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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Thanks to Andrew Zimmern and his Travel Channel program Bizarre Foods, the crickets he sent me continue to be a hit with some of my friends. I think he earned some interested new viewers as well.

Rick tasted both the salt and vinegar crick-ettes and the bacon and cheese crickets. Rob ate some more. Here are their videoed testimonies.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Rick eats a Crick-ette
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Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Rob eats a Crick-ette
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I took the crick-ettes to my physical therapy session and offered them to any takers. One man took the remaining bacon and cheese crick-ettes home with him. The office’s intern, Emily, said, “Not as crunchy as I thought. It tasted like salt and vinegar cardboard with the texture of a cheese doodle puff. Not bad. Thank you.”

At my birthday barbecue, Brian popped one of the salt n’ vinegar crick-ettes into his mouth, and here is what he had to say:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Brian Eats A Crick-ette
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I have a few crick-ette “crumbs” left, and I am going to see if I can find at least one more hearty and adventurous soul.


It's in small towns across America that the real meaning of Memorial Day shines through. Here in Warwick, New York, my home for 29 years, the poignancy of the parade ebbs and flows with the times. These days, with my son returning to Iraq this summer, I stand pensively: hand over heart, I listen to Warwick’s High School band play The Star Spangled Banner.

Tears flow as I watch, for the 29th time, Caroline Lesando, Warwick's Gold Star Mother who lost her boy in Vietnam, ride through town and lay one more wreath at the Memorial site. Our town's American Legion Post is named after him. I glance down at the blue star pin I wear, a sign of my boy's service today.

The speeches by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and local politicians at the Warwick Cemetery are stirring. No platitudes; they take this seriously. We stand at the first stop of three cemeteries where 3000 flags have been placed at Veterans' graves by vets aided by our town's Boy and Girl Scouts.

The American Legion officers and the Ladies Auxiliary place wreaths at their memorial. Prayers are offered, and the band plays God Bless America. Kate Smith would be proud of my rendition though my voice is choked with emotion. From a knoll rising above the memorial, four men in uniform fire salutes as Taps is played. My eyes scan the crowd. Each year there are fewer veterans, but there are no sloppy salutes, and everyone stands even if it is a struggle.

Years ago we came to the parade with my mother and father. My father was a WWII Vet--10th Mountain Division. They're gone now. For many years I marched in the parade with my Girl Scout Troop. In high school, Allison marched not with the Scouts but with the high school band. Michael marched with his Boy Scout Troop and later with the high school band. Rob and I became spectators, standing up throughout the parade, calling thank yous to the veterans who marched or rode, the volunteer Fire Department, the Police Department, the Scouts--from the littlest Daisy and Tiger to the Seniors—and other volunteer organizations. One idea is crystal clear: the men and women who volunteer to serve in the military are also the men and women who volunteer to serve the community. They swell the ranks of the local organizations that make my town the kind of place in which we wish to live.

I have a shirt my English Department made as a fundraiser after 9/11—flag in front, EMBRACE AMERICA on the back. When our daughter-in-law's sister sent us Iraqi Freedom shirts commemorating her tour in Iraq, we proudly wore them to the parade. A soldier, and now a friend, through AdoptaPlatoon sent us T shirts and visors from Camp Taji in Iraq. Rob and I don one of these when we go to the parade. It's one more way we can show our support and appreciation as the vets pass by. I'm not sure they ever receive sufficient thank yous.

It's sad to see the number of vets dwindle over the years, and many of those who used to walk the parade now are driven. They make sure they are here each year, not to receive appreciative gestures from us, but to remember their fallen buddies who never had the chance to become old men. We join them in this. It's the meaning of Memorial Day. We should never forget. God Bless America.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Somehow it seems fitting that in this Third Age Traveler since I review Bill O’Reilly’s book, A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity, I open with Margaret Truman’s 2005 addition to her Capital Crime Series, Murder at the Washington Tribune.

If you’re familiar with Truman’s Washington, DC crime novels, you’ll note that their settings are real, and the characters are familiar types doing the kinds of things Margaret Truman knew. You recognize the political crowd and the police crowd, and you’ll recognize how “inside the beltway” her characters are. You also recognize the settings because Washington is such a vital city, she has no need to fabricate. It’s kind of thrilling to have been to the places or eaten in the restaurants or taken the tours she mentions.

In Murder at the Washington Tribune, however, Margaret Truman spins away. She creates a newspaper that doesn’t exist because she doesn’t want the unsavory characters in the novel to be attached and to stigmatize either the Washington Times or the Washington Post. She adds an author’s note to the novel which lambastes the real Washington Times as a right-wing daily (although she admits they have “some good journalists on their staff.) Guess that counteracts Bold Fresh…. LOL

Truman’s novels are always a good tour around DC. In this one, an aging journalist being elbowed out of the way by the young turks anxious to move ahead quickly, begins to bend his professional journalism creed to sensationalize an investigation. The crime is murder, and as lies sometimes do, his lie snowballs and “things done cannot be undone.” To add to his problems, he is offered an early retirement incentive. That does no good for his sagging ego. Additionally, his daughter is an up and coming TV news reporter, and he finds himself in competition with her. If Truman has not complicated the plot sufficiently, throw in a missing relative, a discreet affair, and a few clues that create boondoggles for those trying to solve the crime.

Margaret Truman’s Capital Crime novels include murders committed on Capital Hill, the Kennedy Center, the FBI, the Supreme Court, Embassy Row, Georgetown, the CIA, the Pentagon, and several other famous DC areas. Her books often got mixed reviews, but they also became best sellers. I enjoy them and have read several. If you enjoy one, you will be back for more. She’s a great one to take on vacation.

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I lucked out in securing a seat on Monroe (NY) Library's tour of the Frick Collection and Waldorf Astoria Hotel. This is my second trip with them, thanks to my friend Susan. In trips, this library is batting 1000.

Our coach dropped us off on Fifth Avenue and 70th Street outside Henry Clay Frick's former residence and home to his personal collection of some of the world's finest art. Every work was for his personal enjoyment and bought with his steel magnate's wealth or acquired after the death of John Pierpont Morgan in 1913. The collection was generously left by him for the rest of us to enjoy.

When we enter the building, we view a movie giving us the history of this mansion built in 1913 and 1914. It's an excellent introduction because today will be a unique art experience.

The Frick is not called a museum; rather it is called a collection. As we tour, we enter the rooms as Frick decorated them. There are large, overstuffed chairs so he could come downstairs, sit comfortably and find peace contemplating, admiring, and enjoying his art. Frick's daughter, Helen Clay Frick, said her father selected “pictures pleasant to live with.” The collection is almost totally devoid of violence. His choices are overwhelmingly landscapes and portraits. The placement of the paintings, furniture, sculpture, and other pieces remain, for the most part, as he left them. We enter the world Frick loved, and we feel his presence as we tour.

We have individual audio tours, and they're very necessary. Not only are the paintings explained but also the subjects—people or places—thereby opening up even greater avenues of exposure to knowledge and understanding. I cannot call the individual rooms galleries as I might in a museum. Here we are visitors in a home, but a home where, very often, the rooms are thematically decorated.

To share an idea of Frick’s incredible wealth, one might go into a single room and view an early El Greco, Velasquez’s portrait of King Phillip IV of Spain, Vermeer’s “Mistress and Maid,” a Goya, a Turner, and a Rembrandt. It’s hard to imagine.

The only American artists in Frick’s collection are Whistler and Gilbert Stuart. He acquired Stuart’s portrait of Washington. Frick was interested in history, and this painting was a sign of his patriotism.

One of my favorite paintings was Whistler’s “Symphony in Gray and Green: The Ocean.” I can see how one can sit and enjoy its peaceful ocean blues.
Frick’s favorites were Rembrandt’s self-portrait, Bellini’s “St. Francis in the Desert,” and a portrait of Sir Thomas Moore.

The unique look into Frick's mind can be seen in one room where we view a Van Dyck painting and a Gainsborough painted in homage to Van Dyke. The audio tour examines the two paintings and explains them. Our tour becomes an art course. It’s absolutely wonderful. At the Frick, Van Dyck is the most displayed artist with eight portraits.

I love the Impressionists, and I view Renoir’s magnificent “Mother and Daughter” which was first exhibited in the 2nd Impressionist Exhibition. It was held privately until the Frick Collection opened. It’s a new world for me.
If you visit the Frick Collection, give yourself plenty of time. In addition to the art, the mansion is magnificent. Did I tell you that what was once Frick’s courtyard is now and indoor garden that is beyond beautiful? Ah, the way some people live.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009


31 Forester Ave.
Warwick, NY 10990
845 544-2790

A new restaurant in restaurant-rich Warwick, New York creates a stir, so when we began hearing about Coquito even before it receives its liquor license, we know this is a place to go. BYOB is always nice anyhow, so five of us head there for dinner armed with enough wine to accompany any selection.

Coquito is in the site of an old favorite, The Back Yard Grill, so there has been a buzz about what would take its place. This Spanish restaurant seems perfect. It's the only show in town, and as such cannot be compared to The Backyard Grill.

No reservations at Coquito, but when we arrive rather early at 6:30, we get the last table large enough to accommodate us. When we leave after 9:00, the restaurant is still full. Word gets around a small town quickly. I have a feeling the “no reservations” policy will have to be altered. The bar is not big enough to handle waiting crowds.

Coquito brings the space a whole new look. Its décor is spare and dark, black walls and tech lighting. It has a cool, sophisticated air. The white linen contrasts nicely and adds to the ambiance. Our friend Marty seems to be in the hot seat. The setting sun hit him at one point, and later, once night set in, he is in amber spotlight. Realigning the lights would solve that. I'm not a big fan of the techno décor so prevalent in restaurants today because the absence of noise absorbing materials makes for a loud environment. It is not too bad in Coquito, but as it is a relatively small space, the noise is a factor.

As Warwick is a restaurant town, and Warwickians are restaurant-goers, it is no surprise to stop at some tables and say hello as we head to our seats. We even meet our next door neighbors. Dinners look great, and the fragrant aromas filling the air whet the appetite. Our party is ready to enjoy ourselves.

Our wines are quickly uncorked, and we begin to peruse the menu. We pass on the appetizers, but they are tempting: octopus cocktail, empanadas, and pasteles are among the possibilities. But they will have to wait for another time. We also pass on the selections of rice gumbos and the specialty rice dishes.

Marty chooses the grilled Skirt Steak, and he is pleased with the selection. It arrives exactly as ordered. Rob selects the Chilean Sea Bass. Later he praises that selection. Iris opts for the Grilled Salmon as I do. The salmon has a lovely, fruity sauce that adds to the uniqueness of the dish. Sue chooses the Grilled Pork Chops. It’s a full menu offering a wide variety. Each of us is pleased with our selection.

Each entrée is accompanied with a nice, fresh salad, and one side. Choosing the side proves difficult because they are unusual. We all choose either Rice with Pigeon Peas or Rice and Beans, but the Fried Plantains, Fried Sweet Plantains, and Yuca Fries were tempting. You can see this is a restaurant that requires a return visit.

Unfortunately we are too full for dessert, but they, too are inviting: Guava Shell with Cheese and Papaya Shell with Cheese are just two of the possibilities.

We are all happy with our selections and vow to return.

The word around Warwick is that Coquito is here to stay. Visit their website. You’ll learn that Coquito is debuting as Warwick’s adult supper club with a strong affinity for jazz. Two two-set evenings are planned for June. One on June 12th and the second on June 20th. More details are available on the website. Looks good to me.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I never expected to like Bill O’Reilly’s A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. But I was given this book, and I opened it with a jaundiced eye. Because we’re about the same age, Bill O’Reilly and I share a history. Our fathers fought in WWII; we’re baby boomers; we were the first TV generation; we became teenagers in the ‘60s. He went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie; I was across the river at New Paltz. I wonder if we were ever in Poughkeepsie’s Frivolous Sal at the same time. I thought that was where our similarities ended. But no. Our values are very similar. Though he’s Catholic and I’m not, we became “traditionalists” who respect the values with which we were raised, and we look at many of today’s changes as detrimental to society. I was surprised at how clearly and succinctly O’Reilly expresses his attitude, and I was surprised how similar it is to mine.

The book reads as a conversation with Bill O’Reilly simply explaining himself to his reader. We grew up in troubled times. The ‘60s gave us a close look at racial hatred, war, and assassination. It also gave us changes in music, self-expression, an open drug culture, and sexual freedom. We had to adjust and find our way. Some of O’Reilly’s friends made it; some did not. Same here. Some of our friends became Vietnam vets; some did not. But he probably can find friends’ names, as I can, on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

By the time I finished a few chapters, I was laughing a bit at these unexpected similarities that shape how we approach life. A few chapters more and I began sharing some of anecdotes with Rob. A few chapters more and I was quoting Bill O’Reilly. That was a shocker!

This is an interesting book, and Bill O’Reilly is a bold, fresh, piece of humanity. Do I like his TV style any more than I did before? I think not. Perhaps I understand why he takes some of the strong positions he does, why he relentlessly calls on the carpet lenient judges who excuse heinous pedophiles, crooked politicians who are supposed to be representing us, and a host of other people who use their power and money to exploit "the folks." It's more than the individual wrongs; it is the impact on society as a whole each time evil people are given a pass. Each time a victim is neglected, the slope becomes slippier. O'Reilly is very selective, and very often I am with him for many of the same reasons.

I recommend this book. It reads quickly, and it is interesting. Because Rob and I regularly watch his program, we’re aware how wrongfully he is vilified by others. Reading his book gives a better perspective of where this influential man, whether or not you like him, gets his moxie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Here’s a way to cut some of the costs of your travel. Use coupons. You can usually get coupons at your destination from information booths, but searching online BEFORE you travel helps with your planning. Particularly prevalent are hotel, car rental, and restaurant coupons, but if you look at the online sites for the places you’ll visit, you might find coupons for tours or attractions.

Here are some of the sites where you might begin: and

Go to too. Here you can buy “dining certificates.” You may pay $10.00 for a $25.00 certificate you use at the restaurant. It’s a great promotion, and it can save you big bucks. They have “partners” too, and they are also worth exploring.

These are just three of the possibilities. Use Google, Dogpile, or other search engines to find more.

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