Monday, January 18, 2010

Note to Martha

Mitt Romney (right) and son frolicking on a dock in the 2002 campaign commercial called "Ann," after his wife. It was an effective commercial that introduced Romney and his good looking family to Massachusetts. I thought it was hilarious and kind of exhilarating, actually, that he could be seen in his bathing suit in the ad. Romney went on that year to beat the Democratic contender, Shannon O'Brien from Easthampton, who I, a political reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette at the time, was convinced would win.

Shannon, who was state treasurer at the time, was very charismatic and down to earth. She grew up in a political family and her father Ed was one of the most supportive and nicest people I ever interviewed. I covered Shannon's victory party when she was elected state treasurer and I remember Ted and Vicky Kennedy sitting on the stage with her and that the two of them were SO bubbly and clearly excited about her winning.

I mention it now, because Massachusetts is in the political spotlight now, according to the New York Times, because another western Massachusetts Democrat appears to be struggling, Martha Coakley who is running to fill Ted Kennedy's United States Senate seat. Coincidentally, as I write, I just got an automated call from Vicky Kennedy in support of Coakley. I and many, many people have complained that we've gotten TOO many such calls about this election. I, for one, will always be interested in hearing from Vicky Kennedy. I'm NOT so much interested in hearing from all the other people who I've gotten robocalls from and who I've never even heard of!
Just an observation: We've noticed that Coakley's advertisements have not been very personal and have not humanized her the way Romney's did him. She's from my neck of the Massachusetts woods, but I don't even know if she's married, has kids, any hobbies or anything that would make me feel connected to her other than that she obviously shares some of my values.

My sister Maureen and her baby Evangeline. We need to see Martha holding a baby! And, Martha, can you put a stop to the robocalls?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Washington D.C. -Baltimore- Philadelphia

Anemones at the Baltimore Aquarium, a place I highly recommend. Brian and I visited Wednesday, as part of our 5-day-long trip to Washington D.C. and back. We were going to drive cross-country but scaled back to Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia. It turned out to be an inadvertently water-themed trip.

First stop: Washington, D.C., to visit my brother Bill and wife Lena (seen here). We had a therapeutic sauna in the basement of their condominium complex then visited the National Museum of Natural History, so Brian could finally experience the insect zoo there, a stop I had been instrumental in seeing that we avoided on past trips to D.C. There we saw a 3-D movie about the Wild Coast of South Africa, where huge schools of swimming sardines attract all sorts of ocean and terrestrial, that is to say human, predators.

Billy and Brian at the insect zoo.

The museum is full of skeletons, ranging from tiny in size to huge.

And the famous Hope Diamond is there.

Then, using our new GPS, we went to Baltimore to see my friend Ellie, who I met in Thailand this summer. She spent another five months traveling around Asia before staying with her father in Maryland for a month. Next, she's thinking of joining the Peace Corps! But before she's off to her next adventure, we went to the Baltimore Aquarium and then to lunch, where she showed a couple of inlanders how to eat oysters. (I was a wimp and declined to actually eat them, although I paid close attention in case I ever do.)

There's a small, enchanting exhibit at the aquarium now called Jellies Invasion, featuring beautiful, translucent jellyfish in dramatically lit tanks. After we toured the aquarium, which includes a wonderful arboretum on the top floor, we watched a dolphin show and a 4-D movie with special effects like wind, splashes of water and something that felt like beans hitting your feet.

Late afternoon in downtown Baltimore. Next stop: Philadelphia.

Philadelphia City Hall, topped off by William Penn, the city's founder.

We went to the
Reading Terminal Market,
a very good example of an indoors farmers market, which we like to visit wherever we go.

Turduckens for sale.

Pretty produce.

Brian got his shoes shined -- just $3 -- then we decided to take a 90 minute-bus tour for $25 each -- We got the "senior discount" -- Oh God, we're in our early 50's!

We learned that our vivacious tour guide Aaron grew up in Queens, used to have a girlfriend in Pelham and is going to library science school in Philadelphia.

Patti Labelle mural in the neighborhood she grew up in. Aaron told us the world class mural arts program in Philadelphia was started to help counter graffiti and that graffiti artists caught in the act are pressed into service painting the murals of which there are some 3,000 or more!

Neighborhood mural.

Mural detail.

Another mural detail.

We discovered The Latham Hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, by reading a travel book in one of the stores at a Jersey Turnpike rest stop. It was an extremely unassuming place with great amenities for $118 a night plus taxes. Sadly for me, it didn't tout any of its amenities, so while we discovered the free wireless access I didn't realize there was a beautiful fitness center full of windows until it was too late to work out. D'oh!

I imagine this dresser would be in the Federal style what with the golden eagle.

The view standing across the street from The Latham looking left.

Continuing the water theme, we tried the signature waterwheel-shaped dessert at Water Works restaurant in the old waterworks on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Afterwards we visited the water works museum below, which reminded me of going to the fish elevator in Holyoke which is open to the public every Mother's Day through Father's Day.
We learned in Philadelphia, by the way, that the former was the invention of Anna Jarvis, of the City of Brotherly Love, who swore at her mother's grave in 1905 that she would create a day to honor mothers, living and dead.
Next stop: Amherst!