Saturday, November 30, 2013

ERT: Hershey -- Part Two

During our day in Hershey, Pennsylvania -- of course Marion and I went to Chocolate World!!
It's a lot more than just a GIGANTIC candy store....
Although -- it is an awesome candy store....
With heart stopping displays of chocolate-everything...
The world famous chocolate bar...with or without almonds...
There's a cafe...
And a bakery...
They have a little ride you can go on (FREE) -- the floor is moving, and Marion is walking over to our bumper car...
As the cars go around, animated figures tell the story of how Milton Hershey started making milk chocolate...
The cow puppets happily sing about their role in providing the delicious MILK...
AND -- every Hershey chocolate bar you buy has a thank you note on the back. This is making it very hard for me to EAT LESS CHOCOLATE. Now it all feels so philanthropic -- there can't be anything better than helping children, right??

SO -- what little known fact surprised me? When I knew we were going to Hershey, I looked up the Milton Hershey School -- and guess what? It is the RICHEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD. Go figure. the school is run by a board of trustees -- and today, the foundation has grown to $6 Billion....
This building is the Jr. High for Milton Hershey School.  Originally built in the 30's -- it was crumbling -- and the Foundation decided to tear it down and make way for a new, more functional building.   But because it sits on the highest hill, and is iconic to the city of Hershey -- the community was upset by the pending change.  So, instead -- the foundation tore down the old building -- then completely rebuilt the new one to look identical to the original...brick by brick.  It has all the latest, modern conveniences and technological updates -- but it looks EXACTLY like it has always looked...
************* It is very appropriate that TODAY -- as you are reading about Milton Hershey -- certainly a hero by any measure -- I get to remind you about Chad Pregracke, the official 2013 CNN HERO. The show will be on Sunday night, on CNN, at 8:00 PM EST...more tomorrow....

Friday, November 29, 2013

ERT: Hershey, Pennsylvania

The VERY best part of the ERT was that Marion and I honestly did NOT have a master plan. On Day Two -- we arrived at Syracuse, picked up Marion's car -- and headed down the road. We had no idea where we'd spend the night.

The theme for this trip was:  WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT....and WE MIGHT NEVER BE IN THIS PLACE AGAIN....

A flight delay, combined with rainy weather and a short winter day -- meant we only got as far as Hershey, Pennsylvania. I told Marion about the Milton Hershey School for Boys. 30 years ago, I lived next door to a young man who was a student there. When he graduated from the Milton Hershey School -- they paid his tuition to the college of his choice.

Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine never had children of their own.  At the turn of the century they started a residential school for local orphan boys.  Marion had never heard of the school -- so, of course, in the spirit of the ERT -- she said -- "let's go see it!"


The original Hersey homestead. Milton was not an overnight success.  He went bankrupt many times before he figured out the KEY TO MAKING MILK CHOCOLATE....

The medallion in the center of Founders Hall....honoring Catherine and Milton Hershey, who founded the school in 1909.
Originally for local, white orphan boys -- now 1800+ boys and girls from all over the world live here and attend school.
When we pulled into the parking lot --  we saw this trolley parked outside of Chocolate World!
AND -- YES -- even though it is off-season -- THERE IS A TOUR. You know how much we love an interesting slice of history.  AND a man in uniform -- who keeps handing out chocolate!
The outside of Founders Hall...
On the steps, leading up to Founders Hall.
The view from the inside -- looking up. The flags represent the various countries of students.  The only qualifying factor today is the student must show economic need...
The floor is inlaid with marble art -- showing scenes about the school.  For decades, the students were required to take care of a dairy herd. The milk was an important part of manufacturing the chocolate.
More of the marble inlay.
When students were drafted, they wrote"Milton Hershey" in the place asking for their father's name. During WW II, Mr. Hershey received 37 letters telling him a boy was killed...
It was a STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL Fall day in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Milton Hershey was even more remarkable when you consider the times he lived in. When he started making chocolate -- wealthy men were building empires on the backs of their workers. During the industrial age -- coal miners were forced to live in company houses, get paid with company script, and buy their groceries and pay the inflated prices at the company store. Child labor was the order of the day in the coal mines and the textile factories of Pennsylvania.

But Milton Hershey marched to a different drummer. He built sturdy modest homes (many from Sears and Roebuck) for his workers  -- and charged them only the cost of the construction. He extended attractive mortgage terms.  The employee owned the home, and they were free to sell at any time for the increased market value. THAT's how you build a beautiful, productive town, people..
The street lamps are chocolate kisses!!
The campus of the school is HUGE, beautiful -- modern and amazing.....
Tomorrow -- there will be ONE MORE blog about Hershey, Pennsylvania. A little known fact that was a shock to me....

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Broadway and Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!

However -- the fact that you are reading this blog ON THE ACTUAL TURKEY DAY probably means you failed to properly lower your expectations.

Trust me --   THAT DAMN Norman Rockwell PAINTING WAS POSED FICTION, PEOPLE...

I could write about the best Thanksgiving I ever had (I was a kid -- and it would also be complete fiction)....

But I decided to go a different direction. Hey -- LET'S GO TO NEW YORK CITY. 

For me, New York City is all about Broadway. I have seen some extraordinary plays -- musicals being my favorite. Les Miz...Rent...Phantom of the Opera...Mama Mia...Side Show...Cats (which I totally did not get but there was that one great song)...

I remember driving in my red van, listening to the CD from the musical Chess...over and over again. I fell in love with Elaine Paige. AND so did Susan Boyle. I found this video on YouTube...and I fell in love all over again...




Listening to this music -- and seeing Billy Crystal's "700 Sundays"  made me think about the fact that life is about playing the hand you're dealt.

Some people will be rich -- or intelligent. Or beautiful, or THIN. But most of us will never be any of those things...

So what?? Are rich people happier than poor people?  Would my husband love me more if I were thin?  I woke up this morning, started watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...and took a good look at what I DO HAVE in my life...and I am grateful for the cards I was dealt.

So many wonderful things....and terrific people.  Of course I am thankful for my husband, my 43-year marriage....

And I am thankful for my women friends.  You know who you are -- and every single day of my life -- I am grateful to be sharing it with you.  We laugh, we cry, we take turns talking AND listening about the things that matter.  Together, we've learned to accept the things we can't change....and to stand up when it's something you CAN change.

AND I am grateful to be old.  I am beyond delighted that I lived long enough to know the joy of grandchildren.  Hey...while I'm at it....I am thankful for my big, fat,ugly, sturdy, cellulitey legs that have taken me to so many interesting places -- all over America.

So, in the spirit of my Broadway Thanksgiving -- I'm going to share some lyrics from my favorite musical.  RENT. If your 2013 Thanksgiving was a disappointment -- start planning ahead for 2014. Don't be afraid to make changes. Because the big question is -- how do you measure a year in the life? 

Seasons of Love...these lyrics are EXACTLY how I feel about my 2013.  My whole life, actually.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure,
measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In
inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you
measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of
love.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ERT: 700 Sundays and the Edison Hotel

After our fabulous singing supper -- Marion and I headed to the WHOLE REASON FOR THE NYC visit -- Billy Crystal. In his critically acclaimed One Man Show -- "700 Sundays"

The title of the play is reference to the fact that when Billy Crystal was 15 years old, his father died. So the Sunday afternoons they spent going to Yankee baseball games was the time they had. Only 700 Sundays...
The set was so simple. And it really was just ONE MAN -- on the stage for two hours...

In 2004, my friend Eileen saw 700 Sundays when it premiered on Broadway and she loved it. She saw it AGAIN in Texas in 2009 when it went on tour. So I expected it to be very good. But sometimes, a play can be a victim of my high expectations. That didn't happen this time.

700 Sundays was everything I could have hoped for...touching, some sad, mostly funny...always heartfelt. And it made you think. About the hand everybody gets dealt. Having only 700 Sundays with his father was a bad thing. But getting married to the love of his life and being able to spend 40 (and counting) years with her was a good thing.

And maybe the truth is that only through absence or loss can you feel genuinely grateful for the good stuff you DO have in your life??  So -- that's what I was thinking as we walked out of the theater.

I texted Eileen that she should have warned me...I didn't have a Kleenex, so I had to wash my jacket sleeve that night back at the hotel. (Because it was full of snot.)

Marion and I walked back to the Edison Hotel. And these pictures are the last you will see of New York City....
The Edison. It is such a great location

This is the lobby of the Edison Hotel late at night -- when it's mostly empty. During the day -- it is PACKED WITH TOURISTS. I enjoy sitting down with a group of foreign visitors -- (they are shocked and delighted to meet somebody from Iowa.) I love the Art Deco paintings in this room and the old fashioned velvet furniture. You'll see me and Marion in a couple of mirror shots...we had a WONDERFUL half-day in New York City. WE MADE THE MOST OF IT....NOW IT'S TIME FOR US TO ACTUALLY GET THIS ROAD TRIP STARTED....
So -- at 5:00 AM -- we jumped into a cab and headed to JFK airport for a quick commuter flight to Syracuse, New York...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ERT: New York City, Still Day One: Dinner and singing....

I am sorry to be dragging this out....I mean -- ARE WE STILL ON DAY ONE OF THE EPIC ROAD TRIP?? How is that even possible? It  must seem to you that I am telling this story in real time. I dunno....it surprises me, too. JUST LIKE THE ROAD TRIP. You have nooo idea how we enjoyed lolly-gagging from New York City to Florida...

Obviously I am enjoying the reporting and reliving of the ERT a little too much.  The good news is -- the blog will move a lot quicker once we actually get ON THE ROAD!!  At least,  YOU HOPE SO, EH?

After our frenzied shopping trip to Mood Fabrics -- we hooked up with Jeff again at what I consider to be the FINEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD.....That's right -- Ellen's Stardust Diner at the corner of 51st Street and Broadway!!  Just a short walk up the street from the Edison Hotel...

My rule is EVERYBODY HAS TO GO TO ELLEN'S STARDUST DINER....

Last year, Marion took two of her granddaughters to New York City. When she looked into getting Broadway show tickets for the three of them -- it would have been over $500. YIKES. So, instead -- she took them to Ellen's Stardust Diner -- where the singing is WORLD CLASS EXCELLENT. And every single song is a show-stopper!! (the singing wait staff are all hoping there is a Broadway producer in the audience -- so they only pick the BEST songs, of course!!)
Jeff LIVES in New York City -- and he has never been there. 


Our waitress was Anne -- and she had an INCREDIBLE singing voice...


She asked for requests, and this is her singing the song from Jekyll and Hyde, "Someone Like You" Yes -- that is me with tears in my eyes. Such a beautiful song...


My picture does not do her justice -- but I am SURE one day she will be a STAR...


These two guys did another request -- the song from Chess -- "I Know Him So Well"


After our fabulous singing supper -- Marion and I headed to the WHOLE REASON FOR THE NYC visit -- can you see what Broadway show we are headed to? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

ERT: Still Day One....Michelle at Mood Fabrics

Mood Fabrics doesn't need ME to do a commercial for THEM. This is an extraordinary store...and because of their sponsorship of Project Runway these last thirteen seasons -- I think it's fair to say ANY WOMAN WHO SEWS would love to shop there.

Marion and I didn't arrive until late in the afternoon...so we had to do some POWER SHOPPING....and we both went right to the aisle with all the wonderful knits.  They call this area "Jerseyland".  YOU REALLY CANNOT IMAGINE...For both of us -- this is the kind of fabric that makes our hearts beat faster...For one thing, you NEVER see anything like it at the chain stores.
While shopping in the FABULOUS JERSEYLAND AISLE at Mood Fabrics -- I saw a bright turquoise/black print buried WAAAY up on the top shelf.  It seemed to be the only bolt of this particular print. Maybe because it was so inaccessible, I really, really wanted it....
video

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ghost Brothers of Darkland Clounty, best

On November 3, the play "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County"-- play written by Stephen King, with music written by John Mellencamp -- was right here in Davenport, Iowa. Because I was leaving on November 6 for my EPIC ROAD TRIP -- I had more or less decided I shouldn't go (saving my money, y'know).


THEN, a week before the show -- my niece Amy called to say there was an offer on Groupon. A Two for one deal -- two tickets for $40. WHAT SHOULD SHE DO??  BUY FOUR TICKETS, OF COURSE -- I am in....and excited.....
Cale, Amy and Garrett in front of the Adler Theater box office.


Here we are, right before the performance, in the lobby of the Hotel Blackhawk, next door to the Adler Theater.


We had a few minutes to look around the hotel. SO PRETTY...


Amy even gave my some phone camera lessons...I didn't know I could do a reverse selfie...


Garret thought I took way too many pictures...


WHAT A GREAT NIGHT. First of all -- it is always a pleasure for me to spend time with Amy's family. I took a chicken and biscuits supper up to their house before our big theater night. Amy didn't tell the boys in advance where we were going or what we were doing. So they were guessing all the way into town. Cale is the musical one in our family...he is a wonderful guitarist. So we hoped this would be a perfect activity for them. PLUS -- the topic itself is about two brothers who argue and fight...(well, I don't want to ruin it for you).

This play was something really special. First of all -- I am a big fan of Stephen King. His horror stuff terrifies me -- but his writing is wonderful. The Green Mile, Delores Clairborne, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. His book "WRITING, A Memoir of the Craft" is the best book I ever read about writing.

The story behind Ghost Brothers is inspired by a true incident. John Mellencamp bought a property in rural Indiana that had a cabin on it -- where, 60 years ago, two brothers had an argument over a girl. One brother was killed -- and the other brother left with the girl -- and they were both killed in a car accident later on that night.

Stephen King and John Mellencamp worked on this project for 13 years. And this fall, it was touring -- to only 12 cities. AND DAVENPORT, IOWA WAS one of them. I am so glad we went. Emily Skinner sang one of the female leads -- and I saw her when she was in Side Show on Broadway in 1997. She has a beautiful voice and this night was such an pleasure for me...
This night was so special. Such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I cannot believe it almost didn't happen...
So -- if there's something in your life that you are hesitating about right now. Remember -- Nike had it right. JUST DO IT.