Friday, May 27, 2011

ECRT - Interlude: Road Trip Ramblings

Spoiler:   I'm sitting at the cutest little powerbar in the Manchester, NH airport. (There are photos, not to worry.)  It took me four tries to find the right network and get on it.   Sometime before the sun sets over the Pacific, I will be back in my own house, with my own bathroom, my own bed, my ergonomic (if messy) computer setup and most importantly, my loving cats aka the large evil monsters.

Shopping (contains some spoilers.)

This has been a tricky trip for shopping and therefore gift giving.  I think Megan's boys have scored the best, then maybe Shirley & Gary, the catsitters.  The trickiness has been a factor of several things - first and foremost luggage space.  When we checked in with the new large, lightweight red suitcase, it weighed 49.5 pounds.  Just now it weighed 8 pounds less, whew!  But the smaller suitcase maybe be up and so are our carryons.   Thankfully, Nick's sister Joanne was pleased to get the AAA tour books for everything south of New England and we left the pound of Ghiradelli chocolate squares with Paula.

But, I did manage to get myself a whole outfit plus. Bought the Nationals shirt in MD - where we also did get the price adjustment of $178 (yay!) on the new suitcase.  Got myself a foldup-able backpack, half price with any purchase at the Gettysburg Visitor Center shop. It can also be a totebag and it was great on the soon-to-be told slosh around Jordan Pond.  In Media, PA, I got a nice pair of Gloria Vanderbilt black jeans currently on my body.  In somewhere in Delaware, I got the fashionable rain jacket.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art I acquired my favorite purchase, a black T-shirt with a Golden Dragon embroidered down one side and my most useful, a set of three Guitar Hero passport size notebooks. In Menlo Park, NJ, coming up soon, I scored 5 pairs of roll over crew socks to match various T-shirts.  You have to go far and wide now to find these and I am known for this matching, esp in shorts weather.  Then there's the bears of the fifty states - still no luck in Rhode Island but Ms New Hampshire and Ms Maine will be joining the others on the shelf.

oops - so somehow the netbook turned itself off as I was midsentence.  But it was somehow on in Cleveland but no display..  I'm going to sleep and sort it all out in the morning and then finish this post.  eah  

 Sleep has happened.  So where was I - rambling about purchases - now have two new hats as well.  More on that later.  I now speculate that every state has a Route 1 and at least in the northeast it is a bad ride.  I have become spoiled by CalTrans maintaining roads out here in California.  Either that or the Kia has dreadful shocks.  But seriously bumpy here and there.  

Real Randomness

I am convinced that I should get a column for SWE out of traveling, including road trips and airport issues and packing and accommodations.  Ah yes,  I had a rant building up the whole trip about placement and style of toilet paper rolls.  I'm sure many of you are aware of the TP orientation debates.  I believe in the roll coming down the back for two reasons - first, it's way harder for a cat to unroll one that way (think about the paws on top of the roll that flows off the front).  If you don't get that, you've never had to deal with a roll post cat playing!  I have been known to reverse them in rooms where I am staying.  And, I find it easier to pull off some one-handed which is a value while you are wearing a backpack/purse and have a camera slung over your neck and long sleeves.  And/or when you're on crutches (been there, done that three years ago)  I also know why we pay the extra money for two ply TP.  I think I end up taking more volume (ie greater than twice as many sheets) just trying to get some off and it twists up annoyingly.  Hey, if you have the digestive issues that I have, you'd be noticing all this too.

On that cheery note, I shall post this and try working on Day 7.  Good thing it's a three-day weekend and I have a bad cold [we both got sick and forged on!]   If I can figure out what's going on with the netbook, I'll throw photos up quick.  Otherwise, I have to figure out what's going on with the Laptop.  I'm on the PC which is my primary computer but the monitor and the CPU don't agree so my aspect ratio is off which is bad for photographs.

a road weary, Esther

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ECRT - Days 6: Mostly Manhattan

Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I called my sister Carol, she suggested that we meet at her favorite place, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There's an exhibit of work by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen which she wanted to see.  I said, there were two things I had to do in NYC - have a slice of pizza and have a real deli pastrami sandwich.  We agreed to meet at the Met around noon - inside or out depended on weather and how Nick & I did with the train and the subway.

I probably haven't mentioned our cute little red Kia Forte that's gotten us up the East Coast.  It's worked out well for us, holds both red suitcases and various stuff.  I should put up a picture, of course I took them.  Also, haven't mentioned traveling with an Orienteer and a computer means that I only have to read the directions and navigate.  Nick does all the research, hands me the maps and off we go.  Today, he figured out how to get to and from the Rahway train station without making any dreaded U-turns on Route 1.  It actually all went quite well.  We're seniors on New Jersey transit - between us we figured out how to purchase four one-way tickets to/from Penn Station in Manhattan.  It did involve two short street hikes to/from the subway.  But even that worked out because we came out next to a pizza place selling plain slices for $1 each.  The guy was annoyed when i asked him to split the slice in two (Nick didn't think we needed one each, he later agreed we should have) but was happier when we left a tip.

We found the subway, got our passes, got to the upper east side, found Carol (who is looking good!) and headed to the exhibit.  For those who don't know, two things about McQueen:  He committed suicide last year and it was his second-in-charge person who designed Kate Middleton's wedding gown. Seeing McQueen's work - often stark, very edgy, I understand why fashion types were expecting something less conservative for the royal wedding.   The exhibit is fascinating,  My favorite parts were the video chess game played by models in his work and the dress that was finished live with the model/actress standing on a rotating stage while two robot arms sprayed paint at her. She was wearing a sleeveless, very wide dress, which was belted above the chest with a 2" buckle belt.  OK, so I was fascinated more by the video and the engineering.

The three of us, Carol, Nick and Esther, entered the exhibit together with a zillion other people. Nick waved to me as he went around the first corner and we didn't see each other for about 30 min.  He waited at the inevitable exit-mini-shop.  He says I was about 10 min behind him.  Carol and I stuck together much longer - but eventually I emerged before she did.  From there, we went down to the cafe to have lunch and just visit.

We agreed that everyone got to pick and exhibit.  The Guitar Heroes was right by the cafe and of course, I wanted to see it.  This was about the makers!   Somehow we did it backwards so didn't see the Stradivarius violin and mandolins until the end.  There was a well-done video of one of the masters making a guitar.  I watched it twice, once with Nick and once with Carol.  Nick's choice was to see the armor.  That was quite cool as well - diferent times and cultures represented, including for all us Highlander TV fans, Katanas (Japanese Swords.)

 And then there was my favorite odd moment.  Carol had to make a business call.  So we found a quiet place where she could sit.  Nick decided this was a good time to check in with his sister Karen (our next destination).  So there I was just strolling around checking out various exhibits to my heart's content.

A New York Experience

Jonathan, Carol's son and our youngest nephew, is in New York for 10 days between sessions at college.  When he heard we were considering having dinner at one of his favorite places, Arti's Deli, he agreed to meet us.  Then Carol reached Francesco, Roberto's brother (both are Caren's sons) and he decided to meet us as well.

But we had to take the cross-town bus to get there.  I've only ever taken the bus to the Bronx zoo.  We walked two blocks from the museum, with our umbrellas and rain coats and got in line with everyone else.  We worked our way on and whoa was it a bouncy ride.  I figured out why when I got to sit down - we were in one of the two-part accordian busses.  I was actually sitting in the first seat behind the moving part. It's a circular bit of floor that somehow rotates around corners.  I couldn't quite figure it all out but was fascinated.

We got off at the corner by Arties just as Jonathan walked up and Francesco hopped out of a cab. The five of us had a great time together - F&J get really funny around each other,  and I got my lean pastrami on rye.  And then, the time came to go.  Hugs all around and Nick and I were off again back to Avenel via Rahway.

A side note:  about this point, we were both carrying multiple extra swipe cards - our train tickets, the Metro Passes, our room keys and the parking garage ticket.  There's a not positive message in all this - but we won't go there now.

Coming up:  Liberty Island, the Hubble telescope and Broadway theater!



At some point when I didn't have computer access, I realized remembered something I wanted to share.  For the sake of those who might have already read this post, I'm just adding it on here.

Back at the Museum, it was always understood that before leaving, we would go to the shop. They have an amazing, large shop, full of books and cards and prints and items with the logo or various artwork.  The cat items alone could further overflow our overflowing house. 

It took Carol and I all of ten seconds to agree to go up to the sales section on the second floor.  I had already decided that the only thing that would save this blogging effort was to get a small pad or something on which I could keep jotting down notes. I had also told Carol that when the $60 Guitar Hero messenger bag, $60 was seriously marked down, I might like it.  Well, upstairs we found one for $30 but I decided against it.  I did find a set of three passport sized notebooks and did get them.  It was weird because these items were still full-price elsewhere in the museum (it's large with many shopping opportunities)   I also found a fabulous black T-shirt with a dragon embroidered down one-side marked down.  Very classy!  With Carol's discount, even better.

When I opened the notebooks - it turns out one is lined, one is blank and one is music staved.  I'm happily making notes in the lined one.  Angela, my soprano and music teacher gets the music.  The sketch is up for grabs.  Did I mention they all have a photo of a hand-made guitar on them?

Nick and I had one final thought on this day - we are totally museumed out!

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ECRT - Day 5: Travel Day, New Jersey

Note:  In real time, it is day 12.  First Nick and then I have come down with colds.  We're at our final destination and start heading home tomorrow.  I hope to do some writing at an airport and finish up at home.  If anybody is really interested, bug me on Saturday. 

On the Move Again
We didn't have far to go today, so we visited longer with Paula.  Again the weather is drippy and iffy but we all braved it to take a walk around Fox Hollow Farm.  There's a lovely trail along the outer border and Paula told us all about the various volunteer work done to maintain it. She's about the only woman to do this work, so she knows lots of the men.  She's also on the welcome committee and it seems like she knows everyone. 
It was election day in Pennsylvania, and the community building hosted the local precinct.  As we first went in, people wanted us to vote.  When Paula said she was giving us a tour, people got all excited and  wanted us to move there!  

Eventually, we had to hit the road.  Don't think I've mentioned the ubiquitous Canada geese.  We saw a big flock with fuzzy goslings somewhere in Delaware County.  Couldn't stop for photographs, bummer.  But for the next several days, we're seeing small groups of them here and there!  We've got huge flocks in Menlo Park at Bayfront Park (aka Liz's park because she made an orienteering map for her Silver Award project.)  I'm wondering if it's climate change that's making them all be around (per Paula in Penna, and us in Calif) year round.

Our drive took us into and out of Delaware (the state, not the county.)  I spotted my favorite store - yes Target.  So we pulled in to restock on Milano's and a couple of other things before heading out.  Not expecting much, after Kohl's, we went and looked at jackets.  I actually found a nice light weight rain jacket.  Couldn't get my size (sigh) in the slenderizing black or navy, so got the fashionable off-white, not quite tan.  Picture a short, belted trench coat - yes, I know a contradiction.  Cross check the photographs - the concept is good, I'm simply too round.  another sigh.  Apparently, I'm building a full outfit, suitable for nice dinner.

A Treasure in New Jersey

Back to Paula for a minute - she is amazingly organized.  As we discussed our route for the day, she whipped out a folder with places to go.   She raved about Grounds for Sculpture and she was right!  It is in Hamilton, NJ about half way between Philly and Manhattan.  It has 250 sculptures, looking randomly placed, but not so, over 35 acres.  We were hungry by the time we got there and started with lunch in their cafe.  We were far from seeing everything when we left.  We wanted to check in at our hotel before our next stop for dinner.  In retrospect, we should have spent the back-and-forth time there.  Before I explain that, more on the sculptures.  They have life size people here and there in the style of one of the French Painters (I want to say Monet or Serrat).  They have lot of modern works.  There's one area with five tiger sculptures.  We spent a lot of time by one that is really a giant percussion instrument with sticks that one can use to play it.  I could have used my musician friend Carol who has perfect pitch.  But we had fun.  Pictures to follow, I hope.

Catching up the the Hellers 

Some months ago, I promised my sister Carol that I'd come to New York and we could play.  Since we have a rental car and cars in Manhattan problematic, Nick suggested that we stay in New Jersey and take the train in.  More about that on Day 6.  Our nephew Roberto and his girlfriend Cara live in Princeton.  It's  around now that Nick & I start hating Route 1 in New Jersey.  The Comfort Suites are in Avenel which is near Rahway which has a train station.

So, we go to Avenel and check in.  It takes forever because Nick's credit card company has decided that there's been too much activity on the card.  Nice to know they're alert but really.  Then we go back down to Princeton.  The deal with Route 1 is you can't make left turns.  You have to make rights to do U's to do lefts.  It's a good concept not as well executed as it might - at least not near the Comfort Suites.  It also has lots of lights.  We got stuck in traffic going back down to Princeton.

Eventually, we found our way to Roberto and Cara.  He is our eldest nephew; it's our first time meeting her but she's dealing well with the small but mighty clan.  We all had a wonderful time catching up, getting to know each other, eating, taking silly photographs.  Much too soon, we had to be back on Hwy 1 well fed and well-loved.

Coming up:  Manhattan and more of the Heller family


© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ECRT - Day 4: Delaware County and Philadelphia

Old Stomping Grounds - Sort Of

Last night (in blog time), we determined that we would meet Lynn (college friend/roommate) and her niece Erica at the Gallery at 8th an Market in Philadelphia.  The original plan was to drive from Glen Mills to Media and take the train to Penn Station and walk from there.  Nick did a lot of online research and he and Paula figured out there was unlikely to be any parking for either the train or the trolley (different stations).  So we drove through Upper Darby to Terminal Square. 

Personal History Tangent

While I was at Temple and Nick was working for ConRail, we lived at Barclay Square - in Upper Darby, along the trolley line.  Nick took the train from the Lansdowne station to work and I walked to Terminal Square to take the subway/elevated known as Septa (south east pennsylvania transit authority.)  You'll have to google that one for yourselves!  Technically septa also runs the trolley.  And I think that's enough of this nonsense.  One of the coolest things about Upper Darby was Issac Asimov once came and spoke at a school within walking distance.  That's when I realized just how much his writing must have influenced my thinking cause it all made total sense.  He said, among other things, that as we all live longer and more functionally, we will have multiple careers in our lives.  And here I am, switching again, in my early sixties.

Back on Track (pun intended)

When we got to the station, the main parking lot was full - which was too bad because it had a nice machine that takes credit cards.  We parked in the overflow metered lot which took only quarters.  A short walk and tokens from Paula and we were on our way into Philly.  It was interesting to see how much they've renovated the stations and actually the cars themselves.  No where near as old, dark and rattly as I remember - although the worst part was on the Broad St line which we didn't take.

When we got out at 8th and Market, there was no sign of the Gallery.  As is my custom, I bought one of the street newspapers for a dollar.  They have them in San Francisco.  It's a way for street people to make some money without actually just panhandling.  I find them mildly interesting to read.  So as he was thanking me, I asked where the Gallery was.  We walked to 9th and found Lynn and Erica.

They live in South Jersey and also drove to parking and took public transit.  Lynn comes in enough to know her way around.  The plan was to have lunch and "do something" but we'd never really nailed down either lunch place or what something was.  We checked out a couple of places that were too noisy and busy to have a good conversation.  Eventually, Nick spotted a bakery/cafe of the sort that we love.  Since the last time we saw Erica she was something like two, it was more like making a new friend.  She's another of our many young acquaintances who is involved in performing arts - she as a costumer and back-stage worker.  Didn't get to talk with Lynn as much -I think we three old folks wanted to spare Erica the whole "remember when" thing.  

We did go to Liberty Place where I found a Fire & Ice store.  The one in Baltimore is where I bought the matching necklace and earrings that I wore at Liz & James' wedding.  OK, so I bought another pair of elegant earrings there.  But this time, I resisted the BoGo!  Liberty Place is an office complex with shops on the first two floors.  In the downstairs rotunda, they had this great exhibit of structures made out of canned goods.  It was a very clever food drive.  Each entry was from a different business or company.  There was a kitchen with sink, a variation on Rodin's Thinker (I think he may have been in canned peas) and, of course The Liberty Bell.  I've got lots of pictures, but just put up on Facebook the bell with my three companions.

Somewhere in all my slides and prints and now files, there are pictures of Nick & Lynn in various places - like in front of a wooden Indian in Texas and possibly including some of the replica liberty bells around the country. I have located and photographed bells in Boston (the first I found), Honolulu, Raleigh, NC, Denver and Juneau.   We skipped the original one this trip but did tell Erica about the time they moved it on New year's eve of 1976, in the rain, and her father was there to see it.  The rest of us watched on TV.  I'm very fond of Liberty Bells.

After some more wandering around - it's just cool being back in Philly, if only for an afternoon, we all hugged and parted ways.

A Small Shopping Spree

Nick had promised me that if we had time, we could stop at the Kohl's near Granite Run Mall (either in or near Media - the county seat.)   We've been carrying an umbrella a lot on this trip, with the prime directive of "keep the camera dry."  We have our winter parkas in our suitcases for the end of this trip [where we're heading tomorrow in real, not blogging, time - more later.]  I have a gap in my wardrobe, even at home - I don't have anything resembling a warmer weather, nice looking rain coat.  So, I wanted to find something for the warmer climes.  Bizarrely, there was absolutely no outer wear at this Kohl's.  But they did have my favorite jeans on sale [and I could use a nice newer pair for last destination] and I was still carrying my special 30% off coupon.  We finally got through the checkout line and back to Paula's with about a 30min rest period.

Opera, Italian Food and Friends

While I wasn't at Temple U's math department long, I did grow close to a few people.  Every time we're back this way, my friend Bob tries to get them together.  This time several were out of town but Paula came with us to see Bob, his wife Pat and our other friend Gary.   This time Bob had made a reservation at  Fellini's Cafe Trattoria.

Monday is Opera night.  Our waitress, Jessica and a waiter took turns singing about every 25 minutes.  I know she did something from La Boheme and he sang "O Sole Mio" and they did a duet at the end.  We all chatted a lot inbetween and the food was great!  Paula took all of our leftovers and had pastas for three more meals!
And again, amidst the rain, we all hugged and parted company.   This is the hard part of this trip.  We're seeing people for the first time in a while and then having to leave again so soon!


Coming up:  Family!

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ECRT - Day 3: Travel Day, MD to Penna

Road Trip Begins - Full of History

Since we only had to go from one state to another and the Hilton has a late checkout time, we actually slept in.  Eventually, we packed up the two red suitcases and the two tote bags and Nick's backpack and headed on up the highway for Pennsylvania. Prophetically, we did note when we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Back when I was on the Girl Scout Council Board of Directors, I became friends with Rosalie.  Nick was on the Diversity Committee when she chaired it and they became friends as well.  Some years ago, she and her husband Roger left the Bay Area and moved first to Baltimore and then to Gettysburg.   I had been to the battlefield a zillion years ago with my family and wanted to see it again.   So, that was our next stop!

We went first to see Rosalie and Roger who served us a lovely lunch on the patio of their big ole farmhouse.  They graciously let me use their wireless internet to dig up friend Paula's phone number whih wasn't in my phone.  More later on Paula.   Rosalie also pointed out the mother robin nesting and feeding babies in one roof corner.  Attempts at photographs were made.  We stayed there about two hours and then headed for the Gettysburg Visitor's Center.

The Battle of Gettysburg

Roger said we "had" to see the Cyclorama and he was right!  For those who aren't going to follow the link, when you get to the Visitor's Center, you have two options.  You can wander around and look at the exhibits or you can do that and for a small fee see the movie narrated by Morgan Freeman and then go up to the Cyclorama.  Don't worry, I'll get there.  But first a word about Morgan Freeman - I love him, ever since the Electric Company (which dates back to PBS and Sesame Street days).  The movie was very good discussing the Civil War, slavery, economics, the South, setting the context for the battle (and the speech!)  It made it clear why doing the right thing was so challenging for so many.  It was very thoughtful and sad at the same time.  Certain sixty-somethings teared up.

After the movie ends, one goes up the stairs.  While Roger had explained it was a large circular painted mural which covers the whole battle, I wasn't really prepared for it.  You really should follow my link for more!  There's a recording which is played detailing the battle and various lighting changes highlighting spots on the mural.  Very dramatic.

After this, we took our map and started heading for Cemetery Ridge, the point of view of the painting.  Alas, the threatening rain decided to become a deluge just as we got there. It was also getting late and we had more travel to do, now in the deluge.  I hope we can go back another time but who knows.

Familiar Turf

Next destination, Glen Mills, in Delaware County, PA.  Long ago, and currently not so far away, I ended up spending almost four years in graduate school at Temple University.  The flunking out there-of is a story for another time.  But in that time, we made some good friends. It was when and where Nick became a Girl Scout Leader (I'd already done so in Palo Alto, Ca.)  We learned the basics of Senior Girl Scout program from a pair of trainers known as Nellie and Deluc. Deluc is really Paula and we have stayed in touch and when any of us are near each other we hang out.

Paula now lives with her cat Misty in an "active adult community" called Fox Hollow Farm.  We were to have dinner there so we pressed on through the rain.  As we were going, we kept reading names of cities and towns that we'd known about and forgotten.  Eventually, the rain eased up and we arrived at an almost reasonable hour.  We had a great dinner, talking about old times, new times, what we're all up to, etc.

The only downside was she doesn't have wireless and we don't have cables to plug in the netbook.  I'd hoped to do some catching up for you loyal readers in that window and didn't.  And so it goes!

Coming next - Philly!!

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Friday, May 20, 2011

East Coast Road Trip - Day 2: Washington, DC area

 Lion Cubs, Sumatran Tigers and Giant Pandas, oh my!

The day started with driving to the Smithsonian National Zoo which Nick now says was a tactical mistake.  We didn't know how timing would work with the drive vs taking the Metro and getting back in time to change for the wedding.  We did find parking and it did start us at the right end of the zoo, namely by the big cats. 

The National Zoo is built on a hill - the main entrance is at the top on Conneticut Ave and the parking is at the bottom.  I actually prefer starting by going uphill and then finishing by going down. So we started hiking up and came pretty fast to the big cats.  They're in a nice round area that is subdivided into three habitats. Each habitat is laid out in tiers resulting in lots of ways for the cats to leap and bound and sun and not-sun.  We came first to one of the Sumatran Tigers and then the other.  We have Sumatrans at the San Franciscan zoo - they are the smallest of the tigers.  Ever since we had our tabby cat Leela, I've realized that sumatran females remind me of her.  I've gotten quite good at identifiying the females vs males of most tigers this way - from the face and then confirming when they walk away, tails held high. [I will spare you my rant about the typical zoo visitor referring to each and every animal as "he."]   I did learn from a long chat with a volunteer - the female here is the mother of the male.
Finally we got to the third enclosure.  I had thought there was one lion and one lioness and they had five cubs.  I was wrong!  One lion and two lionesses AND seven wonderful, adorable - one litter was born in Sept and the other in October - cubs!  Did I mention, adorable?  Still had spots on the legs, the males just barely starting to get their manes.  I took many pictures.  I was having odd exposure issues in manual - which I sorted out several days later [I'll get to that.]  Eventually, I agreed to see other animals.

We learned during the baseball game that Ken and James lived within walking distance of the zoo.  So, we made a plan to meet for lunch.  Nick & i worked our way uphill to one eating area near the pandas.  First Ken and then James showed up - after confusion about which spot we were at - there's a Panda Terrace and a Panda Cafe and by now I've forgotten (I'm still a week behind here, sorry) which was which AND they came in the main entrance.  

We had a good conversation at lunch.  Ken works for CQ reports covering the Supreme Court.  Turns out he also worked on Al Gore's presidential campaign (both from Tennessee and at Harvard together.)  I want to recommend Ken's blog.  He is very articulate and insightful and honestly, it's the only one I semi-regularly read.  You can find him at Jost on Justice.  I learned more about James' work - which in a different market, is similar to Nick's.

After eating, we all slogged up the hill (in their case back) to see the two pandas.  Walking with James, who  is from Taiwan, I learned that Chinese government charges a zoo one million dollars a year to have a resident panda.  He pointed out the peonies in the panda's enclosures,and said it was appropriate.  Peonies are considered the royalty of flowers by the Chinese and that's why they appear in so much artwork.

By then, it was time to head back to Silver Spring to change, so we all said goodbye.  I convinced Nick that I had to check in on my cubs on the way back down and we did.  Then we hustled to the parking lot, remember, downhill at the end is better.   Unfortunately, we got misplaced when Nick thought he'd found a shortcut.  We sorted it out but really had to hustle at the hotel but made our next destination with a tiny bit of room to spare.

Here come the Brides!

The prime reason for this crazy trip was to attend the wedding of another troop 757 alumna, Christina, to her soul mate Meigh.  It was held at the Woodlawn Manor in Sandy Spring, Md. We had not yet met Meigh but had seen their save-the-date video and knew they shared a silly sense of humor and a lot of creativity.

Because they're both women, they had to have a civil ceremony earlier in D.C to be legal.  What they had at Woodlawn was a beautiful handfasting ceremony presided over by a pagan minister. Christina's brothers were her bridesmen.  We knew them and her parents from the troop days. Meigh had three bridesmaids.  The color scheme was a deep shade of burgundy.   We've been dealing with rain the entire trip but like good Girl Scouts, they were prepared with a lovely white tent which had windows.

Each had written her own vows.  There was some loveliness and some silliness and one bride cried a lot during the vows.  This was followed by a ring exchange.  C & M had made a series of cords in different colors.  As the minister draped each one around their arms (hands held) she asked questions starting with "do you promise to ..."  And of course, the response was "we do." At least once, we all were asked to support them and heartily said "we do"  After draping all cords in a complex manner, which Christine later told me they forgot to practice, the minister did an overhand knot joining first one set of ends and then the other.  When the young women let go hands and pulled their arms out - the entire middle was also joined!  It was quite cool.

The reception was great fun.  First we went from the tent to the historical house for drinks and appetizers.  When we went back down to the tent, the tables had been set up.  Christina is from California, of course, and Meigh is from North Carolina.  They had two sets of entrees, salads and vegetables - one set was califorinia cuisine and the other north carlolina.  There were also mini-ramekins of mac and cheese that fit the occassion and the weather!  Each table was served family style and that led to good conversation.  Even the rain didn't spoil a thing!

Coming next:  the road trip begins as we go to Pennsylvania!

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

East Coast Road Trip - photos

 Can be found here.

© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

East Coast RoadTrip - Days 0 and 1: SFO-BWI

Prologue to Esther & Nick's East Coast Road Trip

This has been an bumper year for us being invited to weddings of the legandary Girl Scout Troop 757 alumnae.  First Jessica married Timi in February in Foster City.  Then I officiated at Liz and James' Wedding in April in San Gregorio. That's the ceremony in my previous entry.  Now Christina is marrying Meigh in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Since the opportunity was there, Nick and I decided to make a vacation of it, see some family and friends and some sites.  I'm actually typing on day 6.  In decades gone by, I used to say if I had time to do cool things, I didn't have money.  If I had money, I didn't have time.  Now it seems, if I have something cool to write about here, I have the time.  But if I have the time, I don't seem to have anything fun to write about.   I'm hoping my faithful followers will hang in while I catch up.

Day 0 - Leaving on a Jet Plane

On Thursday, we said good bye to Denali and Borealis and promised to return and headed on up 101 to SFO.  At the United Terminal, there was an art exhibit which seems to be turning into a recurring theme:  items made out of recycled materials.  Even then I laughed at how many Girl Scout Badge or Interest Projects have the requirement - make an object out of old whatever.  In this case, there were baskets made from used telephone wires, duck decoys out of milk cartoons and lawn chairs from plastic bags.  Someday, I have to do something with all the photographs.

Our flight to Baltimore-Washington was pretty uneventful - watched two movies, Reds (with Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren stealing scenes) and something dumbish title out of my head by now. We arrived about 11:45 a few minutes late.  Got our luggage and took the shuttle to the Thrifty rental booth at 12:20and made friends with a guy just in from Perth.  Seriously, we were almost BFFs by the time the rental agent got to him.  Let's just say, Thrifty isn's Swifty.  We left the airport at 1:20 am.  We were in our room at the Silver Spring Hilton at 2:15am, a little late to connect with anyone. 

Day 1 
The Smithsonian is Huge!

Not so bright nor early on Friday, we took care of a few necessities at the nearest Target.  Some of you may know about that I always carry a package of Pepperidge Farm Milanos for emergencies.  Somehow I didn't have any  and... I needed a special wardrobe item.  Found it at the nearby Champs store.  Back to the hotel to change and off we hiked 3.5 blockes down Coldsville Rd to the Metro Station.  This was the first of drizzly (or worse) days.   We tootled on into DC to meet Val, someone I know through the Reconstructionist  movement, for lunch at the National Gallery.  These building also houses the Smithsonian  American Art Museum and used the be the Patent Offices.  The cafeteria seating is inside/outside.  It's a covered courtyard which still has the facades of the old building.  It was quite nice. We chatted and got to know each other better.

Val guided us around the museum through several areas - including, that theme - art from recycled materials.  Most notable to me was the driftwood horse. A favorite work, not recycled, was a neon map of the United States.  Each state contained TV sets showing video relevant to the state. Alaska had whales and moose.  South Dakota had George McGovern. I had way more fun in the portrait galleries than expected, cause I recognized so many subjects.  We parted ways with Val in the shop and amazingly, I bought nothing.

We had some spare time before our next reunion/adventure, so we took Val's advice and headed down towards the National Mall and found the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden. I was having a great time photographing things like the giant typewriter eraser and a variation on Shelob (Lord of the Rings reference) and the Caulder horse (oh forgot to mention the Caulder exhibit -  sketches and wire artworks of people) and the dancing waters fountain when the fountain turned off and the ducks settled in.  Then a guard hustled us all out cause it was closing time.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

We hiked on down again to the Metro heading towards our next destination - Nationals Baseball Stadium where I was totally appropriately dressed in my new Nationals T-shirt (see above Target bit).  A bit of back story.  At Nick's 40th Harvard reunion on the first day's luncheon, we sat down at an empty table and waited to see who joined us.  Short version - a classmate named  Ken, whom Nick didn't know before came over with his partner, James.  James and I started laughing about being the non-classmates - it's like a title at Harvard reunions.  On the next night's dinner, we all caught up with each other again and James and Ken and I had a great diversity discussion and are just all crazy about each other.  Ken and I have kept touch via facebook.  He's as big a baseball fan as we are.  He's from Tennessee but his first team is the St Louis Cardinals - whom we hate because of a few World Series issues, mostly, 1967.

As American Leaguers (Red Sox, Athletics), we could easily cheer for the Nationals.  So we let Ken know we were coming and he got us all great tickets.  We got there first and OMG, I love that ballpark.  You walk in and have this great view looking out over the park from left field.  The concessions are on a spacious promenade and everyone working there is friendly - like really nice and helpful and friendly.  Americorps was even giving away rally flags which are proving quite useful on this trip.

James doen's like baseball so came later, mostly to see us and became our iPhone guy.  See, we were following the Cards playing the Cincy Reds and the Red Sox playing the Yankees as well as the game in front of us, the visiting Marlins.  It was a great game - with the lead changing and being tied up a few times.  I think James was startled to have not one but three maniacs jumping up and screaming at good plays. Ken loved the company and Nick & I love baseball.  The game ran 11 innings, long enough to start following Oakland vs the White Sox.  Sadly the Nationals lost 6-5 but the Red Sox began the first of the three game sweep!

And now I must head for sleep.  I'd tell you about tomorrow but that would be spoilers.  Instead,
Preview for Day 2, Saturday, May 14 (my half-birthday) - starts with Lions, Tigers, Bears and ends with   two gorgeous brides.


© 2011 Esther A. Heller

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Celebration of Marriage of Elizabeth Butterfield and James Walters

On April 30, 2011, it was my honor and privilege to perform the wedding of two of my friends.  California has this concept where an individual can be deputized to perform marriages on one specific day.  Some counties say only one day; San Mateo allows many.  There were no other takers.  This is the script from which we worked.  Some of it was a group effort, my comments were my own. 

Opening Remarks

   Welcome dear family and friends of Elizabeth and James. 

   Perhaps like me, you have stood in a similar spot and are now thinking about that moment in time.  At that moment, as at this one for James and Elizabeth, everything was possible.  The challenges that arose  before now are set aside, and those coming  don’t matter yet. If you’ve not had this moment in time, perhaps you’ve had another where everything was possible.  In either case, please hold that thought for this couple now.

    Elizabeth and James - turn and look at these friends and family.  They’re here to share this special moment of yours.  It is filled with joy and everything is possible.  Take a mental photograph as their remembered joy merges with their joy for you.  This is what community is about and that is why you have brought us all here together today.

    We must acknowledge Elizabeth’s parents John and Maryanne and James’ parents Linda and Edward.  They have brought their children together at this moment in honor of the love and support that both families have for them as a couple.
About Liz and James

           Face each other (and me) again.

    I first met Liz when in the seventh grade, she joined our Girl Scout Troop.   She was already a young woman who knew her mind and could speak it.  We early on realized she and I are kindred souls. 

    Several years later, James’ name started going by.  I met him when he interviewed me for a history term paper.  What’s not to like about a young man who considers you of historical significance?  Then he came to one of our troop alumnae gatherings, the first of the significant others to do so,  and he fit right in. 

    I’ve spent time with them together and with each separately.  It is so obvious to me that these two were made for each other and are very good for each other. And now ... here we are making it all official.

About Marriage

   When the two you asked me to be here with you for this ceremony, I started thinking about what wisdom I could share with you, based in part on my forty years with my husband Nick (who helped with this part).  

    Here it is: Marriage is a partnership.  Today, you two are saying  before witnesses “this is the person that I plan to spend the rest of my life with, to be my best self with and to give my best to.”   Remember always, you are partners, you are are confidants, you are lovers, you are best friends.  Be as honest with each other as you can and continue trusting and relying on each other. 

    Some cliches are true - never go to sleep angry with each other.  Don’t be afraid to say “I love you” often - with feeling.  Always show each other respect, especially in front of others.  But you don’t have to lose your identities in the marriage either.  There will be uneven times, when one of you needs more than the other.  That’s part of the deal too!  Life will throw challenges and difficulties at you.  You’ll get through them by facing them together. 

    A marriage is so much more than the two people in it.  As each of you grows, so the marriage will grow; as the marriage grows, each of you will.  This partnership, this joining, of  James and Elizabeth will allow you to do things in life that you haven’t yet imagined.  It will take you places you haven’t yet dreamed.  It is a wonderful thing you’re doing today and I am honored and blessed to be part of it. 


     It is my pleasure to introduce Angela Harrington, a friend of Elizabeth and James, who offers a gift of song.  

                        Angela sings "I Cross My Heart" by George Strait

Thank you, Angela!


Elizabeth and James have written their own vows. 


    I, Elizabeth, take you James, to be my husband, I promise to live with you, to trust you and to cherish you. I will love you when we are apart as well as when we are together. I will love you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. I will work with you toward our common goals and share our leisure joyfully.

    I love you because you believe in me and your belief helps me achieve more than I ever could otherwise.

    Love demands respect but not obedience. Love requires loyalty without subservience. I promise to respect you as my equal and be loyal to you in every way.

    Today is the beginning of the rest of my life. I choose to spend it, and all of my tomorrows, with you.


    I, James, take you Elizabeth to be my wife. I promise to love, cherish and respect you.  I promise to work with you in partnership in building our life  together. I promise to love you when times are good and when times are hard.  I  promise to do all I can to make our life together a happy one.

    I love you because no matter how dark the day has been, knowing you will be there when I get home  makes the day brighter.

   Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.  I choose to spend it, and all of my tomorrows, with you.

Ring Ceremony

Esther:  James, place and hold the ring on Elizabeth’s finger and repeat after me.

With this ring... I wed you..., for today, ... tomorrow ... and for all the years to come. ... Please wear it ... as a sign of my love ... and a notice to all the world ... that you have chosen me ... to be your husband.

Esther:  Elizabeth, place and hold the ring on Jame’s finger and repeat after me.

Elizabeth:   With this ring,... I wed you ... for today, ...  tomorrow ... and for all the years to come. ... Please wear it ... as a sign of my love ... and a notice to all the world ...  that you have chosen me ... to be your wife.


  You have taken your vows, made your promises to each other and exchanged your rings.  Because it is clear that you will have a strong and loving marriage, I say the following with love and joy:
   By virtue of the authority vested in me ... as (deputy) commissioner of marriages of the County of San Mateo, ... State of California, ... I now pronounce you husband and wife.

  After the recessional, there will be a pause in the festivities for certain formalities.  We invite you to go to the hall and enjoy some refreshments while you wait.

   I now present James and Elizabeth Walters, a legally married couple.


© 2011 Esther A. Heller