Sunday, September 6, 2020

Escape from New York – Cape Cod

 





 

With our trip to Italy cancelled this year and booked for the summer of 2021, vacations in driving distance became appealing. A weekend in Montauk and a much longer stay in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region gave us a chance to get out of the NYC area. Still, with summer waning, we decided one more journey would be in order.

 

We looked for a place that was open to visitors from New York and truly open to us – restaurants, shops, beaches, and museums. We decided to head up north again but in a more eastern direction and headed to Cape Cod. My only knowledge of Cape Cod was its connection to the Kennedys and my love of the potato chips of the same name.  

Having never been there before, we only knew what other people had said about the cape. Much of the noise we got was that it was crowded, had very heavy traffic, and that parking was hard in most towns. I can happily say that none of this is true, but the reality is that many tourists that would have been there – especially European ones – were out of the picture, probably making this a different kind of summer there. People to whom we spoke said it was busy but not like a normal summer.

Our first stop was Hyannis for two days. Hyannis is a sprawling town, and it was very busy seemingly day and night. The food was excellent wherever we went, and on our first night I ordered New England clam chowder – it was the best I ever tasted. This would be my sentiment each time I had chowder on the cape. 

In Hyannis, a must see stop is the JFK Museum. Hyannis seems inextricably linked to the Kennedy family, and the museum is a loving homage to the famous American family that were political royalty in the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed in the museum, but I respected that rule. We toured the various rooms that were filled with many famous and familiar faces besides the Kennedys. The exhibits showed each phase of JFK’s life and rise to political power. They are moving and powerful, allowing visitors to see how amazing JFK’s short life truly was.

One room that is of particular difficulty to visit is one dedicated to John F. Kennedy Jr. Elements of his even shorter life are displayed, especially the heartbreaking photograph of him as a little boy saluting on the day of JFK’s funeral. Looking at all of his photos and thinking about his potential that never was fulfilled, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears.

Hyannis also has a busy and interesting waterfront. Along the port side of the town, there are colorful artist shacks along the path down to the water. Here artists display an eclectic array of artwork for purchase, and the prices seemed reasonable. There was a feeling here that this was an artsy place but there was no pressure and no worries. Given the beautiful setting, it seemed the perfect place for artists to create their works and share them with the visitors to this lovely seaside town. 



Our Next Stop

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We were on to Falmouth where we stayed at the beautiful Beach Breeze InnThis is the first time that we stayed at an inn, but we did our homework before booking this place. The building is a cozy large old house, and our room had a second bedroom for the kids. There were views of the water from our windows where we could see Martha’s Vineyard – our next destination – in the distance across Nantucket Sound.

The owners are friendly, and all guests and workers were wearing their masks dutifully. There is a nice pool on the grounds, lounges, and a separate area with tables with umbrellas, a grill, and a fire pit. It was just short walk across Shore Street to the lovely white sand beach.

We liked Falmouth better than Hyannis because it is a smaller town, and there is less traffic and less people walking around. We spent days alternating between the pool and the beach, and we also explored the town that had a nice selection of caf├ęs, shops, and restaurants. There are some on the water options that are wonderful, but there is sometimes a wait for tables.

These days provided us with time to relax, swim, and enjoy the sun. Besides a brief shower one afternoon, our weather was fabulous. The evenings got a little cooler, requiring a jacket or sweater if your planning to eat at a spot on the waterfront.

Falmouth is an enjoyable place to stay, especially if your looking to relax and get a flavor of Cape Cod. There are plenty of places to eat and enjoy the bounty of the sea.

Martha’s Vineyard

Falmouth is an ideal place to stay when planning to visit Martha’s Vineyard.  Despite social distancing, we stood on a very crowded boarding area waiting to go onto the lovely Island Queen ferry. Once onboard we chose to sit up on deck to enjoy the breeze on a lovely day. On the inner lower deck there is a bar to get snacks and drinks.

The 35-minute ride across the sound is a pleasant one, and we saw multiple watercraft on our journey. The ship docks at Oak Bluffs – one of six towns on Martha’s Vineyard. Oak Bluffs is a nice small town where there are plenty of shopping and eating opportunities. If you have the time you can stop and see the large Vineyard Vines store located there. 

We wanted to check out Edgartown – mostly for its connections to the classic film Jaws – and the bus looked very crowded, so we opted to take a taxi. We got to see some of the shoreline between the towns, and the lovely beaches were not overwhelmed with crowds of sunbathers and swimmers.

Once the taxi dropped us off by the waterfront in Edgartown, we realized this town was filled with tourists – and the driver said this was an off season due to the virus! We got to see the building that was used for the town hall in Jaws – where the sheriff meets with the mayor and the town council. On that same street is the old Whaling Church built in the 1820s when Martha’s Vineyard was a hub of whaling activity.

We had a nice lunch right on the water, and once again clam chowder had to be sampled and did not disappoint. In general, the food on the cape seemed extremely fresh, and there were many healthy options on menus, and the always welcome children’s menu seemed to be available everywhere we went.

On the ride back to Oak Bluffs in the taxi, the driver stopped at what he called Jaws Bridge. It was the bridge used in a memorable scene in the film Jaws. On this day a group of young people were lined up waiting their turn to jump over the rail and into the water. Our taxi driver – a young fellow in his twenties – informed us that he had been fishing there the night before and had made the jump a few times.

Once back on the ferry, we all agreed that we were happy to be going back to our quiet little inn rather than staying in the bustling Martha’s Vineyard for the night.

We Want to Go Back

 

After our vacation as we drove home, we all felt like we wanted to go back and explore other parts of the cape. I think that there are two ways to gauge how well a vacation went. One is if you wish you could have stayed longer, and the other is wanting to go back. Our time in Cape Cod was relaxing and enjoyable. I highly recommend a visit to the area. It is a family friendly vacation destination that will leave you with good memories and a smile on your face.  

 

 

























Saturday, August 1, 2020

My Book 'The Stranger from the Sea' Summer Sale!

Hello to All!

To celebrate the last month of summer, I am dropping the price of my new book, The Stranger from the Sea, to 99 cents for the whole month. It is available at some of your favorite online stores. If you're looking for a book to read on the beach or at the pool, please check it out.

https://books2read.com/b/b5586l



Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book Review: 'Supra/Normal: No More Superheroes' by A.S. McDermott





In the new book, Supra/Normal: No More Superheroes, author A.S. McDermott has shaken up the concept of superheroes. In fact, in this amazing book, he takes the genre, throws it into a blender, and adds some different ingredients to the mix, making for a tasty treat. It is a kick-ass book with seemingly non-stop action, but the author takes the time to shape his characters and make them real and believable.

Julie Jackson is one fine protagonist, coping with her superpower in a world that wants to destroy her. She learns of her power when she is 12 – that is around the age that most supras discover them – and uses them to do good deeds. She lives an otherwise normal life with her younger brothers, mother, and stepdad.

Supras are outlawed by Supreme President Stevenson – a former supra who “cured” himself – who waged a war against all supras, led by the greatest supra of all, and then defeated the supra forces and their leader Dr. Simone Dalton. Dalton and many others were killed and now, a generation later, supras are hunted and incarcerated.

What worries Julie is that she is going to get a blood test at school. This will reveal whether or not she has supra blood. When it seems that her blood test comes back as “normal,” Julie wonders why she has powers (hers is super strength) and what is she if she’s not a supra?

Author A.S. McDermott
All is going well enough until the night of a basketball game. She goes to see Steve – her crush and captain of the team, of course – and a freak accident forces her to reveal her superpower by saving Steve’s life in front of the crowd at the game.

Forced to run without saying goodbye to her family, Julie is out on her own until she encounters an old woman who wants to help her. This woman turns out to be the supposedly dead Dr. Dalton, and she sets the record straight about the war, the president, and takes her in and promises to train her to use her powers.

Dr. Dalton takes her to a hideout, where Julie meets other teenagers who are supras as well. There is 12-year old Penny, a tech wiz who is a genius and already at the level of Einstein-like intelligence. Monica is a teenage girl whom Penny calls “our pyro” because she can throw flames, and then the oldest, Leon whose power is being able to fly.

The other "supras" all are relatable and are portrayed in an honest way. The author gets the teenage angst angle right, and what did anyone think would happen if you give superpowers to teens and tweens?

While this gang learns to cope with and use their powers, they also are taught to deal with a group known as the Normalizers – they are a vicious police group who have been engineered to capture the supras. When they get close to supras, they lose their powers like Superman does with Kryptonite.

They form a cohesive group, though Julie and Monica clash sometimes. When it is discovered that Steve – the basketball star whom Julie saved – has been declared a supra and incarcerated, the group makes it their mission to bust him out of a high security facility. Can they rescue him before the Normalizers come to stop them?

The rest of the way is spoiler territory, but I can attest to the fact that reading this book is like riding a roller coaster that you hope will never end. Along the swift-paced journey, there are moments when characters reveal their emotions, and it is done in such a way as to respect the characters and the reader can see how much the author cares about them.

While there is jovial thread that runs through the story – especially in our narrator Julie, who is self-deprecating and never takes herself or her power too seriously – there are some important areas covered as well.

The whole concept of “normal” is dealt with in a powerful and meaningful way. The question volleyed more than once thematically is “What is normal?” in a world where history has been rewritten, the leader is a homicidal maniac, and the people called Normalizers are far removed from being “normal” people.

This is a wonderful, awesome, and emotional story that leaves plenty of room for a sequel (fingers crossed). Watch out MCU, there is a new breed of superhero around, and this one is ripe for a film version - I can see Kiernan Shipka in the role of Julie. This is a great summer read for the YA crowd but also great for readers of all ages.

I highly recommend Supra/Normal: No More Superheroes and suggest that you add it to your summer reading list ASAP.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Escape from New York – New Hampshire




After months of lockdown due to the coronavirus, we were all getting a little more than antsy. We did take a short day trip to Westport, Connecticut, at the end of May, but that was a bust because almost the entire town was closed down except for a Starbucks that had a table outside in the parking lot to serve customers.

Doing our research, we were looking for a place that was not too far from home but also mostly open. Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were not options because of restrictions in place those states, but we found that New Hampshire had hotels operating, restaurants open for dining, and stores open for shopping.

We looked at the Lakes Region and found a nice hotel right on Crescent Lake in the town of Wolfeboro. We checked the cases of the coronavirus virus and number of deaths in that county, and the statistics were astonishing – 69 cases (total) and no deaths. Our family members all agreed that this would be our destination.

We left early in the morning on a lovely but hot New York day. Leaving the city was a little slow, especially with a fifteen-minute traffic jam on the Throgs Neck Bridge – but we faithfully followed directions spoken by Siri on one of our phones so that bridge was the best option – and then once we were in Westchester the traffic flowed smoothly.

The ride up north was a pleasant one. Beautiful scenery abounded on both sides of the road, and time for conversation was joyful since we are all not usually confined to one space for such a long time at home.

When we entered New Hampshire, the thing that struck us most was the forests on either side of the road. At home we have regular trees, but there we witnessed giant ones – especially tall and thick evergreens reaching toward the sky. I closed my eyes and imagined what the forest must have been like before they put the road through there.

Mill Falls Waterfall
Once we reached the Lakes Region – there are 273 lakes and ponds in the area – we were impressed with its beauty and simplicity. The towns we passed through were all small, quaint, and well maintained. Houses ranged from stately manors to small capes, but it seemed that most homes had generous amounts property around them no matter what their size. 

When we arrived at Crescent Lake Inn, we were immediately pleased to see that the hotel was exactly as advertised – right on the lake! Our room was spacious and well appointed, including a kitchenette that was very useful throughout our stay.

       
Beautiful Crescent Lake
Having a view of the lake from our room made us all happy. We had a back door that we could utilize to walk down to the lake. The lake was crystal clear, coolly refreshing, and the private beach offered cabanas to shield us from the sun. The only drawback was that, because of the virus, we were unable to use the canoes and kayaks on the lake.
        
We brought flotation devices and there was a platform about 20 yards away from the beach to which we could swim, climb upon, and rest in the sun. My kids loved swimming out to it and jumping off it into the clear water. Standing on the beach, the lake reflected the green trees around its perimeter and the blue sky above it. With a gentle breeze flowing off the lake, it was a perfect and relaxing setting.

Wolfeboro is a nice, quiet town. We happened to be there for the Fourth of July weekend, so some places were closed for the holiday. Many restaurants were open for outside and inside dining. Social distancing was practiced in all the establishments we visited, and most people were wearing masks as were we. A number of stores were opened for shopping as well, but everything – including restaurants – closes early (like 9-10 o’clock).

One day we drove all around the biggest lake in the region (and New Hampshire) – Lake Winnipesauke (The Smile of the Great Spirit) – and it is a lovely ride that took us a few hours because the lake is 72 square miles, but we also made a couple of stops along the way. Our first stop was in the town of Meredith. It was a much busier place than quiet Wolfeboro, and everything seemed to be open.

We got some shopping done there, and we discovered that it was home to Bob Montana, the creator of the Archie comic book series. A monument to Montana stands in the town, and next to it a statue of Archie sits on a bench next to the monument, and during these times it is wearing a mask.

Once we left Meredith, we continued our trip south along the lake to go back to the hotel, but we stopped to eat lunch in a place that was right on Alton Bay. It offered a beautiful waterfront setting for lunch with a view.

Lake Wentworth
On another day we did go to Lake Wentworth – yet another beautiful lake in the region. The water was crystal clear, and the beach was a little busier because it was a public beach, but there was still plenty of room for everyone to social distance and enjoy the water. This beach also has public restrooms for beach goers.

Most of the rest of our time was spent in either the town of Wolfeboro or on that pristine beach at our hotel. Fourth of July was nothing like it is back home – we saw only a few bottle rockets and a couple of Roman candles go off over the dark trees in the distance. All large fireworks displays were cancelled because of the restrictions in place.

On the way home, we all wished that we could have stayed longer. I think the best way to judge a vacation is feeling like we wanted to spend more time in a place. If we can’t wait to go home, that tells us something else about where we were staying.


The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is a lovely place for a family vacation, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to relax and enjoy time with the family. It is very quiet and peaceful, and that is one of its major strengths.

It was really wonderful to get out of New York after being locked down for what seemed like forever. I wish we had time to explore more of New Hampshire – even to get to its ocean shoreline area – but we all agreed on the car ride home that we wanted to go back. We saw some lovely houses on Crescent Lake, and perhaps one day we will go there and stay for good. It seems like an ideal place in which to live.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Coronavirus – MLB Will Have a 60-Game 2020 Season!





 

There is joy in Mudville – Major League Baseball will rise from the ashes of the coronavirus and, like a sports phoenix, will have a shortened regular season of 60 games.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has agreed with Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan for the shortened season. There had been a rather contentious back and forth between MLB and the MLBPA in recent weeks, and hopes seemed to fade that a deal was possible.

The good news is that players finally accepted the plan that includes provisions for the safety of the players as they return to the field. Spring training – or really summer training – will commence on July 1st, and the season will start around July 23 or 24th according to the plan.

While the shortened season may not be everything fans want – attendance at games is probably not going to happen – it does give us baseball. A summer without baseball is like Christmas without Santa Claus, and we all need a little “Ho-ho-ho!” right now considering the grim months that we have lived through after the shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The Mets Winning 1969 World Series

As a seriously addicted New York Mets fan, I have been relegated to watching reruns of games on SNY – despite knowing the outcome of the games – because I need something to fill the void. It has been fun in a way watching the old games, especially the World Series games, but it's just not the same knowing the outcome. 

This is vitally important for kids as well as adults. I know my own family has felt deprived of many things during this unprecedented time. My kids lost the end of school, swimming, time with friends, and so much more. The ability to watch baseball again is the prescription for their recovery from the void in which they have been forced to live.

Is this solution perfect? No, far from it, but it is better than nothing. There are many things to think about; however, the joy of seeing live baseball outweighs them all.

Besides being happy for myself, my kids, and all fans, I am happy for the players because they will not lose an entire season. Yes, their statistics are going to be compromised, but at least they will be able to put up some numbers instead of none at all.

Hopefully, this is a good sign that we will have other professional sports in the future. I know there have been conflicting stories about whether we will have National Football League games this year, but this news is encouraging and paves the way for football, hockey, and basketball in the months ahead.

Enjoying a game at Citi Field

Yes, it really sucks that I can’t take my kids to a game and buy some peanuts and Crackerjacks, but at least we can watch the games on TV. It will be kind of surreal to see Citi Field and other venues empty during games, but maybe they can add “fan sound” to the audio just as old comedy shows had a laugh track.

As of now, I am happy that we will have a baseball season, and many people I know (including my kids) are happy too. It will be so wonderful to be able to say “Play ball!” and see my Metsies on the field once again. Lets Go Mets!

 


Monday, May 25, 2020

Coronavirus – Memorial Day






The coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, or whatever you want to call this horrific plague, has taken Memorial Day from us. Jobs, school, entertainment, love, and life itself – these are the many qualities of life this damn thing stole from us. On this day it deeply hurts many people because it is a day that we honor those who lost their lives in service of this country, and it feels like it can’t be done in a proper way.

American graves in Normandy, France
A year ago, we had vibrant parades filled with pageantry and music, honoring those brave men and women who died for their country. Now, we are forced to have virtual ceremonies. A few places in the greater New York area are holding car parades – but social distancing is expected of the spectators, making this a shadow of what it used to be.

In past parades there were always vehicles that were in parades. This allowed older veterans to participate, to wave to the crowd, and be a part of the event. This sort of elevated them and put a spotlight on them. But the school marching bands, the Boy and Girl Scouts, organizations, and businesses cannot march as the used to do.

People went to beaches this weekend 
Whatever way it is done is compromised now and, while I still think it is better to do something than nothing, it is not the same, and sometimes it feels like nothing is ever going to be the same.

Yesterday, beaches across the country were packed with people – many not social distancing or wearing masks. Bars in New York City were open for drinks to go (although Mayor de Blasio said police would shut them down), and people socialized outside these establishments, some without masks. I kind of understand that because it is hard to sip your drink with one on, but maybe they are getting a little too close to people who are not in their immediate family. 

People drinking outside of NYC bar
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and people who have been cooped up since the middle of March are starting to break. What has been evident so far this weekend is that many people are not worrying about any guidelines and trying to have a good time. Hopefully, this doesn’t come back to haunt them.

In my family’s case, we will watch the car parade – just as we have watched the real parade in the past. Later on, we will not be having our usual big family barbecue, but our immediate family will cookout and eat outside and play some music, staying safe in the process.

I will talk – as I do every year – about the brave people in our family who served in the military. My children’s great grandfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins fought in wars from the Spanish American War to Afghanistan. Thankfully – in some kind of miracle – all of them came home.

My father visiting grave of friend
who died in WW II
I will remind the kids that my father – whom they lovingly called Papa – was wounded in World War II, and he was considered a disabled American veteran. Unfortunately, he knew friends who never made it home, and he was always grateful that he survived had a full life, a family, and career.

That’s the saddest part of Memorial Day for me. All the markers in every American military cemetery are not just resting places of a American heroes – it is a reminder that those people had stories and people who loved them. They are people who didn’t get to come home, to maybe become scientists or doctors or police officers or engineers, and do something amazing to help society. They also didn’t have a chance to have children who maybe grew up to change the world.

So, this Memorial Day, no matter how compromised it might be, take the time to celebrate the holiday by remembering those who served. Think about all those who were lost in order for us to continue to live freely in the country that they died for.

What we owe them can never be paid, but they didn’t go into the service for compensation. They did it for love of their country and the people whom they loved. In honoring them, let us never forget them and what they did for all of us.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Coronavirus – Saying Goodbye to School





This week we had to say an official “Goodbye” to the school building for the 2019-2020 school year. My son’s principal sent an email message that we could come up this week to get any of his work and books and materials left in the classroom.

I made an appointment that fit into my online working schedule, but as I later found out it would be during one of his scheduled online classes. At first, he seemed unhappy about not being able to come with me, but then later on he seemed okay with it.

When I drove over to the school, the first thing that struck me was how easy it was to park. It is never easy to park in the streets near that building, but today I had my choice of where to park right across from the building.

Putting on my virus gear of face mask, gloves, and sunglasses, I got out of the car, ran up the steps, and rang the bell. Once inside, everything was dark, with only patches of light from the open classroom doors illuminating the hallways.

I signed in at the office and then went upstairs to my son’s classroom. The walls in the hallways were totally bare, and usually during the school year the walls are filled with blazing colors and examples of the students’ projects, work, and art.

As I walked down the hallways, the heft of the silence weighed upon me – making me think that school is not supposed to be like this. A school should be filled with happy and noisy kids. The building must be grieving the premature loss of the children – it’s going to be a long, lonely summer for it.

I went into his classroom and noticed the teacher’s beautiful decorations hanging in eerie silence. The students’ work was piled upon their desks. I went to my son’s desk and collected his art work and other materials. I looked up and noticed the daily classroom calendar stopped on March 12 – his last day of school because of the coronavirus.

I kept thinking about all those days between then and now, and what would have happened in that classroom if there had never been a virus that stopped the world – all the interactions, the conversations, and the hands-on experiences that have now been declared forbidden in this hands-off world.  

As I left the building, I looked back one last time, and it was the saddest sight ever. A school building with no students is sadder than a Christmas tree put out on the curb in January.

When I got home, I gave him his materials and he smiled when he remembered a project he did or a piece of art that he enjoyed making. For a moment he seemed lighthearted, but then he looked at the clock and had to get ready for his next online class.

While working in their Google classrooms or Zoom meetings, students of all ages have had to adjust to the online world in ways they never expected. They see their friends’ faces in brief glimpses, as their teachers do their best to adapt their lesson plans to online instruction.

For my kids, this online learning has been going on since March 16 – so we are past the two-month mark here. I am pleased to say that they have adapted pretty well, despite a glitch here and a link that won’t open there. This is new territory, so it seems like the teachers know that sometimes things won’t work, and everyone will have to go with the flow.

Yet this is not schooling – it is a semblance of schooling. People are talking about what will happen in the fall, and some say that we will go back to the building and others think we will not. All I know is that if we can’t go back to a normal school routine, schooling as we used to know it will be over.

Yes, we will have to deal with it, but there are going to be many empty school buildings, and students’ worlds will be inextricably altered. Will they learn? Probably. Will the quality of the education be the same? Probably not.

They may get all the information they require and be able to pass their tests and move up to the next grade level, but that personal interaction will be gone. The way teachers get to know students will be much different, and the continued burden on parents who have to work will be incalculable.

So, this week we said “Goodbye” to the school building for this school year. I am just hoping it’s not goodbye for forever.