Thursday, November 29, 2007

And so November ends . . .

It's hard to believe that I could be silent for a week. Not in real life, but I find it hard to post anything comparable to the great trip I had thru November, and I'm kind of wrapping up the year here in Anchorage. Christmas cards via USPS are arriving, and it's a sign I have to hustle in my wrap-up. The Great Alaska Shootout Basketball Tournament has ended with Butler University the winner. Texas Tech brought famed coach Wright here, but he couldn't push them the whole distance. Nutcracker Ballet is another regular, and I worked in the store for souvenirs, as I have the past umpteen years. We raised $5,000 for the Concert Association. Next comes my piano students recital at the museum, and the museum contributes $100 to the Keyboard Teachers Association. Tonight is the opening of Cyrano's play, Cyrano, honoring 10 years of plays at this great small downtown theatre. The Senior Center Bazaar is this weekend, and Older Person's Action Group is hosting my guitar class, and don't forget the S.A.T. exams are Saturday. I proctor those. I've used up my football sponsorship at the Petroleum Club, in fact, two of them, and it's not near Super Bowl time, yet. .. and did I mention that my article got published in the Alaska Women Speak Magazine, too! Whew, I'm exhausted wrapping all this up. Just to let you know I'll get on the ball, and write something more interesting next blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chicago Magic

Chicago is a great place to shop for magic products. I was lucky to be shown a store called Midwest Magic that had the biggest display of illusions I've seen since some warehouses a few years ago. Our host/owner, Tim Felix was kind enough to show us some great tricks. Another store that was also pretty neat was Magic, Inc. which was a little closer to downtown, and also a delight to shovel through. My host, RB, then took me to a show called Magic Cabaret at Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre. I posted a picture of P.T. Murphy above and his partner, David Parr, gave us a heap of entertainment. They had a special guest at this performance, Ross Johnson, who did some amazing mentalism illusions, so the night was really special for me.

By now, you're tired of reading about my trip, but I do also have to mention another special event I attended. This was the taping of Legends of Jazz, a public television show hosted by Ramsey Lewis. It won't be aired until April, but it was good to see Jazz Lives, and the local station is WTTW, anagram for Windows to the World, and so it is. Bye, Chicago.. . . later . ..

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Odyssey Continues

The Embassy Suites is a first-class hotel. The thriving suburb of Schaumberg is crammed with many large company home-offices, and the one-time 'largest' shopping mall in US - that is, before Minneapolis outdid them. It is also closer to O'Hare, or ORD, or 'the airport', than downtown Chicago.
This hotel offers happy-hour nightly at 5:30 p.m. with hosted drinks. That's a good way to start the evening, but for me, it also finished it. After a bite in their nice, but empty, LaFitte Restaurant, I thought it time to luxuriate in my living room and watch some TV, read a bit, and you know, the girl-thing.

Another offering of the hotel is the catered breakfast. I chose mushrooms and bacon bits in my hand-done omelet, with the usual other things, including watermelon, for my breakfast. Okay, I know you've stopped reading this by now, but remember, it's easier than writing notes to myself, so I guess I'm just blogging to me. The swimming pool and hot-tub are calling, so I'm logging off now. My grandchildren are on the way down from Madison, WI, and I'll wait there for them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chicago is my kind of town

It's just a short plane ride from D.C. to Chicago - around 90 minutes, but oh, what a change. Of course, it takes a long time, like two hours, to take the Metra to the Loop area, where most tourists seek a hotel. I'm staying on Congress Street, the SE corner of the Loop, and it's a challenge to get picked up on the street there. My friend, RB, decided to do the pickups at a parking garage diagonally across from the first spot, because you take your life in your own hands trying to get in a car with heaps of traffic on all sides. We went to the Magic Cabaret, in the Victory Gardens Theatre. The special guest was Ross Johnson, a great mentalist. The two regulars were P.T. Murphy and David Parr. I guess they have a website but I haven't checked it out.
Another attraction of Chicago are the many music and theatre sites. RB treated me to a taping of Legends of Jazz on my second day here. That's the public radio station I listen to weekly, but now I found that Ramsey Lewis is starting his second season on TV. Hopefully, Anchorage will carry it, but they don't at this time. Thanks to the internet, I hope to keep in touch. This was an afternoon well-spent.
On to different things ... investigating Nordstroms and shopping, and some of the famous hotels like the Inter-Continental, Ritz-Carlton, and the Drake, and landing on the Drury Theatre in Water Tower area showing Altar Boyz. This gets a lot of press, but it was not exactly my cup of tea. I did enjoy it anyhow -- you see, I even like bad musicals. Well, today I'm onto more exploring, but for now, you're caught up on this gal's journey.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mt. Vernon, Virginia

This will finish my travelogue of the D.C. area.
It was an easy trip on the Metro to get from the Capital area to Huntington Stop on the Metro, BUT . . . they're under construction there, so lots of noise, and even worse, there are no phones/phonebooths. I found a quick friend to let me use her phone and call S.A., who was going to come down and pick me up. It took about a half hour, so I had ear-plugs in my ears by then, and found a pipe to sit on. Everything changed for the better when S.A. arrived and we drove to her beautiful home in Belle Rive, one of the five original farms of George Washington. All of the homes are quite prestigious, and it was beautiful, like a warm autumn day. S.A. was on a mission -- to find a Steinway Grand Piano, and I won't go into detail on my search, but we did do a few prints and phone calls from Craig's List and then a LONG drive to a Steinway Outlet. This was not unlike a used car dealership, where they have a salesperson first, then the hammer, then the closer. The exception was that the pianos were all beautiful, and the salesman was also a concert pianist, so difficult to make a choice. Price was another BIG consideration, as I don't remember anything under $45,000. BTW, S.A. doesn't play either, but it would make a beautiful piece of furniture until she learns "Mary Had a Little Lamb". So the real trigger was the fact that 92-yr. old Mr. Steinway was coming to the store at 4 p.m. that day to sign any piano that we bought -- probably his last visit as such. No, we didn't bite.
The other attraction at S.A.'s was her dog, Jade. You've never met a better lab. She loved me immediately and that helped. She responded to any command, and was great company. She has jade colored eyed and a chocolate coat that is healthy and shiny. After two nights there, it was hard to leave her behind, even more so than S.A. (whom I also love, by the way).
So that's my story, and S.A. drove me to Washington Reagan Airport, where I took the 90 minute flight (and 2 hour Metra line ride) to Chicago, where I checked into the great hostel here.

Tomorrow I hope to catch you up-to-date on my Chicago Stop. You'll like the combination of music and magic, which is turning out great, so far, thanks to my host, Reed B. . . . yes, I avoid using names on the blog just because of you bad guys out there that spam, and steal, and all. . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hostelling International Meeting

The national conference for Hostelling International was held in Washington D.C. last week and I'm still on my way back to Alaska. I did want to share a bit of good news about the success of my mission. In addition to the meeting, itself, we were lobbying our state's legislators to propose a resolution in the Senate, and the House, to recognize 75 years of hostelling in the U.S. The bottom line is that our Senator Ted Stevens said, YES, he would introduce this resolution on Tuesday, which is yesterday. I can't follow-up on this right now, but I can only assume he did do this yesterday. The selected hotel in Washington was only 2 blocks from the Reagan Center, which is part of a huge World Trade Center Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, but nothing is as easy, or close, as it seems. We had an hour and a half for lunch, so I called my friends at the National Endowment on the Arts, and she said, oh, we're right across the street. That building was the Old Post Office Building, which has now been turned into a large food circus on the main floor, shops on the 2nd floor, and offices above that. Well, she didn't mention that it was the Old Post Office Building, so I walked into the IRS building, which is just behind it. Oops, a big mistake, as I sneaked out -- just kidding, you don't go in and out of any building without a bunch of security checks -- and entered the Old Post Office building, and a 2nd security with a code/number she has given me, to go to the 7th floor. We did have a nice visit, and I managed to gulp a quick sandwich before returning to our meeting. It was a little easier getting back, but still a heap of walking.
The hostelling meeting went fine, and we got a huge binder to take home, which was mostly printouts from what we can get online. It reminded me of government presentations, where they project a powerpoint slide show, then hand it to you printed out, and then read it to you. However, I will say I was pleased over how well the Hostels are doing and the national staff and Board are all very capable.
This was further proved by my flight to Chicago, where I am staying at the "Cadillac of Hostels" which is located on Congress, just off State Street. I was also greeted when I arrived from some of the gals I met in D.C. last week, so it was like, Welcome to Chicago. They have so much going on in the area, and I signed up for a few things, but I'll tell you about that in further blogs, and also I hope to be able to download some of my images when I get to a friendly computer that will be able to read my smartcard. . . . btw, everyone on earth has a cell phone but me. . . ordinarally I have no need, but travelling is difficult without one. I'm a bit out of touch for a few days here. I'll close by saying the weather is great, like springtime here, and this is such a beautiful city architecturally. . . and otherwise.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Washington D.C.

Yes, it's the nation's capital, and quite overwhelming to visit after several years. Security is tight, and you can't even enter a food court arcade without going thru security. I'm staying at a downtown hotel, and walk over to the Ronald Reagan Building for meetings each day. Yesterday, I was going to visit a friend at the National Endowment on the Arts, which is in a building across the street. . . from 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue to 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue. It took ages to get there and I first had to get thru the street level 'food court' and another security section to get to the 7th floor. By the way, the fancy entrance on the side with signs saying the food court is open, flashing lights and all, made me think that was the entrance. Wrong! They need a post a 'no entry' sign, as you had to enter on the back side of building, and a line of people waiting to get in, not unlike an airport. Andy had given me the number for entry on that, and I reached the offices in only 20 minutes. So much for my lunch break, but I did manage to grab a sandwich en route back to our meetings. After the meetings, we had time to regroup before a final awards dinner. This was at a nice, busy restaurant in Chinatown called Clydes, 707 7th NE. I decided to walk over from the hotel, and it was slightly uphill and about 7 blocks, but lavished myself with a taxi to return. It was an excellent meal of Atlantic salmon, almost equal to our Alaska salmon, and the program and company was also fine.
Well, this is just the peripheral information on my trip, so far. I'll get to the story of my meeting next time.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

November Sky

This beautiful shot was captured by my friend
Dee, who has that talent of photographing the
everyday scenes of Anchorage. November usually brings snow in the city,
but this year it's coming a little late. That's okay with me, because the first one usually creates havoc with the motorists. There's a lot going on in the city to keep your mind off the weather. The museum is presenting a friend playing the Korean zither tomorrow morning, and a retired minister is coming to town to preach at a local church. Plus the usual things on Sunday, like the B-fit program that a local fitness gal leads, but it's actually a Stanford Univ. thing. The Petroleum Club has it's football breakfast, as usual, and the Opera Lyricists are doing a luncheon/tea at the University, too. Anchorage is filled with options, and I haven't even mentioned the sports scene. Okay, just enjoy the extra hour we're getting tonight, and I'll be back.