Breathless (Bruges)
Tower of Church of our Lady, Bruges

Breathless Ok, first thing’s first. I am sorry. If anyone is intending to travel to Belgium, and more specifically Bruges, I’m afraid I have, in my attempt to blend with local custom, done my level best to rid the town and country of as large a supply of beer as I was able. There may be none left. Not just the beer. Waffles, fries, mussels, chocolate. All gone. Seriously. Now, have you ever been to a new place and immediately felt at home? Like some part of you was already there, waiting for the rest of you to show up. Have you ever met a new person and instantly knew that you were going to be fast friends? Lovers? A connection in a moment. Like some part of you was already with them, waiting for the rest of you to show up.  Bruges hit me like that. I’ve returned home from several of these trips now and always have much to report to Mark. But this one, this one was different. I didn’t come home showing photos or discussing a meal I had in a particular pub. I came home adamant, insisting even, that Mark see it too. That he experience it for himself. To this day, and it’s been months since that trip to Belgium, I haven’t changed my mind about this. I think he should see it. I think you should, too. I was immediately caught up. The people. The medieval architecture. The winding lanes and old world […]

The Greatest Adventure
Gena with family

The Greatest Adventure It’s just after sunrise on a frigid Saturday morning. New York sits under an oppressively deep freeze. The single digit temperatures seem in conflict with the too blue sky seen out my bedroom window. As though the snow covered ground and the frost in the air mock a sun with no apparent heat to offer. It’s only a few days after New Years and while my coffee cools on the bedside table, I wanted to tell you about an adventure. A journey. I love traveling. I love being a little nervous. Landing in a foreign place and finding my way. It’s a little ridiculous how satisfying I find it to negotiate the public transit of Hong Kong. Or finding the right local bus leaving Mexico City for the ruins of Teotihuacán. Swimming through a menu without a word of English. Street signs and landmarks. Local customs and cuisine. And, of course, following the clues left by my grandparents as I track down the location of their pictures to see it with my own eyes. Walk it with my own feet. Touch it with my own hands. And then record it with a photo. I love it all. But that’s not the sort of journey I’m talking about. Now, it has been almost four months since my last trip for this blog, and I’ll be getting back to that real soon. But I wanted to take a minute to discuss a different sort of adventure. An adventure of […]

Fearless Travelers (Mexico City)
There's your flag shot, Shelly! Zocalo

This is one of the few times I’ve posted an entry with the picture first…but LOOK at it. It’s beautiful. They were beautiful. These people frozen for time in this amazing moment. This stroll through the Zocalo. The heart of Mexico City: formerly the heart of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The center of the universe. The known world. Well, ok, for some people…in a very specific time (seven or eight hundred years ago or so). But look at these people in this picture. They were fun and adventurous. And fearless. That’s my Nanny on the right. My Papa must have taken the picture. The other two people are Dr. Creed and his wife, the beautiful Jeanette Creed. Longtime friends of my grandparents and frequent travel companions. Now, not to disclose too much information, but Dr. Creed was my kind and gentle childhood dentist, the reason my mom went back and finished high school, and he had no small part in encouraging my mom and dad’s relationship. So you might say these people were quite important to me. While this picture was taken before I was born, this small group of people would have enormous impact on my life. Ok, now the trip was to catch these pictures that I have of my Nanny and Papa with their friends in Mexico City. Ok, now back to the present. While trying to write this post which has already gone through a few drafts, I couldn’t figure out a way to work […]

A Castle On A Hill (Edinburgh)
Charging the Castle

Ok. I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time. Weeks actually. Wait. No, it’s been two months! Man, time flies. I mean, I have been busy. Trip to Mexico City (posts to come), doing a show in Texas, seeing family, and spending a wet and muddy weekend at a music festival. Plus, I really didn’t know which way to go with this post. Here I have Edinburgh; a magical place. Ancient history and modern city in one. “Old” and “New Town” laid out in a Scottish sprawl. (The design for “New Town” was drafted in 1766…so, you know, not so new.) And all surrounding the castle on a hill. Edinburgh Castle. Rustic. Gothic. Fortress. Stand on Princes Street and gaze south up the cliff to the castle above and the child in you comes alive. That brings me to this trip’s photograph. I have Papa posing for what can only be described as a playful and childlike picture inside the castle. Now, I can still remember my Papa’s husky laugh. A grumbly sort of raspy thing that always seemed to surprise even him. By my dad’s own description, my Papa wasn’t always the most playful of sorts. That was the job of Nanny, my dad’s mom. So maybe it was the place that brought it out. Maybe it was his traveling friends. Maybe it was Nanny. Or maybe what I have here is a glimpse of the child in him. That child in all of us. That sense […]

Peoplesick
Joy

Peoplesick (written on the 8:30am train from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Edinburgh’s Waverly Station on April 8, 2013) I get homesick a lot more often than I usually let myself admit. I love to travel and I love seeing new places and things. But home calls to me. What has become more and more evident to me over the years of traveling is that it is people, not things or places, that I long for. Don’t get me wrong. I love my apartment in New York. Love my neighborhood. Love my church and even my jobs. But it’s the people I get homesick for. It’s the people I get peoplesick for? That doesn’t sound right, but I think you understand the sentiment. Mark. Zoe. My friends and family. (Zoe is a dog by the way) Those relationships, those loves, call me home. Even at this moment as I sit racing along a train track from Glasgow to Edinburgh, I crave home.  Part of that may be that I’m alone now. But I wasn’t yesterday. Ah, yesterday. Yesterday morning began, as I fear many of these stories will, fresh off a red-eye flight from New York. But this time I had company. My travel buddy and expert on all things theatre had a plan for me. Molly and I, over the past decade of friendship, have had the pleasure (mostly pleasure) of traveling over the entire North American continent on tour. Together we’ve also seen Athens, Xania on Crete, Paris, […]

Unused Air (Luckenbach, TX)

New York is the best! Great city! Great food! Great people! Great culture and art. Music and nightlife. Diversity and inspiration. Millions and millions of other people with their own ideas about how the world should be. It’s enough to make ya sick. I mean do you ever step out of your apartment building or office and take a deep breath and think 12 million other people breathed this air? No, seriously. I love it here, but sometimes I want to go running for the mountains.  Sometimes you gotta get out. My friend Kerri, and fellow lover of the city, recently got herself a Jeep. Now for those of you living outside of Gotham, that may not seem too radical. But inside the city walls, it is. I got rid of my car in 1997 and haven’t owned one since. I rent when I need one and out of town jobs usually provide one of their own or rent one for me. There was no need. Or so I thought. But by her reports, the city is a new place to her now. There’s the obvious benefits like buy as many groceries as you wish because you’re not gonna develop delts the size of melons carrying them home. Or actually going to the remote UPS pick-up site to retrieve your package when you missed the delivery instead of just saying “Ah, screw it! Those pants I ordered last week are already out of fashion anyway! Besides, to get there was […]

Running In Circles (Castlerigg)
up the rise

Somewhere roughly mid-morning on my third day in the UK, as an all too common haze lingered over the moors, I found myself winding up an alleged two-way road just south of the A66 near Keswick. My day had begun hours earlier with another 730am wake-up call. But the story I wanted to tell you started even earlier than that. Fifty years earlier, actually. It was 1963. The Beatles debuted their first album and James Bond began his decades-long lesson in the perfect martini. A young president was assassinated and a young King marched on Washington. AT&T gave us the push-button phone and a southern governor wrote his chapter in history with his proclamation, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” A tumultuous time. But amongst all this a young teacher in a small English schoolhouse had an idea. An idea to help her young students learn about a foreign place and engage with the world around them. Fifty years ago in that teacher’s classroom sat a young girl by the name of Hillary. Her small hamlet had recently been twinned or sistered with a town of similar size, make and industry in France. To celebrate this new union and exchange, the teacher decided to partner her kids with similarly aged students in the corresponding French village. And a relationship was born. A pen-pal relationship that would carry on for the next fifty years. It continues still. So on the fiftieth anniversary of the first letter, Hillary’s childhood pen pal came […]

A Note On Notes
Nanny's Bundle

A Note on Notes Under my bed there is a box. Inside exists my history. My loves and lessons. It is full of wishes and gratitude. Loving reminders. Sincere requests. Gentle admonishments. But more on all that in a moment. As I’ve mentioned before, there were many occasions while doing research for this project that I relied on my Nanny’s notes to determine location or date for the picture in question. Sometimes a note carefully written on the slide itself. Other times on an attached caption list covering a hundred or so slides at once. Those lists were a real treasure and often saved me hours. But they accomplished something else. They brought her into the room with me. Her familiar fingers firmly pressed pen to the paper in my hand and Nanny came close. The physical evidence of a life. Now, while the grandparents I am primarily covering with this blog are paternal, this brings to mind a story about my Mom’s mom. My beloved Memaw, now departed. It’s been almost six years since she left us and still it aches like new. Not all the time anymore, but the ache does stalk me at unexpected moments and come on me with surprising force. She was a remarkable woman of seemingly conflicting qualities. She crocheted the most beautiful of Afghan blankets, could swear like a sailor, made the most fragrant of homemade candles and at times could party like a fraternity kid. She also loved more genuinely than almost […]

The Accidentally Grumpy Tourist (York)
Nanny on The Shambles, York circa 1980

The Accidentally Grumpy Tourist.   The late Rev. Dr. Arthur Caliandro, former head minister at my church in New York, often spoke of the kindness of New Yorkers. He spoke of the ways they help each other and care for their communities. He would do this while addressing the visitors to the church, which were often visitors to the city itself. Church tourists, if you will. It’s my opinion that he did so to counter the commonly held belief that New Yorkers are pushy and rude. Truth is, we’re just busy and hurried. But like people everywhere, we have homes, neighbors we like, neighbors we don’t so much like, favorite bars and restaurants, churches, volunteer organizations, Girl Scout meetings, and family dinners. Now, over the 15-plus years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to another conclusion. If you’ve been pushed while visiting this city, there is a high probability that it was another tourist that pushed you. Traveling does something to us. While we explore and experience a new place, we also wear ourselves down and run ourselves ragged. How many times have you heard someone say about anywhere they’ve been, especially New York, “I loved visiting, but I could never live there”? Well, to that I say, “I don’t spend the whole day shopping, climbing stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty, forcing myself through the throngs of Times Square and pretending to understand the latest exhibit at the Guggenheim”. But if you’re a tourist in a new […]

Time in the Woods (Sherwood Forest)
Papa in Sherwood Forest

Instant coffee? Not the best start to a new day, but it’ll do. It’s 915am on Monday now, but when the phone rang at 730 this morning for my wakeup call, it took me more than a few moments to understand where I was. That sleep was real and it was deep. And in large part it was the first sleep I’d had in two days since waking in Florida Saturday morning. I’d slept a touch on the red eye to London, but not much. But when I climbed in bed last night bleary eyed with exhaustion, my mind was still moving. Moving over the day’s activities. Yesterday began with a smooth landing at Heathrow in London. From there, I took the bus to the rental office to pick up my car. After some short trouble adjusting to driving in bizzaro world, where left is right, junction means exit and nobody knows that Superman is supposed to be a good guy, I was on my way. Now, York was my ultimate goal for the end of the day, but Sherwood Forest was my first stop. Pulling into the parking lot, I was uncertain how to begin. However, I must say I was immediately caught up by the place. It was surprisingly quiet for a weekend day and the forest seemed so peaceful. After a quick glance around, I decided a trip to the information center was my best bet. The lovely lady working the desk as I entered greeted me […]