Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Pops and Old Ironsides, All In One Day

Stars and Stripes Forever

Boston.  5/23/2013:  The Pops blew 'em outta their seats with its big encore, Stars and Stripes Forever.  Keith Lockhart strode back to the podium, turned for the downbeat, and with the first booming notes, the big flag dropped from the ceiling, stars flashed onto the walls and the audience rose as one.  A woman near me was directing with great vigor; in turn, Lockhart directed the audience to clap time to the music.  There were cheers and then quiet as the piccolos trilled through their solo and then it all marched down to the finish, trumpets ablaze.  By God, it was wonderful!  No one wanted to go home.

  Truly, t's the best ticket in town.  We sat at a little table on the auditorium floor, had a beer and listened as one of the most famous orchestras in the world oozed beauty.  They played western movie themes, love songs and show tunes; they backed the Governor of Massachusetts as he narrated excerpts from John Kennedy's most important speeches, and singer Steve Lippia did great stuff from the American songbook, calling up images of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.  Just marvelous.  When can I go again, Mr. Lockhart?  Just name the day.


  Earlier, we paid our respects to another American institution, The Constitution, "Old Ironsides."

    Today, she's berthed at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard at a spot operated by the National Park Service.  The US Navy tends her and takes you on the tours.  And she is something to see.

   You know the story:  launched in 1797 as one of six new ships of the fledgling US Navy, she went to sea and never lost a battle.  At George Washington's urging to Congress, she and her sisters were commissioned to protect American shipping against the Barbary Pirates.  Later, in a battle during the war of 1812, she defeated the British frigate, HMS Guerriere, earning her famous nickname when cannonballs simply bounced off her sides.   The ship's hull is a three layer sandwich of white oak, live oak and white oak which, at some points is 24 inches thick.  "Old Ironsides."

   So, she's 216 years old, making her the oldest ship in the US Navy afloat.

  Here's a brief photo tour:

Broadside. 52 guns on two decks: 30 guns below, 20 above plus two bow chasers.  



Long gun.  Weight, 5,600 pounds, range 1200 yards.  Took 6 to 14 men to work it.

  Main deck Carronades.  Range, 400 yards; weight, 2,200 pounds.  Crew of 4 to 9.

     Rigging.  Imagine climbing to the crow's nest to stand watch for enemy ships.  Imagine being there during a battle with Marine riflemen poised to fire down on the other ship's decks.  Dizzying.

  The man in charge lived there.  Among a crew of about 500, he was the only one with room to stretch his legs.  Small perq for such heavy responsibility.

   The Constitution's Cat Head.  It handled the anchor and glared at the enemy.

   She's 204 feet long, displaces 2,200 tons, carries 42,710 square feet of sail and can do .. or has done .. more than 13 knots.  She is squared away and serious about her business, but she will welcome you aboard any day and will make you proud.

   Some day in the city, huh?  

   Let's do it again.


5/22/ - 5/23/2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We Go Beaning

Freeport, Maine. 5/21/2013:   The L. L. Bean stores were built on a boot.  Mr. Bean started making boots and shoes in the early 1900's and selling by mail.  After some trial and error, which led to his famous satisfaction guaranteed policy, Bean built a store and the rest is history.   Today, there are five Bean stores in Freeport, covering some 220,000 square feet of floor space, all of it crammed with goodies that Americans seem unable..or not resist.  Neither can I, so off we went to Freeport, which you might say was built on Mr. Bean's boots as well.  Great retailers have brought their stores to Freeport, too, making an outlet center by default.  It's now a destination; sometimes in the summer, it's hard to get through the crowds.  

  When in Maine, you stop at Bean's first and and then Ralph Loren and all the rest.  It's pretty darn neat.

  This is the Grand Foyer to the main retail store..outdoor clothing for men and women, camping gear..including boots, of course..gadgets, guns and GPS.  Browse to your heart's content--across the street is Bean's home and whatever.  Down the way, there's a Bicycle shop and so on.  

  I bet you can't leave without buying some little thing or maybe some big thing.  

  If you do come to Bean's, plan to spend the day.  There are nice restaurants all through the shopping area, so carry in your goodies, have a bite and then get back out there and buy some more.  The Chamber of Commerce will love you.

  They love me, you can see:

 For the Traveler:   Freeport is north of Portland, Maine, along Interstate 95.  It's a toll road, so have your bucks ready.  If you can't get to Maine, Bean's have a website and mail order catalogues.  

  But I bet you already knew that.

  See you down the road.

  Who knows what's next?



Monday, May 20, 2013

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Working Boats

Portsmouth, NH.   5/20/2013:   Looking for a real working seaport with all the amenities  of a tourist destination?  Here it is.  Portsmouth, NH is home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyards where some 5,000 people work to service everything from Coast Guard Cutters to submarines.  Meanwhile, the old town which saw the likes of Captain Ahab at one time or another, is a mecca for tourists looking for good food and neat things to buy.  Portsmouth has it all.

  The town was settled in the 1600s and the sea has been its primary focus ever since.  

  My hosts, Dave and Linda Underhill, took me on a long stroll soon after my arrival, and it was a treat.

  The residential neighborhoods are what you look for up here.  Everything from cottages to old mansions with widow walks on the rooftops where wives went to watch for their husband's ships to return from the sea.  

  You're never far from the water..large tidal pools run through some neighborhoods near the center of the town; the waterfront is just over the hill from the town square.


   I liked this small cottage.  Lovely pastels are not uncommon among the buildings.  At least three shades of blue were used to dramatize the home.  The yard is left abundance of stone, grasses and cultured flowers to give it that soft, welcoming  appearance.  The owner is a naturalist, and you can see the care and thought that went into his lovely composition.

   As always, I took a lot of pictures.  Have a look:

  This is the historic Langdon House..the home of one of Portsmouth's early Governors, John Langdon.  It is on the  register of historic places.


  Steeple of the old North Church in the center of the city.  George Washington slept there--Daniel Webster was a visitor.  The steeple was under repair but suffered a collapse during a vicious wind storm.  It had to be reconstructed,  took a million dollars in public donations to do it.  Some donors did not want to donate to a church, but they did want to help, so separate funds were set up  .. and the steeple was restored in part as a civic, rather than a church project.  Neat.


                                       Shopping, anyone?

   I don't know what these folks are selling, but I like their sense of humor.  An adjacent sign advised the viewer to do something scary every day.  Flossing?

                                    Classic boat house or shop.

    Tourists.  Dave and Linda Underhill and me, watching the daily parade pass from a park bench.  Not a bad way to go..especially when your feet hurt.'s old New England hard at work, full of charm. 

    And they serve a great bowl of chowder.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Foggy Mountain Dew

Fog Blog
Manchester, CT.  5/19/2013:    Back where I originated, the Old Folks had three descriptors for this kind of weather:  "Gully-Washer,  Duck Drownder  and Toad-Strangler."  Taken cumulatively, today was all of those plus "Owl-Blinder."

   I started driving from Morgantown, WV under muggy skies at 7:30 AM, EDT.  It wasn't bad..the road was dry and the horizon was clear and I was saying to myself that it would be good if I could look at this particular trip with "fresh eyes."  I have driven across the Appalachian range virtually thousands of times and am totally familiar with the Interstates between Morgantown and McLean, Va, where I used to live.  I says to myself, says I, "try to look at it the way someone who's never seen it before would see it..look at it with "fresh eyes."  That's what I had just finished saying when alluvva sudden I was either driving in heavy fog or low clouds.  Didn't matter.   if I was filing a PIREP (Pilot's Report), I would have said something like, "Don't go there."  But it was too late to file a PIREP, I was already "there."  However, since I knew that part of the road so well, "old eyes" was a help because I usually knew where I was.  Usually.

  There are tricks to driving in heavy fog..none of them are a lot of fun.  Believe it or not, though, it's easier on the Interstates because there's more room and nothing is coming "at you" on your side of the road.  

  What you do first is slow down.  You'd be amazed at the Bozos who think they can plow ahead at 70 mph and not run into an invisible hard place.  They try it in snow, too.  Go figger.   Anyway, slow down and light up your car like a Christmas tree..front and back. Use low beams for headlights--the high will reflect off the water droplets in the fog and cause you all kinds of trouble.  After that, keep going cautiously because it's probably not real smart to just stop; the guy behind you might not understand quickly that you are no longer moving.  If you MUST stop--pull waaaay off the road and shut OFF the lights because your friend in the rear just might follow you, if you get my drift.  

  Find a guide.  An 18 wheeler is good because they have lots of lights and they're usually the best drivers on the road.  Get back far enough that you can just see his lights and then follow him.  Hopefully, the guy behind you will do the same thing.  Whatever, get plenty of room so you can stop if the 18 wheeler..or whomever..stops for some reason he can see and you can't.  Do this until you can get off at an exit, find a restaurant and go to the bathroom.  Then, sit still and catch your breath.

  Today was a dandy.  I didn't see real sunlight until I was exactly 336 miles from home..just east of Scranton, PA.  But it only lasted about two minutes.  Where there wasn't fog, there was rain and all of us out there had a nasty day, thank you very much.

  Whatever..I am tucked safely into a nice hotel in Manchester, CT for the night--the car is berthed below, cooling its wheels.  Tomorrow, I expect to reach Dave and Linda Underhill's house in Portsmouth, NH by about noon..hopefully in better weather and humor.

  Meanwhile, just to show it wasn't a total loss and that Spring is really here, I found this dogwood at a rest stop (God bless rest stops) west of Hancock, MD:

  Please excuse any errors--I do better when I'm not totally pooped.

 See you later.