Monday, February 29, 2016

Vilia Dishes

The photo shows what we use for our dishes in the coach. It is Sixtie’s era Corelle Ware. It has a good story. My next door neighbors growing up were like second parents. They were great people. This was in Connecticut. They were early adapters to the RV way of travel and purchased their first motorhome while I was still in high school. They bought these dishes for their home on wheels because of the resistance to breakage and chipping.  They had also purchased some wooded acres in Vermont and had a driveway cut into it from the main road. In the interior, they had an space cleared for parking but left one area of large tree stumps intact to create a perfect campfire area. Then they had sewer, water and electric cut in and were done. This became their RV getaway, their “vacation home”. They named the place Stumphenge and their RV, Vilia, after a character in the operetta, The Merry Widow. Vilia was a “witch of the wood”, in that story.  Over the years of our early marriage, in visits to my parents,  Cathy and I had conversations with these wonderful folks about our dream to do the same in terms of acquiring an RV and hitting the road.  When the time came for them to pull back from the RV life, they packed the Corelle up and sent it to us. The dishes and the neighbors are why we call our rig Vilia.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Francisco Grande, A Baseball Story

Here in Casa Grande, AZ, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, is the Francisco Grande Resort. The Francisco comes from San Francisco and the Grande comes from our Casa. In 1958, after approval from Major League Baseball’s big wigs, the then owner of the New York Giants, Horace Stoneham, moved the team to San Francisco, Willie Mays and all. Now displaced from the norm of Florida spring training, Horace created a seasonal warm up camp in the closer southwest desert, opening Francisco Grande in 1959. After a couple of decades, with MLB league expansion, the spring season “Cactus League” developed and the Giants moved up to Scottsdale to join other teams spending their pre-season warm up time in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
We took the short ride to Francisco yesterday. The baseball stadium is long gone and the acreage today is devoted to a golf course and a large number of soccer fields used by semi pro teams for their own spring training. The hotel lobby and adjoining halls are full of old black and white photos of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichel and others of that great baseball era. They have a well appointed bar named Duke’s after the fact that John Wayne, in between filming western movies in this part of the world, liked to take getaway breaks to watch the team practice back then. One unique icon also remains. The hotel pool is the original and is shaped like a baseball bat.
The visit brought back a childhood memory I enjoy. It is my experience of seeing all three of the old New York baseball teams at their old home fields. My Dad loved baseball. He loved the game and he also dearly loved its emblem as a creation made in America. We grew up 50 miles or so from New York in southwest Connecticut so major league sports were well accessible. My older brother and I were beneficiaries of this as my dad was often given tickets to games that fellow pals of his in our town could not attend. He would buy and go to games, but more often than not, some pal would say, “Eddie, I’ve got three tickets for the Yankees for Thursday, I can’t make it. Want’em?” My Pop had his own retail business and he’d make arrangements for cover of the store and we’d be off. It was the time when afternoon games were the norm.  I have these imbedded memories of seeing the New York Giants play at The Polo Grounds stadium, located in Upper Manhattan, sitting out in left field on concrete benches. No seats then out there. That was probably around 1956. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to LA also in 1958 like the Giants, leaving New York in a big baseball funk. I remember seeing the Dodgers around the same 1956 timeframe, just two years before the move west, at the beloved Ebbets Field, out in Brooklyn. They were called the Brooklyn Bums by those that loved them and by those that did not.  Our seats for the game that I remember attending were in a deck up on the 3rd base side and my seat was right behind a steel and bolt girder that supported the seating deck above, the stadium moving upward with its seating. I remember having to move right then left to watch the action on the field as the ball and players moved around. Dodgers and Giants were less frequent events, as we went to see The Yankees at the old and awesome Yankee Stadium more often.  I can still visualize in my mind being at a game and seeing Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris take the outfield at the start of the top of the first, uniform numbers 7 and 9,  and experiencing the immense roar that swelled up from the crowd. Boy, that was really good sports.

My Thanks to Francisco Grande for bringing back these and other mighty fond memories. You never know what you will run into on the road around America.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gonna Get Along Without You Now

Teresa Brewer. She was a diminutive individual but she packed a powerful voice. Teresa was a 1950's pop singer. Her song of this title had the catchy lyric of, "Got along withoutcha before I metcha, gonna get along withoutcha now". I had not thought about that song for decades and, for some reason, it popped into my head yesterday. I can't get it out of my head, now. It is another example for us of something that seems to be part of this lifestyle of living on the road with no attachment to the activities of a house, yard and community. A lot of time to reflect upon our experiences and with it all sorts of memories. Cathy and I have had many conversations about days gone by. It has been fun remembering things that have been tucked away in the attic of the mind for so long. Like this song. I am writing this to, hopefully, give it away to some fair reader. Take it, please. I need help getting the #!&*#% thing out of my mind! Thank you.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Dukes of Dixieland

Dixieland music was large in our house when I was growing up. I loved it from my first hearing. I was youngest of four and my sisters and brother owned good old 33 “and a third”  rpm vinyl records of the Dukes of Dixieland, a family band started in the year of my birth, 1948.  They rocked and the LP’s were lovingly well worn. LP…Long Playing. They were the technological advance from the preceding 78 rpm’s. That’s the speed of the spin. 78 revolutions per minute. 33’s, at a slower spin rate, played longer. Advances in fidelity of sound accompanied the 33 along with the introduction of stereo. The first commercial stereo LP? It was released by The Dukes in November of 1957. It would be awhile before much of the public owned the playing equipment to appreciate that stereo. We also listened to everything recorded at that time by The Firehouse Five Plus Two. It was another extraordinary group of talented Dixieland musicians who also happened to be the principal artist and illustration group at the early Disney BuenaVista production studios.
As time went on, Dixieland, as part of my music listening, fell to the back burner. Dixieland is one of the types of music, like most jazz, that is best live. In live performance, artists go with the flow and improvisation on the spot lends energy to the air and an ambiance and excitement to the music. It is great to experience. This experience was revitalized in early marriage when we lived in Denver. There was a special English pub style bar in the Cherry Creek area of town called The Bull and Bush. Still in business and still being family operated. Their logo is two toddlers, a boy and a girl, looking down and tugging the waistband of their diapers forward with the quote, “What’s Yours?” On Sunday evenings back then, they featured a local group of good musicians who loved Dixieland. We went often. It was a great night out with no cover charge. With our meager, early marriage income, we could go and nurse a beer for a couple of hours and enjoy.
So, with that to precede, Central Arizona College is in our current domicile, Casa Grande, AZ. We noted that today’s Dukes Of Dixieland was going to perform there. The original Dukes disbanded in the early seventies. It was restarted in 1974 as an endeavor to help keep this terrific American music alive. Today’s group is a continuance of that. We went to see them last night and wow. Drums, piano, bass, clarinet, trumpet and trombone. One of the greatest assemblage of musical talents I have seen live. Two of them held Masters Degrees in music, one had his Doctorate. They wailed, absolutely wailed. Many Dixieland orchestrations have the song being played rise up in intensity and then, inconceivably, lift again to a bone moving well tuned cacophony of the instruments to bring the song to a close. They were sublime at executing that.

Here's a try at a short video. Hope it works.

Resort activities....

We have been in Casa Grande Az since Feb 1....Not exploring much...just enjoying the RV resort with biking, golf, dances, lawn bowling, etc. Had fun last night at an outdoor movie on the square....ANd this was a great day of golf for me....After 3 holes I was tied with best playing...his worst playing


Look at the cute people we saw in Arizona....Mathenys are down visiting Cindy's sister....Melissa and Robert joined them....Always a fun time!!!

Art Work ???

So Cousin Barbara set us a set of hiking stickers since we are doing so much....and Bob created a masterpiece!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort

We have lived here a week in Casa Grande. Palm Creek, our address for the month of February, is overrun with our contemporaries. We did not think about that element when we booked our time here. We were looking for a winter place to avoid snow while in our RV and one that offered some activities including golf for me and some things that would work for Cathy and for us together. And some down time from the go-go-go exploring that will resume as spring warms the Northern Hemisphere up and we get back to rolling along. As it turns out, in my life I have never been immersed in such a concentration of Caucasian couples of my own age group. They are endlessly active, this group at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort. Many have been coming here for decades, as the resort has offered from the start, the option to purchase a site and use it to park your RV whenever, or to build one of the resort’s offered manufactured housing options. Although the golf course is in beautiful condition and the facilities are quite nice, it is not a luxury development. Older, metal homes start at prices in the $30’s and new wooden ones top out just a little over $100,000.
So, it is a combined community of “us”. Either in RV’s or in manufactured homes, we are all here to escape the chilling travesties of winter and to continue to enjoy our self endowed entitlement to the active senior life. Today, walking over to play golf  on nine holes of the par three 18 hole golf course, I passed by the activity rooms. There were folks line dancing, ballroom dancing, there was a choral group rehearsing, (practicing I Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash classic), There was a silversmithing clinic being held and a lapidary group polishing up some local mineral crystal finds, something Arizona is well known for. While all this was going on the sport courts were full of the popping sound of the Pickleball players and there was likely a softball game populated with folks in knee braces and other accouterments designed to keep the aging body in one piece. It’s crazy. All the guys are named Bill, Tom, Bob, Jim, Mike. All the gals, Judy, Susan, Pat, Cathy, Pam, Betty.  Canadian snowbirds could be as much as 50% of the folks here. Many of the rest have license plates from that u-shaped group of states that sweep around Chicago.  

We are letting ourselves get wrapped up in this. It is a fun diversion from our sightseeing and hiking ways. We’ve prior noted Cathy’s work at and success in a senior olympics swimming event in Tucson. She continues to work out and has another event coming later this month. She’s good. Held a state of New Jersey record in swimming in her youth. This morning, we went over to the lawn bowling court to get ourselves some hands on training. The resort maintains a putting green perfect turf lawn bowling court. Through the beauty of internet research, I found that lawn bowling started around 5000 BC. The British embraced it as part of their royal entertainment venues, and today’s rules are well influenced by them. Southhampton Old Bowling Green Club in the UK started in 1299. It is the world’s oldest continuous lawn bowling club.  Bocce, the Italian game, was an evolution from the ancient lawn game. We played for many years on a town bocce league in St Helena. The game is near religion there. So now, with a bit of game history imbued, we feel the obligation to play and learn more about this, the “original” game and the very welcoming group of “us” that forms the lawn bowling club here at Palm Creek. 

Hamtramck, Michigan

A little bit more about Paczki...My dad embraced being of Polish decent. Loved the food and the language and the camaraderie with other poles. When I was a kid, he once took a road trip with friends from Connecticut to Detroit just to go to a couple of baseball games. On that trip he visited Hamtramck which then had a very large Polish population. He raved about Hamtramck on his return home. The town has such an unusual name that I've never forgotten it. It turns out that Mardi Gras is known as Paczki Day in Hamtramck.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Happy Fat Tuesday. The Phoenix morning news that is on our TV is having a good time with stories about Mardi Gras traditions. It all started in Roman Times. As Christianity grew, households would feast to clear out their pantries and fatten up before the 40 days of Lenten fasting started.
Some years back, I was lucky to attend the spectacle in New Orleans with a great friend who is an N.O. native. He showed me a fabulous time. We had the right place to stand for the amazing Mardi Gras parade put on by the city’s many Crewes, those New Orleans clubs that love to build expansively colorful floats then dress up wildly and ride them once a year. Mardi Gras day morning we went to a gathering of friends for a hearty gumbo brunch complete with filé, the powdered leaves of sassafras. Hank Williams sang about filé gumbo. The house was in the residential area of the French Quarter and was of charming old original character everywhere you looked. We walked from there through this neighborhood alive with colorful local characters ready for what is one of world’s greatest parties. Once amongst the crazies on Bourbon Street my friend also taught me how to properly throw Mardi Gras bead necklaces. Funny what people will do to get them…

But back to Paczki. Pronounced Pock-zheh, they are an old Polish Mardi Gras tradition. Who knew? We were a Polish family but I don’t recall anything from my youth about paczki. I just learned about them from my Phoenix TV. They are a donut like confection, made rich by butter and eggs and filled with creams or fruit mixtures much like our jelly donuts. Before they are filled and fried, grain alcohol is mixed into the dough. As the alcohol evaporates it prevents the frying oil from soaking into the dough. So says the recipe that popped up on Google. Like the Romans, the poles created these to use up flour, eggs etc. before they were to begin Lent. Once Lent began no more paczki. New Orleans was like that too. One of my favorite memories of that trip was the scene at midnight, when Lent officially begins. Police on horseback teams cleared the remaining revelers ahead of  banks of street cleaning machines that swept down cleaning the streets of the French Quarter. Lent had begun. The party was over.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Why I became The Wolfman

Subtitle: The Return Of The Vampire, 1944, starring Bela Lugosi.
Shock Theatre, with John Zacherle, loomed large in my youth. Zacherle had this local NYC broadcast in the 50’s. He dressed up Transylvania style with zombie makeup. His “lab assistant” was Igor, who I recall dragged a bum leg around with him as he walked. Zacherle would  have some campy scenario with a horror theme going on in between running old Hollywood films featuring Bela, Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and others of the genre. The show was great…a place where boys could live the vicarious world of weird in between pretending to be superman saving the world and building wooden go-carts with old lawnmower engines. My cousin, blog reader #10,001, and I loved Shock Theatre. We once, just for fun, created a body lying on its back with an axe buried in its chest. I wonder if the photo still exists…Thank you John Zacherle for that inspiration.
So, after enough diet of werewolf, I found I could mimic the howl pretty well. It is something that has followed me for many years. It grew a bit in high school but really blossomed in college where I acquired a nickname, (there were others, I acquired nicknames by the handful for awhile back then), “Wolfman”. Certain events and parties seemed not complete without a good, loud howl. This carried on into my early working years. I joined Wine World, the then Nestle owned business that centered around Beringer, in 1979. By 1980, the president of the company was calling me Wolfman. By 1986, when I was managing the company’s import division, which was heavy with some really fine Italian wines, I was called, “Uomo Lupo”. A workmate came up with it and it stuck for awhile. It is an attempt in Italian for Wolfman.
So, this morning what turns up on TV? The Return…and watching it, and the scene where the werewolf first appears, I realize that I have finally grown out of The Wolfman Era of my life. But I must confess, I sure feel like giving out a howl. But it’s early, Cathy is still sleeping.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Generation, Return of The Theme

Wow. We are here in Casa Grande, AZ at the Palm Creek RV Resort. What a place and what good concept and marketing for the Boomer Generation. As expected, we are among our own. Besides the many RV sites there are many spots devoted to manufactured housing within this park and with that, many folks of our age group that have been coming here for their winters for many years. From Canada and the upper mid west mostly. The snowbird society. It is now us.
We will not have a whole lot to adventure about for this month of February here. Not a lot of local attractions. Mostly, it will be an R&R for us. A time to kick back, take walks and bike rides do some back burner projects. While it has been a bit cool upon our arrival here, they are calling for temps in the 80's for the next few days. Nice.      
There is an 18 hole golf course at this resort which we will take advantage of. Every hole is a par three. The course is very well groomed and the rich green of grass adds a nice resort feel to the place. Given the volume of folks here in Casa Grande of our generation, "huddling masses escaping the cruel winter"...there are endless options for activity and socialization.The local calendars for the resort and for the community are packed with things going on.
It is such a different world for us as compared to our home ownership in St Helena. Stay tuned for local tales from Casa Grande!
Here are a couple of photos of this evening from our neighborhood.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Some last adventures in Tucson....

Some last adventures in Tucson.....Bye to Tucson...Hello to Casa Grande....where we are in a very well-developed Resort....Large pool, golf course and many amenities.....