How We Write?

First of all, “Is this thing on?”

I’ve learned a lot in just over a year’s worth of blogging, and yet there is so much I still don’t understand. Take of my observations and opinions what you will, and feel free to provide your criticism, comments and suggestions. I greatly value your feedback and interaction, as the social component of WordPress, the community of fellow writers, is the reason I’m here.

Writing is hard, and writing well is really fuckin’ hard. I agonize over the words I commit to the page and sometimes can’t create a complete sentence no matter how many ways I twist and turn a phrase. So many false starts and drafts that will never see the light of day. I must love punishment, because I keep coming back for more. So it must be for many other bloggers.

I can’t tell you how to grow your audience, leverage social media, or maximize your Search Engine Optimization. After a year, I can boast of my 56 followers, but I do know this, for anyone to take the time to really read a piece of my writing, and especially to offer a comment or encouragement, that is love. I respect and appreciate the talent and dedication of my blogger brothers and sisters.

What have I learned? For me, the greatest gift has been vision, the understanding that it is better to show than to tell, to enlighten, illuminate and awaken, rather than cajole or preach. So much may depend upon a red wheel barrow, but I need you to show me why I should give a shit. Thanks to those of you who have succeeded and inspired me in the process.

Me giving advice about blogging reminds me of a favorite baseball story I’ve repeated to family and friends ad nauseam. Former St. Louis Cardinals catcher and baseball announcer Tim McCarver recounted one misguided trip to the mound. As McCarver approached Bob Gibson, the Hall of Fame pitcher shouted out to him, “What are you doing? The only thing you know about pitching is you can’t hit it!”

Here are a few of my takeaways: 

Readers love stories and photos of travel adventures. My posts with most likes–term most is relative in my case–are those about interesting destinations and day trips. Travelogues are some of my favorite follows as well. I admire the bold spirit in others and like to live vicariously through their chronicled adventures. Unfortunately, my personal exploits are few and far between, so wouldn’t provide enough content to sustain a blog dedicated to travel.

Poetry, especially short poems, are also popular. Many bloggers post quality work on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself a poet, but appreciate the music in my native tongue and will write a short piece when the spirit moves me. Whether it can be defined as poetry is a question best left to more talented writers.

If you are attractive and photogenic, include pictures of yourself in your posts. It can’t hurt. Pictures of me that I would wish to share are few and far between.

Frustrated with the lack of feedback, I’ve read a few articles on why bloggers struggle and a lot of that can be explained by the frustrations of being a writer. Central to the advice in one article is that if you write something of value the readers will find you. I do understand that bad writing is bad writing and no amount of social media savvy can change that, but I am relieved that I never quit my day job.

Ego often gets in the way of art, as it does with spiritual awareness and relationships, but sometimes you just need to take the attitude of baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams as chronicled in Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four:

Ted Williams, when he was still playing, would psyche himself up for a game during batting practice, usually early practice before the fans or reporters got there.

He’d go into the cage, wave his bat at the pitcher and start screaming at the top of his voice, “My name is Ted fucking Williams and I’m the greatest hitter in baseball.”

He’d swing and hit a line drive.

“Jesus H Christ Himself couldn’t get me out.”

And he’d hit another.

Then he’d say, “Here comes Jim Bunning. Jim fucking Bunning and that little shit slider of his.”


“He doesn’t really think he’s gonna get me out with that shit.”


Know thyself, and understand why you decided to create a blog in the first place. It’s you, it’s yours, and nobody can take that away from you. It’s entirely possible that sometimes they just don’t get it, or they don’t get you. But, it sure can make you doubt yourself sometimes.

I really wish I knew how to put more asses in the seats…


Culture of One


A recent post, Cultural Osmosis, by WSW, World Surfing Warrior, got me thinking about how people from different cultures connect. Culture consists of so many components, large and small, some so small they may seem insignificant and superficial, but I would advise you not to blink. I have seen very little of this world, having ventured outside of the States only a handful of times. As for my own culture, I am an expert on what it means to be an American of English, Italian, German, Norwegian, Irish ancestry growing up in a densely-populated small city outside of the New York metropolitan area, who marries outside of his race, religion and nationality and adopts a child from yet another country on the far side of the globe.

Beliefs, practices, customs and traditions, these terms are often linked or even interchanged. They may be attributed to a specific society, in a fixed time and place. Does this make culture exclusive? Must I be born into it to understand its subtleties? Have I painted myself into a corner?

My culture is over here, yours over there, but every day we build little bridges and meet somewhere in the middle. This unique shared experience is a sub-culture that may evolve and expand, or simply dissolve in an instant. The catalyst for these connections is the search and discovery of something familiar, and this  essential element is often simple, basic, and instinctive.

If music be the food of love, play on.

Musicians speak of a universal language. I can listen to the sounds of an Indian raga played on an oboe or sitar and hear strains of Mississippi Delta blues. You can understand the attraction of a foreign land for the expat musician who’s art is taken for granted at home yet revered in a new world. Count off a few beats, and strangers from the far reaches of the Earth communicate through a collection of notes or dance steps.

Then, there is the quickest way to a man’s heart…

I’m not talking about Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy. Sharing a meal can be a spiritual or sensual experience.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.'”

This is no small thing. Whether it is rolling out dough for pierogies, or roti, or a pie crust, there is a bond formed whenever two people work shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen.

When I traveled to China to adopt my daughter, our group of adoptive parents traveled the country in a little cocoon, led by local and country travel guides. Before embarking  on side trips to the individual provinces where our little girls waited, we were given a taste of Chinese culture, visiting several famous sites in and around Beijing, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall, and tourist traps like the pearl and silk factories. We also shared all of our carefully planned meals at local restaurants. Did this experience in any way help us understand what it means to be Chinese?

I had a very different interaction while scaling the stairs on a stretch of the Great Wall. The steps are of varying heights, or rise, making it nearly impossible to find your rhythm or gain momentum. The combination of thin air, warm temperature and pollution soon had me sucking wind. Glancing to my side I noticed a chubby Chinese teenage boy struggling as well. We paused, smiled at each other, then put our arms over each others shoulders and tried to tackle the obstacle together. We laughed and stumbled and spoke in our native tongues, understanding only that we both probably looked hilarious.


Then, there was the confrontation in a Wuhan shopping mall when a group of us parents with children in arms were shouted at by an older women who was obviously expressing her displeasure with the foreign intruders who had come for her native daughters. She said her piece until her nervously smiling daughter managed to pull her away. This was balanced by the kindness of the young women who ran a little shop in Guangzhou and loaned me a stroller for the couple of days I was in their city. Their shop near the White Swan Hotel was aptly nicknamed, “Your home away from home.”

We seek something familiar in the new. In an earlier post, Paris Redux, I expressed the loneliness and sense of isolation I often felt during my stay in a city where I couldn’t speak the language and knew nearly nothing of the culture or customs. Before I set off for Paris, my boss instructed me to “drink a lot of wine.” Others encouraged me to sample the cuisine, and while a few authentic French dishes found their way to my belly, I craved and sought out something that reminded me of home, and in doing so created my own little ad hoc sub-culture.

I didn’t drink much wine; not my thing. I usually had beer or mineral water with my meals. What was I homesick for? A hamburger and fries? Maybe pizza? –Soft, runny cheeses are popular choices on a pizza in France–No, I craved Indian food. I never got completely used to eating alone, but sitting in a quiet Indian restaurant, comfort in the familiar went beyond the menu. Speaking with the owner about home and family, knowing he was from somewhere else, I realized we were both travelers.

I’ve been married to a wonderful Indian woman for over 35 years, having met when we were just teenagers. Love at first sight, but that’s a story for another day. She was born and raised in Guyana, South America. Her family, and others like them, emigrated from India, carrying their culture with them where it blended with those of Africans, indigenous Amerindians, Chinese, and Portuguese to become something new. The story is repeated in Trinidad, Canada, Singapore, the U.K. and in the United States. The Desi experience is so incredibly varied and diverse, yet all share a common bond, mother India.

Culture is Mahatma Gandhi, discovering his destiny in South Africa, leading non-violent protests to fight for the rights of the oppressed. Culture is Kobe Bryant, speaking fluent Italian and playing American basketball as an African separated by generations from his homeland. It is a young Chinese woman, playing American jazz on her saxophone on a bridge over the Île de la Cité. And, it is legendary chef Gaggan Anand, reinventing traditional Indian cuisine in his Bangkok based restaurant, at the same time planning its closure in 2020 to continue his quest with a new venture in Fukuoka, Japan.

So it is that culture is not a fixed thing at all; it is constantly moving and evolving, both exerting its influence and adapting to the unique customs of an adopted home. “Everybody here is from someplace else,” is usually an accurate statement, no matter where you’re standing. Somehow overcoming the obstacles of language, religion and local customs, we manage to connect through our shared love of food, music, art and sports.

High Line & Brooklyn Bridge

Some walks are more special than others. Walking is usually a solitary activity for me, but I was glad to explore the city with my wife and daughter one October day. We combined a walk on the High Line with a side trip to the Brooklyn Bridge, and threw in a stroll and lunch in Chinatown, finishing with a hunt through the bargain racks at the Strand book store.

The High Line is an elevated section of train track, (EL for short), saved from demolition, that runs through the Chelsea neighborhood of lower Manhattan. It has been converted to a landscaped pedestrian walkway that includes many points of interest, and serves as an escape from the heavily-trafficked city streets below. According to the website,, the High Line was opened to the public in 2006 and has been extended and expanded twice to create its current length of 1.45 miles. (2.33 km)

After doing some research and calculation of the commuter railroad fares to the city from either Fairfield County, CT or the towns in neighboring Westchester County, NY, we decided a more convenient and economical choice was to book a parking space through SpotHero and drive down the West Side. We left after rush hour, enjoying the views of the Hudson along the way, and made great time. The valet garage was right across the street from one of the northernmost entrances of the park and cost $20 for the whole day.

Since it was already mid-October the foliage had already lost much of its color, and having watched the documentary and read about the park, I was surprised by the intimate scale of the High Line and understood how its close proximity to the surrounding buildings has inspired ad hoc artwork, fire escape performances and exhibitionism. There is even a sign that warns, or promises, “BEYOND THIS POINT YOU MAY ENCOUNTER NUDE SUNBATHERS.” There are small grassy areas and low sprinklers where kids of all ages tread barefoot on warm days, wooden slat chaise lounges in shaded and sunny spots, and seasonal planned gardens all around. Somehow the air feels fresher above the asphalt, and we were able to glimpse a stubborn bit of lingering Summer color. Several sections of the old tracks remain, with small trees and plants growing between them.

The pics are not great, but enjoy a little walk…


The High Line also functions as an open-air museum, and here are a few of the offbeat works we encountered during our walk. There was a car made of recycled rubber, a squiggly sculpture named Swan, a giant essay, I want a president, by Zoe Leonard, and a bizarre, too lifelike, sleepwalking statue in white briefs, among several others.

We descended the park at the southernmost point at Gansevoort Street and walked over to the Samsung store, which is designed to showcase their products. Luckily, none exploded during our visit. If they had, ISIS would most certainly have taken credit. We window shopped our way down to the subway on 14th Street where we headed to High Street on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.

A short walk brought us to the  bridge entrance where we climbed the steps to the pedestrian walkway. It was fairly crowded with joggers, bikers and other walkers, but it was still a spiritual experience for me, one I had planned for years, but never followed through, until this day. Anyway, there are no words to describe the Brooklyn Bridge that approach those of Hart Crane. This is my favorite poem of all time and its themes and imagery haunt me.


To Brooklyn Bridge

Hart Crane, 18891932

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
—Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,—

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

Here’s the star of our walk. The approach from the Brooklyn side gives you the best view of the Manhattan skyline. I chronicled a couple of dopey trends; I can kind of understand the significance of the locks to couples in love, but I don’t get the litter of headphones. Hope you’re not too tired, or bored, yet…


Once on the Manhattan side of the bridge, we headed toward Chinatown, stopping to rest in a small square until we made our way to a cozy noodle shop for lunch. Then off to buy some vegetables from the street vendors before heading uptown a few blocks on the subway to get to the Strand. After grabbing a few $1 and $2 bargains, we were tired and ready to head back to our car. Since there was no straight line using public transportation, we decided to hail a yellow cab, completing our NYC experience.

Paris Redux – Part II

What might not have been apparent from my earlier post is that Paris is more than just beautiful architecture. There are people as well, and after photographing most of the tourist sights, I made a conscious effort to capture the people and unique activities that surrounded me. Unlike the first set of photos, I took some time to edit these to better focus on the subjects, but the final product is limited by my amateurism and equipment which was a circa 2003 Sony Cyber-Shot 2 megapixel camera with no optical zoom. It had decent optics and worked well with still subjects in good lighting, but it was challenging when capturing movement, especially indoors.

There were couples taking wedding pictures, (three weddings and no funeral), beauty pageant contestants, a Renault sponsored fitness fair, young people posing on high concrete pedestals, skateboarders and rollerbladers, kids playing soccer in the park, street musicians, and so much more. Like any famous city, Paris is overflowing with people and filled with constant activity, and yet, you can still spot a lone couple on the side of a bridge or along a quiet bank of the Seine.

This is a small sample of the characters I encountered. There was Sparrow Man who fed the little birds as they alighted on the arm of his jacket, and Opera Man, not Adam Sandler, but the startling mezzo soprano who inhabited the marble-columned passages near the Hotel du Louvre. Not represented here is the young Asian girl who played American jazz on her saxophone on a Paris bridge one warm late summer night.

I most loved the gardens that were everywhere and still in colorful bloom in September. Jardin des Tuileries features a large basin where children float colorful rented boats, and sculptures that reveal themselves as you pass between lines of hedges. The hedge lined lanes provide some privacy to couples as well. The Luxembourg was a close second and I spent the good part of a Sunday afternoon just sitting, people watching and meditating. You just pull up one of the lawn chairs, which are thoughtfully placed throughout, and inhale the view.

Wedding pics at Trocadero


Small wedding party



Another happy couple


People as art
More living sculptures


The sparrow man
Opera man


Mandatory cliché shot
Rodin pose



Candlepin Bowling

I guarantee this place is not on anyone’s bucket list, but you can often find fun in unexpected places. Candlepin bowling at Saco Valley Lanes transports you back in time.

On one rainy afternoon in North Conway, NH, we searched for a nearby bowling alley. The closest lanes are in Fryeburgh, in the neighboring state of Maine. As we approached our destination we passed many neglected homes, and when we arrived, second guessed our decision. On the verge of turning around to leave, we had a change of heart when a carload of small kids pulled up next to us and headed for the entrance.

My wife, daughter and I walked into a time warp. The backdrop for the lanes was ’62 Chevy Impala light blue and the modernized scoring screens were straight out of the 80’s. Stepping cautiously to the front counter my wife was assured by the slightly grizzled Maine character, who could have come straight from central casting, “Don’t worry, I won’t bite you. How can I help you.” My wife smiled and I stepped forward to ask about the pricing and to give him our shoe sizes.

“Have you ever played ten pin?” he asked. I nodded and glanced over at the lanes expecting to see duck pins, the smaller cousin of standard bowling pins, but instead saw the straight candle pins.

He continued with instructions, “You need to push the reset button after each throw and enter the the number of pins you knock down. The computer will keep the totals.” It took a couple of minutes to figure out the keypad and to find the reset button by the ball return, but once we got going, had a great time.

The rules for candlepin bowling are a bit different with three throws per frame, and the ball is skeeball sized, but I think it suited us better. It was a great equalizer as we all stunk equally. I managed to win the first game with an amazing score in the 70’s and my daughter Kate won the second game. Now I just need to figure out how to put one of these lanes in my basement.


Paris Redux

“I have tried to unravel
The paths we’ve both had to travel
And now that I have come to see how much you meant to me
We might get to see a better view
Yes, I’m still here thinking of you
Still here thinking of you”

Still Here Thinking Of You lyrics by Carole King

My relationship with Paris was brief, awkward and solitary. Until now, with the exception of family and close friends, I’ve been reluctant to share my thoughts and feelings about this beautiful city that will forever tug at my soul. What can you say about Paris that doesn’t come across as pretentious, that hasn’t been better expressed by countless artists and expatriates? Now, nearly 10 years to the day of my first visit, I’ve had a change of heart, emboldened by the images and insights shared by several of my admired blogger brethren. This list is by no means comprehensive; I draw inspiration from all of my fellow writers.

So many people have Paris near the top of their bucket list, and although I despise the term and its connection to death, the emphasis on checking a box as a sense of achievement at the expense of spontaneity and personal experience, La Ville Lumière has well earned her prominent position. 51 Rue de la Victore was my “home” for three weeks. That address now goes by the name of the Hotel Mogador, but ten years ago, my impression of the hotel and surrounding neighborhood was mad ghetto. My room was cave-like, dark and poorly furnished with a single window that opened into a mine shaft of a courtyard. The sounds of the street level restaurants and bars that shared the structure echoed through this man made canyon late into the night, as did the moans of the amorous couple in the adjoining room one sweltering night.

After crashing in my cave for a couple of hours, I ventured out in the early afternoon to find my company’s office at 47 Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. Having absolutely no sense of direction, I wandered about the neighborhood until I stumbled upon Sainte-Trinité church which was undergoing renovations. I seek peace in the sanctuary of old churches and this one was magnificent. I settled into one of the pews to collect my thoughts and admired the artistic structure. Love at first sight.

Sainte-Trinité facade

I did finally find the office, protected behind an iron gate. I felt abandoned by my French colleagues as they seemed little concerned that I was alone in a strange city with no knowledge of the language or my immediate surroundings. Fortunately for me, Paris, for a major city, is surprisingly open and welcoming.

L'Amy office
47 Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin

The memories and impressions of those three weeks have blended and overlapped into a personal montage that included a side trip to Morez and Saint-Genis-Pouilly. If I was a more adventurous soul I would have explored the city at night and traveled on the Metro, but being a child of light I preferred discovering the sights, sounds and people in the warmth of the late summer days, first on the tour bus, then primarily on foot. Save for my time in the office, I ate all of my meals alone, and it was not unusual for days to pass without sharing more than a few words with another human being.

I was lonely, and yet, because it was Paris, I was never totally alone. There is something freeing about being propelled by your two feet and curiosity, and having everything you need for the day in your backpack. La Seine, the Opera Garnier, Notre Dame, la tour Eiffel, la Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, and especially the simple pleasures of the beautiful jardins du Luxembourg et des Tuileries; at times they overwhelmed the senses. I’ll share more recollections later, but here are some of the sights that sustained me.

OperaLouveEiffel 2DSC00908DSC00895DSC00901DSC00894DSC00890DSC00887DSC00874DSC00854DSC00852DSC00848DSC00837DSC00829DSC00827DSC00798DSC00757DSC00900DSC00747DSC00709DSC00678DSC00677DSC00669DSC00667DSC00647DSC00652Champs ArchDSC00625DSC00720DSC00866DSC00877DSC00929DSC00927DSC00917DSC00915



Summer is a good time to catch up on your reading and to post a travelogue. Yesterday’s day trip to the Essex steam train and riverboat at the Connecticut Valley Railroad, and recent overnighter to Mystic, featured some good old Yankee ingenuity displayed in the unique features of a couple of funky bridges.

Mystic River Bascule Bridge

I’m somewhat mechanically inclined, however, I’m still not sure how the bridge works, but there are two huge concrete blocks that counterbalance each other through linkages to the span. The massive forms hover above the roadway and look like something out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon, designed to mash Wile E. Coyote into a pancake. “Beep-beep….” When the bridge is down, the span is so low that passengers in small boats need to duck under the structure as they pass. You may also envision the coyote’s spread eagle form plastered to the side of the framework. There is a small boardwalk on the northern end of the bridge with benches where you can sit to take in the scenery. Others fish in the early morning or evening hours.Mystic BridgeThere are many small, interesting shops, restaurants and an ice cream parlor along the main and nearby streets, and of course Mystic Pizza, made famous by the movie of the same name. (Outside of New Haven, the best pizza in CT is not as good as the worst pizza in NYC, but that’s a review for another day). There are other great sights in this quaint little village including the Mystic Seaport which is not to be missed, but if you are a fan of bridges, this is a great one to visit and view in operation.

East Haddam Swing Bridge

The Connecticut Valley Railroad in Essex offers several options that allow you to experience a piece of history riding an old steam train through the Connecticut River valley. My wife and I chose the popular steam train and riverboat combination that takes about 2 1/2 hours. I would recommend going a little early to take a leisurely stroll around the station, gift shop, cafe car, rail yard, steam train museum and gallery to get a good flavor for the experience and to transport you back in time. As I heard the train whistle and felt it rumbling into the station, I could understand the sense of excitement that one must have felt in anticipation of the adventure ahead, the possibilities the train offered in an age without automobiles.Train frontTrain sideThe train clattered along through the valley, opening to varied landscapes, boat slips, and marshlands filled with aquatic birds and other wildlife, until we arrived at the dock to make our connection with the Becky Thatcher. Once aboard, we headed up the Connecticut River toward the bridge in East Haddam. Along the way you pass Gillette Castle, high up on the cliffs. There is a separate option to take a short ferry ride across the river and hike about 3/8 mile up one of several trails to get to the castle and state park. On this particular hot summer day, there were many people enjoying the water and weather in boats, on jet skis and swimming along the shores.Haddam Swing BridgeWe passed a hanger with several small aircraft and sea planes as we approached the bridge. Off to the right of the bridge is the Goodspeed Opera House where they feature musicals and original stage productions. The East Haddam Swing Bridge, like the bridge at  Mystic, is very odd looking and unique in function. The bridge and roadway swing out 90 degrees at set times during the day to allow the taller boats to travel up or down river. Sadly, I have never witnessed the bridge in operation, but plan to one day. We turned around at the bridge and headed back for the return leg on the steam train. Back at the station, back in the present, we were satisfied with an afternoon well spent.

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