God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What Could Have Been

There are times of too many coincidences--times that lead to an a-ha moment when you suddenly know that what seemed to be accidental wasn't--that God has intervened in ways you didn't know you needed. As I look back at inauguration day, I know that we experienced such a time.

The Purple Tunnel of Doom.
On inauguration day this tunnel, which in actuality is the 3rd Street vehicular tunnel running under the capitol, was closed to traffic. Holders of ceremony tickets in the purple and silver sections were directed to walk through the tunnel to reach the entrance gates to their sections. It was not possible to walk across the mall due to Pennsylvania Avenue being closed for the later in the day parade.

Unfortunately, thousands of people were stuck from the entrance to the tunnel, through the tunnel and all the way to the security clearance area into the ceremony grounds. These thousands formed one huge, gargantuan crowd. These were people who held tickets to the ceremony--many of whom had worked hard for Obama's election. There were celebrities and non-celebrities in this mass--young and old--people out of the civil rights movement--people who fought for equality and justice much of their lives--people who were rejoicing--congressional aides and just plain people like us.

Sadly, due to reasons not yet explained, these people were still in the tunnel and outside of security at the time gates were closed. Some had been there since early in the morning. It was a disaster that most of us learned about only after the fact as for those of us at the ceremony there was no knowledge that this was happening.

I can not imagine the depth of disappointment and frustration that existed among these people-- lost dreams, lost memories, lost participation in a great historic moment.

So, why do I feel that but for the grace of God, we would have suffered the same end to our great journey?

  • I had chosen the Grand Hyatt over the Park Hyatt (using points). After arriving in D.C. we found that the Park Hyatt was just 3 blocks from the capitol and mall. Several times I bemoaned the fact that I had made the wrong hotel choice as we ended up paying lots of taxis drivers, walking blocks and blocks and using crowded metros. The Park Hyatt was better located for us. But... the hotel sits at the beginning of THE tunnel fiasco and, had we been there, we would have set out to access our area by that route.
  • The directions we were given to get to our entry gate were to "walk through the 3rd street tunnel." This was our plan as taxis were not allowed anywhere near the capitol or mall and the metros were predicted to be super busy. At the very last minute, we decided to use the metro. Using the metro was not easy. When we arrived at our exit station, we were two levels under ground. It took 40 minutes, pressed against other bodies, not moving and then walking up long, turned-off escalators before we reached fresh air. Several people collapsed and emergency medical personnel were required which added to the crowd problem. Casey was panicked and it was scary. Our mantra was "we should have walked." Which, of course, would have taken us through THE tunnel.
  • Once on the metro, the exit we were to use was closed due to massive crowds. We then decided, after asking Washingtonian's for advice, to ride two more stops and then exit. But...just as the metro doors were ready to close at the first stop, we, for unknown reasons as we had nary a clue as to what we were doing, decided to get off. Had we not made that decision, we once again would have found ourselves in THE mess; although, at the time finding ourselves with a long walk ahead of us, we once again thought we had "done wrong."
As it turned out, each of these "bad" decisions, for which we were castigating ourselves, turned out to be the only way we could have made it to our entrance gate and into the inauguration. Those in the tunnel could not only not get to their gates, they could not get to the mall at all for the unticketed areas. They never got out of their version of hell.

So, we feel that God was watching out for us--answering our prayers for a safe and good time. Often we are unaware of answered prayer as we don't know what the alternative would have been. But this time we know and we are grateful.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Things I will remember about our inauguration experience:
  • The beyond belief crowds of people packed so tightly in the streets and metro that a person didn't walk but instead was part of one moving organism.
  • The incredible calm of the crowds--no pushing, fights, ugliness, unpleasantness.
  • Ninety pound Casey being lifted high on the shoulders of a very tall man, reporting what was ahead, where signs were, providing direction and answers for hundreds of us who had no idea what way to go, where we were, which way the living organism should turn. I so regret not getting a picture of this moment.
  • Finally entering through THE GATE and security into the hallowed ground for ticketed witnesses to history. The strange part being that at the end of the "getting there" ordeal, we weren't asked for our tickets. Whether that was unique to us or if anyone could have entered at that gate remains a mystery.
  • Taking off my sweatshirt to give Casey another layer as he was so cold. I, miraculously, stayed warm.
  • Casey's panicked fear of the crowds, tears streaming down his face, pleading to go back to the hotel. Knowing that if we could work through his fear with him, he would be OK and glad that he stuck it out.
  • Casey's exuberance and joy once the fear left and he focused on the magic of the moment.
  • Casey's jumping up and down, wahooing at what was said--sometimes ahead of those around us. He was truly listening.
  • The oneness of the people as Barack Obama repeated the oath and spoke to the Nation's citizens.
  • TheAfrican-American man who beared hugged Casey and me in one great embrace at the end of the oath--or maybe it was the speech--I can't quite recall.
  • The friendships developed in two minute elevator encounters. There being no such thing as a stranger.
  • Sharing breakfast, hope and anticipation with other hotel guests in the lounge each morning.
  • The movie producer who gave me one of his two treasured copies of the Washington Post on January 21.
  • Taxi rides taking long minutes to go 1 mile.
  • Walking, walking, walking miles and miles, not needing the gym's treadmill for those days.
  • Standing in the mall, watching Bono on the jumbotron, envying those who could see the real thing.
  • Casey on his knees at the Vietnam War Memorial, reading notes left for loved ones, sensing the magnitude of the losses in the names there.
  • Seeing the two young women in the elevator, dressed in their gowns, excited about the ball where they were going.
  • The blocks and blocks of orderly lines as people waited to pass through security on their way to pick up ceremony tickets.
  • The magnificent stage at the capitol with its flags and color--majestic!
  • Casey's boredom at the Capitol tour.
  • The vast numbers of African-Americans who converged on the capitol to witness, savor and know that the truth was real--to witness what had seemed so impossible.
  • And..most of all...the awe that we were witnessing the culmination of the unexpected moment when the nation decided that the most qualified person to be the President of the United States was a young, brilliant African and American man. It is as if the far future arrived ahead of schedule.
Of course, there are many more moments to remember. As this is to be my record for Casey, I'll add to it when new memories surface. In fact, I think I'll ask him for his additions--I'm quite sure he has his own.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Going Home

We are packed--well, almost because as always I brought many more clothes than needed--and watching Hillary speaking at the State Department. She is speaking well and looking good. I am certain that the employees are feeling hopeful about her as she emotes humor, talent and commitment.

The hotel is feeling empty and quiet after the exuberance and activity of the last few days. No one was in the lounge this morning. In past mornings it was musical chairs in trying to find a place to eat a danish and drink the java. Quiet, quiet, quiet.

As you may have read there were a couple of major complications on Tuesday in terms of people holding tickets to the ceremony. For some reason two access gates to ticketed areas were closed and thousands of people walking through the vehicular tunnel in order to reach other access gates were stuck in the tunnel for hours--never making it to the ceremony. I can't imagine the disappointment these people experienced as their dreams of being present evaporated. I read today that Tyra Banks and Jesse Jackson were among those stuck in the tunnel. What a disaster!

This is a picture from a friend's son's website. He was in the crowd and, after traveling from California and having tickets, did not see the ceremony. You may want to read his account--Capitol Punishment.

Senator Feinstein announced today that she is launching a major investigation into what happened. This is the announcement regarding this Investigation. I guess it will be good to identify the problem but little consolation to those who were left out.

We are feeling fortunate as we had planned on walking to the ceremony which meant going through the 3rd Street tunnel. At the last minute we changed our minds and embarked on the perilous metro trip I described in an earlier entry. But now, discovering that we would never have made it to the ceremony at all, our ordeal seems well worth it--at least we got there.

The tunnel involved is the same one we walked through after the ceremony on our way back to the hotel. While going through it, I noticed the large amount of trash strewn about and wondered why--now I know.

If you are wondering why people would walk rather than get a taxi, it is because most streets anywhere near the Capitol were closed and there was no vehicular traffic allowed--even taxis and limo services. Walking was the motation of the day--even for the rich and famous.

But--for most of us, we were there, we were mesmerized and our efforts justified. It all continues to seem surreal--even the humor in President Obama needing to retake the oath yesterday after Chief Justice Roberts' flub at the inaugural. All's well that ends well.

Now--time to close up, call the bell captain and return to Dulles for the flight home. Our memories are intact and we're ready to answer the questions that are sure to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

This day has been exhausting, exhilarating, memorable and totally awesome. I am exhausted and we still have dinner to do.I can not imagine needing to go to ball tonight.

We began early--up at 6:30. In the metro at 7:15. Got to the turn stile and were told--along with hundreds of others--that the station was closed and we needed to go to one up the street. We did so. Jammed ourselves into the metro car when it came. And that was the beginning of an almost horrifying experience with crowds. Quickly to say that a number of times Casey was sobbing as he was so frightened by the closeness, crowding and dynamics of the crowds. Which is not to say people were poorly behaved. The calmness and consideration of the thousands of people we found ourselves a part of was amazing. People suffered together and were nice. But...it was still overwhelming to an already tired 10 year old. In the end, he is so happy that he was there and by the time President Obama was speaking, he was cheering at the appropriate places and jumping up and down along with everyone.

Our ticket area was far enough away from the platform that we could not see the people. But we could see the stage and where it was all happening. I guess there is no way to adequately describe the emotions of being here and the sense that time is changing. At the last words of Obama's oath, an African-American man from Pennsylvania shared hugs with Casey and me--what a moment.

So many streets are closed that getting into and out of the capitol area comes close to the definition of impossible. For us to return to our hotel, we had to walk away from the mall for several blocks and then finally to highway 395 which was closed to vehicular traffic. We then walked on the highway, through the 3rd Street tunnel and then several more blocks back to our hotel. However, after the morning metro experience returning that way was not even considered.

Now, we are in the hotel room, watching the parade on TV--just as you are doing where ever you are.

These are some photos from today. They aren't very good. My camera was acting strangely--probably from the cold. But you will be there with us. They aren't in proper order--I'm too tired to do that right now.

Stage from where we were.

Walking on the Interstate

Security HumVee

Hotel Flag

Ken and Casey on 395

Casey at Inauguration

Our View

Another View from Us

Viewing Ground

For my Canadian Friends
Sheena, Janie, BGE, Jerry et. all

Monday, January 19, 2009

What It's Like

At the Rehearsal

What a place to be right now—there is a sense of the surreal no matter where you are or what you are doing. Even in a crowd of strangers at a concert, in a museum, on the metro, wherever, there is a sense of oneness and common purpose and excitement. You talk to strangers, share stories and find an amazing abundance of patience at times when patience would not be the expected. Crowds are considerate and joyful.

Yesterday we spent the morning at the newly reopened American History Museum which is huge and outstanding. We only took in a small portion of it before we were tired of looking and absorbing. I was surprised to see Michelle’s photograph at the end of the long line of first lady portraits.

And Obama has been added to the display of presidents. It seemed like jumping the gun but I guess there wouldn’t be time to do it correctly at 12 pm tomorrow. It was fun to see them there already.

From there we walked down the mall to the We Are One concert with that incredible convergence of talent celebrating the change to come. We didn’t get even close to the Lincoln Memorial but were part of the incredible crowd filling the mall space, straining to see the jumbotron screens. Unfortunately every time we found a line of vision for Casey someone would move in front of him. Eventually we decided to return to the hotel and watch it on TV here—also we needed to get back in time to get ready for the big dinner party with 15 Slow Travel friends.

The dinner was a great evening. Years ago when Slow Travel began, Dean was a moderator for the site and its resident wine expert. Eventually he indulged his complex knowledge and his appreciation of Italian cuisine by opening his restaurant DINO here in D.C. And that is the mecca to which we traveled last night. Many of us had met before at various gatherings and others we were meeting for the first time but as always there was no disappointment when getting together with like-minded people. It is always just a fun, special time. The food was reminiscent of our meals in Italy—burrata flown in from Puglia, grilled orata, gelato with balsamic. Yummy, all.

Dean, Eden, Manny

Today was sort of kick back and recovery—or at least that was our plan. We planned to go to the International Spy Museum (which is quite interesting) and then head on down to our congressman’s office in the Longworth building to pick up our ceremony tickets. Sounds simple? Yes. But, when 240,000 people are picking up tickets at the same time and everyone needs to pass through security before getting into the buildings, there is only one result---long lines. We were in line for 1 hour and 40 minutes before entering the building and then it took 5 minutes to get the tickets once in. For a well planned event, this part was lacking something.

But, as with so many things, there was a silver lining. Casey noticed a camera crew from San Diego and so asked if they would talk with him—which they did. He was interviewed and, if all goes as it is supposed to, will be on the 10 o’clock news back home tonight. Uncle Jeff will tape it for posterity.

So—tonight we are going to dinner and to bed early as the word is that getting to the ceremony area early is important. Again security will need to be cleared which is very cumbersome when everyone is burdened with scarves, coats, hats, gloves, etc. And then we will stand for hours before things actually begin. Fun!?

Speaking of security, even here at the hotel, there seems to be security personnel for every 100 people. In order to enter the elevators we need to show our room key before we are allowed into the area.

So these are days of unique experiences—forever etched into our memories.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Sunday Morning

A short update on us so far:

After a rather difficult plane trip--involving being taken off one plane and on to another due to some mechanical problem which meant we did not get to our hotel until 11:30 pm Friday night--we have been swept into the excitement and frenzy of the times. There is a great sense of camaraderie among people who are in reality strangers but all here for one reason--the history of the moment and an admiration for our next president.

Yesterday we were tired and Casey exhausted. We took a capitol tour in the morning and then went to the front of the capital to see the stand and viewing areas. It was fun because they were practicing for the big event. We heard the band and chorus and heard the announcer going through his dress rehearsal for Tuesday. We were able to get some nice pictures of what we won't see on Tuesday as even with tickets we will be far-far away from the stage. But--we will be happy where we are.

After that we went to the Air and Space Museum until Casey could take no more so headed back to the hotel. He fell asleep in the 10 minute cab ride and collapsed on his bed once in the room.

Last night Eirin (Chiocciola) came to the hotel to pick up Casey for their big "date." At the risk of embarrassing her, let me say she is beautiful and delightful. Casey enjoyed being with her as much as he had anticipated. Ken and I had a wonderful dinner at City Zen.

Traffic here is a nightmare due to a multitude of street closures and lots of vehicles. It took 35 minutes last night to go 1 mile in the taxi.

Today we're going to the concert on the mall and then to dinner with several of our friends. It will be fun night. I really am looking forward to it.

I have pictures to share but right now am on the computer in the club lounge in the hotel and can't upload so that will come later. Casey is on the other computer making his blog entry so check it out, too.

More and hopefully a more interesting entry next time. Just wanted to check in now.


Friday, January 16, 2009

We're Off to Watch History Made

If all goes as planned, we left San Diego at 7:25 this morning, headed to D.C. via Denver. There is a 2 + hour layover there so we don't get into D.C. until 7:00 pm where a car service will be waiting to whisk us off to the Grand Hyatt--our home for 6 nights. We used miles for the tickets and points for a couple hotel nights and so have saved money to spend on good eating.

This is our itinerary which will be full and wonderful--maybe a little cold but excitement will generate some heat.
  • Saturday --We have reservations at the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center for a tour of the Capitol.
  • Saturday Dinner--City Zen--the chef, who came from The French Laundry in Napa, was one of ten chefs receiving the James Beard ‘Best Chefs in America’ title in 2008. It should be a memorable dinner. And...good friend Eirin, sometimes known as Chicciola, is taking Casey out for pizza and a night on the town. What a treat that is going to be.
  • Sunday--Plans are up in the air right now--either Mt. Vernon so Casey can visit George Washington or staying in the National Mall at the Lincoln Memorial for the hugely big Inauguration Kickoff event with Obama and entertainers. Which ever we do, friend Vicky is spending the day with us--either driving us to Mt. Vernon or enjoying the concert and then the reopened American History Museum with us.
  • Sunday Dinner--a big night! 17 friends from the Slow Travel community are dining at Dino Restaurant which is owned by an original Slow Travel member. It is going to be a very special and fun night.
  • Monday--We pick up our actual ceremony tickets from our Congressman's office. Right now we just have a letter telling us where and how to get the tickets. Then to the Air and Space Museum and whatever else grabs us.
  • Monday Dinner--Tony Chang's
  • Tuesday--THE BIG DAY! We will go to the inauguration ticketed area about 8:30 am and then stand in the cold the rest of the morning. The actual ceremony is at 11:30. This is the ceremony agenda.
  • Tuesday Dinner--Fogo de Chäo
  • Wednesday--The International FBI Spy Museum Casey is excited about this. And other unknown things.
  • Wednesday Dinner--Oceanaire Seafood Room (no link because they play obnoxious music)
  • Thursday--rest, relax and get a 2:30 plane home. Fortunately, this is a direct flight to San Diego.
As you can see this is to be a momentous, busy, exhausting wonderful week. One that we will remember and one that will give Casey something very special to tell his grandchildren.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama's Official Portrait

New official portrait released

Today we are releasing the new official portrait for President Barack Obama.

It was taken by Pete Souza, the newly-announced official White House photographer.

It is the first time that an official presidential portrait was taken with a digital camera.

This is from Obama's Change.Gov site

He's mighty good looking but does have ears!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New and Magic Cure

The other night I was reading to Casey from the The Boy's Body Book--Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU by Kelli Dunham.

If you have a pre-teen young man, this is a great resource to help him understand what to expect as he moves out of childhood. Not only is the information good and on-target, it opens the door to discussions which might be difficult to approach in a vacuum.

Topics, of course, include body changes and what to expect; however, also included are sections dealing with school and ways to approach learning, family dynamics and changing expectations as one gets older, changing feelings and friends--relationships and the future.

Interesting, each time I tell Casey we're going to read more in it, his first reaction is to groan which means that he really doesn't want to take the time to do it. But...within a couple minutes he is totally absorbed as he relates to what is being read--it is meaningful to him as he recognizes his own questions and confusions. Because I am lucky and he is comfortable talking about things with me, he will ask questions and pursue his thoughts.

The other night we were reading about body changes requiring hygiene care, cracking voices, and shifting moods. He really associated with the shifting moods as he readily recognized himself.

The biggest surprise with the book, though, is its curative properities--serving as pharmacist and physician. I learned this yesterday when I picked Casey up from school.

He was dragging, looked sadly depressed and complaining of a sore throat and upset stomach. Talking was out of the question. He was just in a funky mood. Of course, I panicked as it is unthinkable that he would get sick before the D.C. trip and the inauguration.

Fortunately, after a couple games on the Wii, two pages of vocabulary homework and resisting the need to lay down and rest, he was miraculously improved and ready for his karate lesson.

His explanation of his sick to well journey was "Gramma, it must just have been puberty. You know--mood and body changes."

Whatever.......I am just happy that he is well and all is OK here in our household.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Right now it's weather--specifically Washington DC--more specifically Washington DC on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

Yesterday I posted a dismal scenario for the BIG day. Consequently, I spent the rest of the day freezing in sunny So. Cal. with icebergs masquerading as hands....and that was just thinking about standing 5 hours in a wind chill factor of 18º with snow.

So, I just checked again and am confused. This is what I find:
  1. Intellicast..........38/30 Sunny
  2. MSN.................46/28 Clear (think I'll believe this one.)
  3. Weather.com....38/30 Sunny
  4. Accuweather.....27/12 Clouds and some sun
The good news is that snow is out---for now. The question is: Are any of these close to accurate? It seems to me that they simply demonstrate the uselessness of extended forecasts. Right?

So, an intelligent person would stop obsessing and read a book. I am an intelligent person--so I'll read a book--for a while, anyway.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Well, being a compulsive Type A person who needs to be in the know--I just checked the weather forecast for inauguration day. I'm wondering if it's too late to go to Fry's Electronics, buy a large flatscreen HDTV and just stay home.

Tuesday, Jan 20
High: 33 °F RealFeel®: 18 °F
Cloudy and windy with a little snow

Tuesday Night, Jan 20
Low: 28 °F RealFeel®: 8 °F
Windy with considerable clouds

Thoughts on this?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

We Have Entered the Twilight Zone--For Sure!

In case you missed it...the McCain/Palin gift to the world of insanity. Read on.........

Joe, The War Correspondent

Or, if you prefer your news in multi-media format........watch this riveting video.

Laugh? Cry? Take your pick.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Audacity of Our Almost President

...I think about America and those who built it. This nation's founders, who somehow rose above petty ambitions and narrow calculations to imagine a nation unfurling across a continent. ....Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting an imperfect union. And all the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers and tailors and butchers constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams.

It is that process I wish to be a part of.

My heart is filled with love for this country.

--Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope

In a very short while, our country embarks on a new course heading into uncharted territory--a new president from the 21st century mold, national and world problems so staggering that the way out seems undecipherable and a country seeking to find what its role in the world needs to become.

Knowing who our president is becomes important if we are to have hope and confidence in the way he plans to lead. Is he truly a man of vision, contemplation, deep thoughts--someone greater than his campaign persona and promises? Are his understandings and commitments new to him without previous mental engagement? Is he an opportunist or the real thing?

Obama's book
The Audacity of Hope answers some of these questions and should be read by anyone, supporter or detractor, who truly wants to know about this unique man for whom almost 69 million voted and chose as our nation's best hope.

Those who during the campaign denigrated him, his depth and background, did not do their homework and spoke from profound ignorance. Had they the integrity to do their homework, they could have focused on issues and difference in vision rather than innuendos and absurd accusations.

In The Audacity of Hope Obama's incredible knowledge and detailed, complex thoughts about world issues, economic principles, cultural dynamics, ethical responsibilities, faith and race give confidence that we have a man who is not shooting from the hip or needing to develop philosophies in the shadow of decision making. He is ready for the job.

And, he has a vision of what our society should and can be and that a government by, for and of the people has ethical responsibilities to its people.

...our communal values, our sense of mutual responsibility and social solidarity, should express themselves not just in the church or the mosque or the synagogue; not just on the blocks where we live, in the places where we work , or within our own families; but, also, through our government. Like many conservatives, I believe in the power of culture to determine both individual success and social cohesion, and I believe we ignore cultural factors at our peril. But I also believe that our government can play a role in shaping that culture for the better--or for the worse.

It is my hope that a vast number of our population will read this book and begin to know the man.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Going to the Inauguration? You're Invited!

I forgot to mention in the previous entry--

Several of our friends from Slow Travel are getting together for dinner at Dino Restaurant while we are in D.C. If you'd like to join us--click here slow.talk and sign up There's still room. It'll be a great night--good food, good wine, good conversation. Join us.