of her commitment and aspirations, though I'm not altogether sure she meant it that way.

   Well, so much for that for now. Time to move to the other side of the couch. New house rules.

The adventures of Carol and me: The story so far  

   Yesterday was the first anniversary of the first trip Carol and I took together. We went to France, which had been the scene of my first solo train trip the year before. Without really thinking it through (which is generally my method of thinking things through), this second France trip was a test of how well I stack up as a solo versus a companion traveler. In retrospect, it was probably more of a test of how well Carol stacked up as a companion to a solo traveler.

Read More

Tijuana two-step

   The clue that my calculations on the day were significantly off was when we walked passed a parking lot snug against the San Ysidro border station. Carol wanted to show me Mexico, one country I had never visited before. "I took the kids to Tijuana when they were young, and I had dental work done there once."

   So why I didn't simply turn all the logistics over to Carol will remain one of those mysteries that crop up whenever women try to explain men.

Read More

Farewell tour

   I watched the woman, standing out of her seat and self-indulgently dancing, while blocking the view of the stage for all those seated several rows behind her. I was as captivated by her selfish exhibitionism as I was Jackson Browne's soulfully heartfelt music emanating from the stage. I thought, based on recent concert experiences, why isn't that damn woman blocking Carol and I?

   When I first arrived as yet another of southern California's transplants, I had a strong feeling music concerts would be in our future. So many venues well within driving distance. I was right. Our Year of the Concerts began in July with Jethro Tull. With most of the crowd on Social Security, it was a sedate bunch, their mobility limited by bad backs, joint replacements and adult diaper rash.

Read More