HARD ROCK HOTEL

Dateline: New Orleans

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On a recent trip to New Orleans I came upon this scene.

This is a shot of the Hard Rock Hotel building which collapsed while under construction in New Orleans on October 12, 2019. Three dead and dozens injured. We stayed just two blocks away but the streets were blocked off for three blocks north and south which required a walk around making a five block walk to Bourbon Street an eight block walk.

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Canal Street, a major thoroughfare in New Orleans, was blocked off creating a transportation nightmare. The streetcars were not running for fear of vibrating loose the already unstable building. Authorities sill haven’t recovered the bodies of the dead.

 

The Biltmore Estate

Road Trip to Asheville, North Carolina

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My trip to Asheville, North Carolina would not be complete without a visit to the Biltmore estate. I was a little hesitant at first to fork over $75.00 for the price of admission but once on the grounds and into the house I soon discovered the tour was worth every penny. Buy the ticket, take the ride as Hunter would say.

The first ride was on a bus from the remote parking area to the mansion proper.

George Vanderbilt opened the Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895, after six years of construction. He created Biltmore as an escape from everyday life for his family and friends. The 8,000 estate was home to George, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia. In 1924 Cornelia married John Francis Amherst Cecil. They lived and entertained at Biltmore. The Cecils opened Biltmore to the public in 1930 to promote tourism in the area during the depression and to generate income to maintain the property.

Vanderbilt decided to construct Biltmore in 1888. He acquired 125,000 acres of woodland in North Carolina. He hired architect Morris Hunt to design a limestone house to be modeled on the Chateau de Blois of the Loire Valley in France. It is said to be the largest domestic home ever built in the United States encompassing four acres of floor space.

Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, George’s father, made the family fortune in the shipping and railroad business. At one time he had a monopoly on all rail service in and out of New York City. As legend has it, he started his ferry business as a young man with a $100 loan from his mother, worked hard, and became one of the wealthiest men in America during the so-called Gilded Age.

Today, Biltmore remains a family business employing over 2000 employees who continue Biltmore’s mission to preserve what has been described a national treasure.

The house is beautiful and handsomely furnished, as the pictures will attest, but one is slightly turned off by the ostentaciousness of the luxurious surroundings.

One wonders about all the concentration of wealth in the hands of so few while America continues to be run by oligarchs and income disparity strangles the middle class and starves the poor.

George Orwell said it best I think: A fat man eating quails while children are begging for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are less likely to see it when you are within the sound of the guns.”

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Comments are welcome.

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Front Lawn of the Biltmore Estate

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Exterior Shot

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Winter Garden Room

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Breakfast Room

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Portico

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View From a Broad

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Back Porch

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View From the Terrace

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Library

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Library

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George Vanderbilt’s Bed

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George Vanderbilt’s Bedroom

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Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bed

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Underground Tunnel Below the Manse

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Bowling Alley

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Swimming Pool

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Main Kitchen

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Banquet Hall

 

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Pool Room

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Gun Room

10 Things to do in Philly When Your Dead

Because when you’re in Philly it’s almost like being in heaven…

 

  1. Go to South Street
  2. The Continental Martini Bar
  3. Sabrina’s
  4. Germantown
  5. Mt. Airy
  6. Valley Green
  7. Chestnut Hill
  8. Silk City Diner
  9. The Italian Market
  10. Glenside
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St. Martin’s in the Field – Chestnut Hill

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In the midst of Summer I found a glorious Winter

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Philadelphia Cricket Club

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Philadelphia Cricket Club- Founded 1854

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Continental Martini Lounge

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Inside the Continental

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The Continental Interior

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Sabrina’s

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Huevos Rancheros – Sabrina’s

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Sabrin’a’s

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Italian Market

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Mural of Mayor Rizzo – Italian Market

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Molly’s Books and Records in the Italian Market

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The Italian Market

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Anthony’s in the Italian Market

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South Street

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South Street

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Dance Macabre on South Street

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South Street

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Lorenzo and Sons Pizza On South Street

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South Street Where You Can Always Get a Piece

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Manny Browns on South Street

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Silk City Diner

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Silk City Diner

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Silk City Diner

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The Comet in Glenside

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The Comet in Glenside

 

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Telling Stories at Keswick Coffee Shop in Glenside

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Chestnut Hill

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Hanging Out in Mt. Airy

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Having a Beer at a local brewery in Mt. Airy

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VALLEY GREEN

 

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Having Lunch with Winter at Valley Green

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Valley Green

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My Baby’s Crib in Germantown

 

 

 

 

 

NIAGARA FALLS

Road Trip

Once upon a time in a land faraway (New Jersey) I made a road trip with my then wife Robin to Niagara Falls. On the way we made a stop in Corning, New York for a business meeting which justified our trip.

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We traveled in my new convertible Crossfire which could go from 0 to 100 in under 10 seconds. It came equipped with it’s own green frog whose name happened to be Kermit.

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We stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel on the Canadian side.

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While walking around the downtown area of Niagara Falls we sort of wore ourselves out. Robin commented that if I was a few years younger she would make me pick her up and physically carry her back to the hotel.

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I responded that if she was a few pounds lighter I would pick her up and carry her anyway. She laughed and I laughed and we both had a good laugh.

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Next day we went out to the falls which were nothing less than spectacular.

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She Came to Stay

When I was in London recently I had occasion to stay at the Thistle Hotel. In the morning as I was having breakfast my waitress came over to offer me more coffee. Sure, I said, I’d love some. As she refilled my cup she glanced down at the book on the table which I had brought with me to read. She look back at me and then in her best English accent asked me, “Well did she?”

Of course to her I was the one with the accent.

“Did she what?”

“Did she stay?”

At first I didn’t know what she meant. I looked at her and then I looked at the book and then I look back at her again and then in an instant of recollection, understanding, and reckoning I said, “She did indeed.”

My waitress beamed a self-satisfied smile and flitted off to the next customer to offer them some coffee.

The next day I was off to France to drink a toast to the author of the book, Simone de Beauvoir. This I would do at the fabled Cafe De Flore in Paris.

But I still had another day in London so I thought I’d spend it at the British Museum.

Elephant Walk

On Safari in Africa

On this spot in 1989 Kenya burned 12 tons of ivory worth over three million in U.S. dollars.

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Nairobi National Park

According to then president Moi, “To stop the poacher the trader must be stopped and to stop the trader the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory.”

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The tusks that were burned represents more than 2000 elephants  shot and killed over a four year period.

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Hotel Serena, Nairobi, Kenya

TONY’S WAY

Philadelphia Story

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There are a million stories in the semi-clad metropolis and this is one.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in each neighborhood there is a distinctive culture or ethnicity.  Each neighborhood has gradually become more mixed and diversified. In South Philly you have the Italians, in Fishtown the Irish. West Philly and North Philly are predominantly black. In Center City you see the greatest diversity, but it too has its own characteristics. In Kensington, where Tony’s Way is located, it is mainly Spanish, as in Puerto Rican. Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the elevated Blue Line in Kensington.

I lived in several different neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For a while I lived in Fishtown in a little house across from the Palmer Cemetery.  Fishtown is a neighborhood that adjoins Kensington.  I  would sometimes walk over to the Blue Line to take it into town. On the way back home when I arrived at my stop and descended the steps from the “El” I would find Tony’s Way beckoning to me in the darkness. So one night I hustled there inside.

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I stepped inside of the brightly lit cantina and immediately was blasted with the sound of Latin music blaring on the jukebox and uproarious laughter.  The joint was juking and very colorfully decorated with tinsel and streamers and signs of various descriptions. Very festive. The bar was in the center with seating all around. Behind the bar were a pair of barmaids in cut off jeans and tank tops.

I stepped up the the bar and ordered a shot of tequila and a Corona. That was what everybody else was drinking. I had a couple of rounds then stepped back into the night and walked home.

Since Tony’s Way was right on my way as I walked back and fourth from the El, I started to become a regular. I would go over in the afternoons sometimes and on the weekends. One day I was in there having a beer and a shot when Tony walks over to me and introduces himself.

He gave me a broad smile and stretched out his hand which I took. He had a strong grip.

“I’m Tony,” he said. “This is my place. Welcome. If you ever find you have a problem here, you see that large fellow sitting over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. And do you see that other fellow standing over there? That’s Edwardo. He’s my other cousin. You just call one of them over and he will help you.”

He smiled again and patted me on the back and strolled off to greet the other customers. That was how it was at Tony’s Way.

One Friday night I walked over for a little entertainment and to see if there might be some Puerto Rican girls just dying to meet me.

There was line to get in.  So I queued up and waited my turn to be let in. As I was waiting I noticed there were a couple of bouncers at the front door. They were frisking people, as in patting them down for weapons, before they were allowed in. Now this wasn’t too unusual for Philadelphia so I didn’t think too much of it at first. When It came my turn they just waved me in.

So I entered the establishment and walked around the bar to the other side so I could keep an eve on the door.  I ordered my usual: A shot of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Corona with a lime wedge.

I got to noticing the way the bouncers were frisking the patrons. A guy would step up to the door and they would  frisk him and then they would wave him on in. A couple of girls would step up up and they would get waved through. A guy come in gets frisked. The girls get waved through.

As I’m watching this it slowly begins to dawn on me, hey! Wait a minute, I didn’t get frisked. What’s up with that? They must not have thought I was dangerous enough to frisk.  Now in Philly, it’s not enough to look tough. You got to look dangerous too. So this was beginning to bother me a bit and I was feeling a little slighted if not insulted.

I turned to my fellow barfly sitting next to me and relayed my tale of woe to him. He said, relax, they probably just know you.

Ohhhhh! Yeah! I never thought of that! Well, I felt a whole lot better then and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I moved away from Philly a short while after that incident. First to Trenton then back home to Kentucky. It’s been about 10 years since I had been to Tony’s Way, but I always had fond memories.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia on business, and while there I wanted to visit some of my old neighborhoods and stomping grounds

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The first thing I noticed was the sign was down So I was’t sure if it was still Tony’s Way or not. I stepped into the bar from the bright sunlight and waited a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the light. I sat down on a bar stool and ordered a shot and a beer. I looked around and things looked pretty much the same. It was early afternoon so not too many people were in there. My eyes came to rest on a familiar character who was sitting across the bar from me reading a newspaper.

I  finished my drink and walked around the bar and approached the man reading the paper.

“You’re Tony aren’t you? I don’t know if you remember me or not but a few years ago when I lived in Philly I used to come in here. You were always very nice to me. I’m in town for a short visit and I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said. “Your hair was a little longer then. What happened to you?”

“I moved away.”

“Where did you move to?”

“To Kentucky.”

“To Kentucky?” He started laughing, Why’d you move to Kentucky?”

I explained I had family there and that was my home state, but he couldn’t get over the fact that I moved to Kentucky.

“Hey Angelina!. Come over here.” He waved the barmaid over. “This guy used to come here all the time, but he moved to Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?!!!”  Then she started to laugh.

She moved away from us and took another customer’s order who had just sat at the bar. And she told them what Tony had said and they laughed.  Then the people sitting next to them started laughing and shouted,  “Kentucky!” when they laughed. And pretty soon the whole establishment was laughing and shouting Kentucky! And no one was laughing more than Tony and me. But after a few minutes the laughter eventually died down, but it did not die down entirely for a long time for always at this table or that  a new area of laughter would begin.

I drank free that day.  Of course I suffered the next day from a hangover.  But it was definitely the best day of my trip.

MATATUS

Public Transportation in Nairobi, Kenya

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Busses in Nairobi are called Matatus. They are painted bight colors and are loud.

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70% of the population use them for transportation. They are cheap and convenient, but like everything else in Nairobi, they are chaotic.

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The name comes from Swahili meaning three. It is unclear as to three what, but it is commonly  believed it refers to a coin worth about ten cents which would equate to 30 cents per ride.

 

PAJAMA GAME

Top Ten Reasons Not to Wear Pajamas Out in Public

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Man in his pajama at China Star in Louisville, Kentucky

  1. It’s Public!
  2. If you are sleepy get a room!
  3. It looks awful.
  4. No one will take you seriously.
  5. I can’t stop laughing.
  6. Nobody cares what you wear to bed.
  7. It’s just a little too comfortable for you.
  8. It’s just a little bit too uncomfortable for me.
  9. No one want s to see those little black moose (meece?) run up your red fuzzy leg.
  10. Too late I’ve already been incensed!

INTO THE UNDERGROWTH

 

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I recently attended an exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum entitled Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth. Turns out there is a whole sub-genre of painting called sous-bois, which means undergrowth, that explores the significance of the interior of the forest. Hmmm. I have been exploring the interior of the forest for years now. Here is my latest entry into this genre.