Saturday, April 23, 2022

My trip to the Berlin Wall

This is for my nephew Frederick with whom I discuss 20th European history. Luckily, he wasn't around wanting to discuss history when I was a history major. I only developed a true interest when I started a project to read American history backward. I haven't gotten out of the 1930s yet, but I have expanded the geographical focus of my reading. 

The memories I don't want to forget about my 1976 trip to Berlin might also be of interest to Frederick. Or not. Or you. Or not. But here they are.

I was traveling on a Eurail Pass around Europe in May 1976. Eurail would take me all over West Germany but as I recall it could not pass through East Germany to get to Berlin. I flew. Pan Am was my only choice but maybe because I flew Pan Am back and forth to Europe. At any rate, I was on a Pan Am jet - no idea what the models were in those days - when the pilot got on to say that he was sure we had noticed that we were flying very low (I think it might have been 10,000 feet) because the East German government would not allow flights at higher altitudes for fear of spying by the West.

We arrived at the Berlin airport without any issues. West Berlin did not feel much different than the West. I went to my Hilton (every so many days I gave up my attempt at my modified-backpacking lifestyle and moved into a first-class American hotel). The Berlin Hilton was on the Kurfurstendamm. I think it may be a Waldorf property now. It was close to the zoo. Mainly after spending nights either in cheap hotels or on the train, what I remember most is that it had room service and American Armed Forces TV. I consumed a lot of both although I do remember watching The Waltons in German. Probably the only time I ever watched The Waltons but I knew enough about the show to appreciate the closing when everyone said Gute Nacht.

In 1976, World War II had been over for thirty-one years.  It ended before I was born. It seemed as if it was ancient history and yet, at the same time, as if it had happened yesterday. I couldn't help guessing the ages of the people I passed on the street to judge if they had lived through the war. Not just the war, the rise of Hitler, the end-of-the-war bombing, the occupation. I could not imagine having lived through such troubled times, yet I couldn't help wondering whose side they were on. I didn't experience these feelings as intently in other German cities as I did in Berlin. In Berlin, the war was still visible. Berliners were living in a divided city. 

Absolutely random thought: I am shocked that I forget so much but recall a wall of Shirley MacClain posters. She was wearing something short and doing a high kick. Now ask me something important.

I did most of my sightseeing in West Berlin although I can't recall much of what I saw. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church tower stands out as one of the visible artifacts of the war. I strolled the Ku'Damm as I learned to call it. I went to the zoo where I developed an affection for a gorilla who caught my eye and seemed to be saying to me: Do you believe this? I used to be the King of Jungle and now I am in this glass box so that people can come by and stare at me. What happened to me? I thought we had bonded although years later I learned that when a gorilla makes eye contact with you, it is a hostile gesture. Nonetheless, I developed a real fondness for all gorillas because of that one.

I spent a Sunday afternoon in the park with a lot of Berliners. I think it was the Tiergarten with a large fountain where fathers sailed boats with their kids. Never again did I walk through a park on a Sunday afternoon and not think about all the people doing exactly the same thing around the world. (Given time delays.)

What I remember most about West Berlin is my trip to the wall. I thought it was appropriate that the wall cut behind the Reichstag. I wished the Nazis could see what their activities led to for Germany.

I arrived at the wall very early. I was the only tourist on the path that ran beside it. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. I felt that I was being watched even before I saw a guard post on the East German side. Two soldiers kept their binoculars trained on me. I wasn't frightened. They were probably bored but they did have guns. Rifles that were clearly visible. I am not sure if I saw the monument to those who had died trying to cross, in 1976 or when I went back thirty years later. The guards who looked so harmless were there for a reason.

Back by the Reichstag, I sat on a bench and chatted with a young German man. I wanted to buy tissues from a vendor and he tried to teach me what to say. Handpapiertaschentuch. Hand paper table cloth. I think I might have been able to say Kleenex, but he seemed to enjoy watching me struggle with the compound German word. He finally gave up and bought me a pack of tissues.

But the most interesting part of the Berlin visit was a trip to East Berlin. (I would go back there in 2007 to eat at a restaurant where it would turn out I had a mutual friend with the people at the next table.)

I was enjoying traveling through Europe by myself, finding my own way, meeting new people. But when it came to East Berlin I harbored enough fear not to venture in alone. I signed up for a bus tour.

I remember nothing about the other tourists except that they were very nice and took my picture at Checkpoint Charlie and by the Brandenburg Gate. This was long before the age of the selfie stick.

Our guide for the tour looked as if she had been sent by Central Casting to play an East German government functionary. She was short, stumpy and wore a uniform with a military appearance. After she checked my ticket, she moved up the aisle. When I moved she spun around as if ready to subdue me. I was probably getting out my camera.  

I found the way the tour guide talked about the German Democratic Republic sad. It was never just the government or the GDR. It was always the great German Democratic Republic. Example. She pointed out a burned-out building destroyed in World War II, but "the government of the great German Democratic Republic was going to rebuild it." It was 1976. The building had been destroyed at least thirty-one years before. This was not an example of governmental action at its finest, but she presented it as if were the greatest achievement of modern times. I wonder now if she believed what she had to say. She definitely had to stick to the script.

One thing that bothers me is that I cannot recall how they presented the book-burning site. My recollection is that we were shown it from the East Berlin tour bus. What could they have said? How in 1976 could they put a positive twist on it? I wish I knew. 

One of the big stops on our tour was a museum  I do not recall which one because we never got inside. Instead, they took our bus to an ice cream truck in a park. We did not complain. My theory is that westerners did not complain within the Soviet block.

Anyway, the reason for the change in the agenda was that the leaders of the Eastern Bloc countries were meeting in the museum. (I use Eastern Bloc but it is synonymous with Communist Bloc, Socialist Block and Soviet Block.) We saw them all arriving in a long line of black limos - at least Eastern equivalents of black limos. I can't claim these as sightings and wouldn't have known who most of them were anyway. The one exception might have been Ceausescu of Romania who I eventually came to know as the most evil of the evil, but I am not sure if I knew him then. 

The motorcade buzzed by at high speed. There were no cars on the road. I found this event as distinctly Soviet. I had never seen anything like it. Until the Bush Administration (43) when driving on Route 202 outside Philadelphia. I realized there were no cars going in the opposite direction. Suddenly a long line of black SUVs buzzed by. Dick Cheney was in town to give a speech. I thought of that meeting in East Berlin.

Meanwhile, back in Berlin, we were treated to ice cream. At least I think we were treated. At any rate, the tour guide viewed our visit to ice cream truck as a treat. Ice cream seemed to be very big in the Eastern bloc. On a later trip to Russia, there wasn't much food outside our hotel but there was always ice cream.

I have no recollection of leaving Berlin except that I must have flown on Pan Am. To what city I have no idea but probably in Germany.

I went back in 2007. The wall was long gone but a red brick marker running through the city recalled where the wall had stood. It actually went through the restaurant in our hotel. On that trip, we wandered freely from east to west throughout Berlin. We ate dinner at a restaurant in what had been East Berlin. We knew someone in common with the Americans at the next table. Not a possibility in 1976. 

I had another photo taken with the Brandenburg Gate and just as before, the top was cut off. Maybe someday I can return and get a picture that includes the horsemen on top of the monument.

One memory from the 2007 trip. The streets of Berlin were full of protestors on Sunday morning. Very quiet, very polite protestors. Yet they did get the right of way. Our driver said this was not unusual. When I asked if he minded because it made his job harder, he shrugged to indicate he didn't mind. "We are free."

NOTE: If I could claim to see all those leaders in this motorcade, I could claim to Yeltsin and Clinton in a flotilla of helicopters coming down the Hudson River after a summit in Hyde Park.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A not-so-romantic weekend in Acapulco

The other day, I saw an ad for Las Brisas in Acapulco for $97 a night. I stopped traveling south long before the pandemic hit so I don't know what the hotspots are in Mexico these days.  I am fairly sure, however, that Acapulco is not the fashionable destination it was when John and Jacqueline Kennedy went for their honeymoon in 1953. I never hear a word about the town. At least no good words. I have heard the words violence and gangs and crime. According to Wikipedia, it was the seventh-deadliest city in the world in 2019.

That was not the case when the future president and his wife stayed at Las Brisas a luxury hotel on a hill overlooking Acapulco Bay. Las Brisas was known for casitas each with a beautiful view and private pool. Every morning the invisible hand of a staff member would float flowers in your pool. If you wanted to, you could avoid seeing anyone after a golf cart transported you and your luggage to your private cottage. Everything about Las Brisas screamed romance.

I'd always wanted to stay there. I didn't have a honeymoon to plan or even a steady date to invite. I did, however, have a business trip to Mexico City and a friend whose husband's job entitled her to flight benefits and a discount rate at Las Brisas. She would meet me there. Granted it wasn't going to be a romantic experience, but I would get to enjoy Las Brisas. 

There are some downsides to flying on buddy passes. You don't get to sit with friends and family. You don't get the exact flight you want. You don't get any flight. And that is what happened to my friend when she went to the San Francisco Airport to catch a plane to Acapulco. Every plane was full. I had already checked in. 

My weekend at Las Brisas was never going to be full of romance. Now I knew it was going to be full of solitude.  At least, I thought. But then I was joined by bad menstrual cramps. I lay in bed, floated in the pool and looked at the view. As I recall I ate most "meals" out of the mini-bar.

I must have ordered room service at some point, but basically, I saw no one. And, I thought, no one saw me.

On the morning I was due to check out, the phone rang early. Possibly even before 8am. A male voice with a light Mexican accident was on the other end of the line. (There were lines then.)

"Mrs. Kelly?"


"Are you checking out today?"


"Did you enjoy your visit?"

"Yes." Beginning to think this is good customer service.

"When do you leave for the airport?"

"Not until 11am." Expecting specific customer service.

"You are traveling alone?"

"Yes." Beginning to think this was too much customer service.

"You are very beautiful."

"I need to go." Catching on that this was not Customer Service.

\"So, you wouldn't like me to come to your room for a few hours before you leave?"

I did not.

Apparently, the service was more comprehensive than I expected.

NOTE: My friend lost a deposit and all she got "a lousy cap" that I sent her. I think there was one in the room. I don't remember a gift shop.

NOTE ABOUT THE FLIGHT HOME: The taxi driver who came to Las Brisas to take me to the airport was very proud of his city. He didn't take me far out of my way but he did slow down often to point out the sights. I was cutting it close when he dropped me at American Airlines. As I approached the desk, the woman called out to me, "We've been waiting for you!" They wanted to upgrade me to First Class. I loved the days of Frequent Flyer Miles.

FINAL NOTE: You loved first class but the woman in the next seat had brought her dog onboard concealed in a carry-on bag. That would have been nice if you weren't allergic to dogs. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

He wasn't a shoe thief

When I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I went ice-skating most Wednesday nights. At least, I think it was Wednesday. It was definitely night. 

Sky Rink was then actually in the sky, on the top floor of an office building around 45th Street west of 8th Avenue, maybe even 9th. As I recall sessions ran from 8pm to 10pm which put me at the bus stop on 8th Avenue after 10PM. I was usually the only one waiting but I never worried. Not even when a young man in his twenties (I no longer was) approached me one night.

He: Those are really nice shoes.

Me: Thank you.

He: I really like those shoes.

Me: Thank you. (Thinking to myself. He wants to steal my shoes. What does he think? I'm a tourist?)

He: I'd really like to buy my girlfriend shoes like that?'

Me: Nods.

He: Can I see the inside of them? 

Okay, at this point, any alert adult would have been thinking this guy is a sicko, but I thought I was too slick for him. He really thinks I am from out of town and do not realize he is going to steal my shoes?

So I slid one foot back, curled my toes under and pressed hard on the inside of the shoe so that he could see the inside of my shoe but could not wrest it away. And, by doing that, I formed a beautiful arch with my foot.

I looked up to see how he reacted to my smart maneuver and saw his face. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I realized foot fetishes were real. 

NOTE: It was also how I came to notice that there was a porn shop right behind the bus stop. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Swimming with the wrong fish - Nassau

My goal for my blog is to record stories from my life before I forget them. It's hard to believe I'd forget about swimming with sharks. Okay, shark. One shark. But this story has slipped in and out of my mind on several occasions.

My brother lived and worked in Nassau for a while at what was then called the Balmoral Hotel and Beach Club - as I recall. Definitely, the word Balmoral was involved.

I was visiting with my friend, Nancy. We knew there were sharks in the area but my sister-in-law, Beth, assured us that they came in at night but spent their days out beyond the reef. Have a feel for where this is headed?

So one day, Nancy and I were floating on our backs in about four feet of water off the hotel beach when this conversation started:

     Nancy: How do the sharks know to go back over the reef in the morning?

     Me (with a condescending tone and absolutely no knowledge of animal behavior on the land or in the sea):  Instinct. They're animals. They just know. We have nothing to worry about.

     Five seconds of silence.

     Stranger on the beach:  Shark!

Nancy and I straightened up and looked towards the beach where a shouting man was pointing at a fin, a fin that moved along the shore in that smooth glide I'd seen shark fins do in documentaries. The fin was between us and the beach.

Not a moment for strategizing. It was a moment for reaction and we both had the same one: get out of the water. We began to run for the beach.

Now, with some distance from the event, I can see that running towards the shark, while probably slightly disconcerting to the shark, is not actually the best approach. But that was what we did coincidentally making a big splash which is apparently very appealing to sharks. (This was pre-Jaws so a lot of this information had not been discussed ad infinitum.) We were heading right for him.

And then, a hero! His name was Werner and that was about all I recall except that he rushed into the water and jumped with a great splash directly in front of the shark. The shark didn't like that splash. He turned and headed back where he came from which was, by the way, not over the reef.

Nancy and I staggered out of the water to safety. I should admit that the top of my two-piece bathing suit was no longer in place. I fixed it before there were any repercussions involving hotel security. However, I did coincidentally have a slight tear on the strap of my suit. I have no idea how it happened, but it was not during that encounter. When asked about it, however, I was always tempted to respond with some variation of "Did I ever tell you about the time I had to escape from a shark in the Bahamas?"

Not a lie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

There was a consolation prize - Mia, Woody and Dustin

One nice thing about living on the Upper West Side in the 1980s and 1990s was you saw people all the time who had succeeded. I am sure there were many highly successful people that I didn't recognize but it was hard not to notice the ones in the entertainment field. Especially, if they insisted on coming out of their apartment house looking like themselves. I'm looking at you, Madonna.

And so it was on a warm and sunny Father's Day, I was walking down Columbus Avenue with my friend Pat when I realized Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were walking beside us. I mean right beside us. As if we were walking four abreast. I knew it was inevitable. Pat was going to notice. She did.

Pat: Jane. ..

Jane: I know . . .


Neither one of us wanted to act like tourists. Well, Pat might have been willing but she knew I would kill her.  She didn't speak until Woody and Mia (I feel it is unnecessary to clarify that this happened before it all hit the fan) moved ahead. 

Pat: "Can we just walk behind them for a bit?"

We were very discreet. We crossed Columbus and walked along something like 75th Street on the opposite side. Unobtrusive. Just observing. One thing we could observe is that Woody and Mia walked very fast. They reached Central Park West before us. We stood on the corner looking uptown and downtown, but they had disappeared - most likely into the building where Mia Farrow lived and Woody sometimes filmed.

Me: I'm sorry, Pat.

Pat: Don't worry. There's Dustin Hoffman.

Such was life on the Upper West Side.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Memories: false or faded - Liz, Dick and Carol Channing

There was a time in the United States when you said "Liz and Dick," everyone knew who you meant. Elizabeth Taylor's affair with her Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton was a tabloid feast. This story was followed up by tales about their respective divorces and subsequent marriages. Yes, marriages. There were two. To each other. 

I have no idea what stage of their relationship they were in when my family and I walked into them as they headed into Sardis. I wrote about this in a blog entry Fame is Fleeting. (We were cutting behind a huge group of people waiting for a glimpse of them and were stopped to let the couple and Liz's two sons pass by into the restaurant. Apologies to the hundreds of people waiting hours for a look.) 

My point is I hadn't thought of this encounter for years until Carol Channing died. And after that, it took some complex thinking to get the memory right.

The topic here is memory. False or faded? I can't always tell. When Carol Channing died I wanted to comment on Facebook that I had loved her in Hello Dolly!, but had I really seen her in Hello Dolly! or was I remembering her appearances as Dolly on The Ed Sullivan Show?  I had no idea. I had to research to find the answer.

1) I went to the Broadway database.
2) I found out the timespan when Hello Dolly! ran.
3) I looked at the other plays that were running at the same time and verified that I had not seen any of them.
4) I noticed that Richard Burton's Hamlet was playing during that same time period.
5) I recalled running into the actor with Liz Taylor outside the theater.
6) The only reason I would have been in the New York theater district during Hello Dolly!'s run, would have been to see a show.
7) The only show I even suspected I saw during that time period was Hello Dolly!
8) Ergo, my memory of Carol Channing in Hello Dolly! was correct.

With the price of tickets on Broadway, maybe it would be cheaper to hire an IT professional to implant false memories for me.

Some of my faded memories shock me. They just pop up or I find them when scanning old photos. I recall telling a London cabbie how someday I had to get to the changing of the guard. When scanning I found a photo of me at the changing of the guard (but in winter uniforms not in fancy gear).  Maybe that was what I meant. I am giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

Friends tell me I gave them a tour of Las Vegas but I swear I have not been to Las Vegas since it became "Vegas." I really think that one is not on me.

Given my Carol Channing experience, I am going to use this post to record shows I saw as they pop into my mind. I have a feeling there are a lot of shows that still need to pop up. I remember not seeing shows, e.g. Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, more clearly than I remember seeing shows.

Here are some I did see:

The Music Man with the original cast. The first Broadway show I ever saw. (I rode in an elevator with Barbara Cook decades later when she was performing at the Waldorf Astoria. I regret I didn't tell her how much I loved her in that show, but I don't talk to celebrities even to offer compliments.)

Hello Dolly! Apparently.

Mame. My favorite Broadway experience ever. Angela Lansbury. Bea Arthur.

Pippin. Ben Vereen and John Rubinstein. Before I loved him in television series Family?  No idea. Apparently Jill Clayburgh as well.

Benefactors. Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Mary Beth Hurt, Simon Jones. I had to look up Simon Jones. (Saw Glenn Close many years later around Lincoln Center. Her skin did not appear to wrinkle.)

My One and Only. Tommy Tune and Twiggy. Completely forgotten until a profile of Twiggy appeared on CBS Sunday Morning. (Although it was hard to miss Tommy Tune walking down Fifth Avenue, going past the Met in white pants, pink shirt and a white sweater tied around his shoulders. That memory stayed.)

My Fat Friend. Lynn Redgrave, George Rose, John Lithgow. (I decided I never remembered actors in plays I saw.  Decided to follow John Lithgow's career. He did me proud!)

Hamlet. Ralph Fiennes, Damian Lewis. (Sat across from Anthony LaPaglia who fell asleep. He was in rehearsals for another play at the time so I am sure his demeanor was no comment on the performances. If I had realized I would in the future develop a crush on Damian Lewis,  I might have paid more attention.)

Hamlet. Richard Burton. Special broadcast for schools. Kind of cheating. Not in person but I'd seen him elsewhere with Liz Taylor.)

Waiting for Godot. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Billy Crudup.  For the first time ever in a theater, I could hear every word - at least those Stewart and McKellen said. Every single word. Couldn't understand Crudup at all. Watched Crudup later in The Morning Show. He is such a subtle actor. He would never have to move anything other than his eyes. Fantastic.

Rent. In Chicago. Made an exception to "no musical" rule.

Cats. DC. The play was far from new. Betty Buckley was long gone from the cast but I did see her on the way into Elaine's one night. She was on her way into Elaine's. I was eating next door.

42nd Street. Think I missed Jerry Orbach but used to see him around my neighborhood a lot when he was filming Law & Order. As I recall, Jason Alexander was in it.

Timon of Athens.  Part of subscription to Tony Randall's theater. No idea what else I saw or who was in them.

Aspects of Love. Stayed until the end but walked out vowing I would never see another Broadway musical. 

Les Miserables. I would make an exception and see this musical over and over again.

Camelot.  Philadelphia's Playhouse in the Park. Rock Hudson.

Half a Sixpence - Tommy Steele

London's West End. No idea what I saw. Remember Patrick McNee and Jenny Agutter. Maybe in the same play. It was bad although it wasn't the actors' fault. I should have gone to see The Mousetrap at some point. I had enough opportunities.

Art. Albert Finney. Tom Courtenay. Ken Stott. Had to look up Ken Stott.

Bob Hoskins. This is a mystery. I thought I identified the play but I contacted the playwright and he said it had never been done in London. I know I did not imagine this but I cannot find any mention of Bob Hoskins in a play with two characters. The entire play takes place in Freud's office or someone else's. I really liked the rug. That's how I know I could not have made this up.

The Best of Friends - John Gielgud. Since I recall seeing John Gielgud the last night he was on stage in London, I must have seen this play.

A Chorus Line   On Broadway. No idea what cast.

Mary, Mary.  Pretty sure I saw it on a high school trip, Was Barry Nelson in it or do I think that because I passed him at the 1964 World's Fair? He was eating an ice cream cone or possibly a Belgian waffle. At the World's Fair, not on stage.

Three Sisters.  In London. Lots of Redgraves. Vanessa, Lynn and Gemma.

Sleuth. No idea who was in it. Now I can only remember the movie.

Dreamgirls. No idea who was in it but I would bet Vondie Curtis-Hall because he was always on my radar. That might be how he got there. I recall noticing him at the table next to me in a New York restaurant at Denzel Washington's table.

Song and Dance. Remembered Bernadette Peters singing Unexpected Song but nothing else.

Equus. No idea who was in it.

Something about Elvis in London.

I hope to update this page as memories pop up. Three Sisters was a recent addition.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Remembering the Lists of My Life: Beautiful Sights

Decades ago I made a list of the ten most beautiful sights I had ever seen. They were so impressive that even though the list got lost, I was, over a few days, able to reconstruct it. I posted them on Facebook one-a-day for ten days starting on 9/2/2021 but in no particular order.

Below is the list starting with my first post on 9/2/2021.


I once made a list of the ten most beautiful sights I had ever seen. We didn’t have cameras in our phones so I had to take a mental snapshot of moments when the locale, the weather and the lighting came together to create an unforgettable image. No exotic location was required. The first I remember was out my kitchen window when I lived in Connecticut. The sky was clear, the leaves were off the trees and there was a light coating of snow on the ground. The full moon made the white birch tree with a double trunk glow. I don’t think a camera could have done the scene justice.


Item two on my list of the ten most beautiful sights I have ever seen. (In no particular order.) In my mind, I think the train stopped but, in fact, I think I just snapped a mental picture. On a train from Oslo to Bergen, Norway. I guess above the tree line. Wide, gradual and snow-covered hill climbing to a gray sky. Not a mark on the snow. Near the hilltop a gray fence also climbing at an angle an artist might choose. Monotone except for the dot of red. A skier standing by the fence. A minute later and the smooth surface of the untouched snow would be gone. But, I got my mental snapshot. Better, I suspect, than an actual photo.


Item three on my list of the ten most beautiful sights I have ever seen. (In no particular order.) This one is easy to visualize and probably should be a video (not photo) memory. Lightning bolts in the desert outside Tucson on a dark night. Why I was driving on a back road outside of Tucson late at night, I have no idea.


A lot of people say they’ve experienced number 4 on my list of the ten most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but I was close to fifty when I stepped into a clear, moonless night on St Agnes, one of the Isles of Scilly, and was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of the night sky. I’d watched the sky from islands along the US’s East Coast and deserts in the West, but I never had a glimmer of what I saw that night. I stopped dead, grabbed my friend’s arm and exclaimed (I don’t usually exclaim) “Oh My God!” I hope to see this sight again if I can visit the islands 28 miles off the SW tip of England in the right part of the lunar cycle and catch a clear night. I don’t remember anything else in my life stopping me dead in my tracks.


I am still working through my list of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Day 5, sight 5. I posted about this one before on tax day. Leona Helmsley was ordered to start her prison term for tax evasion on April 15, 1992. Her husband, Harry, owner of the Empire State Building, protested by keeping the lights on the building dark. Lit only by the light of an almost-full moon, the building looked gorgeous - especially to anyone walking east on 33rd Street to get their taxes to the main post office before midnight. That’s what I heard!


Number 6 on my list of ten most beautiful sights (in no particular order). This one is different because I’ve seen it more than once - mostly when driving southwest on interstates between Boston and Philadelphia. The pitch-black silhouettes of leafless trees against a bright pink sky at sunset. When I was into needlework, I saw a lot of patterns honoring this phenomenon but none of them did the sight justice.


Day 7. Sight 7. PA 23 runs through Valley Forge Park. Going east you go through the woody, hilly part. Then, the road runs along a ridge with hills sloping off to the right. I never realized that I was looking at a series of valleys until early one morning when a heavy mist wove its way through them. It was like looking down at the clouds. I’ve driven that road more times than I can count but I never saw anything like that sight again.


Beautiful sight number 8. I have no idea why I was in London in April, but a street of white Victorian townhouses in Kensington that I had walked down many times in winter was transformed by trees covered with white flowers. Most of the petals were still on the branches but enough had fallen that they laid a white carpet down the sidewalk. Then, a gentle breeze created a shower of white petals. The pink and purple blooms on other blocks were gorgeous but the white wonderland was magical.


Sight 9. A great view of the New York skyline provided the only compensation for hundreds of hours on the New Jersey Turnpike. No view was better than one I caught on a day sometime between 1973 and 2001 when I was driving south at sunset and the twin towers of the World Trade center, painted an orangish-gold by the setting sun, shone against the blue sky. Valerie Silver Ellis, a former colleague I quote often, usually when talking about advice I should have followed, was 46 years old when she went to work on the 104th floor of the North Tower on a Tuesday morning like any other twenty years ago today. The memory of the beautiful vision from the turnpike is bittersweet.


Beautiful Sight 10 of 10. The novel, The Ice Storm, was set on a road I lived on in Connecticut but I don’t recall ever experiencing an ice storm there. The one I recall was near my parents’ last home in Pennsylvania. The road at the end of our street curved past a big stone house sitting back on a wide lawn crossed by a stream split into two sections by a waterfall. And, trees. Lots and lots of trees. When the ice storm hit, the lawn turned silver, the waterfall froze and the trees were coated with ice that sparkled in the sunlight. From what I can see on a drive-by, everything is now gone.

In thinking over the decades since I made the list, I could only think of one sight I would add to the list.  I always thought that those photos of huge moons hanging over a scene such as the New York skyline were fake, products of Photoshop. However, one night on a New Jersey Transit train leaving New York, I looked out the window and realized they were real. An unbelievably big moon had just climbed into view over New York. The sight was not fake.

I've had a long dry spell without seeing unforgettable sights. I am not sure the problem is a change in my travel or in my vision. I need to get out and about and hope that I am lucky to encounter more unforgettable moments and wise enough to see them when I do.