Sunday, April 25, 2010

A 99% Standing Ovation....

Had a great evening up in Myrtle Beach to see Delbert McClinton.

He is one of those "fan savvy" artists who allow photography so my trusty (new) Canon S90 camera was hanging on my belt.

We even scored bar stools again!

(There's probably only about 25 stools scattered around the House of Blues that holds close to 1,000 people.)

Standees all around us for hours mumbled about how "some people" are able to sit while others (about 974) are "forced to stand."

To gain this valued status, you simply have a meal in the House of Blues restaurant and your staff-signed receipt lets you line up to enter before the general admission.

Last night we arrived early, ate and went to the line starting point at 5:30 (doors scheduled to open at 7:00) so we were #1 and #2 in line. By 7:00, several hundred people stood behind us.

Being the first ones in, we moved quickly to an elevated area close to the stage with a great sight line where we had found several stools before. We plopped down with a sigh of relief. The opener wasn't due for an hour and then Delbert would perform until almost 11 pm.

So, as others crowded in around us and behind us, we were perched comfortably and a waitress brought us 24 ounce cans of cold Budweiser (2 for $19). She did that again during the evening.

A buxom blonde named Pam who had stood behind us in line said she lived nearby, was usually at the head of the line for many of Delbert's shows and had even taken a Delbert Cruise-For-Fans.

Pam added "I know exactly where his microphone will be placed so I'll be in the front row, waving. He'll recognize me and pose for my cellphone camera."

Sure enough, when the star came on, she was in the center, right down front and he DID seem to smile and shed some attention on his Number One Fan.

House of Blues usually is very strict and has signs posted saying no photography or recording devices allowed. In the past we have seen Security guys wade into the crowd and tell a person to NOT hold up their phone nor take any more pictures. Yikes. But, not tonight. I was very comfortable using my camera...and sitting down.

(Here's another chance to click on the photos to see more detail. These scenes are not often captured at HOB. They also could add more bar stools.)

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Revolutionary Ice Cream....

There are certain images of Philadelphia that cannot be ignored.

Well, naturally Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

And Ben Franklin for example. He lived there and is buried there.

This particular metal bust - if you look closely - has keys embedded in his clothing.

We knew he had invented electricity when he flew a kite in severe thunderstorms and used a key in a famous combination of those elements.

The artist left out the kite.

In addition to the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, there is another food icon - the famous twisted pretzel.

Smothered in bright yellow tangy mustard, hot from the oven.

But there also is Franklin Ice Cream.

Sold in the Franklin Fountain, an old-fashioned brick building sitting close to the Delaware River.

There are real soda jerks and treats like root beer floats and sundaes from a bygone era. How about a $12 Banana Split?

Buy by the scoop in a sugar cone or tote a cute little box or dig into a traditional sundae glass with a long spoon.

The key thing is to walk right in.

If you pass by to go take a few more pictures, a school group may line up ahead of you.

Yes, they did.

Not just a happy chatty group of kids. These 40super achievers had flown in on the Red Eye from Los Angeles earlier today and had been trudging the history trail all day.

The youngsters wore tags that said L.E.A.D. and needed this ice cream stop more than I did.

And, they were ahead of me.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not Always What It Seems To Be ......

Hey, I didn't realize the Domino Effect was a visible concept in downtown Philadelphia.

They are "falling over" next to City Hall in the Thomas Paine Plaza but the locals naturally call it Domino Plaza.

There also are giant game pieces from Checkers, Chess, Sorry and Bingo.

They all are bolted down to prevent theft.

While I was touring the fantastic Newseum in Washington, DC, I noticed quite a few colorful cardboard cutouts as part of a Salute To Elvis.

Since I paid $19.49 to get in, I was sure they wouldn't mind me posing with one.

Elvis is on the right.

The place is 7-stories high, sits right on Pennsylvania Avenue and has a display of 150 Pulitizer Prize photographs from 1942 - 2007.

Over at the Smithsonian Museum, I saw two cameras marked "Antiques." I had used both in my career.

At the train station in Baltimore, I saw another reminder that "the times they are a changin'"

I knew that cell phones had knocked out wrist watches so should not have been surprised to see shrinking pay phones. Soon the sign above will drop the "s" and just say Telephone.

*Click TWICE on photos to see a larger image. And, check out the highlighted 360 degree virtual reality tour of the Plaza in Philly. Thanks.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Army Travels On Its too.

Many cities have an area called "Chinatown" with its array of tasty and exotic foods.

Washington, D.C. is a good example.

You have an appetite after a day of wandering through massive museums and militant memorials. It's great to sit down in a soothing atmosphere and relax.

Perhaps start with a bowl of hot & sour soup.

Or, maybe a Bento Box lunch served in a box? The traditional meal is rice, fish (or meat) and pickled or cooked veggies.

Sure beats a PB & J on white bread with the crusts cut off.

I tend to avoid McMeals and at least try to eat healthy.

You know, fish without a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce.

In Philadelphia, my hotel was on the edge of that city's Chinatown.

I walked out the front door to a Dim Sum palace right across the street.

The steamed meal came with bok-choy and a plate of delicious scallion "pancakes."

As always, I looked around to see if anyone was using - gasp - a fork.

Lucky for me, they had some silverware available. I always try to use chopsticks but probably would starve.

I also have learned that you are not expected to use the wooden utensils in a Thai restaurant.

(Whenever I see someone snap a picture of their meal, I'm pretty sure it's a fellow blogger.)

*Click on the photos for more enticing details.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lost and Found...

Baltimore is known for its Harbor and for Ft. McHenry with its star-spangled banner.

Oh, did I mention jumbo lump crab cakes?

Yes, state slogans abound: "Virginia Is For Lovers" and "Maryland Is For Crabs".

The first stop - at 10 in the morning - was Faidley Seafood for its fist-sized specialty served with lettuce & tomato, saltines and a cold beer. A second crab cake was ordered so it was a two-fisted meal.

That is a BIG flag!

Don't know if Francis Scott Key could really see it at dawn's early light (he was on a ship about 2-3 miles away) but it inspires goose bumps.

Now a fleet of Water Taxis move visitors around to various points on the harbor.

Start at the top (27th floor) of the World Trade Center for the view then cruise around and alight to explore the American Visionary Art Museum. Catch another boat to continue sightseeing ... or stop for a beer.

At Fells Point there was an Irish pub named Slainte.

Cozy and friendly, it sat on a cobblestone street overlooking the harbor with stubby tug boats coming and going. Time to take a break.

Eventually wandered out to join a short line for a water taxi and headed toward the Aquarium area at twilight.

The city lights sparkled as we docked and went to a nearby Chipolte for a massive burrito.

Wanted quick service because the train to Philadelphia would leave in about 90 minutes but we were close to the railroad station.

"Hey want to save the leftover chips?" "Sure, just put them in your back pack."
Huh? What back pack? Looked down at the emptiest floor I've ever seen. Nothing. YIKES!
Did I have it on the Water Taxi? Don't remember that. At the Fort? Yeah, had it then.

Uh oh...the Irish pub. Pretty sure... but where was it? How far away? Go by boat or hop in a cab?

Have never shouted "Follow that cab," but now have breathlessly said "Gotta catch a train..can you get us quickly to Fell's Point and Slainte?"

Phyllis reminded me of Queen Latifah in the 2004 movie "TAXI" as she wheeled that car through changing yellow traffic lights, around slow drivers and up a one way street - the wrong way. Well, it was a short block.

We bounced on cobblestones and pulled up in front of the bar. "Keep the meter running, I'll be right back," I said as I sprinted for the front door.

The place now was packed and hanging on the front of the bar.... by the stools where I had sat.... was....a ladies purse.

The manager took my card and said he would also check upstairs. Oh, that's right, we also had gone up there!

Up the stairs, found a big "bouncer" size guy and started to explain. He said "Yeah, It's sitting behind the bar."

And it was.

I charged out the front door, the bag raised over my head and Phyllis started honking the horn in celebration. She knew all sorts of shortcuts to the train station and we arrived with 14 minutes to spare.

She got a VERY nice tip and the train pulled in on time.

Guess what closes in Philadelphia on Easter Sunday? Yep....all the restaurants. But, that's another story.

(Click on the photos to see massive enlargements! Amazing detail. I don't miss shooting with film.)

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Easy as 1,2,3. And, sometimes 4 & 5..

I read somewhere you should not blog or mention online any upcoming trips.

Criminal types will take note.

Come back and your stuff is gone.

Worse when it happens to you on the road.

Well almost.

My recent 8-day Amtrak vacation included a very comfortable ride up to Washington,DC. After a few days there, hopped on for a day in Baltimore and that evening continued to Philadelphia.

The Cherry Blossoms peaked right on time while I was there.

The Smithsonian had several areas open that were closed my last trip.

Saw Archie Bunker's chair and hat.

Went into the Smithsonian Castle too.

The best though was a narrated night tour of 6 monuments and memorials.

Gave my new "almost SLR" point-and-shoot camera a real workout.

The deal was the way I kept track of my valuables: 1. My camera on my belt, 2. My cell phone and 3. My wide-brimmed Tilley hat (with a $20 tucked inside.)

Adding my back pack one day meant adding another number.

But, before that, I left my hat in the cafe at the Newseum.

Remembered it 15 minutes later as I walked past real sections of the Berlin Wall and entered a theater. Reached up to take off my hat.

Went back to the dining area and the cashier said "Here's your hat," when I asked if it had been turned in.

Later that day used my camera at National Building Museum to capture the huge room that was a site for an Inaugural Ball last year. Used some photo manipulation to make it really special looking.

The back pack got left behind in Baltimore.

I realized it was gone when I was across town an hour before the train was to leave for Philly.

More on that later.

(As usual, please click on the photos for a larger image and more detail. The new camera is the Canon S90 with lots of manual controls.)

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