weblog - 2007
January 1, 2008, Lake Tahoe
did 2007 go? Acceleration of time must be a phenomenon of the aging
process. Today may be the most beautiful day in the history of Lake
Tahoe. Margaret and Mark got someone to take their picture at the top of
Diamond Peak. With the Lake Tahoe in the background, this photo looks like
a post card. Andy continues to ride down the slopes on a snowboard.
December 31, Lake Tahoe
another family tradition, everyone dons silly paper hats and drinks
champagne. Johnny decided to be a non-conformist and removed his hat
before posing for the family portrait. We have
had a series of spectacular sunsets this week and tonight was no exception.
December 30, Lake Tahoe
weather is perfect for skiing, gambling and watching football on TV. Of
course the weather is always perfect for gambling and watching football.
Margaret, Mark, Andy, and the grandchildren are hitting the slopes every
day. Katie has been promoted to Chinstrap Penguin while Johnny has been
promoted to Advance Intermediate. Click here
to see Katie winning an exciting downhill race:
December 28, Lake Tahoe
are gathered at the lake for our annual end-of-year family gathering.
Keeping up with inflation the stakes were raised in the card game
competitions. Defending Texas Hold'em champion Andy was roundly defeated
by Monica who had an amazing run of winning on the river card. Six players
entered the double elimination cribbage playoff. Andy came up through the
losers bracket to come away with the top prize.
December 17, Houston
went for a walk this morning . Unfortunately a short distance from the
condominium she tripped and fell. Instead of using her hands to break the
fall she used her jaw. She is giving new meaning to the phrase "take
it on the chin". There is always a bright side. Many of Pat's
friends have commented how well purple complements her natural skin tone.
I think she will be in the market for a new wardrobe next year.
November 21, Houston
back after a great visit to Africa. Our original plan was to spend a
couple of days in Frankfurt to break up the trip home, but Pat was feeling well
and the prospect of spending two days in freezing Frankfurt was not appealing.
In a few days the trip photos will available on this website. The theory
of digital photography is take take a lot of shots and throw most of them
away. Easier said than done. I have about 600 photos to sort through
and my goal is to bring the total down to about 100. The leopard on the
left is a teaser. We were so close that Pat was afraid it was going to
jump in her lap.
November 3, Houston
We are getting ready to leave tomorrow on a
trip to Southern Africa by way of Frankfurt, Germany. We will be spending
a few days in Cape Town and Johannesburg before heading off to Botswana where we
will be staying in bush camps hoping to encounter exotic animals. You will
get a complete report soon after we return on Thanksgiving day.
October 6, Houston
Saturday night and the clan has gathered for a session of winner-take-all Texas
Hold 'em. Mark, Margaret, Johnny, and Katie came from Harker Heights, Andy
from Plano, and Robyn and Will from Jersey Village. Pat and your reporter
were the other participants. Andy (Old Neverfold) started slowly as you
can see by the size of his stack (see picture on left). However there is a
suspicion that he recruited Johnny to give him a signal if anyone was bluffing
and he wound up with all the money (see picture on right).
September 27, Houston
Pat is coming home from a trip to the West
Coast tomorrow. Time to do the dishes and put down the toilet seats.
September 17, Houston
bimonthly Texas area bridge report came out and photogenic Pat's picture
appeared with her partner Jolie Hess after they won the Open Pairs event at the
July 4 Regional in San Antonio. Your reporter came in second but they only
take pictures of the winners.
September 17, Houston
It's been a little over a month since Pat's
surgery and she is doing remarkably well. She has returned to the bridge
wars and is once again winning with regularity. Although she is not able
to perform many of her usual household tasks, this recovery period has enabled
her to sharpen up her managerial skills.
September 3, Los Angeles
One of Kelly and Ross' clients is a soccer
player on the U.S. team competing for the World Cup in Shanghai. She posts
a blog and in the current edition gives a plug to Kelly's Pet Care. Click here
to see it.
August 12, Houston
had surgery yesterday to remove a nodule from her left lung. Although this
was a very serious operation, her lower left lobe was removed, the prognosis is
excellent according to her doctors, and her recovery is underway. She is
out of intensive care and ready to get back in the email circuit. Pat
appreciates the thoughts and prayers of her many friends and relatives.
August 10, Houston
just completed a very pleasant week in Lago Vista where we rented a house on
Lake Travis. Mark, Andy, Margaret, Johnny, and Katie stayed for the
week. Pat's brother Dick, son Patrick and wife Jann joined us for Saturday
night dinner. The house was great, the water warm, and the weather was
good. Mark and Andy dazzled everyone with a water-skiing exhibition.
We rented a boat for the skiing and for a tour of the north end of the
lake. The house came with a paddle boat, which was more our speed, but
very hard work. There was a neighborhood herd of deer which paid us a
daily visit. The deer were so tame that Katie and Johnny were able to hand
feed them. I think visiting with the deer was the kids' highlight of the
July 23, Houston
in town briefly after a quick trip to Akumal, a quaint little village on the
Mexican Riviera. This place is an oasis in an overdeveloped Yucatan
peninsula. We did a lot of snorkeling and ate in some very good local
restaurants. On our last day we witnessed an impressive waterspout from
the patio. Fortunately it did not make a landfall and turn into a tornado.
July 8, Houston
had a great time at a birthday party for a couple of friends at Blanco's, an
authentic Texas honky-tonk. There was shuffleboard, sawdust on the floor,
beer on tap and a dance band that looked and sounded a lot like Otis Day and the
Nights from Animal House. Well at least the lead singer looked like
Otis. The real name of the band was the Grateful Geezers and they were
very good despite being a little long in the tooth.
July 7, San Antonio
We're here for a Regional Bridge tournament
and a District Board meeting. It was a banner day for the Levy family as
Pat and her partner finished first overall in the Flight A Open Pairs and Lew
and his partner came in second.
June 23, Killeen
quick trip to see the grandchildren led us to the local Outback where we gorged
on bloomin' onions and other healthy fare. Mark and Margaret studied the
menu while Uncle Andy looked after his niece and nephew. Meanwhile back at
the ranch, Pat and her grandchildren played a variety of what we used to call
June 15, Greenville, SC
are in one of our favorite small cities in the US, Greenville, South Carolina,
for a bridge tournament. Greenville has a tree-lined Main Street with
great restaurants and shops, and a great downtown park at the Reedy River falls,
which is used by the people for picnics and just relaxing. It has a new
off-set walking suspension bridge and lots of grass, lawns and sculptures.
June 11, Houston
years are flying by. Pat and your blogger celebrated 24 years of marriage
with a nice dinner at Bice Restaurant in the Galeria. Food and drinks were
good, but the dessert was the highlight.
June 1, Valley Glen, CA
sad note - Ross and Kelly had to say goodbye to Buddy, their 13 year old
Malamute. The good thing was that he out-lived almost all others of his
breed. Buddy was a sweet dog who had an affinity for Pat. When we
visited, Buddy would not leaved her side.
May 5, Louisville
Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race, but it truly is the most exciting
two minutes in sports. We had seats near the starting line so saw
the horse come by twice. After more or less breaking even on the undercard
races, we had the winning exacta and trifecta tickets for the big race.
What a thrill. Queen Elizabeth was in attendance, but was not in our
section of the bleachers. We didn't see the Queen, but did see a lot of
very interesting hats. Other than Churchill Downs, the unique attraction
in this part of Kentucky is the Louisville Slugger bat factory. This is a
fun place where you can see the bats being made and also visit a hands-on museum
where, among other things you can take ten swings at a ball thrown by a pitching
machine at 40 mph. What would have been a weak grounder to the shortstop
was my best effort. It is hard to imagine even making contact with a ball
thrown more than twice as fast as the machine's pitches
May 2, St. Louis
were greeted by a driving rainstorm which made it almost impossible to
drive. We were booked into the downtown Hilton, a great old hotel restored
to its former glory, so we didn't mind eating in the hotel's restaurant and
avoiding the bad weather. No visit to St. Louis is complete without a
visit to the Gateway Arch, so despite the inclement weather we made our way to
the river and ascended the 602 feet to the top. The ride to the top is in
a five seat capsule which is suspended like a Ferris wheel to accommodate the
curvature of the structure. There are narrow windows at the top and you
can see Busch Stadium across the street. At night we went to BB's Jazz,
Blues, and Soups. Good beer, good music, but we didn't try the soup.
April 30, Kansas City
is the start of a week-long road trip through the Midwest with our friends the
Maxwell's. KC is one of America's best cities despite the lack of a major
league hockey franchise. It has great museums, friendly people and the
tastiest barbeque in the country. We went right from the airport to the
Nelson-Atkins Museum, where there is an outstang collection of oriental
art. A highlight was a visit to Ewing Kaufmann Stadium with fraternity
brother Mike Herman to see the KC Royals take on the Angels of Anaheim. We
had great seats and it was a beautiful night so thoroughly enjoyed the
experience. Another highlight was a visit to the steamship Arabia
museum. A group of local hobbyists discovered a cargo ship that sank over
a hundred years ago and had its cargo preserved by encapsulating mud. This
is a time capsule trip into the past. We also visited the Truman library
and museum in Independence.
April 21, Houston
Pat is off on another Girls Gone Wild adventure, this time with her sorority
sisters from the University of Alabama, Lew remains in Houston totally immersed
in hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs. French Polynesia redux! One of the
friends we made on the Paul Gauguin sent along this picture from the Marquesas.
The dock on one of the islands we visited was too small for the tenders so we
traveled by zodiac between ship and shore. When the winds picked up the
trip to the ship got exciting.
April 10, High Island
about 90 minutes southeast of Houston, High Island is one of the prime migratory
bird viewing sites in the country. Armed with binoculars and a camera with
telephoto lens, we spent several hours looking for and taking pictures of some
beautiful birds. This yellow bird posed for some good close in
shots. We have no idea what kind of bird this is. Some expert
birders found this falcon, a merlin, in a tree about a hundred yards away.
The telephoto lens was needed here. The pink bird with the odd beak is a
roseate spoonbill, while the six foot gator is waiting for a chick to fall out
of a nest.
April 8, Austin
Jann Brown once again exceeded her own high standards for Easter meals.
Extended family members from all over the state were undeterred by record low
temperatures and brought their kids to the Easter egg hunt. Johnny and
Katie were among the most successful hunter/gatherers. Brother Dick
entertained with his rendition of the Barry Manilow songbook on his new Steinway
March 31, Houston
two weeks we've gotten over our jet lag and settled into our normal routine
(planning the next trip). Today we went to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston
to see a magnificent exhibition of French paintings from 1800 - 1920. The
Metropolitan Museum of New York is undergoing a major renovation so has loaned
over 130 of its most well-known paintings from this period to our local museum
for a limited time. The collection includes Renoir, Monet, Seurat, Manet,
Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. We even saw two original works by Gauguin which is
two more than we saw in French Polynesia.
March 25, Honolulu
New York Times ran a story about Senator Barak Obama's fifth grade class at
Punahou. The class picture shows Obama in the back row and Mark Solomons
in the front. Mark looks pretty much the same today except his hair is
shorter. The Senator has slimmed down. Note the lack of footwear.
March 15, Moorea
a good thing that Moorea is the last stop on our itinerary. Had it been
first, everything else would have suffered by comparison. The island has
beautiful mountain scenery, lots of flowers, clear water and friendly
people. In the morning we did an underwater walk with diving helmets where
we encountered sting rays and a variety of colorful fish, then we rented a car
and drove around the island in the afternoon. Gasoline was going for about
$7.00 per gallon so driving a small car is a good idea here.
March 15, Taha'a
two sea days we have returned to the Society Islands. There were a few
excursions on Taha'a proper, but we opted to go directly to the motu, a private
beach on a small island where the cruise lines holds a barbeque. The water
is warm and clear, making it a spectacular snorkeling site. Liquid
refreshments are available from a wading bartender. Poisson cru, a local delicacy
made with raw tuna, and hamburgers were the featured lunch items.
March 12, Nuku Hiva
The largest island in the Marquesas, in size
and population, Nuku Hiva has been the scene of two culturally significant
events. Herman Melville was captured here by cannibals, but escaped to
write about his experience in his book Typee (we visited the Taipivai valley where the
book takes place). The other cultural event was the filming of Survivor IV
by CBS. We were told that the contestants were taken off the site
every night to prevent them from being attacked by sand flies.
March 11, Ua Huka
There are more goats than people
on Ua Huka and more wild horses than goats. We signed up for a tour of the
island as part of a caravan of four wheel drive vehicles. Unfortunately
there was no tour leader and the drivers kept stopping an craft markets.
The tour company gave everyone a full refund, but honestly there wasn't much to
see here beyond the wild horses.
March 10, Hiva Oa
Gauguin was this island's most famous
resident. He came here on his second trip to French Polynesia and
never left. He died here in 1903. There is a well-known play named
"Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris". Not
true. He is in Hiva Oa and is buried near Gauguin. We visited an
ancient ceremonial site where cannibalism was practiced well into the 20th
century. French restaurant here took on a new meaning. The site
features a well-preserved tiki.
March 9, Fatu Hiva
This is our first day in the Marquesas.
The seas were quite rough so we were not able to go ashore until late in the
morning, but it was worth the wait. This must be one of the most beautiful
spots on earth. Steep mountains plunge into the ocean, similar to the
north coast of Kauai but even more dramatic. The Bay of Virgins features a
rock formation that looks like a large woman. There are two villages on
this island with about 250 residents each. My guess is that there are no
psychiatrists on the island.
March 7, at sea
We are en route from Rangiroa to the
Marquesas. A word about the cruise ship is in order. Regent Cruise
lines has made this an open bar trip. First class wines, beer and liquor
is available 24 hours per day at no charge. Needless to say the passengers
are in a semi-euphoric state most of the time. The ship itself is about
ten years old but looks like it is on its maiden voyage. There are almost
as many crew members as guests so service is luxurious. The food is the best we
have ever experienced. With very limited opportunities for provisioning,
it is nothing short of a miracle that they produce a variety of quality meals
three times a day. If you're thinking that it has something to do with the
flow of liquid refreshments, how do you explain breakfast?
Rangiroa lies about 200 miles north of Bora Bora. This is
in the Tuamoto Island group, one of the lesser known regions of French
Polynesia. The water is warm and crystal clear in this atoll, the world's
second largest. Snorkeling here is like swimming in an aquarium. We
went on a glass-bottom boat, but got a little bored and jumped in with our
snorkeling gear. The area is full of white-tipped and black-tipped
sharks. It's a little unnerving to have these guys swim right up to you,
but we took the guide's word that they are harmless and they were right.
Unless you are a keen diver, Rangiroa is not the place for your next two week
March 5, Bora Bora
We arrived in Bora Bora today and
spent the afternoon at a private island, and then took a sunset cruise (so-so) and followed
up the next day with an off-road adventure in a Land Rover (a highlight) A four-wheel
drive is a requirement to reach the top of some hills where you can see the
amazing color variations in the water. Some of the "roads" were steep
and muddy. One in particular took three tries to negotiate. It might
be fun to return here and spend a few nights in one of the above water
bungalows. A highlight was a stop at the original Bloody Mary's bar.
The sand floor is unique and the eponymous drink was excellent.
After a day and a half at a very nice hotel
in Papeete, we boarded the M/S Paul Gauguin for a two week cruise of the South
Pacific islands. Our room at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort opened up
to the beach with a spectacular view of Moorea. Who knew it was so
close! The city of Papeete does not have much to offer unless you are in
the market for an overpriced pareo. There is a Paul Gauguin museum 50
km out of town that contains exactly zero of his paintings. Hinano,
the local brew, is quite tasty.
February 24, Harker Heights
last trip to see the grandchildren before heading to the South Pacific.
Saturday is soccer day in Harker Heights, so off we went to the field where
about ten games were in progress. Johnny and Katie had two games
each. Johnny kicked the ball down the field several times, while Katie
performed a decoy function for her team. Later, Katie showed off her Bella
Ballerina steps. The picture of Katie in her ballet outfit is somewhat of
an optical illusion. Despite appearances, she still has only two legs.
February 15, Bradenton, FL
continues on a genealogical mission to track her scattered relatives. We
visited with Marguerite Dye, a first cousin of Pat's father. She is
delightful, an author and musician. We joined up with Marguerite's
daughter Jill and her husband Duane at a new restaurant called The Bottle Shop
on St. Armand's Circle, a trendy spot in Lido Key. Marguerite's grandson
is the sous chef. The moules e frites (mussels and fries) were the best we
ever tried. Worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood.
February 15, Long Boat Key, FL
spent the day with Lew's cousin Herma and her husband Bob. By strange
coincidence, Herma and Bob lived in São Paulo at the same time we did. It
was great to see them again. We went to the Mote Aquarium where they had a
nice manatee exhibit. We had dinner in Sarasota with Herma and Bob's
daughter's in-laws. Turns out the father went to Rensselaer a few years
February 13, Anna Maria Island, FL
Valentine's Day. We stopped in Bonita
Bay to visit friends Norma and John Green. After a pleasant lunch with
them, we drove through the charming town of Naples. Then north to this
little island near Bradenton. We had dinner with Valerie Tileli, Mark's
mother-in-law, and her sister Jean at a great outdoor restaurant called the
Sandbar in Holmes Beach. The restaurant sits right on the water's edge.
February 13, Fort Lauderdale, FL
We are in Florida to visit some friends and
family. We have seen Lew's Aunts Ruth and Claire, and Uncle Phil in
Fort Lauderdale. Aunt Ruth is living at Willowwood and doing well as she
approaches her 90th birthday. We tried to get in a round of golf with
Uncle Phil but the skies opened up and we got soaked. The men got in 9
holes, but the women decided to move to higher ground. Tomorrow we will drive across Alligator Alley to the west
coast of the state.
February 11, Houston
An exciting annual Houston regional bridge
tournament has just ended. In the six major pairs events, Pat had a high
finish in three, garnering a second, fifth, and sixth. Lew finished second
in one. Lew also received the Texas Star award for service to the unit and
was elected Executive Treasurer of the District (Texas and Mexico).
January 18, Costa Maya, Mexico
and her friends are in the Yucatan auditioning for the latest Girls Gone Wild
video. No word on how it went, but watch out for a late night television
ad. In any event, the weather is sunny and warm while Houston is rainy and
cold. In the picture on the right, Pat looks completely
relaxed at the beach bar.
January 15, Houston
We got home from Lake Tahoe just in time for
a week long bridge tournament. Pat and Lew were winners on different
days. Speaking of bridge, Pat and 15 other bridge playing lady friends are
off on a five day cruise to Mexico. Just in time to avoid a week of
freezing temperatures in Texas. They are forecasting mid 20's tonight so
yours truly will just throw another virtual log on the fire and settle in for
some serious basketball viewing.