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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


flying the flag on Memorial Day
Memorial Day, 2012
Memorial Day’s unique pause to allow  us time remember and thank our veterans  has always moved me, and I love it here in Warwick, New York where small-town America is thriving. 

In the days prior to the parade, flags are planted on all the graves of Veterans.  152 flags.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars used to do this on their own, but their members are now quite elderly, and a few years ago they enlisted the help of the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Older Scouts help them place the flags, one for every known Veteran from all wars, walking from grave to grave in the town’s two cemeteries.  I am sure that in the process of placing those flags, the young people develop a rapport with the older men, and the discussions and examples are lasting.  The day before Memorial Day, Girl Scouts come and plant an area in the Warwick Cemetery with flowers resembling the American Flag. 

People come about an hour early to get ready for the parade with their chairs and flags, and they line Warwick’s Main Street, past the beautiful and elegant Victorian homes that pick up where the shopping area ends, past the Warwick Country Club, right to the stone arch of the entrance to the cemetery.
Policeman saluting Veterans & the Flag
Rob and I have our chairs staked out in the shade of a tree up by the club so we can quickly put them in the car’s trunk and head to the service in the cemetery as soon as the parade passes by.  We, like everyone around us, stand as the different groups go by.  We applaud; we call out “Thank You.”  We watch the policeman charged with stopping traffic flow as he salutes the vets and the flag as they pass by.
Our Heros, the Veterans

Veterans Our parade is headed by veterans of the different branches.  One local family, the Stewarts, had men of several generations serving, but time has passed, and I think only one Stewart was in this year’s parade.

American Legion Veterans
Our active VFW and American Legion are in the parade too, but these days most of them are driven.  It’s too much of a walk when you’re in your 70s, 80s or 90s.  The stalwart Commander of the VFW, however, walks the route.  Later in the cemetery he addresses the Scouts and explains the meaning of the day in a wonderful speech.  A tractor pulls a big cart filled with seated veterans and the VFW Auxiliary—the wives of these men. 

High School Band The Warwick High School Band plays as they march, and they play "The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” during the cemetery services.

Many of Warwick’s organizations have contingents in the parade, but the largest is the Scouts.  There are many active Girl and Boy Scout troops bringing young Tiger and Daisy Scouts all the way up through the ranks to Eagle and Gold Award. 

Veterans Firemen
One of the most impressive contingents is the volunteer firemen.  The same impulse, perhaps, that leads men and women to serve their country also leads them to serve their communities.  Following them are the shiny fire trucks.

The volunteer Ambulance Corps follows with its shiny ambulances.  Young leaders, The Junior EMS program members from Warwick High School, are out in force.
Warwick Valley High School's Junior EMS

One person missing since last year is Carolyn Lesando.  She is a Gold Star mother whose son was killed in Vietnam.  Because of age, she now lives with her daughter, and thank God there is no one to take her place. 

Gettysburg Address
The parade continues first to the Warwick Cemetery and then to St. Stephens Cemetery.  The service in the Warwick Cemetery includes a Boy Scout reading “The Gettysburg Address” and a Girl Scout reading the history of “Taps.” 

The story of "Taps"
Some politicians speak, but one, the Honorable Peter Barlet, talks about our freedoms and how these men and women we honor today keep them for us.  No government makes us serve.  No government makes us vote.  No government makes us be charitable.  We have the freedom to choose.  But because those freedoms are fought for, the best way to honor those veterans, living and dead, is to serve and to vote and to be charitable.  Use those freedoms. Then those who died defending them will not have died in vain.  These are splendid truths.

The Veterans and a member of the Women’s Auxiliary lay their wreaths with aid from young Scouts, and it is touching to see these young people’s profiles juxtaposed with the elderly bend down to lay each wreath. Then the young and old salute together.

VFW Taps & Scouts
Following a three-round salute from higher up and away from the crowd, a lone bugler, high school student Ben Bisaro, plays “Taps.” 

The crowd disperses, some to do more “fun” activities on Memorial Day as we do at a friend’s barbecue, and some to follow the parade as it continues to St. Stephens Cemetery to honor the dead there.  No matter how people proceed through the day, the events, emotions, and understanding follow. 

This is small town America.  It is thriving.

To view my past Warwick Memorial Days, follow these links:

Friday, May 25, 2012


Natural Bridge, Virginia

Natural Bridge, Virginia located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley is a 215 foot high opening carved by water through the limestone mountain.  A young George Washington was hired to survey this area and left his initials, G.W. carved in the arch 23 feet up.  The surrounding land, including Natural Bridge, was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Key West is a place movies and dreams are made of.  Since early days when men searched for booty to make them rich in the sunken vessels smashed against the Key’s treacherous reefs or when writers like Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway sought its inspiration or when filmmakers like Cecil DeMille created Hollywood sets to bring Key West alive in films like Reap the Wild Wind, Key West has had a palpable mystique and attraction.

Southernmost point in the U.S.A
OK  So we are touristy
Everyone feels it.  One of the most often photographed spots in the continental U.S.A. is the marker of the Southernmost Point where visitors stand patiently in line, as we did, requesting the people behind to take a photograph, as we did, and then returning the favor to some stranger.  Here we stand, only 90 miles from Cuba but about 126 miles from Homestead, Florida.

The Keys—On April 23, 1982, the Key West Mayor successfully seceded from the U.S. in a plan hatched at the Last Chance Saloon at the Florida entrance to Hwy 1, the only road to the Keys.  He made his stand because of a Federal roadblock checking the citizenship of everyone leaving the Keys heading northbound, thereby creating long lines of traffic that hurt the tourist-dependent Keys’ economy.

The Mayor surrendered to the Commander of the Naval Base but not before the Conch Republic was established.  Passports were issued under that name.  His terms of surrender was for the Federal government to aid in rebuilding the Key’s infrastructure.  He won; the Federal government aided in rebuilding.

Key WestEven today, Conch Republic flags fly outside homes, sticker motorcycles, and, according to our guide, Mindy, Conch Republic passports are actually accepted in some of the Caribbean islands.  I don’t know about that one, but it’s a nice story at the very least. The Conch Republic even has a Facebook page.

Rob and I decided on a bus tour from the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort where we were staying because we didn’t want the long one-day drive or an overnight stay.  Key West is about 3.5 hours from Ft. Lauderdale, and this was the right choice for us. 

Friday, May 18, 2012


Rugged California Coast near Carmel
Here is California's rugged coast along the PCH near Carmel, California. 
Part of America the Beautiful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012


Chateau Hathorn, Warwick, NY
The most exquisite restaurant in the Warwick Valley is Chateau Hathorn, an elegant, graceful mansion which catches the eye of anyone traveling through Warwick, New York.  What pleases the eye when passing by, however, is just a hint of the pleasures to be enjoyed within this extraordinary establishment. 

Years ago on a trip through Warwick, Dolph Zueger, fell in love with the building, reminiscent of a European chateau. He and his wife, Helene, left their successful restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, New York to spend a year painstakingly returning this neglected home to its former beauty.  Enter Chateau Hathorn today with its rich woods, beautiful fireplaces and staircases, and you will feel as if you’ve entered a luxurious world where meals fit for royalty are served.  You would be right.  You are the royalty. The Zuegers are still owners, and Dolph is the chef.

Rob and I first came here years ago after friends of ours, the Thorntons of Dobbs Ferry, learned of the Zuegers’ new enterprise.  Their respect for Dolph’s artistry led them to drive up here from Westchester, and our first visit with them was memorable.

Over the years, we enjoyed the Zuegers’ hospitality and delicious creations on many occasions.

We’ve also enjoyed a special, private, wine tasting/dinner hosted by Warwick friends, the Katzes.  That evening, in the incredibly magnificent wine cellar, Dolph offered an excellent array of superlative dishes accompanied by fine wines.  The beautiful award-winning wine cellar, btw, is stocked with over 12,000 bottles.

This latest visit, prompted by Rob’s birthday, was another incredible evening.  Frank Sinatra played softly in the background of the dimly lit room.  The atmosphere was romantic.  Our server was Sandra Zueger, Dolph and Helene’s daughter, and she served as our guide as well.

As we started with a cocktail, our first discussion had to do with available vodkas.  We drink our vodka straight with just a touch of ice.  The Chateau serves Tito's which Rob had heard of but which we had never tasted.  Sandra and Rob discussed its possibilities, and that was our choice.  EXCELLENT.  Tito's is produced in Austin, Texas, a favorite city, and it is distilled with 100% yellow corn. It is a bit sweeter than potato or wheat vodkas.  It is also rare to find Tito's, but Chateau Hathorn is a rare experience.

A server delivered crudités and a ranch dressing: carrots, cauliflower buds, olives, and celery.

For appetizers we each had Escargot “Café de Paris” in a light herb butter that begged to be sopped up by the accompanying warm rolls.

Rob and I went our separate ways with our entrées.  Everything on the menu tantalized, so once again we turned to Sandra for sound advice. 

Rob selected pan-seared pork tenderloin in a cabernet reduction sauce, Gruyere Risotto Béarnaise and Colossal Crabmeat, and a tomato concasse garnish.  Asparagus prepared exactly as Rob likes accompanied his meal. Exquisite. 

I vacillated because so much temptation appeared on that menu.  I finally decided on Broiled Halibut.  I’ve only had halibut fresh in Alaska, but my faith in Dolph’s skill led me to go with my instincts, and I was so right.  This was wonderful, meaty, flaky, fresh fish done to perfection.  Accompanying it were pan-sautéed baby spinach and the Gruyere Risotto Béarnaise.  My other vegetables included grilled zucchini and endive with mango salsa. 

Throughout the evening when Sandra stopped by to make sure we were satisfied, we’d chat about our Dobbs Ferry friends and how much we enjoyed coming to Chateau Hathorn.  By and by, her father, our chef, came out to say hello.  He wanted to know what we had decided upon for dessert.  We asked him which he thought was best, the apple strudel a la mode or the apple fritter a la mode.  He said they were both wonderful but that he had another special one.

When our coffee arrived, we began to sip and then a tray was brought with all three desserts.  Incredible!!!!!

1. The pleasantly warm apple strudel had a crisp outer layer.  The crust was perfect.  It was bursting with apples and alongside was delicious vanilla ice cream.  The strudel was soft enough to divide in half but not hot enough to melt all the ice cream.  Perfection.

2. The nice warm apple fritter was unlike any fritter I had ever seen (eaten).  It was puffed up, filled with fruit, and the dough just sweet enough without being overwhelmed by the vanilla ice cream.  We divided this too.  Perfection again.

3. The special dessert was Coupe Danemark (vanilla ice cream with melted swiss chocolate tolberone.) The truth is this desert almost defies description. It was served in a circular glass dish with, I think, a shell of white chocolate filled with a circular swirl of ice cream.  At the center of the swirl was a hollow into which melted chocolate was poured.  It was as delicious as it was beautiful.  Yes, we split and ate that too.  Perfection.

When Sandra came by and offered us after dinner drinks, we demurred.  If you know us, you know that kind of refusal is a rarity.  We were contentedly full.  If you follow our restaurant choices, you know more often than not we don’t have dessert.  At Chateau Hathorn we shared three.  This is quite an extraordinary place.  It is physically beautiful.  The staff is excellent, friendly and professional.  The chef is an artist who creates magnificently delicious memorable dishes.  You leave wanting to return quite soon.

Do yourself a favor and check out their beautiful web site.  It opens with a stunning view from the air.  Chateau Hathorn is also an inn offering special packages.  On Wednesdays there is a special dinner/wine package for two.  There are other events in season as well.  A visit here is a vacation in itself.


Tuesday, May 01, 2012


History comes alive once again in Newt Gingrich and William R. Fortchen’s Battle of the Crater, a return to their Civil War interests in a novel that delves into an under-recognized episode in ego, shame, and politics resulting in the deaths of a great many brave men.  The authors’ feelings about the men who died there—many needlessly—were so strong that they established a foundation to create a memorial to them and to their sacrifice.

It is late in the Civil War, June, 1864, and around Petersburg, Virginia, the Union Army is mired in trenches and hounded by sharpshooters.  Lincoln is running for re-election against an anti-war faction, and he fears that losing will lead the United States into a death spiral, fracturing the nation and continuing slavery.

The disheartened Union Army’s morale is at an all-time low when a small group of Pennsylvanian soldiers, former coal miners, suggest tunneling under the Confederate-held fort and dynamiting it, destroying the Confederate stronghold and opening the road to Richmond. 

Few of the soldiers are eager to be part of this dangerous exploit, but one determined group of men is eager to continue the battle toward freedom and re-unification.  These men are with the United States Colored Troops, the USTCs, primarily free Black men who traveled from their safety around the country to fill the enlistment quotas of other states and to prove that they are Americans.  Only General Burnside, out of military favor at the time, has faith in them and wants to bring these troops into action rather than have them languish in menial duties behind the lines. 

The narrator of this story is an exhausted war-weary artist/journalist and personal friend and private spy for President Lincoln.  He embraces the plan as Burnside explains it.  He has also become a friend of Sergeant Major Garland White of the 28th USCT Regiment who will have a major role both as soldier and minister in preparing the troops for battle.

As the story unfolds, we get a close view of the conflicts of interest probably ever-present in most human beings and probably always present in times of war and in politics when one’s place in history is also the consequence—good or bad.  How does one look at the big picture and consider each individual move toward a desirable conclusion?  How does one get past the results of a bad decision and prove oneself capable again?  Can prejudices of a lifetime relax enough to see the truth when so much is at stake?  Can egos be sidelines long enough to see objectively?  These are not questions just for that time and battle; these are questions for all times.

Years of research went into The Battle of the Crater.  It is Gingrich’s and Fortchen’s first novel without the tweak in history (the change of one detail that leads to a different conclusion), and it is not only an exciting page turner but also a plea to recognize an episode long forgotten.

If you are looking for a great story, well-written, and set in an historical context, this is the book for you.  BTW, its length makes it a good book for travel.  It is available for both the KINDLE and the NOOK.  Enjoy it.

P.S.  This novel was published in Nov., 2011 by reputable St. Martins Press.  That was just about the time Gingrich was ironically being labeled a racist by his critics.  FORGET POLITICS AND READ this and their other historical novels.  You will not regret it.  Use Third Age Traveler’s search box, type in gingrich, and look at four other book reviews.