Bits From Bermuda

Celebrity Summit docked at Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda

I’ve finished processing the photos from our visit to Bermuda, and have posted them to my Adobe Portfolio site under ‘2022-07 Celebrity Summit to Bermuda.’ As usual, this is a lot of photos but a fraction of those I took! I’ll post a few at a time and talk about them here over the coming days.

Verandah of The Commissioners House. National Museum of Bermuda, at the Royal Naval Dockyard. (Yes, they eventually left! )

Words Worth Sharing

Telephone booths in Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda

In earlier posts I have referenced comments by a local beverage store manager in his weekly “Boozeletters,” where it talks about special events and new arrivals at the store, along with interesting recipes. He ends each newsletter with an “After Rant.” where he opines on random things he has thought about during the week. Sometimes they are simply rants, other times they are very philosophical. I thought this week’s was especially good, and excellent advice for us all. It’s quite long (sorry) but rather that end up quoting most of it, I am pasting it below. I hope you enjoy it.

THE EPILOGUE: “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU”

So my whole life, for as long as I can remember, I have been made to feel like an alien or a weirdo. You can pick whatever name you want to put on it. At a certain point you stop arguing and just kind of roll with it. Say you are odd before they do! “Oh yeah I like to reheat my pizza in the oven, because you know me, I am an oddball.” I like to wear socks that match I like to wear mismatched socks. I like things to be neat, I like things to be messy. I skip the ends of songs, I eat dessert first, I walk around with the pebble in my shoe for hours before taking it out.

YOU”RE NOT WEIRD! Maybe no one ever told you this before, certainly no one has told me this, but it came to me like a lightning bolt right when I was in the middle of apologizing for the way I like to eat a meal. I eat the worst thing on the plate first and finish with the best. I realized that there was in fact nothing wrong with this or me at all. It greatly increases my enjoyment of the meal and effects zero other people except for one ex that took notes “doesn’t like my green beans”. It is just a totally harmless ritual that gives me the most pleasure and I have no reason to apologize or explain it to anyone. You have your own set of idiosyncrasies, and they came not from some broken part of your brain but from trial and error. This concept of normal, this concept of the right way, these are outdated nonsense ideas that are only impeding your joy. When I was a young man I was making a sandwich and adding more and more things because it was disgusting my father. And even though I didn’t really like the creation I ate it all because it was more important to bother him. But what I took from that and it has been a great life lesson is that even at five I knew that I was going to find the thing, whatever it was. I knew that there must be some untried combination that was yummy and boring adults had not tried it because they were so boring. I have spent decades explaining and defending myself because I assumed that they there right. I was only enjoying these ghastly creations because I am a weirdo, an outcast, a nerd, a geek, or a freak. When in fact, the addition of crispy potato chips inside my sandwich elevates the meal because of the additional crunch, that is now in EVERY bite.

There is a huge part of the population that is walking around and very aggressively trying to maintain the “norms”. Raising their kids that way, interrupting peers, and even strangers to guide folks back to the straight and boring. They hold on to the “rules” like they were a life preserver. When they see you walking your own path they get jealous and defensive. They long ago gave up on living the kind of life they actually wanted and are now committed to ruining your good time because YOU are doing it wrong? Kick rocks! Playing it safe got you to a place to where you want to bother folks that are having a good time doing it their own way? This is your victory? This is your mountain top? When I see the person skipping down the path singing songs in their head, that is the person that inspires me. Not the person who has a cinder block land on their toe and says “unfortunate” as they limp off into the night.

The spiritual guide for The Boozeletter, is one Hunter S Thompson and he championed the doomed. He said let your freak flag fly! But as much as I love him, he was wrong in a way. We are not in fact freaks. That is the name given to us for knowing what we actually like. Figuring out what you actually like is one of life’s most important challenges and you can only arrive there by actually trying things out. You can only get there by trying lots of things and figuring out where you want to be. They said you should be aloof and cynical but you heart tells you to get involved and to celebrate joyously. They said Billy Joel is out, but you love Keeping the Faith. “you know the good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow isn’t as bad as it seems”. You love reality tv and pizza rolls and have no desire to see the Opera. My friend Adam puts peanut butter on his burger, it’s a family tradition! His addition of peanut butter has diminished zero of my burgers. It has no impact on them at all. I tried it once, didn’t really love it and moved right along. Didn’t need to label him and his whole family freaks to make me feel better about my condiment choices. I love peat, i love smoke, I love funky rums, it doesn’t make me weird and you are not weird for not liking them. What would be wrong, is if you just kept buying Laphroaig and Adrbeg and Hampden Rum and Mezcal after Mezcal just hating it all but drinking it because they said they were cool and advanced or whatever.

Why is there an unending line of people telling us we are doing it wrong? Like there is some kind of fool proof guide book to live a happy life. You finally got to Paris and found out the city was dirty. The Mona Lisa is actually a quite small painting, and now that you finally tried it, you like Makers better than Van Winkle. Oh we cannot say these things aloud! We must protect our thoughts that fall outside of the agreed upon or else we shall be shamed once again! Well I am done with all of that! I will drink what I want, eat what i want, watch what I want, and do them all how I like it best. I will quit a movie in the middle because it is not going to get better, I will dump my unsatisfying drink down the drain, I will stop eating when I am full, and the revolution can start with me. No one has to follow me, we can’t defeat the volume of the “normies” but we can find our spaces to shine and be free, and your brain needs to be one of those spaces. Although, putting crispy chips in your sandwich because that is magic is something worth trying. You can do it all the way you like it and stop apologizing for it instantly.

All of those people that have been calling you out for all of this your entire life were dead wrong. Jealous, insecure, closed off jerk faces that saw your joy and freedom and wanted to ruin it for no good reason. You were happily putting sesame chicken on top of plain spaghetti noodles and they said “you can’t do that!” What do you mean I can’t? I did and I like it. “Because it is wrong!” “It is wrong for me to enjoy something?” “Yes it is wrong and you are weird.” So you believe them because they are older and seem wiser and oh boy are there a lot of them. Family members, romantic partners, teachers, coworkers, RANDOM strangers! They are everywhere they are one hundred percent certain you are doing it wrong and that you are abby normal!

Perhaps our greatest gift is that we are these unique people struggling through all of life’s same situations. That the individual and the universal coincide harmoniously. That you like a mocha but she likes plain coffee but when it falls off of the roof of the car spilling before even one sip has been taken, well you have done that as well. You know that pain and frustation. Do you go back for more? Do you go home and quit? Do you suffer through your now certainly ruined day? So even though you like to get warm coffee and let it sit until it is room temperature, and she takes her ice coffee and puts it in the freezer to make it even colder, it still stinks when it spills! If you dress like a fashion runway model or you are just trying to pass through without being noticed, neither of you wants red wine to spill on your clothes. We see people doing a thing that we don’t do or maybe that we don’t enjoy doing it and part of us just wants to label them as crazy, odd, misguided or flat out wrong. But why? I mean someone out there likes soggy fries and that is just fine! People love Basil Hayden and I have never owned a bottle of it and I never will but dammit, enjoy it if you do! Do I think you should just keep buying it over and over and over until death? No I do not. I think there is a whole world out there to be explored and if what is preventing you from exploring it is fear then that is not being in your happy place.

I am talking about the results of exploration. You tried the crispy fries because that’s what everyone said was the best. But you just don’t like them. You tried all of those cask strength bourbons but you just don’t like them. You want soft and mellow. Great, enjoy it! The real test in life is to just be the best verison of you that you can be. That’s all. You may not get to change the world, but you can still drop your friend off at the airport. You might not learn another language but when someone from another country is trying to figure it out you can patiently help them. They said “Citizen Kane” is better than “The Big Lebowksi” but you dozed off to the one and have seen the other one hundred times. You don’t owe them anything. Their rules are arbitrary and based on who knows what! Every single hundred point wine is not meant to be had today. They are meant age, so you can grab a Page Mill Cabernet and wipe the floor with Silver Oak or any other Wine Spectator anointed wine. You are an adult and you have hopefully figured out who you are and what you enjoy. So go and do those things and do them proudly.

I have a friend in the business that does Midori shots. Midori is way too sweet for me, but it gives him great joy, so he is not wrong, and neither am I. Because there is no absolute. Scotch tasted rotten to me when I was 21 and now it tastes like magic. I wasn’t wrong then and I am not wrong now. So the next time you are about to bring out the speech about “well I know that people say I am weird because I like to put ranch dressing on my steak, but it just tastes good to me.” Skip it, pour the ranch on and enjoy YOUR steak. I tell customers all of the time “I am not taking confessions today” and the reason I say that is because the only part I care about is did you enjoy it? If you enjoyed it, you won! And you can say that you don’t like Blue Label, that you thought Silver Oak was too oaky, that Clase Azul is too sweet, that you don’t enjoy Marvel movies etc because the reverse is true as well. You don’t HAVE to like something because they told you it was great.

Boil it down to this folks. We are all wrong about so many things on a daily basis. They thought the sun revolved around the earth. What we are NOT wrong about, is preferring Chicago style pizza over New York. We are not wrong about unpacking our suitcase the moment we get into the hotel. We are not wrong about cake being better than pie. We are only wrong when we take the pie out of someone else’s hands and shout “let them eat cake!” You worry about you, and let them worry about them, and if someone prefers pie over cake that’s great! You do not belong on the island of misfit toys because you watch the entire credits at the end of the movie. I am sorry if no one has ever told you this.

Cheers

Keith

Sign outside a bar in Hamilton, Bermuda

Pasta Maรฑana

Kathy & I have always enjoyed the fact that much of the food on cruise ships is actually made on board. Most of the breads, sauces, ice cream & gelato are made on board. Some of the pasta is also made in-house, but generally only in the specialty restaurants. The sheer volume of pasta needed to serve hundreds or thousands of dishes does not lend itself to in-house preparation.

Celebrity cruise ships have a specialty restaurant called Tuscan Grille, which is essentially an Italian-themed steakhouse. It’s a long way from Tuscany, but is appropriately decorated, and a lot of the menu items are Tuscany influenced. We especially look forward to the artisan breads, yummy olive oil and aged balsamic vinegars. And the cheese! Sigh…. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is nothing like the peppery taste of a good olive oil. And while you can’t get Pici Pasta there, what they do make in house is pretty darned good!

The same morning as our sushi making demonstration, there was a pasta making demonstration. They were timed so that we could easily leave one and go to the next, getting there in plenty of time for a front row seat. And there was no plexiglass to blur our view and cause reflections, so I was able to get some pretty decent photos.

Chef Michael walked us through a very basic pasta dough recipe, then handed the dough off to his assistant Glenn, to run it through the fancy, $30,000 German pasta machine, pressing out spaghetti and rigatoni. Just a little more robust than a home pasta maker! Once again, we were not able to sample the output, but as it turned out we were scheduled to have dinner there that evening, so we made a point of trying out several of the pasta offerings. They were quite good!

 

For anyone who didn’t get the musical reference in the title:

YouTube player

Wake Up, Little Sushi

One of the things we love about sea days on a cruise is there are often educational – or at least entertaining – activities scheduled throughout the day. Sometimes they take the form of a guest lecturer, a Q&A with the captain and officers, or cooking demonstrations. The first one we attended was a sushi making demonstration in the ship’s sushi restaurant, Sushi On 5. So called because it is on, you guessed it, Deck 5. It used to also cost $5, but inflation…that was a while ago. It is now an ala carte specialty restaurant, which we don’t mind paying extra for because we like sushi. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kathy & I are by no means experts, but we have come to enjoy sushi in its various forms. We enjoyed listening to Raymond, one of the waiters and the manager of the restaurant, explaining to a skeptical couple that sushi does not necessarily mean ‘raw fish,’ that the term actually refers to the style of rice used in sushi cuisine. And of course some dishes served at sushi restaurants do not even contain rice, such as sashimi.

Sushi chef John took us through the process of preparing the various ingredients for his dishes, including a shrimp roll, nigiri, sashimi and a custom dish, the name of I’ve forgotten but it looks like an ice cream cone with fish. I asked him about his knives, which he explained were hard Japanese steel, and that he spends an hour every morning sharpening them in order to cut the fish smoothly and cleanly. They sure looked sharp to me!

We didn’t get to taste the samples, but we had already eaten lunch there and we returned one evening for dinner, both of which we enjoyed very much. Raymond walked us through the menu and made some excellent suggestions for dishes that we enjoyed.

It was an interesting and educational experience, and one of the many reasons we love sea days!

Sailing…But Not to Philadelphia

Sorry, old song reference for you youngsters. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One of the highlights of our departure from Cape Liberty was that our ship turned “up” the Hudson River for a sail-by of the Statue of Liberty. For me it was special, because previously the only view I had had of the famous landmark was the view from an airplane window as we landed in Newark. And that was nearly 10 years ago.

We discussed coming to Jersey City a day or two earlier, but as I said in my last post, we decided to keep this trip a little more simple. And, knowing that our ship was due to sail past the statue meant that we didn’t have to endure the lines and the crowds to sail to the island itself. Another time, for sure.

So as we sailed out of the port, around (well not quite around) the statue, we got a “sea level view” of the NYC and Jersey City skylines and waterfront, and a fish-eye view of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge as we passed below it. In no time at all we were at sea, steaming towards the <suspenseful music plays> Bermuda Triangle. More to come!

In To, And Out Of, New Jersey

Whew, that was fun!

We just returned from our most recent adventure, a cruise to Bermuda. We sailed aboard Celebrity Summit, one of our favorite ships and favorite cruise line. The ship departed from, and returned to, Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ. We flew from Charlotte to Newark, stayed overnight at a hotel in Jersey City, then went to Cape Liberty the day of our cruise. So we had a little time for strolling and sightseeing.

I’ve never been to New York City, and still haven’t. But now I’ve seen it, albeit from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. We discussed the possibility of more time to explore the city and to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but due to time and cost considerations decided to keep this visit about the cruise itself.

Newark Airport leaves a lot to be desired, and I think it must be against the rules to smile there. But despite it all we had an overall good experience. EWR has been one of the hardest hit when it comes to recent flight delays and cancellations, and we had been a little concerned. When we returned to the airport about 9:30 on Sunday for our flight home, there was a Charlotte flight scheduled to depart around 10:00am, but they were having all kinds of problems. The plane was not at the gate, and once it got to the gate they didn’t have flight attendants. It finally left after our 11:45am flight and got to Charlotte 30 minutes behind us. But that seems to be the way air travel is working these days. Ya never know!

We spent the Saturday evening and Sunday morning before our cruise exploring the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and had dinner at Hudson and Company, a restaurant overlooking the river and the NY skyline. It was a nice visit, and just enough to whet the appetite for a return visit.

More photos are in the queue, and some are pretty nice, especially those from Bermuda. They’ll be ready soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A Swing Through The Steel City

The Greenhouse at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh

No, Pittsburgh is not on the way home from West Virginia! Kathy recently reconnected with a childhood friend, who lives part of the year in Pittsburgh. We cruised with them in March and visited them in Florida, so we decided that a detour north before heading south was worthwhile.

Tom and Howard at ‘Over The Bar’ restaurant at North Park in Pittsburgh

When I found out we were going to be in the area, I contacted fellow photographer and blogger Howard Grill and made arrangements to meet for breakfast at a park near where we were staying. We met there on Saturday morning, had a lovely visit and spent some time exploring the lakeside. By the time I got my camera out the light had gotten harsh, but there were still some interesting reflections.

North Park Lake in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
North Park Lake in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

After our breakfast, we headed to our friends’ home and took a jaunt into town to visit The Frick. The Frick Pittsburgh is an art museum which is the legacy of Helen Clay Frick, daughter of industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his wife Adelaide Howard Childs Frick. The family home was called Clayton, which is on the site of the museum, from 1883 to 1905.

‘Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary’ Exhibition at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
‘Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary’ Exhibition at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
SLAY: Artemisia Gentileschi & Kehinde Wiley Exhibition at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
The Car & Carriage Museum at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
1898 Panhard et Levassor. The Car & Carriage Museum at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
1940 American Bantam Convertible Coupe. The Car & Carriage Museum at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
The Greenhouse at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
The Greenhouse at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
The Greenhouse at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
Clayton, former home of the Frick family. The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
The Greenhouse at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh
Visitor Center at The Frick Museum in Pittsburgh

I’ve still got a few photos to process, but have completed the best ones. As I typically do, I have created an Adobe Portfolio gallery of selected photos from this trip at My Adobe Portfolio page.

Almost (But Not Quite) Heaven: West Virginia

Smooth Ambler Distillery near Lewisburg, West Virginia

The primary purpose of our recent road trip was to meet up with our friends Jim & Lisa in Lewisburg, West Virginia. We had each visited Lewisburg previously, although not together. And because it is roughly halfway between our home in NC and Jim & Lisa’s in PA, it was a good place to get together for a few days. We had a blast wandering the shops of the town, and we visited the Smooth Ambler distillery. Kathy & I are distillery veterans, so we needed to show Jim & Lisa the finer points. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Smooth Ambler Distillery near Lewisburg, West Virginia
Smooth Ambler Distillery near Lewisburg, West Virginia

Surprisingly, although I carried my camera around just about everywhere, I took very few photos with it. I actually took more photos with my phone, because it was simpler to hand off to someone and to share. We were just having too much fun to pay attention to photos!

The General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg, West Virginia
Flowers along Washington Street in Lewisburg, West Virginia
Shops along Washington Street in Lewisburg, West Virginia
VW Bus on Washington Street in Lewisburg, West Virginia
Pay phone on Washington Street in Lewisburg, West Virginia
Tom and Jim in downtown Lewisburg, West Virginia
Kathy and Lisa in downtown Lewisburg, West Virginia
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years and is now the fifth longest. The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet above the New River, making the bridge one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world. It is the third highest in the United States. When completed in 1977, it was the world’s highest bridge carrying a regular roadway, a title it held until the 2001 opening of the Liuguanghe Bridge in China.
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years and is now the fifth longest. The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet above the New River, making the bridge one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world. It is the third highest in the United States. When completed in 1977, it was the world’s highest bridge carrying a regular roadway, a title it held until the 2001 opening of the Liuguanghe Bridge in China.

More (Less?) Than We Bargained For: Peaks of Otter Lodge

Last light on Sharp Top peak at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We decided to break up our trip northward with a stop at Peaks of Otter Lodge, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, VA. We’ve stayed there before, and have enjoyed the lodge, with its lakefront location, decent restaurant and overall quiet vibe. Our previous attempt to stay there was thwarted by the remnants of a hurricane, which forced us to change plans and cancel our reservation.

View of Peaks of Otter Lodge across Peaks of Otter Lake
Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We headed north on the Parkway, enjoying the sunshine, cooler weather and lovely clouds. As we approached the lodge, however, it became apparent that a storm had recently passed through the area. Leaves and twigs littered the road and everything was wet. Water falling off the trees made it seem like it was still raining.

Our room (with no power) at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We arrived at the lodge with high hopes, only to be told that the lodge was without power because of the storm. And due to the somewhat remote mountain location, there was no guaranty when or if the power would be restored. Not to worry, though, right?

Hiking trail at Peaks of Otter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Soon afterward we decided to make drinks. We always travel prepared, so all we needed was ice. But of course the ice machines are powered by electricity, so while there was probably plenty of ice in the hopper, it wouldn’t dispense. So I took my trusty ice bucket to the lodge to get it filled. Fortunately they still had plenty of ice, so all was not lost.

Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

But…between the time we checked in and when I returned to the lodge for ice, a decision had been made that the bar and restaurant would not be opening for dinner. So much for the nice dinner. Faced with the prospect of a cold chicken salad wrap from the lodge or driving into the nearest town for dinner, we opted for the cooked dinner in town.ย  But first…drinks! Yay for ice!

Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

The lodge is located at a high enough elevation that even though the rooms have air conditioning, it is seldom needed. So it was no problem for us to sleep there. And since sunset was late at this time of year and we had our tablets fully charged with books pre-loaded, it was easy for us to pass the time. Did I mention that there is no cell service at the lodge? And with no wifi, we were really “off the grid.”

“Polly Woods Ordinary” mountain cabin located at Peaks of Otter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway

So it was a little bit like camping, except that we were in a bed in a room with a roof and a door. And as it turned out, even though there was still no power in the morning, somehow there was hot water for a shower! Ultimately the biggest hardship was that we were unable to get coffee or tea. But we lived to tell about it and to head on to our next destination, Lewisburg, West Virginia. More to come!

Photographs and stuff!