Thursday, August 14, 2008

I hope I have started a trend

Whilst in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia today (top 7 urban space! - more later) I visited a lovely tea room (The Garden Café I think) - it's down the hill from the stations, and well worth a visit.
Pam, the owner, is not trying to compete with the coffee stores (Starbucks is there, and Borders has a Seattle franchise). So tea is the order of the day. I went there for some water to cool down in the 91°F heat.
After leaving I realised that a) I'd not seen Pimms on this trip (except a largely unused bottle in a bar where they serve it neat); and b) I really wanted some to refresh me.
So I went back for a cup of assam tea :-).
We discussed liquor licencing (sic) and $100,000 ought to cover a licence (ouch), but free samples are OK.
So I told Pam about the English Pimms types (No 1, 3, 6 cups) and how we drink it and how wonderfully refreshing it is. She loved the idea. So she might well use it in a promotion event as an "English" thing.
I do hope I return to Philly in a few years to find afternoon Pimms in the heat is fashionable!!

The American obsession with status - a substitute for British class?

During this trip every tour guide (book, leaflet or human!) has obsessed with "the longest, shortest, oldest" to the point where the urban village I visited today is in the top 7 urban spaces/communities. Now I don't think Forbes publishes top 7 lists, so: either they were seventh and preferred that status to top ten; or Forbes does publish a top 7 list. Even so, my perception shows the point anyway, it's what I expected of them - 7th in the US was not enough.

I have visited the third oldest working watermill on the Eastern seaboard previously. Why cannot "very old" suffice? Was the Eastern bit added to make it third and not 10th?

But to my point. Class in the UK is about status (see the Frost Report sketch with Ronnies Barker and Corbett and John Cleese - I'm sure it's on Youtube*). People gain positive or inverted pride in their relative status.

In the US this was deflected into racial equal rights and so on. Now I'm not saying those problems are gone, but is there some latent human need to classify and position yourself in a list?

* yes it is -

Indiana Jones and the Lost Pension...

'nuff said!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And so it ends...

Tonight was (probably) my last ever King Crimson gig. I don't expect they will tour again, and the 4 nights in New York at the weekend are just not possible both from a time away from home perspective and the need to take my Dad to the rugby!

The evening started with a chat with Sid Smith again (Biography Person) included a filmed interview which I hope will be posted soon ( If you see me swearing gently mother, it was a quote from Friendy Person. !!
The show was a blast, but shorter than others. I found it strange finally having a gig where all I could see of Mr Fripp was the top of his head (as did the vast majority of the crowd)! Somehow his music was more present in the mix as a result.

Friendy person and I quickly moved the car post gig (we'd left someone with a tight exit) and returned to the bar opposite the venue where a Boddington's was welcome. Floyd's Comfortably Numb on the jukebox, and then back to the car. The venue was by now lights out, closed and dead. Very sad.

A quick run to the subway to drop friendy person off with a quick farewell (his train was waiting), and back to the digs. Nursing the car back to try to avoid refuelling before returning to the airport tomorrow.

And so to bed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On trains PPS

Chestnut Hill East is the end of the line. I asked which platform (there are 3), "whichever track is comes in on Honey" !!

On trains PS

And it left on time too!

On trains

Blimey. Travelling in from suburbs to Philly today. Going in after the rush.

A single is $5, the return is $6.50; oh but I'm coming back in the rush hour so that'll be an extra $1.25 please! And you get 2 tickets, one valid for non-rush, one valid.

None of theis poxy ex-BR stuff where you have to get a full return or avoid the blue saver Tuesday mid month special saver for those under 5' 3"...

Yes I know all that fare complication has mostly gone, but I mean, £3.90 for a half hour return run into town...

There's lot to dislike about America, but this "ain't" it. (and don't start me on that list!!)

B&B part 2

Eventually got my room sorted whilst my friend waited. Then I dropped him off at the train, and killed time with a new camera I bought for someone until the call came "pick me up" and go gigging (he had to go downtown to hostel with his gear to book in).

The venue for tonight's gig was in a village area some distance away. And we gave an Israeli (staying at B&B with his wife for the gig) a lift up there.

Gig was in lovely old theatre without a balcony. Reserved seats meant no queuing, and we were in the right place to see Fripp. My friend's "shut up ****heads" shout to the whoopers and yellers was on standby, but instead he mocked by joining in :-)

A lift back to the station (through a slightly dodgy area) for friendy person, a not so quick splash and dash at Exxon (sorry Alaska!) made easier by presence of a uniformed copper and car, and made harder by unfathomable system - pay $10 to cashier first, then take nozzle, then lift the thing the pump nozzle sits on (the start button apparently) and $10 of fuel pumped.

Four miles to B&B and done by 10 ish. Now for some R&R having done about 1000 miles in 2 and a bit days.

Strange B&B part 1

In Philadelphia now and the B&B is quite eccentric - in a good way. A lovely old building 4 miles down Stenton Ave, and a bit gothic in feel from the outside (almost Psycho filmish!). The proprietor is a Polish émigré and speaks decent English, her son appears American, and the housekeeper (who was on duty when I arrived) speaks about 3 words of English. Son was gardening when I arrived and came in to translate when things got slightly weird :-)

Amish shopping

We drove through the right area for Amish today (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), having stopped first at another traditional diner where a great breakfast that kept me going from 11am to bedtime was taken.

On driving through the main Amish area town of Intercourse (I kid you not!!) we pulled into the store. Amish dressed staff served and I looked at a few things for my wife - decorative plates and bowls, and more pleasingly local custom "barn stars" in use now now of metal and left to rust (previously wood, before that painted on) from a German custom. These were modestly sized and would make a perfect addition to our minimalist Christmas tree.

Then I checked the labels. "made in China". I was outraged, and put them back. Leaves my "present for my wife" plans in tatters, but I'm not willing to play that game.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hurrah for satellite radio!!

A 900 mile over three days is never too much fun, even in the wide open spaces of the USA.

Our hire car has XM satellite. Having worked through X(M!) thousand channels we found we could sublist it to rock and found Top Tracks. loads of great music and "name that band" is a great distraction!!*

* I'm winning 9.5 to 5

PS I won 12.5 to 8

Can you believe it?

Finding a hotel just off I-80 ought to be easy. Get to the junction with the 346, go south a bit and it's just by the Starbucks, turn left and you are there...

But you are not.

So you go 2-3 miles in each direction from the junction, nothing, zip, nada (as they say over here).

So. You ring and get directions and you canot understand them. In the meantime it's starts hammering down. You reference the Walgreens pharmacy on the corner. And then you find out... There is the I-80 and the business I-80 and they run parallel so you go back to square one and then find it.


And then I go and blow it by leaving my UK to US charger behind....

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's Saturday, it must be Cleveland

At the rock and roll hall of fame with a really amazing set of artifacts and a superb history of rock and roll.

A great tonic after 300+ miles on the road!

Keep Talking

Friday, August 08, 2008

Where it all started

Uno's (or Due's) on Grand and Wabach (sp?), north side of Wabach on the west side of the road.

The original deep pan pizza company.

But be ready to wait - it can take an hour or more if they're busy!!!

The way to see Chicago 3

Go to Navy Pier and take the 1 hour river Architecture tour. It's an excellent introduction to the city, and to anyone with half an interest in architecture, absolutly fascinating.

Well worth $24!

Probably the most interesting and informative tour I've done in years.

The way to see Chicago 2

When you go to the Hancock - keep your receipt. You can back in for just $3 extra. That way you get to see day and night

Night is much better! (I'll load a photo later)

The way to see Chicago I

Don't go up the Sears tower, the queues are long, and the queues going down are longer and it costs more.

Take the Hancock Tower. You can be at the top 2 minutes after going in.

If you want to go free, go to the café, buy a (relatively) expensive coffee.

The best view is from the ladies restroom, which has an all glass wall (the only privacy problem would be an enthusiastic helicopter pilot!) So I'm told

Read the small print!

On arrival in Chicago my fellow crimhead and I hit the sights a bit and finished with the sun going down over the city from the Hancock Tower. On descending we thought about a bus, but instead got a taxi as we were not sure we'd recognise where to get off.

7:35 and we walk in remarking on the absence of a queue, but suddenly shocked to hear "The ConstruKtion of Light" playing. Damn, they were on at 7:30. Thanks Heavens we tok the Taxi!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Arriving by road we first saw the Sears Tower from about 20 miles or so. Ages later we were under it and making good progress in rush hour to the hotel.

Arriving the check-in was quick and I was soon in a very palatial single room! Two queen beds, view over the front of the hotel; and a clear view of my old school friend's car gently emitting steam as it boiled over just before we arrived. Thanks Heavens he has a few days to get the AAA to sort it out.

We're back in a big (3rd in US) busy city, and a 1.8 mile stroll to and from the venue. After a day in the car I'm looking forward to it, but maybe tomorrow we'll take the bus.

Sears and Hancock towers beckon, and there's load of city walking to do tomorrow. Must look out for a cheap camera lens, and a book on the political development of the USA (when and how states were created and joined the Union)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

X planes

At the museum there was also a special tour of a hangar that conatained many of the X planes that NASA and the Air Force used from the 40's onwards. Hightlights were the plane Neil Armstrong (X-15) tested and Chuck Yeager's X-1.

And you could go right up to them! Even more interesting were the number of planes that were the only 1 left after the others crashed ! There were two vertical takeoff planes - a Harrier (British built - hurrah!) and a delta wing type that was strapped to a vertical launcher plate.

An early stealth SR-71 was there along with the test vehicle that was little more than the engine, cowling, and casing.

US air force museum, Cincinatti

Is quite a museum! Three giant halls with oodles of planes, including a stealth B-2, stealth F-117 fighter, and Apollo 15 command module.

Strangely the museum freely intermingles Nazi and Japanese empires items amongst the allied equipment, I'm not sure but at home I think that'd be a no-no.

The only brief truly discordant note was the holocaust exhibition. In itself it's a really good thing to pull out and have it's own space and show kids and adults alike what happened and why it must never be repeated; but, and it's a big but, you entered through a toy sized replica of the Auschwitz gate "Arbeit Macht Frei". I found it so objectionable that I walked around it. The display was good, and informative, but for me it was tainted by what felt like a gimmick.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Well, we enjoyed it whilst it lasted !!!!

There was a storm in the night and rain this morning; but now we're back to blue sky and FFFF heat

And then have to do

About 3 million others things - just to get a different incoming email to work!!!!


And then reset your google blogspot password...

When going away and blogging...

Make sure you authorise your new domain name...

Monday, August 04, 2008

The silliest of age gaps

I'm travelling with a friend who is about 10 years younger than me.

Near the Hermitage is "Cooters" the famous Dukes of Hazzard museum with the General Lee on show. To me the show started just as I finished school and was naff, and not my thing.

Lose 10 years and it is a childhood icon, and orange and "01" is a childhood frienship renewed!!

I suppose my thing was Tom and Jerry, the original Adam West Batman and Robin, Deputy Dawg, though I doubt there's a museum for them!

The american obsession with old things

"Did" The Hermitage in Nashville yesterday. Pride of the site was the house itslef, extensively rebuilt in the 1830's after fire damage. Revered for being the home of the slave trading president and General Andrew Jackson we had to show due reverence as we were shown round

I did not like to mentione that our home in England is older than this, and just simply lived in! Mind you if they want to spend a bit helping us restore it to more original style that'd be nice !!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Surprise of the night

On mach (and partial drum tech) Ade "the first swap the band" Marillion fan from England. That was a double take moment and a half

KIng Crimson are back!

It was a brutal, loud and visceral concert. And definitely great! In a tiny (370 seat venue) 2 men in their 60's 1 in his 50's and a couple of merely early middle aged guys put on a show that puts most modern bands to shame.

It was also the birth of a new Crimson, with Gavin Harrison joining the band for his first gig. A five piece again !

Belew was somewhat overheated in the middle and Robert decided to switch to stage left and thus hide behind his rack. We got a good sight of most of his guitar, his hands, and his forehead. Many did not even get that.

With the strictest camera/cellphone policy (you leave them outside the venue or get thrown out by the "polite but firm" muscle men on security you'd think Fripp would feel safe from people recording, but no. Yet Tony Levin (or TLev) had his camera on stage!!!

98F is just too much

It's just too warm here in Nashville!

It's energy sapping and you end up plodding around slowly from air conditioned building to air conditioned building looking in shops you not really interested just to get cool. How on earth do the locals live with it? How on earth did the original settlers deal with it?

I know I cannot, and look forward to a lower temperature further north...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

10pm local, 4pm body



Taking a second flight

I've taken 2 flights in a row a few times, but this is the first time I've crossed the Atlantic and then immediately flown on. Not again in a hurry.

The buzz (or at least the need to stay sharp!) on landing and getting through immigration (a very friendly officer - southern hospitality? I was in Charlotte); and then getting your bags; then customs and agriculture; then (today only) rechecking your bags through; and then rushing to the gate...

Well in a normal trip that ends in the delight of arrival at your place of rest, leisure and sleep. Not today. I end up knackered and grumpy and so on; but in a plane at 30,000 still travelling on. And then you stop. And then you drift off a bit.
And then you have to wind up to get your bags, get a taxi, correct the driver when he ignores his SatNav and...

But I'm here, it's too warm, too humid but King Crimson play for the first time in 5 years and I'm going. Hurrah!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Golden Compass

Is showing on the in flight entertainment. Stacked full of famous (some names forgotten) faces. Along with the (obligatory) CGI.

The Daemons (sp?) especially the morphing ones for kids are really well done, although a speaking animal is never convincing on screen - think Mr Ed to Aslant...

The oily scumbag from the Magisterium is very much like one of the late John Ryan's (of Captain Pugwash fame) Jesuit priests in the Vatican; only not so stick insect like :-).

I read the books a few years ago, and it's pretty faithful to the ideals and sentiment of them. I particularly like the brooding menace of Derek Jacobi (that's where his Master in Dr Who came from!) - such a contrast from his loveable fools like Mr Pie. His brief scene wit Christopher Lee was excellent!

I always do it!

I'm back!

Heading for the USA for a 4 city visit to follow King Crimson on their US only tour (Robert Fripp has declared he won't tour UK or Europe because of the audients/audience manners and behaviour). Anyway I'm flying Gatwick to Nashville via Charlotte, and it must be about 3 hours into the flight, so it's time to check the time left.

My error (again!) is to somehow drop 2 hours from the rmaining time and think it's only 3 ish hoursand not 5 to go!! Mut be something to do with 2pm being 14 hours, but I can't see where I dropped the 2. Must be the.combination of 4 hours sleep last night, dehydration, and a living space that is probably a) less (pro-rata) than many tortured egg laying chickens and b) the space a prisoner gets in a prison van.

Definition of a good children's fantasy novelty...

It all ends with a battle between many peoples:
* The Hobbit - the battle of the five armiesd
* Northern Lights aka Golden Compass, people, daemons, ice bears, witches, goodies and baddies
* The Lion, the Witche and the Wardrobe - bad creatures, bad creatures, humans, witch, Aslan, fauns
* Lord of the Rings - elves, men, hobbits, orcs, dwarves, wizard, Sauron, Nazgul

That's from memory, but you get the point...