Out of timeout!

Today marked the 11th day after my positive Covid test and I tested negative for the second day in a row, so the CDC guidelines say I no longer have to take special precautions to avoid infecting others. That doesn’t mean I won’t be wearing a mask around other people, but it’s voluntary rather than mandatory.

This afternoon, we celebrated Cantor Felder-Levy’s 25 years at Shir Hadash. She actually reached that mark last year, but…. The celebration was a concert with music by the choir and by some of the Cantor’s colleagues; it was a very special day and I’m glad we were able to be there in person instead of watching it on livestream.

Shir Shabbat is Back!

Today was the first Shir Shabbat in over a month because we don’t meet when there’s a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I think people must have missed it, because we had more than 20 people online, significantly more than usual.

Having Rabbi Aron as the Haftarah reader encouraged people to attend, too.

It’s good to be back to a normal rhythm.

Leave off the last “S” for Savings!

We got our PG&E bill for last month; since we were gone for almost the full billing period, we used amazingly little gas and electricity. We used so little gas that we were subject to their minimum transportation charge (13 cents per day), and our electricity usage was 200 kilowatt hours less than a typical month. Most of the reduction was due to cooking and lighting, but I had made a point of unplugging things like the subwoofer since it wasn’t going to be used while we were gone.

I was curious how much of a difference that made, so I dug out the Kill-a-Watt and tested; the subwoofer idles at about 15 watts, which adds up to almost 11 kWh during a month. It’s probably worth putting it on a smart outlet and only turning it on when the amplifier is active.

I could also consider putting the amplifier on a smart outlet and only turning it on when I need it, though I haven’t gotten around to finding out how much power it uses in idle mode. And then there’s the TV and the TiVo….

Shabbat Shalom!

Two is better than one, except when it isn’t

I’ve got two Macs which are “my main computer” – the Mac mini in the office and the MacBook Air that mostly lives in the kitchen except when it goes on vacation with us. My plan was to have the mini be the real main computer; the laptop would only have subsets of what was on the mini – some photos, some music, some programs, and of course, whatever photos I took on a trip until I could get them home to the real computer. I didn’t even get a Backblaze subscription for the laptop because it wasn’t supposed to have anything I cared about.

It was a great plan, but it didn’t work. I do most of my mail and web browsing on the laptop because it’s in the kitchen – and that means I download a lot of things to that system. And once in a while, I find myself writing a bit of code there. And of course, when we travel, photos go to the laptop.

So this afternoon, I decided to make sure that everything on the laptop was, indeed, on the mini.

It wasn’t. And still isn’t, even after spending hours on the task, but I’m closer.

I was surprised by how many things were almost duplicated on the two machines – especially source code for various projects. I almost always create a Git repository for anything that’s going to live more than an afternoon, but I don’t put it on Github unless I plan to share it. Which sometimes meant I’d copy the repository from the mini to the laptop, work on it there, and never copy the changes back to the mini – and then sometimes I’d make a different set of changes there. So I spent a good bit of the afternoon resolving the differences – and making sure the code was up on Github for the future.

The strangest part of the day, though, was the way I did the work. I brought the laptop into the office and set it up under the monitor for the mini; then I used Forklift on the mini to get a view of both machines’ disks at once.

I did the actual fixing on the mini, with side-by-side terminal windows for the two machines; the one on the left was for the laptop and the one on the right was on the mini. I used the new Universal Control feature of Mac OS to do all the typing and mousing on the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad attached to the mini. That meant that when I was typing into the terminal window for the mini, I was actually typing on the keyboard of the mini but using a terminal window hosted by the laptop that ran commands on the mini. Obvious, right?

As a wise person (not me!) once said, “there is no problem in Computer Science that can’t be solved by adding another level of indirection.”

Back on the trail

Today was the hottest day so far this year, getting well into the 80s. That didn’t stop us from taking a walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail with the South Bay Striders this afternoon.

It was good to see some of the regulars who we hadn’t seen since early April, and even better to see a few new faces.

My face was covered with an N95 mask because I’m still positive (though the lines on the test strip are getting lighter!) and I haven’t yet reached the 10-day mark. Wearing the mask let me walk near other people and not feel like I was endangering them – but it also meant that I got VERY hot. I drank a lot of water on the walk, but probably not enough!

There weren’t many people in the parks adjacent to the trail – I suspect it was due to the weather. There were plenty of other walkers and bicyclists on the trail, though.

There was a new crop of goslings, too; they are really cute, and they aren’t adding a lot to the mess on the trail – yet.

Charging ahead!

Early this morning, I got an email from my thermostat alerting me that one of the remote sensors had a low battery.

The sensor uses a coin cell, and I have plenty of those, so I was ready.

It’s a good thing I was ready, because I got this email 23 seconds later:

At least I knew that the sensor hadn’t mysteriously gone missing!

R 0,U

We worked out at the JCC with our trainer this morning – outside, wearing masks. It was tiring.

After lunch, we did yet another antigen test. Diane tested negative for the second time, and it’s been 11 days since her symptoms started, so she is now Officially Recovered. My test was still positive, but the line wasn’t as dark as it was yesterday. The CDC guidelines say I don’t have to isolate any more but do need to keep wearing a mask for five more days.

At least there are plenty of pretty flowers to enjoy this time of year!

Not enough negativity

Today was Day 10 for Diane, so we each did a rapid test.

Hers was negative (hooray!).

The “Test” line was vivid on mine before the liquid got to the “Control” line. I’ll try again in a couple of days.

We did get to see the last part of the lunar eclipse tonight; I would have needed a tripod to get a photo with my big camera, but the iPhone was more amenable.

I took a RAW photo with the iPhone, too – unfortunately, not until just after totality had ended, so there’s a little bright spot at the bottom of the Moon.

I cropped the same photo really tightly – it looks interesting, but I suspect the artifacts are dominant in this version.

A quiet Shabbat

We Zoomed to Torah Study for the first time in over a month; this week’s portion is Behar (Leviticus 25:1–26:2). The discussion focused on the sabbatical year and why it’s important to rest the land (and ourselves) deeply from time to time. I enjoyed being back!

We spent the rest of the day at home and taking walks; it was the first really warm day of spring, so we didn’t want to go out in the middle of the day. And of course, we continued to isolate.

The most constructive thing I did today was to decide that I didn’t really have to read two months’ worth of the New York Times Book Review – a quick skim was more than adequate. And the same fate met another pile of magazines and newsletters that were haunting me. It’s not a big accomplishment, but it helps!

I do my part for statistical accuracy

I had a PCR test yesterday to confirm my Covid infection and got the results this morning – yes, I definitely have Covid. I’m feeling fine (better than yesterday, with less coughing), but of course I’m isolating from other people.

I can isolate outside as well as I can inside, so we went for a couple of walks today – it was a beautiful late spring day and the sage was blooming, attracting lots of pollinators.

After we got home, we put up the new mezuzah we bought at KKBE in Charleston.

Shabbat Shalom!

The lure of the upgrade button

When I left for vacation a month ago, I was in the middle of moving my existing home automation setup (running Indigo on a Mac mini) to Home Assistant. I was making good progress, but I didn’t want to make such a big change and leave town, so I left everything as it was.

One of the reasons I wanted to move was that Indigo was broken on Mac OS 12.3.1 – it still needed Python2 which was removed in 12.3.1. My Mac mini kept trying to get me to upgrade to 12.3.1. But I knew better and avoided the upgrade.

Tonight, I turned on the display on that Mac mini for the first time since coming home, and there was an invitation to upgrade. I almost hit “Upgrade Now” but I needed the machine for a Zoom session, so I waited.

After the Zoom, I was ready to upgrade – but thought I’d check on the status of Indigo first. Lo and behold, there was a notice of a new version of Indigo that worked on 12.3.1! I checked their forum and people said it was safe, so I installed the new version.

All is well; now I can upgrade the Mac itself. Tomorrow.

And then I can get back to looking at Home Assistant.

My turn!

I had a small medical procedure scheduled for tomorrow, so I thought I’d better do a Covid test today to make sure I was still negative.

I wasn’t.

And neither was Diane (it was the first day she might have been able to test out of isolation).

At least we don’t have to isolate from each other now! It was nice having dinner face-to-face for the first time since we got home.

This evening, I led a workshop on “Impromptu Storytelling” for the Silicon Valley Storytellers; we had more visitors than club members, which was our hope. I started with the story of our recent trip and Covid infections (it was front of mind for some reason), then presented a few tips about structuring an impromptu story and avoiding the pitfalls of being too complicated. Then I had everyone tell a story using the Story Spine, giving feedback to each speaker. I was trying not to talk too much; my throat doesn’t think I was successful.

An informative day

I woke up this morning to a message on my phone telling me to check Stanford Medical’s “MyChart” for an update; my PCR test was negative. This hasn’t stopped me from coughing a lot today, but I guess it’s not from Covid.

I decided that today was the day to get all of the photos from our recent trip into my master Lightroom library. When I started the trip, I intended to use Lightroom Creative Cloud to hold all of the photos and do some light editing, but I gave up on that plan when I realized that it has no map module; the version on Mac OS will display the location of a photo – you can even type in the latitude and longitude, but you can’t use, for example, information from a GPS tracking app to set the location of many photos. And Lightroom Creative Cloud on the iPad doesn’t even show the location of a photo. So I started using Lightroom Classic on the MacBook Air I’d taken on the trip.

It worked well – all of the photos in the blog posts I wrote on the trip went through Lightroom Classic, and I’d also labeled, geo-tagged, and rated many of the photos. I wanted all of that work to transfer to the Lightroom library at home; I just didn’t know how to do it properly.

Fortunately, I’d subscribed to the free monthly Lightroom Queen Newsletter a couple of months ago after finding the answer to some of my questions on their forum. The issue that arrived today had exactly one article: How to Use Lightroom Classic on Vacation. And it gave me the exact steps I needed to follow to do the merge – hardly any thinking required!

It Works!

Two years ago, Google and Apple collaborated on the Exposure Notification System to help people find out if they’d been in close contact with someone who had Covid-19. Diane and I both turned on the feature on our phones as soon as it was rolled out in California and promptly forgot about it.

I was notified of a possible exposure to Covid-19 today; I wonder who it could have been?

Diane is still doing well; I am waiting to get the results from the PCR test I took this afternoon. I went to the test site in the Stanford Medical garage near me. In the past, it’s usually taken about ten minutes from the time I drove into the garage to be tested – and that includes driving up to the fourth floor. Today, it took 30 minutes, and the nurse said it had been like that the whole day.

Still Negative

I took another Covid self-test this afternoon and was happy to be negative, though that does mean that Diane and I still have to stay away from each other and wear masks in the house. She’s feeling well enough to go out for walks (still wearing a mask and avoiding other people), so that’s good.

Wild local salmon was available at the Farmers’ Market (I wore a mask and avoided people) for the first time this year, so I made that for Mother’s Day lunch.

I finally got around to importing the last couple of photos I took on the trip into Lightroom and ran into a problem with the way Lightroom manages timezones. It assumed that any times in the photos were in PDT (UTC-7) because that was what the computer was set to. Some of the time fields in the photos actually specified EDT (UTC-4), but Lightroom ignored that info. There doesn’t seem to be any way to edit the timezone info in Lightroom; I finally deleted the photos, set the computer to EDT, reimported the photos, and set the computer back to PDT and all was well. What a pain!

Pandemic Journal, Day 782

I posted Thursday’s blog entry very early because I expected limited connectivity and time after we sailed away from St. Michaels. So I didn’t write about the dinnertime announcement from the Captain:

Some passengers and crew have tested positive for Covid; they are being isolated, and close contacts have been notified.

We’d been wearing N95 masks whenever we were in a bus or small museum (and we were usually the only ones doing so), so I wasn’t too concerned.

Friday, Diane was hoarse and drippy and was very uncomfortable on the flights home; we wore masks the whole way, except, of course, when eating or drinking.

Out of an abundance of caution, we did antigen tests after we got home and hers was positive; we went to Minute Clinic this afternoon and they confirmed the diagnosis of a mild case of Covid.

Diane’s feeling better than she did yesterday, and hasn’t had a fever; I’m feeling OK and also haven’t had a fever.

I’m going to take another self-test tomorrow and I’ve got a professional test scheduled for Monday.

In the meantime, she’s isolating as much as possible and we’re wearing masks when we’re near each other.

On a brighter note, I took a walk this morning and our neighbor still had a couple of nice tulips in her yard!

Nearly home!

We awoke this morning to the sight of the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse outside our room.

We had breakfast, finished packing, and braved the rain to get to the bus to the airport that ACL had arranged. We had nearly four hours to kill at BWI; I took advantage of the speedy airport wifi to finish syncing the Apple Photos library with the cloud.

The flights home were uneventful; meeting the limo driver at SFO was stressful because of all the crazy drivers blocking the curb!

I’m looking forward to having cereal and fruit for breakfast tomorrow, which means I have to go get it tonight. And after that, it’ll be time for bed!

St. Michaels, Maryland

The original itinerary for our cruise had us docking here in St. Michaels last night, but things changed. Another American Cruise Line ship got priority for the dock, so we had to moor and tender into town. But the weather last night was predicted to be bad, so instead of sailing here from Annapolis, we sailed to Cambridge so we could dock. That meant that we didn’t get to St. Michaels until late this morning and the first tender didn’t operate until 12:45pm.

We took that tender so we could be on the walking tour, seeing all of the old houses and learning about the history of the town. Our guide was the President of the town museum; he had a deep knowledge of every house we passed, including battles with the Preservation Board, and he shared quite a bit of it with us.

There were a few interesting buildings along the way, like the “Dr. Dobson House” – originally built in 1799, and added onto in 1872 to accommodate a growing family; you can see the change in the brickwork. That same house is also known as “Reconciliation House”, where Frederick Douglass met his former enslaver, Thomas Auld, in 1877.

Not all of the interesting buildings were big enough to live in; I really enjoyed seeing this Little Free Library.

Of course there were flowers to enjoy along our way.

St. Michaels is on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail; it is “the town that fooled the British” by hanging lanterns in the trees so the British would overshoot the town with their cannons. That’s the story, though it may not match reality.

Our tour ended at the St. Michaels Museum; it was closed, but having the President as our guide gave us special access. :-)

After the tour, we wandered through the town for a while; it’s quiet except for the main drag, Talbot Street, where we shopped and dodged traffic.

If we’d been on our original schedule, we would almost certainly have visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, but we didn’t want to take any chance of missing the last tender and the boat.

Tonight, we have our final dinner and sail to Baltimore to disembark far too early tomorrow morning. I am going to post now while I have reasonable connectivity – it’s likely to go away when we sail.

Annapolis

Our first excursion today was a guided walk through Annapolis. Annapolis has many striking buildings and homes; the Hammond-Harmon and Chase-Lloyd Houses are wonderful Georgian homes which face each other across a fairly narrow street.

The Maryland State House was only a five-minute walk away; it was the US capitol for a short time at the end of the Revolutionary War and is where the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris. We were told the dome is magnificent – but it’s under construction, so all we could see was scaffolding.

After the end of the Revolutionary War, George Washington wanted to return to private life; he formally resigned his commission here. They have reconstructed the moment of the resignation in the Old Senate Chamber and there’s a painting by Edwin White depicting the moment in one of the staircases.

The Old House Chamber has been restored to its 19th Century appearance; there are statues of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and exhibits focused on the expansion of rights in Maryland to more and more people. I liked the way the shade behind the speaker’s desk is pleated.

The current House and Senate Chambers were less distinctive than the old ones, but seemed pleasant enough. We weren’t able to go in (or even into the gallery), but the hallway doors were open.

We decided to stay in Annapolis for lunch rather than tendering back to the ship. We had been planning to have a Reuben sandwich on board, so we did the next best thing and walked to Reuben’s Deli about a mile away; it’s a bodega/lunch counter and made a fine Reuben. On our way, we enjoyed some of Annapolis’s public art, including the Kunta Kinte/Alex Haley Memorial (which we weren’t able to look at this morning because the tide was in and the memorial was partially submerged), some bike racks, and a bird I can’t quite identify.

We walked back to City Dock to meet our afternoon tour; on the way, we discovered that the Maryland State Medical Association has only grudgingly accepted the modern era.

I wanted something sweet after the Reuben; we stopped at the Annapolis Ice Cream Company. I almost had their lemon chocolate chip ice cream – it was good, but there wasn’t enough chocolate so I went with chocolate chocolate chip. Yum! I didn’t get a photo of the ice cream, but I though their choice of flooring in the rest room was interesting.

Our afternoon tour was a walk through the United States Naval Academy. The Barry Gate (Gate 3) was less than five minutes from the dock.

We watched the orientation film – it talked about the midshipman experience much more than it did about the Academy’s buildings and grounds. If I’d been in high school, it might have gotten me to apply for admission.

After the film, we met our guide. Our first stop was Captains’ Row – they want to preserve the quiet there.

The houses on Captains’ Row were quite impressive, but they were nothing compared to the Superintendent’s quarters, which is next to the Chapel.

This chapel is used for Christian services; there is a Jewish chapel, too, but we didn’t visit it, and our guide said that there were facilities for other religions on the Yard, too. The stained glass windows lining the new part of the chapel all depicted Biblical scenes involving the water – one side from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament. I liked the window showing Jonah.

Our guide said that the pipe organ had over 5,000 pipes spread throughout the chapel. They do Handel’s Messiah in December – he said it’s loud. And of course, they put ships in the middle of the pipes.

We went downstairs to John Paul Jones’s crypt.

Our next stop was Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the country; it houses Memorial Hall, which is dedicated to the memory of Naval Academy graduates who died in service.

The bell from the USS Enterprise is outside Bancroft Hall; our guide said that they ring it every time Navy beats Army.

All of the Naval Academy graduates at Midway survived the battle, but not all made it through the war. Their monument tells the story (with diagrams) of the battle.

There was much more to see, but we had to get back so we could tender out to the ship before dinner.

While we were waiting for dinner, we saw the midshipmen practicing their sailing skills.

We had another nice sunset, too.

Our entertainers Robert and Stephanie had to leave us tonight to attend his uncle’s funeral; they gave us a going-away concert before leaving. I hope we can sail with them again!

Tech Topics: Backing up my Lightroom work with rsync over SSH

I’ve set up Lightroom on my laptop as the repository of the pictures I’m taking on the trip. Getting the photos into Lightroom is easy, but I want to replicate everything to my server at home for backup purposes.

I have one machine at home with its SSH port exposed to the Internet; it’s not the machine I want to send the files to. So I need to use an SSH tunnel to get to the actual target machine (I’m using rsync to do the copy to avoid sending more data than I need, especially when connected over my phone).

I have set up both machines at home to trust my SSH key, so passwords and passing certificates aren’t a problem. I’ve defined home in my local .ssh/config file to point to my gateway system’s SSH port, so I can set up the tunnel by opening a terminal window and issuing this command:

ssh -NL 9091:office:22 home

9091 is an arbitrary port number; it can be anything more than 1024.
office is the system I want to connect to at home; I could also use the local network address at home (for example, 192.168.99.99).

Now I’m ready to do the copying; I need to open another terminal window and issue this command:

rsync -auv -e "ssh -p 9091" \
--exclude '*Previews*' --exclude '*ackup*'  \
~/Pictures/Lightroom david@localhost:Desktop/East

The Desktop/East directory on my home server is an image of the Lightroom directory here (including the catalog). If I were really brave, I could add --delete to the command to ensure that any deletions I make on the laptop are reflected at home.

After the copy is complete, I can go back to the first window and stop the SSH session.

When I get home, I plan to import the catalog from my laptop into my master Lightroom library, but if something happens to my laptop on the way home, I should be able to use the backup I’m creating.

I hope.

Tech Topic: Monitoring Apple Photos Sync

I brought a laptop on this trip so I could cull, edit, and publish photos while still traveling. I’m using Adobe Lightroom Classic as my main photo repository, especially for pictures I take with my Panasonic FZ1000M2, but photos I take with my iPhone wind up going into Apple Photos.

I want to be able to back up my photos even while I’m traveling. Photos I take on the iPhone go into the Apple cloud and are, probably, automatically download into Photos at home and then backed up by Time Machine and Backblaze. I say “probably” because I have been running into problems with getting those same photos onto the laptop I brought with me – it stops downloading for no reason that I can figure out.

In desperation, I told Apple Photos to “repair” the photos library on the laptop; that took a while, and then it said it was going to download all of my photos from iCloud. I hoped it would do checksums on the laptop and on the server and only download missing or damaged photos, but that doesn’t seem to be the case – it wanted to download every photo. And it kept stopping and starting.

After much fiddling, I discovered that Photos seemed to stop downloading if it wasn’t the foreground application (the one in the menu bar). I also discovered that I could monitor the progress of the download by looking at the Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/resources/cpl/cloudsync.index directory (Apple Photos is not very generous in its progress reporting).

Fortunately, we were docked at the DC Wharf and they had high-speed public wifi which I could use as long as I put the laptop on our balcony – I was able to complete the repair while we were in DC.

Today, though, the download has stopped again; rebooting hasn’t helped, and I can’t figure out what the hangup is. My iPad shows all of the photos I’ve taken. I’m very confused.

Cambridge, Maryland

We sailed from Washington to Cambridge, Maryland overnight; Cambridge is an Eastern Shore town with a long history. We docked at the Long Wharf on the Choptank River; the town welcomed us by sending the Town Crier to visit us at breakfast.

There had been a lighthouse on the Choptank River for a very long time; it’s no longer in use, but it’s been restored as a tourist attraction, just a two-minute walk from our ship.

They’ve done a lot of work on the lighthouse, including adding a compass rose on the main floor. It was a nice visit; if there had been a volunteer there, I might have bought a souvenir.

Our ship took advantage of being in Cambridge; we saw one of the deckhands taking out the used glass bottles to the recycling depot. It was an impressive load, but I didn’t take a photo. They delivered a lot of food, too, as well as refueling us.

We walked up High Street to the center of town. We visited Christ Episcopal Church on our way; the current building dates to 1883, but the adjacent graveyard has burials going back to the 18th Century.

I considered having lunch at the Provident State Bank (now Fat Ricky’s), but we decided on Salmon Tikka Kebab at Bombay Social; it was good, and a change from the cuisine on the ship.

After lunch, we went back to the ship to regroup and prepare for our afternoon excursion to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.

Our guide, Susan Meredith, had deep roots in this area; she and her husband have restored the Bucktown Village Store where Harriet Tubman first fought against slavery by defying an order from an overseer who wanted to recapture an escaping slave.

Susan and her family live in a 1790 house next to the Bucktown Store. The bricked-in area is where they have two fireplaces to heat the house.

After dinner, we were treated to a performance by the Eastport Oyster Boys, singing and playing local music on guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer, and fiddle – not bad for only two guys!

Mount Vernon

Today was our last day in Washington, and we actually spent most of it in Virginia at Mount Vernon. We’d been there before, many years ago; it is a much more sophisticated enterprise these days!

We started at the Visitor Center and watched the orientation film, then we headed out to explore the grounds before our appointment to take the mansion tour.

We started by paying our respects to the President and his wife at their tomb.

The burial ground for enslaved people who had lived on the estate was not far away; there were two memorials there. The first was installed in 1929 (and was the first such monument in the country), and the second in 1983. Language has changed!

It seemed like a good idea to visit the necessary before taking the mansion tour.

One of these photos was taken in the 21st Century necessary; the other was in the reconstructed version of Washington’s necessary. Can you tell which was which?

We also took a look at Washington’s coach house and one of his coaches. I like our Prius better.

We started our mansion tour in the “New Room”, named because it was the last room added to Mount Vernon.

George Washington himself picked the paint in the dining room; the color is verdigris and was very expensive, so he was showing off his wealth. Good thing he didn’t think of gold toilets!

There were many guest bedrooms; one is called the “Chintz Bedroom” because of the drapes and bedspread. Chintz, too, was not cheap.

Washington had a very functional office; he even had a desk fan over one of his chairs, powered by a servant.

The mansion was warm, so we were happy to be outside again to enjoy the scenery.

Of course there were flowers to enjoy, too.

We got back to the ship and I took advantage of the last of the high-speed wifi from the Wharf; I had to be outside to get a good signal, which meant that the helicopters doing practice runs were very loud. One of the other guests said that they saw a Presidential copter at least once, but I don’t think I got a photo of that one.

This afternoon, the ship’s resident entertainer and expert, Robert Yonskie, gave us George III’s side of the Revolutionary story, complete with a rendition of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton. He’s going to be the entertainer and expert on the Fall Foliage tour this fall – we may be back!

We’re en route to Cambridge, Maryland for tomorrow’s tours; it will be a much quieter place than the Wharf. Internet connectivity may be limited tonight, so I’m posting now while we’re still very near DC.

Arlington and Alexandria

While we slept, the ship sailed to DC and docked at the District Wharf, a new shopping and dining destination on the Potomac River a short walk from the Tidal Basin and National Mall. We didn’t go to either of those places – instead, we joined the morning tour to Arlington National Cemetery.

After clearing security, we got on a tram with our guide, Mike; our first stop was the John F. Kennedy gravesite.

Many Supreme Court justices are buried nearby, including, of course, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her husband, Martin.

We then went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the Changing of the Guard. There were many veterans at the ceremony who’d been brought in through Honor Flight, and I was moved to see them there.

We also saw the memorials to the Challenger and Columbia astronauts before going back to the bus.

We returned to the District Wharf – Diane and I had lunch at Chopsmith; it was quite enjoyable and a change of pace from eating on the ship. Our timing was good – the place was nearly empty when we arrived but there was a line when we left. And as we left, we saw a fireboat on the Potomac; it was saluting the Yacht Club at District Wharf on their 130th Anniversary.

We didn’t stay on the ship very long because we had another excursion this afternoon, this one a guided walk through Old Town Alexandria. It was raining when we started but cleared up by the end of the tour. We had the same guide as this morning, and he told us many stories of life in Alexandria during the Revolution – but I didn’t get many interesting photos, other than this pipe. It was cast and installed before 1847, so it shows “Alexandria DC” instead of “Alexandria VA”.

When we returned to the ship, we were greeted by a special guest, Ben Franklin, who gave a short talk about his favorite subject – himself. It was a lot of fun and somewhat educational, too.

We met our Rabbi Emerita, Melanie Aron, for dinner; she’s living in DC for the next year or two to be closer to her children and grandchild. It was good to see her again and we had a nice conversation. She gave us a copy of her husband’s new book, This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey to the Edge of Reality; it’s intended to explain interesting aspects of theoretical physics to non-physicists and is guaranteed equation-free! I’m planning to read it on the way home.

Colonial Williamsburg

We had to start early again today, but the view outside our stateroom was almost worth getting up for all by itself.

We arrived in Colonial Williamsburg about 9am, just as things were opening up for the day. Our guide took us to the blacksmith’s shop; they were getting the fire ready for the day’s activities. One interpreter talked to us while the other tended to the fire.

A few minutes later, the fire was hot enough for them to start making hardware.

The shoemaker’s was also open – he was training a new apprentice (or at least that’s what they told us), but he still had enough time and attention to sew up a shoe while he was talking.

Our next stop was at the textile shop (spinning, dyeing, and weaving). The interpreter there told us about how some of the dyes were made – urine was involved in the blue dyes, much to my surprise.

There was more than commerce, of course; we visited the courthouse (which remained in use well into the 19th Century), where the bailiff helped us with our manners – he explained court customs, contempt of court, and the difference between misdemeanors (which could get you flogged) and felonies (which could get you killed).

Being in a group with a guide was a mixed blessing – she took us to good spots and explained a lot to us, but we had to wait a lot for other members of the group, and she had to repeat things frequently. And she wanted to make sure everyone could find the meeting spot, so she took us there before letting us go – so we only had about half-an-hour to wander around on our own; we found a garden which was planted with various fruits, vegetables, and flowers. They try to use heritage varieties when they can like this China Rose.

Open pollination is important to them, so they encourage pollinators like bees. The interpreter told us that the Welsh Onion is mild-tasting, but we didn’t get to try it.

We didn’t have a chance to go into the Governor’s Palace, but we got close!

We sailed about an hour after we got back to the ship; the next stop is Washington, tomorrow morning.

Jamestown and Yorktown

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, so I learned about Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg in school. We even took a field trip to Williamsburg in fourth grade, and I’ve been there many times since – but the closest I’d ever come to Jamestown or Yorktown was driving on the Colonial Parkway. Until today.

Our ship docked in Yorktown early this morning, and after breakfast, we boarded the bus for a visit to Jamestown Settlement, not to be confused with the actual site of Jamestown, which is an archeological dig. Jamestown Settlement is a reconstruction and a museum, and I enjoyed it immensely.

We began our visit by exploring the reconstructed Paspahegh town (the Paspahegh were the Powhatan tribal group living closest to Jamestown). We walked through a house that would have been occupied by an extended family.

Cooking didn’t happen in the houses – it was done outdoors, and we saw a demonstration of food preparation.

We also saw how the Paspahegh made rope from fibrous plants and from animal sinews; here’s an interpreter with a rope he’d spun from locally-grown yucca. The children learned to spin rope when they were 3 or 4; he learned much later, of course, but he can spin up to 10 feet an hour if he’s not being interrupted by tourists.

They’ve built reproductions of the ships that brought the colonists from England; the Susan Constant and the Discovery were in port (the Godspeed was away for maintenance). The Susan Constant was the larger of the two ships and sailed for Virginia with 71 passengers and crew; it was not exactly luxury travel.

We took a quick tour of Fort James, the reconstructed colony. The most impressive building was, unsurprisingly, the church.

We also visited the Governor’s House and met the surgeon, who explained his tools and procedures. Things have improved.

On our way back to the visitor’s center and museum, we saw a couple of bald eagles flying around.

We stayed in Yorktown for the rest of the day to visit the American Revolution Museum. Its chief feature was a reconstructed Continental Army camp, complete with a demonstration of firearms. First we learned about the way muskets, bayonets, and rifles were used – the objective wasn’t necessarily to kill the enemy; scaring them into abandoning territory was just as good. A musket capped with a bayonet was a scary device!

We also were treated to a firing of a six-pound gun; it was loud!

We made a brief stop in the reconstructed farm; they actually grow crops and raise chickens there. We visited the tobacco house where the settlers would dry tobacco in preparation for selling it.

This evening, the ship held the Eagle Society Reception at the Watermen’s Museum. We didn’t get to explore the museum (probably just as well!) but we were visited by two members of the Fife and Drum Corps of Yorktown who explained the role that fifers and drummers played in the war (sending signals, as well as keeping morale up) and played a few brief songs including “Yankee Doodle” and “The World Turned Upside Down”.

We returned to the ship for dinner.

Kitty Hawk

Diane and I took separate excursions again today – she went to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and Virginia Beach while I took the long bus ride to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The tour guide had to be brought in all the way from Williamsburg because the local guides are tied up by the Norfolk International Tattoo.

The drive down was so uneventful that we arrived half-an-hour before the Black Pelican restaurant where we were having lunch was open and we had to wait for them; I walked over to the beach for a quick look and was lucky that I didn’t lose my hat to the wind!

After lunch, we got back on the bus and drove a few minutes to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Our visit started with a drive to the full-sized replica of the Wright Flyer and its crew as they might have looked just before the first flight.

Only a few of the people on the tour wanted to walk up Big Kill Devil Hill to see the Wright Memorial up close and personal; I was one of them. We waved goodbye to the bus and hiked up the hill (about 80 feet of vertical gain).

There’s an inscription running around the memorial:

In Commemoration of the Conquest of the Air
By
The Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived By
Genius
Achived by Dauntless Resolution and Unconquerable
Faith.

The Wright Brothers picked this area for their flight testing because of the steady high winds, soft sand, and isolation. Two out of the three are still present.

The actual site of the first flight was a few minutes’ walk away. There were four flights in all on that first day; the longest took nearly a minute and covered 852 feet.

From there, I walked to the Visitor Center which was interesting, but not terribly picturesque. I had wondered if our schedule gave us enough time at the Memorial, but everyone was back on the bus before the appointed time – and I wasn’t even the last one on.

It was a long bus ride for a fairly short visit, but I’m glad I went. And I was even able to cull and edit my photos and write this posting on the way back to the ship!

Norfolk and Portsmouth

It’s been a very busy day; I’m only going to cover some of the highlights.

Our morning excursion was a guided walk through Portsmouth, led by Andrew and Mary, who were dressed as 17th and 18th Century settlers. They didn’t just tell the stories, they sang them! Some of the songs were on the baudy side – not what I expected, but all in good fun!

On the way to the ferry, we stopped by the Armed Forces Memorial, which has the text of letters sent home from the front in wars from the Revolution to the Gulf War – the letters were sent by service members who never made it home. It was sobering.

“The Homecoming” depicted a much happier moment.

Mary warned us to be careful as we walked on the streets and sidewalks: “you may trip, you may stumble, you may fall, but you may not sue!”

Some of the houses had a “firemark” on the outside, showing which fire company the owners were paying to protect the house.

The busybody (below the air conditioner in the photo) was invented by Franklin to let the occupants see what was happening on the street!

We continued walking through Old Town Portsmouth, visiting Hill House and Trinity Church; it would be an interesting area to explore in more depth; we found a walking guide that I’d use if we came back.

In the afternoon, Diane went to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum while I went to the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.

My tour started with a visit to a WWII “Watch House” (we’d call it a control tower) from Goxhill, England; it was used by the British early in the war, then given to the US Army Air Force as they were building up for the assault on Europe. After the war, it fell into disuse and was eventually taken apart, shipped to Virginia, and rebuilt.

There was a Quonset hut outside the watch house – that’s the American name, chosen to honor the base in Rhode Island where they were built. In Great Britain, they call it a Nissen hut after its inventor.

We then went to the WWI hangar, filled with airplanes. There was one original WWI “Thomas” plane which is no longer flyable; the others were modern replicas and are flown regularly.

The visitor center had planes from WWII and later, as well as a few other interesting vehicles. I especially liked the “Glimpy”, an airplane which was attached to a blimp; if the blimp saw something interesting, the airplane would fly back to base and report it while the blimp kept doing recon.

It was a very informative day!

Baltimore Morning

When we went down for breakfast this morning, we could see our ship getting ready for the onslaught of passengers.

After breakfast, we walked along the Inner Waterfront to the Baltimore Visitor Center and turned into the Otterbein neighborhood. In the 1970s, it was a slum; in desperation, Baltimore started to offer houses to urban homesteaders for as little as one dollar. It worked, and now the area looks a lot like the Fan District in Richmond – lots of well-kept townhouses.

Many of the houses had nice gardens in front; I couldn’t resist another photo of a tulip.

We also got to see a very nice dogwood tree in full bloom.

Our path then took us into the Federal Hill neighborhood, loaded with interesting shops and markets. We had no time to patronize them, though.

I liked this nice old firehouse near the Inner Harbor.

When I picked out this walk, I thought we might climb Federal Hill itself, but we didn’t have the time before getting onto the ship. I did get a photo.

It was a nice area that I would have liked to explore in more depth.

We went back to the hotel, packed, and walked to the ship. We passed the mandatory Covid screening, so we’re all set for the cruise!

We are currently at sea off Sharps Point, Maryland (near Annapolis) en route to Norfolk. Cocktail hour awaits, so I will sign off and post this now in case we lose connectivity later – I don’t know how far offshore we’re going to be.

Travel Day

Before we left the St. Regis this morning, we took a stroll through their “Historical Avenue” on the lower level.  They had displays of memorabilia from the hotel from its opening until about 1960 (I guess history stopped then).  Two items caught my eye – the first was an advertising brochure from 1957 with information about the King Cole Bar (men only at lunch!), and the second was a brochure from a few years post-Prohibition bragging about their wine list and saying they were lowering prices in order to increase the volume of sales.

King Cole Bar

Low Wine Prices

Things have changed; happily, women are now welcome in the King Cole Bar at all times.  Unhappily, the wine prices have gone up; the one wine I checked was being sold at three times retail.

We took one last short walk around the neighborhood before getting into a taxi to meet our train to Baltimore.  Traffic was heavy (what a surprise!) and the driver dropped us on the East side of 8th Avenue because it’d be faster to walk to the Moynihan Train Hall than it would be for him to cross the street.

Moynihan Train Hall

We’d only seen Penn Station on the walk we took last week, so the Train Hall was quite a contrast – modern, quiet, easy-to-read signage, and places to sit!  We bought lunch from H&H Bagels to eat on the train; neither of us was particularly impressed with the bagel.  sigh

We got to Baltimore about four minutes late; I wanted to take a taxi to our hotel, but there were none to be found, so I used Lyft and we were at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront ten minutes later.  Our room is on the top floor; it’s a typical newish Marriott room – lots of power outlets and almost no storage space.  I miss the St. Regis!

Our ship is docked at the next pier; we can see it from the elevator lobby.

American Constitution awaits

We took a walk around the Inner Harbor, passing the National Aquarium and getting a nice view of the sign on the Domino Sugar refinery across the water.  The refinery is still very much a going concern, refining about ten percent of the sugar used in the US.  The sign is 120 feet by 70 feet!

National Aquarium

Domino Sugars Building

We avoided the chain restaurants surrounding the Inner Harbor and walked over to Little Italy for dinner at Dalesios; it’s an old-school place, with good service, simple food, and reasonable prices.  On the way back, we happened upon the National Katyń Memorial commemorating the Katyn Massacre during World War II when the Soviets killed thousands of Polish prisoners on Stalin’s orders and tried to cover it up.  Does that remind you of anything in the news lately?

Katyn Monument

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Today, we explored Lower Manhattan and a tiny bit of Brooklyn on the last of the four year-round New York City Volksmarches offered by the Princeton Area Walkers.

We got off to an inauspicious start, thanks to the MTA and Google; the walk directions emphasized that we should go to the Chambers Street Station serving the 1-2-3 lines instead of the one serving the E. Google suggested we walk to the 59th Street station and take the R train to 42nd Street and transfer to the 2 (Express).

Easy, right? But when we got to 59th Street, the next few trains on the schedule were N trains; we let the first one go but then I looked carefully at the map, and then at the Google results, and realized that the N and the R both went to 42nd Street. That was ten minutes lost.

At 59th, the first train going to Chambers Street was the 1 (Local), so we let it go by. Ten minutes later, a 2 pulled in and we got on, only to hear the conductor announce that it was going to operate on the local tracks and make all stops – another ten minutes lost.

But we finally got to the starting point and began the walk. We were greeted by a wonderful display of tulips in front of PS234.

We also passed a Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish restaurant – they were so busy that they hadn’t taken down their Passover special board.

This neighborhood had been badly affected by the damage caused by 9/11.

After a few minutes, we reached Nelson Rockefeller Park and the Esplanade. Like almost everywhere else we’ve been on this trip, there were tulips in profusion.

Colgate-Palmolive used to be headquartered on the Jersey side of the Hudson; they moved, but left their clock behind.

Near the North Cove Marina, we got a very nice view of the top of the new 1 World Trade Center reflected in a nearby skyscraper.

We also got to enjoy the ferry and sightseeing boats near the Statue of Liberty.

If we come back to the area, I’d like to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Ellis Island is nearby, so this statue of Mother Cabrini (the first naturalized US citizen to become a saint) is in the right place, as is another sculpture called “The Immigrants”.

The American Merchant Marine Memorial fits the area, too. The sculptor based it on a photograph of an actual event.

We’ve heard a lot about Castle Clinton on the Bowery Boys podcasts, so I was happy to see it in the flesh…errr, stone. It was built to defend New York from the British, and placed so that its guns had a 360-degree field of fire. The guns were never used, and the expansion of Manhattan brought it firmly onto land; it became a theatre for a while and is now the National Park Service headquarters for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It’s rather low and nondescript, so I didn’t get a good photo, but it provided a great vantage point to see all of 1 World Trade Center.

Our walk next took us to Bowling Green, the oldest park in New York. It’s tulip time there, too!

We walked by other historical buildings, including Fraunces’ Tavern, where George Washington bade farewell to his officers. It’s still an active restaurant, but we went to Just Salad instead.

I might not have noticed this mural on the International Telephone and Telegraph building if the volksmarch instructions hadn’t pointed it out.

No trip to Lower Manhattan is complete without seeing the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall.

We didn’t go into Trinity Church, but we did pay our respects to two of its permanent residents.

Our next stop was the National September 11 Memorial. The last time we were in New York, the site was still under active construction; now, you can see the pools where the Twin Towers stood as well as seeing the new 1 World Trade Center towering over the area.

The Oculus is a very interesting building above the new WTC Subway/PATH station. It’s supposed to look like a hand releasing a dove, and it’s aligned so that its floor is washed with light every September 11th between 8:46am (the first impact) until 10:28am (the collapse of the second tower). Naturally, it’s also a high-end shopping center.

The climax of today’s volksmarch was a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This was the second time that Diane and I had done the bridge walk; it was quite a nice day for it!

And then all we had to do was walk back to the Chambers Street subway station to finish the walk. We took the E train back to midtown; it was a lot easier than our morning trek!

We had dinner at Raku It’s Japanese on East 52nd Street; it was a nice, unpretentious neighborhood place with friendly service and good food. The waiter talked us into trying sparkling sake and we liked it!

On our way back to the hotel, I saw what looked like LARGE parking tickets under the wipers of several cars. I was wrong.

Each ticket contained a different quotation about kindness; seeing them was an unexpectedly pleasant way to finish the evening.

Fair Memories

We didn’t do a volksmarch today – instead, we took a Bowery Boys Walk through the site of the New York World’s Fairs – Flushing Meadows Park.

We entered the park from the 7 train at Gotham Plaza, just as I had done on my visit in 1965 (Diane lived on Long Island, so her family drove to the fair and used an entrance near the parking lots).

There’s an mosaic based on an Andy Warhol portrait of Robert Moses at the entrance to the park; it was installed in 1998 and has seen better decades. Warhol and Moses didn’t get along well – Moses had the murals that Warhol painted for the fare covered up; this mosaic is based on one of the images that Moses had covered.

There were less controversial subjects for the mosaics, though, like Elsie the Cow, one of the stars of the 1939/40 fair. Our guide told us people were upset that Elsie didn’t have a companion, so the Borden Company created Elmer – who became the namesake of the glue. Diane’s Dad always called Elmer’s “cow glue”, but I guess “bull glue” would have been more appropriate.

Our next stop was the Unisphere (which had been the site of the Trylon and Perisphere in 1939/40). It’s aging well, though the lights marking cities around the globe no longer light up at night.

The 1939/40 World’s Fair took up almost 1200 acres; the 1964/65 version was 646 acres – much of the rest was used for parking lots. We walked through a good part of the park; there aren’t that many clear reminders of either fair left, since almost all of the structures were taken down soon after the fair ended, which left room for some nice trees.

One remnant is much older than the fair – it’s the Column of Jerash from 120 CE, donated by the King of Jordan. It’s not the oldest artifact in New York City – that distinction goes to Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park – but it is the oldest human-made object in Queens.

The New York State Pavilion is still standing, though the terrazzo floor embedded with a map of the state showing all the Texaco stations is long gone. It was used as a skating rink after the fair closed and Diane skated there; our guide told us about plans to try to restore it.

There are time capsules from both fairs buried together, to be opened in 6939; they were sponsored by Westinghouse, which is unlikely to survive as long as the capsules.

It was an interesting experience and brought back some memories of the time I’d spent at the Fair – Kyle told many stories and showed us photos from both fairs that helped bring the site to life.

I’m glad that the site has been turned back into a park for the most part – there were lots of people there playing games, barbecuing, and enjoying the weather. And it’s still tulip season!

We took the subway back to midtown and did our part for global warming by having lunch at Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizza on 57th. It was delicious.

After dinner, we met an IBM friend for drinks at the Campbell Bar (formerly The Campbell Apartment) at Grand Central. It’s an interesting place, and it was quiet enough to encourage conversation – so when a band started setting up, we left.

Our last stop for the day was for ice cream, at Emack and Bolio’s on Second Avenue. It was excellent, and I look forward to trying their Boston location next time we visit Jeff.

First Impressions Can Be Deceiving

The Princeton Area Walkers offer four Volksmarches in New York City – today, we did the one closest to our hotel, Midtown Manhattan.

The walk started at Bryant Park with a glorious view of the Empire State Building in the distance.

Bryant Park itself was well-supplied with flowers, especially tulips.

Even though the New York Public Library wasn’t on the walk route, we couldn’t resist visiting Patience and Fortitude (not seen in this picture).

And how could we resist visiting the Treasures of the New York Public Library exhibit?

The exhibit covered a wide range of topics – such as a poster advertising Houdini, the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, and a nice photo of the Moon taken just a few miles from home (using the 36-inch telescope at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton – I don’t think my camera can compete).

I really liked the exhibits on “Belief” including an original King James Bible and a good bit of Judaica, like this Megillah (for Purim), 18th Century Haggadah from Munich (for Passover), and the 1946 “Survivors’ Haggadah” used in the Displaced Persons camps, also around Munich.

By the time we left the library, we’d been “walking” for over an hour and hadn’t even gotten to the second step in the instructions! It was time to pick up the pace, but on our way to the next stop (Grand Central Terminal), I got a nice view of the Chrysler Building.

We’d taken a walk through Grand Central on Tuesday, so we made short work of it today, with only the briefest of stops to admire the Apple Store…oops, I meant the view from the Apple Store!

The walk took us back to 42nd Street and on to the UN. Trees were in bloom all around the complex – which seemed appropriate on Earth Day.

We had lunch at the Morning Star Cafe on 2nd Avenue; I had fond memories of the place (under a different name) from my 10 weeks in New York for IBM Systems Research Institute in 1980. I’ll try somewhere else next time.

We walked up 50th Street to Rockefeller Center, getting a nice view of St. Patrick’s glowing in the sun.

The skating rink at Rockefeller Center used to be a winter-only facility, but that’s changed.

The plaza was ringed with flags for Earth Month, and there was an explanation at the entry to 30 Rock, our next stop.

The route took us past the St. Regis, giving us a chance to dump our jackets, and then on to Central Park and Columbus Circle before reaching its northernmost point, Lincoln Center.

We walked Broadway south to 42nd Street and turned on 8th Avenue for what might have been the most exciting spot on the route – the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The rest of the walk passed in a blur – to Macy’s, through Penn Station and up 7th Avenue (slightly off the official route) before we returned to our hotel.

Dinner tonight was at Bengal Tiger. It’s a small Indian restaurant on the 2nd floor of a nondescript building. The place was packed when we got there just before 7, but we only had to wait about 15 minutes. They offered a three course $25 prix fixe, including dessert. And that brought back memories.

When Diane and I went on our honeymoon, we picked Toronto. There were many reasons, but one was that I’d been there a year or so previously and I really liked an Indian restaurant I’d eaten at. Of course we went there and enjoyed a great meal – until it came time for dessert. I’d ordered Gulab Jamun, based on the menu’s description of it as “Indian rosewater-flavored ice cream”. I didn’t like it at all, and didn’t do a good job of hiding my reaction – the restaurant offered me something else, but I’d been unwilling to have Gulab Jamun again.

Tonight, though, I felt brave and gave it another try – and this time, I liked it! It was warm (not at all like ice cream!) and pleasantly sweet. I guess I just needed to give it some time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Walking and Music

We did another Volksmarch today. This one was billed as the High Line Park, Greenwich Village, China Town, Little Italy Walk and it lived up to its description.

The walk started in front of Macy’s; we decided the event would give us plenty of walking, so we took the subway. It was very nice to be able to pay with a tap instead of having to guess how much to put on a MetroCard.

I was slightly alarmed by the first train that pulled up.

Our train arrived a minute or two later; it was quieter and far less crowded than I remember being typical on previous visits. We got off at Macy’s and headed West to enter the High Line at the northern end, 34th Street at 11th Avenue, only to find out that part of the walkway was closed and we’d have to walk down to 30th Street.

On our way, we got to see “The Vessel” outside Hudson Yards.

And then it was finally time to explore the High Line. I liked the way they’d put rails by the trail as a reminder of the history and had used them as an element in the garden design.

There are some George Rickey mobiles at 27th Street; they’re not the Chrinitoid from RPI, but I liked them anyway.

We walked the rest of the High Line, emerging in the Meatpacking District at Gansevoort Avenue, and continuing through the Village. We were getting hungry, and I found a likely-looking spot just before we reached 7th Avenue: Snack Taverna. As I was looking them up on Yelp, the manager came out and told us that they were Greek (I’d figured that out) and had been in business for 19 years. Normally, I’m unlikely to go into a restaurant where they come out to sell it, but we were hungry, Yelp had mostly favorable reviews, and we like Greek food. It was a good choice – I had lamb triangles and Diane had chicken boureki, both of which were very good. We chatted with the manager about the Volksmarch we were on and about The Music Man – he’d seen it twice and liked it both times, which was encouraging.

We left satisfied and continued the walk into SoHo, Chinatown, and Little Italy. The directions for the walk suggested stopping at La Bella Ferrara Bakery for a delicious treat, so we did.

And then it was onward to Bleecker Street, MacDougal Street, and Washington Square Park. Washington Square Park had everything – chess players, tulips, an Extinction Rebellion demonstration, the Arch, and bathrooms we were happy to find and even happier to survive.

We walked up Broadway to Union Square for some more statues and flowers.


And then we continued until we reached 34th Street and hopped on the subway to return to the hotel before walking over to the Winter Garden to see The Music Man.

We’d splurged on the tickets – E107 and E108 – and luckily, the people in front of us were not so tall as to block the view. Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster were great – they nearly broke each other during the second act – and there were no slouches in the rest of the cast, either. It’s “Broadway Cares” month, and after the show, they auctioned off the gloves that the leads wore tonight – autographed, of course – and raised $11,000 in the process.

And so ends another day in the Big Apple.

Only in New York

We had breakfast in the Plaza Court here in the St. Regis; I’m glad I’m have Titanium status or it would have been really expensive!

After breakfast, we walked down to Radio City Music Hall to start the Central Park Volksmarch.

The first instruction took us right back 6th Avenue to the park; en route, we saw one of many street corner Covid testing places. This one looked more respectable than most of them did.

Soon enough, we were in the park at the General Sherman statue at Grand Army Plaza.

Diane and I had both attended IBM’s Systems Research Institute in the early ’80s; it was a ten-week session in Manhattan, so there were ample opportunities to explore the city. But neither of us did much exploring of Central Park – it was not considered terribly safe territory. Things have changed for the better!

There was a temporary statue of Diane Arbus at the entrance to the park.

The route took us through the Central Park Zoo. We didn’t have time to go see the animals, but we did enjoy the Delacorte Clock’s performance.

There were, of course, flowers, like this wild daffodil we saw en route to the next landmark, the statue of Balto the sled dog.

We continued on, passing the Boathouse and the model boat pond, as well as the first robin of spring and some tulips.

We walked past the Alice in Wonderland statue and the back side of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before reaching Cleopatra’s Needle.

Cherry trees were in bloom, too.

We walked around most of the Reservoir, enjoying the views of the city.

We left the park to walk down Central Park West to the Dakota by way of the American Museum of Natural History and the New-York Historical Society.

Then back into the park to see Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Mosaic.

Our last stop was the Bethesda Fountain.

We picked up sandwiches from Le Pain Quotidien and ate them in our room in the short time before we had to leave for The Ed Sullivan Theatre and a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

We had priority tickets, so we were guaranteed seating as long as we arrived by 4pm. We got there at 3.

A few minutes later, we’d had our tickets and Covid vaccinations checked and received the wristbands that would let us into the theatre.

Once they started letting people in, the line moved quickly.

We stayed in the outer waiting area for what seemed like an hour (but was probably only 30 minutes).

After a first and only chance to go to the bathroom, they let us into the theatre – but we had to turn off our cellphones, so I have no photos. We were warmed up by Paul Mecurio, then instructed on how to be an energetic audience by Mark, the stage manager. And then the real fun started, with Jon Batiste and Stay Human doing a short set, then Stephen came out and did some audience Q&A until it was time to roll tape.

We saw the cold open, heard the credits, and Stephen ran out on stage and the show proper began. It’s live on tape – so there were a couple of re-dos when something went wrong, but nothing major. Alexander Skarsgård was the first guest; they shot the interview in one continuous segment, then they recorded the intro and outro for the commercial break during the interview. Jack White was next – they recorded the interview, then “Maybe Dropping Soon” (which will air some other time, not tonight).

Jon Batiste and the band performed entire songs during each break – they were the highlight of the afternoon.

They set up the stage for Jack White’s first song, recorded it, and then had to reset for the second song (which is in support of a different album, so I expect it’ll air in a couple of months). Stephen took more audience Q&A while they were setting up for the second song – which had to be recorded again due to technical difficulties.

And that was it – everyone left.

I was happy to see a drawing of Ed Sullivan as we left.

I’m looking forward to seeing tonight’s show – not to see myself on TV (we were seated in an area that doesn’t get much love from the cameras), but so I can hear the whole show. Often Stephen and his guest kept talking while the audience was still laughing, and we couldn’t hear the first couple of sentences!

If you can attend a taping, it’s a lot of fun – but it’s a long process!