Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

We had a great year in 2015, from the time the ball fell in Times Square to this New Year’s Eve. 

Here are some favorites from along the way:

Rosemary in Claremont, California
1.      In the Northeast, rosemary doesn’t survive outside in winter and is a struggle to grow inside. 

But when its spring, summer or fall, having a rosemary plant outside the kitchen door allows the cook to brighten up many dishes with a last minute trip to snip a few sprigs of this herb.

In southern California, rosemary grows outside all year ‘round!  In May, Dorothy and I joined the congenial folks at Get Walking Claremont for a Thursday walk.  Within five minutes, we found a shrub-sized rosemary bush between a sidewalk and the road.  When I returned recently, the bush had lots of violet flowers and a swarm of tiny butterflies with black spots on the back of the wings and a blush of a blue/violet on the top.

My friend Seymour has rosemary in front of his house in downtown LA and it’s a fixture in public landscaping work.  I don’t like rosemary as a seasoning for lamb because I can’t warm up to lamb.  But when I walk past these fragrant shrubs, I think of rosemary bread or olive oil infused with the herb!

A farmer's market in southern California
2.      Farmers Markets are having a great resurgence on all of the coasts.  In the northeast and Midwest, the weather requires them to move inside as happens with the Green Market in Schenectady, New York or the Farmer’s Market in Troy, New York

In California, the weather stays mild enough that the markets can stay outdoors into January - - or later.  Some markets start out cold and require a warming cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.  But things warm as the morning progresses and the variety of produce, cheeses and naturally raised beef or chicken calls like a siren’s song.

This is the back of the original building in the Albright - Knox complex.  Next to it is a modern addition.
3.      The Albright-Knox Art Museum in Buffalo, New York has one of the best collections of Abstract Expressionist art in the United States.  We visited there in the summer, when many of the main paintings were in a traveling exhibit.  But a trip to the Albright-Knox when it’s missing its signature artwork is better than visiting many other museums when they have their complete collection.  Look for a post devoted to the Albright Knox soon!

4.      The Barnsider Restaurant in Albany is back on the Best of list because . . . it is the best of.  This restaurant serves all different types of steak and beef dishes with a good variety of chicken and seafood for people who do not care for red meat.  The salad bar and the martinis are a perfect complement to whatever entrée you order.  And if a person is not in the mood for a big meal, a martini and the Barnsider’s shrimp cocktail are an unbeatable combination!

5.      LAXon Lark is a new restaurant on Lark Street, in downtown Albany.  The owners are from LA and are looking to share a fusion menu with Albanians.  We dined there on Christmas Eve.  The service was excellent, the menu varied and reasonably-priced and everyone enjoyed their entrees, which ranged from vegetarian delights to fusion tacos with beef and Korean barbecue sauce.

6.      When we first started college hunting in 2007, our friend Frank hosted us in his home on the edge of LA and San Bernadino Counties.  One evening he took us to El Ranchero on Foothill Boulevard, which used to be Route 66, in Claremont, California.  We enjoyed that dinner but did not make it back until I was in Claremont this November.  The food remains as tasty and attractively served as it was nearly 10 years ago.  The wait-staff offers very capable, welcoming service and the menu offers a great variety of dinners.

7.      In ‘n Out Burger: This California chain offers one of the best burgers in the world.  The meat is fresh and well-cooked but not to the consistency of shoe leather.  Shakes and fries are a perfect accompaniment.  For fair weather diners, some restaurants have only outside tables; if it’s too cold, too hot or too wet other branches have an bright cheery inside dining room.

8.      ZPizza is a chain, with a store in Claremont, that advertises organic ingredients.  But what I like best is that their pizza is not greasy and does not taste as if it is loaded with salt.  Diners order at the counter, whether they want to take-out or eat in.  The staff are capable and congenial.


9.      Handel’sIce Cream started in Youngstown, Ohio - - an hour or so south of Lake Erie on America’s North Coast.  Since then, the chain has expanded east and west.  It is truly amazing to see a Youngstown business in California, allowing a person to enjoy one of the most flavorful ice cream recipes there is in a balmy climate.

10.  The movie Spotlight is about the editorial and reporting team at the Boston Globe that broke open the scandal about priests who abused children in Boston.  The abuse is very sad and the damage from it continues for some people today.  But the movie is excellent because it shows how good old-fashion journalism with persistent research and working the streets scan illuminate social conditions, can comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

11.  This blog is only possible because of family and friends.  Lots of the places and experiences in the blog come from traveling with my wife Dorothy and my daughter Lily, as well as visiting or traveling with friends.  Thanks to all of you!


Happy New Year Everyone!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Late Fall Gardening

Carrots from my Garden

On the East Coast, we have been having a mild fall so far.

When I went over to the garden on Sunday to clean up, I found there were still a lot of carrots.  Yes, they were small.  But yes, they are also so tasty.

After pulling the carrots, I went to check four Brussels Sprouts stalks.  When I last saw them in early November, the sprouts were small.

On this trip, they are large - - almost as large as those in the supermarket.  Dorothy baked them and put balsamic vinegar on them.  The big ones had a creepy texture but the smaller ones were great. 

My mother will be amazed to know that I finally ate a Brussels Sprout.

The Brussels Sprouts that Ate Guilderland!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yellow is Mellow - - and Effective Too

photograph courtesy of Lotfi Sayahi
This time of year is often called the “dog days of summer,” because of the sultry, heavy weather.

Popular wisdom is that fishing is mediocre at this time of month.  If you fish a pond or stream that dries up, this is certainly the case.  But on many lakes and ponds, the fishing can defy the dog days.

Low light is always an angler’s friend.  Since June, low light has become more of a friend, with the loss about 45 minutes in the morning, and in the evening.

Over the last two weeks, Adel, Lotfi, Allen and I have been investigating summer angling with great results.

Our biggest successes have come with metal jigs with yellow plastic bodies, and worms fished on standard hooks.  Adel discovered that allowing the jig to sink and then retrieving it slowly drives the crappie crazy. 

Using this technique, he and his brother Lotfi boated 17 fish on an early summer morning.  They hooked even more fish but they either were too small or slipped the hook.  For a brief period, the angling duo had a streak that rivaled the action on those morning fishing shows.  First one brother would get a fish.  By the time we had that fish released or in the cooler, the other brother would have a fish bulling into the deep and putting up an awesome fight.

The technique works on other fish, such as pickerel and bass.  On this trip, the pickerel and bass gave a spirited fight but we released them as they were under the legal minimum.

Pickerel caught on a jig with yellow coloring
Photo courtesy of Lotfi  Sayahi
This past weekend, Allen and I returned to the same lake, but later in the morning.  Despite the later hour, we had a lot of fun.  We replicated the success with the yellow jigs.  Allen caught large bluegills on worms.  It was impressive to watch Allen fishing; usually with worms, the smaller panfish come in a clean off the hook.  Somehow, he was able to attract the larger fish.  In the spirit of experimentation, I trolled and casted a Flat Fish, which yielded a good bluegill while trolling.

On both days, the fishing was made even better by the setting and the company.  As you can see from the photo below, our lake is sometimes so calm that it’s hard to tell which end is up and which is down.  This past Sunday, the cloudy water from previous trips had settled out and it was possible to see dozens of feet below.

Which side is the real lake and which is the reflection?
Photograph courtesy of Lotfi Sayahi
Labor Day is coming up sooner than most of us would like.  But don’t despair.  The summer fishing is great.  Then as September progresses, we can enjoy autumn fishing.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gardens and Streams

The garden: Good things keep coming out of the garden.  This year has been particularly wonderful for tomatoes, corn and carrots.  The beans and eggplant are not doing as well as last year, but maybe they will make a late-inning move that will compensate for the quiet progress thus far.

Even with the desirable plants being well-established, it is still amazing how many weeds there are.  It would be nice if there was more rain, as daily watering has been required this week.  But hearing about California, we will just keep watering and take our lumps here in the Northeast.

A harvest from earlier in the week!
The streams:  Stream levels are down considerably.  Perhaps some forecasted rain will perk things up.

On a New York trout stream Sunday night, I hooked a small rainbow trout on a Light Cahill wet fly.  This fly was one of three on a cast that included a Woolly Bugger and a Lead Wing Coachman. 

Later on the trip, I tied on a number 20 Elk-Hair Caddis (with a peacock herl body) that my friend Dennis tied.  The fly took a short hit and perhaps will do even better the next time there is more and cooler water. 

The great thing about fishing with this fly was that I found a six and a half feet long 6x leader in the fly vest, a leftover from a Trout Unlimited flea market long ago.  Having a short leader made casting on a small stream, with lots of inconveniently located brush and, a much easier experience.
A small rainbow trout, caught on the Little Hoosic, that
is similar in size and coloring to the one caught Sunday night

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Tricoastal Summer

Summer meadows are full of wildflowers!
It’s been a great summer so far.  Here is a random selection of experiences that are making this such a noteworthy time.

On the East Coast: The Garden

We have lots of rain followed by warm sunny days.  The community garden and plants in the yard are all doing very well up to this point.  In the garden, the seeds from last year’s cherry tomatoes and sunflowers are growing into large and healthy plants.  Being more alert with weed control and regular meals of nitrogen fertilizer has the corn growing well, too. 

The cornstalks now have ears of corn, with tassels on them.  We have picked over 20 tomatoes in the last week and made two containers of sauce! and the tomatoes.  The carrots have come in like gangbusters.  When you pick a dozen or so, they weigh a pound and their weight and length is like those found at a farm stand or in a supermarket. 

Fresh carrots and a baguette are a great road food snack.  They are filling without being weighty, as happens with deli sandwiches or fast food.

On the North Coast: The Senate Restaurant, Livonia, Michigan

We went to Michigan for our nephew’s wedding and enjoyed seeing family.  We stayed in a Courtyard in Livonia and one morning, we got to the hotel lobby about 90 seconds too late for breakfast.  Unlike other Courtyards, the staff was not in the mood to put out two more meals.  At first that seemed to be poor hospitality.

But after looking online, we found a restaurant about five minutes away, called George’s Senate Restaurant and Coney Island.  The Senate, which serves breakfast all day, is on the edge of a golf course.  The breakfast menu has a good mix of traditional dishes and healthy choices.

The Senate’s menu says they have the best rice pudding there is and we got two orders to go.  When George Dimpoulos says he makes the best rice pudding, he is absolutely right.  The rice pudding was custardy with the just the right balance of rice, sweetness, vanilla and cinnamon.

On the West and North Coasts: Handel’s Ice Cream

 My friend, Seymour, who lives in Los Angeles, has in-laws who live in metropolitan Detroit.  On a lark, I mentioned the Senate to Seymour and asked him if his father-in-law had ever eaten there. The answer was “yes” and both the food and the golf course got good marks. 

When we went to southern California for our daughter’s graduation from graduate school, we were driving around and learning about the communities.  Going down one street, we saw an ice cream place called Handel's

Dorothy grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and there was a Handel’s that was the ice cream powerhouse of this steel city.  After looking online, we learned that the California Handel’s is in fact owned by the same family as the one in Youngstown.

Handel’s ice cream tastes just as good in California as it does in Ohio.  It has a creamier and custard-ier flavor than typical ice cream.  It was a riot to be able to eat a Handel’s cone at 8 in the evening and know that a flight to Cleveland and an hour drive the next day would allow you to have a second cone in a different place.

This idea of flying between coasts for Handel’s ice cream may not be as far fetched as you might think.  Some people in Youngstown, Ohio, which is the home of the DeBartolo family owners of the San Francisco 49ers, claim that when the team was in Youngstown for a visit, they liked Handel’s ice cream so much that the team had it packed in dry ice and flown to San Francisco.

On the North Coast: Buffalo in summer

On the way to the wedding, we stopped in Buffalo.  If you have experienced the stereotype of Buffalo as a snow bound citadel of depressing weather, you need to go there and in the summer.   The downtown and the adjoining Arts District are supremely walkable. 

The Arts District has lots of
restored old homes like this one

This sycamore tree in the Arts District is
reputedly the oldest tree in Buffalo
This was important because I ate too large a dinner at D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub in the City’s Theater District and needed to walk it off.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Fish of Dreams

High waters on upstate trout streams

It's been raining big time in upstate New York.

The rain was so bad in one area that my friends had a flood in their basement.  And their basement rarely floods.

Despite all the rain, I was starting to twitch in frustration from not fishing.  It was time to end the excuses for not going fishing.

I found myself standing on the bank of a small stream near Syracuse.  The conditions looked grim.  The water was high, fast and the color of café au lait.

Standing on the same stream bank was a young father and his daughter, who appeared to be three or four years old.  They were having fun enjoying the day and the water.  The dad was also trying to figure out what was happening on the trout stream.  He enlisted his daughter in lifting and turning over rocks, to see what kinds of aquatic insects are active in the stream.

All of a sudden, in the middle of this unfriendly water, I saw a large, thick brown trout rocket skyward.  It was pursuing a mystery insect.  The suddenness of this and seeing the entire fish out of the water, was surprising and galvanizing.  The fish was violating the conventional wisdom that trout are inactive in high water.  Later, it rolled on the surface to take some other bugs.

Despite a winter of inaction, I was able to cast flies to where the trout had been working the water.  But none of my fly choices interested the fish.  As the waders filled with water, it was time to go.

Nevertheless, it was great to take home the memory of this fish, even if I did not have the chance to play it and land it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring Constants

The Village of Lake Placid and Adirondack High Peaks
So far this spring, I have experienced two constants.
Since trout season opened on April 1st, I have been fishless on some of the best streams in New York:

·         Spring Creek, south of Rochester and one of the first streams in America stocked with brown trout?  No fish.

·         The West Branch of the Ausable, a trophy trout stream flowing from the Adirondack High Peaks past Lake Placid? No fish.

·         Ten Mile Creek, a small stream in southern Albany County said to have inspired Roy Ovington’s Tactics on Trout?  No fish.

·         And so on for several other streams within a stone’s throw of Albany.

The positive constant has been L. L. Bean, which has a store in Colonie Center, in suburban Albany.
Last fall, I bought an Angler II rod and reel package at Bean.  The package includes an eight foot rod and a reel loaded with backing, a six-weight line and a 3x leader, costing less than $80.

The reel is set up for right-handers.  For several months, I fished the rod with an Orvis reel that was a family gift.  But then, I wanted to see how the Angler reel and rod worked together.
Yesterday, I went back to the store, hoping for help in reversing the reel.  Readers of this blog may recall the mess I made when I tried to reverse a right-handed saltwater reel that my friend Seymour gave me, so it was unsettling to face this situation again.

There was no need to worry.  Bean has a strong customer service guarantee and knowledgeable staff - - even though they are a big store with a varied product inventory.
Bill, a store salesman who specializes in tackle and enjoys fishing himself, congenially and capably reversed the reel.  With the skill of a surgeon, he took the reel apart and flipped over a part that reversed the drag.  Then, he used a machine to remove the backing, fly line and tippet and replace it in the direction needed for a left hander.

When I took the line and backing off the saltwater reel, it took a week to untangle and I had to cut a large clot of backing that was hopelessly tangled.  Bill got the entire job done in under 15 minutes.  If the store was not close by, Bean offers an angler help line at 800-347-4552, which the website said would help a person reverse the reel.
Whether or not the fishing improves is anyone’s guess.  Even though New York does not have the problems that California has, it’s been dry and there has already been a big forest fire in the Shawangunk Mountains south of the Catskills.

Until - - or if - - the fishing improves, I’ve got the confidence to fish well, thanks to the product quality and service at L. L. Bean!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Having your Cake and Eating it Too: Jake Hafner's in North Syracuse, New York

Jake Hafner's in many seasons, courtesy of Hafner's Restaurant

When riding the Interstates, Americans like to have their cake and eat it too.

            We want the convenience and safety of a modern, high speed highway.  But often, we do not want to settle for the corporate franchises found at the on/off ramps.  We want unique experiences.

            If you are traveling on Interstate 81 through the Syracuse area, a stop at Jake Hafner’s allows you to have your cake - - and your salad, and your steak, and your chicken - - and eat it too.

            Hafner’s is a comfortable restaurant with a rustic ambiance in North Syracuse, a straight, five minute ride from the East Taft Road interchange on I-81.  On the Syracuse Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website, Hafner’s cuisine is classified as “American Mixed.”  The heart of its menu are wonderful steaks.  However, the comprehensive menu includes a great selection of: dinner and appetizer salads; seafood; and chicken.

            On a recent Wednesday evening, we had dinner at Hafner’s.  The place has a large dining room on one side and a big bar area with lots of flat screen televisions and sports programs. 

            My friend Mark made a reservation for the restaurant so everyone could talk and not have to compete with the high spirits in the bar.  We were seated in an intimate corner of the dining room.  The table was amazingly cozy for a large party; the acoustics were such that it was easy to have a conversation - - even with the liveliness of the bar nearby.

            After a large lunch, I chose a steak frites dinner salad.  It had sliced filet mignon, fresh field greens, blue cheese and an Everest-sized mound of frites, small crispy French Fries that were thinner than the shoestring potatoes found in burger places such as In ‘n Out. 

            While this was a great dinner, all around me were other dinners equally delightful: a chicken Marsala dish with thinly sliced chicken breasts, a solid-sized Delmonico and a pasta Alfredo dish.

            As dinner wound down, trivia night started and we could easily hear the questions announced in the bar.  By the time we got to the final question, our team had a respectable 75 points.  We bet it all on the last question, which turned out to be a one of the geekiest and hardest questions about Star Wars you could imagine. 

            We may have lost all our trivia points, but we still won big, with excellent food and capable, congenial service.

There is always something happening at Hafner's regardless of the holiday
Thanks to Seymour Singer for his help taking the blue of this photo!

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Superior Novel: Peter Geyes' "The Lighthouse Road"


Peter Geye uses Lake Superior, about as far north as you can go on America’s North Coast, as a vivid backdrop for his second novel, The Lighthouse Road. 

The Lighthouse Road, named after the main street in fictional Gunflint, Minnesota, chronicles the lives of two generations in Gunflint.  The present day in the book is the 1920’s, with flashbacks to the 1890’s to explain how history shaped the book’s present day.

The arrival of Thea Eide puts the story in motion.  Thea, a young Norwegian immigrant, comes to America to work on her aunt and uncles farm.  But two days before she arrives, Thea’s aunt commits suicide and her uncle is mad with grief.

Her new family in shambles, Thea is compelled to work as a cook in a lumberjack’s camp near Gunflint.

Thea has a son named Odd, a family name, and he is the main character in the present day of the book.  Odd is a herring fisherman, a boat builder and a smuggler.  He works for Hosea Grimm, an older man who runs the village’s apothecary and bordello.

Hosea and his daughter Rebekah have been his surrogate parents; Thea died shortly after Odd was born.  A key part of The Lighthouse Road is how Odd discovers his mother’s past and tries to find his independence from Hosea and Rebekah.

Searching for identity is also key to Thea’s and Rebekah’s stories.  Although this book is set well over a 100 years ago, its chronicle of the struggles of immigrants and women could have been written this year.

This literary novel is also a thriller.  At the book’s beginning, the reader has a certain view of the characters and their village.  As the story progresses, Geye reveals surprises and plot twists.

The Lake provides Odd’s occupation, first as an apprentice herring fisherman, then as a master boat builder and then as a smuggler.

Geye’s Lake Superior is calm and bright on a moonlit night.  It offers a week of unseasonably mild weather before a severe winter.  In that winter it is locked in thick ice that allows people to walk a mile out and ice fish.

One of my favorite parts of the book concerns Thea’s travels from Chicago to Gunflint by steamer and schooner.  The distance that Thea travels and the power of the Lakes eloquently underscores the big changes Thea is experiencing in her life.

Geye describes the last morning on the schooner, The Opportunity, as follows:

“In the morning, they awoke to more heavy fog.  The lake was now coming in slow undulations . . . They waited for two hours, the fog more blown away than burned, and raised sails under a southwesterly breeze that brought as much warmth as it did smooth sailing.”


Thea, Odd, Hosea and Rebekah are fully developed people.  Geye persuades readers to care for them, even when they fall short.  He has written a book as strong and well constructed as Odd’s fishing boat, with a story with as many moods as Lake Superior itself.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mark Gerchick and the Brave New World Aloft

Full Upright and Locked Position: An Insider’s Guide to Air Travel, By Mark Gerchick.  Norton: 368 pages paperback, $15.95

Mark Gerchick’s new book about airlines is must reading for anyone who flies.
For people planning a vacation for 2015, Gerchick’s chapters on fares and frequent fliers will help you do better in the cat and mouse game between cash hungry airlines and price-conscious travelers.

For ticketed passengers, information on airline schedules, delays, luggage processing, pilots, health conditions aloft and airline security will help you have a better - - or less bad - - flight.
For travelers serving a life sentence in coach, Gerchick offers a view of life in business class, flying chartered jets and the over-the-top world of first class on international flights.

Gerchick has worked in aviation all his life, starting with a summer job at Westchester County Airport when he was a teen.  He was Chief Counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a staffer to the Secretary of Transportation.  He is now an aviation consultant.
But experience does not an author make.  Full Upright and Locked Position is compelling, often witty reading.  Gerchick carefully organized countless facts in the text, with some clarifying repetition.  He presents these squadrons of facts in a clear, mostly jargon-free and congenial writing style.

The book’s main theme is that a desire for financial stability and profitability drive nearly every airline decision.  Airlines use data on past flights and supercomputers to determine how many flights to schedule and to price seats as economy, super economy or business class. 
Data and computing power give airlines an almost supernatural ability to find every person’s “dammit price,” “as in, if the fare goes up just another few bucks, we’re cramming the kids in the backseat, dammit, and driving the ten hours to Grandma’s.”

Airlines have discovered that they are not selling “just a flight.”  “Airlines,” Gerchick explains, are “selling a bundle of separable, flight-related services. . . “  When my father joked that a bargain airfare “might not include the wings,” he was on to something!

Airlines charge bag fees, snack fees, drink fees, seat assignment fees, ticket change fees and fuel surcharge fees.  In 2010 and 2011, Gerchick says, checked bag and ticket change fees generated nearly $6 billion, more than all airline net profits in those years!
According to Full Upright and Locked Position, each time the price of fuel
increases by a penny, the fuel bill for all US airlines increases $175 million!
Since this book appeared in 2013, fuel prices have plummeted and airlines are jamming more people into skinnier seats.

In a recent conversation, Gerchick said “In public statements, airline CEO’s are emphatic that they will not lower fares with lower fuel prices.”  Passengers have little leverage to share these savings; airline flights are already nearly full and airlines have no incentive to charge less.
Gerchick observed, with a smile in his voice, “Airlines have a new term for tighter seating: ‘densification.’”  “Airlines,” he continued, “are creating a new product, selling space by the inch; they have made legroom a monetizable product.”

Pricing and legroom illustrate a key concept that any traveler will encounter.  Even with recent fare increases, airline fares are still, adjusted for inflation, much lower than they were in what people recall as the golden age of aviation. 
But airlines no longer sell all seats at the same price.  “If you are willing to suffer,” Gerchick says, “you can pay less.” 

At book’s end, Gerchick looks at aviation trends.  Airline mergers could increase fares in the future.  The Federal government is likely to continue to press airlines to make airline fares as transparent as possible with fewer “gotcha fees” as a ticket is purchased.  An FAA overhaul of air traffic control could shorten travel times, improve safety and save fuel.
Despite the emphasis on profitability, Gerchick recognizes that frontline airline people try to do their best for the traveler.  The last story in the book, about a Southwest pilot helping a distraught parent, is likely to make you cry.
Note: WW Norton's website shows this book available in both hardcover and paperback.  The hardcover design looks like this:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Five Things We Like about Syracuse in the winter

Syracuse on a winter's dawn.  Photograph courtesy of Wainwright Photography

Syracuse has a reputation for being snowy.  But when we visited last weekend, there were only flurries and we found the city to be a lively place in mid-winter.  Here’s five things we enjoyed:

Albert Bierstadt's painting Nevada Falls
on display at the Everson Museum
Photo courtesy of the Museum
1.      The  Everson Museum of Art: The Everson in downtown Syracuse was designed by I.M. Pei; it was the first museum he designed, opening in 1968.  According to architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable, Pei's success with the Everson likely won him a subsequent commission to expand the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C.
We went to the Everson intending to linger in its superb collection of American paintings.  And the paintings did not disappoint.  The collection includes Edward Hicks’ The Peaceable Kingdom and a stunning landscape by Albert Bierstadt, Nevada Falls. 

The surprise in this museum is its ceramic collection.  I started into the collection to be a polite guest.  But in just a few steps, I was swept away.  The Everson’s ceramics cover a wide range of human experience.  Many pieces are functional, such as a Sumerian bowl from antiquity or Anasazi pottery.  But lots of other pieces are art for art’s sake, often with a sense of fun.  A recently created set of pieces shows a man shot from a cannon, including the cannon with a cloud of smoke, the flying man and his trampoline.
Scarab Vase, 1911 by Adelaide Alsop Robineau
Porcelain, photograph courtesy of the
 Everson Museum of Art

Self-Sufficiency, by Lois Hennessy, 2002
Bisque clay, watercolor, string, wood and knitting needles
photograph courtesy of the Everson Museum of Art
The Museum staff is informative and friendly.  An added treat was hearing a pianist rehearsing some of Chopin’s music in the Museum’s Hosmer Auditorium.
The Residence Inn at Armory Square is a new hotel
on the north edge of the Armory Square district
2.      The Residence Inn at Armory Square: After leaving the Museum, we found traffic like New York at rush hour.  I had checked Syracuse University’s website, to see if a game was scheduled.  It appeared there wasn’t but I was wrong: Syracuse’s men’s basketball team was playing Miami of Ohio.

Amazingly, the Residence Inn at Armory Square had a reservation when I called them a few days before. 

This new hotel shares a building with a Courtyard.  Rooms are bright, offer a full kitchen and feel roomy.

Staff at this Residence Inn are capable and welcoming.  They offered us a room that was likely to be quiet if there was post game revelry and gave us good information about the Armory Square neighborhood. The complimentary breakfast coffee the next day was hot and strong!

3.      KittyHoynes: Armory Square is a redeveloped neighborhood, whose character is influenced by a treasure trove of historic buildings.  In an old hotel building across the street from the Residence Inn is Kitty Hoynes, an Irish pub.  We had delicious fish and chips and a Reuben, along with perfectly made Manhattans and perfectly poured Guinness pints.  The fish and chips included an aircraft carrier-sized piece of perfectly fried haddock.  The Reuben had a perfect mix of sauerkraut, lean corned beef and melted Swiss cheese.
Kitty Hoynes is in a building that used to house the Crown Hotel
4.      Downtown architecture:  Armory Square is a delightfully walkable.  Beyond Armory Square, downtown Syracuse has much fascinating architecture and history.  For example, the Wesleyan Methodist Church, now housing the Mission Mexican Restaurant, is likely to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. 

Before you hit town, contact Downtown Syracuse or the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and ask for a copy of the pamphlet, Historic Downtown Syracuse Walking Tour.  This full colored publication offers sharp color illustrations of nearly 70 historic buildings.  Each building is keyed to a clear, easy to follow map.

5.      Wegman’s Supermarket: On our way home, we made a pilgrimage to Wegman’s.  It’s certainly a fun place to shop. A current favorite is the nearly oil can-sized can of de-caf coffee.  The store’s mini-chocolate chips and pizza are also appealing.

Since first posting this article, I learned from Nikita Jankowski, at the Syracuse Convention and Visitor's Bureau, that there is a website which lists the high points of each season in Syracuse.  The list can be found at . 

This photograph of ice skating at Clinton Square
shows another fun winter activity in Syracuse and it shows the architectural riches found in down town. 
Photograph courtesy of Wainwright Photography