America, Countries, Culture

It’s another American conspiracy

We’re hard-wired to try to explain what we can’t accept by shouting CONSPIRACY!

And that is why Covid had to have been engineered by a Chinese lab.

And why the US Election was stolen by underground alien child snatchers.

They and the rest of the SH1T we’re seeing now will draw the Conspiracy Tourist for years to come.

Of course our curiosity for conspiracies is constantly fed by books and movies, the most recent of which is a new one on me…

Grab a Booth

Public enemy No.1 http://www.fords.org

John Wilkes Booth, Washington and Virginia: And it is timely to talk of Booth.

And we all saw the Confederate flag-wielding protestor breaking into the US Capitol Rotunda last week.

Channel surfing, I fell upon a PBS programme.

Somebody was positing whether it was indeed Booth who was shot dead in his hideout in Virginia.

It was though the actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC

Let your imagination run wild aa you walk through history itself.

The classy knoll

The Book Depository in Dallas where you found more than books

The Dallas Book Depository: And the segue here is the highest pub in Ireland, Johnnie Fox’s in the Dublin Mountains.

Where amongst all the Irish memorabilia there is a poster comparing the circumstances of Lincoln’s death and Son of Ireland John F Kennedy.

Both 43, both succeeded by a Johnson, Booth killing Lincoln in a theater, Oswald arrested in a cinema.

If it was in fact Oswald… all of which you can learn and more at the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

The Lorraine Motel

King and Memphis: And the most recognisable bedroom balcony in history which with its bedroom is now the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Where you can witness where Dr Martin Luther King was shot down.

And you’ll learn, as I did the strange circumstances behind ‘assassin’ James Earl Ray’s flight.

And also how fingers are pointed at the FBI and the Mafia.

Ray was arrested weeks later in Heathrow Airport in London after suspicions were aroused because he was in possession of two passports.

All of which makes me edgy every time I visit the Deep South

And go through customs as I carry around my old passport with my ten-year American visa.

Goodbye Norma Jean

Lying with Marilyn

Marilyn and LA: And Marilyn Monroe fans will all pay a pilgrimage to her last resting place.

The Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary is a retreat of solace in La La Land.

Where Marilyn rests in peace for eternity.

Apart that is from the unwanted attention of her nemesis Hugh Heffner who bought his drawer next to her.

In life Marilyn too was hounded to her death. By suicide if you believe the official line.

Better celebrate her life instead around LA and in Hollywood and Venice Beach… forever the California Girl.

A concrete story

What’s behind the door? The Mob Museum in Las Vegas

The Mob in Vegas: And Las Vegas is built on conspiracy with every gambler who has ever lost his shirt able to blame the house.

Of course Las Vegas was built on Mob money and on top of crooks who have crossed then.

You can learn all about all the shady goings-on at the Mob Museum

It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

America, Countries

Washington Rotunda – out of the many one

E Pluribus Unum – ‘out of the many one’ is etched into the Rotunda frieze of the US Capitol.

Not that the Mob who stormed it would know nor care.

The motto was first voiced in American political circles in 1776 by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, but clearly originated from Classical times.

And it has endured as a mission statement since those days when out of the 13 colonies became one United States.

Higher things: The Rotunda

Land of the coup

The Revolution has been hijacked by the ‘Stop the Steal’ Lobby since Joe Biden’s November victory.

With the iconic painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware and the election result used as a rallying poster.

Their argument is that Washington and the troops on his rafts that Christmas Day flouted authority.

They refused quarantine and took down the greatest army of its day.

No place like dome/ The US Capitol

Oh, yes, and they had God on their side too.

The Rotunda has become a sacred place for all Americans..

Lincoln and Kennedy’s bodies lay in state here so the public could pay tribute.

While just last year Civil Rights activist John Lewis and Women’s Rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg were each given the honour.

Pocahontas

The Rotunda clearly resonates with Americans and visitors to the US Capitol.

Washington legacy

The Apotheosis of Washington, finished at the end of the Civil War, places the first US President in a Classical frieze setting.

But while he is the centre-point in the Rotunda of the parliament.

In the city that bears his name it is significant to consider another who shares equal billing in the Rotunda.

That American is Pocahontas, a First Nation heroine of the peoples who inhabited this land first.

In the Frame: Part of the American Story

The Land of the Free has become The Land of the Flawed this past troubled year.

But at its heart and in the sentiments displayed around the Rotunda and who it memorialises from its history and its present lies hope.

Motto of hope

That E Pluribus Unum, out of the many one, and that ‘many’ is the majority which voted in the ‘one’, the President Elect Joe Biden.

The correct, proper and dignified way to visit the US Capitol is not by kicking down doors and parading Confederate flags but on the official tour.

While the beauty of Washington DC itself is that you can walk through American history on its streets and Smithsonian Museums.

E PLURIBUS UNUM

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

New Year’s Holiday Snaps – Happy New Aer

And because America is at a turning point don’t we all want to get on board.

Especially when on board is with our friends at Aer Lingus who early last year had me all booked up for the Florida Keys when…!

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January €148 sale for this summer to North America which is Toronto.

Waving the flag for DC and Aer Lingus

While my old favourites Boston, New York and Washington is pitched at €164.

And you know the deal it’s each way as part of a return trip.

Cruise into ’21

Yea, they’ve got forks too!

Or a Happy Blue Year, the kind of blue you only find on the sea

Or the blue of Greece. So let’s put them together.

Royal Caribbean have on the Eastern Mediterranean sailings we’ve zeroed in on in 2021.

Oh, how I would have loved to have spent the last year on a wee Greek island.

My pals at Royal Caribbean only have a range of Eastern Med packages as we plan to cruise again in 2021.

An old relic and the Acropolis

A six-night Greece and Croatia cruise, leaving from Venice (Ravenna) on Rhapsody of the Seas from €569pp taking in Split, Olympia and Athens.

And you know what I always say… there’s no party like a Royal party.

United in tribute to The Doc

Me and ‘Baby Doc’ Peter

And it might be apt that former Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, an old friend of the Murtys, should die on Hogmanay.

The Doc’s son Peter was one of my earliest pals in Glasgow before his Dad took the family off to Manchester.

Of course being a football man and someone who joked that he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus there’s no single destination to point you too.

But perhaps Manchester United is the club he’s most associated with.

So let’s point you in the direction of a football match day package.

If you’re an Irish United fan, and there are many, you’ll no doubt know about Celtic Horizons and Abbey Travel.

And the important thing is that we will all be together again soon in a football ground.

America, Countries, Europe

New Year fireworks… let’s have fun in ‘21.

Baby you’re a firework. Come on let your colours burst – Katy Perry

And boy did those colours burst, signalling that the world wants to have fun in ’21.

The Middle East led the way with the celebrations with some real actual human beings gathering… at social distance.

And rock gods Kiss even performing in Dubai.

Now New Year’s Eve is always going to be a challenge in crowd containment and resources.

But it is a depressing admission that we in the West can’t trust ourselves, and others, to social distance, or meet in pods.

Now, I love an oul’ firework any time of the year, so as Katy says ‘you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night.’

Dresden takes back the sky

Drum roll… in Dresden

Dresden: And Dresdeners have more reason than most to be wary of their sky lit up above them.

The older generation still talk about the red sky, the Allied bombers’ firestorm which razed their beautiful city to the ground at the end of the Second World War.

The resilient Saxons went on to rebuild their city, the Florence of the Elbe, brick by brick to the grandeur it is today.

The light show on the Elbe was the backdrop for the closing night of the German Travel Mart.

And a magical reminder of how light kills darkness.

Take me to the DC ball park

Me, George and my Travel pal Issy

Washington: They love a firework in DC… and that’s just a Donald Trump barbecue.

They put on firework displays for all their VIPs which meant the delegates at the American Travel fair, IPW.

At the Washington Nationals’ ball park.

Home run!

Disney get any better than this

Acting all Goofy

Orlando: And whatever you’re doing around 9pm of a night in Orlando then stop it and look up at the skies.

For that’s when the lights go on above The Magic Kingdom.

All of which you can see from your Four Seasons balcony. Magical!

Or Mickey in Da House

Anaheim: And in Disneyland too in California where Mickey, Donald and the gang like nothing better than a light show.

Mickey runs his own show which is in effect one of just a number of extravaganzas around the resort.

With Star Wars and Harry Potter getting in on the act.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Sport

JFK remembered

We have a long-forgotten aide of John F. Kennedy’s to thank on this day as JFK is remembered.

This is why the iconic US President’s grave being open for us to pay pilgrimage.

Kennedy had spoken to the aide from Robert E Lee’s house looking down on Arlington Cemetery in the weeks ahead of his assassination.

He said, with some prescience, that he would like to spend eternity looking down on this view of Washington DC and the Potomac River.

Jackie Kennedy had wanted to bury her husband in the Kennedy family homestead of Hyannis Port in Massachusetts.

The sentry never sleeps

Sentinels have continued to stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

There at Arlington House throughout the pandemic, albeit without tourists.

For history tourists it is a must as part of a visit to General Lee’s house.

You can see the recreated office where he contemplated on whose side to fight on during the Civil War.

The Arlington grounds on which the cemetery now stands was used as a military camp.

It served as a resting place for soldiers by Union forces.

A family affair

Kennedy’s grave is a simple. solemn stone, beside the eternal flame and his family

And movingly his and Jackie’s still-born child Arabella and their infant son Patrick, born in the months before his death.

Kennedy’s Irish visit in 1963

Jackie is buried here too.

She lies near his brothers Robert and Edward, and all are tended too beautifully and respectfully by the groundsmen.

Today on the 57th anniversary of his assassination focus will switch to Dallas, his Massachusetts home, and perhaps too his Irish homestead.

A view for immortality onto Washington DC

And all resonant to the man and his legend.

But today I will be reflecting on gardener Old Jorge tending the graves the day I visited.

And how Kennedy would have come to represent his champion.

America, Countries, Culture

A clear result in Florida – Hail to the Chief

It was the night of the Three Presidents.

When I left Ireland it was Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton his projected successor, only to learn on my arrival in Florida that Donald Trump would be the next President.

Washington DC may be where Americans inaugurate their Presidents but it is Florida where they get over the line.

Yes, he does love Mexicans… in Epcot Centre

And who can forget the shenanigans around the Florida vote in George W Bush’s Millennium election victory over Al Gore?

And they’re off and running

The Happiest Place on Earth was struggling to put on their famous smiles when they collected our party four years ago.

But just like tonight when we observe America’s decision on who to put in the White House I had prepared for both eventualities.

…. And in Florida

And I had decided that seeing that my hosts for the week were Disney World I’d frame my story on The Donald.

He’s got a big mouth, is a bit quackers, and all that.

It’s all showbiz

America’s President is an all-encompassing figure from the very moment you arrive in the States.

Leader of the country, king (or queen), Commander In Chief and showbiz icon.

Which is why we’ve had an actor, Ronald Reagan, lothario, Bill Clinton, and salesman and dealmaker Donald Trump.

I saw too the reverence in which they’re held first hand when I saw the outpouring of grief for George Herbert Walker Bush when I visited Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Kennedy’s Washington

I saw it again in Arlington Cemetery where there is a constant stream of mourners at the Kennedys’ grave.

While George Washington himself has his Memorial and Abraham Lincoln his big chair in the country’s capital.

Down the road in Philadelphia they still hold it dear that they were the burgeoning country’s early capital, and will always be the City of Brotherly Love.

Way to go Joe

And of course Pennsylvania is the hime state of Joe Biden.

New York defined Donald Trump growing up and building his name and reputation in his ow image.

And you’ll see his gleaming hotels all over America, with the memory of looking down onto his palace in Vegas on my way to the Grand Canyon seared in my mind.

The greatest prize though is Washington though and who gets the keys we may have to wait around to find out.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture

All the Presidents then

And as The Donald and The Joe go head to head in the first Presidential debate of this race… a look at how America remembers its Presidents.

Yes, with huge monuments as in the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

While for the best of them (at least when it was carved) they get their faces on the side of Mount Rushmore.

A word of two then on these and other Presidential landmarks.

George’s obelisk

Aspiring to greater things

Washington Monument: By George, they don’t make Presidents like him any more.

George refused to take the title of King.

And he also turned down an ostentatious statue in Washington of him astride a horse as suggested by his old pal Lafayette.

The Washington Monument, the world’s tallest obelisk at 554ft is almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Abe, a man for all the ages

Seat of power

The Lincoln Memorial: And here’s a nod to the Ages with the building in the form of a Doric temple.

It has also become the focal point for the Civil Rights Movement.

The March to Washington ended here.

And it’s where Martin Luther King delivered his I Have A Dream speech.

Channel your inner Abe and make a seat in front of him.

And look out onto the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

Kennedy, the center

The Kennedy Center and the Eternal Flame: And among all the legacies JFK left high among them was his love of the arts.

The Kennedy Center is next door to Watergate, where his nemesis Richard Nixon was undone and is truly an inspiring building.

But while the Kennedy Center is notable for its scale.

It is the intimacy of his last resting place in Arlington Cemetery which really touches the soul.

Nixon’s library

Richard Nixon Library, California: And contrary to popular belief the Nixons and the Kennedys got on real well.

And Pat Nixon even invited Jacqui and the kids back over to their old home, the White House after John F Kennedy was killed.

The Nixons still keep in touch with all their friends.

Which is probably why your favourite Travelman got a call last year.

As the Nixon Library invited me over to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing under Richard’s watch.

I couldn’t go and sent Buzz Aldrin in my stead.

Good Ol’ Ronnie

Ronald Reagan Library, California: And every library should have a bar, don’t you think?

Well Ronnie’s does… and it’s a recreation of the one he was taken to in his ancestors’ homestead in Tipperary.

Now every American President since Kennedy returned ‘home’ will take a sip of Guinness when they visit Ireland.

The Donald’s drink of choice is, of course, a Diet Coke,

Is he the real thing or will America go for Joe.

Tune in and find out.

America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Football’s back – take your pick

Now it all depends on whether you’re American, English, Irish or Australian who all embrace their football game.

It’s in the human DNA you see since the day Cain decided to kick Abel’s skull into a ditch.

So here are some thoughts on some of the teams I’ve adopted from my travels.

Touchdown

Off Pat

New England Patriots: I don’t know if you’re allowed it but I adopt all the American sports teams wherever I go.

It does make it easier to pick a winner if you’ve got the New York Jets (my Long Island cousins’-team), the Washington Redskins who are now looking for a new team, and the Denver Broncos.

It’s just that you go with the team where you spend the most time… and that was my summer after university in Boston.

Hoop dreams

All’s Well: Celtic v Motherwell. www.celticfc.net

And I had little choice growing up in Glasgow in the Seventies where Catholics and Protestants didn’t mix to choose Celtic.

Particularly as my Great-Uncles had built Celtic Park.

But Scots kids were allowed too to have an English team and I chose Liverpool.

Forward fast to the Nineties, had a son on Merseyside and it came full circle with The Son and Heir becoming a fully-fledged Red.

GAA-GAA

Prize guys: Donegal

In Ireland, soccer (football) was known as a Garrison game, a preserve of the occupying British Army.

And Gaelic Football, Camogie (the female version) and the stick game hurling were the Irish sports.

I could pick any of Donegal, my Dear Old Mum’s county, Dublin where I worked for 13 years or Co. Wicklow, my adopted home.

But as my Mum drummed it into us as kids that Donegal was the best place on Earth.

And that the rest of Ireland hate serial winners Dublin, it has to be Donegal.

Perth, WA

What’s up your sleeve?

My bonds with Western Australia started when my parents took me back a jersey of the West Coast Eagles. Minus the sleeves of course.

And continued when I joined a Top Deck booze bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich and discovered they were all Aussies and Kiwis.

Fast forward six months and Brownie and Smutley had arrived on my Aberdeen doorstep and went on to set up a WA colony there with their friends.

My one and only Aussie Rules football game was with an English guy at Surrey’s cricket ground, The Oval.

I remember Collingwood were one of the teams but don’t recall the other.

Collingwood are the New England Patriots, Dublin or Manchester United of their country.

Everybody else dislikes them unless you’re one of them.

MEET YOU ON THE PITCH

America, Countries, Culture

Black Washington

I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs – Frederick Douglass

Its most famous residence is the White House but the mansion of a black slave stands above it and the Capitol in Washington.

And the last occupant of Cedar Hill stands way above the current tenant in Pennsylvania Avenue.

The house on the hill

Today President Donald Trump is throwing a non-masked ball for his people complete with fireworks above the Washington Monument spelling out Trump 2020.

While on the National Mall a Second March on Washington has gathered 57 years after the first.

The scene is replete with history and symbolism.

Douglass come back to life

And above it all Frederick Douglass’s house stands as a reminder and a historical touchpoint for Black Washington.

Douglass, born a slave in Maryland in 1818 taught himself while in captivity before escaping his Master.

And then going onto champion the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.

In the frame: Frederick Douglass

And also becoming an international spokesman for black people, women’s voting rights.

And among other international causes celebres Irish freedom.

Did I also mention that he was the first black person to run for one of the two great offices of the land?

As the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

All of which history is around you as you walk solemnly.

Unfinished business: At the infinity statue of Martin Luther King in Washington DC

Through his house which we are told would cost the equivalent of millions of dollars today.

It is 125 years since Douglass took his dying breath there but its status, and his, continue to grow.

Douglass’s success in Washington, the US capital, serves as an example to others of what can be achieved in the face of repression.

Just as Black Broadway (U Street) does and just as those channeling Dr Martin Luther King are doing.

Including his grand-daughter, Yolanda Renee Kong who spoke so passionately to the crowds yesterday.

This is who we need in the White House

The parties will go on down in that White House and presidents come and go.

But up there in the hills of Annacostia you can’t help thinking.

That the spirit of old Frederick is looking down on them, watching, waiting and dying to say something.