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I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

I'll have what phil's having

Last night I watched the final episode of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, a food and travel show on PBS. I recorded it on the DVR as it aired a few days ago. In the six episodes that comprise season one, Phil Rosenthal, a creator, writer and producer who is best known for his work with Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond, traveled to and ate the cuisine of many cultures included that of Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong, China; Paris, France; Barcelona, Spain; various locations in Italy; and lastly, Los Angeles, California, his adopted hometown.

I don’t want to do a review of this show but wanted to share a few things I find fascinating with this series. Phil is great. He comes across as an everyday kind of guy, one to which viewers can relate. He isn’t pompous about the places he visits and the food he eats and genuinely enjoys the company in which he finds himself. On top of it all, he is a very funny individual.

Last night, Phil highlighted Homeboy Bakery in Los Angeles, a well-known bakery that is run by and helps former gang members and at-risk women. They are producing excellent breads, rolls, sandwiches, and many other confections while learning new skills and keeping themselves out of harm’s way. Phil was genuinely humbled to be visiting their production site, working directly with the bakers and other workers, and allowing them to share their life experiences with his viewing audience. Phil was emotionally touched by the good that Father Greg has done with his flock of former gang members and former miscreants turned humble, successful, and thriving members of society.

Phil has one of my dream jobs; traveling and eating. I have been to all of the places Phil has traveled to except Hong Kong but would love to go back to all of these locales and retry the food about which Phil is so passionate.

So get out there and travel, eat, and if you can do good for someone else less fortunate than you, all the better.

If you’d like to check out the six episodes of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, click HERE.

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Close But Far From Modernity

A few weeks ago I visited Tombstone, Arizona. Have you been there? It is a sleepy place that at first seems like a town stuck in time. Horse-drawn carriages roam the street; Wood planked sidewalks creak underfoot and one must dodge the horse manure in the dirt streets. The permanent residents of Tombstone, of which there are approximately 1,300, have taken great care in preserving the town made famous by Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and friends and will forever be known as ‘that place where the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.”        Tombstone, AZ stagecoach20140915_162712

On second glance however, the townsfolk have turned the dusty, sleepy middle-of-nowhere town into a tourist trap. All the old saloons, brothels, movie houses, restaurants, thrift stores, etc. have been converted to gift shops with most of the items made in China and t-shirts saying “I shot the sheriff.” Nothing but class. Living on the strength of a 30 second event in 1881. In fact, in two weeks, it will be the 133rd anniversary of the gunfight. Oh sure they’ll have major reenactments and all the kids in town will want to be Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday for Halloween. But it is still a dusty, sleepy place that would be part of the desert if tourists didn’t leave their dollars behind to prop up the local economy.

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What I took from my visit to Tombstone was the fact that 1881 Arizona was only about 20 years from in the invention of the automobile and the airplane and modern medicine that may have saved the lives of several of the characters after the gunfight was over. Yet the OK Corral was still a place where grown men killed each other if another looked at them in an odd way or if another tried to pick up his girl. Let alone that prostitution was legal and rampant, everyone in town had a gun, or two or three, and that Tombstone is close to Mexico and rather hot, desolate, and dusty making all the inhabitants of town all a bit cranky. 20140915_161603

Yet some things don’t change. Men still get mad with each other over silly things and the sign above could apply to today’s politicians.

But at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves “Did we do anything worthwhile today?” Wyatt Earp thought so. “What can I do tomorrow that will be worthwhile?” And whether it be New York City in 1881 with all its modern conveniences or Tombstone, Arizona  in 1881 during the time of Wyatt Earp, the sun will still set and another day will begin tomorrow.

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Keep Traveling!!

 
 

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Civil Rights by Flight

First White House of ConfederacyI am finishing up a three day business trip to Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of two events that could not be further apart. In 1861, Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy lived in this town and his home, featured above, became the first white house of the confederacy. The home smells as if it has not been cleaned since then either but is a fantastic remnant of a time long past in our country we often gloss over. The first white house of the confederacy has 11 rooms and 10 fireplace, no kitchen and no bathroom (no running water in 1861). The house was moved from its original location about 10 blocks away piece by piece in the early part of the 20th century and expertly put back together like a residential puzzle. From this home, the confederate army during the Civil War, or as the Southerners called it, “The war between the states”, was directed. As the battles were primarily in Virginia at that time, Jefferson Davis moved to Richmond for a variety of reasons, one of which was that he and his generals could process the war more effectively, as it was taking too long to relay information from Virginia all the way down to Montgomery, Alabama. Jefferson Davis’ legacy remains heavy in the south especially in Montgomery.

Rosa ParksThe second event, diametrically opposite the southern civil war president’s home, was the instant Rosa Parks decided to sit her ground and refuse to get up from her seat on the bus in the face of an extremely segregated city. In December 1955, Rosa Parks has been credited with igniting the start of the modern civil rights movement. While Rosa Parks lived to a ripe old age, many individuals protesting the treatment of minorities, did not live so long and gave their lives for a cause in which they believed. The Civil Rights Memorial and Museum tells their stories so others will not forget their sacrifices. I highly recommend the Rosa Parks Museum located at the exact site of where Ms. Parks refused to arise from her seat, as told by the historical marker above.

Dexter Avenue ChurchA few blocks from the Rosa Parks Museum is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, now called the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. This church was the home base of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I was unable to go inside and view the church (Do not go on Mondays. It is closed), standing in the shadow of American heroes was a great experience. Learning about their lives, their struggles, their hopes, their letdowns, their fears, their sacrifices, and ultimately, their greatest successes, at the very sites in which they fought their demons, was a significant learning adventure for me.

Today, I fly out on a Delta flight back to the Boston-area but get to feel the sun, heat and humidity on my shoulders in Alabama just a few moments more as my flight is delayed by an hour. You’ve heard of “island time” I am sure, but there is also “southern time” or “Bama time” here, where life is a little slower and nobody is in a great rush to do most anything. This is a good thing. It allows us to stop and look around once in a while, and think about where we stand and where “we” have come from. From the birth of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery showcases it all.

Keep traveling!!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Advice, Humor, Personal Dissection

 

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People People Everywhere!

I am finishing up a three day-er to Cleveland from my home base near Boston. I arrived in Cleveland yesterday morning via Charlotte (guess which airline I flew?). While I was walking through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport heading to my connecting gate, I realized why I like traveling so much. It may be a cliche, but seems to be true. It is not the destination, but the journey. And on my travels, I really enjoy meeting different people and watching people doing their thing as they move from here to there or there to here.

Let’s go through some of the interesting folks who have crossed my path on this trip.

1. Obese women waddling through Charlotte-Douglas with too short too tight shirt that did not cover up the muffin top. Obese woman was trailing three children, each of which was toting a small piece of child’s luggage. The woman turned around and saw me watching the scene and pulled her shirt down on one side, leaving the other side exposed. The struggles of flying are numerous and with three children, a parent must be stressed to the limit. I hope this lady found her way and did not suffer too much. I so wish I had a picture of this scene.

2. Here in downtown Cleveland there is a casino attached to the hotel at which I’m staying. I went over this evening to get some dinner and check out the scene. I did not, repeat, did not gamble a single dollar but saw way too many people who looked like they shouldn’t gamble either, putting more and more coins into the one-armed bandit or at least flashing their frequent gambler card against the machine that continued to take their money. The best part was that they were smiling and laughing and cheering as the wheel went round and round.

3. “I see dead people” – Today I got a behind the scenes tour of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank. I saw the largest vault door in the world whose two hinges each weigh 72 tons but balanced to perfection so that two people have no problem moving the door. I saw two robots, named Laverne and Shirley, move around thousands or millions of dollars in the secure vault area. I also saw a $100,000 dollar bill. Guess who is on the bill? Woodrow Wilson, hence the dead people reference. 

Traveling provides lets me see folks from around the country. I cannot wait to fly home tomorrow night and see who crosses my path. Travel on…

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Humor, Personal Dissection

 

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So what is it worth?

moving flightI’m on my way back from Denver this week. Well, not quite Denver but Centennial, Colorado that is located about 30 miles southeast of downtown Denver. It is flat. Relatively dry. And very suburban. No offense to folks in Centennial, but there really isn’t much charm to life in this “city.”

So on to my question, “Is it worth it?”  What is “It” you may ask. “It” is the status many frequent flyers accrue for sitting butts in seats, nights in hotels, dollars spent, cars rented, etc… I think you get the hint.  What does Silver, Gold, Platinum, Pre-Check, Global. Premier, Executive status confer upon us and “What is it worth?” 

Is it worth getting on the plane first? Is it worth getting upgraded to a suite instead of a regular room, even though the traveler will only spend a few hours in the room? Is it worth getting a Dodge Charger muscle car instead of a Kia? Is it worth going through security at the airport and not having to take off your belt in the name of safety and security?  I’ve started to accrue a few of these perks myself and have tried to take advantage of them as much as possible but I always ask myself “Is it worth it?”  My only answer right now is “I don’t know” at least I haven’t figured it out yet.

Which brings me to my next point. Is it OK to say “I don’t know.”  Alas, someone smarter than I can chime in here as I don’t have a good answer except to say “depends.”  Until next trip….

 
 

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Benefits of Travel

It has been a while…over a year since my last post. I am going to rededicate myself to writing posts more often as I travel.

I’m on my third week in a row on the road. The wife isn’t happy about it. It is part of my job however. Traveling is only a part of my work not all of my work.  It has however, taken me away from home three weeks straight now.

My first stop two weeks ago was Seattle, WA. Last week was Anchorage, AK. And this week I’m in Baton Rouge, LA. I will have two weeks off before heading to Denver for three days in early July. I have been home (outside Boston), between each of these trips making my airline miles grow on one or two specific airlines.

What have I learned these past three weeks? Why do I like traveling so much? Why do we all visit places outside of our home towns or cities?  I’ve got some thoughts. We wait in security lines, take our shoes off, store our gear, shove bags in overhead compartments, deal with delays or cancellations, take buses, wake up early, get in late, rent cars, deal with traffic, multiple personalities, and multiple languages or dialects as we travel the nation or globe. Why do we do this?

We want to see how lucky we are compared to others. We want to find out if we are in a better, or worse, situation than others. We want to see how others live, and die. We want to ask ourselves, “could I live here?” “Would I want to live here?”

Some folks have other reasons; to put up with the grind of travel to see other people and places. We want to see our great country and see the unique sights and sounds of historically significant places. Some folks travel to see the people. Some folks travel to see the places. Some folks travel for educational reasons.

What do we find from our travels? People are strange. People are generous. People are distinctive. People are proud. People are stubborn. People are self-centered. In sum, people are different. Generalizations are no good when describing specific cultures, regions or areas of the country or of the world. Everyone is distinct but there are some generalizations to be made about people in general.

My travels have taken me to all four corners of our great country and around the world. I have found that most folks are trying to better their lives as best they can within the boundaries of their current environs. People are mostly helpful, if asked. People are inherently good but often need to be pushed or pulled or coaxed. I don’t know why this is but on my future travels, I will try to figure this out. Maybe we just don’t trust folks we don’t know or don’t feel a need to stick our necks out without expecting something in return. Who knows?

In sum however, cultures may be different and may seem foreign to us, languages may seem like gibberish and we may feel uncomfortable not understanding but jump in…learn the language. Learn the culture. Try the “exotic food.” See the local sites and take in the art, the history, the architecture. One can only enjoy traveling and deal with the hassles of getting there in order to see all of the various distinctions and similarities of people and places around our great country and around the world.

Now go travel somewhere!!

 
 

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Life in Brookline…realizations.

Returning to Life in Brookline after a magnificent summer spent in London was almost a letdown, almost.  Getting back into the mundane tasks of life is always a letdown after an exciting trip/adventure. I am sure you can understand this feeling. It is a good think Jessica was there with me during this time.

I returned to my studies and my night job at the Boston Beer Works across the street from Fenway Park in Boston. I began a year earlier as a door man checking IDs, primarily before and after Red Sox games. This was a fun job to work as I got a moment or two with everyone who came in or out of the restaurant. Sometimes, on a slow night, we would stand out front and fling Beer Works coasters at a green metal sign on Fenway Park. If we were lucky, the coaster would fly the 50 feet and make an audible “ding” as it hit the sign. Of course there were always people walking by and we had to make sure the boss wasn’t watching, but we had to pass the slow times making only $8 – $10 an hour.

After my London summer, I worked at Beer Works as a waiter and bar tender.  The best part of my sometimes late nights, was having Jessica come in to visit. I would use my employee discount and order her dinner. If I was lucky, she’d stay until my shift was over when my smile broadened just knowing someone cared enough to stay and wait for me. We spent the next 10 months traipsing in and around the Brookline and Greater Boston area. Afterall, I did not have a car, just a T pass. Jessica was the one with the 1996 Ford Explorer that took her everywhere. Some of our favorite spots were Kupel’s Bakery where we would get freshly baked bagels on Sundays and eat in the park nearby. We would also head to Zaftigs and enjoy anything from pancakes, waffles, eggs, corned beef to “The Essex” sandwich or the Cobb Salad.  Sometimes we still crave those dishes knowing we can’t have them at our fingertips like they used to be when I lived around the corner. Another favorite spot was the Village Smokehouse in Brookline Village. This is a place you take a date when you know you and your date are comfortable with one other. It’s called the BBQ Rib Test (I made this up). If you can feel comfortable sitting face-to-face with a date and not mind having bbq sauce all over your face and hands or watching your date make the same mess as you, then the awkward stage of a relationship and getting to know one another is over and you’ve moved into a comfort stage. Can we all agree on this?

One of our more memorable outings was to the top of Mount Major in Alton, NH.  We packed a lunch and stopped at a roadside farm stand to get some fruit and water for our hike. Helping each other get up the mountain and then reaching the top together was fantastic. I remember feeling tired, but relaxed, happy and free. We ate our lunch and I proceeded to fall into a food-induced nap with Jessica nearby, closing my eyelids with the sound of the whistling wind to sooth my senses. What a peaceful feeling atop a mountain with the one you love.

Ok…here comes the revelation. In April of 2003, Jessica and I were to take a road trip to Montreal for her birthday. Jessica arrived at my apartment and watching her come up the driveway, seeing the big smile on her face, the red bag slung across her shoulder, the long dark brown hair blowing from under the soft shearling hat that perfectly framed her face, I realized that this was the gal I was going to marry. I wanted to continue the adventure, regardless of destination, as long as we traveled together.

It had been less than a year that we were dating but at this moment, I remember, I was struck. My heart and my mind were in unison. I wanted to grow old with Jessica and go on many more adventures across the country and across the world with her. We had fun together. Sometimes the best adventure was doing nothing…and we still had a good time with each other.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Personal Dissection

 

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