Fleeing Hurricane Irma – Part II

Saturday September 9th:

I left the Holiday Inn Express in Greenwood SC after a desultory free breakfast, and hit the road at 10:00

Most of the front portion of the trip, the  44 plus miles in a northerly direction to Greenville, SC, was on US-25 which threaded its way through rural South Carolina. This was a good road, basically a 4-lane divided highway.

Coming out of Greenville, I remained on US-25 and did so into North Carolina. Even before Hendersonville, one could see that the terrain was changing. Bigger hills could be seen to the north. This made the road a bit more complex to drive.

I would hit a lengthy bit of stop and go approaching the Asheville Regional Airport. But it only added a half hour additional to the journey.

I had told my Airbnb hosts that I would arrive at 1:00 PM and I arrived at the Dogwood Grove address at 1:06 PM.

The house was up in the hills and there was plenty of forest to be seen. The first picture below is of the solarium just off the bedroom.

The second image is a view of the bedroom which came equipped with a TV, a small refrigerator, Wi-Fi, private entrance, private bathroom, and with the ceiling fan in use, there was no need to run the AC.

I chatted with the hosts and found them to be very warm and inviting. They were also former New Yorkers like me.

Time to get my bearings. Coming out of Dogwood Grove, I’d eventually run into Route 70 and that would leave me with a choice. Shall I go Right or Left.

I turned left and that took me in an uphill direction. Within minutes I was looking at the entrance to a tunnel. No surprise there as the road is called Tunnel Road. But I didn’t know that beforehand.

This was one scary tunnel. Though quite short it was unexpected and I hadn’t time to switch from sunglasses to regular glasses. Even with my headlights on – it was till way dark. I mean really, really dark.

I could barely see the car behind me, and sometimes the approaching car hadn’t put his headlights on, so it was harrowing from beginning to end. I’m talking about a minute or a minute 15 seconds tops of sheer automotive terror.

But I made it through safely twice – out and back – which enabled me to return to write this for you.

Dinner was decided by a coin toss. Heads it would be Outback at 611 Tunnel Road, tails it would be the Yoshida Express at 30 Tunnel Road. The coin came up heads. So I headed out for some steak and some bloomin’ onions plus a side salad.

Of course leaving the apartment at 5:45 PM on a Saturday night was too late. Parking lot was filled  and people were waiting outside to get in. So I need a reversal of direction. Back on to Tunnel Road in the opposite direction.

The Yoshida Express featured Japanese style food. Steak and Chicken with fried rice and seasoned sweet carrots would do just fine.  Only aside from the style of the food, and some Japanese decorations, the place was in Asheville, NC – and I didn’t see any Japanese staff, or even hear any Japanese.

The price for the entrée, salad and a beverage was $13 and change.and then there was a mandatory tip of either 15% or 20% or a custom tip – fill in the amount yourself. I don’t mind tipping or even service changes like they do in Europe – but

– this place was completely self-service. Carry the drink to the table yourself, pick up your salad, then the entrée at the counter, then ‘bus’ your own table when finished. So the tip was for the counter girl/cashier who took your order and likely the cook..

The food was okay but the whole tip business turned me off. I would later find out that Asheville had a good many fine Japanese restaurants. I should have done more research.

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Hurricane Irma Storm Post

Thursday September 7th:

My memories of last year’s storm, “Matthew” which happened in early October of 2016 are still fresh, or should I say – those memories have been refreshed. In early 2016 I had moved from Sarasota, FL to Port Wentworth, GA. The reasons for that move are not germane to for this post, so I won’t mention them. What I will say, that while living in Sarasota from May of 2008 to April of 2016, none of the hurricanes or tropical storms, or even the far too prevalent thunder storms, created any suffering beyond only a few short power outages – all of which were measured in hours rather than days.

But with storm track models for Hurricane Irma – if the storm made its way up Florida east coast, there was a distinct likelihood, that this storm would eventually impact coastal Georgia. In fact Savannah appeared in almost every projection. Now I don’t live in Savannah. I am in Port Wentworth about a 15 to 20 minutes drive west from Savannah.  Meaning I live in a western suburb of Savannah.

Now Matthew had left me with out electricity, as well as no cell phone or internet service for about three days. I also suffered some small amount of water damage. Not flooding mind you, just wind-driven rain which seeped in under the front door. The cure was four days of an electric blower (battery operated) to dry out a section of my bedroom carpet. So yeah, I escaped with a minimal amount of inconvenience and/or damage,

But I wasn’t about to take my chances on a repeat. So yesterday I booked an apartment via Airbnb in Asheville, NC, which is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in western North Carolina. About 308 miles north and west from Port Wentworth.

I booked the place for Saturday, the 9th with checkout on Wednesday the 13th. My plan was to remain high and dry and not lose days to a loss of electricity, or worse.

That was the plan.

Friday September 8th: Watching CNN’s coverage of the storm was not at all pleasant. The size, strength, and direction of the storm remained ominous. Which is a long way from assuring.

Around 1:00 PM, I left the apartment to fill up the gas tank of my car. No problem to do that, as there was plenty of gas, and no lines.

But –

The gas station  was close enough to I-95 that I could see that the northbound traffic was stop and go as in bumper-to-bumper. Now Port Wentworth is exit 109 on I-95 in Georgia. This makes it the last exit in Georgia and it is only about 4-5 minutes from the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Now my route to Asheville was not going to put me on 1-95. Rather I would take GA-21 north from Port Wentworth utilizing a series of state roads and the older federal highways that aren’t Interstates but are still excellent. That is until I would get on I-520/I-20 coming out of Augusta, GA But it wasn’t the traffic that worried me. I thought that there would be a gasoline shortage based on the amount of traffic

So after deciding to leave one day earlier, I went back to my apartment and booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Greenwood, SC. Staying in Greenwood would leave me with about a 128 miles run up to Asheville.

So I quickly packed and at 2:30 PM I started the car. Having met some of my neighbors, I was the 4th of 6 tenants in the building to leave for higher ground. Chatham County had issued a mandatory evacuation notice. Plus the apartment complex office would be closed, meaning there would be no staff on hand, and no maintenance issues could be dealt with.

So it seemed a no-brainer to take off.

I saw plenty of mileage through Georgia’s ‘back roads’, There was no traffic at all until I got within 5 miles of the I-520 exchange in Augusta. What should have been a quick 5 miles became a lengthy crawl of nearly an hour. Nevertheless, I made it onto I-520 then exited to I-20. I think I was only about 10 minutes on the interstates. Then more of the Georgia and the South Carolina back roads.

I did make it to the Holiday Express in Greenwood, and it is from that location that I write this.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll have about 128 miles to go to get to Asheville.

 

Hotel Beau Séjour – New Netflix Series

What do I know of Flanders?

We can start with the famous poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, written in May of 1915 during The Great War (1914-1918), or as it is called here in the USA – World War I. McRae was a Canadian military doctor and an artillery commander. One of McRae’s friends had just been killed by an exploding artillery shell near Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium. As the chaplain was off base, McRae himself led the burial service. Following that he was inspired to author this poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

My knowledge of Flanders also includes some famous Flemish painters like Pieter Bruegel the Elder whose most famous work is called The Dutch Proverbs.

We can easily state that this depiction of life (circa 1559 is not exactly a walk in the park.

Then there was Jan van Eyck famed for his earthly realism combined with spiritual symbolism, and

Peter Paul Rubens who specialized in extravagant Baroque style works many of which are far too voluptuous and detailed to be adequately displayed on these pages..

Now those above are mainly just factoids. I have in fact traveled in Flanders which is a region in Northern Belgium, bordering with The Netherlands. I boarded the Thalys High Speed train in Amsterdam Centraal Station bound for Paris.

I stepped off the train at Paris Gare du Nord  in just over 3 hours after passing through Flanders and even stopping in Brussels.

But why I am really writing about Flanders? Just released on Netflix, a few days ago, is a new series set in Flanders. It is called Hotel Beau Séjour. The quick summary is this:

After finding her own bloody corpse in a hotel bath, Kato slowly realizes that she’s dead – yet a handful of people can still see and hear her.

Or said in a different way:

Caught in an afterlife limbo, Kato investigates her own mysterious death, and unravels a web of secrets in her seemingly tranquil village.

Okay, I’ve reviewed a number of Nordic noirs, and British mysteries, and series about French detectives – but I think this is the just the second series from Belgium that I’ve reviewed. The first was La Treve aka The Break reviewed here.

It is a bit strange, but not off-putting to have a new and an unusual perspective; that being the perspective of the victim. She’s a bit of a ghost in the literal sense of the word, but for those that can see her, it is as if she’s returned from a journey.

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Let Me Tell You About NYC – A Film by Andrei Shah

Let Me Tell You About NYC

Once upon a time the place was called (among other things) the center of the world. That’s along with The City that Never Sleeps. And New York is famous for The Great White Way (aka Broadway and Times Square) as well as having a Little Italy, and a Chinatown which make up just two of a multitude of neighborhoods – what you might call ‘villages’ within the overall confines of New York.

I know this for a fact as I am a former New Yorker who lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (East 91st Street between Park and Madison Avenues) through parts of four decades. My neighbors at times were Woody Allen, journalist and author Carl Bernstein, film director Sidney Lumet, actor Burt Young, hockey star Wayne Gretzky to name but a few.

Across the street was The Dalton School – First Program where the children of Diana Ross and Donald Sutherland attended and napped in their very first classrooms. I think I saw Kiefer Sutherland in a pram before he was even old enough to count to 24. Across Madison, but still on 91st was the The Spence School, an all-girls school. The daughters of the Bouviers, Bloombergs, Fricks, Astors, and Bianca Jagger went to school there. And at the end of the block – on the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue is the Convent of the Sacred Heart, once a private home, now a private school.

Let’s see, Ethel, Joan, and Caroline Kennedy went to school there. As did Gloria Vanderbilt, Elaine Stritch, Suri Cruise (yes, that would be Tom’s daughter), as well as Stefani Germanotta who these days is widely known around the world by her working name – Lady Gaga.

That was my neighborhood.

Nowadays I take the sun, my morning coffee, and when I shave, the cuttings circle down the drain in Sarasota, Florida. So I’ve lived in the Big Apple, rooted for the Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers for so long that I can recite the New York anthem, called New York, New York and made famous by Frank Sinatra – by heart.

But that’s just me.

For others, visiting or living in New York is either a strong desire, a fond wish, or a bucket-list item, so they come, and they’ll struggle to survive (to make it) and maybe they do, or maybe they don’t. But they continue to come and give it a try.

New York is not the easiest place to live – just have a look at the lyrics from Tom Waits crooning about the Downtown Train

Or Billy Joel singing about coming back because he’s in a New York State of Mind.

Then there’s Alicia Keys known best for her stirring and hopeful Empire State of Mind.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!

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JMM Goes MIA

No, I’m not lost, or even missing in action. The MIA reference is for the Minnesota Institute of Art, a world-class museum right here in the land of lakes. I had time to find something to amuse me this afternoon, so the GPS got to sit atop the dashboard of the NIssan Versa, and kept telling me to exit right, and then turn right, or a variation of that, and I was buckled up and  behind the wheel and set to follow those directives straight through to. 2400 Third Avenue South which was the home of the MIA as well as my destination

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The featured exhibit this time is the Art of Eugene Delacroix,

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a French master of Romantic Art, He was 19th Century, which is okay, as we all started somewhere, and none of us were able or competent to decide the when. I am not a fan of Delacroix, and this special exhibit commanded $20 for non-members. So I passed. But the good news is that the rest of the museum was free as in no admission.

I strolled around the museum, had a light lunch at the Agra Café,

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and before I knew it, I found myself in the section for Asian art. There was a nice collection of the kind of gowns (I guess) that the richest of the Chinese men, who might otherwise be known as land barons, wore in the days of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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Around half past two, I headed out and set the GPS for the venue. I had to pick up my Press Badge,

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as well as my tickets for tonight’s films. That went off without a hitch. I even got to meet the Managing Director the TCFF – Bill Cooper.

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JMM Heads West for the Twin Cities Film Festival

TCFF2015EVENTTuesday October 20th – Getting to Minneapolis

I was booked on the Tampa to Minneapolis Delta flight which was scheduled to depart at 12:15 PM. Accordingly I gave myself an hour and 15 minutes for the drive which normally takes a bit over an hour. But leaving at 9:55 AM was decidedly non-rush hour. Considering that I’d have to park, check a bag, then pass through security, I figured I’d have lots of time.

No problems with the drive. I had my GPS doing its thing even though I knew the way. Certain things are invaluable like when the instructions say something like – In one and a quarter miles take the ramp for I-275 on the right, or something similar.

So I get to the airport and find the entrance to the Long Term Parking and head up the ramp. Level 3: Lot is Full – Closed. Ditto for Level 4 and level 5. That meant no covered parking for me. I had the rooftop lot. Only that lot was nearly filled. I ended up cruising around the lot for more than 15 minutes before finding a spot.

So the GPS went into the suitcase (I’d need it big time in Minneapolis as I’d never been there) and off I went. From Level 6 Lindberg Brown Parking you take an elevator down, then an escalator to the Departures Area. See you in Minneapolis I thought and hoped as I handed over my suitcase.

Next came security. No TSR pre-approved this time for me. It is always nice to get that but it seems so random. However, there was no line to speak of, so it went fast. I had to go through the standard security line – shoes off, laptop out, nothing in your pockets. Somehow I earned a pat down but there was nothing to find.

But because of the difficulty in finding a parking space, by the time I got to the gate, boarding commenced in only one minute. We pulled away from the terminal on time, and after a long (in distance) taxi to the runway – there was no wait. We took off immediately.

Left on time, and 2 hours 48 minutes later we touched down. Actually the pilot informed us that we had arrived 31 minutes early. Follow the signs to Baggage Claim and the Rental Cars. It involved a ride on the airport tram just one stop.

No lines at the car rental counter and soon I’m out the door with my computer bag over one shoulder, my wheeled duffel trailing behind and the car keys in hand. Only I couldn’t find the right cars. I had a choice of cars in parking slots 8, 6 and 11 – I thought. What she had really said was aisles 806 to 811. Not finding the cars, or the parking slots – I went back to the counter and got the necessary clarification. Doh.

Turns out that these parking slots were the absolutely furthest distance from the rental counters. Okay I get the car – a day later I still don’t know the make. I’m really too big for a compact car – but I’d be in cramped quarters not all that long. However, it would be of great help if I had the GPS which was still slumbering in the suitcase.

After dealing with that I set the GPS for the Showplace Icon Theater at The Shops At West End (1621 West End Blvd, St. Louis Park, Mn) – which was the TCFF venue. So, with the air travel concluded, I set out. Interstate 494 to Minnesota 100 to Park Place Blvd and you’re just about there. 19.4 miles 25 minutes without traffic. Only there was huge delays on Minnesota 100 – two separate accidents.

Any way I found the venue and there was free indoor parking. I got lucky and got a space about 30 yards from a direct access to the lobby. I found the Twin Cities Film Festival office with no issues.

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A Walk in the Woods

I’ve always been something of a junior hiker. As a kid growing up on Long Island and living in close proximity to wooded areas, it was quite natural to walk to school by walking over the hill through the woods instead of walking on the sidewalk on a street that ran parallel to those woods. It should also be noted that this walk was, from door to door, home to school, was no more than 15 minutes by foot. Or three and half minutes by car.

Then, while living in Manhattan for many years, where I was surrounded by tall buildings rather than tall trees, I got familiar with High Point State Park, and Hacklebarney State Park in nearby northwest New Jersey, also Kent Falls State Park and Housatonic State Forest in the northwest section of CT.

But these outings were all of the day trip variety. All we carried in the way of equipment and supplies were cheap lighters and rolling papers.

Later, my outdoorsiness expanded to Interlaken, Switzerland, Les Baux in France, and the hills and woods overlooking Varenna, Italy on Lake Como. Most recently, in 2011 I hiked with a guide up Moon Hill (below)

in Yangshuo,

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near Guilin in Guangxi Province in China. That was 2011. In 2013 I hiked on the Dragon Back Trail in Eastern Hong Kong, and my last bit of hiking was in Muir Woods, in Marin County last fall.

So at this point I must state that while I have always enjoyed a good walk in the woods, and have even camped out once or twice, a retailer dealing with Camping and outdoor equipment and paraphernalia, like REI would go out of business if the majority of their customers were like me.

Yet, because walking in the great outdoors has always been something I liked to do, and was a way of connecting with my younger days, I saw Tracks with Mia Wasikowski, and yes I saw Wild with Reese Witherspoon. As those films relate to hiking and walking around, I saw them. Yes, these days, in lieu of hiking, or even walking the woods, you can use the word arm-chair hiker to describe me. And you may safely leave the words trek, trekking, or trekkers out of this discussion, at least as it pertains to me and hiking.

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First Day in Oslo, Norway

So it is Saturday afternoon, of the 14th of March. I’ve been shown the where’s and the hows of this apartment in the Grunerlokka section of Oslo, and soon enough, the host leaves. So let’s have a look around –

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IMG_0759The living room is set under a triple skylight.

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The dining room is next to a wall of windows and has a nice hanging lamp over it. This will prove to be invaluable, if and when I need to do something on my laptop.

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I know what you’re thinking. Is that a bathtub sitting outside on the balcony?

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It sure is. Not quite the right season for a soak under the stars – but knowing one could, at the right time of year – is a major plus.

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The balcony walls are kind of high, but the views aren’t all that special anyway. But who rents an apartment for a short stay, based on the views from a balcony.

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It’s Saturday, I’m Leaving Stockholm, & Oslo Is On My Mind

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Singer Michael Buble made the song Georgia On My Mind, a great standard written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, and long known as a classic song of singer Ray Charles, from the 1960’s, – popular once more.

Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through

Just an old sweet song
Keeps that Georgia on my mind

James Taylor did the same thing with his own composition Carolina In My Mind which first appeared in Taylor’s debut album in 1968.

In my mind I’m going to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind? Yes, I’m going to Carolina in my mind.

And Willie Nelson made the song Always on My Mind into an evergreen. His version in 1982 won a Grammy Award.

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Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
And maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind

You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

The above are all about feelings and places, songs, song writers, and the singers of those songs. I am none of the above. I am just a traveler.

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On Saturday, March 14th, a little more than a week ago, I had the city of Oslo, Norway on my mind.

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