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, Culture, UK

A Letter From America Revisited

I don’t know if there’s a railtrack from Miami to Canada,

But here are planes (and ships), and just like the Scots who followed a dream I’m not giving up on mine.

The Proclaimers‘ peon to the Highland crofters who were displaced from their land and rebuilt their lives in North America still chills me to the bone.

And gets me up on my feet and twirling my kiltie, like here in Vicar Street in Dublin two tears ago.

The Scots who built America

Scots played a major part In the formation of the USA.

And you don’t have to have seem Hamilton for a history lesson, although it helps.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda announces himself as Alexander Hamilton, ‘a bastard son of a whore and a Scotsman’.

Worth a monument, methinks, and you’ll find just that in Philadelphia with the Monument to Scottish Immigrants.

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia

The statue was dedicated in 2011 and sets the scene of a settled Scot welcoming his father, his wife and their children to the New World.

Scots wha’ hae in Philadelphia

They are climbing up from the docks to Front Street, to where those who know Philly Tun Tavern was located.

And where there is a plaque marking its significance.

Room at the Inn

The Tun Tavern holds a special significance for Scots-Americans.

You see this is where the St Andrew’s Society set up after the heroic failure of the 45 Rebellion back home.

While the United States Marine Corps was formed here and had its first recruitment drive too in 1775.

And I dare say a few Jocks too.

We’re reliably informed too that four of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence are standing on the bas relief of the Memorial.

And I’m no havering!

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – MacArthur Spark

Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again – Donna Summer

And today as we mark a historic milestone, the coming of the Messiah of Travel 55 years ago, a word on cakes, songs and one particular song, MacArthur Park.

My own party piece for a family birthday is to leave the cake outside on the patio table before cranking up the song and then bringing it inside.

But what of the location of Donna Summer’s disco masterpiece cover.

Of Richard Harris’s weak croaky version?

Well, there are many MacArthur Parks in the US, all named for the war hero General Douglas MacArthur.

But this one is in LA.

Old Los Angeles

The story goes that composer Jimmy Webb wrote it about the break-up of his relationship with Susie Horton.

That they would meet regularly for lunch in the park opposite Susie’s insurance office near Downtown LA where I’ve seen first hand its cultural snd historic growth.

And that he did see a cake left out in the rain and the old men playing checkers by the trees.

Wings over Los Angeles

It’s a thing in the States, outdoors chess and checkers.

And on a family trip to New York the Son and Heir played with a dude who claimed to have played with Bobby Fischer.

And just saying in the passing Mrs M will surely find the recipe again…

It’s written on the empty box I found in the bin!

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, Europe

Rainy Songdays – Young Man, er, the US President!

Young man, there’s no need to feel down, I said young man pick yourself off the ground, I said young man ’cause you’re in a new town, There’s no need to be unhappy – Y.M.C.A. , The Village People

It’s more Dancing Grandad than Dancing Dad – the US President Donald Trump jigging to Y.M.C.A. at his rallies.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us though with the 74-year-old Donald Trump vying with the 77-year-old Joe Biden for the White House.

So what of Y.M.C.A.? And Greenwich Village in New York from where the band hailed.

I was slightly disappointed that I wasn’t greeted by a policeman, an Apache Indian or even a Construction worker when I checked in to my YMCA.

But it was just the ticket for getting over the jet lag and the hangover from the Comedy Club the night before.

Village life

And the Village with its bohemian, artsy and gay history, live entertainment and culinary treats is a great place to kickstart your NY journey.

Back to our story though and they did roll out the broad sweep of American life at my next Y.M.C.A.

In Boston, in the shape of black, white and Chinese firemen.

Although no flash dancing here, they had arrived to attend to the fire alarm I had set off.

As I stood in the line to check back in for another night in the Bean Town hostel.

Hostel hostilities

And it was the last straw for the patient Y.M.C.A. staff.

As good as the words in the song ‘started me back on my way.’

By suggesting that I find a new billet after I had caused two nights of carnage.

A Colombian boarder had only complained to them that I had taken his bunk the previous two nights.

After I had arrived back drunk.

And a member of staff was called on to avert a major international incident.

After Escobar’ had raised the hue and cry over ‘zis crazy Scotsman.’

The Combat Zone

But it was all the making of this Young Man.

As myself and my pal Neily followed up on the advert on the noticeboard for an unfurnished apartment in Boston.

They had neglected to say that it was in an all-black area known as ‘The Combat Zone’

Where my first sleep was interrupted by the blare of rap warnings from the ghetto-blasters outside.

Isaac and the Brothers

In the morning as we made our way into work we passed by Isaac who was holding sentry at the bottom of the steps.

Punching fists with the brothers and passing them tin-foil pouches.

Isaac became a friend and we signed off our post-university stay with a night’s drinking in Alfie’s shebeen.

All in the company of welcoming locals.

Where the only other white man was the Double Bass in the Jazz band!

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Zoom… everyone’s gone to the moon

Streets full of people, all alone, roads full of houses, never home, church full of singing, out of tune, everyone’s gone to the moon – Jonathan King

The news that we’ve spotted water on the moon has opened up opportunities for astronauts to go to live on the moon.

The idea would be that NASA could set up a colony on the Earth’s satellite.

Both for further lunar exploration but also as a refuelling spot for the ultimate goal, a mission to Mars.

All of which sounds appealing as Earth looks a pretty poor bet just now, what with Covid and climate change.

So how are our out-of-this-world tour providers doing with getting us all out there?

Well, they’re not our usual favourite Travel agents, rather billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos instead.

With NASA givven the go-ahead to, along with aerospace veteran Dynerics, to develop the technology to get us there.

Elon targeted next year for putting tourists on the moon while NASA believes the next decade is more likely.

Launchpad

It’s hardly one of your bucket deals, more like $70m for a three-day trip to the Moon.

Which hasn’t put Japanese moneybags Yusaku Maezawa who has booked his place.

For the rest of us that’s all a moonshot as one Space Cadet politician is fond of saying.

A trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida is more achievable.

And Cape Kennedy is open with airplane flights to Orlando with Covid regulations including face masks.

And there are other legends in headgear just down the road too at Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Back to Cape Kennedy here and I’m thinking space helmets would be even better than face masks.

And they’re offering launch viewings too!

Everything is sunny

Cape Kennedy has been on my bucket list for years and I can’t even blame Covid for not getting out there last year for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

Or take up an invitation to mark it in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California.

Nixon having taken the call from Neil Armstrong from the Moon in 1969.

I’ve enjoyed the company of the Cape Kennedy crew, astronaut Jon McBride included, on missions they’ve undertaken to Ireland over the years.

While Alabama too played a huge role in the whole Apollo expedition.

Give it a hurl: Chris Hadfield with Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons and future Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. http://www.leovaradkar.ie

Ireland, of course, is a treat on the ground, but from Space too.

Jon was glad to be back in the land of his fathers.

While Chris Hadfield tweeted pictures of green, green Ireland from space, along with Gaelic messages.

And then hooked up with Tourism Ireland for a series of films to promote Donegal, Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse and Gaelic Sports.

MEET YOU IN SPACE

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

Ale to the Chief – American Beer Day

And a confession here. I didn’t take to American beer when I first visited the country back when I was 17.

Probably because I was below the legal drinking age, although it helps when your Auntie runs a bar, and a Queens institution at that.

And your cousin is a wild one.

But it’s just that Bud Lite or Miller Lite didn’t do it for me, too Lite, really.

I don’t have time to get my hair cut

But when I returned a few years later, for a summer working in Boston after university I discovered Sam Adams and that was it.

Now since I’ve become a regular visitor, and observer of America and all things American in recent years, I’ve made it a personal mission to sample more beer.

So here are my United Tastes of America.

Virginia blonde

This year’s blonde: in Virginia

Virginia: Now I love a beautiful blonde as much as the next man, I married one after all who is gooder than any.

So who was I to turn down a tour which incorporated two of my favourite things, Beer and Battlefields?

Happen the Union and the Confederate soldiers partook of some corn beer themselves before or after they took to the Manassas battlefield.

They deserved it.

And here am I at an old schoolhouse in Ben Lomond doing a tasting. Every day is a schoolday!

Mississippi sippy

And something worth singing about: Mississippi

Deep South; I swear I enjoyed an Ole Miss but maybe that’s just the beer talking.

Although there was a Sinister Minister (insert gag here).

This being the Deep South you want a good ole ranch-type bar where you can grab something (everything) deep fried with grits.

And whether it was just our party (or a thing) but cash in your vouchers for your beers… surely the answer in our Covid times.

Anyhoos in Memphis, Tennessee, Cleveland and Jackson, Mississippi I partook…. and I still think I’ve got a couple vouchers left in a drawer.

Beers to make you goofy

And drink it on the Big Bang set

Anaheim, California: And there’s always one… and usually two, three, four or five who take up the invitation to ask a question.

I mean do you really want to know about the mashing process when you could be drinking the best pale ale?

If you’re from the Orange County you’ve probably just be coming off the Socially Distanced Anaheim Oktoberfest.

But you will be interested in Anaheim Brewery‘s Beer to Go offers, Tuesdays through to Sundays.

In bottles (by the six-pack or case) with Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Coast to Coast IPA and Oktoberfest IPA.

Or in growlers which are demi-packs – 150th Anniversary Ale, Fruity Wheat Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Lager and Coast to Coast IPA.

Colorado, the Golden Nirvana

And the Rockies water is the secret

Colorado: You’ve got to be able to back it up if you claim to be the beer capital of the States, but Denver can.

While Colorado boasts more than 425 breweries and counting.

The Denver Milk Market is a misnomer… it’s in the old milk district.

While all beer lovers will feel the pull of Golden, in the apron of the Rockies.

It is, of course, the home of Coors, but so much more,

As Travis Rupp, Classics professor at the University of Colorado and beer archaeologist at Avery Brewery will tell you.

Now which to pick from? Well because I love a blonde! A Belgian Blue Moon.

And if you love a beer then here’s how some of my favourite fellow boozists do it.,. in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

So where’s your favourite drinking spot in America and what beer should I drink.

Let me know and we’ll share.

MEET YOU IN THE BAR

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Holly Dolly Christmas

So how many days out can you release a Christmas album? 84 if you dress up like a Christmas Tree like Dolly Parton.

Dolly has been trailing her Christmas album which she released at the start of the month.

While her god-daughter Miley Cyrus who herself has a new album to promote at the moment followed her onto the Graham Norton Show in the UK.

I know all about Christmas in Dolly’s neck of the woods, Tennessee.

Of course the best place for all things Dolly is Dollywood.

I visited there, Tennessee, though Dollywood itself is a pleasure I’ve yet to savour, and Mississippi.

And my party was treated to a Christmas song recital in an antebellum houses in the Deep South.

There’s some of the old standards on the Dolly album like Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

But there are more Dolly originals.

There are others who are getting their Christmas requests in early…

 

It’s usually all about the bass with Meghan but but this proud daughter of my beloved Massachusetts is all about the gifts in October,

She has a new album A Very Trainor Christmas.

The Dolly that we know and love has always been adorably irreverent.

Although not as saucy as Tobagonian Soca Parang music.

We’ll bring you more about the culture and traditions of Parang as Christmas comes closer.

But for now I’ll leave you with something that will definitely lift your spirits, a hot new 2020 Soca Parang Mix.

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

Harry, Meghan, Sideways and Santa Barbara

When Harry and Meghan had to find a bolthole out of Britain then Santa Barbara hoved into view.

And if you’ve been hanging on the Sussexes’ every word these past months then it no doubt piqued your curiosity for the American Riviera.

Preachy flavourings: Meghan www.meghansmirror.com

Pique no more.

We all know Meghan likes her vino and this is no doubt another reason why she has chosen Santa Barbara, Sideways country.

A Sideways glance

The smell of success: Miles and Jack. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Sideways: The greatest film about grapes ever – the towering Sideways.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) Bachelor’s Party road trip.

Our friends in Santa Barbara have helpfully put together an itinerary which follows in the footsteps of the odd couple.

You’ll start your day with breakfast at Solvang Restaurant.

Picnic time for the fab four

Where Sideways nuts will tell you that it was here that Jack insisted Miles’ ‘gloominess not thwart his attempts to get lucky before the wedding.’

Try the Aebleskiver, a waffle-like breakfast ball filled with apple slices.

Wine O’clock rolls around soon on a Sideways tour.

See if you get the same tasting notes as Miles from the Vin Gris at the Sanford Winery

‘Citrus, strawberry, the faintest soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of edam cheese.’

Our kind of road trip: Miles and Jack on the road. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Next up Kalyra Winery is where we first meet vivacious Aussie wine pourer Stephanie whom Jack falls for.

Now I’ll need to dig out the film again to see Ostrich Land which you’ll also visit.

While our two heroes lunched at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant with Stephanie and Maya. You too can choose from the Sideways menu.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is where a pent-up Miles guzzles from the slop bucket after the pourer refuses to give him a full glass..m

We’d opt for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Your table, sir?

Firestone Winery offers tours and a guide, and it is from here that our fab four sneak out of a lecture tour for a romantic walk through the Barrel Room.

The Hitching Post II is, of course, where Maya waits tables and their Santa Maria Style barbecue is to be recommended.

The definitive wine road trip tour… And, of course it’s your call on the Merlot!

Two Glasses In

Wine-tasting for our times

Vino California: And a toast to the Golden State.

Two Glasses In is a nine-episode podcast and video series that celebrates SB’s grapes over two glasses.

We prefer two bottles! And from Roberson’s too.