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Featuring Fish and Flight

Visiting Georgia Aquarium is an assault on the senses. Sound waves wash over the casual observer as they walk the cement pathway to the grandiose entrance. A voiceover by an enthusiastic fish sets the scene, and the oppressive heat beating down through the glass windows walking in provides a lovely reminder of Hotlanta. Past ticket booths and bag inspections lies an atrium. Various exhibits and highlights are clearly pointed out by well-designed signage, and crowds can be seen splitting up and following the path to separate exhibitions. Ocean Voyager, the first exhibit we viewed, had a gigantic tank containing many tons of water. In order to sufficiently view the vast expanse of water to the left, right, and above, there was a conveyor belt of sorts that traveled down the main hallway of the display. Beyond that was a huge, several feet thick window into the gargantuan tank, which offered many opportunities for panoramas gone wrong (I’m totally not posting those – they’re actually terrible). Further, we visited two other exhibits, providing an opportunity to see cute penguins, moody Beluga whales, and even a totally rad dolphin show, among other things. I had never been to an aquarium before, (at least that I can remember) so this visit was especially eye opening and unique.      Today, from Huntsville Alabama, we visited and toured the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Martial Space Flight Center. There were many large rockets and robots. […]

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Coon Dog Cemetery

At Wyncote Elementary School, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, all of the grades gathered in the gym in the 1960’s to watch the the takeoffs and landings from Cape Canaveral of the United States’ nascent space program on a small black-and-white television.  Mariah and I visited the Huntsville US Space and Rocket Center and the Marshall Space Flight Center today and were able to see, and in most cases touch, the actual rockets, modules and other equipment that I last saw as grainy black-and-white television images in my elementary school gym.   We were even permitted to observe personnel while they communicated with astronauts on the International Space Station. As I looked around the exhibits halls and watched the other people on our tour, I sensed that the other adults that appeared  to be my age or older we’re also viewing everything on display through the same prism of nostalgia. I wanted to drink a glass of Tang again because that is what the astronauts drank.  From Huntsville we drove through Mississippi to Memphis. Let me just say this about Mississippi. We passed a sign which indicated that we could turn left for a “Coon Dog Cemetery”.  We continue driving and didn’t stop until we were in Tennessee. We are staying in an outrageously decadent, recently opened resort for the next two nights in Memphis called Big Cypress Lodge to celebrate Mariah’s birthday. It is housed in a giant pyramid structure built by Bass Pro […]

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Real Deal

We began our morning at the Atlanta Aquarium.  I should say upfront that I feel about aquariums and zoos the same way I feel about Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone. That is, I know everyone else thinks they are beyond wonderful, and yet just being around them always make me uncomfortable and wishing I had chosen to be anywhere else.  My problem with the Georgia Atlanta aquarium was twofold. First, I fundamentally am troubled by animals in captivity, as even this state-of-the-art facility places their animals in confined, unnatural, and cramped habitats.  Second, as a long time proponent of partnerships between nonprofits and philanthropic community stakeholders, I recognize the importance of recognizing sponsors in a meaningful way. The aquarium, however, handled this responsibility so ineffectively,  that visitors are utterly overwhelmed, distracted and bombarded by the logos, messaging, signage, commercials, and branding of their sponsors.   After being enticed by iconic yellow signs with black lettering throughout the southern states that are placed high up on poles in the sky, we finally stopped at a small Waffle House that time had forgotten.  The waffles we were served may have been the best waffles ever made. Their waitresses had just stepped off the set of the old TV sitcom called “Alice” starring Linda Lavin.  The Waffle House and its inhabitants were infinitely more interesting and comfortable in their natural habitat than anything we encountered at the aquarium.  We next drove to Birmingham to visit the […]

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Hotlanta

We drove to Atlanta intending to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and my brother and his family.  With temperatures forecasted in the high 90’s, Mariah and I decided to bail on our visiting the gardens plan. Instead, we spent the afternoon with Greg (my brother/Mariah’s Uncle), Suzy (my sister-in-law/Mariah’s Aunt), Alex (my nephew/Mariah’s cousin) and Steve (who seemed relieved not to be related to any of us).  Suzy surprised Mariah at lunch with an incredibly thoughtful and delicious early birthday cupcake.  As the outside temperature reached 100 degrees, we forced Steve to take a great many photographs of the rest of us until we all remembered to open our eyes and smile in unison. This took us quite awhile, but at least was an indoor air-conditioned activity. After Alex and Steve made their getaway – Mariah and I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and evening with Suzy and Greg.  Tomorrow, we are heading out early to see Atlanta’s Aquarium and then drive to Birmingham, Alabama. The heat wave is projected to continue until the end of the week, so we have our fingers crossed that we are greeted by A/C as we travel.         

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Back at Biltmore

Yesterday, we had the privilege of visiting Biltmore, America’s largest house and privately owned estate. Asheville, the city in which it’s located, is a hip, pretty rad town. The Vanderbilt mega-mansion-European-castle-esque property stands in stark juxtaposition to the modernity of Asheville and the estate’s inherent context. As part of the immersive experience of viewing and touring Biltmore, we went on a Segway tour through the grounds. Segwaying requires a finite amount of finesse, and our guide and instructor, Sara, provided ample instruction and training, as well as tangential information on the background of Biltmore’s landscape architecture. Biltmore is beautiful, and being able to see this feat of architecture and American innovation was awe-inspiring. Sadly, no photos were permitted inside, but I rebelled and took an artsy shot of the medieval style chandelier that hangs down through the grand stairwell. Thus is the nature of tourists.             Hope you enjoy our road trippin’ updates.  

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It Happened Very Quickly

Neither Mariah nor I have ever watched a NASCAR race.  Mariah does not yet have the faintest clue how to drive a car. Notwithstanding our obvious knowledge gap, we jumped in with both feet and spent the morning visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We had a terrific time.  Mariah and I drove in simulated races at high speeds, learned a great deal about the genesis of racing in America (it began with moonshine runs to outrun law enforcement), and were introduced to a hugely popular American cultural phenomenon about which we had no prior knowledge.  We felt like strangers in a strange land – relieved to discover that the natives were gracious, warm and welcoming.  We then drove (at normal speeds) under sunny skies and white fluffy clouds to Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is hip and cool and trendy in the genuine way that cities all over America try to emulate unsuccessfully. It is a fascinating, vibrant place.  We wish we had scheduled a longer stay here.  We were joined at dinner by the exceedingly lovely Maddy Friedman (Peter and Abby’s eldest daughter) who is now living and working here.  She was eleven only yesterday and yet she appeared at dinner, poised, beautiful and in her mid-twenties.  It was wonderful to share a meal with her.       

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Southern Charm

The most striking thing about North Carolina is probably just the vibe. Forget hostility-there’s only charm and politeness to the people here, whether a passerby or a waitress or a tour guide. The word hostility has instead been replaced with the phrase ‘ya’ll’, and the word rude has been swapped out for an aura of openness and welcome. Moving on from the personality, the Southern aesthetic is beyond the breadth of my prior comprehension. Sunsets over cornfields certainly broaden one’s horizons (this was a play on words – look out for those). There are stunning mountains that loom nearby the speedy highways that traverse vast expanses of the country and even venture through the heart of such mountains in (hopefully structurally sound) tunnels. Notably, the speed limit is higher than in Cape Cod, so all of the gorgeous scenery tends to pass by rather quickly. Adding to the delightfulness of our Southern venture was a visit from Maddy, with whom we shared an excellent meal and from whom we gleaned a great deal of fun knowledge about the South and the area in which we’re staying.   Among the nearby sites is Biltmore, America’s largest privately owned estate, which I can’t wait to see tomorrow. Prior to a fantastic dinner, we also enjoyed the cultural opportunities in Charlotte, which we left this afternoon. As I mentioned earlier, the south does have a distinct personality and flavor to it. Cars are […]

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Our Humpty Dumpty Day

In today’s newspaper, it was reported that airlines are arriving on time more often based on a month to month comparison. The best of the bunch arrived when scheduled over 81% of the time in April. This was not the case today for Mariah and me. We left Roanoke, Virginia quite a bit later than planned this morning, blaming our demagnetized room keys for contributing to our delay. We then stopped in West Virginia en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. We had decided to enjoy a quick brunch in West Virginia since it was almost on our way and in doing so we would add another state to Mariah’s tally of visited states. On the plus side, John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” turned out to be an accurate description of West Virginia. It is gorgeous there. The brunch place we had selected in advance, “The Omelet Spot”, purported to be an iconic, delicious, storied cafe frequented by appreciative locals. It was not. Much delayed, we then slowly followed a convoluted traffic-jam-laden path to Charlotte. We arrived more than an hour late for a two hour culinary walking tour during which we were supposed to EAT DRINK and WALK leisurely through Uptown Charlotte. Instead, we scarfed, inhaled and scampered behind an apparently lovely group of people who had arrived as scheduled for the culinary tour. It wasn’t pretty. Resigned to our fate, we were last in line to take-off, […]

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Long Time No See

We spent the morning touring the somber, pristine Antietam Battlefield under sunny skies.  Within minutes of returning to our car, the skies darkened and thunder cracked.  We drove for nearly three hours through torrential rains and high winds to visit Monticello.  At one point I may have seen the wicked witch fly by pedaling madly on her bicycle.  Yup, it was that bad.  When we arrived at Monticello, we were greeted by the news that all tours of Mr. Jefferson’s home were suspended because of the risks posed by the storm.  Very disappointing. It has been a long time since Mariah (accompanied by her sisters) caught up with TJ.        

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Flashback Friday

This morning we had an incredibly informative, thorough, eye opening tour of Antietam. From the ‘Bloody Cornfield’ to Burnsides Bridge, there was ample opportunity to delve into the rich history of the turmoil of The American Civil War.   Tactics, troop movements, and the imperative positioning of an army’s flank were all elucidated and elaborated upon. We’ve been traversing Virginia’s verdant countryside and tumbling hillsides. Later today, we’re going to Monticello, which is very exciting because I was assigned to do a project on Thomas Jefferson in 4th grade, thus resulting in a since untapped compendium of eclectic trivia. All of these immersive historic experiences allow us to delve into the unfathomable. Did you catch that play on words? (It’s like delving as in diving into, such as diving into a pool, and then unfathomable has the word fathom, which is a measurement of distance in terms of depth of a body of water). I have a lot of time on my hands; my mom’s driving and my responsibilities consist of DJing and backseat driving, including learning how on earth a GPS works, (another play on words) as opposed to how a GPS works on Jupiter.  Enjoy our sporadic roadtrip updates. 

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