Ben Franklin And Reading Without Looking

In the abstract listening to audiobooks seems a good way to make the most of my daily drive to-and-from Hartford. I hope they’re not all like this one.

I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin. Actually, not exactly. I am listening to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin. The book on six CDs was a Chrismukkah gift from Helaine.

I am a huge fan of Benj’s. He was an inventor, scientist, publisher, author, politician and diplomat.

More than once I’ve run down that list of Franklin’s accomplishments and added, “and he was still screwing around with young French women when he was in his 80s.”

Isaacson says that’s not true! Actually he says it twice. Someone’s got a guilty conscience.

There’s a lot in Connecticut named after our founders which leads to a bunch of recognizable names. Roger Sherman (Sherman Avenue) was mentioned. So was Silas Deane (Silas Deane Highway).

According to Isaacson, Deane was a crook! Maybe we should refrain from filling the potholes on SDH this year?

I’m not sure if I like this method of ‘reading.’ It is ploddingly s-l-o-w. The book will take over seven hours to complete.

A few times the book has been playing, but I drifted off and was thinking of something else. Some of that can be attributed to Isaacson’s prose which is less than inviting. Some credit also goes to Boyd Gaines who has a beautiful voice, but left me wanting more emotion and less enunciation.

Gaines also reads direct quotes from foreign speakers in an ‘appropriate’ faux accent. Is this common? It seemed cheesy.

The book misses the parts of Franklin I wanted to know better. That’s my real disappointment. Franklin was a clever man. This portrayal reduces him to an accomplished pol.

In the abstract listening to audiobooks seems a good way to make the most of my daily drive to-and-from Hartford. I hope they’re not all like this one.

Vegas Roundup

OK–this is a little nuts. I’m not that good a player. No one is. I’ve had nine winning sessions in a row including last night’s tournament win. I am seeing Benjamin Franklin in my sleep.

palazzo-slot-machines.jpgWe leave in the morning for Palm Springs, California. Vegas will be done for us. Stef left this afternoon. She slept her way cross country with an entire row to herself!

I played a little poker this afternoon and again tonight. Both times it was $1-2 no limit hold’em and both times I came home a winner!

OK–this is a little nuts. I’m not that good a player. No one is. I’ve had nine winning sessions in a row including last night’s tournament win. I am seeing Benjamin Franklin’s etched face in my sleep.

My friend Rick said I came with a positive attitude and that made me a more confident player. Others might have sniffed that confidence and moved away when I threw my chips around. Who knows?

frozen-hot-chocolate.jpgHelaine and I did take a little walk this afternoon and had dinner at Serendipity. This restaurant is an offshoot of the New York City original. After we both had our meals we shared the specialty of the house–Frozen Hot Chocolate. Good choice.

Before we leave a few words about this hotel: The Palazzo. It is spectacular. There are probably nicer hotels somewhere. I’ve never stayed in one.

This room–all the rooms– are suites. There is a sitting room a few steps down from the bedroom. There’s no wall, but the spaces are separate.

The bathroom is large enough for a bus terminal.

There are three flat screen TVs hung on various walls in the suite including one in the aforementioned bathroom.

Most spectacular is the huge area covered by windows. We’re looking west toward the mountains with a little peek up and down the Strip.

south-side-las-vegas-blvd.jpgThere are hotels and there is gambling elsewhere. There is no other Las Vegas. It is built on hospitality. It never fails in that regard.

Vegas is down on its luck right now. Hopefully it and all of us will recover before long.

The plan for Wednesday takes us from McCarren to Ontario Airport in California. Wheels up time probably under 30 minutes. Then it’s a 70 mile east through the desert to Palm Springs. We should be there around sunset.

We’re In Philadelphia

The trip to Philadelphia wasn’t terribly bad… for a Friday afternoon… in the summer… on I-95. There is a place, about halfway through New Jersey, where the four roadway Turnpike becomes the two roadway Turnpike. At the point (or actually a few miles before it) the traffic slows to a crawl.

We made Philadelphia by mid-afternoon. The hotel was easy to find (considering Helaine had grown up here and I lived here for five years, we should know where things are) and nicely located.

We’re on the Delaware River. When I was here, this area was industrial and well into an era of hard times. It’s been reclaimed now as an entertainment area with restaurants and hotels.

Just across the way, and over an expressway, is the main body of the city. The streets in Philadelphia are numbered – so we’re ‘below’ First Street.

After we checked in, we decided to walk north, along the river, and ended up at Dave and Buster’s. D&B is a national chain of arcades on steroids… with a bar!

I found a flight simulator and attempted to takeoff and land without killing any of my passengers. No sweat. Next it was a boxing simulator. I’ve never played an arcade game that took so much out of me. There was even a readout with the number of calories you burned!

While I was playing games, Steffie and Helaine were working the ticket dispensing machines. What were they looking to get? Who knows? They were acquiring tickets as its own end.

I settled in next to them on a machine that tosses a coin onto platform. Small ‘sweepers’ push the coins forward. Hopefully, if your coin ends up in the right place, it will dislodge other coins causing them to fall in a tray, getting you tickets.

By the time we were done, Steffie had a dragon. It’s actually quite cute.

We went back to the hotel to wash up and get ready for dinner. Then, we headed to Society Hill and Old City. The latter name comes from the fact that this was the colonial center of Philadelphia. This is where Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross lived… though not together.

It was in Society Hill where the beginning of Philadelphia’s in-town gentrification began with the Society Hill Towers, two luxury apartment buildings. As I remember, they’re condos now.

We walked past Bookbinders and up Chestnut Street. This part of Philadelphia is an amazing mix of old and new. There are glass box office buildings and historical sites. Some streets are paved with cobblestones.

Philadelphia has a system of streets and alleyways. In some ways, that makes its downtown similar to Boston’s. Some of these alleys are just wide enough for a car – barely.

We went hunting for a restaurant to have dinner. Steffie and Helaine read the menus posted near the doors. We finally settled on an Italian place, Amici Noi, at 3rd and Market.

Good choice. The food was excellent and the portions large.

Surprisingly, all the restaurants we look at were fairly empty. Maybe Philadelphia isn’t the tourist city it should be. Certainly, on a hot Friday night, plenty of locals would be headed to the Jersey Shore.

It’s a shame, because this is such a beautiful and livable city.

After dinner I decided to head to South Street, knowing Steffie especially would like it. First, a detour. I wanted to see Independence Hall.

I remember, back when I lived here, how cool I thought it was to just drive by the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall. It’s no different now. There’s something very impressive knowing these icons of American history are right in the middle of modern life.

We walked down 4th Street past some beautiful neighborhoods of very expensive, very small homes. I can only shudder to think how these places have appreciated since I left 25 years ago this month.

How to describe South Street? Eclectic. Bohemian. Over the top. Very much like Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

South Street is where you find stores… like Condom Kingdom!

We walked and Steffie darted into some stores looking at clothing. We also stopped at Rita’s so Steffie and Helaine could get ‘water ice’ and I could get some custard. Perfect.

Meanwhile, South Street was packed with cars and cops and parking enforcement officers. I have never seen tow trucks move as quickly and deftly to get cars off the street! Something tells me this is a very expensive way to get unwanted valet parking.

We headed back to our hotel. We were, to understate it, tired. In fact, I went to bed a good seven hours before my normal bedtime!

Today, we head to the Vet&#185 for the Phillies versus San Diego Padres. I’m psyched.

&#185 – The Phillies play in Citizens Bank Park. I know that. I still want to say they play at the Vet… and it is, after all, my blog.