Saturday, June 23, 2018


Experience teaches us. We think we know everything but much of that "knowledge" is based on false assumptions. Only when we actually do something do we realize whether our beliefs about an activity are true or not. And many activities (like motorcycling) have unexpected delights. (For me, motorcycling pleases the senses and rewards practice as you develop increasing mastery over a difficult task.)

I started camping this year for the first time since I was a kid. It's turned out much better than I expected. I find deep appeal in the calm that descends soon after you pitch your tent and listen to the quiet sounds of nature. We don't realize how noisy and jarring modern life is until you take away the sources of that. The peace of a campsite is remarkable.

In addition, camping is cheap. When I grab a hotel-room on the road, it's always over $100 and sometimes twice that. A campsite is incredibly low-cost, often as little as $15-25. I paid only $23 per night in Watkins Glen.

Finally, camping inspires us to get closer to nature. I wouldn't have visited Watkins Glen if they didn't have a campground there and am so happy I did. The gorge and waterfalls are magnificent. I got to see -- and feel -- them: you can walk UNDER the waterfalls and put your hand out to touch cool falling water.

Since returning home, I've been filled with insatiable desire to camp again and on bigger scale. I've been researching and buying new camping gear for longer trips. And making better decisions on what to use. Experience taught me what meals I like to cook at a campsite, what equipment works best (and doesn't), what to bring and what to leave home. In short, my observations are honing how to camp with more success. I could never know that without actual experience guiding me.

Have you ever camped? Would you consider it? Imagine seeing this in person...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ups and Downs

The last place you want to see a motorcycle-buddy is in the hospital. And yet that's just where I came from. My friend Jaime got in an accident last night on his way home from dinner.

Riding his Zero (electric motorcycle), Jaime was only a block from home when a car turned suddenly, without looking, and struck his motorcycle on the left side. The impact broke Jaime's leg below the knee; fortunately his top-notch gear protected him from other injury. Due to the location of the break, the doctors aren't going to put the leg in a cast; instead, they'll do surgery to install metal equipment.

A witness told police that the motorist was 100% at fault, which is fortunate because New York's no-fault law doesn't cover motorcyclists.

This event is ironic because Jaime is the safest rider I know. In addition to being highly-skilled (qualified as an instructor), Jaime rides more miles than anyone else I know (averaging over 20,000/year). Jaime is the last person I'd expect to be in an accident but, as happened in my accident on the Goethal's Bridge a decade ago, sometimes you're simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing you can do about that.

I'm wishing him well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

More WG Photos

I didn't want to overwhelm you Monday with Watkins Glen photos so I limited their number. Here are a few more. The pictures are beautiful to look at as they display the majesty of nature.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Watkins Glen is amazing! The gorge and waterfalls in the state park take your breath away. Natural beauty at its finest. The campsite is serene and offers peaceful bliss. Adorable little chipmunks scurried around my tent all day. Hiking in the woods was superb and I could walk from my campsite to the gorge.

Not insignificantly, you can also return to civilization. There's an excellent BBQ place in town (Nickel's Pit BBQ) with the best hot chicken wings I've ever had -- and that's saying something.

Travel feeds our soul and belly. Put Watkins Glen on your bucket list.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Watkins Glen

I'm hitting the road this morning, heading up to bucolic Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. As they say in the movies:

          Elwood: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas,
          half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses."
          Jake: "Hit it."

Saturday, June 9, 2018

New York City

I had a nice time in NYC today. Visited a spy museum (very entertaining), savored brunch at Russ & Daughters cafe, shoe-shopped at Fluevog and ended the day with coffee and pastry in Soho. One weird thing, though; a woman next to me at the R&D counter ate her bagel and cream cheese WITH A KNIFE AND FORK. Huh? Who does that?!

P.S., I'm reading a best-selling book by an ex-CIA agent (Jason Hanson) on how to use spy techniques in normal life. The book's Acknowledgements page made me laugh out loud so I'm sharing it with you below.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Spy Stuff (Hidden Containers)

Spy gear is cool as historical fact but, even better, you can adapt it for use in life today. Two fun examples I currently use are presented below.

Spies have obvious need to conceal messages. The way they do this is by converting ordinary objects (which attract no suspicion) into secret containers. During the Cold War, for instance, spies from Russia took American coins, split them open and hollowed them out. The coins, when re-attached, were indistinguishable from others in circulation. Russian spies then put secret messages into the coins which were safe from detection and could be easily transmitted to another person. (Messages were often on "microdots," shrunken words that could be read with a magnifying glass.)

Another smart device was a smoking pipe (back when smoking was common). The pipe contained a secret chamber in which a paper message could be contained. An ingenious part of this idea was that if the spy was afraid of being caught, he could twist the handle of the pipe, opening the secret chamber to the burning bowl of tobacco and the message would be instantly destroyed. Problem solved!

Now how can this stuff help you and me? Let me show you...

I have -- and you can buy one on Amazon for $10 -- a hair-brush I carry for travel. Nobody suspects the hair-brush of being anything other than that and, yet, it is a terrific place to store money. On the road, you often want to conceal some cash in case you lose your wallet. The hair-brush has a hollow handle which can hold up to twelve bills ($1,200 if you use hundreds). This spy-idea protects your extra cash on trips because no thief who breaks into your luggage or hotel-room is going to steal a hair-brush. Here's a picture:

This model comes in black, purple and red. Only $10. And it brushes hair, too!

Another spy idea I use is what appears to be a construction bolt (large screw). The bolt is hollowed out and the inner chamber is reached by twisting the top part off (which on a normal bolt doesn't move). Again, nobody would suspect this ordinary object of having a secret compartment.

Do you know what I use this for? To carry powdered jalapeno hot sauce. I toss it in my pocket along with my keys and when a restaurant meal is bland, I pull out the bolt, unscrew it and toss some instant heat onto my dish. Yay!

As shown above, learning how to be a spy can help you live normal life better!

The Secret

Yesterday I rode my motorcycle for two hours to visit a store and buy something I can get anywhere (loose tea in Port Jeff). There's a lesson here: do what you love, no matter how crazy it seems to others. Happiness is simple: pursue intrinsic joys and ignore social convention.

P.S., This ice cream cone, mounted on a building, is bigger than you are!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Spy Stuff

From an early age I have been fascinated by spies. The idea that you can privately be someone very different than your public persona resonates in me. Perhaps you can guess why...  :-)

Plus I grew up during the Cold War when espionage was everywhere in entertainment (e.g., James Bond movies). The subject captured my young mind to the point where I asked my parents for toy spy gear. My wishes were granted one Christmas when I got "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." toy kit. It contained a (plastic) briefcase that shot (plastic) bullets out of a hole in its side, using a trigger in the handle. It included secret listening devices, invisible ink and special spy paper that dissolved in water. My imagination went wild as I embarked on top-secret missions that saved the world from destruction. You're welcome.  :-)

The appeal of this stuff never disappeared. Recently one of the best shows in the history of television -- "The Americans" -- just ended a long run. I saw every episode from the beginning and was thrilled that the main character, a life-long spy, is a woman! Played by the amazing Keri Russell (remember her from "Felicity" or "Waitress"?), Elizabeth Jennings wear dozens of convincing disguises and is capable of brutal violence. She is the flip-side of me. I'm forced to act tough in society when in private, I'm a marshmallow. That's the nature of spying: creating a false public front.

You probably aren't aware of many spy tricks used by my colleagues so this week I'm going to post some explanations that I promise will be interesting. The techniques are real and drawn from our history going back to the Revolutionary War. Also I just discovered there's  spy museum in Washington, DC that I must visit soon.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Summer Travel

I've been making plans to ride my motorcycle this Summer. Here are the destinations:

- Watkins Glen: I hear the state park in this Finger Lake region is one of the most scenic in the country. It's 300 miles from my home.

- Potsdam: North of the Adirondacks, this rural town is home to my good friend Aimee. 380 miles.

- Montreal: I love Canada and this is one city I haven't visited yet. 400 miles.

- Columbus, Ohio: I like this Midwestern city whose biggest draw is my friend Emma. 575 miles.

- Detroit: Two years ago my pal Sara showed me the many attractions of this transitioning city; I'm returning to hang out with her. 600 miles.

- Hudson, NY: The hippest town in all upstate. 150 miles.

And that's only through August. I enjoy rides in September and October when the weather is still good and places are less crowded.

You might wonder why I'm so active, particularly since I have a full-time job that demands time and energy. It's because of uncertainty in the future. Nobody knows what tomorrow holds. I choose to enjoy life while I have the chance. Even though I'm still "young" and in good health, things can go South fast. I had a friend Geoff who, in his forties, got a brain tumor and died suddenly. Also, in my family, my mother and brother passed away at early ages with little warning. I don't take longevity for granted.

Where are you going this Summer?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Name This Decade!

Visiting a thrift-store in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend, I bought a vintage dress. I purchased the dress not because it's special but because it isn't. Let me explain.

The dress perfectly embodies the style of a particular time. Its colors, cut and big shoulder-pads announce the era in which it was popular. Can you guess which decade it was made in? The answer is not hard.

Back then, I desperately wanted to dress like other girls and coveted this particular style. Seeing the item on the rack this weekend, I realized it's not too late to live my dream. So, despite the passage of time, I brought the dress home for an emotional journey. Donning the dress today is some consolation for not being allowed to wear it decades ago.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Charter Oak Rally

I love nature and I equally enjoy city-life. This weekend I combined both pleasures. While camping in a tent on the edge of a bucolic pond at a motorcycle rally in Connecticut, I bounced into Providence, RI for the day. I've never really visited Providence before so it was an exciting adventure.

I have excellent instinct for finding the best areas in cities. I quickly located P's fun-center which is Wickenden Street. Not surprisingly it's walking distance from RISD and Brown University. The bohemian neighborhood has hip coffee-houses, lots of vintage stores and a few used record places. I found a cute vintage dress (that will be worn here soon) and a Nina Simone CD containing my favorite song of hers ("Sinnerman"). Best of all, I spotted and brought home a cardboard cylinder-package from the 1950's for a white girdle. (Picture below.) I plan to use the package as a home decoration; it's delightfully evocative of that era.

Did you have fun this weekend?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Motorcycle Camping

What are you guys doing this upcoming holiday weekend?

I'm riding north to the Charter Oak Rally, an annual BMW motorcycle event in scenic countryside with nice twisty roads. I'll tent-camp in the woods with other rugged riders and pop into Providence on Saturday to explore that small city.

Have fun!

Monday, May 21, 2018


Photo by Mitchell Exclusive Pool Tables 

In the near future, I plan on acquiring some new space and the question arises of what to put in it. It took me little time to arrive at a perfect answer -- a billiards table. I love shooting pool and would enjoy having my own table.

I'm looking at modern designs and found a couple of really cool ones. What do you think of these? Have you ever played pool?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fluevog Shoes

I have a question for you.

My Canadian friends introduced me to their native shoe-designer John Fluevog who's been making interesting shoes for men and women since the Seventies. His designs are so original and odd as to often look alien. Yet they have a strong appeal to those of us who value originality. Some of his designs don't even look like shoes at all and he uses really unusual materials (like dragon-skin). The best way to view his creations are as art on your feet.

Fluevog has stores in most big cities -- including NYC where I'm going tonight to dine and shop. I'm considering buying a pair of these beauties. Thoughts??

Royal Wedding

Did you watch it? What did you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In The Groove

When I started blogging, SheilaSuzanne and others gave me the same advice over and over again -- "Put a belt on it," they said. Honestly, this was good advice and eventually I learned to accept its wisdom. Belts define a waist (which is important for me) and create an illusion of curves (equally vital). I discovered belts give my outfits a more feminine appearance.

While browsing a vintage store, I found an authentic belt from the Sixties. I love its shape and color. What do you think?

How often do you wear belts?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Salt and Pepper

The best vintage store on Long Island (Rosie's Vintage Store) got in a bunch of quirky salt-and-pepper shakers so I went down and checked them out. I came home with these two beauties.

One depicts an old TV from the Fifties; the other celebrates the 1964 World's Fair. The latter has meaning for me since I not only attended but actually performed music at the World's Fair. My music school gave a concert in the main pavilion and, at 7 years old, I played Beatles songs on my accordion. I know -- cool music, uncool instrument.

Do you collect anything like salt-and-pepper shakers?