Washington, DC – May 2019 – National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral is the second largest church in the country, and serves as the church for many state funerals, among other activities.




Because of Washington’s unique building height restrictions it is the 4th tallest building in the city, despite only being 300′ high.




The day we visited they were having the annual Flower Mart. As part of this event there were a number of group performing, including the choir from the nearby St Alban’s School.




The main section rises to the aforementioned 300′, with a length of nearly 500′ making it an impressive space.




State flags line the cathedral. Despite the name it receives no money from the government.




There is a significant amount of carvings throughout.




The organ was built by Ernest Skinner & Son Organ Company. It was completed and installed in 1938, with over 10,000 pipes.




A closeup of some of the carvings.




The church suffered significant damage in a 2011 earthquake, and they have been raising money ever since to complete repairs. By selling Lego bricks at $2 each, they hope to raise the final $19 million to finish the repairs. The bricks are to build an exact replica of the cathedral.




A statue of George Washington was sculpted in 1947 and placed in the church. It is said to represent Washington not as a soldier, or president, but ‘just a man’.




As noted previously the Flower Mart was occurring on this day. As part of this celebration the country of Ecuador flew in fresh roses and was giving each lady a rose, presented by a representative of the embassy.




Many countries had floral displays, none more unusual that Switzerland’s rose cow.




Many lined the nave, with the stained glass windows providing backdrops.





The arrangements were very well done.




The Washington Cathedral is a stunning building, and the Flower Mart display added to the experience.







Southeastern Ohio – April 2019 – Interesting and Unusual Sights Part 1

A long spring Sunday was spent wandering throughout Southeastern Ohio. For those not familiar, this area of the state is the beginning of Appalachia – both the good point and bad points.

Part 1 of the posting is showing the interesting sights of the area. Part 2 (in a second post) shows some of the hardships endured.

The day started out passing through the small town of Somerset, home of the Civil War general Phillip Sheridan. His statue graces the middle of the traffic circle in the center of town.





Just south of Somerset we passed by a large collection of ‘Ghost Bikes’. These bikes are normally placed where a bicyclist was killed in accidents. I am not sure if this person is paying tribute, or makes the bikes.





Southeastern Ohio is made up of small towns that all have seen better days. They were mostly coal towns or clay/brick towns. Murray City has restored their small train depot and even has a small engine and caboose.



While inside they have the items used to run the depot. Apparently nobody has used the calculator in a long time as it was covered in cobwebs.





Nearby Glouster has restored their depot as well.




Glouster also has a number of public art installations including a large, nicely done mural showing the history of the town.




They also have a number of reproductions of famous pieces of art on the side of the building in the center of town.





Nearby Nelsonville is a center for tourism for the area, as they have a very popular scenic railroad. In addition the town square has been restored, including this great building – the Stuart Opera House.

Nelsonville has a music festival that brings ‘nationally known’ artists, as well as many regional artists. The Stuart also hosts many concerts.




This stylish house on the edge of the town square is made of some locally made bricks, with the interesting coloring.




Nelsonville was a brick town, as noted by this great building and the brick street.




One of the manufacturers was the Star Brick company, with their distinctive stars embossed in each brick.





With the natural beauty of the hills and valleys, it has become a tourist mecca with nearby Hocking Hills being the center.

As with many parts of the country they have converted old railways to trails. This trail goes through the King Hollow Tunnel. This tunnel is unique in that is was (and still is) wood frame, as opposed to stone or concrete. It was recently restored and stabilized but still done with wood.





Nearby Lake Hope State Park has a historic Iron Furnace.





The highlight of this area is the famed Moonville Tunnel. The guide at the visitor center told us to take a road until we reached the stream and walk across the bridge. Clearly this is not the bridge to cross.




We eventually found the correct one, and headed for the tunnel. The Moonville Tunnel is infamous for being haunted, with numerous different stories about ghosts.





All we found were graffiti from previous ghosts (or tacky people).





It has rained a lot recently and the side of the trail through the tunnel had a light layer of water which coupled with the stunning amount of graffiti gave it an interesting look.

Part 2 of this day is highlighted in a second post.






Columbus – March 2019 – St Patrick’s Day Parade

Do you know where I can find a parade?




Just follow St Patrick, and his snake shaped staff.





The annual St Patrick’s Day Parade was in downtown Columbus.




It included (I think) the flags of all the counties in Ireland.





The Irishman of the Year – I think the dog should be the winner.





The ‘official leprechaun’??? Love to see that on a CV/Resume.





They dyed the horses legs and tail green!





While most of the marchers were from the Shamrock Club of Columbus, they had a few others including these youth Irish dancers (from Columbus – not Ireland).





There were a few cool costumes.





A couple of antique fire trucks.









The Columbus Police & Fire Department Pipes and Drums were the best musicians in the group.





And with that the parade was over. Sorry Irish – the Slovenians in Cleveland had a much livelier parade (and I have neither heritage so it is an unbiased opinion)







Cleveland – March 2019 – Chasing Away Those Winter Blues, Slovenian Style

Cleveland has always had a large population of people from throughout eastern Europe, including Slovakia. As a result there are a number of festivals coming from those regions.

For this cold Saturday we went to check out Kurentovanje’ – which is a Slovenian festival to chase away winter. Held at the Slovenian National Home on the east side of Cleveland, the hall was full of activities.





The band was playing polkas. They were very talented, and the audience appreciated it.








Numerous ladies had recently made headdresses









The highlight of the day is the parade. I have found for the best photos it is imperative to go to the staging area as they gather.

I am not really sure about someone sitting on his ‘throne’ with a shield, skull staff and motorcycle helmet, but it was just the beginning of the strangeness (and fun).





This pleasant young lady was soon to become the devil.





There were a number of groups dressed in historic ethnic attire.





The Krampus crowd came back from Christmas.









Another band was warming up, or just trying to stay warm.







The Polish apples?







Finally the parade started…. Slovenian flags were everywhere.





The parade featured all the ethnic groups, as well as the local high school drum and dance team.

















The Kurent wranglers were keeping them all in line.












The Kurentovanje Festival and Parade was yet another great celebration. Hopefully they do indeed scare winter away soon.








Chicago – February 2019 – History Museum

Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.

During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.





In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.





Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.

His photographs were used for many album covers.





Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.





The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.





All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.





In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.

This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.





Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.





Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.





A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.





Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.





As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.





Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.





As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.






Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.








Chicago – February 2019 – Chess Records

For any fan of music, specifically blues and early rock and roll, Chess Records is one of the most important studios ever. From this small building at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago came a stunning amount of music that has never been matched.



Leonard and Phil Chess were two Polish immigrants who arrived in Chicago as small boys in 1928. By the time they were young adults they already were running jazz clubs in the south side.

In the late 1940s Leonard and Phil became associated with Aristocrat Records, eventually taking ownership and changing the name to Chess Records.

From this small office they signed many of the all time greats of the blues including Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Etta James, John Lee Hooker, and most importantly – Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.






Today the building is owned by the family of Willie Dixon, who save it from the wrecking ball and restored it into a small museum, with plans to make it into a recording studio again.

Just beyond Leonard’s office on the 1st floor is what was the shipping and receiving area, now serving as a room with a number of artifacts including this wall of masks of the greats.





As noted Bo Diddley was one of the more important signings for the label. There are numerous stories on how he received his stage name, but one prevalent one is it was adopted from the ‘Diddley Bow’, a single stringed instrument traditionally use in the rural south. One is shown in the photo below, along with a collection in tribute to Bo.





Willie Dixon was an early arrival to Chess, and a very important part of it’s life, and the survival of it’s story. As with many black blues players, Willie was born in the south and made his way to Chicago in his early 20s.

In addition to being a musician, Willie was a prolific songwriter including Hoochie Coochie Man, I Just Want to Make Love to You, Little Red Rooster and Spoonful.

Even if you aren’t a blues fan, but a rock fan, you have heard these songs covered by hundreds of other bands, sometimes without them giving him credit. Willie was tireless in advocating for blues writers like himself getting their due from others who used their songs without permission.

One of his most famous was from Led Zeppelin’s Who Lotta Love which used music from Bring It On Home and lyrics from You Need Love. The courts almost always found in Willie’s favor, as they did on this one.





The best selling artist for Chess was Chuck Berry. While it was a bit out of their normal strength, and at first thought of by the Chess Brothers as ‘too country’, Chuck and Chess made a great team.

Nearly every famous song from Chuck including Johnny B Goode, Memphis, Tennessee, Roll Over Beethoven and all the others were recorded here.





We came through the front door as all the ‘normal’ guests would have, however the musicians always entered from the alley in back and headed up these stairs.

They may look like just an old stairway, but up these stairs headed the best rock and blues musicians of all time.





Upstairs in an amazingly small area are two studios. The smaller one has a collection of electronics.





Also in this space is the tribute to Muddy Waters. As we toured the facility our guide had a small bluetooth speaker he would play selections from off of his phone. It really added to the tour, and sitting in this space listening to Muddy sing and play in front of his collection was very cool.





Another important group who did a recording at Chess Records was the Rolling Stones.

In 1964 the Rolling Stones were just starting out. They had taken their name from a Muddy Waters song, as they were obsessed with American Blues. Normally the Chess Brothers would not let anyone not signed by the label record there, but the Stones were on their first American tour and managed to get the chance to record.

The material they recorded here was mostly released on an album called 12 x 5, including the only instrumental ever recorded by them – a tribute to Chess Records called ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’, the address of Chess Records.

They have remained supporters of the history of Chess Records. On display at the museum is some original art from Ronnie Wood.





Our final stop was the main studio. From this small space all that amazing music was made!

It was an honor to sit in this simple room, in this nondescript building on the near south side of Chicago and listen to Etta James play ‘At Last’, realizing it was all recorded right here!

There are a few places in this world that I have been that go far beyond what the building is, or what is in the building, rather what happened there. To me 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago is one of those place.





Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 14 Molokai

Another great sunrise…

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Time to tie the ship to the dock…

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The high school rowing crew is out for their morning practice…

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We are in Molokai!

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We have a full day of traditional Hawaiian events planned. Our driver Hans has arrived to pick us up.

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Molokai is a beautiful island, very sparsely population.

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We took the main road (!) to the far east end of the island.

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Stopping at the overlook…

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We were at the Halawa Valley for a day of traditional Hawaiian culture.

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The valley features a beautiful cove and beach.

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The Solatorio family has lived in this valley for many generations. This valley is Hawaii’s oldest continuously inhabited community.

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Pilipo Solatorio was chosen at age 5 to be the cultural practitioner for his family. He has carried on his cultures traditions and practices, educating natives and visitors with his stories and songs.

One of the stories he told was surviving the 1946 tsunami.

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His son Greg is carrying on this tradition. Below he demonstrates how to make Poi out of Taro.

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The remains of the church in the woods is one of the few structures that survived the tsunami.

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Hey I left my car in the woods and now there are trees growing through it. In reality Hawaii has a real problem with people abandoning cars; these were less than 200 yard from the beautiful beach.

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After our day with the Hawaiian family we headed back to the docked ship to get ready for our evening event. But first, another sunset with the evening rower.

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Hans returned (with his van’s disco lights in full function) to take us to our evening event.

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We went to the Molokai History Center for a pa’ina (feast). The hostess explained the traditions of food and music for the pa’ina, then we enjoyed an amazing meal.

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Traditional Hawaiian dancers entertained us along with the beautiful guitar music. An amazing evening to end a fantastic week.

Once again, a thanks to Captain Gavin and the Uncruise crew. (and we must bring good karma to their cruises, as we didn’t have any rain in Hawaii either!).

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