Post Atlanta Random Thoughts

I can’t believe how exhausted I was coming home from Atlanta. I’m a firm believer that travel is just as exhausting as work – and this is more living proof. From the time I left the hotel until I got home was nearly 8 hours. That includes driving, flying, waiting and even taking the Atlanta Airport subway.

I’m starting to get bugged by the TSA screening at some airports. I’ll use Atlanta as an example. Usually I would take photos to illustrate my points, but the TSA has never shown a warm and fuzzy side to me. To their mind: photo equals full body cavity search.

In order to get to the screening apparatus it is necessary to move through a long circuitous line. I was thinking ‘cattle’ as I walked it, only to hear the woman behind me blurt out just that word!

I never take off my shoes for screening, but was told if I didn’t, I would be searched. My shoes have now been x-rayed and I’ve walked through an airport barefoot. The world’s a safer place.

Exactly what is accomplished by screening everyone? Isn’t it possible to build a system that provides trustworthy people with a modicum of trust? I’ll vouch for my mom.

Why do US Senators need to be hand screened at an airport, as recently occurred? Are we really worried about them? Are we really worried about me or the elderly white haired woman with breathing apparatus and a wheelchair I recently saw being screened at Bradley International?

Maybe it’s just the attitude. There is never a doubt when you deal with some of these screeners that they know they have limitless power over you. Tick them off, pay the price.

I brought a digital camera, laptop computer, cell phone and other wired devices. Do they really know the electronic makeup of these items? Aren’t they better off knowing me – or whomever is being screened?

After arriving in Philadelphia and before boarding my New Haven bound plane, there was a problem. The plane had been ‘overbooked’ and volunteers would be needed.

Each volunteer would receive one round trip ticket for anywhere in USAir’s system plus a ticket on the next available flight – 8:15 tomorrow night, or approximately 27 hours wait.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed the seat next to me and a few others in the plane were empty. What was going on? The flight attendant told me there were weight restrictions.

That seemed very odd. Sometimes in the summer when the air isn’t quite as dense, planes don’t have enough power for takeoff. It was cool today. The wind, which had been gusty earlier, had slacked off. I just don’t get it.

I know a few pilots read my blog. Maybe one of you will explain this to me… better still, explain it to the ‘bumpees.’

On Friday I wrote about being forced to park in a more expensive lot when the long term lot was full. I mentioned this to the cashier tonight and he immediately adjusted the price down to the long term rate. My guess is this had nothing to do with me being on TV (making it an even better find, since it represents a real policy – a smart policy at an airport trying to build a customer base).

Flying from Tweed is a pleasure, and I’m glad that’s how I booked this trip.

Finally, as I left the airport I noted the Sun setting over New Haven Harbor. I drove into a nearby park, but soggy ground prevented me from getting a shot which was totally in the clear. As it turns out, I think the trees in the foreground add nice contrast.

Judgemental for Christmas

My friend Josh Mamis, who publishes the New Haven Advocate, asked me to come to their offices and judge Christmas decorations. Is there a job I am less qualified for?

I said yes.

The Advocate is a weekly tabloid devoted to local arts and entertainment. It is often the best place for ‘bite the hand that feeds me’ expository journalism on local politics and business. I always enjoy reading their longer feature stories.

In the past, the Advocate had been very unkind to my station in a story that I felt was vindictive and a maybe little heavy handed (though they were always nice to me…. even in that article).

Though once locally owned, it recently become part of Times-Mirror which also owns the Hartford Courant and Channel 61.

Josh knows I have a soft spot in my heart for print in general and the Advocate specifically. Though TV has more impact and is much more immediate, the written word has an elegance and permanence that TV can’t touch. That’s probably why I enjoy writing this blog.

I drove into Downtown New Haven and parked under the Omni Hotel. Though cold, today was a beautiful day with high thin cirrus clouds adding some texture to an otherwise blue sky.

It is only in the past few years that New Haven has had a first class hotel downtown. I popped up to street level through the hotel’s lobby and walked around the block to the Advocate’s offices. They are located on the 11th floor of a building over what was the Chapel Square Mall. The building had fallen into disrepair, but looked very good today. Obviously, someone has spent the money to try and turn it around.

The mall is long gone – a failure through a few incarnations. I was surprised to hear it had been converted to upscale apartments. What was the actual mall is now an enclosed courtyard with an open air roof and apartment entrances. Upscale apartments going into Downtown New Haven (and now a 4-screen artsy movie theater down the block) is another very good sign for the city.

Josh’s office is near the receptionist and has a killer view of the Green and then north to East Rock&#185. Very impressive… especially so with today’s weather.

We schmoozed for a few minutes and then it was on to the judging. To my eye, Christmas lights around Connecticut seem to less visible this year. The Advocate’s office maintained that trend. There really wasn’t a lot of cubicle decorating, though I did pick a winner.

The winning cubicle featured a very scrawny little artificial tree but lots of other little homemade Christmasy type accoutrements. It was enough to show real holiday spirit. That won me over.

As I walked around the office, saying hi to people and chatting, I noticed someone working on a page from the paper featuring a photo of a group of people. They were from a store called “Group W Bench.”

I smiled… actually chuckled at that name. No one else did. The name “Group W Bench” only meant something to me. My age was showing again.

“The Group W Bench” was made famous in the late 60s by Arlo Guthrie in his song “Alice’s Restaurant.” For 18 minutes Arlo told and sang the story of his arrest for illegal dumping… in the town dump… on a legal holiday… and led to his day at the local draft board.

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten

color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on

the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, “Kid, I want

you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W …. NOW kid!!”

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s

where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after

committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly

looking people on the bench there.

Hey, it was the late 60s! Times were different and this story of a song became huge.

I left the Advocate a little disappointed – not because they didn’t know Arlo, but because there weren’t more decorations to be seen. But I also left feeling a little better (and this is a continuing, incremental process) about New Haven.

&#185 – At the end of the last ice age, as the ice retreated, huge chunks of rock that had been pushed forward by the glaciation remained in place. East Rock is one of these steep, sharp rock mountains. It overlooks New Haven Harbor and is a few miles from downtown.

Father’s Day

What a beautiful day. This was a day for shooting picture postcards or travelogues. The sky was a pure blue without a hint of gray. The clouds were scattered and puffy. The air was warm and crisp at the same time.

Oh – it’s Father’s Day.

I’m not sure why we’re being feted, but we are. After all, in the hierarchy of parents, I think moms have it tougher. However, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Steffie had handmade a card for me. Even at age 17, when she’s part child – part adult, this effort on her part warms every part of me. It is a collage – an abstract from magazines. It is a style in which she has shown great talent. I envy her skills as an artist.

Helaine bought me a few gifts: a book on poker (Doyle Brunson’s “Super System,” considered the classic in its field), cuff links made from small pieces of a computer motherboard, and a trip in a balloon over Las Vegas.

A good daughter-in-law, she got my dad that too. He’ll be joining me as we fly in wicker!

I love to fly. Once, a long time ago, I even took lessons… though I quit before I soloed.

I have flown in nearly anything you can think of from an ultralight with two chainsaw engines for power, to a Piper Cub J-3 with fabric covered wings, to a C-5A big enough to hold a Greyhound bus. I’ve had a few minutes stick time in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels and in a military full motion simulator. I’ve also flown through 2 hurricanes in a C-130 Hurricane Hunter (not as scary as you might think). There have also been flights in a few helicopters, one blimp and some time in Houston walking through a Space Shuttle trainer.

My first balloon flight was in the 80’s during my PM Magazine/Buffalo days. The pilot was Einer Wheel (a name you don’t easily forget) and the balloon was festooned with ads for a local Western New York bank. Later, with the SciFi Channel crew, I flew in the Canadian Flag balloon during a mass ascension at the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I’m looking forward to this balloon trip because it’s over Las Vegas (though probably not over the Strip), which will provide an immense panorama, and because it will be with my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d never do on his own and something he’ll really enjoy a lot.

This being Father’s Day, I went a little nuts and went off my diet. Helaine and Steffie took me to The Rusty Scupper for brunch. With today’s weather, and its location right on New Haven Harbor, it was the perfect spot.

Father’s Day ends at midnight. I’ll be dieting again tomorrow, trying to gain a cushion for our Vegas vacation. I was king for a day. It’s good to be king.

Live Weather

I visited the allergist this morning. I see him to get my antihistamine prescription. He doesn’t really do anything during these appointments – just gives me the script for the drugs. It’s a fair bargain because without the pills I’d swell up like a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

I’m telling you about the appointment to justify the fact that I was in bed and asleep at 1:30 PM when the station called. Would I do the weather live from… well, we’re not sure where, but come casually dressed.

I am glad when they call ahead so I can come properly attired. It is funny when I’m asked ‘if’ I can do it. I really don’t have much choice, do I? Of course, I’d never say no, even if I could, because I usually enjoy live shots.

Today, with Connecticut temperatures punching through the 90 degree mark inland, and mid-80s on the shoreline, I was sent to East Rock Park. I’m sure I’ve written about this natural wonder before. It is a sheer rock cliff which towers over New Haven Harbor. It was left in place as the last ice age retreated.

Today, it was a place of cool relief, with a nice seabreeze. The view, often spectacular, was reduced to almost acceptable by the haze and schmutz that warm temperatures and sunlight bring.

Live shots like this are a crapshoot. You never know who or what you’ll find. I like to think of myself as resourceful in these situations because I always grab something or someone to use as a prop.

When I arrived on the ‘Rock’ there was a man with his Harley. I asked if I could borrow it, and he agreed. My guess is, if I would have asked to be allowed to ride it on TV he would have agreed. I don’t look like the biker type, which lent to the fun. I am embarrassed to say I called it a bicycle once! I caught myself, but the damage (such as it was) had already been done.

Later I corralled a man and his two granddaughters, aged 1 and 3. I like little kids because they aren’t self conscious and don’t get nervous about, or overthink, the process of being on TV. I was going to speak to the 3 year old. She wasn’t overly verbal when we spoke before going on, so I decided to let her see herself on TV and hoped for a reaction. It worked wonderfully.

As we went on, she pointed at herself and tapped me on the leg to make sure I saw. She was precious. She didn’t have to say much to be adorable.

It is important to have fun with, and not at the expense of, the people you’re with. That can be a fine line. I don’t want to come off as a smart ass, which is what would happen if I took advantage of the interviewee’s naivet

The Most Beautiful Weather

The past two days have featured the most beautiful weather you could imagine. Temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s, the dew points (hence humidity) were low, the sky azure blue. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I tried to convince Helaine to go to New York City, but with Steffie studying for finals, she wanted to stay nearby. I called a friend, trying to see if he’d take a drive to the shore. Zero.

This afternoon, the sunshine was too much to take. I put the top down on the car and headed toward Branford with the intention of catching the setting Sun over Long Island Sound.

Though I often kvetch about the winter weather, there’s no doubt Connecticut is spectacularly beautiful. I live in an area called Mount Carmel, though I’m only at 280 feet above sea level. Within a mile of our house is Sleeping Giant Mountain.

When the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, they left much of what they were pushing forward in place. That’s how Long Island got to be where it is and how Southern Connecticut has some sharp, though not very tall, ‘mountains.’ Most notable are East Rock, overlooking New Haven Harbor and Sleeping Giant.

In the Sound itself are many pint sized island, often one single rock, left with the glacial retreat. The group off the Branford shoreline is called the Thimble Islands.

Stony Creek, an area in Branford overlooking the Thimbles was my destination. The thought was I’d go there early enough to see the sunset, get some photos and go home.

I hadn’t been to the Branford shoreline for a number of years, and I appreciate it more today. There are some ostentatious homes, though most are not. In fact the best way to characterize the architecture of Stony Creek is, appropriate. This is the right place to have a fence or home draped with floats that usually mark the lobster pots that sit beneath the water’s surface.

Parking was easier than I’d ever seen it at the Town Dock. The view was clear all the way to the horizon. There were few boats moving among the islands – probably due to the later hour.

I’ve only been on a Thimble Island once in my twenty years here. Someone I used to work with used to be married to a someone whose parents owned a small home on Governors Island – right next door to Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau. I spent an afternoon trying to be nonchalant whenever in their presence.

The house I visited was small and sweet. The center of the island was like the spine of a large flat rock. Though there was fresh water and a telephone (in those pre-cell days) at the house, there was no outside source of electricity. When it got dark outside, it got dark inside.

As the Sun began to set, I began to realize it would be setting behind a small hill – not over the water. I got in my car and began to drive.

Because Branford’s shoreline is irregular, it was impossible to know if or when I’d find a spot with a view. And, even if there was a spot, it might not have parking or be open to strangers at all.

I headed down one road with houses on one side and a salt marsh on the other. It was obvious from the beginning there would be no sunset from here, but the view across the marsh toward an inlet from the Sound and a large marina was impressive. So was a closer scene of two ducks in a small salt pond at the edge of the marsh.

After a few minutes I moved on. Using the deep, late day shadows as my guide, I headed to a residential area. Four houses faced a small inlet. Though the sign said “No Parking,” I pulled to the curb and shut my engine. In the twenty minutes I stayed, there were no other cars.

There still wasn’t a clear shot to the Sun setting over the water, but there was a nice notch in a hill where the Sun would dip. In the foreground a sailboat was moored in the channel.

I took as many shots as I could, bracketing the exposures. I’m going to have to rethink this type of shot because I’m still not sure I got the best balance between the red sky and the sailboat… or if this type of shot is even possible in the digital world. When I allowed enough light for the boat, the sky lost its color. And, when I let the red sky dominate, the boat couldn’t be seen. Even with Photoshop this picture isn’t nearly as nice as what I saw with the naked eye.

After nearly 7,000 photos there is still plenty I don’t know about my camera – stuff I want to learn. There was probably some technique I could have use to improve my chances of a good shot. But what?

The Sun was down as I left Branford, but that made my two last shots even nicer. Branford’s Green has a few churches, including one built in 1640. It is starkly lit at night and stood out well.

A few blocks down the road is the town’s library. From the outside it is an imposing building with a domed roof and stately columns. Inside (of course it wasn’t open on a Sunday night at 8:30 PM), it seems like the kind of place Conan Doyle would put Sherlock Holmes. The floor plan is probably considered impractical today, with its alcoves and curved walls, but it is fun to be in.

All the pictures from this entry are available in a larger format in my photo gallery, or by clicking on any individual photo