Portsmouth, the Blue Angels and New Hampshire's Coastline 8-30-10

Early Friday afternoon I met Linda at the Metro North Railroad Station in White Plains, NY. The car was packed, the Mapquest directions were printed and the GPS was activated. We headed directly to the Cross Westchester Expressway and the Hutchison River Parkway North. Even though it was early in the day, the trip north up the Merritt to New Haven, Hartford and the Massachusetts Turnpike was fraught with slowdowns, delays and heavy traffic.


Finally, we reached the Mass Pike, headed for Route 495N, which circumvents metropolitan Boston, and headed north to Portsmouth, NH and the Sheraton Hotel on Market Street. The two hundred thirty mile trip was slowed down by all of the above and the Friday rush hour realities. We arrived about 30 minutes later than planned, checked in and since we were hungry, we headed out to dinner. Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire. It is the fourth-largest municipality in the county, with a population of 20,784 according to the 2000 census.


When we arrived the town was hopping, and all the streets surrounding Market Square; Market, Congress, State, Daniel, etc, were being traversed by all sorts of folks. Many were in for the evening, and others were interested in the Portsmouth Air Show, which was to be held on Saturday and Sunday at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, formerly the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Base.
We were interested in lobster, and a few places were recommended. We decided to drive into Kittery, Maine, which is only a mile, or so, up the road, go to the discount outlets and eat at the Weathervane Seafood Restaurant on Route 1. The Weathervane seems to be quite popular, and there are many locations in Maine and New Hampshire. We ate outside, the food was good, especially the onion rings, the lobster and the grilled tuna.  We then drove up the road to the Outlet Malls, visited a few including Reed & Barton, Wilson Leather and Van Heusen. We found out that our Francis I silver place settings had risen 1000% in value since our wedding back in 1969. Because it is late in the season, and the economy could be better, it wasn’t hard to play, “let’s make a deal.” There were all sorts of tremendous sales and triple discounts.
Finally after strolling around until darkness, and because the stores were closing for the day, we headed back into Portsmouth, which was still bustling. This area which was settled in the early 1600’s was first explored by a European named Martin Pring in 1603. The village was settled by English immigrants in 1630 and named Piscataqua, after the Abenaki name for the river. Then the village was called Strawberry Banke, after the many wild strawberries growing beside the Piscataqua River, a tidal estuary with a swift current. Strategically located for trade between upstream industries and mercantile interests abroad, the port prospered. Fishing, lumber and shipbuilding were principal businesses of the region.
At the town's incorporation in 1653, it was named Portsmouth in honor of the colony's founder, John Mason. He had been captain of the port of Portsmouth, England, in the county of Hampshire, for which New Hampshire is named. In 1679, Portsmouth became the colonial capital. It also became a refuge for exiles from Puritan Massachusetts. When Queen Anne's War ended, the town was selected by Governor Joseph Dudley to host negotiations for the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, which temporarily ended hostilities between the Abenaki Indians and English settlements of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire.
The days as a port, or a refuge from Puritanical intolerance, are long over. The days of the Triangle Trade are long over, and now the city enjoys a reputation, well-deserved, as a summer tourist Mecca.   
We were pretty tired by 9:30 pm, and we made our way back to the Sheraton, which is almost in the center of town. As we arrived in the lobby, we met a number of the pilots and the ground crew who fly and service the US Navy’s Blue Angels.  This elite flying group has been performing since 1946 when it first started doing aerial acrobatics with WWII era propeller-driven planes like the Hellcat and Bearcat.
When initially formed, the unit was called the Navy Flight Exhibition Team. The squadron was officially re-designated as the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron in December 1974. The original team adopted the nickname Blue Angels in 1946, when one of them came across the name of New York City's Blue Angel nightclub in the New Yorker Magazine. The team introduced themselves as the “Blue Angels” to the public for the first time on July 21, 1946, in Omaha, Nebraska.
The squadron's six demonstration pilots fly the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet in more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year. Since their inception, the “Blues” have flown a variety of different aircraft types for more than 427 million spectators worldwide.
We turned in for the evening and got up early, went to breakfast downtown in Market Square at Popovers on the Square, found the post office on Daniel Street and headed for an outdoor farmers market by their government center. We made our way back to the Sheraton where we met Dana and Jon, who drove up from Boston. We packed our gear for the air show and made our way to Portsmouth (Pease) Airport and parked in the furthest lot from the field. The traffic even at 10 am was incredible. We could have waited for the shuttle bus which was looping from parking area to parking area, but we decided to walk and after 15 minutes we entered the already crowded airport. Luckily we met Dana’s beau Craig, who drove from his home in Manchester, NH, and we all started to wander around all the parked planes. There weren’t too many WWII era veterans except a pristine North American B-25J Mitchell two-engine medium bomber.There were 10,000 built and the last one which saw service was flown in 1979 in Indonesia. The B-25 first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which 16 B-25Bs led by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans and alarmed the Japanese who had believed their home islands were inviolable by enemy troops. While the amount of actual damage done was relatively minor, it forced the Japanese to divert troops for the home defense for the remainder of the war. The raiders took off from the carrier USS Hornet, about 650 miles from the Japanese home Islands and successfully bombed Tokyo and four other Japanese cities without loss. However, 15 subsequently crash-landed en route to recovery fields in Eastern China.
These losses were the result of the task force being spotted by Japanese fishing vessels forcing the bombers to take off 170 miles early, fuel exhaustion, stormy nighttime conditions with zero visibility, and lack of electronic homing aids at the recovery bases. Only one landed intact; it came down in the Soviet Union, where its five-man crew was interned, and the aircraft confiscated. Lt. Col. Doolittle was promoted to the rank of general, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and it was presented to him by President Roosevelt. He later was in command of the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean and then the 8th Air Force based in London, which handled all European and German strategic air raids.
This plane, nicknamed Panchito would later take off and be flown on simulated low-level strafing and bombing runs. The B-25J Mitchell bomber was named after the legendary Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, who was a highly decorated flying officer during the First World War. Mitchell, who was considered the “Father of the Modern Air Force,” was an outspoken critic of the United States Army Air Force in the years after WWI. He demonstrated successfully that air planes could be used to sink battleships. Mitchell did not share in the common belief that World War I would be the war to end war. Mitchell stated, “If a nation ambitious for universal conquest gets off to a flying start in a war of the future,” he said, “it may be able to control the whole world more easily than a nation has controlled a continent in the past. Mitchell pushed for an independent air force and eventually was able to participate in the Naval/Army Project B bombing demonstrations fifty miles off Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. In a series of exercises sanctioned by the Army and Navy, which were conducted by Mitchell, and separately by the Navy Department  a number of old and obsolete American vessels were bombed and sunk, and the were culminated by the sinking of the Ostfriesland, a German-Austrian, supposedly, unsinkable battleship. Mitchell was criticized by his unorthodox method of dive-bombing.
Mitchell experienced difficulties within the Army, notably with his superiors and sharply castigated Army and Navy leadership. The War Department had endorsed a proposal to establish a “General Headquarters Air Force” as a vehicle for modernization and expansion of the Air Service, but then backed down before objections by the Navy, incensing Mitchell. Because of his friction with the US Navy, he was demoted and later, after he accused the Navy of malfeasance when it came to the crash of the dirigible Shenandoah, he was ordered to be court-martialed by President Coolidge.
He was convicted in late 1925 of insubordination and his military career was basically ended. He was supported in the trial by Henry Arnold, later our WWII head of the Army Air Corps, General Carl Spaatz, Fiorello La Guardia, and the legendary WWI hero, Captain Eddie Rickenbacher, the “Ace of Aces,” who shot down 25 German planes, and later founded Eastern Airlines. Mitchell was one of the most far-thinking air power visionaries that America had ever produced.
In 1942 (6 years after his death), President Franklin Roosevelt, in recognizing Mitchell's contributions to air power, elevated him to the rank of major general (two stars) on the Army Air Corps retired list and petitioned the U.S. Congress to posthumously award Mitchell the Congressional Gold Medal, “in recognition of his outstanding pioneer service and foresight in the field of American military aviation.” It was awarded in 1946. There’s a fine almost accurate film, The Court Martial of Bill Mitchell, starring Gary Cooper. The next time it is on, make sure you watch it!
Meanwhile, back to the Air Show! The airport continued to fill up with tens of thousands of fans, military personnel and the curious. There were continuous demonstrations of air acrobatics starting with Army Golden Knights flag jump, the Firebirds Aerobatic Team, and various demonstrations of aero acrobatics from the smaller single and double-winged craft. At 11:45 am, one of the big boys, a USN McDonnell-Douglas F/A 18F Super Hornet roared down the runway. This bird’s thrust is incredible, and its power is startling. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, is a larger, evolutionary redesign of the F/A-18. Compared to the Hornet, the Super Hornet is larger, heavier and has improved range and payload capability.
The F/A-18E/F was originally proposed as an alternative to a completely new aircraft to replace existing dedicated attack aircraft such as the A-6. The US Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron switched to the F/A-18 Hornet in 1986, when it replaced the A-4 Skyhawk. The Blue Angels perform in F/A-18A and B models at air shows and other special events across the US and worldwide. This 56 foot long engineering marvel has a wing span of 40 feet, its afterburner thrust at take off is 17,750 lbs, its maximum speed is mach 1.8, or 1190 mph, and it weighs in fully loaded at almost 37,000 lbs. As this plane streaked over our heads, we could hear the sonic boom it created when it broke the sound barrier at over 660 mph.
The next demonstration was from a Brazilian seven high performance prop planes, called, Esquadrilha da Fumasco, or Smoke Squadron Demonstration. These pilots were incredible. Their maneuvers were quite precise as they flew in various formations, in parallel and often upside down. The “Smoke Squadron,” with more than 2900 demonstrations accomplished in Brazil and abroad since 1952, flies seven aircraft in their aerial demonstrations. The team flies the T-27 Tucano, a military aircraft built by Embrear Aircraft in Brazil.  The EMB 312 Tucano is a low-wing turboprop-powered two seat basic-advanced military trainer aircraft Recognition features include low-set unswept wings without tip tanks. The Tucano, known in Brazil as the T-27, is used in the missions of basic training, tactical support and war against drugs. This basic trainer is an aircraft with tandem seats.
The next high-performance planes to grace the sky were the General Dynamic’s USAF F16CJ Falcon and the F-15 Strike Eagle. These planes are equally remarkable and their speed, climb and maneuverability were awe-inspiring. The Fighting Falcon is a dogfighter with numerous innovations including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while under high g-forces, reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight. Although the F-16's official name is “Fighting Falcon”, it is known to its pilots as the “Viper”, due to it resembling a viper snake and after the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper starfighter. This relatively inexpensive super fighter, which is flown in various forms with 25 air forces around the world, comes in with a price tag of $14 million and can fly with a speed of over mach 2.0. It is 49 feet long with a wingspan of 32.67 feet, and has a thrust of and afterburner 28,600 lbs. It has been in service with the USAF since 1978.
The F-16's first air-to-air combat success was achieved by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over the Bekaa Valley on April 28,l 1981, against a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter, which was downed with cannon fire On June 7, 1981, eight Israeli F-16s, escorted by F-15s, executed Operation Opera, their first employment in a significant air-to-ground operation. This raid severely damaged Osirak, an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad, to prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein from using the reactor for the creation of nuclear weapons.
The following year, during Operation Peace for Galilee (Lebanon War) Israeli F-16s engaged Syrian aircraft in one of the largest air battles involving jet aircraft, which began on June 9th and continued for two more days. At the end of the conflict, the Israeli Air Force credited their F-16s with 44 air-to-air kills, mostly of MiG-21s and MiG-23s while suffering no air-to-air losses of their own. F-16s were also used in their ground-attack role for strikes against targets in Lebanon. IAF F-16s participated in the 2006 Lebanon War and during the attacks in the Gaza strip in December 2008. The 44 aerial kills is a remarkable record that may never be equaled in our time.
The last of the big muscle planes that entertained the huge throng at the Portsmouth Airport was the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle all-weather ground attack strike fighter. It was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. The Strike Eagle, a major derivative of the F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter, proved its worth in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Allied Force, carrying out deep strikes against high-value targets, combat air patrols, and providing close air support for coalition troops. The E variant of the F-15’s first flight was on 11 December 1986. The first production model of the F-15E was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in April 1988. Production continued through the 1990s until 2001 with 236 produced for the Air Force.
It has also seen action in later conflicts and has been exported to several countries. United States Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles can be distinguished from other U.S. Eagle variants by darker camouflage and conformal fuel tanks mounted along the engine intakes. It’s a big plane 63 feet long and wing span of 42 feet. Its fully loaded maximum weight is 81,000 lbs., and it can fly at a remarkable mach 2.5 or more than 1650 mph, The Israelis used a version of the F-15 in aerial combat over Lebanon in 1999.
After the aforementioned flight of the 66 year old B-25, we were thrilled by the USMC Blue Angel’s own Lockheed C-130T Hercules, which is nicknamed “Fat Albert.” This mammoth plane ferries all the operational staff and the pilots to all the air show venues..Its speed, turning arc and power were on full display.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting. It is the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 60 nations. This workhorse is 97 feet long, with a wingspan of 132 feet. It can also carry 96 passengers or 64 fully armed troops, and even 2 armored personnel carriers. It has a maximum speed of 366 mph. It can carry a hug load of 155,000 lbs. This plane is known for its ability to land in a very short runway. The Israelis used a similar plane in the raid on Entebbe to rescue the passengers on the downed plane in Uganda.
Finally the apex of a sensational afternoon was the appearance of the six Blue Angels and their F/A-18’s. Their familiar box patterns and cross-over flights were beyond belief. They were not flying at the speed generated by the earlier muscle planes, but the precision was masterful, and their execution flawless. As we moved in the general direction of the exit, we met a few of Jon’s friends, who drove from Brookline, leaving there at noon and arriving at the show at 3 PM!
By 4:30 pm we were all worn out from the sun and being on our feet, and we made the correct decision to get to our cars before everyone had the same idea. We were lucky, and even though the normal time to downtown is about 15 minutes, we were back at the hotel in a manageable 40 minutes from the time we left the grounds. Others were not so fortunate and some of the delays and traffic tie ups were monumental. It took Dana and Craig another hour to get out of the airport and to the Sheraton. We all cleaned up, and headed out once again to downtown Portsmouth and a very nice Italian restaurant on State Street named The Roasa Restaurant. Since we weren’t able to eat at the airport, due to unreasonably long lines, we were all hungry, and therefore we all ate heartily. We started with great garlic bread, brushetta, and wonderful spicy stuffed clams. We had entrees of veal parmesan, egg plant parmesan, and chicken and sea food picatta. Intelligently we skipped dessert and made our way back to the center of town. We strolled through a few of the still-open stores and eventually got back to the hotel. The younger generation headed back to their homes, and we had to “hit the sack.” Linda fell asleep quite quickly while I was finishing up some post cards and when my head nodded while I was reading Alan Furst’s, “The Spies of Warsaw,” I knew it was time for lights out.
The next morning we made our way to the post office on Daniel Street and drove over to the base of the World War I Memorial Bridge, a vertical iron lift bridge, which was dedicated in 1923. We parked at its base and walked from one side to the other. The bridge straddles the Pisquataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Kittery, Maine. It’s a rare occurrence when one can walk over a bridge from one state to another.

This old bridge is rusting quite a bit and according to posted signs, here and about, there seems to be a concerted effort to save it from condemnation. After coming back to our car in Portsmouth, we decided to drive across the bridge on Route 1 and explore a little of the Maine coastline and look for a place for breakfast. After driving around for twenty minutes we came to the conclusion that everyone was eating in Portsmouth. We got back to the bridge, made our way to Market Square, and stopped at the Bakery Café, which is right across the street from the Popover Café and had breakfast.
Our objectives on this Sunday morning were to see the Fuller Gardens and have lunch at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel and Spa. The Fuller Gardens is a wonderful turn of the century estate garden founded by the former Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Alvan T. Fuller for his wife Vila who loved flowers and had a fondness of roses. The Governor, who served in the House of Representatives, as Lt. Governor and Governor of the Bay State from 1925 through 1929, was best known for allowing Sacco and Vanzetti to be executed.                                     
The garden was designed in the 1920’s by the noted landscape architect Arthur Shurtleff. Governor Fuller also had a beautiful home known as Runnymede-by-the-Sea which was located just up the road from Ocean Drive. Unfortunately for lovers of architecture, Fuller requested in his will that the residence was to be removed after his and his wife’s deaths (in 1958 and 1959), and it was torn down in 1961. But the Fuller Foundation, which was established by the Governor, called for the maintenance of the gardens. There are two thousand rose bushes, a Japanese garden, a statuary garden, and a hot house. His son, Peter was a Harvard man, ran the Fuller automotive empire, and when I was in college he had a big Cadillac dealership on Commonwealth Avenue. He was a bit of an eccentric and did things in big ways.
On the night of Jan. 29, 1977, shortly after 10:30 p.m., he climbed through the ropes and into the ring at Boston's Hynes Auditorium to engage in fisticuffs with another well-healed sportsman. The first millionaire in the ring was Muhammad Ali, who was contributing his body to this effort. Peter Davenport Fuller, who had arranged this fandango, had bought multi thousands of dollars worth of ducats to give out to friends and associates for his charity of the moment and evening, the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts of Roxbury.
In the ring, as always, Ali looked every inch the entertainer posing as a fighter with his almost unmarked profile, which had been cultivated by years of bobbing and weaving and the Madison Avenue illusion of being a bored participant. The charismatic Ali, always liked a show where he was the center of attraction.
In the other corner, Fuller, a man whose father had been governor of Massachusetts and had left an estate of $12 million, looked like Jimmy Cannon’s version of a “pug” who would be right at home in the Bogart film, “The Harder They Fall.” As he warmed up with his stretches, faux sparring and neck arches it was hard to perceive that here stood a man who had belonged to toney clubs, served on the boards of various local institutions of higher learning, and bred horses on his humungous “ranch” in North Hampton, N.H. (including the most famous last-place horse in history, Dancer's Image, disqualified winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby). Later it was determined that the horse should not have been disqualified for using a commonly used pain-killer for sore joints. Forty years after the disqualification, he still believed that he was a victim of a set up, due to his being a wealthy civil rights sympathizer from Boston who offended the Kentucky racing aristocracy by donating Dancer's $62,000 prize for a previous victory to Coretta Scott King two days after her husband's murder.
Getting back to the fight, Fuller had actually trained with a high level of seriousness. At 53 years of age, giving up 43 lbs and 20 years to the younger and prettier Ali, Fuller may have taken this charade to his head. He may have actually wanted to hit the former champ. This Boston blue-blood, who has had every toy that he has desired, seemed with his broken nose and street jargon, more like Rocky than a Cadillac Dealership owner and a dilettante of the arts who decorated his car show room with expensive reproductions of the European Old Masters. After a few rounds which featured mostly dancing, some sparring, a few taps here and there, Peter Fuller went back to obscurity.
Meanwhile the New Hampshire shoreline was quite picturesque and with the 90+ degree weather, the beaches were jammed. As we drove south down Ocean Drive, there was a two mile backup coming north to one of the more popular beaches. It seemed everyone was either at the beach or at Sunday’s version of the Air Show.
Once we were finished at the Fuller Gardens we backtracked north about 6 miles on Route 1 to the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel and Spa which is located in New Castle, NH. Wentworth is located on a secluded island not far from Ocean Drive. It is a sumptuous place with 161 guestrooms and suites. The “Grand Dame of the Sea”—as Wentworth by the Sea is affectionately known—has set the model for coastline New Hampshire accommodations for over a century. When it opened in 1874, Wentworth was the largest wooden structure on the state’s coast, a hub for social, business and political luminaries from around the world. The famed “Ship Building,” modeled after the elegant ocean liners of the day, was exceptionally popular and offered sunning ocean views, but every part of Wentworth is remarkable—the property is poised high above a bluff overlooking the ocean and river below, affording each guest room and suite with ocean and/or harbor views.
Though the building did fall on hard times in the 1980s, the Herculean efforts of a coalition of preservationists, community supporters and the non-profit Friends of the Wentworth executed an extensive renovation. Today, this Victorian lady has been fully restored and remains an enduring example of gracious hospitality merged with the most modern of conveniences.
In 1905 the hotel hosted the signers of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, ending the Russo-Japanese War. In accordance with the treaty, both Japan and Russia agreed to evacuate Manchuria and return its sovereignty to China, but Japan was leased the Liaodong Peninsula (containing Port Arthur and Talien), and the Russian rail system in southern Manchuria with access to strategic resources. Japan also received the southern half of the Island of Sakhalin from Russia.
Negotiations for the treaty were taken under the mediation of Theodore Roosevelt, for which he won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. The negotiations were begun by a call for peace by Roosevelt in May 1905, rather than by either of the warring states. The treaty confirmed Japan's emergence as the pre-eminent power in East Asia, and forced Russia to abandon its expansionist policies there, but it was not well received by the Japanese public. James Bradley, the author of “Flag of Our Fathers,” wrote a wonderful and provocative book about all of what transpired in the Pacific, in his latest book, ”The Imperial Cruise.” I recommend it for all. By the way, he was on The Advocates on June 23, 2010, and you might go into my archives at http://advocates-wvox.com to learn all about Teddy Roosevelt, and rise of the Japanese in the Far East.
But, getting back to the Wentworth, we headed to the wonderful restaurant called The Latitudes, with an outdoor veranda that overlooks the inlet and all the boats; large and small, which are docked there. The restaurant had been recommended to us by the docent at the Fuller Gardens. We parked behind the hotel, walked through the well-appointed lobby and strolled down to the restaurant. The food and service were quite good, plus all the diners seem to be chatting with each other – mainly about the air show.  Our waiter was a charming young man who is a sophomore at UNH. 
We started eating at the right time, because by the time we finished eating, there were people waiting for a table.   After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll down to their wharf.  We met a couple from Akron, whose daughter lives in the area, and they come to visit her every few months.  On such a gorgeous day and in such spectacular surroundings, we can understand their desire to come back often! By 2:00 pm we were on our way to I-95, and we were headed home. It was a full weekend, with 500 miles put on the odometer, and indelible memories of those incredibly powerful machines racing across the sky. It was not much more than hundred years ago, after all our grandparents were born that man first conquered the air with a machine. Can you imagine telling that generation what we saw this weekend? They would have had us committed.
As a postscript (thanks to Craig’s sending us the article from the Manchester newspaper), we learned that the long food lines food, the shortage of water and traffic problems from the Saturday show were solved for the Sunday event!!  More water, more police and fewer spectators meant shorter lines and quicker exits.


Yesterday in the Bronx 8-21-10

It was not as sunny as forecasted, but no immediate precipitation was said to be on the horizon. Linda had been the grateful recipient of tickets offered from WB Mason, which supplies her office. On Thursday, she asked me if I had any interest in going to see the Yankees on Saturday, and I, of course, agreed. Our usual tennis games in Armonk are always scheduled early and by 10:40 am we were finished and we were off to Tarrytown for quick showers.


Once dressed, and prepared with sustenance, we headed to the Tarrytown RR Station of the Metro North Hudson Line, parked at a meter for $4, instead of paying the extortionist $10 the village is collecting at their lots for Yankee games, and caught the 11:55 am train for 153rd Street and the Yankee Stadium. It was a pleasant and uneventful ride, the cost was $4 round trip for a senior, Linda had her monthly pass, and we were at the Stadium at 12:40 pm. Every game this season, the Yankees, without regards for their opponent, draw close to capacity, (48,158 were in the park) which is around 50,000. It is a short walk, about ten minutes to the new stadium, and we entered the main concourse with our sandwiches, yogurt, peanuts and water. Yankee Stadium is by far the world’s largest cash register, and I refuse to indulge in $9 beers, $6 hot dogs, $5 water and equally expensive pop corn. One can buy a bottle of water at CVS for 21 cents or outside the ball park for $1. But, many others love to contribute to the wealth and happiness of the Steinbrenner fortune. On top of that, because of an aberration in the tax laws, courtesy of George Bush II and the late GOP dominated Congress, all inheritance taxes were suspended in calendar year 2010. Therefore the richest sport’s franchise on the earth was able to pass on to the heirs of the late George Steinbrenner III, his complete and intact estate. Such are the vagaries of life and the short sightedness of greed.


Meanwhile, back to the stadium , we entered, had our bags checked, took the escalator up to the top level and found our way to section 407B, row 3, seats one and two. I must say the view was quite clear, and the seats are decently comfortable. They are much wider than the seats were in the original Yankee Stadium, which was re-built in 1973. The stadium designers have thoughtfully taken into consideration that the waist size of the average American has expanded dramatically. The seats were pretty far away, but I am not complaining, beggars cannot be choosers.


As it was with the game on Friday, the Yankee starting pitching was remarkably bad. Javier Vazquez, an overpaid and inconsistent re-tread, pitched as poorly as AJ Burnett the day before. After giving up four quick runs he was soon picking up splinters on the Yankee bench. But, unlike, yesterday, the Bronx Bomber bats boomed and with some timely hitting by their veterans; Captain Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. The game also featured the first major league hit by Eduardo Nunez who was replacing the overpaid and overrated, now injured again Alex Rodriguez. (After Sunday’s 10-0 victory, the Yankees are now 12-0 without ARodless.) The highlight of the game was that the light-hitting and infrequently scoring Mariners scored their 400th run of the season. The Bombers had scored their 400th run almost two months earlier. Strangely, with the score 7-4, Manager Girardi brought in the Great Mariano in the 8th inning for his only 4 out save of the season. The Yanks scored 2 insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, and walked away with a 9-5 victory.


We left with thousands of happy fans, and made our way to the Metro North Railroad station and caught the 4:11 pm to Tarrytown. We had to hurry because we were due at our friends for dinner at 6:00 pm. Well we made it!


An Evening at the Met and Turkish Food on 3rd Avenue 8-14-10

An Evening at the Met, and Turkish Food on 3rd Avenue

August 14, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


After a day of sun, tennis and a swim, we headed back to Tarrytown for showers, a rest and a change of clothes. By five-thirty pm we picked up the Habers and the Schoens in Scarsdale and headed for Hutchinson River Parkway and made our way east and south to the Bronx River Parkway and the Bruckner Expressway which leads to the FDR Drive.


The traffic was exceeding light and in short order we were crossing 97th Street to Park Avenue where were quickly able to find a space at 82nd Street. We parked, and made our way over to the Metropolitan Museum which was incredibly crowded. We’ve been there many times on a late summer afternoon, but usually it much quieter. Not only was the venerable institution on 5th Avenue quite busy, but there were many more Americans there then we usually observe.


We first headed for roof top where I was pleasantly surprised and amazed by their incredible bamboo garden, which included winding steps that climbed at lease 3-4 stories above the roof top. We took a few pictures, enjoyed the remarkable sun drenched vistas of NYC Upper East Side and then headed down stairs to the American Women’s fashion display, which chronicled the changes in women’s clothing from the late 19th century to our current era.


After an interesting stroll through fashion history, which was highlighted by film strips of fashion trend setters; Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn we made our way to a special collection of all of the Met’s collection of Picasso’s works.
We spent a great deal of time perusing the Blue, Rose, and Cubism Periods, and by 8:00 PM we were all foot-weary and hungry. Bt the way, I wasn’t the only one who had played tennis. We had reservations at Beyoglu, a Turkish restaurant, located at 1431 3rd Avenue in the east 80’s. The restaurant was very crowed, but we were eventually seated upstairs, and after appetizers of hummus, falafel, a vegetarian platter, shepherd’s salads, we enjoyed our main dishes of: solom izgara, beyoglu sald, tarama, arnavut cigeria, and tavuk izgara. Our meal was topped off by baklava , rice pudding, expresso , tea and coffee. Every one felt satiated and the bill was $144, which was not bad for Manhattan. From there it was thankfully back to home. 

The Dog Days of August and Baseball's Greatest Rivalry 8-10-10

The Dog Days of August and Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry

August 10, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


The “Dog Days” of August were in full fury yesterday in the Bronx, as another chapter of the annual renewal of the century old rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox again took place at the Yankee Stadium. Times have changed, but the rivalry that started in 1903 when the Yankees were know as the Highlanders and the Red Sox were known as the Americans, still has emotional fervor.  Since those early days of the 20th century, when the Red Sox were the best team in the newly formed American League, (the National League, known forever as the Senior Circuit, goes back to 1876) there has been heighten interest between these rival cities and their population. Over the generations the two teams have played over 2000 times and the Yankees hold the edge 1123 to 937 with 14 tie games.


August 9th, started like any other summer day, but during this season of record heat, this Monday seemed hotter and more humid then ever. The Yankees, who have been sitting tenuously on top of the very competitive American League East, were hosting their age-old rival rivals from Boston in 4th game of an unusual four game series which was scheduled to end on a Monday. I am sure this has happened before, but according to my memory, this scheduling was very rare. Most series end on Sunday!


This summer has been very hot all over the world. There are forest fires in Russia, which threaten hundreds of thousands of people, their wheat production and over 700 people have recently died because of air pollution exacerbated by these fires that rage though out their countryside. Since Roman times, the period between July 24 and August 24th has been known as the “Dog Days.” The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the heavens besides the Sun. The term “Dog Days” was used earlier by the Greeks. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the “Dog Days” to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

Dog Days” were popularly believed to be an evil time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers and quite often hysterics.” Even yesterday, a flight attendant on Jet Blue became enraged at an unruly passenger, and after the plane stopped taxiing, lost his cool, cursed the offending passenger and after grabbing a beer or two, engaged the escape slide and left the plane.

With all this background, my good friend Michael Shapiro asked me if I wanted to go to Yankee Stadium to see the final game of this series with his son Ben. I said that I was game, and he bought two tickets on Stub Hub. For, all of you out-of-towners, there is now a Yankee Stadium stop for the Metro North commuter trains. I had taken the one from Tarrytown, which is located on the Hudson Line, earlier in the season.
This is a direct ride to the Stadium, but the Harlem Line, which runs through Scarsdale, where the Shapiros live, goes first to 125th Street in Manhattan, where one must exit and wait for a northbound train.
It promised to be a hot and humid day, and it was. By the time I reached Ben’s house in Scarsdale, at 12 noon, both the temperature and humidity were aggressively moving northward to 92 F and a humidity approaching 75%. Ben, who is approaching 16, and I, have been to a number of events over the past few years, and we have had our own adventures on the tennis courts. He had developed into a very good tennis player, and recently won the silver medal and the NY State Empire games, and was part of the gold-medal winning team from the Lower Hudson Valley. Besides that we are both rabid Yankee fans and for his age, he is quite knowledgeable about the Bronx Bombers. Our only real big disagreement is over the Yankees incredibly high paid 3rd baseman Alex Rodriquez. I see him as an over-paid “steroid” star who, without the “juice,” would have been probably a very good player, but not an “all-time” great!  Ben seems to discount my concerns and loves his “all-time” numbers!
By the way, it cost $16 for a regular round trip ticket to the Stadium and $10 for a senior citizen like me. Personally, in retrospect, I am sorry that I didn’t drive. I was a bit concerned about hitting the rush hour, but for sure, the cost for us both would have been about the same or lower, and the trip down would have been much quicker. But, the past is prologue and we finally got to the Stadium at about 1:10 PM. Immediately Ben , who has a very good appetite, headed directly to Lobel’s, which sells only steak sandwiches, an is located on the main level, and up the left field line. Ben got on one of those Disney World style lines, and waited an extra twenty minutes until their stoves got back on line, and eventually got served. Those juicy sandwiches cost $15, so I hope he enjoyed it. I settled for a hot dog and my own bottle of water.
Meanwhile back to the game. We had great seats in the upper deck, Section 419, seats 5 and 6 and we could overlook directly on home plate. Thankfully we were sheltered under the roof and not directly in the sun light like the poor folks who had seats along the 3rd base side extending up through the leftfield foul pole. I am sure that those unfortunate souls were thoroughly baked by the end of the game.
The game was much more important for the 3rd place injury plagued Red Sox, who had already lost two out of the first three games. If they lost this game, with their best pitcher on the mound, they would be eight games out of first place, and possibly the chance of making the playoffs would be in jeopardy. Therefore it was a bit less critical for the Yankees, who are healthy and in first place.
The game started at 2:05 PM and by the time Ben got to his 2nd hot dog, the Red Sox led 2-0, and most of the 49, 476 fans had settled into their seats. The new Yankee Stadium holds 50,287, (a lot less than both the original Yankee Stadium, the “House that Ruth Built,” that is of course Babe Ruth, which once held 83,000+ in a pre WWII game against the same Red Sox and the re-built Yankee Stadium which held about 57,000 souls) and most of the empty seats are located in the high rent district, where they retail for an astounding $1250. So basically, all four of these “rivalry” games were “sellouts.”
The Yankees, and their young pitching star, Phil Hughes, got behind in the 2nd inning, and the score, 2-0, remained the same until late in the game. The Yankees loaded the bases in the 7th inning with no one out, and were retired without a “loud foul ball” as Red Sox pitchers struck out the last three batters. In the eighth inning, Mark Teixera led off with a tremendous homerun, but there was more frustration, as again, the Bronx Bombers had men on the bases, but could not get a clutch hit to drive the tying run. All in all, eleven Yankees went down by strikes and after 3 hours and 33 minutes it mercifully ended. There was disappointment, but as it was said in Brooklyn many times, “wait ‘til tomorrow (next year).” The Yankees are headed off to Texas and there will be another game with the Rangers today.  In a few days, with a victory here and there, the pain of a tough 2-0 loss will be forgotten and new challenges will have to be met.
Ben and I headed for the Metro North station with thousands of others. We got packed into a southbound train to 125th Street, transferred to a northbound track and luckily caught a direct train to Scarsdale. We reached Scarsdale at 6:45 PM, walked to his house, met my wife Linda, and his parents, Michael and Marci, who were sitting on their deck, and we were quickly off to dinner at City Limits in White Plains. It was a long, hot seven hour effort, but again another great and memorable experience.

The Berkshires in the Summer 7-18-10

The Berkshires in the Summer


Richard J. Garfunkel


This past Friday, we left right on schedule for the Berkshires with our Lincoln Town Car. The Jaguar was in the car hospital at EurroMecchanica, and it was just as well. We would need a lot of room for all our gear, food and, once we got to the Berkshires, our children and our daughters’ good friend. It was a smooth uneventful drive up the 100 miles to the end of the Taconic Parkway and into Massachusetts. The next leg of the trip brought us to the Mass Pike (I-90) and then to Routes 20 and 7 north. On the way we stopped to stroll through the remarkable 100 year old Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Course in Lenox. It is a remarkable structure that is adjoined by various cottages and a large mansion.


After that short stop we were back on the road and came upon the entrance to the Mount Greylock State Park, which encompasses Massachusetts’ first forest preserve and its 1898 Massachusetts Veteran’s Memorial. It’s about an 8 mile winding drive to its summit which at 3491 feet is the highest point in the state and where the 93 foot Memorial was constructed in 1932. Most of the roads, the Bascom Lodge which sits nearby, and the ski shelters were built under the auspices of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930’s.


Geographically, Mount Greylock forms an 11-mile long by 4.5-mile wide island-like range between the Hoosac Range to the east, the Green Mountains to the north, the Berkshires to the south and east, and the Taconic Mountains to the west with which it is geologically associated; all ranges are associated with the Appalachian mountain chain. On average, Mount Greylock rises 2,000 feet above surrounding river valleys and 1,000 feet above the Berkshire and Taconic Mountains. From the summit, views of up to 70–100 miles are possible into five different states: Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.The beacon on the top of the memorial tower can be seen from as far as 70 miles.


After our drive up onto the summit, we parked, walked into the monument and later gazed down into the valley below which overlooks Adams, MA. After our visit to the facilities at the Bascom Lodge, we headed back to Route 7 north and our trip up and through the northern edge of Pittsfield to Guido’s Market, which is located across the street from The Dakota, a landmark log cabin restaurant. Once we paid for our provisions, we made our way up the last leg of our journey to the Country Inn at Jiminy Peak. Our lodge was centrally air-conditioned, quite roomy with three bedrooms, two baths, five televisions and an outdoor deck.





Eventually our son Jon arrived from Boston, we went to dinner at John Harvard’s which is the local restaurant, located in the main building, and we settled in for the evening. The next morning, after breakfast, Jon and I got in three sets of tennis, we all went back to our lodge, showered and dressed. We headed south on Route 7 to Pittsfield to Zucchini’s Restaurant to meet Dana and her friend Craig, who were driving west from Boston for lunch. We all had a great meal, which included small pizzas, fried zucchini, salads and wraps.


After our meal we headed over to Pontoosuc Lake where we strolled around, observed the boaters, in their kayaks, sail boats, and small motor craft, along with the swimmers who were enjoying the beautiful clear waters. We snapped some pictures, and then made our way back to the Country Inn. Once everyone was settled in, we changed for tennis, drove to courts, we all got in lot of hitting, and after terrific sweat in the 85 degree sun we changed and made our way to the hot tub. After we were all worn out from tennis, the sun and the hot water, we made our way back to the lodge, watched some baseball, parts of the 3rd round of the British Open, and rested a bit. For dinner we had planned a BBQ and during the week I had made my way down to Fairway, a wonderful new supermarket on Boston Road in Pelham, NY. So we were well-prepared with a 2lb boneless sirloin steak among other goodies. 


After dinner, we decided to drive down to Pittsfield for some ice cream. There’s a very popular soft-ice cream “joint” right off Route 7 and we were able to choose some exotic flavors and mixtures, fight off the mosquitoes, and make our way back before it got too dark, and the lightning we were watching turned into an ugly weather event. Eventually, late into the evening, when all the lights were out, the rains did come and it came with a vengeance.


The next day brought beautiful clear weather. After an early breakfast, we got to the courts, played some more tennis, headed to the hot tub and the pool, and made our way back for a BBQed lunch on our deck. Once we were quite satiated, we packed up, straightened out our accommodations and headed south to Lenox and Tanglewood. We built in enough time, left in our three cars, arrived around 2 PM and all reconnoitered on their great lawn, not far from the enclosed amphitheater.


There were thousands of other music lovers there, and most had brought picnic lunch goodies, but we only needed our beach chairs and liquid refreshment. It was sunny, but we were well-prepared with sun screen and before long the music started with Keith Lockhart conducting. The program included renditions of Liberty Fanfare, This is My Country, Rodeo, and America the Beautiful.  The highlight of the afternoon was a musical tribute to the Kennedy Brothers, entitled The Dream Lives On, which was composed for the 125th anniversary of the Boston Pops Orchestra and narrated by Alec Baldwin. After the intermission, the finale featured Arlo Guthrie and his music. The program was over by 4:30 PM, we picked up our chairs, made our way to the East lot, found our cars, escaped quickly, and we all left for home. It was a busy three days, but the planning was flawless, the timing precise, the food was great, the weather cooperated, and every one got home safe and sound.

Culture is Alive and Well in Pelham 8-2-10

Culture is Alive and Well in Pelham

August 2, 2010


Last night on 5th Avenue in Pelham, NY, at the town’s gazebo, on their village green, a large enthusiastic crowd of all ages, were entertained by the incomparable Phil Kiame and his Philip James Band. Phil, who plays the drums, while he conducts, was ably assisted by his son Phil Jr., whose day job is touring with US Army Band, assembled a great collection of jazz and big band musicians, along with some lovely young songstresses. Along with others, the O’Leary sisters from Briarcliff Manor and the Nunziata twins; Will and Anthony, entertained the assembled throng, while we watched some improvised dance routines by some very young and charming girls.


Night and Day (Cole Porter), Honeysuckle Rose, (Thomas “Fats” Waller), Summertime, (The Gershwins) Blue Skies, (Irving Berlin), I will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) along with Get Your Kicks on Route 66, (Bobby Troup) were some of the featured songs along with some marvelous jazz riffs.


After 90 minutes of marvelous music that echoed into the cool night air, Linda and I folded our chairs, congratulated Phil and his son, and with the other enthusiasts, we dispersed to our car. It is always a treat to watch accomplished artists playing selections from the “Great American Songbook.”