Monthly Archives: December 2014

Capitol time

One of the deciding factors of our extended trip to the US was the wedding of Jack’s niece in DC. We love Washington and rarely passed up an opportunity to visit when we were still land-based. It’s our only truly monumental city and there’s a lifetime of cultural and historical places to see and things to do.

The wedding weekend was the first time we saw our son and daughter-in-law since they came to take Izzy home with them back in Fort Lauderdale in March 2013 right before we sailed away from our native shores toward the great beyond. While we’re always in close contact whenever we have Internet, nothing beats a big bear hug. We also got to see Jack’s sister and her husband and since the six of us weren’t part of the pre-wedding festivities we had our own party at Keren, a funky little Eritrean restaurant near DuPont Circle.


The owners were so happy to have us and recommended a buffet-style feast of what seemed like all the dishes on the menu. There was so much food and it was all delicious and I swore by the time we stopped eating that I wouldn’t eat another thing until the wedding the next evening. Ethiopian is one of my favorite cuisines and while this was slightly different it was just as good, especially knowing we probably won’t be having anything like it for a long, long time.

Being in DC — and in the US in general — reminded both of us how multi-ethnic a place America is. For the past year and a half we’ve been in smaller, more homogeneous countries and it was refreshing to hear many different languages walking down any street wherever we went. I asked every taxi driver, every bellman, motel owner, shopkeeper, waiter, “Where are you from? How long have you been here? Do you like it? What made you decide to come?” I loved these conversations and everyone was happy to share their stories. The funny thing is, most of them asked if we were Canadian. This is becoming a thing.

The wedding wasn’t until evening so we six visited the Newseum, a museum of news and journalism.


This is damn near heaven for me as a news junkie with years of university study in journalism under my belt.


There are displays of historical newspapers that could have occupied me for months, including the 1779 front page reporting the death of Captain Cook in Hawaii.


There’s a very moving exhibit of as-it-happened reporting of the 9/11 attack.


And there’s an exhibit of the Berlin Wall from erection to demolition. Drew and I lived in West Berlin behind the wall for a short time in the 80s, so this exhibit was especially meaningful for us.


While we were there, news was happening right outside as thousands of people marched up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol demonstrating against the police killing of an unarmed man in Ferguson, MO.


We went out on the chilly balcony and listened to an inspiring speech calling for peaceful protests and an end to deadly police tactics. The event reminded us again what our country is about. It’s messy and often politically incomprehensible but we do have our magnificent Bill of Rights which includes freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. In fact, right behind us inside the Newseum is an dynamic exhibit that rates each country in the world on the freedom of its press, and memorializes journalists who have been killed while bringing news to the world.



The wedding was lovely and we especially liked the band, who played a kickass version of one of my all-time favorite songs, Prince’s Let Go Crazy.

Before we left the DC area we made a pilgrimage — as we always must, when planes are nearby — to the Air and Space Museum Annex, a huge hangar out by Dulles airport filled with 185 flying machines. It was Jack’s turn to be in heaven and he enthusiastically pointed out every design element or historical detail of dozens of his favorites.




In a separate but connected hangar is the space shuttle Discovery, which we last saw at the Kennedy Space Center before it was flown here to its permanent home.


I wanted to get inside and poked around for a way in but apparently you can’t do that, as I learned from an attentive guard who saw me casing the thing and came over to talk to me.


We also got to see the flipside of America, the Enola Gay, the plane that unleashed the atomic age on the world. These two polar moments in aviation history brought me to once again to ponder the contrasts of America, how much we are a leader both for good and for evil. Living outside the country is apparently making me think deep thoughts.

I think it’s time to move on.


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Road Trip!

Since our family and friends are scattered all up and down the East Coast we rented a car for the duration so we can easily visit hither and yon for less than a gazillion flights would cost us. And just like our boat motto we lifted from Basho — “The journey itself is home” — the road has always been a happy place for Jack and me. As dirt dwellers we rarely turned down an opportunity to load the car up with unhealthy snacks and burn down highways and explore back roads on our way to wherever

We never lived in Annapolis but it was where we were married on a boat under sail and when we filled out the paperwork to document Escape Velocity we chose Annapolis as our hailing port because we consider that day on a gentle reach on the Chesapeake Bay as the beginning of our dream to sail our own boat toward the setting sun.


Now whenever we come to Annapolis it’s a homecoming of sorts and we have memories of nearly every nook and cranny of town. .


For a couple of days we met up with old friends and new ones and dashed from cafe to cozy cafe in the damp chill we still aren’t used to. We check the weather in Bahia del Sol where Escape Velocity lies and there’s always a 50 degree F difference in temperature from what we’re experiencing here.


Despite the cold, or maybe because of it, the smells and sights and sounds of late autumn in the Mid-Atlantic remind me of Life Before Cruising. It’s been two years since we’ve been here and our new life has become so normal that the rush of stimuli is nearly overwhelming: the smell of damp leaves on the sidewalks and pathways, the intense fragrance of balsam fir from the holiday wreaths and garlands for sale, the sharp bite of winter wind, the unimaginable variety and quantity of goods in every shop, the perfection of each fruit and vegetable in supermarkets, the mix of foreign languages and different accents we hear on city streets. We’re back in a place that makes sense to us. We know where to buy whatever it is we need. With a car any errand can be accomplished in short order.


It’s an easy life, a familiar one, but we can’t seem to get over the wonder of the bounty and exuberance of “America.” In fact, sometimes I just burst into that song from West Side Story:

I like to be in America!
Okay by me in America!
Everything free in America!
For a small fee in America!

Our continued culture shock brings us back to another famous passage that guides us in our travels, this one from TS Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

That’s what we’ve got here this trip, a new perspective on, appreciation of and awe in our homeland. The flipside is that our life has changed so much that the place seems alien to us and we miss our beloved EV, our quiet routine and of course the sunshine. We’re two days from the Winter Solstice and it’s dark most of the time. We’re sleeping late because the sun doesn’t wake us and we’re sleepy again by 8pm, making us rather dull companions I’m sure.

Still, being able to easily knock some long-needed items off our shopping list and especially spending time with friends and family is worth every bone chilling minute. We’re glad we came.

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Mast music

They say that a change of scene is as good as a vacation. Or is it a new haircut? I don’t know but if it’s true we ought to be in Hawaii by now, but we’ll take Annapolis because that’s our home port and if it weren’t for that icy windblown rain cutting through our laughably ineffective cold weather gear it would feel like home.

Touched by the many kindnesses of family and friends we left New Jersey with many tears in the knowledge that it may be a long time until we see each other again. On the plus side it does count as a change of scene and boat stuff arrives in days instead of months. This intermezzo will culminate in DC where my niece will marry at the Anderson House and we’ll find my side of the family for a change. Post wedding will see us Sparking our way over the Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh for a party with our Pittsburgh friends and our traditional Christmas Eve Curry.

The poor little Spark was getting overloaded so we mailed several boxes of stuff down to Miami to await our eventual arrival. The flight back to Escape Velocity in El Salvador should be interesting. For now the flag halyard slapping time against the flagpole somewhere out in the dark in thirty knots of sleet-filled rain In front of the EconoLodge is the only reminder that while this feels like home, it isn’t.

Our course, plotted on a map, would describe a zigzagging unwavering inability to pass a Trader Joes or a Columbia outlet. I can’t explain this but it’s true, and every time we walk in with silly grins of wonder remembering our former lives. We can’t buy much because we’d have to lug it down to El Salvador, pay duty and we’re not sure what else they have in store for us, so it’s got to count.

It occurs to me that some of our friends here in Annapolis have never seen us dressed in anything but Ts, shorts, and flops so we may shock them. Then again, will we recognize them?

So as I was saying, today it’s Annapolis and the shiny pants digs at the Maryland Inn. I dare say I’ll miss that halyard slapping the flag pole just like some lazy sailor’s halyard left slapping his mast. I find it tough to sleep without mast music.


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