Pick-A-Day

December 2019
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SOS Soap Pads to the Rescue

Now that I’ve lived in Germany for a couple of years, there are only a few American products that I specifically seek out when State-side; everything else there are local options that work just fine.

However, when it comes to cleaning the tile in my shower, nothing in Germany seems to be super effective. What I have are fond memories (that sounds odd) of cleaning the shower using SOS pads as a kid growing up in Denver.

I popped over to Denver for Thanksgiving – this time remembering to buy SOS Soap Pads. It certainly wasn’t the raison d’être for the travels, but it was a nice added bonus.

So far I’ve used 1.5 of the pads scrubbing my shower walls and I’m almost done: the persistent, not wanting to go, schmutz is virtually gone. There are a few spots that need more attention, but realistically, when I look at the entire wall of tile, it’s hard to see.

Now that I am getting old(er), it’s amazing what thrills me.

Life’s good.

The Gaspésie in Fall 2019

Forillon National Park

A month ago, I was on vacation in The Gaspésie, a piece of Quebec.

It was a relatively short vacation – essentially 10 days away from Berlin, including travel time. I flew to Montreal, rented a car, and then drove around The Gaspésie, the peninsula that forms the area south of the Saint Laurence River.

Generally speaking, I think that I played the trip almost perfectly. It wasn’t 100% perfect and there are a few things that I would change if I were re-do the trip.

What I would change: Although my choice of hotel in Gaspé was fine – the room was clean, well maintained, and the staff nice. However, normally I pick hotels so that I am within walking distance of restaurants I want to eat at, thus giving me the option to drink wine or beer with my food.

Unfortunately, the highlight of the restaurant scene in Gaspé is Tim Hortons. I ate two meals in “Adams Restaurant” – which were two too many. My first meal was a fish special where some of the flesh was so hard that I couldn’t tell if it was flesh or bone. The only reason I returned for a second visit was because I was desperate to eat something Sunday evening.

Thus, I would probably not use Gaspé as my base again, should I return.

Miguasha National Park

So the “low-lights” among my five major stops were Miguasha National Park and Parc national du Bic. Miguasha National Park was interesting, but given that I’m not a huge fossil person, the park wasn’t really sticky for me. I did enjoy seeing the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I was there for only an hour. Bic was my last stop, where I hiked for 2-3 hours: the scenery was OK, but compared to what I’d seen before, it just didn’t inspire me as much.

As far as the highlights of my trip – it’s impossible to pick one. Easily, the three best stops were Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park, Forillon National Park, and Gaspesie National Park.

Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park

Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park

It was a picture of Percé Rock that actually drove my decision to visit The Gaspésie – it’s a magnificent rock in the ocean, with an intriguing opening. I took the long boat ride from Percé out to Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park, circumnavigating the island en route – it was brilliant. The only downside was that everybody arrives on the island at the same time, so there was significant bunching along the trail, but since I took the “long way” back, I was alone on the trail about an hour after landing on the island. Seeing the Northern Gannets on top of the cliff was amazing.

Forillon National Park

Forillon National Park

I devoted more than a day to Forillon National Park – with my main goal being a hike to Land’s End. With an early start, I was essentially alone on the trail while hiking out. Coming back, I met a dozen or so people. I took the long way out, which had a lot of elevation changes, and the easy way back – which still had some impressive elevation changes. I hiked the next morning in Forillon, seeing a waterfall and taking an amble through one of the more remote parts of the park, all before heading off to my next stop.

Gaspesie National Park

I also thoroughly enjoyed my time at Gaspesie National Park – my two nights at Gîte du Mont-Albert were not enough. With a full day of hiking, I didn’t scratch the surface of what Gaspesie National Park has to offer. The fall colors were amazing – even if I did get to experience my first snowstorm of the season while hiking. Along the way I even got to see two moose.

Gaspesie National Park

After ten days in Quebec, I left feeling refreshed – and like I need to return.

Gaspesie National Park

Buying Local on the Road

IMG_20191019_090247

Back in 2006, I stopped by Little Sister’s, a GLBT bookshop in Vancouver, BC, Canada – where I stumped the employee by asking for a book by a Canadian author. She took awhile to come up with an answer – Anthony Bidulka – an author I came to love (but who hasn’t published a book since 2016).

A few weeks ago I was in Campbellton, New Brunswick – where I stopped by the Alcool NB Liquor – asking about whiskey other products distilled in either New Brunswick or Quebec. The clerk was stumped – I ended up having to study the bottles to find two products that quasi-fit my desires.

So far, this year, I’ve purchased five bottles of whiskey and whiskey-like products. In order of purchasing: The 2016 Las Vegas Distillery “Straight Old Seven Grain Whiskey,” the Norsk Gjoleid Whisky, the Tidewalker straight Bourbon Whiskey, the Sortilège Canadian Whisky & Maple Syrup, and, lastly, the Apple Crumble Moonshine Creek liquor.

Basically, I now look for whiskeys from the places I travel – a habit I started during my trip to Vegas.

Naturally, this only works if you’re checking luggage – given the liquids constraint.

I’ve already scouted out options for my next major trip. I should think about the major trip after that….

21: Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998

Gosh. It’s hard to believe that another year has passed.

It seems like just yesterday I was reflecting on 20 years since Matthew Shepard died; now it is 21.

Whenever I sit down to reflect about his beating, his hospitalization, and his death – I am immediately transported back to that horrid day, 21 years ago, in October 1998, when hints of the news started to come out in the media.

Being 1,000 miles from Laramie instead of zero – that out of body emotional feeling as I sat at my desk, trying to interact coherently with my friends and colleagues all while feeling like my world was imploding.

Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder represents the biggest thing in my life. There’s before his murder and after his murder. His death transformed me in immeasurable little ways – how I taught classes, how I perceive people around me, how I think about human relations.

I never want to get to the point where writing this is easy. Nor do I want it to be (excessively) repetitive from previous years. I also do not want it to become too much navel gazing. A point I think I just hit.

Twenty-one years later, I still wish I did not know his name – he should be 42 years old, working some awesome job somewhere, making a difference in this world, but – unless he became famous for legitimate reasons – I would live my life not knowing his name, much like I do not know the names of any of his fellow freshmen political science students, those who enrolled in fall 1998, the summer after I left Laramie.

RIP


For historical reference, see 2004200520062007200820092010201120122013,  2014201520162017, 2018, or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

父 or how I’ve twice led people to Google unexpected things.

One of my friends has started studying Japanese – and after the first lesson, she informed me that the Japanese word for “father” is Chichi.

Which led me to speculate, out loud, “I wonder where Chi Chi LaRue got his nickname.”

“Who is Chi Chi LaRue,” she asked.

“He was a famous golfer when I was a kid,” I answered.

OK – Clearly, I had mixed up Chi Chi LaRue with Chi Chi Rodriguez. One is a famous gay pornographer, the other is a famous golfer.

In my defense, both deal with clubs, balls, and strokes, if you know what I mean. Actually, it now occurs to me that both are interested in putting things in holes, albeit one as few strokes as possible and the other as many as possible. Maximizing strokes will ensure that the best angles are captured on film and put in the product sold to the public (or watched on Pornhub).

However, I was not astute enough to realize my verbal faux pas before my friend googled “Chi Chi LaRue” – thankfully it was not an image search or I might have been physically rebuked for my thoughtless name dropping.

This was not the first time in my life that I’d make this kind of verbal slippage – or, in the case of my other memorable moment, typo.

A decade ago, I was Stateside when one of my colleagues back in Germany emailed me: “Adam, would you be so kind as to buy me a tube of Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste.”

That’s an easy request, but I wrote back, “I would be happy to buy you Tom of Finland toothpaste.”

Seconds later, I got a reply, “Who is Tom of Finland?”

I tried to stop my hetero-friend from googling, but even with the fastest email, it was impossible – for another email quickly followed – “Oh! He created some interesting art.”

Chi-Chi'sBack in the present, the thought of Chi Chi, free associated its way to the Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant chain – which I last saw in 2005, when visiting Luxembourg. I was surprised to find out from its Wikipedia page that the company went out of business – in the USA – back in 2004. I’d never noticed that it had completely vanished from the States.

My friend, younger than me, had never even heard of the chain.

Boston Logan 9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan AirportWhile in Boston, I made a point of visiting the 9/11 Memorial located at Boston Logan Airport.

It is a very nicely done, small, memorial located near Terminal A and the Hilton Hotel.

According to Massport,

Remember this day.
This memorial is a place of contemplation, reflection and remembrance for a world impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.

The Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial is a permanent memorial that honors the passengers and crews of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, the two planes that departed Logan Airport for Los Angeles, but were hijacked by terrorists who flew them into the World Trade Towers in New York. It was a dark day for humanity.

In contrast, this memorial recognizes the compassion and professionalism of Logan Airport employees, many of whom lost colleagues, friends and family, for their dedication to duty during that difficult time and who have worked so hard to secure and improve the safety of the flying public since that day. It is a place of reflection designed to provide a measure of comfort to all those whom tragedy has touched and will touch in the years to come.

Landscaped paths lead to a large glass cube that presents two glass panels etched with the names of every person aboard each flight. From inside, visitors look up at a sky transformed by a prism of reflective panels by day; the cube glows with a soft light by night.

The Place of Remembrance by Moskow Linn Architects of Boston was chosen by a public design competition judged by a committee of airline representatives, Massport officials, local design professionals and families of those lost, many of whom were based in New England.

The Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial has been open to all 24 hours a day, seven days a week since its dedication on September 9, 2008.

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Airport

The too short crutch… beggars begging belief

It is not easy for beggars on the street to get money from me.

I notice them but do not engage because I’m not easily moved emotionally – especially by the guys who walk around leaning on a painfully short crutch.

In fact, I have often looked at the crutch and thought to myself that it must be intentionally too short because there is no apparent reason why they need to be hunched over, other than the fact that being hunched over makes it look like they are more worthy of the help they are begging for.

In other words, I thought that the short crutch beggars were fakers.

Eventually I saw I what I suspected: one of these guys walking down the street – early in the morning – carrying the crutch as if they were on their way to work, much like the way I am on my way to work.

In a way, I guess they are.

Unfortunately, I now laugh at the too short crutch beggars: “Not in a million years,” I think; sometimes I say, “nie in einer Million Jahren.”

Paternal Wisdom: No longer applicable

It’s occurred to me that two pieces of wisdom given to me from my Father, in my youth, no longer apply.

First, I can distinctly remember my Father explaining to me that one important life goal is to save enough money that one can live off of the interest.

This is an impossible goal at this point – interest rates are so close to zero that I don’t actually earn anything noticeable: I earned more from my money in the bank as a kid than I do with far larger balances as an adult.

Second, my father once reminisced about a significant improvement from his childhood, explaining that when he was a kid, straws were made out of paper and they were terrible: the straws couldn’t withstand the moisture of the drink and would start falling apart while you were drinking.

Thus, in his considered opinion, plastic straws were a vast improvement.

Again, a second piece of paternal wisdom that no longer applies – we’re back to paper straws.

I have to confess, my father is right: paper straws just do not work all that well.

Boston’s Freedom Trail: Simultaneously Genius and Frustrating

Paul Revere

I was recently in Boston as part of a trip to New England – this was an opportunity to, first, strengthen my case for having visited Massachusetts (It’s no longer the state that I have spent the least amount of time in; that is now Arkansas) and, second, to walk the Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail, which links together a number of important Revolutionary War sites, including Paul Revere’s home and Bunker Hill, came highly recommended by a number of friends and family members. As such, it was my top priority for Boston – and I completed it over the course of two days, breaking about halfway through after the Old State House.

Overall, I am very happy that I have walked the Freedom Trail, but I was disappointed with a number of aspects of it, to the point where I would happily argue that the Freedom Trail Foundation needs to take a serious re-think of it and make some major modifications to it.

One of the most frustrating aspects was the Freedom Trail Audio Guide, which, as described on the website,

Download this MP3 file to take a walk into history. Listen to the tales of the lively and historic characters who fomented Revolution in 18th-century Boston. Walk at your own pace and visit the 16 original Freedom Trail sites and stroll into museums, burying grounds, churches, marketplaces, restaurants and pubs where brave Americans made plans to take on the world’s mightiest country. Hear the arguments for freedom, representation, fair taxes and the principles that formed the backbone of our democracy.

It’s a great way to walk the Freedom Trail on your own. It’s a great way to listen to history in your car, at home or in school. Tour includes a scavenger hunt for children. Tour is 2 hours in length.

You will receive an e-mail confirmation with instructions. Please check your bulk/junk mail as sometimes the eConfirmation gets sent to the wrong folder. There are two downloads included; the audio tour mp3 and an accompanying PDF map of the Freedom Trail. Please download both files.

Several bits of commentary here: (1) The download consisted only of 48 audio files thatwere a nightmare to get onto my mobile phone. Some of the nightmare is because I just switched to an android device and do not know how to do it easily, while some of it was because the audio files were poorly named (the first 9 files lacked leading zeros) and lacked internal information like an album name and track numbering that mp3 programs could use to sort the files. (2) I did not get the “accompanying PDF map.” I did not realize it at the time, but the lack of a map ended up being annoying later. (3) Having started at the Freedom Trail information center, I then paid $3 for a poor (paper) quality map that barely withstood my wander; this subsequently purchased map lacked information that was needed to complete the audio guided walk completely. I felt gypped by the Freedom Trail Foundation and would never recommend any of their products – there are plenty of sources for free maps, including the National Park Service, that are also of higher quality.

I’ll try not to complain too much about the audio guide – but given my levels of frustration with it (and the Freedom Trail in general), I imagine you’ve not read the end of it.

So after arriving in Boston on Thursday, I trucked on down to the Boston Common – stopping only to mail something at a post office on Milk Street (not named after Harvey Milk) and to locate a CharlieCard (something I was grateful I did much later on when it allowed me through a turnstile that was not accepting CharlieTickets).

Massachusetts State House

Stained Glass at the Massachusetts State House

Once at the Boston Common, I found the Freedom Trail visitor’s center, paid $3 for the aforementioned shitty quality map, and started following the brick trail, which first led me to the Massachusetts State House. Once in the State House, I took a tour Nick, who was one of a plethora of young (e.g. high school aged), very polite, men giving tours — and now that I think about it, I do not recall having seen any female tour guides waiting to give tours; surely there must have been one or two out of the 25 people waiting to give tours! Although not a professional, Nick gave a very nice tour and was able to answer my questions about how Massachusetts is governed. He certainly gave a far better tour than the last state capitol tour I’ve taken (the one with Reagan in Georgia).

Massachusetts State House

From there, I continued listening to the audio files and made my way to the Granary Burying Ground, where I realized that the map I had purchased for $3 was not set up for the audio guide I was listening to (Among, ultimately, many other things, it lacked the inset for the Granary Burial Ground showing where specific people were buried).

I kept plowing ahead, listening to the audio guide while walking the streets – sometimes I was way ahead of the audio guide (didn’t have the inset for the burial ground, wasn’t going to hunt for each specific grave), other times way behind – crossing the Charlestown Bridge, I was listening to chatter about Bunker Hill. I would rate the content of the audio guide at 4 out of 5 stars; but everything else related to the audio guide gets a big fat zero: I did not get the map, the file names were ill conceived, and the files themselves lacked internal flagging (so I had to manually sort the files to get them to play in the right order).

(Oh god, I’ve complained about the audio guide, again.)

I enjoyed the sites and the walk – it is actually a very nice walk, especially on summer day when the high is about 26° and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I passed the Park Street Church, The King’s Chapel and Burying Ground, looked at the site of the first public school, saw the Franklin Statue, and passed the Chipotle Old Corner Bookstore, into the Old South Meeting House, out the basement of the Old South Meeting House, and down the street to the Old State House.

After the Old State House, I looked at the site of the Boston Massacre and decided that it was time to head to Fenway Park for the first of two Red Sox games.

It was by this point that I had started to become annoyed with one aspect of the Freedom Trail: each of the sites individually wanted money – which, in principle, is not a bad thing, but it is very annoying. The Freedom Trail should make an arrangement with each one of the sites that charge an entrance fee to charge one entrance fee for all of the sites. I would have happily paid $30 or $40 for a “universal” ticket (good for 48-72 hours) to visit all of the sites. It would have been a heck of a lot easier than having to pay $4 here or $5 there, etc (I forget the prices, but I started to get annoyed). They could probably even profit because most people will not actually make it to all the site. For example, I never went in the Park Street Church. I also actively decided against going to the USS Constitution Museum ($18!!!!!), but had it been wrapped into a larger “Freedom Trail Ticket,” I probably would have.

Anyhow, the Red Sox won, Fenway Park had too many vendors, and I slept like a baby.

Friday morning, I back on the Freedom Trail, this time starting just after the Boston Massacre Site, which is Faneuil Hall – where I encountered an unbelievable thing: it. was. closed.

WTF!

There was an EMS graduation ceremony going on at Faneuil Hall. This isn’t to complain about EMS graduation ceremonies, the women and men who become EMS are doing a great thing, but Boston has hundreds of places where this ceremony could take place, but only one Faneuil Hall, which is a key historic site on Boston’s Freedom Trail.

This would be like Berlin closing down Brandenburg Tor because of a soccer match or Paris blockading the Eifel Tower for a tennis match: NO NO NO.

Major historic sites along major tourist paths should always – and by always, I mean ALWAYS – be open for their primary touristic reasons.

The Freedom Trail people and the US Park Service should work together to ensure that tourists can always get to the key sites during open business hours, every single day of the year, with the possible exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Paul Revere's House

Print of the Paul Revere StatueSo I left Faneuil Hall a little pissed off, but listening to the audio guide, walking past the Union Oyster House, past Hanover Street, around some corners and over to Paul Revere’s House — which was much more charming that I had expected, but was missing his horse’s stable (sorry, obscure reference to Mr. Revere and I, a lovely children’s book by Robert Lawson that I had not read in years). The house, independently run, therefore with its own entrance fee, was charming – and a nice man upstairs clarified what we were looking at (while the person downstairs remained silent).

The rest of the Freedom trail was a nice meander – including passing a statue of Paul Revere, which had a nice view of the Old North Church behind it.

I was happy to visit the Battle of Bunker Hill (crossing the Charlestown Bridge involved walking over a steel span that wasn’t solid; one of my least favorite things to do) and then to the USS Constitution where I had to show my id before going through security – not sure why because showing ID proves nothing, it really is only security that matters.

USS Constitution

On a side note, I was able to visit Faneuil Hall Saturday afternoon, while wandering Boston, waiting to meet friends for dinner at the Union Oyster House – so while I was cheated out of it in the moment I should have seen it, I did, ultimately, get to see it. That doesn’t change my anger with the people who let it be closed for something like an EMS graduation ceremony.

So, in summary: the idea of the Freedom Trail is outstanding and the sites it connects are amazing, but the way in which it is executed and administrated is a disaster.

PS: What is the “Black Heritage Trail”? It’s route is outlined on the Freedom Trail map, but there precisely ZERO other information about it. Another thing that the Freedom Trail should work on improving.

Changing Routes

M48 to AlexanderplatzFor the last nine years, my normal commute has comprised a 500 meter walk, followed by a 20ish minute bus ride, and 280 meter walk.

It is also super convenient because it gives me a single seat ride with reasonable walks at the beginning and end of my trips. I’m able to read books, listen to podcasts, and/or stare out the window, as my mood dictates.

A somebody who likes continuity in their daily life, this rhythm is nice, predictable, and unchanging. The bus comes every ten minutes and, at least before 8:00, is predictable as to when it gets to my stops.

Actually, there are times that I’ve wondered: although I know that schedules tend to change once a year, mine hasn’t changed in the last 9 years. The only bus route alteration I can remember is when BVG officially gave up on having the M85 run past Brandenburg Tor on its way to the Hauptbahnhof – instead routing it through the tunnel under Tiergarten. They gave up because there were too many “special” events that closed the road, thus making the route unpredictable.

That all changes after this week.

Starting Sunday, BVG is introducing a new bus route, the 300, that will go from the Philharmonie to Warschauer Straße, taking tourists to a number of hot spots that the 100 and 200 missed. Actually, really only one: The East Side Gallery; reportedly Berlin’s second most visited tourist “attraction” – although I am of the opinion that it is a really awful place to visit and lacks any sense of proper history.

When I first heard about it, I thought that I better dig deeper, and boy am I glad I did. The knock-on effects are magnificent: the 200 is getting re-routed down Leipziger Straße because the 300 is going to go down Unter den Linden. Because the 200 is going down Leipziger Straße, the M48 would just be duplicative service so… well, it’s going to no longer go all the way to Alexanderplatz, instead it’s going to go to the back side of the Mall of Berlin, with its last stop (or first, depending upon how you view it) next to the infrequently used U-Mohrenstrasse.

Thus, my commute is altered: no longer will my friend the M48 take me to a stop 280 meters from my office, now I will have to walk 400 meters – an extra 120 meters to get to my office after getting off of the bus.

I wonder about my fellow commuters: a fair number of passengers who get on the bus before me ride past the stop where I get off. These passengers effectively no longer have a single seat service for their commutes. Will these M48 riders switch to the 200 and 300 buses at the one stop where they all meet, will they switch to the U2 somewhere else?

For me, it is not really a dramatic change to my life because I get to keep the one thing that is the most important to me: a single seat ride.