Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Day in North Carolina

We crossed the state heading to Charleston, and though we did not spend a night, we did notch a couple more college campuses and one serious state fair.


October 24, 2013 (Thursday)

With all due respect to my friends and family who attended Duke, I am no fan of the Blue Devils.  But game recognize game, so I had to check out the campus and Cameron Indoor (where I caught a quick glimpse of practice).  The campus is hilly and most beautiful, with masonry of gray and beige instead of the ivy-covered red brick to which I am more accustomed.  A short drive took us to UNC, and though I did not see enough of Durham for a fair comparison, Chapel Hill seemed like the more attractive town.

We had lunch at Top of the Hill on Franklin Street, the main drag which is lined with shops and restaurants.  Jenni made a nice southern selection of grit cake with mushrooms and shrimp.  See my BBQ post for details on the pulled pork sandwich.  This place is also a brewery.  A couple other recommendations we got were Crooks Corner in town, G2B in Durham and Foster’s Market in between.

A little further south we paid $10 to park across the street from the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, then $9 each to enter.  The village of yesteryear was our first stop, which is a big indoor circle with live demonstrations of how to make things like: soap, candles, pottery, guns, tin, origami, glass, horse hair pottery, brooms and more.  Duane Raver is a nature-painter there that Jenni’s family has known more years than I have lived.


At the Neomonde Bakery artisan bread making show, Jenni guessed correctly that 200k people are born daily worldwide.  This earned her a gratis pumpkin spice cupcake with thick cream cheese frosting.  We fared less well at several games like toss the ring on the bottle, shoot out the red star with the rifle, knock over the blocks with a softball or lift the bottle with a pole and string.  I was quite disappointed with myself.  And with the game operators who pursued customers more aggressively than Allen Iverson avoided practice.

A highlight of the day was the pig race show, which entailed a string of races including the categories of piglets, baby goats, ducks and Vietnamese pot belly pigs.  The hosts had creative NASCAR names, and some of the clientele was entertaining.

We probably should have saved our appetite for things like BBQ turkey legs, fried oreos and sloppy joe’s sandwiches between Krisy Kreme donuts.  Instead, we ate only the fair classic of fried dough.

The livestock section was educational.  I did not know a cow could fetch $25k at market, nor that Zoe the Holstein could give 84 pounds of milk per day.  For $2 each we got a quick lesson in how to pull the udder.

There was an exhibit dedicated to honey bees, largely to raise awareness about their dangerously dwindling population.  A separate building housed the rabbits, and I was surprised by the wide variety of breeds.  I liked the furry white English Agoura.


There was also an agricultural section, where we saw an 800 pound pumpkin, a 5 pound potato (and some really cool decorated spuds), and a 241 pound watermelon.  Jenni saw walnuts and thought they were truffles.  We are a long way from Cali, sweetheart.

On the drive towards Charleston I stopped for gas in Lumberton, North Carolina.  Based on the cast of characters at the station, you certainly should not if you can avoid it.  If we had more time, it would have been nice to visit the Asheville area where Dave’s mom and dad live or the Outer Banks.  Alas, one must leave with reasons to return.


We spent a couple amazing days visiting Jenni’s family in Southern Virginia, where her mom grew up.  Except for Susan, this was my first time meeting everyone.  Jenni’s grandmother, Margaret Scheier, passed away last week.  May she rest in peace.  It is a blessing that we were able to spend time with her.


October 22-24, 2013 (Tuesday-Thursday)

I knew on the drive down from D.C. that I was entering less familiar territory when some road tolls in Virginia required me to throw quarters into that plastic basket, and also when I spotted the first Confederate flag of the trip.  South Boston, VA was our destination.  It is near the border with North Carolina and the economy centers on manufacturing, which has not been easy for some time in America.  A short drive down the road is Dan River, which once was home to a textile company that sadly was the debtor in the first major bankruptcy assignment of my career.

Susan and Darrell kindly hosted us and the first night they had over nearly all Jenni’s aunts and uncles who live nearby, except James and June who were out of town.  Southern fare was in full effect, including bean stew with venison, fried chicken and fried livers, baked ham, biscuits, cornbread and jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon.  Billy brought the chicken and livers, and for his cooking prowess he is known as Billy Crocker.  Lynn informed us that grandma used to make biscuits with clabber.  Susan taught us a great trick: a mix of peanuts and candy corns makes a good treat.

Mid way through the evening some of the fellas disappeared and called Susan with instructions to gather everyone and come to the front porch.  The guys had driven across the road to the family’s property (where Jenni’s mom and her siblings grew up, though the house is now gone) and surprised us with a fireworks show!  After Devin’s in Maine, this was the second fireworks show in a few months courtesy of Jenni’s peeps.

I learned some new lingo like “fix” for cook, “reckon” for believe and “right xxx” which is hard to explain.  Molly and Hogan, Susan and Darrell’s Norwegian elk hounds, roll over when asked if they’d rather be Democrats or die.  We heard the story of how Jenni’s grandma Margaret loved the NC State Fair and each year she would get lost driving there.  She always said, “it’s OK, we’ll just the follow car in front of us because I’m sure they’re going there, too.”  As luck would have it, we were in the area during the 10 days this fair is open for the year and vowed to go.  Which you will read about it in my North Carolina post.


One of Darrell’s two sons joined with his family and there was robust discussion of hunting, fishing and noodling.  In case you don’t know, “noodling” is yanking enormous catfish out from the muddy banks of rivers with one’s hands.  These creatures are often 40-50 pounds and have been recorded well over 100 pounds!  Gloves are worn often these days to minimize flathead rash, which is the painful looking injury inflicted by catfish bites.  Even gloves will not save digits if one is unlucky enough to find a snapping turtle hole instead of catfish.

There are different hunting seasons for different animals and implements.  My memory is a tad foggy by now, so please excuse any inaccuracies or omissions.  They hunt deer and wild turkey, along with various other animals.  Bow and arrow, muzzle loader, rifle or shotgun may be used for different targets and at different times.  A heavy contraption may be used to ascend and set up a platform in the trees.  Darrell’s boys have an impressive website dedicated to the outdoorsman lifestyle.  Check it out here.


On Wednesday we went into the historic old town area and saw Susan’s friend.  The day before Jenni and I had stopped at Caffe Peroni which has a surprisingly eclectic beer selection.  A couple doors down is Bistro 1888, which is supposed to be good.  I saw a little structure selling 20 pound bags of ice 24 hours/day for $2, the first of many in the South.  Later we visited Margaret at the nursing home in Clarksville.  She was beyond thrilled to see Jenni and gave us ear to ear grins when she voiced her approval of Jenni’s good choice in marrying me.  Susan was wonderfully kind and loving to Margaret and is like the mayor there.  Afterwards, we passed a widemouth bass mailbox and crossed Buggs Island Lake before heading to Jenni’s grandpa George’s and Lucy’s home.

This is quite a special place.  George is a gifted carpenter and built much of the furniture in the home, including a bench that in a style I can only describe as pointillist writing since I don’t know the carpentry equivalent says “Caglayan” on top and “Open Sesame” on the side, which was the name of one of Alper’s companies.  George shared old photos of Jenni’s immediate family (by the way, when Devin visited at a much younger age he wore bright clothes to hunt and thus earned the name Rainbow, not Rambo) and told us his ancestors were brewers in Hungary.

He has a garage workshop where he used to make bullets, including shaping the metal and loading the powder.  He was an award winning archer.  There is a side house with an astounding collection of Native American pieces, dolls, spears, pelts of coyote, wolverine, and raccoon, and much more.

Then we got to the guns.  Tons of guns, as Guru would say.  Again my memory is foggy and I will not do this justice, but his collection includes several handguns, a Winchester 1873, the Colt equivalent of the Bushmaster AR-15, a Tommy Gun complete with violin case and all, and more.  I shot the plain old .22 rifle.  And I did the family proud.  After a couple rookie rounds, I hit my stride and from about 20-25 yards showed the paper plate who was boss!  Jenni let off a couple rounds, too.

Juices now flowing, Susan took us over to Danville to James and June’s home.  James is quite the artist.  He showed us many paintings and flawless woodwork he has crafted.  The man is passionate about wood.  (Yet again, that’s what she said.)  He sent us off with a handmade Brazilian cherry cutting board.  That night, Darrell grilled some ribeye steaks, Susan made baked potatoes and garlic bread, and we watched the Red Sox win their first of four World Series games.

Before continuing south on Thursday, we got a bit more QT with Darrell and the hunting tools.  I was slightly embarrassed when I could not draw his compound bow.  It is the wrong length for me, but more strength might have done the trick.  Darrell could not have been kinder, assuring me that it’s all about what muscles you use regularly and that even he struggles at the start of the season.  I reckon the latter was a pity nod.  Whether he struggles at the start of the season or not, he was masterful before our eyes.  He put two arrows in a blue dot the size of a plum from 40 yards out.


We drove to some property that Billy leases by the river and broke out the big guns, literally.  Darrell’s collection rivals that of grandpa George, and he generously let me empty a bunch of rounds.  Ammo is not cheap for guns like these.  I shot a Sig Sauer 9mm with a 15 round clip and The Judge, an epic piece that can shoot .410 shotgun shells or .45 long colt bullets.  The AR-15 was probably my favorite, and I was pleased to hit a log sticking out of the river perhaps 90 yards away.  I was also pleased when my hearing returned to normal a day or two later.

Here are some other things I learned in Virginia…two new superstitions: (1) touch the windshield and make a wish when driving through a yellow light; and (2) it is bad luck to exit a dwelling from a different door than that which you entered.  Jenni’s family does not mind eating with hands nor off each other’s plates, just like my family.  There are a lot of towns around here that end with “ville.”  Hard work and being down to earth command great respect, and success is not begrudged.  The Midtown Market in Danville is said to be enjoyable.  Chains include Cookout drive through with lots of milk shakes, Bojangles and Sheetz Gas.  We saw gas as low as $2.89/gallon.  Spending time with Jenni’s family was a highlight of the trip for me, and I look forward to some hunting, fishing and Billy Crocker’s frog legs and pork shoulder on my next visit.

Washington D.C.

I finally made it to Chevy Chase, Maryland to visit Seth and Jill.  It was so nice to catch up with Chloe and Jumbo and meet Cooper and Winnie.


October 20-22, 2013 (Sunday-Tuesday)

On our drive from Long Island to Maryland occurred three milestones.  1) The most expensive toll I have ever paid, $15 to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; 2) The Delaware House Travel Plaza was such a vibrant highway rest area that it earns print; and 3) We crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

The area where Seth and Jill live is great.  It really has a neighborhood feel to it.  Everyone walks with their kids to and from the elementary school.  Well, it is mainly nannies but the spirit is there.  In the weeks leading up to Halloween, ghosting abounds.  This is where you leave a bag of candy on someone’s steps, ring the bell and run.  Seriously.  “Bag of candy” is not code for some nefarious prank.  This is how they roll on the gentle streets of Chevy Chase.


Nearby, on the rough and tumble blocks of Bethesda, we grabbed coffee at Dunkin Donuts where Seth and Cooper are famous.  Then we walked around Georgetown and got lunch at J. Paul’s.  My reuben was quite good and Jenni ensured we did not go too many days without a lobster roll.  We were both impressed by Georgetown.


Jenni placed it high on the list of locations to consider living.  It is a beautiful area with colorful row homes, right on the Potomac River, and the university campus is pretty.  Commercial activity centers around Wisconsin Ave and M Street, and there are a few F&B spots down by the river.  Tucker drove down from Baltimore which was awesome; I love that dude.

While waiting for drinks at Saxbys Coffee, which has flavors like Grasshopper and Chunky Monkey, Seth asked Tucker a toilet question.  He said, “you told me you know how to curve wood so maybe you know something about plumbing.”  A candidate for that’s what she said?

Near the Mall, after Seth pulled an outrageous U-turn that should have alarmed the Secret Service, we debated whether the depressing David’s Tent display was a tent rental company or Jesus preacher.  It is the latter.  The buildings in D.C. are most impressive, and I believe the law still limits height to not exceed the United States Capitol.  This makes D.C. feel more light and airy than a typical large city.  The Washington Monument was covered in scaffolding but we saw the relatively new WWII Memorial across the pond from Lincoln.

That night, the Giants finally won a game (the first of four straight) and Jenni was a trooper while we perused boxes of old Tufts photos.  I already miss the Cohen family and look forward to returning soon!

New York: City and Wedding

I lived in New York for over six years, which is like 12 years elsewhere since New York moves twice the speed of any other place in America.  I am always happy to return.  My employed visits entailed non-stop meetings and business meals.  This time, I took more of a tourist approach and slowed it down a bit.


October 14-20, 2013 (Monday-Sunday)

We arrived to Jack’s place in the East Village and had dinner with John and Ellie (Jenni’s friends from Cornell) at Café Mogador on St. Marks Place.  It is a cozy, subterranean spot with good food.

OK, I am having a hard time writing at this moment but feel compelled to catch up more so please excuse me as I do this post in bullet format…

  • Bagels, lots of them…tasty sable sandwich at Russ and Daughters
  • I love the energy of New York…it is not an exaggeration to say that in a five block radius one can find an assortment of restaurants, bars, shops and ethnicities to rival most mid-sized cities in America…actually, said blocks would easily surpass in the ethnicity category
  • The electronic walk signs count down the seconds remaining until the light changes, and when I cross an avenue I like gazing at the synchronized wall of vehicles approaching a few blocks away since all the lights are timed…and unlike in Los Angeles, you might get a ticket for not jay-walking


  • I had my first experience at a TKTS booth…we walked from the East Village down to the South Street Seaport location and got two tickets to Jersey Boys for $177, not a small sum but a substantially discounted price for very good seats dead center in orchestra Row T.  The show was very good and a nice cultural injection since we so rarely see plays or musicals
  • After the show we had drinks with John at Annie Moore’s Bar, and while I figured this Irish pub next to Grand Central would slant towards men, I did not expect that Jenni would be the only woman in the establishment
  • For the first time I saw strollers with neat skateboard like attachments so the toddler can ride along and keep up with the adults pushing the infant
  • The Maine style lobster roll I got from the Red Hook Lobster Pound booth at Madison Eats rivaled anything I got in Maine…it might have been the best of the trip, with a dusting of paprika and perfectly buttery, toasted split top roll
Roberta's pizza at Mad Eats

Roberta’s pizza at Mad Eats

  • Eataly is pretty impressive with its huge selection of Italian food and beverage and rooftop restaurant
  • While watching Project X briefly before dinner at Redhead with Emily, Mike and Jayme, Jenni said “I bet this makes everyone in the world nostalgic for college.  Except Jack, because I bet it makes him nostalgic for last Tuesday night.”
  • For old time’s sake, I got my haircut at the legendary Astor Place
  • Despite unemployment, we paid the full freight $50 for two tickets to the Met…if you don’t know, ticket prices are merely a suggestion and you can enter free, but I decided to atone for some past transgressions.  The roof top affords some of the best views in Manhattan
  • We had a fun, Tufts group dinner at DBGB (solid burger) where I ran into Eduardo who is the sommelier and was an acquaintance in Los Angeles…so, Doug, I misspoke and there were at least three chance encounters on the road trip
  • Before meeting Ross for drinks at the swank top floor bar of the James Hotel, Jenni and I popped into The Dutch for a snack.  We were not dressed terribly well and struggled to understand the extraordinary treatment we received.  Sitting at the crowded bar, we did not even order alcoholic beverages and along with our lattes and two small dishes we ordered came cornbread, an extra oyster sandwich, broccoli gougeres and a piece of key lime pie with coconut sorbet.  Did they recognize alisnotlost and butitsonmylist?!
  • I rode public transportation more in a few days in New York than eight years in Los Angeles
  • Over drinks at The Wren I concluded that the pickleback has gone mainstream…someone even told me of a bar that offers several flavors of pickle juice.  This is a good development
  • We had lunch with cousins Nina and Jonathan at the Breslin and then saw Jonathan again the next day at my grandma Elsie’s house along with Mickey and Sharon.  Elsie just turned 97 years old!!  I always considered her house décor less than attractive, but Jenni was enthralled by the mid-century modern…and some outstanding photos of me and my family from days past!
  • My policy is to be sparse when discussing friends’ weddings, but I have to say a few things about Phil and Eileen’s nuptial bash, in addition to the supreme Guinness served at the Viana…
Did this spark the 4-game win streak?

Did this spark the 4-game win streak?

  • At the rehearsal dinner, Phil’s father spoke in Russian and Phil translated…it was pretty neat to see Phil talking about himself through his father’s voice
  • At the wedding itself, there was a pre-cocktail nearly hour with drinks, then a cocktail hour+, then a reception that lasted until about 2 am…with a bottle of cognac and Russian standard vodka on each table…then an after-party…I went to bed around 6:30 am


  • Jenni had to drive the next day down to Seth and Jill’s house in Maryland, and Jenni had gone to bed not that much earlier…she was a tad displeased

So that was our time in New York in a nutshell.  Countless details omitted.  There is so much to see and do in New York and I make no attempt to offer comprehensive guidance, but in addition to the “usual” websites like Yelp or Tripadvisor or Citysearch (does that still exist?), you may find useful information at,,,, and I’m sure lots of others…

New Hampshire + Massachusetts (Part II), and Frieda’s poem!

I spent some time in Longmeadow (Jenni went back to Maine for some of this time) where I grew up.  My grandparents moved there from Queens at the beginning of the year, so in addition to my Mom and Rich I also spent time with David and Frieda.  Then we all drove up together to Bretton Wodds, New Hampshire to celebrate Frieda’s 90th birthday (my fourth grandparent to have a 90th birthday!!) and her and David’s 70th wedding anniversary (my second set of grandparents to have a 70th anniversary!!!!).  I have some massive shoes to fill in terms of life and marital longevity 🙂


Omni Mount Washington

October 6-14, 2013 (Sunday-Monday)

The masochist in me asked my Mom to tape the Giants vs. Eagles game so I could watch yet another defeat as soon as I got home.  Followed by a heartbreaker vs. the Bears on Thursday night.  Since Kenny is at Kellogg, we seriously considered attending that game at Solider Field.  I am very thankful we did not.

Time in Longmeadow included meals at Glenmeadow (the retirement community where David and Frieda live), working out at JCC, visiting the travel clinic at Mercy Medical Center (Jen was super helpful and kind and it cost $25 vs. the $95 I pay in LA), sending out personalized Samburu splash bash letters, getting large quantities of passport photos for visas etc. (we “borrowed” the white screen at CVS for background to use with iPhoto passport pic software), catching up on Boardwalk Empire and Bill Maher, a little tennis at the Field Club, MLB playoffs, and more.

I am elated to see how well my grandparents have settled into their new homes.  They really are extraordinary.  They pretty much never complain.  I may have already written this elsewhere, but if you ask how the Springfield Symphony is they never say anything like “it’s OK but doesn’t compare to the NY Philharmonic”.  They just say “it’s fabulous.”  You would be hard-pressed to find a pair who goes emotionally to that nostalgic sad place less frequently.  I also love how much my grandpa disdains white meat chicken.  If there is a menu option that includes chicken, as soon as the waitress says white meat he shuts down the conversation.

Burger quality was high in Western Mass.  Jenni and I visited Max Burger in the middle of Longmeadow.  This is a pretty hip spot where I had the half-pound Alfred burger with Comte, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli plus I added bacon.  I chose a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from many draught options.  A couple days later I completed a solo mission to White Hut on my way to the travel clinic.  White Hut is legendary in this area.

It has been around since 1939.  While it is much the same it has always been, there were actually noticeable changes since I was last there.  They added a big menu sign, soft serve ice cream and shakes, raised the prices a bit and now accept credit cards.  It used to be cash only and they would always give half-dollar coins as change, if possible.  Most remarkable, there is now an Amherst location!  At the original, the flat top, metal stools with red tops and fridge full of Stewart’s remain the same.  As do both the perfect tasting thin and greasy cheeseburger with fried onions and the hot dog.

The Tuesday afternoon Forest Park farmer’s market was a welcome surprise.  My Mom had a u-shaped table set-up with lots of jewelry she makes.  The rest of the market was small but efficient.  Instead of several different types of each vendor, there was only one or two but the offerings still included lots of vegetables, meat, fresh eggs, seafood, dog food, jams and syrups, kettle corn etc.  Mom is kind of the mayor…everywhere she knows lots of people and is perhaps the most gregarious person you will encounter.

I'd direct you to her website, but...

I’d direct you to her website, but…

There is a Somali family that moved to Springfield years ago and my Mom has been very involved in their lives to help ease the transition.  Wednesday night we grabbed a couple pies from Pizza Works and had dinner together.  The parents were out, so it was just us and the TEN kids.  This family of 12 lives in a small apartment with ONE bathroom.  I helped Teta (sp?) with his math homework and then we bounced.  From my limited interaction, I suspect if these kids had the same educational opportunities and parental involvement that most of us had, they would be just as likely to succeed.

On Friday we set off for a long weekend in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  I noticed my grandpa’s tire was very low so we stopped at a service station in Longmeadow where they convinced us to replace all four tires lest we have a blowout doing 75 on the highway.  This delayed us a couple hours but hey, better safe than sorry.  So we head up, stop in Brattleboro at exit 2 on I-91 in Vermont for the amazing Vermont Country Deli and then continue.  And as I am driving 75 in the left lane, wouldn’t ya know it:  TIRE BLOWOUT.  WTF?!?!?!  I guess they gave us some defective tires.  We called AAA but in the interim a true good Samaritan pulled over and backed up to help us change the tire.  He told us he was the youngest of 13 children and was raised right.  My grandpa tried to give him $20 but almost got run over as the man pulled away.

With that little mishap behind us, we exited the highway for Route 302 and drove through charming towns like Wells River, Littleton and Bethlehem before arriving at 4 pm to the impressive Omni Mount Washington Resort.  That night we had a very solid dinner at Stickney’s which is a pub, steakhouse and more.  The cheddar and ale dip was great, as were the ribeye and NY strip that Kenny and I split.


My Mom had a great quote about my Dad, something to the effect of “they always said at Brown if you want to go out at night find Leavitt, but don’t ask him to cut class.”  I am not sure they really said that, but if you know Ronnie it was pretty hilarious.  Which reminds me of an even better quote that you will appreciate if you know Ronnie.  Last time we were all at Peter Luger in Great Neck talking about travel to developing countries.  And she said “that’s what I love about it, no privacy.”

91, I said

91, I said

Time at the resort included fun tennis games on red clay (shout out to David, looking mighty fine at 91 YEARS OLD!); live music and bar shuffleboard at the Cave (Kenny and I beat this couple 16-0, even though you only play to 15); mailing our taxes from the on-site post office; seeing the room in which the agreement establishing the IMF was signed in 1944; great lunches at the Golf Shed; walks on the paths by/through the golf course; playing a fun new game called Anomia; playing patterns, a family special that Leslie brought to us many moons ago; hot tub; and more.


The property is gorgeous.  The lobby is a long room with white columns and hardwood floors.  I believe it would not be out of place in SoHo, except for the moose head above the fire place.  Breakfast was a good buffet spread with many options.  The service is definitely lacking.  The effort is there but the execution needs work.


The time with family was fantastic, as always.  The three grandkids (Kenny, Sam and I) live in Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles but we all made it to this out-of-the-way destination.

The main event was Saturday night when we gathered pre-dinner for champagne and gifts.  I wore my tuxedo for the special occasion.  David and Frieda said what they are most proud of in life is their family and how well we all get along and come together.

Sorry to belabor the point, but I cannot stress enough how much I love and admire them.  My grandpa had his own animal hospital in Queens and did well, but the key is that they always spent on experiences and not goods.  They lived in the same modest house in Queens for over 60 years but traveled all over the world and spent generously on countless family trips and vacations and education for all of us.


It has become a tradition for the grandkids to write a poem/rap to David or Frieda (and my mom for her 65th) for these major birthday events.  I have pasted below what we wrote, for your reading pleasure.  The night and whole weekend were a great success!


Impressive pumpkin carving

For Frieda’s 90th birthday:

Once upon a time back in ‘23

The world’s greatest grandma came to be

Born in Borough Park, she was such a gem

Yes, a Diamond, and the youngest of them

Jennie and Phillip made a proper Jewish home

But when college came, it was time to roam

Cornell was the call, Balch was the hall

Grandpa was lucky, cutest gal at the ball

With flawless Regents she was a natural grammarian

And for her love of reading, became a librarian

From Alcott to Hampl, she knows good books

That perfect combo of brains and good looks

Frequents the symphony, she’s so cosmopolitan

Been to Burma, and each exhibit at the Metropolitan

Does crossword puzzles and quite the film critic

Packs a mean matzo ball even though she’s arthritic

Noodle kugel, potato pie and apple cake

Oh sugar, the lady can bake!

The number one fan of the New York great Knicks

After the roast chicken I be giving my plate licks

She’s so charmin’ it’s almost alarmin’

Always globe trottin’ with the Harmons

Aboard the QE2 it almost got legal

Accused of impersonating the Queen, but she’s just that regal

Silk shirt and pearls, parasol for the sun

Wears a lot of black and white, but she ain’t no nun

Nor is she loquacious, never mendacious

But definitely sagacious and perspicacious

Even though Migis threw a lobster-induced hissy

Grandma keeps us in good stead at Quisi

That’s no surprise since she’s always so classy

Brings the diplomacy when Ronnie gets sassy

She carries David in duplicate bridge

Despite that her man bought the wrong fridge

And so here we are, it’s been 70 years

Very few tears but a whole lot of cheers!

Now back to Frieda, there’s nobody sweetah

To join your party, we ran here like cheetahs

You’re an inspiration, a comforting soul

You bring us elation, and make us all whole

Rhode Island: Newport

We spent a lovely weekend in Newport celebrating the marriage of our dear friends Matt and Jaimie.  Camera issues seem to have arisen as I can only find one photo of the weekend that is not the ladies getting ready.

October 4-6, 2013 (Friday-Sunday)

Jenni was (co) maid of honor so we knew Friday afternoon was likely our only time for a tourist activity in Newport.  We parked at Easton’s Beach for the Cliff Walk which runs along the ocean and past some of the magnificent estates for which Newport is famous.  Tours are available for several of the homes (Breakers is probably the most well-known) but we had limited time so we just walked and gawked.

This is a beautiful area, but I did experience another bout of shame for government to coincide with the federal shutdown.  A long stretch of the walk remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.  Of course it was a devastating and tragic storm, but this was a year later.  And the website for the Cliff Walk as I write this says it will be closed until June 2014.  Seriously?!  We are not talking about an astounding marvel of engineering here.  It is a sidewalk that runs along the water, and it is a major tourist attraction.  I was stunned this could not be repaired promptly.  OK, done venting.

Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk

Anyway, there were meters where we parked and it was nice to do the whole walk but I think you could park closer to the big mansions near Narragansett Ave which may also be free.  Oh, we jumped the fence and walked the closed part, too.

We stayed at the Hotel Viking which was very nice and had a great location on Bellevue Ave, a main street just up the hill from the waterfront.  For you tennis fans, the hall of fame with grass courts is just up the road.  Across the street from the Viking was a nice spot for a late lunch called Le Petit Gourmet.

The welcome party was at the Newport Harbor Hotel and afterwards a big group went to the Rhino Bar for drinks and general debauchery.  We partied with the pirates there (true) before walking back to the hotel late at night.  The block where the hotel sits looks like a small town in England or Ireland (I am imagining this as have only been to London) which makes it pretty neat to sit on the brick patio and absorb the surroundings.

The next day I was hurt and did not do much other than Boardwalk Empire and some college football.  On my way to the ceremony at the chapel around the corner, I had just my second exciting chance encounter of the trip.  I saw Dana, one of my favorite law school compatriots who I had not seen in several years.

The wedding was a blast and they had a great DJ who played lots of 80s and 90s music and especially hip-hop.  I was impressed how many guests knew all the lyrics, both guys and gals.  My optional tuxedo was very well-received, and that made me happy.  It ended up being a late night between the after-party at the bar, the after-after party in their suite and the after-after-after party out on the patio.  I was schooled in the way of McGillicuddy’s and Irish exits.  Kait’s fiancé Sean told me about this car show in the UK that sounds fun, I am not certain but think it is the Goodwood Revival Car Show.

The next morning we said goodbye before hitting Wendy’s drive-thru and some back roads to Longmeadow, where I grew up.  I really enjoyed getting to know Matt and Jaimie’s families and friends.  It was a great group and a wonderful celebration!

Massachusetts: Part I

We headed back “home” to Massachusetts and specifically to Concord (where Jenni grew up post-Arlington), Westford (where Devin lives), Cambridge and Tufts University (where I went to undergrad).


October 2-4, 2013 (Wednesday-Friday)

This was my first time in Westford, Massachusetts, and it is a charming New England town.  And I highly recommend Meat Again which is a butcher and deli.  We got some great marinated meats and sausages that Devin grilled (perfectly) that night and I had my first ever buffalo chicken salad sandwich.  It was on a large, oblong sesame bun and was delicious.  That afternoon we went around the corner from Devin’s house to Burges Pond for a nice woodsy loop hike with the dogs.


It is also the site of the East Boston Camps.  The weather was unseasonably warm in the 80s.  At night, Jenni’s parents and then Devin’s friends from Ithaca joined us for dinner.  I hit the hay after a Samburu board call to focus on the Splash Bash.


Devin made pancakes and continued his run as a superb host.  That reminds me I forgot to mention in the Chicago post but both Kenny and Devin forfeited their comfy beds for me and Jenni…dems some good bros.  We went into Boston where I saw more Big Belly Solar trash compactors.  Then we parked in Harvard Square for lunch at Mr. Bartley’s, which is something of a burger institution.  There is a vast selection of combinations, including the Obamacare which is described as “NOBODY KNOWS WHAT’S IN IT!…ask the liberal sitting next to you” and the cost is listed as “$ Trillions.”  Out front was a chalkboard proclaiming “Order an Obamacare and we’ll shut down the grill and go home!”  I got the Gabriel Gomez burger and it was better than I remembered.

Harvard Square is a fun place to walk around.  I bought some Eagle Creek packing cubes at EMS and we scoped this public piano, which is pretty neat.  We saw more in New Orleans and I will write a touch more on the movement there.


We took Mass Ave to distance ourselves from this cauldron of ignorance and explore the truly fine bastion of brilliance known as Tufts University.  The view of downtown from the library roof is still nice, and a police officer waived to me as though he remembered me.  The DTD house has been restored to, and far beyond, its former glory.


It was so nice and clean that we had no choice but to question the partying credentials of current brothers.

But not this guy

But not this guy

After recounting to Jenni and Devin the three stories I can remember, we squeezed in a nice Frisbee sesh on the academic quad.


I was relieved to confirm that Espresso Pizza is very much open for business, despite malignant rumors to the contrary.  After stopping in Concord to see Jenni’s parents and the deck construction progress, we went back to Devin’s and watched The Internship which was very funny.


The next morning we took off for Newport, Rhode Island and Matt and Jaimie’s wedding!

Maine: Biddeford

Jenni’s parents have a house in Biddeford, Maine, which means I now have the good fortune of lounging with family, great views and copious lobster.


September 27 – October 2 (Friday-Wednesday) – It was another milestone day as we reached the Atlantic Ocean!  And what a warm welcome, it was: a couple bottles of Sancerre, a lobster roll, the hot tub with great stars, then some late night snacking on chunks of lobster straight to the dome.

Beyaz and us humans were joined Saturday morning by Devin and his two dogs: Louie the huge bull mastiff and Ryder the adorable Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  Watching these two play together warms the heart.


After another lobster roll, Alper, Devin and I played some tennis at their club’s Har-Tru court around the corner.  75 and sunny, tennis, a pond to one side and the ocean to the other.  Life is good.  Then it got even better with MORE LOBSTER at night, this time in the shell.  Jenni’s parents bought one lobster for each grown-up and two for each kid, and they were phenomenal.  My wife attacked these crustaceans with a ferocity that was almost alarming, yet I who nearly drank my plate of greenish salt water with lobster slime butter should not judge.  A great Chablis Premier Cru, some fireworks Devin had brought and This is the End (transferred from his computer to a USB stick inserted into the TV, yes this novice is always amazed by technology) capped the evening.


Days in Maine are filled with tennis, wine, cheese, lobster, hot tub, reading and more.  On the court I made solid contact on a ‘tweener but it landed long.  I finished Investment Biker in Vermont and have been reading Delivering Happiness.  As the Giants got whooped yet again, I could focus more on my book.  Much of what Tony Hsieh writes resonates with me and mirrors some of my notions in embarking on this journey.  He was always hard-working and intellectually curious, deeply values his personal relationships and lives by the philosophy that experiences are much more important than material items.  He believes that you can change anything if you make a conscious and deliberate effort to overcome inertia.  I think it was in this book I came across the Kierkegaard quote: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”


I made fires in the evenings and Alper dubbed me Bodaway, a Native American name for fire maker.  He did so during a brief interlude between sessions espousing the merits of passive solar.  Maine is definitely Jenni’s happy place.  She really likes to converse with the dogs and interpret what they would say in various situations.  She also loves to speak in accents and sing with all her might LeAnn Rimes’ cover of I Will Always Love You.

One day Jenni and I took a long walk on the beach down to the nunnery and then to their friend’s house where we debated the relative merits of being on the beach vs. set back on the hill with more of a view (like her parent’s home).  I believe they call such dilemmas “1% problems.”

The day I drove back and forth to Portland twice, once for a software update at the Apple store at the mall and once to the Volvo dealership after we had to jump-start Sven yet again…well, that was not a highlight.  At least we had more lobster rolls from Pool Street Market (fka Mike’s) which we enjoyed despite the swarming mosquitoes near the house.  The Portland Volvo dealership was very friendly and helpful.  Their best guess as to Sven’s ailment was some gobbledygook about an RDAR software update to prevent the satellite radio tuner from staying on even after the ignition was switched off.  This, despite that we do not have even satellite radio activated.  While it is not clear we have left Sven parked long enough to cause the battery drain since that day, we have not had any more problems.  It is disappointing that the dealers in Chicago and Vermont never addressed this software update.

Our last night in Maine it was just me and Jenni.  We had dinner at Cape Pier Chowder House in Kennebunkport.  We split a bowl of clam chowder that was really thick.  Which reminds me that Jenni is now officially addicted to the phrase “that’s what she said.”  I admit it is a fun game, and called for remarkably often.  Anyway, the chowder was great and the lobster rolls were good.  These are a more traditional version, with a good amount of meat on a buttered, toasted hot dog bun.  My gripe is the mayo and seasoning were too light.  She washed it down with a glass of sauvignon blanc and I with a Shipyard (Portland microbrew) Export draught.  The setting is the quintessential Maine harbor with a lighthouse and many fishing and lobster boats.

By the way, today the US government shut down.  I had my fifth and sixth rounds of lobster, so I was not too sick to my stomach to eat.  And I did feel fortunate that none of our national park visits were affected, yet deeply ashamed of my country.  Imagine if you were a European tourist visiting the US to see our national parks and were turned away at the entrance due to shenanigans in Washington, D.C.  That most certainly is more characteristic of a developing country than a global leader.

On our way out of Maine we stopped at the Cape Porpoise Kitchen which is a deli and gourmet market.  I had a good breakfast sandwich that was like an upscale version of the McDonald’s sausage McMuffin with egg.  More important, they offer a Maine crab and dill havarti sandwich that sounds so good, and they sell Elki bacon and blue cheese whipped mustard.  We continued to have amazing weather on this trip and it was a perfect time to be here.  Still warm enough, beautiful foliage and no crowds.

Vermont: Burlington

Vermont is beautiful this time of year and we were thrilled to have four nights of QT with family.


September 23-27, 2013 (Monday-Friday)

 I am trying a new format at least for now, partly to save time and partly because I suspect the full day-by-day recount is more detail than you care about and more than I will ever need to recall.

We entered Vermont and drove through the charming town of Vergennes before dropping Sven at another Volvo dealership for his scheduled check up.  This place was around the corner from my Dad’s house (which is actually in Shelburne and not Burlington), and I cannot say we were thrilled when they charged us money to check the battery and bumper while everything is under warranty.

View from the house

View from the house

Our first full day here we hiked Camel’s Hump with my Dad and Olivia (Linda’s dog).  The drive takes us by pastoral rolling hills and town halls.  There are stone walls, rushing streams and a dirt road for the last stretch.  This is a great day hike…it is challenging but not extreme and has a nice forested trail that opens to a summit with expansive views.  I believe the stats are 4.8 miles roundtrip and about 2,300 vertical feet.  Hiking here often takes longer than in California because the footing is more difficult.

The top was very cold and windy but the clear views and abundance of loved ones warmed our souls.  Olivia put on quite a show, running ahead then circling back to be sure everyone was still coming.  The entire time, non-stop.  Then she had an epic play session at the landing near the summit with another hiker’s Austrian cattle dog mix.  They were each extraordinarily quick.  We picked my Dad’s brain re Ethiopia, Nepal, etc.  Which was nice because the man’s memory is like a steel-trap, he can recall where he and my Mom went and why 40 years ago.

Atop Camel's Hump

Atop Camel’s Hump

That night we had dinner with Dani and Dorota from Merrill Lynch at the spectacular Shelburne Farms, which is very near my Dad’s house.  In addition to thousands of acres that Frederick Law Olmsted helped design with functional farm and educational use, there is a lodge and classy dining room with embossed red walls, white and black tiled floors and a large fire place.  The room was not that much smaller than Chicago Cut and probably had one-third the tables.  The braised lamb gnocchi special was excellent, and the Bethel Heights pinot noir I selected from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA was tasty.  I enjoyed putting into action some knowledge earned on this trip.

My Dad has some kayaks which we all took out for a couple hours.  A little way’s down the lake shore is the La Platte River.  We saw lots of turtles and some great blue herons.  The water level was quite low and the river became impassable (without portage) sooner than is typical.

One day we took my Dad’s boat (after jump-starting the dead battery, becoming a theme on this trip) into Burlington to walk around and have lunch.  The lake was a little rough but not too bad as we did not have to cross because our start and end were on the eastern shore.  Views of the Adirondacks to the west were nice.  We docked the boat and passed a place selling maple creamies (what Vermonters call soft-serve) then walked up College Street.

Church Street here is akin to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, only with more New England class.  Burlington is a wonderful little town with shops, restaurants, bars, the University of Vermont, live music (Grace Potter, one of Jenni’s favorites and a Vermont native, often plays here), liberal attitudes and more.

After a quick stop for free sunglass repairs at Reid’s EyeCare of Vermont, we ate lunch outside on Church Street at Sweetwaters after Leunig’s Bistro would not allow dogs, even on the patio.  The pulled pork nachos were delicious.


Special thanks to the ladies at Merrill Lynch who not only came up with the idea but helped us facilitate executing a power of attorney so Mike could access our safe deposit box in Los Angeles and send us Jenni’s passport so we could start working on visas for India and China.  Not only did we accomplish an important task, we learned about the under-desk elliptical trainer, which I will have to purchase if I encounter the misfortune of one day sitting at a desk again.


We had some hors d’oeuvres and beers at Reid and Jane’s lovely place on the lake.  Jenni and I have debated the merits of lakes vs. oceans.  There is something special about the beach, salt-water and great wide open ocean.  But I prefer swimming in lakes and enjoy views encompassing land on the other side, especially when backed by mountains.  By the way, all the pics below are from/of my Dad’s house…


At last I got to play some tennis on this trip.  My Dad is still pretty good at 68 years old, and I love playing on Har-Tru instead of hard courts.  We cranked out a bit of international travel research while here, a never-ending endeavor.  A great benefit of being on the road is exposure to new ideas and insight gained through conversations, be they with strangers, friends or family.  For example, my Dad and Linda told us about Blue Apron, which might be of interest to those of you who like to cook but have limited time.  Vermont-specific recommendations included the Starry Night Café, Hotel Vermont, American Flatbread restaurant and Heady Topper beer.

I am grateful for this time we got to spend with my Dad and Linda, it was truly a delight.  And very nice to enjoy his amazing property for likely the last time before he sells it.

New York: Anniversary in Ithaca

Jenni went to Cornell University for undergrad and Ithaca is a lovely town in upstate New York, so we figured this would be a nice place to spend our one-year anniversary.  By coincidence, it was also Homecoming Weekend.

September 21, 2013 (Saturday) – Armed with Dunkin Donuts coffee we set off for Ithaca.  The leaves have begun to change but the colors are not yet in full effect.  We arrived around 1 pm and checked into a nice room at the Statler with a view over the clock tower and hills.


You may know that Cornell has a hotel school of world-renown.  The Statler functions as both an upscale lodging property and training grounds for some of these students.

Alumni and students were swarming and we were glad to be rid of Sven for the day.  We picked up tickets and Jenni received the alum gift of a wine glass contraption that excited her.


Outside the stadium was a large paved area with lots of sections and tents for various schools (i.e. law, business, liberal arts, etc.).  We bought wine in the drink section near a food station serving Dinosaur BBQ before realizing we would get six drink tickets and free food at the arts and science tent.  The BBQ pulled chicken with coleslaw on a roll was surprisingly good.

It began to rain and we headed into the stadium to watch Big Red take on Bucknell.  Is there a more laughable mascot than Big Red?!  Both of my mom’s parents and my wife (i.e. nearly my three favorite people in the world) attended Cornell University, but c’mon.  Worse still were all the attendees who with their existing or impending Ivy League degrees could not figure out that using an umbrella inside a stadium might obstruct views and lead to rain pouring in unnatural ways onto others.  Seeing Jenni so happy to be back made this but a minor inconvenience.


We tore ourselves away from this world-class sporting event as College Town Bagels (aka CTB) beckoned.  I do not know if all Cornellians feel the same way, but if you asked Jenni to encapsulate her college experience in one phrase, it would likely be CTB.  Were she forced to choose between me and CTB, well…Given that it was really pouring by now and homecoming weekend, I was surprised to find CTB merely crowded and not a madhouse.


We split the Vegetarian from a massive selection of bagel sandwiches and related items.  It consists of veggie cream cheese, tomato and melted Muenster cheese served open face on your choice of bagel.  Which for me was the rosemary salt bagel, a superb selection, indeed.  With the obligatory pitcher of sangria we snagged a picnic table under cover before moving inside.

I do not feel old, but I did make a mental note that since the newly arrived freshman are in the class of 2017, I graduated college when they were born.  Unfazed, we walked over to see Jenni’s sophomore year house and I insisted we try to enter.  We disclosed to the group of guys living there now that we are from Los Angeles and one had a Dodgers shirt on but I said I was not that into baseball.  He replied that this was now the baseball house.  The bookshelf filled with dip cans should have tipped me off.


Next we walked to Jenni’s senior year apartment and entered a random unit with youngins preparing for a centennial Tri-Delt formal party.  Everyone was pretty friendly and respectful of this aged writer.

With the old palaces and castles segment of the walking tour complete, we hit the dive bar Dunbar’s for an $11 pitcher of Shock Top.  We struck up conversation with a few other patrons when I offered them some of our beer.  This is often an effective method.  Apparently Rulloff’s is a better option for later in the evening.  Instead, as Dunbar’s emptied out, Jenni got some pad thai from the Asian Noodle House (not near as good as she remembered) and I hit CTB for the second time.  Partly to honor my grandparents who went to Cornell and lived in Queens for 60 years, I ordered the…Queens.  Which is a bagel with egg salad, tomato and bacon.  The Vegetarian is better, but it was still good.

September 22, 2013 (Sunday) – Today was our one-year anniversary!  We agreed that we are in a much different place physically and spiritually than we would have guessed on our wedding day.  A stroll downhill took us to Carriage House Café for brunch.  Jenni raves about the brie-stuffed French toast here maybe even more than about CTB.  But let’s be clear, I am not contradicting my earlier statements.  This is but one dish, whereas CTB is a way of life.  Initially told the wait would be an hour, Jenni advertised our anniversary and 15 minutes later we were lounging on a couch perusing the menu.

The French toast with berry coulis is very good, but the hype was a tad too much for me to overcome.  We were denied mimosas by the antiquated law forbidding alcohol service before noon on Sunday.

The up hill walk burned off a quarter nibble and we heard Coldplay emanating from the clock tower.  It drizzled on us a bit but cleared up and we walked all over the attractive campus.  Check out the neat permaculture exhibit/bench below.

In the afternoon we picked up Sven, cruised by the impressive Greek houses and parked down in town.  We saw that Michael Franti was playing at the State Theater tonight, and two minutes later we saw Michael Franti standing on the corner.  We walked up and down the Commons which had the entire middle area torn up for construction.  There are lots of shops and some bars and restaurants.  We went into a used bookstore and I miraculously resisted adding a Biggie book to our storage locker.


Ah the everyday struggle

I confirmed that boba (aka bubble) tea and Thai food are everywhere before heading back to the hotel to watch the end of the Giants’ weekly embarrassment.  We headed downstairs for a cocktail in the bar lounge before our 6:30 pm anniversary dinner at Taverna Banfi.


The charcuterie plate was very good, though it needed a little more cheese to balance out the meats.  We also split a seared feta grapefruit salad and Jenni got the cavatelli Bolognese.  My duck was outstanding, with a maple parsnip puree and brussels sprouts alongside.  They started us with free glasses of champagne for our anniversary and the bottle of 2009 Foxen pinot noir we had was outright wonderful and an even better value.  A successful anniversary!

September 23, 2013 (Monday) – One more stop at CTB and we departed for Burlington, Vermont to visit my Dad and Linda.  Throughout this bucolic area we saw many farms, rivers, wildflowers and signs for maple syrup soft serve.  The town of Greene, New York looked nice, as did the Sherwood Inn.  There are towns here with a divided Main Street with cars parked head-on at angles in the middle.  We noticed statues of union soldiers and crossed the Chenango River.

We drove up the western side of Lake George which is a popular resort area.  This brought us back to the land of painfully slow speed limits and above-ground pools.  In Crown Point we visited Gunnison Lakeshore Orchards and got a fancy (as opposed to utility) half peck of apples for $8 shortly before crossing the bridge to Vermont.