Sunday, June 24, 2007


In case people think I have lost touch with the youth, I have not. I'm right behind them. I have my myspace space, I have my Hyves account, and I even have an avatar on Second Life.

For those of you who don't know hyves, it's a social networking thing like myspace, except without the spam and the sex. It's quite popular in the Netherlands, possibly more so than myspace. One difference is that in myspace most of your 'friends' are people you don't know: bands who want to look popular, hot chicks who want to sell you t-shirts and hot chicks who want you to sign up to their web site to see their titties. On Hyves pretty much all of your 'friends' are people you know. Consequently I have very few friends on Hyves compared to myspace. I always feel relatively popular on myspace. Although not compared to the hot chicks with t-shirts or tittie-sites who have thousands and thousands of friends: alot of whom are other hot chicks with tittie-sites.

Second Life AvatarIt is on Second Life that I feel I have achieved more. Second Life for those of you still very much concerned with the first one is a 3D-representation of the real world where you control an 'avatar' or human graphic and explore the world. It's very much like the real modern world in that it's chock full of advertising, most of the places seem to be concerned with getting money from you and when you really want to go and do something it's frustratingly slow. I am, however, proud that in my short time in this alternative advertising reality I have managed to make money. Real money, because there is an exchange rate between First Life US Dollars and Second Life Linden Dollars that you spend on things like face-lifts and property in Second Life. (It is currently 250 Linden Dollars to 1 US Dollar.) I have earned, for ten minutes dancing, 3 Linden Dollars. It may not sound like much, but it's a lot of money to be paid for dancing when you're a short, over-weight man with a beard.

The trouble now is to find something that costs as little as 3 Linden Dollars to spend it on.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Brief summary: UK trip 8-11 September 2006

Arriving at Gatwick Airport late Friday evening, I was filled with one impression. We Brits have gotten fat. Everywhere I looked there were obese bodies blocking the way and waddling from MacDonalds to Häagen Grozs and back again. Maybe I'd happened to land at the same time as a flight from Chocohocoland, because it seemed to be even more noticeable that it had been a few months before. But I listened to the accents and they were not Chocoholic, but all very British in all its flavours. The whole population does seem to have broadened.

Of course I'd read the newspapers and seen the TV programmes that have been saying everyone was getting bigger around the middle (not to mention heard the rants of one Jamie Oliver, school nosh critic) but had not been convinced. After all, on TV, everyone was still as skinny as all hell. Even the fat ones on TV are really just slightly podgy and far from obese. But here was proof, larger than lithe. Still, I'm hardly as thin as I used to be. Although perhaps a while yet away from being called a porker.

My understanding is that in the UK the government is fully prepared to listen to nutritionists (and even more so to celebrity chefs) but none of these have their ear in quite the same way as the junk-food people. Plus the current government favours outside companies doing things like the cooking, the owning of the school buildings, selling of the school land and employing of the unvetted maintenance staff. This is mainly to help fiddle their Enron-style accounting but also to be further removed from the blame for anything that goes wrong.

What it also means is that where as in the old days you would have had "school dinner ladies" – grotesque, aging women who would serve up huge vats of slop, with most of the nutrition boiled away - you will now get some underpaid kid, who is probably playing truant from the next school, serving up pre-deep-fried shapes with the nutrition clearly and confusingly labelled on the box, and ensuring more than the recommended weekly intake of vitamin Cholesterol.

This is not the full picture, because it's not just the kids, as I'd been lead to expect, but their parents also whose hips seem to be reaching a size that in Italy they would call "Fiat." That I don't have a theory for. Yet. But am considering blaming Big Brother or Myspace.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

26/04/07 New York – Packing Meat

StreetAfter a brief hunt to find unoccupied showers in Hotel 17, we wondered out into the streets. We broke fast on the covered terrace of a café on a corner not far from the hotel. I enjoyed the "typical American breakfast" of two eggs how you like, crispy toast, great, light-fried potatoes and a flat, round "sausage." All served with coffee in a mug the size of a house.

Inside someone with the mouth of Marlon Brando in The Godfather munched and mumbled through his own breakfast. Outside, in the corner of our narrow terrace, sat two guys who could have been Al Pacino characters. "What da fuck?" this, "why da fuck?" that. The guys were moaning "dat nowafuckendays it's too fucken expensive to fucken spend all night in a fucken jazz club." Possibly referring to the one that Woody Allen is reportedly to make unannounced appearances at and join in with the band.

Underpass scene, New York, Meat Packing DistrictWe went back to the hotel, checked out and did more walking. New York is a city where you can walk, which is not so common or possible in many US cities. We wandered all over the place finding ourselves pretty soon in the Meat Packing District where they used to, er, pack meat. Nowadays they are doing a lot of building there and it is a very up-and-coming area. In between the run-down bits, old-warehouses and rat-infested building sites, there are tiny exclusive designer boutiques of the likes of Stella McCartney, etc.

We then wandered down to Chinatown, which was great. In some places you really feel like you are in Shanghai or Beijing rather than New York. We had a fortifying lunch at Joe's Ginger and then picked up some tasty Chinese pastries from a bakery to have later on. It was odd to go all the way to one different country and find yourself missing a completely different third country.

Chinese American Bank, New YorkWe wandered back to the hotel after that, skirting Little Italy and traversing Soho. We stopped for yet more kwarfee and a vegan molasses cookie. There we listened in on the conversation between a writer and his agent. She was all high-powered yadda-yadda-yadda and he was a bit more "well, er, okay." Agents and writers are the opposite ends of the spectrum and in many ways should never meet. However, they need each other like no other relationship does.

We grabbed our bags and had the concierge call us a taxi. The hotel has a deal with a taxi company that turned out to be a con. Or at the very least involves some poor communication. Basically the hotel tells you the fee up front, which is a little more than the standard fee to the airport, but you think what the hell it will come straight to the door. They even tell you it is all-inclusive. Then when you get there, the shifty guy in the taxi says that it is not at all inclusive. A few calls between the driver and the hotel later and we still refused to pay for the toll. Nobody was happy, but at least we were at the airport.

The journey there was terrible in another way. The whole journey we were subjected to "Smooth Jazz CD 101.9" an easy listening radio station playing songs so bland and inoffensive they give you road rage.

We arrived at the airport very early. US airports are much less secure than European ones. In Europe the shopping is on both sides of security and so you can shop knowing those people around you are fellow passengers. In the US, before going to the gates you are wandering around people who have just walked in from pick-pocket school or terrorist training camp. Basically, you go into a standard mall and then after a while, go through the security check to your gate. You would have thought that perhaps now, security would be allowed to interfere with business.

The other thing whereby European airports win is that there they provide free trolleys. In the US, you have to pay for them. Trolleys are part of the fun of the world of airports and to make you pay for them is just wrong. Morally wrong.

The flight back was uneventful as all good flights should be. I diverted myself with Happy Feet for a while, but I had been hoping there were things to be enjoyed in there for semi-adults to enjoy, but it was only for young kids. But fortunately we were able to sleep and soon found ourselves starting a new day, weary and happy, in home sweet home, surprisingly sunny Amsterdam. Stay safe.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

25/04/07 New York - Kwarfee

The showers in Hotel 17 are tiny. Good water pressure, but if you were to throw your arms out during a rendition of the 3rd aria in Verdi's Stagliatelli, you'd find both broken at the shoulder. There are still no signs of the hotel's resident drag queen we were promised by a previous tenant.

We went into Stealbucks Coffee because it seemed to imply we could use the internet there. We could, but only if you pay T-mobile too much money, so we didn't. After that we strolled and took in a large Virgin. Finally we rested in a small, empty snack bar run by (Asian) Indians selling (Asian) Indian-style food disguised as American-friendly wraps.

We finally got our internet fix – Cath had work to do – in a public library where we got to observe daytime library users, who somehow don't differ from country to country.

Our next snack was at Amy's Bread where we popped in partly to avoid the rain. Here we had coffee and sticky buns and I was introduced to Devil's food cake which is rich, gooey and in parts probably made by Satan himself it's so tasty. Here we got to see some examples of pudding, plus what American's call scones, which are almost the same thing as we call them, but not quite.

There seems to be a lot of people walking around whilst reading here. It seems dangerous, but shows how comfortable people feel. For Catherine it feels safer on the streets in New York where traffic is more orderly and less diverse than in Amsterdam. I have seen people cross the street whilst reading a book, which seems madness, but probably makes you smarter. The other thing I saw that I couldn't do is people walking around carrying a plastic bag that said "Stop using plastic bags." Too much irony in one disposable item.

For dinner we sought out a Vietnamese restaurant, but were disappointed. We found the one we were after, but it seemed to cater more for students (cheap and you get lots) than for those who like food to do wonderful things to your taste buds. It was a bit bland. But filling.

For culture we went back to UCB and watched a show of try-outs of sketch and improv groups. The host couldn't describe anything without using half a dozen superlatives, which the audience seemed to not mind, but bothered myself and Lady Catherine. The shows was a pretty mixed bag. There were a few improv groups of varying degrees of experience. Highlights included a double-act featuring two builders on a lunch break which had great fast dialogue, part of which at least was improvised about random stories picked from the paper and about the bizarre things they had in their lunch box. The best were the team of four girls "from the admin department" who were putting on an improv show. It was sublime to watch these characters talk about every suggestion and comment to each other during their deliberately terrible scenes. Hilarious.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

24/04/07 Maryland; Virginia; Washington, DC; New Jersey; New York – Altered States

The drive to the Ronald Reagan National Airport (usually the Ronald Regan is dropped) took us past such important spy-novel locations as Langley, Virginia (headquarters of the CIA) and The Pentagon (headquarters of The League of Satan, judging by the design). Most of the people who go on to become enemies of the US are trained by people from these places.

From the airport, we took a moving walkway, a shuttle bus and a moving walkway to get to the metro, which we rode to Union Station in Washington itself. I'd forgotten how soporific the lighting was on DC metro stations. I'm sure violence on the subway is very low there, although incidents of people falling asleep onto the track must be pretty high. We arrived a good hour early at Union Station, so had a chance to grab food and see the resplendent décor.

We took the Amtrak train to New York Penn Station. A pleasant three hour ride with more space and less panic than on a plane, but for only a tiny little bit more money and much more travel time, but much less faff time.

Front of Hotel 17At New York Penn, we jumped in a taxi and were swerved over to the East Village to the deceptively large Hotel 17. After flooding the toilets, we roamed around the streets hunting down healthy, dairy-free places to eat before settling on a Chipotle's Mexican deli. We walked pretty much the whole day acquainting ourselves with a small part of the world's best-known metropolis.

The evening was rounded off with "Harold Night" at the Upright Citizen's Brigade. UCB are one of the best-known improv groups and is an improv academy in the style of Second City. The show we watched was basically 5 different groups all performing a Harold (short, semi-structured, improvised performance of about 20-30 minutes). The audience was mostly other performers or students of the many classes they give. It was never-the-less practically full.

UCB's theatre is underneath a huge drugstore (chemist). It is quirky, somewhat rock and roll, or rather grunge, and suitably makeshift as befits an improv space. It was as well arranged as the obligatory view-blocking posts would allow.

Friday, June 15, 2007

23/04/07 Bethesda, Maryland – Flimsy Blade Used with Force (5,5)

For the second day running, we went shopping, which is the sort of thing that would put a strain on a lesser relationship. But today we had time to shop for books, which is a different sort of shopping. The sort of difference between a chalk sandwich and a cheese sandwich. We even had time to check out the geeky gadget store.

Pete with light sabrePossible captions: "The price tag is large on this one." The man who put the wan into Obi Wan Kenobi: "If you strike me down I will come back more paler than you can possibly imagine."

Again, however, we struck out (failed to achieve our aim) of finding clothes in Catherine's size that are also not covered in cartoon characters. I think it's time for a range of sexy clothes for the smaller girl. It could be called Lolita or something arty like that. Although we found nothing to buy, we did find a camouflaged bikini that could have slept four marines. I also found that the clothes racks in Seers from above look like swastikas.

In the bookstore (bookshop), I searched amongst the large collection of crossword books to find one that contained cryptic ones. Catherine did warn me that there wouldn't be any, but I didn't believe it. They seem to be a European thing. Hard US crosswords just refer to less well-known synonyms or expect you to remember obscurer facts like who was the 41st president or something. In fact, while we were there (the US, not the bookshop), Professor William J Clinton, former incumbent at the Lewinski Institute, published what appeared to be one of the first semi-cryptic crosswords in the country. It was more of a quiz with obscure-sounding questions, such as "Baby Boomer blown by girl in blue dress. (4,7)"

That night we ate Vietnamese and had my taste buds awed. We also did some late-night book shopping. I realised that although Virginia lags behind Texas in the sheer number of Bibles on the shelves, it does win on the number of Christian Inspiration books. These are books such as "Faith in Your Daily Life," "How I Found God in Clothing Retail," and "Jesus and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

22/04/07 Bethesda, Maryland – Big Fat Zero

The day started with a little of that great divider of the sexes, shopping. We didn't buy much as most stores don't go down to Lady Catherine's size. I expect they do in New York, and certainly in LA, but in Lardula Falls Mall, Virginia, they don't. Even the children's sizes are too big. Or if they are not, they are for very young children and not very sexy. Where do young children get sexy things to wear? Oh yeah, the internet.

In the evening, we had a barbeque with the addition of one of Catherine's cousins and his lady friend and learnt all about hand dancing. It's a kind of shuffling, hand-holding dance which is a kind of localised version of swing dancing in that (a) you don't move too far around and (b) it is only found in the DC area.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

21/04/07 Bethesda, Maryland – Gun Running

Maryland Canal BridgeSaturday saw Catherine, once a marathon-level athlete, reliving glory days with her sister along a bit of the same canal that runs near Harpers Ferry. This ditch was once a source of revenue and vital transportation route, and is now a great place to watch turtles hang out and see the single, odd elderly kayaker ride the stillness.

Adult Genetically-Intact Non-Martial-Arts TurtlesJust over the running path from the canal was the vast, majestic Potomac. However, kayakers are specifically warned here that they should resist that part of the water as it leads towards a large dam with turbines turning the exact speed needed to dice kayaks like fibreglass carrots.

Exclusive Boat ClubOn an island in the river is another boat club. However it is very, very exclusive. More exclusive even than the one on the quayside next to the area where the suited and boated millionaires hang out. Despite looking like a shack on a deserted island, it takes years and years to even get on the list of people who might become members when enough people die. The island had no signs of life and can only be reached by a boat. Which means you have to have a boat already and therefore won't need this place. Although I think there's a little raft you can pull yourself across on. As nobody seems to use it and you cannot join it, I can only think it is some sort of front for something. Drugs, gun-running, government research or some other covert, illegal activity.

The evening was spent visiting more relatives in their large house in an estate of other large houses right next to a national park. It's the place to live if you think deer in your back garden are cool (which I think they are, but I don't have to live with them) and are fond of hornets (which no one is).

The whole basement is given over to a children's play area and has about the same volume as the house I grew up in. And I think the kids have as many toys lying around as I ever owned. This is apparently typical and goes to prove what I've always thought, that American kids are spoilt. Spoiled, plumped up and then shot sometime during their education. It doesn't feel like the best way to raise your kids.

On the way home, we passed a large corporate building that houses the headquarters of the NRA. One of the most important population control organisations in the US. It was closed, possibly because they were mourning the loss of one of their members.

Elderly Railway Bridge Elderly Railway Bridge

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

20/4/07 Washington, DC – Canoedling

After leaving Harpers Ferry, we drove along the Potomac river, past places like Damascus and Germantown towards the Washington DC area. It's here that Catherine's sister lives with her husband. They live in the forest. Or so it feels. Actually they live in what was once a wooded area that is still pretty wooded even after houses have been built there. It's great if you like watching birds and squirrels and feeling miles away from the house just next door.

Traffic in and out of DC, especially during rush hour, is a nightmare. To help cope, at key times of the day, lanes change direction. Roads normally heading both in and out of the city suddenly start heading just one way. It can be very confusing. And frustrating when the place you want to get to is normally accessible by driving a little way down one road that is now against you and you have to drive all over town to get on that same road travelling in the other direction. It's also dangerous and we at one point found ourselves facing traffic coming head-on after none of us realised the road had gone all unidirectional.

Our detour took us past such sights on the DC tourist map as the Kennedy Center for Something or Other, and the Watergate Hotel famous for bringing the "gate" suffix into the English language. Now anything can become a scandal just by adding the word "gate" to the end of it. Like the scandal about the state of modern software practices, Billgate.

Peter CanoesWe were in DC to canoe. Yes, canoe. There is a boat club on the river in the heart, or at least kidneys, of Washington where our hosts keep a canoe. It's also a hang-out for a thousand spoilt school kids. We rowed around one of the islands giving ourselves a good, healthy workout. Then we hit the town.

We walked past the bars where the yachtists hang out. Here large slabs of ice had been placed on pedestals for reasons unknown. It was maybe artistic, but they were just somewhat rough slabs. It may have been to counteract global warming, but it seemed too little, too late. It may have just been decided by someone that it would look cool (pun possible intended). We strode up past pricey shops, walked right into a medium-sized Italian restaurant on the corner, sat down and ate.

On the WaterfrontThe food was highly worthy, as I recall, and we returned towards our car quite nourished. The shops were all shut or shutting except for the bookshop, which had hours left to go. We wandered through the yuppie bar terrace on the quayside. The place was now heaving with the well-dressed and well-off, many of whom had arrived on expensive yachts which were parked along the waterside. It was very much a place to be seen. We slipped through effortlessly. Not really dressed up well enough to be obvious. The yachts varied in shape, but pretty much all of them were shining. I think people had spent their whole week at home polishing their yacht for this evening. None of them looked as if they had ever been sailed in anger.

{Lesson time: The word "yacht" (pronounced yot) comes from the Dutch word "jacht" (formerly "jaght", pronounced yagkgt where gkg sounds like clearing your throat or the ch in "loch"). It basically means hunt or in this context fast pirate-ship. So these people with their elegant suits and designer partners were basically fast pirates.}

Exorcist stairsWe drove back past one of the must-see sights in DC – the steps from the film The Exorcist. You know, the ones where he falls down and down and down. Superb.

Monday, June 11, 2007

20/4/07 Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Rock over Troubled Water

Harpers Ferry ChurchWe were awoken early by a bird that for some reason had evolved to make a sound exactly like a digital alarm clock. It was definitely a bird because its tone was natural despite its resemblance to an electronic noise, plus it was ever so slightly irregular in a way machines never are without serious programming. Why would a bird evolve in this way? Surely Natural Selection would have meant that not only would have warned the worm of its approach and therefore got no food, but also later-starting animals, awoken early, would have set upon it making it extinct by now.
Perhaps it did not evolve, but was thrown out of the nest at an early age (probably because it made an irritating noise from the word go) and believed there after that its mother was in fact the Robinson's alarm clock. Every morning it would hear her call and would do its best to imitate that call. The Robinsons have since retired and now no longer need the alarm clock, but still every morning, the little bird calls out exactly at 6:30 hoping once again to hear the voice of its mother. This is all speculation.

Some time later, we feasted on another wonderful gourmet breakfast and met the other tenants of The Anglers Inn.

Jefferson Rock (now called Stone)For our now daily dose of outdoor investigation, we wondered past the original Storer College and joined up with the Appalachian Trail where we left off yesterday. It took us pass Jefferson Rock, a large rock on which Thomas Jefferson once stood and apparently uttered some profound words about the town and view. Nowadays mere mortals cannot climb onto the rock and fences stop them nearing the edges of the bits below the rock. The rock is also perennially surrounded by school children who don't tend to say anything that could be described as profound. Their teacher asked for words to describe the rock, "big" was about the best.

We wandered some more around the town, popped into a few more houses that were now devoted to telling about the story of Mr Brown, the struggle from slavery to segregation and Lewis and Clark, "explorers."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

19/4/07 Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Revolution Come and Gone

Harpers FerryWe awoke in the quiet, post-revolutionary, pre-tourist season Harpers Ferry. We were staying at The Anglers Inn, a quaint, friendly B&B obsessed with all things fishing (see previous picture).

We each enjoyed the luxurious, warm classic-shaped bath and went down to feast on the gourmet breakfast provided by the kindly inn-keepers. Sumptuous French toasts and light chocolate bread. A fantastic way to start a day and 8:30 doesn't seem so early when you're still on European time.

Typical Harpers Ferry Scene: Band of roving school childrenHarpers Ferry was a once busy town that is now a tourist village. It's full of picturesque colonial houses. It is about as full of history as a place can be in the US. Scene of three civil war battles and John Brown's failed rebellion to free the slaves, which is credited with causing the war.

However one of the first points of the day was the confusing world of custard. In the UK, custard is the milky, eggy gloop you put on your pudding (dessert). In the US, the closest thing to custard as we know it is called pudding. Although you can get "frozen custard" which is also similar, but less eggy and more frozen. It's very confusing, but even more confusing when you know that custard was originally a kind of pie and that pudding originally meant something like a haggis. Not so tasty now, is it?

Harpers Ferry Railway TunnelAfter breakfast, we took a walk. A long leisurely hike through the focal point of the village, over the railway bridge, along the damp canal and up through the woods.

Harpers Ferry Car BridgeHarpers Ferry lies at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. There's a little bit of friendly tussling between the two waters, but it is the Potomac that wins the chance to flow on and into the Chesapeake Bay. On the other side of the Potomac is a key hill three times fought over during the war of Gone with the Wind.

Along the paths that wind through the woodland on that hill are points of interest left from the fortification from it. Ditches marked powder store and indents posted as gun emplacements. We took the shorter path to a crop of rock overhanging the tunnel entrance opposite the town. It's a great spot to sit, reflect, and look down on a pretty town kept in the old style through the power of tourism. Being such a great spot, it was only after a few seconds of arriving that another pack of tourists turned up. Fortunately, their attention span was much less than ours.

Harpers Ferry OverhangThe overhang looks over the twin railway lines that merge at Harpers Ferry. We watched as a 65-carriage cargo train snaked its way along the river-side track and into the tunnel beneath us. Slowly crossing the country on a pre-laid path could well be the most boring or the most visually stimulating jobs one could have.

65-carriage train, Harpers FerryOne thing we noted about the woodland around Harpers Ferry was its almost complete lack of wildlife. Occasionally there would be the odd woodland bird or a squirrel, but you'd expect much, much more of this sort of thing. It was actually quite eerie, especially as we saw more wildlife in New York City.


former bridge guarded by a duckMost of the buildings in the core of the village are museums. Many of these relate to the life and times of one John Brown, former business man who went all wild-eyed and bearded at the treatment of slaves. He got together 20 men and lead an attack on Harpers Ferry which he hoped would encourage the slaves to rise up and join him. They didn't. Probably because despite his initial success he was soon surrounded by the military. Not only that but the first person the revolutionaries managed to shoot was a freed slave in the employ of the railroad company, which must have sent out mixed signals. That is if any signals really got out. It is hard to know how in these pre-radio days, word would really have spread about the revolt. Especially amongst slaves whose movements were far from free.

Still despite the failure of his attempt, and John Brown's subsequent hanging, the "rebellion" is credited with being a cause of the civil war a few years later, fought overtly over the issue of slavery.

Harpers Ferry was also a location of one of the first "free colleges," a place where people of all races and sexes could get an education. Together. Storer College was also a meeting place of the Niagara Movement, a group dedicated to removing segregation that was the "freedom" after slavery. You know as in, "Everybody is equal, but some people are more equal. White legs good; black legs bad."

After lunch, a few more museum homes and an encounter with a very large, blind park ranger who came puffing and grumbling down the stairs so audibly we thought he was going to die, it was time for coffee. We had it in The Coffee Mill. On the outside, this looks like a quaint, old-style coffee house, inside it looks like a seedy diner.

Former lock houseWe didn't have time, alas for the John Brown Wax Museum in which the life of John Brown is illustrated using animated wax dummies. It has all the feel of a Vincent Price movie, apparently, especially the scene where John Brown is in his coffin and if you listen carefully you can hear him breathing, somewhat mechanically. It appears that frequently people come back to the town later in life determined to go back into the wax museum and once and for all dispel the nightmares they've had ever since they went there as a child. We didn't have time but maybe when if have kids of our own we'll come back here and take them here to the wax museum.


Harpers Ferry Local Guide
Harpers Ferry is a stop on the Appalachian Way, a path "originally" followed by Messrs Lewis and Clark when they crossed the country deciding what bits to con the locals out of. Much is made of Lewis and Clark's "pioneering" crossing and "discoveries" but very little is made of the young Native American woman who led them complete with child on her back.

We walked down by one of the rivers' edges where once there was much industry and housing before repeated floods brought all the buildings down. Now there is nothing but fallen brick in the outline of houses and mills with trees growing in between. Oh, and signs saying where the most important buildings were. On the way back we followed a tiny bit of the Appalachian Way. Some people spend years following the whole thing as a sort of get-back-to-well-trod-nature sort of thing as well as getting in touch with their colonial roots.

After a long day, an early night was the order of things, disturbed only by the frequent passage of 65-carriage monster trains.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

18/4/07 Dallas, Texas to Dulles, Virginia

After some necessary maintenance on Cath's Parent's network, we headed off to Dallas Fort Worth Airport. As stated before, US airports are sprawling and badly organised and Dallas Fort Worth is no different.

It was at this airport we finally got to see some Americans as we Europeans expect them. All girth and short trousers. There were also a few true Texans with their wranglers, 10 gallon hats and 20-gallon bellies. Although most were somewhat understated. I was very disappointed. My expectations of what the people of Texas were going to be like had proved very wrong. I can only assume we were in the wrong part of Texas. Certainly we didn't stray too much from downtown Dallas and the suburban sprawl that surrounds it. If we'd have gone to Billy-Bob's we would have seen plenty, but not necessarily authentic ones. Next time, we'll try and head out into the wilds and see if we can't find out what happened to the stereotypical Texan.


The plane we flew in had signs in two languages. In the middle one said "←EXIT SALIDA→" which means "Americans evacuate left, Mexicans right."

We flew into Chicago Midway Airport which celebrates a battle in the pacific where the US lost nearly 100 planes. Not the best theme for an airport. Here we had some non-country-specific Asian food. The pork was surprisingly tasty but the orange chicken overly sweet. I forget the name of the place, but it was something unlike Yam, Bam and Fan Kyu Maam.

After this, we caught our connection to Washing DC Dulles Airport. It had never occurred to us that Dallas and Dulles were close in name, but the guy at the Avis desk, who had an Australasian twang to his voice, claimed they had many people arriving there who had booked cars online for Dallas and expected them to be waiting for them in Dulles.

Sweet BreamsWe took our hire car the few hundred miles to the B&B we were to spend the night. It was quite late and with bodies not even on mid-Atlantic time and stomachs having been filled at all sorts of odd times during the day, we eschewed dinner in favour of sleep. Sleep: called the Little Death by the morbid French and the Big Death by insects born that morning.

Friday, June 01, 2007

17/4/07 Dallas, Texas – Eat At Krishna's

The news is still dominated by the massacre. A member of Congress said, "It's too early to talk about gun control." What he means is, "It's too late to talk about gun control."

The gunman it is emerging throughout the day is not your average gun-toting local, or a single-man cell of al-Quaida as some panickers were fearing, but a Korean student. He seems to have integrated very well and owned at least two handguns.


When she sees the skyline of Dallas, Catherine cannot help but think of the theme tune to the TV show of the same name. I hear something, but my memory is poor and I have a strong feeling I am not hearing the right theme tune. It may well be for some similar show, maybe Dysentry or Maverick. My memory of the show is pretty hazy, but I do recall there was a big hoo-har about who shot JR. I'm pretty sure it was Suellen Oswald from the Children's Book Repository. It was a pity we didn't have time to replenish my memory at the museum out housed at the actual Southfork Ranch used in the show. I say pity, but I mean something else.

One thing Dallas isn't short of is churches. They're big, they're frequent and they all have long names. Where I'm from, churches are called St. Margaret's or St. Frederick's. Maybe they get as long as St Martin's in the Field, but that's it. Here they are called things like Holy Church of Jesus Christ Son of God, and Church of the Holy Blessing of Jesus upon the Children of the Wondrous Flock of He Who Must be Praised. I don't know if the trend will be for these names to get longer. In fact, I think the trend will be that they start becoming more commercialised and start being called things like Holies!, HisHouse or J.C. Superstore ("open every Sunday from 8 til 4").


If you look closely you can see Buddha in the corner.We had planned that evening to go to Billy-Bob's three-acre Honky-Tonk and Rodeo in Fort Worth, but time slipped away from us like the soap in a hillside shower. Then storm warnings came in so we decided to do something a little closer to home. Plus going to a bar to look at a bunch of men in big hats and leather boots seemed a little gay. Instead of the Honky-Tonk and Rodeo, we did the next best thing in terms of experiencing the Wild West spirit. We went to a Hari Krishna Temple Restaurant. There we had a very healthy Indian vegetarian buffet followed by some great halva. And the people in these temples are really nice. They're like Mormons dressed as Indian Hippies.