weblog - 2004
Dec 31, Lake Tahoe
The snow continues to fall. It is hard to believe that there was no snow on the ground when we arrived. As you can see from the picture on the left, cars were completely covered with snow and digging them out was a real project. The Canadian geese have made their annual visit and can be seen resting in the soft snow.
Dec 30, Lake Tahoe
The snow has arrived with a vengeance. We've had a foot or two accumulation so far, with another three feet or more forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Mark, Margaret, and Johnny have had two days of skiing, while the rest of us have played in the snow around the condo, and have had a few forays to the local casinos.
Dec 25, Reno
It was 28 deg in Houston when we left, and a relatively balmy 38 deg in Reno when we arrived. There is no snow on the ground, but the forecast is for plenty next week at Lake Tahoe where the clan is gathering for the annual winter family vacation.
Dec 24, Houston
Christmas Eve in Houston and it's snowing. It snows here about once every ten years, but there is no record of snow here on this date ever.
Dec 18, Houston
Andy came down for the weekend. The three of us went to Reliant Center and were volunteers in a project to assemble 25,000 bikes for needy kids in Houston. After a brief training session we went to work and fully assembled bikes for a couple of hours. The sponsoring group is called Elves and More. They did a terrific job of organizing this worthwhile and rewarding project.
Dec 14, Houston
New York was great, but it is good to be back in Houston. Pat has the apartment in holiday mode. She hosted her annual Christmas bridge luncheon which as always was a great success.
Dec 9, New York
Foul weather has returned. It's enough to get you depressed. To make matters worse, we saw the play 'night, Mother with Edie Falco and Brenda Blethyn. This would make you depressed even if you had just won the lottery. We'll have a quick visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow, and then head for home in the afternoon.
Dec 8, New York
Sunshine! We went to see the renovated Museum of Modern Art. Fabulous building and exhibit. Taking full advantage of the break in the weather, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. On the Brooklyn side, we wandered down to the River Cafe for an elegant lunch. The Maitre d' looked askance at our attire as all the other diners were well-dressed and had their drivers waiting outside. We may have been the first River Cafe guests to board a city bus immediately after leaving the restaurant. In the evening we took in the Met's production of Aida. It was spectacular.
Dec 7, New York
Lew's college roommate, Jerry Schnee, drove in from N.J. for breakfast and a nice visit. The weather got colder and wetter. Getting full value from new umbrella. We persevered. More window shopping followed by a tour of CNN. At night we saw a revival of Wonderful Town with Brooke Shields. Who knew she could act sing, act, and dance?
Dec 6, New York
It was cold and rainy so we bought an umbrella from a street vendor for $3. That enabled us to window-shop on 5th Ave. and go to the Guggenheim Museum to see the Aztec exhibit without contracting pneumonia . We walked back from 89th to 46th stopping at the Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel for a drink. Prices here are out of control. A bottle of beer is $14, with a $20 per person minimum. Fuggetaboutit. We snuck out.
Dec 5, New York
Our initial "superior" room at the Paramount Hotel was 100 square feet, including bathroom and closet. We upgraded. Met up with Joel and Sandi Jaffe, friends from Houston, and saw August Wilson's latest play, Gem of the Ocean. Great acting, but story is a little arcane. Nice dinner at the Blue Fin.
Dec 4, Houston
This was culture week. On Monday we heard the Houston Symphony featuring guest violinist Leila Josefowicz. On Friday we had great seats for a concert given by Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax. They played an all Beethoven program and were dazzling. Continuing in the same vein, we are off to the Big Apple for a week of plays and opera.
Nov 26, Austin
Off to Austin for Dick and Jann Brown's house for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Excellent food and lot's of kids having a good time. One of the kids looked a lot like Andy.
Nov 15, The Valley
Ross and Kelly sent this picture of the street in front of their house. I thought maybe they had moved to New England, but they insist this is southern California.
Nov 11, Barrington
Congratulations to Monica for landing a great job with Johnson Controls. She and Mike will be moving to Milwaukee before the end of the year. With the Bears and Bulls playing so badly, and the Blackhawks not even playing, this was an easy decision for Mike. Good luck in Wisconsin!
Oct 28, Killeen
It was Family Day at Fort Hood, and we all got to see Mark and his tank crew destroy some targets on the range. It was an impressive display of force. The tanks are brand new and the most powerful in the world. The flash of fire and noise when the big gun fired scared all the kids. A passing rain storm turned the field into a quagmire. Just up Katie's alley.
Oct 13, Houston
Got chocolate? Got sand? Johnny and Katie enjoyed the eats at Johnny's fifth birthday party. The scene of the action was Mark and Margaret's back yard in Killeen, but the pictures recently arrived in Houston. Click HERE to see more.
Oct 7, Houston
We were happy to welcome Peter and Lesley Giles, good friends from our Australia days, to Houston. Peter has retired from BHP and now owns a vineyard in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney. Pat reassembled the Australian women's group for a luncheon in Lesley's honor.
Sep 30, Killeen
Time marches on. Johnny lost his first baby tooth and was handsomely rewarded by the Tooth Fairy.
Sep 25, Honolulu
We went to Waikiki beach to see the AVP Beach Volleyball championship. We got to see America's gold and bronze medal winners from the Athens Olympics. Good fun.
Sep 22, Honolulu
Nothing is more romantic than sunset dinner at the Outrigger Canoe Club. We were the guests of June Anderson, who somehow managed to secure the club's finest seaside table.
Sep 15, Honolulu
Ross and Kelly had a big time in Hawaii. Click HERE to see an interesting collage of photos taken by Ross.
Sep 12, Honolulu
One day late, we celebrated Pat's birthday with Kelly and Ross in Waikiki. We had dinner at a new restaurant called Tiki's Bar and Grill. The food was good and eclectic. We all tried the Kalua Pork Quesadilla appetizers - only in Hawaii. The restaurant presented Pat with a birthday brownie - onolicious!
Sep 1, Houston
It's been nearly three weeks since the major plumbing repair work has been completed, and all systems are go. Normal activities are resuming.
Aug 18, Houston
Sorry for the absence but I've been working on a big plumbing job. Everything has been repaired and returned to service and no leaks or blockages have been observed. Maintenance is important when the pipes start to get old and the filters start to accumulate some junk.
Aug 7, Houston
According to last night's weather report, a cold front was due to hit Houston today. Everything is relative. The high temperature today was a relatively cool 93 deg.
July 20, Blowing Rock, NC
After a long hypnotizing ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway we found ourselves in Blowing Rock. Along the way we stopped at Mt. Mitchell. At almost 7,000 feet, it is the highest point east of the Rockies. When Pat was growing up in Baton Rouge, her father made an annual pilgrimage to Blowing Rock to golf with his cronies. We visited the beautiful country club where he played. The eponymous Rock has been commercialized and is not very impressive. We found excellent accommodations at the Chetola Lodge.
July 20, Asheville, NC
On the way to Asheville we stopped to see Cassandra Manley, a friend from Houston, at her summer home in Cashiers. This was another gravel road adventure, but by this time we were prepared. We then headed off to Brevard to meet Pat's cousin Blair whom she had not seen since she was five years old. After lunch and a guided tour of Brevard, we drove to Asheville for a night at the Grove Park Inn, one of the finest resort hotels in the country.
July 19, Highlands, NC
This is a beautiful part of the U.S. somewhat off the beaten path. We are here to visit Ann and Dick Goodsell. Ann was a sorority sister of Pat's at the University of Alabama. Finding their house was an adventure as it is located some two miles up an unmarked dirt road. We were greeted with a pitcher of Clamato juice Bloody Mary's which got things off to a good start. The scenery is spectacular and the temperature about 25 degrees lower than Houston.
July 15, Greenville, SC
This is our first visit to upcountry South Carolina. We are favorably impressed. The air is clean, the temperature cool, and the people are very nice. Like much of the southeast, the area is being overtaken by kudzu, a fast growing weed which covers everything, giving a countryside a fairytale topiary look.
July 4, Killeen
We're back in the USA. Just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July with Andy and Mark, Margaret and family at Fort Hood's FunFest 2004. There were rides for the kids, inspiring band music, and a half hour fireworks display that seemed longer.
June 24, Falmouth, Cornwall
We had just enough time to visit Lizard Point, the southernmost point in England. The weather is so mild here that they grow bananas. A change in departure time for a lot of passengers caused us to leave the port three hours early. Would have liked to visit Land's End, but there wasn't enough time.
June 23, Holyhead, Wales
The weather was so bad, the captain would not risk a tender operation. On to Cornwall.
June 23, Waterford, Ireland
This is a very interesting historic city. Reginald's Tower in the center of town is 1,000 years old. At the 700 year old Jerpoint Abbey, a guide told us about some little known ruins nearby. Our taxi driver was stumped, but the guide gave him a hand drawn map to the site. It was fascinating.
June 22, Dublin, Ireland
After visiting Trinity College and a mandatory look at The Book of Kells, we strolled along the River Liffey, and found a pub in Temple Bar which served beef stew prepared with Guinness. Delicious. We were inspired to walk to the Guiness factory to see how they made the dark brew.
June 20, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
Another cold and windy place. Not far from Kirkwall is Skara Brae, a 5,000 year old ruin discovered a little over 100 years ago. People lived here for 500 years then disappeared. They either died out or decided to move away, nobody knows for sure. The Ring of Brogar and the Stones of Stenness are Orkney's Stonehenge.
June 19, Lerwick, Shetland Islands
The local residents are a hardy lot. The wind always blows and it is cold. These people were walking around in short sleeve shirts eating ice cream while the temperature is in the mid-forties. We went to the south end of the island to see a colony of puffins. Along the way we encountered a few Shetland ponies. The landscape is a beautiful green, but the island contains not a single tree.
June 18, Invergordon
Invergordon has even less to see than Peterhead. A representative of the Tourist Bureau came on board to answer questions. The most frequent question was where to catch the bus out of town. We jump on a bus to Inverness and hire a driver to take us to Loch Ness and the Urquart castle. The monster didn't show up so we returned to Inverness and caught a bus back to the ship.
June 17, Peterhead
Our tour director is Mr. Malaprop. He keeps referring to this place as Peterburg, or St. Peterhead, or St. Petersburg. Earlier he had announced a Latin Dancing class, but instead called it Lap Dancing class. There is nothing to see or do in Peterhead, so we take a bus to Aberdeen and ride out to see some castles.
June 16, Leith, Scotland
The first two days aboard Oceania's refitted Insignia were great. Cabins and food are very nice. The first problem we encountered was at this port city near Edinburgh, where the cruise company failed to provide transportation to the city. We wandered aimlessly for a while and finally found a city bus. Having been here less than a year ago we were able to find a 300-terminal internet cafe and a good spot for a lunch of haggis.
June 13, London
Met up with Jane and Barry Adams, friends from our Brazil days. They gave us a great tour of the city. We followed up by meeting Nancy and Packy Maxwell and took a ride on the London Eye, the giant millennium wheel, and took in a play.
June 11, Houston
We are off to England to start our trip around the British Isles. The trip has an inauspicious beginning as we attempt to check in at the airport and find that the Continental agent had sent us to the wrong gate. It would not have been a good day to enter the lottery as both Lew and his luggage were selected for an extra security check.
June 3, Rockport, TX
The Gulf Coast was the scene of the Levy/Solomons summer rendezvous. We rented a house on Key Allegro, an island development in which every house is on a canal. We were able to swim, fish, and trap crabs from the back deck. The weather was warm, but there was always a breeze so it was very pleasant. Large, exotic birds stopped to visit, adding another dimension to our stay.
May 28, Savannah, GA
Lew's college fraternity, Phi Sigma Delta, held the biannual reunion at The Landings, near Savannah. Once again the wives had to endure the same stories and jokes that they have heard every two years for the last ten. The Landings is on Skidaway Island. The developers did a very good job of keeping the environment intact. Like Pinehurst, this is a great place to live for serious golfers, but otherwise pretty quiet.
May 27, Pinehurst, NC
We have heard so much about this place over the years that we took a side trip on the way to Savannah. It is very beautiful here and would be a good place to live if you played golf seven days a week. Otherwise there doesn't seem to be much to see or do. Like the painted cows in Chicago, Pinehurst had a show of decorated dogs. Some of them were very cute.
May 23, Raleigh, NC
Is there anything more frightening than waking up with a killer toothache in a town where you don't know a dentist. Fortunately the hotel telephone operator knew a good one. Three hours and a root canal later all is well again.
May 13, Killeen
Mark was awarded the Purple Heart to go along with the Bronze Star bravery award he got last week. His arm has recovered to the point that he can play a round of golf. He is now enjoying a well-deserved month's vacation.
May 9, Salada, TX
We drove over to Killeen for Mother's Day, saddled up with the Solomons Clan, and rode on down to the Stage Coach Inn in Salada for brunch. A good time was had by all.
April 26, Los Angeles
Just another day at the office for Kelly and Ross. No cubicles or Dilberts here in Laurel Canyon Park, the operations center for Kelly's Pet Care. We got tired just watching Kelly and Ross put their twenty-three dogs through their paces.
April 23, Cabo San Lucas
The big one didnít get away. Lew snagged a dorado (mahi-mahi) that was five feet long and weighed almost 80 pounds, boating the beast after a 25 minute battle. Pat took a tour of the harbor on a catamaran. Cabo has had amazing development in the twenty years since the last visit. Definitely worth a return trip.
April 21, Acapulco
After hearing about Acapulco for years, the place was a real disappointment. The out-of-town resorts are probably quite nice, but the city itself is dirty, noisy, overcrowded, with traffic in a constant state of gridlock. The cliff divers are impressive, thatís about it.
April 20, Huatulco, Mexico
The Mexican government is trying to create a new Cancun on the west coast. So far, there are beautiful new hotels and idyllic beaches, but there isnít much else to do. Wait a few years before visiting this place.
April 18, Puerta Caldera, Costa Rica
Having docked in the middle of nowhere, we took our only organized tours of the trip. We saw enough of Costa Rica to realize that we need to return. The people are nice, the weather is agreeable, and the scenery and wildlife are spectacular. Eco-tourism is the countryís leading cash generator, so tourists are well cared for. We walked on a bridge over the Tarcoles River to view the resident crocodiles. We also hiked through a forest where our guide pointed out a white bat.
April 16, Panama Canal
Our ship had priority so we traversed the canal in about 6 hours. The operation is quite interesting to see. The first set of locks lifts the ship to an artificial lake, and the next two sets returns the ship to sea level in the Pacific Ocean. The operation is essentially unchanged from the day it opened almost 100 years ago.
April 14, Aruba
There are 120,000 people on Aruba and at least that many iguanas. They are everywhere, including poolside at the posh Marriott hotel. The beaches are very nice here, but there is little else to recommend. The primary tourist attraction is a natural bridge which is less than awe-inspiring.
April 12, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
This island is owned by the cruise line and exists solely for the purpose of generating revenue. This is nothing here save for some scrub bushes and a souvenir shop. On the plus side, the water is so clear and the sand so clean and white that a barefoot walk on the beach is very pleasant.
April 11, Fort Lauderdale
We boarded the Holland-America Oosterdam for a cruise through the Panama Canal. The vessel is less than a year old and beautifully appointed, although the cabins are, shall we say Ė compact. If the first night is any indication the food is going to be very good.
April 9, Margate, FL
Mother Kay has moved to the VIP Care Pavilion in Margate. Her address and phone number can be found in How to find us. She has good days and bad days, but on the whole she seems to be adjusting well to her new surroundings.
April 7, Houston
One for the road. Baseball season is underway, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are starting, the basketball playoffs are coming and we are heading for the Panama Canal. This is an example of poor planning. The next blog update won't be until the end of April, but come back then to see pictures of our trip.
March 29, Killeen
We arrived home from Reno on Saturday afternoon, went to a wedding Saturday night, then headed off to Killeen to see the grandchildren. Mark is trying to get Johnny started early in golf, hoping that success on the Tour will allow him to take early retirement. Katie is learning how to get out of a sand trap. As you can see, Mark is now able to swing a golf club himself. He is making an amazing recovery.
March 25, Reno
Playing at the American Contract Bridge League North American Championships, Pat and her partner Jolie Hess were leading the field after the first quarter of the National Womens Pairs championship. Although they faded a bit, Pat and her partner were among the top finishers in the two day event.
March 21, Houston
The University of Hawaii Rainbows baseball team was in town to take on the defending NCAA champion Rice Owls. With about four other 'Bows fans, we cheered the visitors on to an unlikely victory.
March 17, Houston
Pat hosted her first annual St. Pat's Day luncheon. Eleven of her friends came decked out in various shades of green.
March 14, Rockport
This little fishing village is only a three hour drive from Houston. The weather is bad so our movements are somewhat restricted, but it is definitely a place to which we would like to return. The bridge was OK, but we didn't cover ourselves with glory.
March 7, Houston
Our third trip to the new Toyota Center was a good one. First we were with a group that had brunch with the president of the Rockets and that was followed by the Rockets winning a close game against the Dallas Mavericks.
March 4, Houston
We just finished a week of bridge at our annual Regional Tournament. The hotel gave us an unpleasant surprise by starting a major renovation program the week before everyone arrived. Lew spent more time solving crises than playing bridge. We are going to make up for the lost games by driving to a sectional in a place called Rockport next weekend.
February 21, Barrington
Monica and Mike's dog Willie now has his own website. The site has a live webcast feature so let's hope that he doesn't forget his obedience school lessons. You can visit Willie at http://home.earthlink.net/~monicalevy/
February 8, Killeen
We visited with Mark, Margaret, and family at their home in Harker Heights, outside of Killeen. Andy also stopped by. Mark's arm is looking very good, and he is back at work. Johnny is practicing his Michael Jordan moves, while Katie has a new best friend who evidently speaks her language.
February 5, Houston
The Harvard Business School Club sponsored an outing to see the Houston Aeros hockey team take on the Utah Grizzlies. The home team won 2-1. After the game we got to meet the Aeros' Chris Bala, a recent Harvard grad trying to make it to the National Hockey League.
January 30, Houston
Habitat for Humanity is an organization in which volunteers build single family homes for people who otherwise could not afford to own their own homes. This year Habitat is building 38 homes in the week leading up to Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Harvard Business School Club of Houston is a sponsor, and Lew volunteered to help. The day was spent putting up siding, mostly from the top of a ladder. Hard work, but very rewarding.
January 28, Houston
In 2002, Gallery Furniture and Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mac, contributed $50,000 to the bridge league to support the Houston Nationals. Yours truly paid a visit to the store to present Mac with a certificate honoring him by naming an event in his honor at the upcoming Regional tournament.
January 24, Houston
Just discovered that there are 10,861 restaurants in Houston. Eating in a different restaurant every day, three meals a day, it would take 9 years and 11 months to try them all. That's a lot of tacos.
January 15, Houston
We made our first pilgrimage to the new Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets and Aeros. Houston now has new facilities for all its major sports franchises. We were treated to the Rockets' finest performance of the year, humbling the first place Minnesota T-Wolves. As you can see from the scoreboard, the Rockets held their opponents to a mere 16 points with less than three minutes to go in the first half. Chinese giant Yao Ming was impressive.
January 4, Lake Tahoe
Getaway day. The clouds all leave and we are treated to a gorgeous sunrise over the lake. It would be hard to find a more beautiful spot on earth than the north end of Lake Tahoe.
January 2, Lake Tahoe
A short break in the weather allows Mama Margaret, Aunt Monica and Uncle Andy to take Johnny to his first ski lesson at Diamond Peak. He had a few falls but got up and kept going. Fortunately, all of the adult skiers returned home without any broken bones.
January 1, Lake Tahoe
Snow, snow, then more snow. All roads in and out of Tahoe have been closed by the highway patrol. Too bad - we were all forced to watch football all day. At night, a few adventurous souls trekked to the casino.