Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More 2103 wrap-up: San Francisco in April and Chicago in June

Business trip took me back to San Francisco in April.  I never get tired of going there -- tired of the plane trip, sure, but the destination?  Never!    Stayed in a little "boutique" hotel near the cable car turnaround and grabbed the first car to the Fisherman's Wharf area to walk along the beach, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance on one side,


and the buildings of the city on the other.


Took some time before the conference opening to explore places I'd never visited before, starting with an almost-full day's visit to Golden Gate Park.  Walked nearly the entire three mile length, wandering north and south on the many pathways, taking dozens and dozens of photos.

The Conservatory of Flowers  was a wonder inside and out.  The oldest such glass and wood structure in the country, by the end of the 20th century, it needed extensive repair and renovation and was closed for several years to be rebuilt and refurbished.  


The small Japanese garden section had wisteria in full bloom cascading from above.  Gorgeous!




Another path featured a huge bed of white calla lilies, which I think of as summer container plants.


My evening strolls around the downtown area took me past a high-end jeans store with these wonderful old sewing machines in the window.

I hopped the trolley to search for dinner in the Embarcadero one night.  That trolley car had originally been from Philadelphia! 

My destination provided a great view of the Bay Bridge.


Post-conference, I had a free afternoon before I was due at the airport for my red-eye flight.  Another cable car ride (two actually) to Grace Cathedral on the top of Nob Hill.  In addition to richly colored scenes of San Francisco history lining the interior walls, the cathedral has both an interior and an exterior labryinth. 


Quietly and reverently, I removed my shoes and walked the winding path inside, as a personal goodbye to that favorite city.

Late June took me to Chicago for the annual conference of the American Library Association. Friday evening, my work colleagues and I grabbed a bus to Chinatown for dinner.  We feasted, then dodged the rain to return to our hotel.


Late that night, Daughter #1 flew in to meet me for the weekend!  She spent some time at the conference, attending several sessions with speakers of interest, then visited the Field Museum of Natural History.  On Saturday evening, we explored the Navy Pier, ready to ride the Ferris wheel and view the city from its height.  Alas, it was not in service, but you can see it in the background.


Even from the ground, there was a great view of the Chicago skyline.


ALA headquarters is in Chicago, so we meet there fairly frequently.  Next visit is January 2015 when the weather will be a lot less hospitable!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy birthday, George

My last entry described my memory of being 14 years old and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan for the first time.  Fifty (!) years ago.  This was "my" George when I first "fell in love" with him.


When he died in November 2001, he was ever and always "my Sweet George."


One year later, I was in London for Concert for George -- the most memorable musical event of my life.  George presided over the festivities as a huge version of this photo was hung over the stage.  His presence was felt by everyone there.


Today would be his 71st birthday.  

George Harrison
February 25, 1943 - November 30, 2001
Never get over you.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

It was twenty (no FIFTY) years ago today


Sunday night, February 9, 1964.  I was 14, in 9th grade and IN LOVE with The Beatles.  I knew that I wasn't alone in that feeling, but I had been especially stricken, reading about them, buying every available record (both 45's and LPs -- remember them?), and following their every move through newspapers, teenage "fan" magazines, and, of course, listening to the pop station on the radio.

Two days before, the Fab Four had stepped off a Pan-Am plane from Heathrow Airport in London, and arrived in NYC on the first trip to the states for all but one. George Harrison ("my" Beatle) had previously (and pre-fame) visited his older sister, Louise, in Illinois.  When you were as big a fan as I was, you knew this stuff!




Scheduled to perform on American soil for the first time, live, on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, February 9th, they were greeted by hordes of American fans.  "Beatlemania" had officially begun.

From the moment the performance had been announced, I had been doing my best to beg, wheedle, whatever-it-took to make sure I was allowed to watch that night.  My father, a classical musician, had no use for "that noise" as he called pop music.  He barely tolerated the 1940's crooners that my mother favored, but pop/rock music??  NO WAY!  I had a small portable record player but was only allowed to listen to "my" music in my own bedroom on the third floor, high above the rest of the house and its residents.  Somehow, whether through promises or pleas, I managed to convince him that my life would no longer be worth living if I was denied the opportunity to watch.

The Ed Sullivan Show was a television legend.  This variety show was where all the important entertainers showcased their talents for the millions.  The Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie, later paid tribute with "Hymn to a Sunday Evening". Singers of all types, opera to country, comedians, puppeteers, ventiloquists, trained dogs, the Bolshoi Ballet! -- you name it -- a selection could be found on each Sunday night show.  Elvis Presley's first national appearance was on Ed Sullivan (though the camera famously was trained above his waist, so his "swiveling hips" did not risk offending the audience).

I seem to remember that we had yet to purchase a color television, so that night, I staked out my place on the floor in front of our couch, facing the black and white console television -- one of some 73,000,000 viewers.  Not even the most fervent few would have predicted that these young "lads from Liverpool" (as Ed called them) had started "the British Invasion" and would change the face of  popular/rock music forever.

My eyes were glued to the screen, afraid to miss a note or a word, and my heart pounded almost audibly in my chest.



My memory has more holes than Swiss cheese these days, but I clearly remember riding in a car with my aunt right around that time and telling her about the Beatles.  She responded by confidently informing me that, in five years, no one would remember who they were.  Fifty years later, John, Paul, George, and Ringo are not only not forgotten, but honored with publications, television programs, and awards.  

I have never stopped being a Beatles fan, carrying my affection and interest into my adult life and now into my dotage!  George always maintained his special place in my heart, even now, so many years later and over a dozen years since his death.  These four musicians, together and separately, were perhaps the only constant that I've carried there for five decades, as I've lost parents, gained and lost husbands, grown apart from and then close to siblings.  My daughters were raised on their music, I proudly confess.  And I expect this relationship will continue until the day I'm gone.  We love you Beatles!  And, my sweet George, I'll "never get over you." 





Saturday, February 1, 2014

2013 wrap-up: January (Inauguration and Seattle)

Given it took me almost an entire year to finish writing about my London travels with my daughters, I am now way behind in posting about any other 2013 events.  Simple neglect does account for some of my tardiness, but also, because of a medical condition, I have had to limit my computer time.  Given that I must spend most of my job time staring at a monitor, this means I often go days without even turning on the one at home.  Makes it kinda difficult to "keep up" with my recreational use (so to speak).

Decided I'd devote a few posts to the rest of 2013, add another photo-heavy W.I.B.W.O. piece, then try to get back on track with more frequent (if less lengthy) entries.

January 2013, Washington, DC
President Barak Obama was inaugurated for his second term.  (Was it really just ONE year ago?  It seems so much longer ago than a mere 12 months!)   D#1 got tickets for us to attend the inauguration so off I went to Washington DC to spend time with her and see this historic event.

The day before the ceremony, we visited the Old Post Office, a lovely Romanesque building, which had been converted to business and commercial space. 


The inside reminded me of The Bourse in Philadelphia, with its balcony of retail and food service circling the floor space and a dozen or so floors of offices surrounding the open central court before being topped off by a ceiling many, many feet above!


The tower on the building gives an amazing view of the city -- second only to the Washington Monument.



Note the almost empty street leading to the Capitol building.  That's Pennsylvania Avenue -- already cleared of most traffic and blocked off for the next day's parade.  We walked down this now-pedestrian walkway, passing the stand where the presidential party would watch.





On the cold and gray morning of the inauguration, we joined the crowds as we searched for the section where our tickets said we should be.




We had a decent view of the Capitol dome, but, alas,  couldn't see anything, not even the few "jumbotron" screens that were set up around the area.

Even so, it was exciting to hear the speakers, and know that we were experiencing a small part of history.


When the ceremony was over, our feet were frozen from standing on the cold ground and we knew that the Metro would be jammed for hours.  Hunger led us to walk a fair distance to find a restaurant that was open but didn't have miles of waiting customers.   A warm lunch fortified us to return to D#1's apartment and get ready to attend the HRC inaugural ball as she'd been given tickets through her job!   This ball was THE place for LGBT Washingtonians (and others) to be that night. 

Many thanks to my generous daughter who invited me to share these times with her!

January 2013: Seattle, Washington
The Mid-winter conference of the American Library Association took me to Seattle, a place I'd visited once before (for the same conference) in January 2007.  That trip was the last one before my life took a couple of turns for the worse because of family "stuff."  Six years later, with all the "stuff" in my rear-view mirror, I looked forward to exploring this city on my own.  D#1's BoyFriend spent much of his life in Seattle, and provided valuable tips on where to go and how to get there.  As is typical for a conference visit, I had few opportunities to see much other than the conference and, perhaps, a restaurant or two.  But, thanks to her BF, getting around was a snap!
  
My hotel was near Pioneer Square -- a place I remember visiting previously -- but off the beaten track for conference-goers.  This historic area has many older buildings, as well as a wonderful   mystery bookstore, which was closed during the hours I wasn't working (un)fortunately.
A short block away was a tunnel limited to bus and light rail which took me within a block of the convention center! 








The walls of the stops visually expressed where you were: brick and limestone at Pioneer Square, Asian origami-type art at the International District stop, and colorful entertainment-oriented murals at the center of town, with its theatres and music venues.







I did have the opportunity to have dinner in the International District, home of Seattle's Chinatown, though there were all types of Asian restaurants there.


Looking down the street from the Convention
Center,  you'll spot the iconic Pike's Place Market:







I had two clear memories of the market from my first visit: a quilt/fabric store and a chowder place.  On Monday morning, as the conference drew to a close, I volunteered to bring back lunch to my colleague (following the critical foray to look for the quilt shop).  Almost instinctively, I found them both again: Undercover Quilts and Pike's Place Chowder.


Undercover Quilts stocks fabrics with Seattle themes, perhaps especially commissioned for them.  I purchased a wonderful print which I used in the quilt I made D's BF as a gift for his college graduation! 

Someday I hope to return to Seattle when it's not January and not so cold.  Maybe I'll even see the sun! 



Monday, October 28, 2013

London -- Part VI: Last days

Thursday Brother Tom had an early flight home and D#2 stayed in our flat to work on a paper (due electronically shortly after the new year) and meet a friend who was coming in from Amsterdam, where she had studied for the past semester.  D#1, her BF, and I grabbed a double-decker bus and rode off to visit to Westminster Abbey, followed by a train ride to Cambridge to visit with D#1's BF's parents who now live there.

The chill, damp weather is almost visible in the photo I snapped of the nearby Parliament building with Big Ben.  


When I'd been here ten years ago, the Abbey had closed early for some event.  Even without this glitch, there is so much to see in this palpably sacred place that I was eager to spend some more time there, taking advantage of the now-available audio tour that ensured I missed none of the most important places, though I augmented the tour with plenty of just wandering about.



Looking through the ironwork fence:



Of course, I had to take a photo of the door leading to the "Librarian and Keeper of Muniments":


The statues above the Great West Door of the Abbey are of 20th century martyrs, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.



At my request, D#1 and BF had headed off to the train station and Cambridge without me, as I was feeling quite sick by then.  By the time I left the Abbey some of the clouds had cleared and, looking toward Big Ben, the London Eye was visible.  


Taking my time walking back to our flat, I enjoyed the sights and sounds of this incredible city, with the "Shard" prominent in the skyline.



While the chill and damp had been ever-present during the trip, it was never really cold, so many places had blooming flowers.  I loved these pansies in window boxes outside a shop.


On Christmas Eve day, I had not joined the others on their excursion to Borough Market, but now I found myself nearby and happily discovered that many of the shops were open!   Had a lovely time poking around, buying a few things here and there -- including some yummy chicken curry that I had for dinner. 


Tucked it all into a great Borough Market reinforced burlap shopping bag that is now my first choice "go to" bag for my grocery shopping here at home.



An earlier screw-up on my part had meant that a planned Friday outing to the Victoria and Albert Museum with quilter-friend Judi of Canterbury had been cancelled.   Turns out it was just as well.  Friday I was sick.  Really sick.  Coughing-and-hacking-and-not-breathing-very-well sick.  There was nothing I could do but stay in the flat, rest, and start packing for the early Saturday morning trip to the airport.  However, through email, Judi had passed on enticing information from her husband that our flat was very close to London's last galleried coach inn, which was frequented by the likes of not only Charles Dickens but William Shakespeare himself!   So Friday evening, we four set off to find it!

As with so many places in London, when you look around a corner, there are wonderful surprises to be found.  That's how we discovered "The George Inn." 






We could only wander into the courtyard, as the Inn was booked for a private party, alas.  Some months later, I was able to return the favor by emailing Judi that the book, Shakespeare's Pub had been recently published in case her husband was interested.

Saturday morning came, and meant that D#1 and I had to be on our way to Heathrow.   D#2 and her classmate were going back to her flat at Queen Mary where they would meet my "German daughter" who had arrived in London the night before.   They planned to see in the new year together and go their separate ways early on New Year's Day, with D#2 and friend stopping over in Paris (sigh!) for two days, and arriving back in the states later that week. 

I was, predictably, sad to leave London.  In two trips there -- a decade apart -- I still had not visited a single palace!   And my museum time had been limited to half an hour or so at the National Gallery on the Friday I arrived!   Even so, we had managed to enjoy a number of activities in the available time, without rushing through them, which left me no regrets!  

So.

I suppose I will have to return one day.  The next time I go to London, it will be in nicer weather, especially because I want to attend at least one production at Shakespeare's Globe, to visit Hampton Court Palace (D#2's favorite), to see the V&A (at least), to see London from the Eye (maybe), to take the train to Cambridge to see the Corpus Clock, and, perhaps, to visit friend Judi in Canterbury, with its historic cathedral.  

Can't be too soon for me.