Saturday, September 27, 2014

McCartney was in another band before Wings?

So Paul, John, George and Ringo came to town Friday and put on a rousing show at the Charleston Music Hall.

The group is called 1964 The Tribute  and three decades ago they started doing Beatles songs, clothes, haircuts, accents, mannerisms and even actual quips uttered by the originals.

The highly-appreciative audience liked when, midway through the show,  John announced "here's an oldie."

They formed in 1964 and have been fine tuning the "Fab Faux" presentation over the last 30 years.

The sound is pretty darned close and they play and sing in the style of each member of the original band.

The banter - Ringo and George are zinger targets - is spot on, as they say, and there are factual references and selections played from the early albums. All sounded very familiar to me.

True fans were pleased and sang along on every song. I saw some youngsters who probably were there with their grand parents.

I sat next to a man who had seen the real Beatles in a 1965 concert in Indianapolis. I attended my Beatles '65 concert in San Diego.

We both laughed and said this time we could hear the lyrics.

It was an early show, starting at 7:30 and ending around 9:30 after an intermission and an encore.

The show's promoter opened the show and said he had been asked if there was a Senior Citizen discount. He said "Yes, that's what's printed on the ticket.

In the spirit of the evening, I took a moment to set my camera to shoot some shots in black and white.

As I recall, all three Sunday nights of the Ed Sullivan Show were not broadcast in color when the British Invasion started in the early sixties.

Or, maybe our tv at home was not a color receiver.

The final song of the encore had the audience dancing in the aisles and doing the twist while standing.

John smiled as the applause died down and said "ONE more song? We had planned to do four but one it will be!"

He added, it was a medley of four songs so there you are.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Years ago I had seen an excellent Elvis impersonator.

I remember the fervor of the fans as they again enjoyed seeing a performer they had missed.  

I think members of a tribute band carry that feeling and strive to recreate a pleasurable time in music history.

Worked for me.

It was an Easy Day's Night.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Just try to blend in...."

 People like to travel for a variety of reasons. I just touched down in five Central European countries and took away some treasured memories.

And 4,339 digital photographs.

You travel to see something new.

Tour centuries-old museums for a long, long look back.

Seek quirky and out-of-the-way spots. Get "off the beaten path."

Meet people from other cultures.

Practice new language skills. Be dazzled by different architecture.

Or, listen to music in a "real" Opera House and tour its many extravagant salons and private chambers.

Be sure to see the luxury and comfort that kings and princes and churchmen built in their palaces, vast estates, cathedrals and synagogues.

Some like to hike out on their own.

Others like the economy, convenience, group safety and shared interests of a structured tour.

I joined a few walking tours - usually limited to about a dozen participants - so the guide could be easily heard and be able to answer questions.

You quickly realize  Oops! when you form up in a foreign language tour group. I stepped away because I was there to learn or be amused and my speaking only English would make that difficult.

Actually, my Smartphone had a Translator application that made me comfortable if I had to read/translate a sign or a warning, a menu or historical plaques in other languages.

Very rarely was I in a situation where assistance or service was not available in English.

Hand gestures and pointing to objects and nodding was also effective for me to communicate overseas.

A stop  for the day in Bratislava in Slovakia was my only experience in that former Communist country.

Germany - and especially Berlin -  had been divided among a host of nations after WWII.
The German invasion and occupation - followed by a Communist takeover - prevailed in Prague, Salzburg, Vienna and Budapest.

All of that changed in the Collapse of the USSR in 1989 - 1991.

The Old Town Square has four noted whimsical sculptures that visitors seem to want in their photos.

My favorite is "The Workman" taking it easy in his manhole, eyeing the passers-by.

After a truck rolled over him, a sign was erected which said, naturally, "Men Working."

People hear that if you rub his face - specifically his nose - you will receive good luck.

These same people may not know the face is a popular stopping spot for passing dogs. Wash your hands.

All of these popular bronzes - and one made of silver - catch your attention but I was watching a young man in a hurry.

He and his "friend" were passing by, joining a crowd leaving Old Town.

Obviously he would have been less obvious had he deflated the doll and perhaps tossed it into a back pack.

But then, I would not have had a chance to capture a small slice of life in a capital nicknamed "Little Big City."

Does Reno, Nevada know this?

 The young man was unfazed and was successfully blending into the crowd.

It was getting late in the day and people were heading home or to a hotel.

Me? I was heading to catch the train to drop down on the map to pass through part of Austria and end up in Budapest.

As it happened, the train was delayed nearly two hours, making its arrival in Hungary after the Metro had stopped running.

But, that's another story of this trip and things turned out OK. (Click on the photos for more details.)

Was the man with the inflatable rushing from a party or heading to join one.

Well, he had a date with him.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles...."

Being retired with plenty of time to travel is good.

I recommend it for everyone.

Not being smug, but in the past I have been to London and Glasgow.

Dublin, "Northern Ireland," and a weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich.

Amsterdam and a picturesque train ride down to Bruges. All fine destinations.

But I wanted to revisit Berlin. Last time I was there in 1981, The Wall was up. November 9 will be the 25th anniversary of it coming down. It was a divider between Communism and Democracy for 28 years.

On this visit, my hotel was located in what used to be East Berlin and I was able to go up to the rooftop terrace and inside the glass dome atop the Reichstag Building, home of the German Parliament.

Ramps let you walk higher and higher for a spectacular view over the entire city.

It was a clear day and the photos were rewarding.

It's also open for evening/night photography. All require advance planning and registration.

The 8-hour flight from Newark was tracked on individual screens at each seat.

We reached an altitude of 40,000 feet and - with a tail wind - hit 600 mph. The images even showed us where daylight would appear again.

This part of the journey was aboard a United Boeing 757 and the return would be on a 2-aisle widebody Airbus flown by Lufthansa.

The foreign carrier differences included sandwich snacks, a hot meal served along with metal silverware and free wine, beer and Cokes.

Our domestic airlines have gone in the opposite direction, charging for basic amenities I used to take for granted.

Unless you fly first class, meals, free alcoholic beverages and being handed hot towels for your hands, are in the distant past.

On the way to Germany, the sun rose just as the small screen said it would and a sense of excitement and anticipation could be felt.

The short nighttime period had ended and this was a new day.


The soap bubbles were in our future like these I saw in Prague in the Czech Republic on Old Town Square.

I visited many of the well-known popular places in five countries and joined the merry throngs.

But also sought and found off-the-beaten-path sights and experiences.

Yes, travel is fulfilling and educational.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

My successful diet was put on hold for this trip. The different beers, new ways to have coffee prepared (with a slice of cake) and spectacular meals were offset by 4-mile fast-paced walking tours, hikes up stairs in castles and palaces and wandering through churches and opera houses.

I regained only 3 pounds!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walking around Europe....

A home accident-waiting-to-happen is called "Catfallingitis."

This occurs when your cat, who felt abandoned while you were away on vacation, follows you very closely - whipping and wrapping her tail around your legs as you walk.

And head butting your shins and calves to get some soothing scritches behind her ears.

They act aloof and independent but they drop that sham when you've been away more than half a month.

The challenge, after dumping my travel bags' contents around the room, was the solemn march to the bathroom - accompanied by the overly-friendly feline.

The moment of truth was when I stepped onto the scale.

How much damage had ale, stout, porter, boch, pilsner, lattes, melanges, whipped and foamy milk, slices of decadent chocolate cake and other pastries, done to my dieting body?

There also were sausages, brats, Kielbasas and  liverwurst.

And yeasty and tasty rolls and strange meals that featured goulash, dumplings, all kinds of pork and even a pizza.

I was NOT looking forward to a weigh-in.

The cat and I held our collective breaths as the scale told the tale. (The cat was not ON the scale, just standing by closely in case I felt the need to stoop down and pat her head.)

A VERY respectable 188 pounds! Wow.

I had gotten down to 185 so the net gain of only a few pounds back after two and a half weeks of glorious food and beverage consumption was surprising and rewarding.

Actually, walking miles and miles and hiking up and down palace, church and railway and tram stations stairs probably helped me maintain a balance.

I had stayed away from anything fried and had eaten many new and exotic vegetables.

There were other things that I have no idea if they were animal, fish or fowl.

I also used very little butter on those croissants and black bread and rolls...mainly because you paid extra for butter.

They give you one (1) paper napkin.

And a glass of water costs more than a glass of beer.

Those Germans and Central Europeans love their trams and Metros. We rode only one bus. Walked everywhere else.

My buddy had spent weeks pre-planning this trip and it really paid off! 

On his smartphone, he had tours and sights to see in each city and area. He knew which train to take and how much a rail pass would cost in each country.

This helped when our train was delayed almost 2 hours from Bratislava in Slovakia to Budapest in Hungary.

We arrived after midnight and the Metro train had stopped running so we had to hail a cab. The cabbie would want to be paid in local currency.

In Budapest, he withdrew 60,000 in 10,000 paper notes from a bank machine. 

These were Hungarian Florints, valued at $1 USD = 20 HUF. He handed me three grand so I could pay for some beers. 

Actually only two. My "pocket change" totaled about $15.

His 60,000 HUF cost only $200. 

We both quickly switched from "American" coffee to a much simpler latte or a Vienna coffee similar to a cappuccino. 

Not being used to cream in my coffee, I adapted because I learned if you asked for what we thought we really wanted, it usually was an ounce or two of espresso with hot water added, served in a tiny cup. Sometimes. Yikes.

Once past the need for a "cup of Joe," there was a pattern developing: Cake is usually paired with the coffee/Latte or melange.

This is the first post from my two and a half weeks traveling through 5 Central Europe countries.

Yes, there WILL be more posts and pictures.

I took 4,339 with my camera and hundreds more with my phone cam.

Hey, I don't plan to return there soon.

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