Spring Break – Key West

Key West - SunsetBy Judy Berman

Salty ocean spray flew up as our glass-bottom boat sped toward its destination – a coral reef in Key Largo.

Just the island’s name conjures celluloid images of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and tough guy Edward G. Robinson in the 1948 movie, “Key Largo.” They run thru my mind like reels at an old movie theater as we pull away from Key Largo’s shores.

The opening scenes of the movie were shot here.

A relic from another Bogart film, “The African Queen,” also can be found here. That boat was used in the 1951 film that stars Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. That boat was restored in 2012 to serve as a tourist boat, several years after our visit.

After we had a hearty breakfast nearby, we boarded the boat for a tour of a coral reef. Not recommended. The hearty breakfast and boat ride combo, that is. Top side, I felt much better.

After lunch, we headed to Key West. This is a nine-hour drive from our home, but getting here – well worth the view.

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

The Seven-Mile Bridge, one of the longest in the world, offers breathtaking views along stretches of turquoise water. Clear, striking shades of blue from the ocean on our left, and the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on our right.

Our hotel, the Almond Tree Inn, was conveniently located near the corner of the renowned and infamous Duval Street in Old Town Key West. We headed down to Mallory Square to see the sunsets.

On our way, a drunk staggered out of a bar exposing his shortcomings for all to see. Yes, this was our first exposure to the “wild life” there – and it was still early in the day.

Key West - Golden Man

A huge crowd gathered at the edge of the southernmost city in the continental U.S. to see the sun set. Street performers – jugglers who tossed flaming torches in the air, acrobats dancing along a high wire, and a dog jumping thru a hoop – were on hand before and after that magic moment.

The Key’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, lived here with his wife Pauline from 1931 until the end of their marriage in 1940. He wrote several of his most celebrated books at his pool house office out back of his historic home at 907 Whitehead St.

Our guide, Joe, told us that, when Pauline remodeled the home, she replaced the ceiling fans with ornate chandeliers.

“During the summer, we think about her EVERY DAY,” he drawled for emphasis. Floor fans cooled the room this March day of our visit several years ago.

Outside, Joe showed us a pool that Pauline had installed for $20,000 during the Great Depression. When Hemingway returned from an overseas venture, he took a penny from his pocket and told Pauline she might as well take his “last red cent.”

Pauline did. She had it set in the cement next to the pool.

Ernest Hemingway House - cat on bed

There were 49 cats living on the property. Many have six toes and are descendants of “Papa” Hemingway’s six-toed cats.

One of “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Blue Heaven at 729   Thomas Street. While we ate lunch there, roosters, chickens, chicks and cats wandered around the open-air restaurant.

Key West - free roaming chicken family

There’s a photo of him there when it had a boxing ring. At various times, the place was “a bordello, a pool hall, a railroad water tower, a cockfighting arena, a boxing ring and ice-cream parlor.” And, now, a popular restaurant.

If you wander over to the Southernmost Point (of the continental U.S., at the corner of Whitehead and South streets), Cuba is about 90 miles away.

On a clear day, you might see it from your back porch. (chuckle)

A man, wearing an orange-and-white “Mile Marker O” offered to take our photo. Recalling the scene from the comedy, “European Vacation,” where the photo taker took off with the tourists’ camera, we waited to see how he handled the family ahead of us.

Like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we often have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

And, many, thankfully, are very accommodating.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video – Key West  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du4gR-_kLEs – 2012 Trop Rock Music Asociation Songwriter of the Year Nominee, Steve Tolliver, sings Key West Is The Best from his CD “Back To The Islands”.

Main Photo – Key West – sunset – taken May 30, 2011, by Serge Melki, Indianapolis. Link to http://www.byways.org/ Copyright http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg

Photo – Seven Mile Bridge – to Key West – Seeming to converge in the distance, the Seven-mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Scenic Highway west of Marathon, FL, runs parallel to the historic Flagler railroad bridge of the early 1900s with the Atlantic Ocean to the South and the Gulf of Mexico to the North. Taken March 20, 2003 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2d/Looooooong_bridge.jpg/640px-Looooooong_bridge.jpg

Key West – Golden Man – taken Feb. 1, 2008 by CederBendDrive, USA  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg

Photo – Ernest Hemingway House – cat on bed – taken March 16, 2013 by Abujoy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG/640px-ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG

Photo – Key West – free roaming chicken family – Taken Feb. 12, 2007 by Averette at en.wikipedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Chickenfamily.jpg/640px-Chickenfamily.jpg

Music video – “Blue Heaven Rendezvous” (1995) by Jimmy Buffet. The Blue Heaven restaurant inspired this song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLvg2lykLI

Overheard While Just Passing Thru

alligator - marshamallowBy Judy Berman

As a tourist, you get only a quick glimpse of what life might be like in the places you visit.

What I’ve found is sometimes you’re in on the joke that the tour guides tell. Other times, you’re the butt of the joke.

Still others, it’s like you walked in the middle of a movie and leave before it ends. You’re left wondering how it turned out.

It took only a few minutes on a bus tour in Seattle, Washington, to realize there was a real culture clash between the logging industry and environmentalists who were trying to stop trees from being cut down because of its effect on the wildlife.

The bus driver, over the speaker, told his passengers: “We’ll be stopping for lunch. You can have the condor or the spotted owl.”

Many passengers erupted in laughter at the inside joke. Both are endangered species – and will not be found on any menu.

On a swamp tour in New Orleans, we saw nutria (a large rodent that is not a native of Louisiana), great blue herons and alligators.

To make sure we saw more than the bulging, beady eyes and snout that were just slightly above the water line, our guide threw marshmallows over board.

A gator scooted over to the boat and scooped up the bobbing treats from the water.

A woman, with a Boston accent, piped up, “Don’t you ever feed the gators anything but junk food?”

Clearly irritated, the guide retorted, “Sometimes we feed them Yankees. But I guess that’s junk food, too.”

Now, I’m from New York (Syracuse). Maybe I should have been offended, but I burst out laughing at the guide’s joke. Or, at least, I hope he was joking.

dog sled - Alaska

Mealtime can also provide a few laughs. At a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, we chuckled over a meal offered on the kids’ menu: liver and onions.

Well, the little wrangler will be delighted to know that, even if he is real ornery, it’s unlikely his Mom and Dad will order the yuckiest thing on the kids’ menu. The reason? It cost $28,212.99.

Now, that’s something to cheer about. That and the folks in Fairbanks obviously have a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

What a long, strange trip it was when we hit the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. There, apparently, were still some folks there that looked like they were trapped in a time warp – leftovers from the Sixties when Flower Power ruled the area.

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco

As we walked along Haight Street, a guy ahead of us is trying to get the guy he’s walking with to change shirts with him. No dice.

“We got to get into a bar before the cops come,” he said.

As if on cue, a cop car pulls up. A cop steps up and politely says, “Can we talk for a second?”

“Sure,” the guys says, acting nonchalantly.

Ten minutes later, as we walk by on the other side of the street, the “talk” continues. Now, four cops are on the scene.

This is where I’d thought we’d stumbled into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s pranks.

Ever the Master of Suspense, he’d appear to be in the midst of a gruesome story when new passengers stepped into the elevator he was on. Naturally, they were all ears. But, as luck would have it, they reached the main floor before he wrapped it up. Which was Hitchcock’s mischievous scheme all along.

No telling what you’ll see and hear on your travels. But I sure wish I knew the rest of the story about that “talk.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4  

Photo: alligator – marshmallow – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/11/20/the-alligator-and-the-marshmallow/  

Photo – dog sled – Alaska – A musher departs Slaven’s Roadhouse in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during the 2005 Yukon Quest sled dog race. Taken Feb. 5, 2005 by the U. S. National Park Service http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg/640px-Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg

Photo: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California – Piedmont Boutique on Haight   Street. Taken by Bernard Gagnon, Sept. 3, 2008  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg/640px-Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg

North by Northwest

North by Northwest - Cary Grant - plane - 1959By Judy Berman

Mistaken identify, darkness, light and double cross play significant roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1959) movie, “North by Northwest.”

In diabolical plot twists that even Cary Grant found difficult to follow, he is confused by the rapid-fire events that happen to his character.

He plays advertising executive, Roger O. Thornhill. Yet he winds up in a labyrinth of mystery and murder when an enemy espionage group mistakes him for George Kaplan, an undercover agent who really doesn’t exist. Or, does he?

“Cary Grant came up to me and said, ‘It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture, and I still can’t make head or tail of it,’ ” Hitchcock confides in Francois Truffaut’s book, “Hitchcock.”

Without realizing it, Hitchcock said Grant was using a line of his own dialogue from the movie.

It’s not the only deception going on in the film.

The spies believe that Thornhill is Kaplan. They kidnap him and take him to a Long Island country estate owned by Lester Townsend. He meets who he believes is Townsend, Philip Vandamm (James Mason), and his personal secretary, Leonard (Martin Landau).

His captors keep peppering “Kaplan” with questions. When they fail to get any information from him, Vandamm’s goons force whiskey down Thornhill’s throat.

They put an extremely intoxicated Thornhill in a car. Their scheme is to have the ride and Thornhill’s life end after the car goes over a cliff. But, as drunk as Thornhill is, he manages to escape. A police car pulls up, and the bad guys quickly drive off.

No one, not even his mother, believes his story.

North by Northwest - Eva Marie Saint shooting Cary Grant

Thornhill attempts to unravel the lies. He learns that Townsend is at the United Nations. At the U.N., Thornhill discovers that Townsend is not the man who held him captive. Enemy spies kill Townsend and frame Thornhill for his murder.

On the run again, Thornhill hops aboard the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. There, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him hide from the authorities.

When they arrive in Chicago, Eve tells Thornhill she’ll call Kaplan for him. Then, she gives Thornhill instructions to meet Kaplan at Prairie Stop, which turns out to be in the middle of nowhere. He waits in the harsh, hot daylight. Another man waiting for a bus at the same stop notes that a crop-duster plane is dusting where there aren’t any crops.

After the man boards his bus, Thornhill realizes that the crop-duster is flying his way and zeroing in on him. Again, the bad guys fail to eliminate him.

Thornhill returns to the hotel. He finds out that Eve works with the spies and is Vandamm’s mistress.  When he discovers later that Eve is an undercover agent, he realizes his actions have put her life in jeopardy.

He warns Eve and helps her escape certain death. The spies are hot on their trail as Thornhill and Eve scale the shadowy heights of the Mount Rushmore monument in an effort to elude them.

As the pair scramble back down the face of the stone carvings, Thornhill tells Eve that if they get out of this alive they should get back on the train together. He’s talking marriage.

North by Northwest - movie trailer screenshot - climbing Mt. Rushmore

As they hang from Mount Rushmore, Eve asks why his two previous wives divorced him. “I think they said I led too dull a life,” (Grant) Thornhill says.

“The genius of Hitchcock lies in how he gets the audience as well as Thornhill (Grant) to believe in the existence of George Kaplan, until by the end of the film, it is Kaplan who survives, while Roger Thornhill simply ceases to exist …,” says Marc Eliot, author of “Cary Grant.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie (trailer): North by Northwest (1959) with Alfred Hitchcock  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfmTpmIUwo  

Main Photo: North by Northwest – Cary Grant – plane (1959) http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/2500715/North-by-Northwest-1959_gallery_primary.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – Eva Marie Saint shooting Carl Grant  – movie trailer screenshot http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/07/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – movie trailer screenshot – Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climbing Mount Rushmore  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg

The Ghosts That Haunt Ashley’s

Ashley's Restaurant - October 2013 029By Judy Berman

Sunday mornings are the eeriest. It’s pitch-black out when Rick Austin opens Ashley’s Restaurant in Rockledge for the day.

He’s alone. So, what accounts for the sounds of someone knocking on the doors of the bathroom stall, a door slamming and flickering lights in the kitchen?

“Sometimes, you feel like someone’s behind you. I’ll sense someone is there. I look over my shoulder. But nothing’s there. You see a reflection, but it’s actually yourself,” Austin said.

His experience is not unique. Ashley’s is said to be one of the most haunted restaurants in Florida. It first opened in 1933 as Jack’s Tavern, about the time of the repeal of prohibition. Since then, it has gone thru several name changes and owners.

It is believed that the murder of 19-year-old Ethel Allen “is the main source of the ghostly activity” at the restaurant. She died in 1934. Her killer was never brought to justice.Ashley's Restaurant - October 2013 009

Greg Parker said he was unaware of the ghostly legends surrounding the restaurant when he bought it in November 1985.

Its reputation has attracted ghost-hunters, psychics, paranormal investigators and a television crew hoping to include its story in a pilot called, “Haunted America.” Their encounters were picked up by Fate Magazine. But the show never materialized.

They saw “what looked like a head-shaped spot of darkness, which on the Thermograph means a cold spot. That quickly vanished,” states Fate Magazine, July 1994.

Then one of the three-man team, R. Andrew Nichols, from Florida’s Center for Paranormal Studies, yelled from the ladies’ room, “Do you see that?”

Spirit on the staircase?

Spirit on the staircase?

What they saw on the monitor “was what looked like a cylindrical object floating in mid-air. It was not solid, but fairly well-defined.”

Parker has heard all the stories. He said his wife, employees and customers have experienced some of them.

“My wife was walking downstairs once. She said she felt someone touching her on the shoulder,” Parker said.

Others have reported feeling they were “pushed by an invisible force” while going up or down the stairs closest to the ladies’ room.

Ghostly encounters have rattled a few customers and employees.

“One night, Lisa, a waitress, was outside crying. She said she saw the ghost, and never came back,” Parker said.

Someone going by the building said they saw a couple fighting in the apartment that was upstairs at the time, Parker said. On the restaurant’s website, it states that “one manager has seen the feet of a woman dressed in 1930s-era footwear in the next stall” in the ladies’ room, “only to exit her own stall and find that the other one is empty.”

“Patrons have also reported apparitions of a young woman in the bathroom mirror.”

“A psychic said that’s where the woman ran down the stairs and hid. He found her and killed her. That’s why the ladies’ room is haunted. The spirit stays there,” Parker said.

caught in a spider web - Halloween decorations at Ashley's

caught in a spider web – Halloween decorations at Ashley’s

Ethel Allen is not the only ghost on the premises. Parker said a man and a little girl also have been spotted there.

Liz Burton, a bartender and waitress at Ashley’s recalls a little girl, about 4 or 5, who was quite agitated as she described an encounter she had to her grandfather.

“Pop Pop, tell that little girl to quit messing with me,” the girl said of the ghost girl. “No one had told her about a ghost,” Burton said.

Is Ashley’s haunted? Parker says after all the investigations; each has drawn their own conclusions. He suspects ghosts do hang out at Ashley’s because they have a connection to the restaurant and they went before their time.

Or, maybe they’re drawn to the excellent food and the wine. That’s the only spirits we saw when we were there, ones being poured by the bartender at the bar.

Video: Ethel Allen and Ashley’s – A real short, short on the haunting of an eatery in Florida. Narrated by author Charlie Carlson  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wBZwVU1qa0&list=PLtGzb-24ISTBK2U2snCKG_qQjTlgUe6tA&index=2 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photos taken by Judy Berman at Ashley’s Restaurant on Oct. 5, 2013:
* Ashley’s Restaurant, U.S. 1, Rockledge – it’s said to be one of the most haunted restaurants in Florida
* Greg Parker, owner of Ashley’s Restaurant
* a spirit on the staircase? – a framed photo in Ashley’s
* caught in the spider web – Halloween decorations at Ashley’s

Fate Magazine article – Psychic Frontiers – July 1994 http://www.spookhunters.com/spookhunt/ashleysrestaurant/Fate0794.doc

Photo – a spirit on the staircase at Ashley’s Restaurant in Rockledge? The original photo is on the website of Ashley’s of Rockledge hauntedhouses.com http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/fl/ashley-rockledge.htm

Into the Wild

Alaska - big bull mooseBy Judy Berman

I was just 17. Mad at my folks because they wouldn’t let me go on an end-of-the-year school picnic.

It was 5:30 in the morning. I stepped out of my bedroom window onto the back porch. No packed bags. No money. I got as far as turning the corner of our ranch-style home by our front porch.

Dad always said I thought seven steps ahead. Sure enough, I begin to fret on how I’d make a go of it with no money, no skills, not even a high school diploma.

Then, I turned around and entered the house the way I’d left and went back to bed. I never mentioned this to my folks.

But, what if? What if I’d left? Forget the gender ramifications. In all likelihood, like “Alex Supertramp” in Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” I probably would have starved to death.

“Alex’s” real name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. On the book’s cover, we learn that, in April 1992, this “young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mount McKinley.”

“He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.”

I read Krakauer’s book after we returned from Alaska years ago, and Alex’s experiences haunt me still.

 

It’s odd how I can relate to a character that I have little in common with. What intrigued me about Alex is that he did what I’d wanted to do for decades – just run off, on my own and see the world. The difference is I thought about the ‘what if’s’ and how I wouldn’t want to hurt my family.

Alex was a likeable guy, intelligent, musically talented and well-read. But it seems that any time people got close to him, he’d pull another vanishing act. He’d bummed around the country for about two years, doing odd jobs and living with people he met along the way.

He aimed for Alaska, a place he’d dreamed about since he was a kid. Alex/McCandless told a friend “about his intent to spend the summer alone in the bush, living off the land.” He wanted to be alone in the wilds and “wanted to prove to himself that he could make it on his own, without anybody’s help,” said Gaylord Stuckey, a trucker, who drove Alex to Fairbanks before they parted ways.

Jim Gallien was the last one to give Alex a ride. He thought Alex’s “scheme was foolhardy and tried repeatedly to dissuade him.“ When Gallien couldn’t, he insisted that Alex take “an old pair of rubber work boots.”

The only food Alex carried from Gallien’s truck was a 10-pound bag of long-grained rice he’d purchased, “plus two grilled-cheese-and-tuna sandwiches and a bag of corn chips” that Gallien had contributed. Alex’s backpack also contained library books that included Thoreau and Tostoy.

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Some 20 miles into the wild, “he stumbled upon the old bus beside the Sushana River. It was “outfitted with a bunk and a barrel stove” and other provisions left by previous visitors.

In time, he missed the companionship. In his remaining days, he noted: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Perhaps, Alex discovered some truth in Henry David Thoreau’s quote: “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Young moose, Alaska

Young moose, Alaska

In August, “McCandless penned a brief adios: “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!”

“Then he crawled into the sleeping bag his mother had sewn for him and slipped into unconsciousness. He probably died August 18, 112 days after he’d walked into the wild, 19 days before six Alaskans would happen across the bus and discover his body inside,” Krakauer wrote.

No longer that starry-eyed teen who once fantasized about running away, I now look at Alex’s journey thru a mother’s eyes. I wish he’d been able to say good-bye to his parents, as well as others who missed and loved him.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer, “Into the Wild:”      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek 

Photo: Alaska – big bull moose. Photo was taken in 2005 in Chugach State Park, Alaska.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Bigbullmoose.jpg/622px-Bigbullmoose.jpg

Photo: Denali – Grizzly Bear, picture taken by Jean-Pierre Lavoie in 2004.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg/640px-Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg

Photo: Alaska – Young moose near Point Woronzof, Anchorage. Taken: April 2008. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg/526px-Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg

Next Stop – Area 51

UFOs are not alien to Pat Travis-Laudenklos, owner of Little A'LE'INN in Rachel, Nevada

UFOs are not alien to Pat Travis-Laudenklos, owner of Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada

By Judy Berman

Leaving Las Vegas, we headed out in search of aliens. There was a reported sighting in Rachel, Nevada – about 145 miles outside Vegas.

Maybe it was the burning, hot desert sun or the long drive. But on the way to the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375), I was shocked when I did see green. There were miles of green pasture and free-range cattle just off the side of the road.

Dave by the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375) - dedicated by the Nevada Department of Transportation in April 1996

Dave by the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375) – dedicated by the Nevada Department of Transportation in April 1996

But that’s not what Dave and I came out here for.

Then, we spotted it – the Little A’Le’Inn. It’s the travel destination for people across the world – and, perhaps, intergalactic travel. It became a popular UFO seminar headquarters, following reports by KLAS-TV investigative reporter George Knapp on Bob Lazar, who claimed he worked on flying saucers at nearby Area 51.

“Area 51, Dreamland, Groom Lake, the Ranch, the Box – all these names refer to the top-secret research installation located 100 miles north of Las Vegas that has prompted speculation about captured alien spacecraft and hidden bodies of extraterrestrial beings. The facility and surrounding areas are also associated with UFO and conspiracy stories,” according to “Off the Beaten Path Nevada,” by Heidi Knapp Rinella.

“George Knapp wrote about Bob Lazar in 1989, and it snowballed from there. (Our restaurant is) the destination stop for foreign travelers,” said owner Pat Travis-Laudenklos, who has owned the restaurant for 25 years.

Area 51 - Groom Road gate warning sign about the restricted area

Area 51 – Groom Road gate warning sign about the restricted area

The international buzz prompted Pat Travis-Laudenklos and her late husband, Joe, to change the restaurant’s name from the Rachel Bar and Grill to the Little A’Le’Inn. in 1989.

A popular stopover for folks on their way to Area 51

A popular stopover for folks on their way to Area 51

During our brief visit last month, we met people who had driven to the restaurant from Virginia, and visitors from Las Vegas and London. She estimates that they get a minimum of 200 visitors a day. The restaurant’s World Famous Alien burgers, Saucer burgers or Galaxy Wrap (low-carb) might be part of the appeal. The tourists said they wanted to see what the place was about before they went to Area 51.

She’s no stranger to UFO sightings.

“I’ve watched a craft do maneuvers, moving faster in either direction than any I’ve ever seen,” said Pat Travis-Laudenklos. “Can I prove it’s one of ours? No. I can’t.”

Watch out for low-flying vehicles traveling at warp speed

Watch out for low-flying vehicles traveling at warp speed

But another encounter late one night still leaves her shaken. Pat said that she and Joe saw “a beam of light shoot thru the back (steel) door. It illuminated the door jamb. I still get goose bumps when I talk about it.”

Still not convinced?

Order the restaurant’s “Beam Me Up Scotty beverage, which reportedly helps the staunchest skeptic see UFOs,” according to “Off the Beaten Path Nevada.”

As you leave this tiny town, you’d be well-advised to be careful on your drive – especially after sundown. You don’t want to run into any little greys, or risk a collision with a low-flying vehicle traveling at warp speed thru the night.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Area 51 – the alien interview with Bob Lazar and George Knapp and David Adair (Steven Williams, host)    

Video: Update on Area 51 Whistleblower Bob Lazar – interview by KLAS-TV investigative reporter George Knapp – http://www.openminds.tv/update-on-area-51-whistleblower-bob-lazar-1064/

Video: UFO – Sightings UFO Report with Tim White – George Knapp, investigative reporter, and Area 51 whistleblower Bob Lazar   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4s6kQuoLqM

KLAS-TV – Area 51: UFOs (May 7, 2005) – George Knapp, investigative reporter on  Area 51, photos and comments about Little A’Le’Inn http://www.8newsnow.com/story/3313227/area-51-ufos?clienttype=printable

An Update on Bob Lazar by George Knapp (and an interview at the A’Le’Inn – on Above Top Secret’s website http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread192047/pg1

Photo: Warning sign in Area 51 Groom Road gate – Author: Tim1337, taken 6-9-09 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/61/Area51_gate.JPG/640px-Area51_gate.JPG

The Streets of Paris (Part 1)

By Judy Berman

Pastries, baguettes, quiche ... oh my!

Pastries, baguettes, quiche … oh my!

We were looking for that Goldilocks’ travel experience – where everything is “just right,” and you don’t wind up in a stranger’s bed.

On our first night in Paris, however, we came uncomfortably close to the latter. Or so a hotel guest thought when he heard us try to unlock our hotel door, which was next to his. He kept saying: “You have the wrong door.”

The confusion was quickly resolved … but, poor guy! I think my husband and I woke him up.

Hotel des Grand Ecoles, Paris

Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, Paris

The next morning, we were ready to do some leche-vitrines (“lick the windows” or “window shop”). We’d bid the merchants “Bonjour” (Good Day) – although, they often were the first to greet us warmly and wish us the same as we entered their shops.

Our French is minimal, but any language barrier we encountered was easily overcome by a little patience. Also, many Parisians we met spoke English as well as French. (At Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, where we stayed, their staff is fluent in six languages.)

Breakfast and lunch was easy, tasty – and inexpensive. We just went to La Parisienne. It is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside) down the street. “Café” (coffee) is understood in many languages, and the display case made it easy to point to what we wanted. The problem was we wanted it all – croque monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese, with the cheese outside the bread), quiche, baguette and pain du chocolat (a lighter-than-air croissant with chocolate).

Our dining experiences in the City of Lights have ruined me for all other food – forever. I swear!

It can be a challenge to please the palates of eight people. But our daughters, sons-in-law, and our two grandchildren were each delighted with the menu choices, prices, presentation and service where we ate.

Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) - We all did.

Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) – We all did.

We’d no sooner stop swooning over Le Volcan restaurant’s excellent blend of flavors in its Boeuf Bourguignon than we’d be wowed by our next meal at Bistrot l’Epoque. My chicken with carmelized onions and apples was delicious, but I couldn’t wait to try their crème brûlée. The rich custard with its carmelized top was decadently creamy. These were just two of the many excellent restaurants right near our hotel.

That look says it all - dessert was excellent!

That look says it all – dessert was excellent!

After all that scrumptious food, you’d think we’d be ready for a weight-loss program. Parisians have one built right in. It’s called walking, and we did a lot of that. We hoofed it to and from the Metro or just meandered to sites around the city. For miles. Every day.

And, at night, we had an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) from the front of the Pantheon near our hotel. Our six-day stay went by too fast.

Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night

Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night

“A bientôt,” Paris, which means “see you soon”..  (I hope.)

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon

(Coming June 29, Part 2, a photo essay)

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Main photo: La Parisienne – is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside, there are no premade goods). It is where we got many of our breakfasts, lunches and wonderful desserts

Photo: Hotel des Grandes Ecoles

Photo: Dinner at Bistrot l’Epoque. Every place we ate at was just excellent

Photo: Connor over the moon about dessert at Bistrot l’Epoque

Photo: Danielle and Connor viewing the Eiffel Tower

Photo: View of Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon, near our hotel

Video: Patricia Kaas – Les Moulins de Mon Coeur (The Windmills of Your Mind) – lyrics in French and in English – song is from the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair.”  

Another Time, Another Place

After midnight, Paris is magic.

After midnight, Paris is magic.

By Judy Berman

What if you could step back in time in an exotic location?

One year, while vacationing in Paris, my husband and I traipsed along the streets late at night in a misty rain. As we did, I wondered what if … what if we lived here. How would our lives change?

It was a romantic notion. Our French was minimal. But, I rationalized that could be overcome by immersing ourselves in the culture and language.

That idealism glossed over that our family would be living on the other side of the pond and the outlook for a job – with our having limited French-speaking skills – would be bleak.

What would you do?

Suppose, it’s late at night. You’re out alone on the streets of Paris. An older model car slows to a stop near you. The passengers look like they’re headed to a party. They’re dressed in 1920s clothing and beckon you to join them. On an impulse, you jump in.

What happens next? You go to a tavern and meet the creative talents of another era. It’s magical and it all seems so real.

The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.

The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.

That’s the premise of the Woody Allen film, “Midnight in Paris.” (2011) Owen Wilson (as Gil) is a successful Hollywood writer. He wants to move to Paris and leave his lucrative career behind to write a book about a man in a nostalgia shop.

His fiancé, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) dismisses his dream. She loves the idea of marrying a Hollywood writer and wants to live in Malibu.

This is not the only area where the two clash. When Gil takes long walks in the City of Lights, it’s not just creative inspiration he’s searching for. But he doesn’t realize that at first.

The ride takes him back in time to the 1920s which he views as the golden age when several ex-pats were living in Paris. At the party, he meets Corey Stoll (as author Ernest Hemingway), Kathy Bates (as Gertrude Stein), Tom Hiddleston (as F. Scott Fitzgerald), and Alison Pill (as Zelda Fitzgerald).

Gil idolizes Hemingway and is thrilled when the literary great says he’ll show the book to Gertrude Stein. Gil dashes back to his hotel to retrieve his manuscript. But when he returns, the tavern where he met Hemingway and his new friends are gone. Without explanation, Gil is back in the present.

For several nights, Gil continues his time travel. As he does he begins to fall in love with a woman from the 1920s. But, just as Gil feels torn about the path to take, so does the young woman. He toys with the idea of staying. When he discovers that Inez is cheating on him, it appears fate is clearing the way for him to justify returning to the past.

Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral

Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral

What would you do? It’s tempting to think that life would be better in another time, another place. Or, would you decide that despite life’s bumps and bruises that the here and now is really the best place of all?

If you’d like to explore that premise, check out Ronnie Hammer’s blog. She writes about her book club’s discussion of “Dreaming in French” by Alice Kaplan. Her book describes three young women in the 1950s and 60s – Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis – who spent part of their youth in Paris. Here is the link:  http://morristownmemos.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/book-club-meeting/

Video Movie Clip: “Midnight in Paris,” with Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Corey Stoll and Kathy Bates.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atLg2wQQxvU

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Midnight in Paris. Photo taken by McKay Savage from London, UK http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Midnight_in_Paris_%286287019647%29.jpg

Photo: Eiffel Tower – Paris photo taken by Poco a poco on Feb. 14, 2010  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Eiffel-Tower_Paris_Feb2010.jpg/640px-Eiffel-Tower_Paris_Feb2010.jpg

Photo: Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo taken by Jebulon on April 2, 2011 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/15/Bateau-Mouche_Notre-Dame.jpg/603px-Bateau-Mouche_Notre-Dame.jpg

Strangers on a Train

The Alaska Railroad bound for Whittier, Alaska.

The Alaska Railroad bringing a load of tourists into Whittier, Alaska.

By Judy Berman

Like the back lot of a run-down movie set, small towns appear and then vanish as our Montreal-bound train rumbles thru.

Unable to concentrate on my book, I turn my attention to the chatty, little man who sits in front of us. He peppers the conductor with questions about how close we are to the border and what papers he’ll need to cross it.

This train ride happened years ago. Fragments of that trip tumble over and over in my head. I recall that “Chatty” grew quiet as our train pulled into the last stop in northern New York before the Canadian border.

A woman, drenched from the rain, clambers aboard as she juggles several pieces of luggage.

“Where can I get a soda?” she asks.

“Chatty” leaps to his feet and eagerly gives her directions. She drops her duffel bag in an empty seat across the aisle from him.

Odd. The club car is the next one up. Something the conductor barks out when passengers board the train.

About 15 minutes later, she returns. The woman’s formerly tousled hair is now pulled back into a tidy French twist. Her rumpled, drenched duds have been replaced.

When U.S. Customs officials board, they quiz the woman about her change of clothing, and where she is headed. She explains that her clothes were sopping wet from the rain, and that she is on her way to visit a friend in Montreal.

“What is her name?”

Now her memory is sketchy. She can’t recall. Nor does she know her friend’s address or phone number. Customs officials quickly lose their patience with her ever-changing story. “Chatty” appears nervous and looks the other way as she’s escorted off the train.

Intriguing. What happens when strangers meet on a train? When their lives intersect? Hitchcock played on that dynamic in his movies, “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and “The Lady Vanishes” (1938).

Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951)

Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger) and Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker) in the dining car in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 “Strangers on a Train.”

Take “Strangers on a Train.” That’s where Robert Walker (as Bruno Anthony) first meets Farley Granger (as Guy Haines). Walker, a psychopath, learns that Granger wants to divorce his cheating wife and marry his girlfriend. Walker, who wants his father killed, suggests swapping murders. Granger thinks Walker is joking until Granger’s wife turns up dead.

Events are even more sinister in “The Lady Vanishes.”  An elderly lady, Miss Froy (played by Dame May Whitty), turns up missing on a train. She’d worked abroad for years as a governess. Now she’s gone and everyone denies that she even boarded the train. Margaret Lockwood (as Iris Henderson), a young socialite, aims to get to the bottom of the lies. She and Michael Redgrave (as Gilbert) rescue Miss Froy, who turns out to be an undercover agent.

As a Hitchcock fan, my suspicions grow about this drama that’s unfolding before us. Officials continue to weave their way down the narrow aisle, mechanically checking papers.

After they pass, I pretend to be engrossed in my book. But I see “Chatty’s” eyes dart around the compartment before he scoops up the bag she left behind on the empty seat. He places it next to him and smiles as the train pulls out of the station.

Curious. Was she a decoy?

Was there something sinister going on? Or had this long train ride kicked our imaginations into overdrive?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo: The Alaska Railroad bringing a load of tourists into Whittier, Alaska. Taken July 2008 by Frank Kovalchek. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Alaska_Railroad_bringing_a_load_of_tourists_into_Whittier,_Alaska.jpg

Photo: from the movie “Strangers on a Train,” Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger) and Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker) in the dining car in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 “Strangers on a Train” (trailer). http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Strangers_on_a_Train_-_In_the_dining_car.png

Video clip: “Strangers on a Train” (1951)   

Video clip: “The Lady Vanishes” (1938)  

Vegas views – beyond The Strip

By Judy Berman

Casinos, gambling, the shows, the night life. That’s what many think of when they first hear “Las Vegas.” But on The Strip and off, there are many delightful surprises.

On our recent mini-vacation to Vegas, we visited Bellagio. The Fountains provide a light show of water and music. A mesmerizing attraction found along Las Vegas Boulevard. But it’s not the only beautiful site here.

To escape the desert heat, we walked thru blocks of gaming tables and stores to view  the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. http://www.bellagio.com/attractions/

The art gallery will feature Claude Monet: Impressions of Light through Jan. 6, 2013. It showcases 20 works by Monet and eight other canvases by Impressionists such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Camille Pissarro and Eugene Louis Boudin.

A carousel, egrets, a blue and white sailboat, and soaring balloons bring back memories of a carefree summer at the seashore in the Northeast. They are featured in the Summer Garden display of flowers and plants, part of Bellagio’s Conservatory that opened May 21st and will end on Sept. 8th.

Get off The Strip and check out the sites outside Vegas as well. One morning, we had breakfast at Mt. Charleston Lodge which is 7,717 feet above sea level. It’s about 50 miles outside of Vegas at the end of Highway 157. http://mtcharlestonlodge.com/#/mtcharlestonlodge/

From the restaurant’s deck, we breathed in the fresh mountain air and enjoyed temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than in the city. The restaurant was overshadowed by mountaintops. It was surrounded by views of juniper, pine trees, aspen and rustic log cabins. (Photo on left: Mt. Charleston)

Had we been in the mood for a walk, there were 50 miles of marked trails. Tempting, but we decided to linger over breakfast and enjoy the view. (Photo: I’m with my brother, Hank Fiet, at Mt. Charleston)

If it’s desert areas you are hankering for, Dry Lake in Clark County off Interstate 15 might quench that thirst. At a distance, it does look like there’s a lake up ahead. But there was no water on that terrain the day we visited.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_lake

The Dry Lake, at 2,096-feet elevation, is about 20 miles outside of Vegas. It’s where my Dad used to walk his dogs in the predawn hours before the sun was blazing and scorching every living thing in its path. (Photo below of Dry Lake)

Sometimes, it’s when you go off the beaten path that you make the richest discoveries. That’s what we found in Vegas.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Main photo: Dave Berman and I at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Las Vegas