Saturday, November 26, 2011

Striper Alert!

Can you believe this early in the morning was too late in the morning to catch fish?

If you are on the East Coast this weekend or early next week, take a minute to head to the beach for some fishing. The weather is unseasonably warm and there are still fish around. You may very well connect with striped bass or gorilla blues, big bluefish, that is. . . .

Some of the best fishing is before the sun comes up. At 9:30 A.M. this past Saturday morning, a neighbor told me the fishing at Montauk, the very east end of Long Island was on fire - - at 5:30 A.M. I was smart enough to be up early and on the beach at 6:30 A.M. but that was not early enough. So, please learn from my mistake and get an early start.

If you have the money or connections, it would be worth it to hire a guide and a boat. When I was surf casting later in the morning, the birds were working over fish. My casting range was about 40 feet or so and the birds were working over 200 feet out. Having the mobility of a boat can increase the chance of success.

Catching fish is always better than not catching fish. However, if the nice weather holds, it will be great to be outdoors no matter what happens!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the Town in Late Fall

Photograph on the left shows snow on the porch furniture in Syracuse

Photograph on the right shows Lark Street bus stop on a rockin' Friday night

This past Friday, I woke up in Syracuse with snow on the ground. There was more snow coming down, but the day soon cleared up to being sunny and chilly.

Snow in Syracuse is not what journalists call a “man bites dog” story, a story that is so unusual as to attract attention. However, I am mentioning the snow because I got the above picture of it at the hotel. The snow dusted furniture shows how winter is closing in on us. Oh, to be in LA and looking at the San Gabriels!

Once home, we decided to take the bus to dinner, instead of sitting home on Friday night or driving and dealing with drivers in the pre-weekend frenzy.

We left from the big bus stop at Crossgates, our local mall and headed to Justin’s on Lark Street - - in downtown Albany.

The Capital District Transit Authority (CDTA) rotates their drivers. I was pleasantly surprised to see our driver was Dexter Hasberry, who drove my regular bus route last year. Dexter is at once a very skilled driver, keeping a laser-like focus on the road, but also making passengers feel at home. He was particularly helpful and solicitous of young man who came aboard in a wheelchair.

Lark Street, one of the hippest neighborhoods in Albany, has clubs, restaurants and shopping. Justin’s has anchored the southern end of the street for over 30 years. It has recently reopened under new management.

In its new incarnation, the management kept the best of the place and made changes. Jazz is still a big draw and the bar feels like it did in years past. There was a great oldies soundtrack, which is not as sophisticated as jazz but is a lot of fun to hear.

The staff is excellent. On first coming in, I was confused about whether to sit at a table or at the bar. The hostess was very patient while I solved this puzzle.

We ended up at the bar, had drinks and dinner there and met Scotty, one of the regular week-end bartenders. He was attentive and conversational without being overbearing.

In addition to pouring standards, Scotty makes a drink called an “Oatmeal Cookie,” with flaming lemon slices. I will probably not order this drink, but it was fun seeing the drama of the preparation and presentation; the customers who ordered it were happy.

The bus stop for home is on the corner of Lark and Washington, next to the Washington Armory. The place had a concert going and the corner was full of people, in a great mood welcoming the weekend.

Busing it downtown may not work on really cold or inclement Albany nights. However, if the weather is temperate, it’s great to have CDTA do the driving!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Dear East Coast/West Coast/North Coast Reader:

Happy Halloween. Thanks for giving me a treat every time I post a tricky blog - - tricky mostly because the formatting of Blog Spot is a challenge.

Happy November,


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winter in Upstate New York - - Halloween update

Winter weather came to upstate New York this past week.

On a trip this past Thursday, we found snow in the upper elevations of the Adirondacks. The first two pictures show snow near Blue Mountain Lake.

The third picture was taken on a high point on Route 30, looking south, just where the highway comes into Franklin County. The mountains are the High Peaks, the mountain with the white on it is Whiteface.

I like this picture because it plays with a mental map that many downstate residents, myself included, have. Our mental map tells us the Adirondack High Peaks are the northernmost point in the state. In fact, from this vista, Franklin County extends north for about another 70 miles!

The last four pictures are local before and afters. The first is our backyard in its fall finery, with a lovely selection of mums that my wife, Dorothy, picked out.

A record-breaking, apocalyptic snow storm hit upstate on Saturday. The snow was first forecast to start around 1 P.M. At 1, the air was thick, pregnant with moisture that could have been rain or snow, but no flakes were coming down. The snow actually started around 4 P.M.

For a sense of the storm, there are two pictures. The first was taken at dusk Saturday, the second the following morning.

My friend Beth Waterman, who lives in the central Catskills, says that she had nearly nine inches in this storm. She shared a photograph of a snowy Catskill sunrise, above. My friend Jonathan Cooper lives four or five miles away and he got four to five inches of slushy snow. He said he is putting away the mower and getting out the snow blower. I was mowing yesterday, to knock down the Goldenrod, wild rose brambles and black raspberries in preparation for cross-country skiing.

We went skiing today and had the earliest cross-country ski trip on record. A few pictures of the ski trip, taken by Rose Cooper, are at the end of this post. At least I think they are at the end of this post as putting pictures in this blog are always an Achille's Heel for me.

While we were enjoying the warming day, over a million people in the Hudson valley and New England were without power.

Seth Edelman, who appears in this blog from time to time, wrote in to say that he and his family lost power for four hours in the storm. They live on the east side of the Hudson River, about 45 minutes from the home of this blog. It's amazing how a relatively short distance involves big weather changes. Maureen Franz, who lives in a beautiful wooded neighborhood on the north shore of Staten Island, wrote in to say, "The trees around here all split like firewood!! It was amazing! Branches down all over the place. I can't believe it. . . the leaves all held the icy snow and the branches got too heavy."

We send our hopes and prayers that they are reconnected safely - - and soon.

If you have any snow stories, please comment on the blog or write to me and I will revise this story. Whether or not you have stories to share, have a great week!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lake Placid in the Fall

Two views from autumnal Lake Placid:

left picture is a maple down an alley off Main Street

right picture is Whiteface Mountain from the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

If you need a short get away in a scenic, low stress spot near the East Coast, put a fall visit to the village Lake Placid at the top of your list.

2011 is an excellent year for fall foliage, so the trip to Lake Placid should be delightful whether you are coming from the north, south, east or west. Sometimes, the leaves are set off by early season snow, so keep an eye on the weather before you go.

Tropical Storms Irene and Lee inflicted much damage to the Adirondacks. Route 73, the main access to Lake Placid, was badly damaged. Large portions were washed away by flood waters. State and local governments have restored many highways. For example, according to Carol Breen, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Transportation, the agency’s emergency contractor and maintenance staff worked tirelessly and reopened Route 73 to traffic in just two weeks - - an effort that was one of Governor Cuomo's top priorities after the storms. Breen advises that other State highways in the region are largely reopened with some other work spots remaining: alternating one-way traffic on Route 9 through Elizabethtown in Essex County, work to repair shoulders or guiderail and work to restore streams and protect highways in the future.

Lake Placid and the surrounding communities have so many things to do that it’s possible to plan an enjoyable visit that is an overnight - - or longer. There are many hotels and motels in the village of Lake Placid which, for God knows what reason, is actually on Mirror Lake. If you find a place to stay in the village, you can park your car and shop and dine on foot. Of course, you can get back in the car and go to visit the venues from the 1980 Olympics, Whiteface Mountain, the Ausable River or one of many hiking trails.

In this post, activities mentioned were discovered on several recent trips that our family has taken to the region. If want more ideas, contact the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau at 518-523-2445 or visit their website,

The Lake Placid Convention Center is a dominant landmark in the Village. It was the site of the US Hockey Team’s upset victory sweep in the 1980 Olympics and overlooks the speed skating rink used in the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. Even if the Convention Center has no events scheduled, it’s worth walking up to its entrance. From this spot is an exquisite view back to the south and east of the High Peaks.

For lodging, one of my favorite places is the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, tucked between Main Street and Mirror Lake. Many of the rooms at the Golden Arrow overlook the Lake and the hotel is very close to shops and restaurants. The Golden Arrow has also taken great strides to make itself environmentally sustainable and has received awards for this effort. However, the excellent service by the staff and the well-appointed rooms show that being good to the environment does not require privation.

Because this month is an interlude between summer and winter activities, it is possible to find great sales in some stores. As you walk along Main Street, merchants are not shy about advertising deals.

If you need fishing tackle or hiking gear, Jones Outfitters has an excellent selection. When we visited the store last year, the staff was also great at helping us make an informed choice. Jones will also share local fishing conditions.

A few minutes from Lake Placid is the Ausable River. On a fall trip to the region some years ago, I hooked a trout on my first cast in an upper stretch of the stream. A reasonable distance away is the Bouqet River, which has a fall run of landlocked salmon below Wadhams in eastern Essex County and good trout fishing throughout.

Terry Robards, the former wine columnist for The New York Times has an appealing wine and liquor store on Main Street. His website states, “A naturally cool cellar beneath the store holds the largest wine inventory in the North Country.”

At mid-point on Main Street is a row of outlets: Van Heusen, Izod and Bass. If you are running low on work clothes or need to get a jump on holiday shopping, this is a great place to stop.

For meals, the Golden Arrow offers a good assortment of breakfast items. Their restaurant also serves other meals but we did not have a chance to try them.

We enjoyed the Cottage, the Mirror Lake Inn’s pub/bistro that is right on Mirror Lake. The Cottage’s name belies its generous-sized interior. With the size of the room, the fireplace and the popularity on the weekend, the Cottage is bustling and lively without making bar patrons or diners feeling crammed in.

The next day we found Soulshine, a nice bagel place on Main Street and for lunch enjoyed a bagel and a cup of soup to ward off the cooler weather that had moved in overnight.

We left Lake Placid on a sunny day with the leaves at their peak, refreshed after a tiring week. We can’t wait to come back - - regardless of the season.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene

From top to bottom:

The Tawasentha Park Winter Recreation Area is covered with snow in the winter - - and mud at the base of the sleighing hill after the high water.

In Frenchs Hollow, on the Normanskill, just below the bridge rail in the middle picture is a standing wave, about six feet high.

The last picture is a view of the Normanskill looking upstream in Frenchs Hollow.

When Hurricane Irene got to upstate New York, it may have declined to tropical storm. But meteorology and semantics come nowhere near to describing the wallop that Irene packed.

At 6:30 am, Sunday morning, I got up, checked the weather and sent some e-mails. There was rain and some wind, but nothing noteworthy. After returning to bed, I heard, from a half-deep sleep, the telephone peeping. When I awoke several hours later, the cable and Internet were out.

Then, the power died.

To get to the supermarket for the newspaper, I drove across the bridge over the Normanskill, a medium-sized stream in our neighborhood. The water was coming up. The trip required a detour because a house on Route 20 had an electrical fire.

On the way home, the Normanskill was rising even more. An hour later, a truck from our utility, National Grid, went down the street. With no electricity and little to do, I chased the truck, to ask when power would be restored.

We lost electricity after a power house at the Watervliet Reservoir dam was submerged by rapidly rising waters of the Normanskill, shown in the first two pictures above. A quick thinking National Grid lineman safely separated electrical service to our street and the power house and the lights were on again.

All day, rain fell steadily and wind blew at a good pace. At first, the wind brought down just twigs and dead limbs. Then, it brought down a 30 foot long trunk from a walnut tree in our backyard.

Even though the lack of power, cable and Internet was frustrating, the day was nice. We read the two local papers and The New York Times all the way through. After dinner, we played Scrabble instead of settling for television.

Weather on Monday, the day after the storm, was exquisite: sunny and pleasant. However, all the rain that arrived Sunday lifted most of the local streams and rivers to record flood levels.
The Mohawk at Schenectady, for example, overflowed the entire floodplain, closed the Western Gateway Bridge and submerged Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In. Rather than pile on more words, check the photo gallery at The Daily Gazette and you will see how extensive the damage was!

An odd things about this storm was how focused the news coverage of the events were. New York’s Capital Region had excellent local coverage on radio and in newspapers. However, a person wishing to learn about conditions in New England or Long Island had much trouble finding any useful information.

Irene left property damage, injuries and some deaths from North Carolina up to New England. My mother is still without power on eastern Long Island and a friend in Virginia lost power for four days. Another friend in the eastern Catskills had a tree fall on her garage - - although she kept going thanks to an excellent back-up generator. If you have a story about the hurricane, please take a sec to share it!

Despite these problems, luck, careful preparation by citizens and tireless work by government and electrical utility first responders took a lot of the sting out of the storm.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Delights of Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn at Gade Farm, courtesy of Gade Farm

Whether you are at a farmer’s market in Los Angeles, a farm stand near Lake Erie or a New York supermarket, we are approaching the pinnacle of sweet corn season.

In a recent conversation, Steve Lyle, Communications Director for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said enthusiastically, “The supply and quality of sweet corn coming to California farm stands, farmer’s markets and supermarkets is excellent!”

You may think that sweet corn is a quaint part of America cuisine, food rolled out this time of year at picnics or lobster dinners.

However, Lyle reports that California’s sweet corn crop has an estimated value of $117 million. Stephen Williams, writing in a recent issue of the Schenectady Gazette, discovered that New York ranks fourth, nationally, in sweet corn production, “behind only Florida, California and Georgia.” In a recent essay in The Gazette, Maggie Hartley, the paper's Arts Editor, learned from one of her farming neighbors that farm stands do not start drawing steady business until sweet corn and tomatoes are on display.

At the Hannaford Supermarket in my neighborhood, there is a nice size pile of sweet corn when I shop early in the morning. If I am shopping after dinner, it’s always down to a stray ear or two. Gade Farm around the corner has a large pile daily in their farm store.

This year, it seems the corn in upstate New York is slightly more petit than in past years. So, before you check out, look at the ears you have chosen. You may want to buy a few more, so no one goes short when dinner is served.

While corn has been around for a long time, sweet corn is a recent arrival. Stephan Jones, on his Reluctant Gourmet website, states that sweet corn was probably first cultivated in the 1600’s by Iroquois tribes in upstate New York.

Since then, agricultural scientists continue tinkering with the species. According to the University of Illinois Extension Service’s website Watch Your Garden Grow, sweet corn can be “normal sugary,” “sugary enhancer” or “supersweet.” Agricultural scientists also breed for tenderness and are adding genes to resist pests that threaten corn crops.

While reading research articles and seed company websites, I discovered there is a Montauk species of sweet corn. It is bred to be pest resistant and harvested late in the season. Might the researcher who developed this variety been looking for fresh produce to go with a striped bass caught in October under the Montauk Lighthouse?

Newspapers, websites and radio are full of sweet corn recipes in this season. However, my favorite is corn on the cob. It is easy to prepare and gives the deliciousness of the corn center stage.

Michael, one of the produce experts at Hannaford, observes the biggest mistake with corn on the cob is overcooking it. To avoid this, he advises, “When the water comes to a boil, put the ears of corn into the pot. As soon as it returns to the boil, remove the corn; it will be done.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A North Coast Late Spring: with a July 2011 Update

The water at the Blue Water Bridge has most wonderful blue tints not seen in other freshwater.

Photographs courtesy of Cathy Gardiner, Blue Water Bridge.

We recently returned from a lovely visit to Great Lakes country, the North Coast.

Our niece, Evelyn, is engaged. Her mother, Kelly, invited Dorothy and Lily, my wife and daughter, to the shower in a community south of Detroit.

To shorten the trip, we drove across Ontario, rather than around the American side of Lake Erie. Customs was quick both ways as we were going in the opposite direction of other tourists and truckers. American and Canadian traffic was heavy but moving fast.

Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls were bright and out-sized. Many of flowering trees - - pear, redbud and dogwood - - were at their peak.

At the western end of our trip, we left and entered the United States on the Blue Water Bridge, connecting Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan.

When planning the trip, I assumed naming a bridge “”Blue Water” was a marketing trick. But when you cross the Bridge on a sunny day, the water has these incredible, shifting hues of blue and turquoise. Thanks to Cathy Gardiner, from Blue Water Bridge Canada, this post leads off with two pictures of this incomparable water!

If you stop for duty free on the way into Michigan, just past the toll booths on the Canadian side, the shop has won a platinum (first place) award in seven of the last nine years as the best duty free shop in Canada.

Detroit and Michigan are often used as symbols of urban and industrial decline. However, residents of the region are not giving up the ghost. The New York Times wrote about the lively life in Detroit this past weekend - - but you read about the good things happening here three weeks earlier.

There are still many, functioning businesses. Communities are mostly lively, although a close look reveals some foreclosed homes. And the region has great public institutions.

For example, while the women were at the shower, the guys hiked in a Metropark, at the point where the Detroit River starts widening into Lake Erie. The park had well-maintained hiking trails, interesting meadows and shoreline views and informative staff.

One of the best parts of the trip was reconnecting with family. Much time was spent reminiscing about the past and talking about what was in store in the future. I managed to lose three or four pool games to all my in-laws, but that was fun anyway.

Kelly and Russ, her husband, fueled all the conversations with wonderful food and hospitality. We got in on the late side, but when we arrived, they had extra barbecue, a welcome change from road food.

When traveling from Buffalo to Canada, crossing the bridge near Lewiston and driving Interstate 190 is often the quickest route. On the way home, we took the Robert Moses Parkway south, instead of I-190.

Between the bridge and City of Niagara Falls, New York state has closed two of the Parkway’s four lanes to vehicular traffic and made the lanes a bike/pedestrian path. This is a great idea, it forces drivers to slow down and see nature and history along the way.

We will be on the road for the wedding. And when we are, it will be great to see family again - - and to see how a new season changes the landscape.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seasonal Transitions

Top left: John's first swim of 2011
Top right: The martini at Cafe Max
Below: First trout of 2011!

This is a season of transitions on all three coasts.

With the hard winter, it’s tempting to wish your way into the future, hoping for steady warm weather. However, I am finding it’s more fun to just take every day as it comes and find something to enjoy regardless.

The weather on all three coasts is bouncing back and forth between hot and cold and many temperatures in between.

On Easter Sunday, I took my first swim of 2011 - - and my earliest planned swim of my life. My earliest unplanned swim occurred on April 15, 1987, 1988 or 1989 after I tripped and fell into the Battenkill.

The water on Easter was cold but not as cold as the Christmas Day swim. Instead of wading in gradually and losing resolve, I dove right in.

This is a good time to visit the Hamptons. The place is starting to come alive for the summer but the nutty crowds have not yet taken over the place. At Café Max, on Easter Sunday, we had no trouble getting a reservation for brunch. The food was great and Max’s bartender served up a martini big enough to end the drought in Russia.

Further to the north and to the west, trout fishing has been enjoyable. The water is warming up. In upstate New York, the black flies are just starting to come out.

From Los Angeles, reports are coming in of good fishing surprisingly close to the City. A friend came back from a trip recently after having caught a 15 inch brown trout on a fly in a tiny creek. That must have been a pleasant surprise.

The other noteworthy news from the West Coast comes from the Pasadena Casting Club (PCC). The casting pool at the Club has been deteriorating for many years. This year, the restoration of the casting pool is nearly complete. A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday May 7th. From 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., you can enjoy refreshments in the PCC clubhouse. At 11 a.m. Mayor William Bogaard, Councilman Steven Madison and PCC officials will cut the ribbon to reopen the casting pool and afterwards members and the public are invited to practice their fly fishing skills.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Edward Hopper at the Whitney

When my mother, my wife Dorothy and I went to the Whitney Museum of American Art this past weekend, the experience reminded us of how the Whitney ably balances constancy and change.

At the coat check, we met Eric and Donald, the two hosts, who have worked together for 23 years. Eric and Donald served a crowd for five floors of exhibit with kindness and Seinfeld flashes of wit. They were helpful and congenial to a person seeking a wheelchair, explaining how to use the chair and chatting up the visitor to provide a welcoming experience.

After Eric and Donald took our coats, we headed upstairs to see Modern Life: Edward Hopper and his Times. As with snow in the North Country, the exhibit looks great but is about to “melt”- - closing on Sunday April 10th.

The exhibit occupies much of the museum’s second floor, with 71 works, nearly all of which are paintings and 32 of which are Hoppers. Most of the Hoppers in the exhibit are from the Whitney’s collection. Hopper’s widow, Josephine, gave the Museum over 2,500 pieces of Hopper’s art after he died in 1967.

From this universe of Hoppers, the curators chose such classics as Gas, the painting of a Cape Cod gas station at dusk, Railroad Sunset, a railroad interlocking tower silhouetted by sunset and A Woman in the Sun, a nude woman in summer light. Because the exhibit draws from the Whitney collection, you will not see classics such as Nighthawks and the sailboat painting, The Long Leg, from, respectively, the Chicago Art Institute and the Huntington in Pasadena.

Throughout the rooms are informative essays on the walls, with biographical and artistic information about Hopper, the America of his times and artistic contemporaries. His contemporaries include George Bellows, represented by his large canvas Dempsey and Firpo, photographer Edward Steichen, Charles Burchfield and Precisionist Charles Sheeler.

The curator cleverly puts familiar and unexpected images together. My parents loved the painting, Gas and it’s great to see it. However, before coming to Gas, is a Hopper picture called Soir Bleu, depicting an outdoor café. All the diners look unremarkable. In a table at the middle of the painting, however, is a clown, fully made up with a white face!

We came mostly to see Hopper. But on leaving, I realized the exhibit is as much - - or more - - about 20th century American painting and the Whitney’s collection as it is about a wonderful artist.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Five Things We Love about Santa Barbara

From left to right: Santa Barbara panoramic, redwood trees at the Botanic Garden and Santa Barbara Fish House
If you need a place to escape from late winter dreariness, head for Santa Barbara, California.
The Pacific coast at Santa Barbara runs almost exactly east and west. This south-facing orientation, combined with onshore breezes, gives the place a particularly Mediterranean climate. At this time of year, you are likely to see Monarch butterflies starting to fly north.
Along with the climate, architecture and vegetation adds to the Mediterranean atmosphere. The mountains in the Los Padres National Forest and the numerous red-tiled roofs will remind readers of Cezanne’s painting, The Gulf of Marseille Seen from L’Estaque.
Santa Barbara has something for almost every interest. A good place to start is the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitor’s Bureau and Film Commission’s website. Here are our favorites from two days of visiting the city that bills itself as “The American Riviera.”

1. Mission Santa Barbara. On a rise just north of the city is Mission Santa Barbara, founded by the Spanish in 1786. The Mission’s guided and self-guided tours are informative, comfortably paced and reasonably priced. Garden trees and the buildings themselves provide a cool oasis - - even in the heat of the day. The view of Santa Barbara and the Pacific, from the Mission’s front steps, is one of the best in the world.
2. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. It would take at least two days to go from California’s redwood forests in the north to its deserts on the Mexico border. At the Botanic Garden, you can see all of these landscapes in less than two hours! The Garden has three species of redwoods and sequoias which were planted in the 1930’s. Although these trees are not height record-setters, they give a great sense of how it feels to be in a redwood grove. Exhibits, some of which are hand’s on, introduce you to California wildflowers, grasslands, desert plants and plants found on the Golden State’s coast and islands.
3. Beach fun. The water may not be at summer temperatures yet but walking on the edge of the surf is a treat. Santa Barbara has a strong network of bicycle paths that are separate from highways, dedicated bike lanes on roads and on highways where you must share the road. We liked the Shoreline trail and found the people at Wheel Fun Rentals capable at fitting bicycles to riders and informative about places to go. Wheel Fun’s rates are also reasonable.
4. Restaurants. Overlooking the beach are the Santa Barbara Fish House and Eladio’s Restaurant and Bar at the Beach and both have a wide variety of appetizers, salads, food and drinks. Crab cakes at the Fish House were outstanding, and the classic burger at Eladio’s was delightful. In town, we had lunch and dinner at the Natural Café, on State Street. There were enough tasty choices in this place to span the varied diets of vegetarians, careful eaters and oblivious gluttons.
5. Shopping. There is a ton of varied shopping in Santa Barbara, although this is a mystery for me personally. On State Street, you can find an open-air importer of goods from India. Also on State Street is a Cost Plus World Markets. I know West Coast readers probably think this store, with it’s mix of food, wines, housewares and furniture, is nothing much. However, the store’s layout, with its casual arrangement of lots of apparently low priced goods, is appealing - - especially to non-Californians.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Are We There Yet?

A few days ago, I said the "next "tricoastal" post will consider staying found and the value of getting lost while traveling" and asked for stories. So many people wrote in with funny, sad and frustrating stories that I am still sorting them out. So, keep an eye out for a post - - or posts on this subject.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Late Winter Delights

On the left: the view from Washington state, Doug Stauffer photographer
Center and right: a trail and Helderberg Escarpment, John Rowen photographer

Left and center: the view from June Mountain and Yellowstone National Park. photograph courtesy of Dennis Grenninger
Right: Pasadena Casting Club, photograph courtesy of Seymour Singer.

The view out our front door, photograph by John Rowen

Even though spring is less than a month away, you can still find many great winter sports on our three coasts.

Doug Stauffer, an upstate New York expatriate in Washington State, has enjoyed great snowshoeing and winter hiking in his neck of the woods.

In upstate New York, I have enjoyed cross-country skiing on good to excellent conditions with Jon and Rose Cooper. We had one day where ice coated the snow and breaking trail was exhausting and sometimes the wind chill is unpleasant.

But when things stabilize, the temperature rises or an overnight snow shower leaves a coating of powder that enable smooth, fast conditions. I have become fonder of non-wax able skis. They work in whatever weather is found. I used to have beautiful wax able skis but I was not smart enough to get them to work when the snow got thick and wet.
Best of all, you do not need to go far to enjoy the skiing. The snow is great whether you go out the backdoor - - or drive a few minutes to a nearby park.
Downhill skiing is also in good shape on both coasts. Dennis Greninger reports good conditions within a comfortable drive of Los Angeles. I would go but with so much great cross-country nearby it does not seem worth the fuss this month.

Winter also offers snowmobiling, dog sledding and ice fishing. A California friend likes to head inland for snowmobiling in Yellowstone. He and his wife also wing their way to the North Coast, to spend a few days dog sledding in Ely, Minnesota.

If the cold makes you want to forget the cold, you can always head south - - or southwest. My friend Seymour Singer and his family had a welcome time-out at the beach at about the same time as upstate New York received its second or third snow storm of the season.

At this time of year, southern California is at its peak. The temperatures are balmy and rain keeps the landscape and flowers green. In a month or so, things will dry up and turn brown, but now everything is vivid greens and bright colors.

Last year at this time, I enjoyed visiting the Pasadena Casting Club. Some time was spent cleaning up the fall and winter debris. But when the work was done, many people adjourned to the casting pool and started getting their casting arms in shape, on a bright and warm afternoon!

Before, during or after your excursions, you will need restorative food and beverages. In Pasadena, Yahaira’s continues to please. In Eagle Rock, Mia Sushi and Senor Fish’s appealing cuisine has been joined by Four Café - - a new eatery with a seasonally driven menu. In Albany, we enjoyed this past Valentine’s Day at Creo.
In East Hampton, my mother and I had an innovative version of surf and turf at the Palm. The experience was topped off with a schooner-sized Manhattan.
Regardless of whether you are working, playing, drinking or dining, the best part of this season are the longer days. Each day is longer by two to five minutes. That helps sweep out the winter cobwebs for spring!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The experience of being on the Great Lakes, the North Coast of this blog, is too big for the blog format. For a sense of the Great Lakes at their most beautiful and powerful, I strongly recommend you read Peter Geye’s new first novel, Safe from the Sea.

The novel opens with Olaf Torr, and his adult son Noah, in a highly charged reunion on the north shore of Lake Superior.

Noah is angry at his father for leaving him and his sister Solveig after he survived a shipwreck during a Lake Superior winter storm. But Noah tries to set aside his anger when Olaf calls, says he is “sick” and asks for help.

Noah’s wife, Natalie, has had several miscarriages. She has a chance to get pregnant again, but the window could close with Noah out of town.

Once at his father’s remote cabin, Noah realizes Olaf probably has cancer. The diagnosis is not precise; Olaf will not visit a doctor out of fear he will end life in a hospital.

Shipwrecks or family tension are common plot lines. What makes Safe from the Sea noteworthy is how Geye generates page-turning suspense by gradually revealing what happened to Olaf - - and by drawing the reader into the mystery of whether or not father and son will reconcile.

It would be easy to demonize Olaf and make Noah, Natalie and Solveig victims. However, Geye makes each character complete and gives them virtues along with flaws.

I am not sure if the Raganorak, Olaf’s ship, existed but Geye’s combination of careful research and narrative convinces you the ship and shipwreck are real.

These achievements are done with great writing. In describing modern navigation, Olaf grumbles, “Now it’s just a bunch of satellites telling you where you are and where to go. Back then, it was still something beautiful to steer a ship.”

As Noah drives northeast, through the night, “Just clear of Taconite Harbor and the Two Islands he saw the sun rise over the water, remembering the adage about a red sky in the morning. It was red - - the sky over the lake - - and lowering . . . There was [a storm] stewing in the distance.”

Loaded as it is with emotion and landscape, Safe from the Sea is less than 250 pages long, leaving the reader wishing for more.

To order this book, see your local bookseller or contact unbridled books.
For more information on Peter Geye, go to the author's website.
For more information on Lake Superior and its ships, visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor’s Center in Duluth, Minnesota - - or go to