Monthly Archives: August 2013

To the Beach: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Dawn, Kiawah Island

Dawn, Kiawah Island

Two days after the Boston day-trip, it was time for summer vacation, back to the beach in South Carolina.  Linda, Robin, Dylan, Carson and I squeezed into Robin’s VW and drove to National Airport.  Spirits were high, then the 1:10 nonstop to Charleston canceled.  Drat!  But a pretty good recovery: I snagged a seat on the flight at 4:30, and the rest of the team would follow at 8:30.  So I landed about six, picked up the minivan, drove 35 miles to Kiawah Island, bought some breakfast fixings for the next morning, checked into our villa, and drove back to the airport.  It worked fine.

Was up at dawn on Sunday, bike shorts and helmet, onto the green cruiser bikes that we rent when we visit (this was our third trip to Kiawah).  They’re clunky, but their tires hold air, and the scenery along the bike paths is superb.  Kiawah is a barrier island, lush and green, with lots of tidal marshes brimming with wildlife: herons, egrets, ibises, pelicans, and other water birds.  At the other extreme, hundreds of alligators, heads and spines just visible on the surface of the water, paddling slowly.  It’s seven miles to the east end of the island and the Ocean (golf) Course Clubhouse, where I turned around and rode back.  Did that jaunt four mornings, a great start to the day.

Dawn-1

The view from our porch

The view from our porch

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River

Later that morning, we headed to the pool, splashing and spraying and bobbing.  Naps in the afternoon, dinner, some reading (and a little work), then off to sleep.  After a nice morning at the beach Monday, we drove into Charleston, one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the U.S.  We spent a great couple of hours at the South Carolina Aquarium.  It had been years since I visited an aquarium, and I had more fun than the girls did, ogling the small and big fish, reptiles, and such.  The focus was on S.C. waters, from mountain streams to the ocean, but they also had a cool temporary exhibit on Madagascar wildlife.  Way fun.  That evening was the culinary apex of the trip, dinner at the Hominy Grill, a simple place featuring “low country” cooking and lots of local ingredients.  I tucked into a vegetable plate: deep-fried cheese grits, collard greens, okra and tomatoes, and succotash.  Yum.

At the Aquarium

At the Aquarium

A blue-spotted stingray giving your correspondent the stink-eye!

A blue-spotted stingray giving your correspondent the stink-eye!

Charleston street scene: the corner of Rutledge and Cannon streets, across from Hominy Grill

Charleston street scene: the corner of Rutledge and Cannon streets, across from Hominy Grill

Tomato pudding and collard greens, Hominy Grill

Tomato pudding and collard greens, Hominy Grill

Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same, relaxing mornings at the beach or pool, nap, bit of work, reading a new novel and the newspaper, dinner out.  A nice routine.   After dinner on Wednesday night, a noteworthy faunal encounter: after dessert at an Italian restaurant in a golf clubhouse, Dylan, Carson, I went for a short stroll out on the putting green.  There are “DANGER: ALLIGATORS” signs all over the island, and there was one near the green.  Three siblings were playing on the green (putting practice was over for the day).  Beyond them, we spotted what looked like a large (six- or seven-foot) ceramic alligator, which I assumed was a what-to-watch-for warning to Northerners.  Then its head moved.  Whoa, not ceramic.  We stepped back, and witnessed the biggest yawn I had seen in a long time, jaws way open (seemed like two feet between lower and upper teeth), and an inside mouth a lovely shade of pink.  After the yawn, the critter turned around and ambled back into a pond.  Way cool.

Dylan and Carson on the green

Dylan and Carson on the green

I had to teach at Georgetown that Friday and Saturday, so on Thursday morning Linda drove me to the airport and I flew home to house that was way too empty and quiet (the girls’ day nanny, Jessica, was looking after the two terriers for the week).

Leave a comment

August 25, 2013 · 10:11 am

Daytrip to Boston

Charles River at Harvard University, Cambridge

Charles River at Harvard University, Cambridge

I was getting what my mother used to call “itchy feet.”  I was busy working on some course development, but I needed another day trip, maybe further afield than Baltimore.  So on Thursday, August 15 I hopped the bus and Metro to National Airport, and flew on US Airways to Boston (as part of the pending merger, they offered AA employees and retirees seriously cheap standby fares; the one-way was $5, cheaper than some rides on Metro!).  Landed at ten, hopped on the Silver Line bus into downtown then the Red Line subway to Harvard Square, Cambridge.  I had not been in the square for nearly 40 years.   Like London and many other cities, Boston has a bikeshare system, Hubway.  One-day of unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less was $6 (this was shaping up to be a cheap trip!), and in no time I had registered, donned the helmet I brought north, and was wheeling through the venerable Harvard Yard.  Way cool!  Pedaled around the campus, then headed east on Massachusetts Avenue toward MIT.

A variant of "how many X does it take to change a light bulb?"  In this case, it took five MBTA (the local transit agency) workers to change a light fixture, a perfect example of all that is wrong with municipal and public unions.

A variant of “how many X does it take to change a light bulb?” In this case, it took five MBTA (the local transit agency) workers to change a light fixture, a perfect example of all that is wrong with municipal and public unions.  Unproductive, bloated, and no one managing the process, stepping up and demanding productivity. Just so wrong.

As I wrote in a posting from Boston in fall 2012, there’s something interesting about revisiting a city you once knew fairly well, but hadn’t seen in decades (years ago, my friend since 1960, Chris MacPhail, lived in Boston and I visited often).  You sort of remember the basic layout of the city, the geometry of main roads and such, but you also get surprised – later in the day, I rode past his old house in Brookline, but I was sure it used to be on the west side of St. Paul Street.  Not!  And sometimes you quite accidentally come upon places you remember from long ago; that morning it was a wonderful bar, the Plough and Stars, happily still in business on the corner of Mass Ave. and Hancock Street.  Big smile, as I recall drinking Guinness with Chris in the mid-1970s.

The Coop Bookstore, Harvard Square

The Coop Bookstore, Harvard Square

Old Columns, Harvard

Old columns, Harvard

New columns, Harvard (Graduate School of Design)

New columns, Harvard (Graduate School of Design)

Inscription on a door lintel, Dexter Gate, Harvard; I like the part of serving country, but am not sure to whom "thy kind" refers!

Inscription on a door lintel, Dexter Gate, Harvard; I like the part of serving country, but am not sure to whom “thy kind” refers!

Chris studied at MIT, and although I did not know the campus well back in the day, it was clear that the place had been substantially remade, with lots of new buildings.  It’s dense, urban, not a lot of green, but it’s just buzzing with brainpower – it seemed like every other building had “laboratory” in its name.  I returned my first bike and walked a bit of the campus.  One of the first things I saw was the site where Officer Sean Collier of the MIT Police was killed by the two asshole-terrorists in April, a few days after the Boston Marathon tragedy.  It was still covered with flowers and flags and signs.  And I wept for him and for the many other victims.  I had thought about the bombing and evil in the world several times that morning, and I wept for the young policeman and the many other victims.

On the MIT campus

On the MIT campus

Tribute to Officer Sean Collier

Tribute to Officer Sean Collier

I walked through Kendall Square, and at noon met an old airline friend, Webster O’Brien, who now works for a consulting firm.  In the mid-1990s, Webster and I worked in American’s international planning group, and we’ve stayed in touch; he’s one of the brightest airline guys I know, and a nice fellow.  We had a great lunch and a good yak.  An hour later, I peeled off, picked up another bike, and rode back toward Harvard to see a bit more of the old campus, then past the Kennedy School, across the Charles River, and past the massive Harvard Business School on the south bank.

Webster O'Brien

Webster O’Brien

Harvard Innovation Lab

Harvard Innovation Lab

I was nearing the 30-minute deadline on the bike, so returned it to a station west of the B-school.  But when I tapped the touch screen to rent another, it froze.  Yikes!  I was nowhere near public transit.  So I tracked down the Hubway people (hooray for smartphones!), and the kind agent was able to reboot the device remotely.  In five minutes I was back on two wheels.  Ya gotta love remote technology.  Rode east into Brookline, up St. Paul Street and down to Coolidge Corner, familiar from decades earlier.  The Hubway bikes were dandy, but the saddles are built for people with different-shaped derrieres than me, and I could feel some saddle sores.  Plus, as usual, I had covered a tremendous amount of ground in a short time.  So I hopped on the Green Line light rail and the Blue Line subway back to Logan Airport and the 4:00 shuttle home to Washington.  Just a great outing.

The Hubway kiosk after a reboot from afar, and my new steed

The Hubway kiosk after a reboot from afar, and my new steed

On the way home: Baltimore's Outer Harbor, and the former industrial dynamo at Fells Point

On the way home: Baltimore’s Outer Harbor, and the former industrial dynamo at Fells Point

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rambles Nearby

The Potomac River from the Chain Bridge, six miles from home

The Potomac River from the Chain Bridge, six miles from home

I’m traveling a lot less.  First July ride on an airplane was on the penultimate day of the month, a day trip to DFW for a monthly board meeting of the American Airlines Credit Union (I’ve been proud to serve this wonderful financial co-op for 11 years now).  Not much to write about: up at zero-dark, out to Dulles, fly to DFW, meet, fly back, drive home.  I did see some old friends in Texas, including a brief chat with pal Ken Gilbert (my buddy on the trip to Asturias in March).

But I did move around metropolitan Washington a bit, on some long bike rides, and sorties on the Metro.  And finally got to my first Nationals baseball game with long friend Carl Nelson.  He lives a couple of miles from the ballpark, so we rode bikes there, and watched a terrific game on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Bee and zinnia in Carl Nelson's lush frontyard garden

Bee and zinnia in Carl Nelson’s lush frontyard garden

The Nationals' ballpark, from Carl's splendid seats

The Nationals’ ballpark, from Carl’s splendid seats

Nationals' fan Carl Nelson

Nationals’ fan Carl Nelson

The following week, on Friday, August 2, I woke up with itchy feet, so I rode with Robin into the city, took a very slow bus across downtown, and onto the MARC suburban train to Baltimore, about 40 miles northeast.  Arrived Penn Station at 11:30, and fell into a memorable Talking to Strangers moment.  An African-American fellow about my age and I went in search of temporary rest rooms, which were glorified porta-potties just outside the station’s west doors.  We bantered as we walked, peed, and headed separate ways.  Ten minutes later, while waiting for the bus, he reappeared with a taller young man.  He introduced his son, who lived in Baltimore.  We shook hands.  The dialogue:

Son: My dad doesn’t like my new glasses.

Dad: He looks good, but don’t you think his glasses are ghetto?

Me: Hey, what do I know?  But I do kinda agree with your pa.

We parted again.  They were 20 feet down the sidewalk when I yelled, and walked briskly toward them.  Asked to take their picture, and they obliged (though dad recommended that his son remove his glasses!).  Told ‘em I needed to remember the moment.   Shook hands again, and walked back to the bus stop.

Father and son, Penn Station, Baltimore

Father and son, Penn Station, Baltimore

I hopped on a very crowded #3 bus a couple miles north, to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University.  It was lunch time, so I tucked into a Subway and root beer, then crossed Charles Street and into a bucolic campus.  The contrast with the stressed neighborhoods between the train station and the campus was marked.  Here were red-brick buildings framing a series of quadrangles.  I headed into Gilman Hall, named (as I later learned) for the first president of the school.  Wandered south, past the engineering school and a new building for robotics, then past the sculpture garden of the Baltimore Museum of Art, adjacent to the campus.  I was reminded of what I had read (and posted here, December 2012) about Johns Hopkins, a righteous businessman with a strong social conscience, likely from his Quaker upbringing and beliefs; when he died in 1873, his bequests were the largest in the U.S. to date.

Keyser Quad, Johns Hopkins University

Keyser Quad, Johns Hopkins University

Campus

Directory, Gilman Hall; scanning the list of departments and centers made me wish I could start college again!

Directory, Gilman Hall; scanning the list of departments and centers made me wish I could start college again!

This robotic surgical device was inside a ground-floor window in the engineering school, a nice reminder of the remarkable brainpower at Hopkins, which was American's first research university

This robotic surgical device was inside a ground-floor window in the engineering school, a nice reminder of the remarkable brainpower at Hopkins, which was American’s first research university

Walking the pleasant grounds, I was reminded of a friend of ours from Minnesota, John Rauenhorst, who in the early 1960s boarded a train and headed east to Hopkins.  He had barely been out of the state – this was long before pre-application campus visits became the norm.  I smiled at the image of John arriving there, and reckoned – as I’m sure he did 50 years ago – that he chose well, was exceedingly lucky, or both.

Took a bus downtown to the Inner Harbor, which has been completely revamped into a tourism destination.  The process actually began in the late 1970s, and has totally transformed the core.  Ambled into the Hopkins business school, called Carey, which occupied part of a brand-new building right on the water.  A friendly security guard, Mr. Jackson, told me the history of the school; he had been with Hopkins for 25 years, and knew the details.  (A week earlier, I had applied for an adjunct faculty position there, but that’s another story.)   It was an impressive facility.

Baltimore is filled with splendid old buildings, some rehabbed and well-cared-for, like this Italianate office building near the Inner Harbor, and some not.

Baltimore is filled with splendid old buildings, some rehabbed and well-cared-for, like this Italianate office building near the Inner Harbor, and some not.

I misread the Google Maps transit directions, and hopped on the wrong bus, #23, and headed west.  It was totally packed.  I was the only white guy aboard, no matter.  Re-vectored myself (smartphones are so handy) to board the return train to D.C. at the West Baltimore station.  The ride west was bleak.  At least to this visitor on that sunny summer day, Baltimore illustrated the rising inequality that is, or should be, on the minds of every thinking citizen of our republic.  The extremes were stunning: reinvestment in gleaming hotels and condos on the water, and boarded up row houses on Franklin Street.

The platform roof, Penn Station, Baltimore.  Needs work, as does much of U.S. transport infrastructure

The platform roof, Penn Station, Baltimore. Needs work, as does much of U.S. transport infrastructure.

The view from the train platform, West Baltimore station.  Baltimore was once a manufacturing center, but the abandoned factory was emblematic of its deindustrialization; only the graffiti was fresh.

The view from the train platform, West Baltimore station. Baltimore was once a manufacturing center, but the abandoned factory was emblematic of its deindustrialization; only the graffiti was fresh.

I was glad to see the MARC train squeak to a halt at 3:51.  By six I was home.  An interesting day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized