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Travelogue - from Venice to Athens and back.

September 1, 2018


Celebrity Reflection

On June 29th, we boarded the Celebrity Reflection at the Civitavecchia cruise port (about an hour by cab from Rome). The ship's itinerary was: Messina, Sicily; Valletta, Malta; Mykonos, Greece; Rhodes, Greece; Santorini, Greece; Athens, Greece; Naples, Italy; and then back to the Civitavecchia cruise port on July 9th.

Every cruise line has its own personality. This was my first time to cruise on a Celebrity ship having previously traveled on: Norwegian (three times), Princess (three times) and Royal Caribbean (twice). Ask any "cruiser" and they can recite their "list."

The Celebrity Reflection, like a Princess ship, is a ship for grown ups. There were children aboard, but not near as many as would have been on board if the ship had been more tricked out like the newer/larger Norwegian and Royal Caribbean ships or Disney. I have noticed that the large tricked out ships are not used on Europe cruises which are served by the small ships from lines like Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Celebrity. Two years ago, we took a Baltic cruise on the Royal Princess, which is humongous, but still a ship for grown ups without any killer pool slides or cartoon characters. With the exception of the Baltic cruises, most European cruise ports are just not deep enough for the larger ships.

The Celebrity Reflection is luxurious and they have their act together - the service is impeccable. The Reflection is not as spectacular looking as the Royal Princess, but the service and food quality were similar. And, unlike the Princess ships, the WIFI works. It amazes me that in this day and time, any ship would have substandard WIFI. In today's world, a ship not having working WIFI is as big a blunder as forgetting to put toilets in the bathrooms.

Here are some observations about cruising Europe in the summer. First, if you are going to any part of Southern Europe, it is going to be incredibly hot. Also, when you see European cities during a port stop, you are almost always there during the middle of the day when the sun is shining directly on the antiquities and buildings. This means very few shadows and duller photos. But, if you want to see a lot of Europe in a comparatively short time, cruising is the way to go. And if you are traveling with school-age children, the summer is the only time to take a two to three week European vacation. But what amazed me is how many people are on summer cruises who do not have school-age children and look too wealthy to be teachers (I have a family full of teachers so I know). If you have a choice, it is always better to tour Europe during the "shoulder" seasons - April, May, October and November.

Hint: If you are going to tour Rome and then go south to the Riviera or on to Greece, October is not quite late enough in the year. I was in Rome in mid October of 2014, and it was warm and humid. But once I was on the cruise that year, the Riviera, Majorca and Barcelona weather was very pleasant.


Stuart and Chloe on Mt. Etna

Out first cruise stop was in Messina, Sicily, which is no where near Palermo in case you are a "Godfather" fan. We took a bus tour to Mt. Etna and then on to Taormina. Mt. Etna is skippable. The only really interesting thing about touring the mountain was learning how vegetation grows back after a lava flow. There are some stunning circular outcroppings with vividly colored low growing flowers on Mt. Etna. But I bet the Discovery channel has something about that which would not require climbing into a bus with 30 other people.


Stuart and Chloe in Taormina


Taormina

Taormina, however, is charming. It sits on top of a hill with beautiful views and great restaurants (at least the one we visited). If I am on a cruise that stops in Messina again. I would love to spend the day in Taormina But instead of signing up for an shore excursion, I will take a taxi from the port to Taormina and then arrange another taxi to return. You can make arrangements to be taken there and have the taxi wait for about 160 E. Since there are three of us, and almost all shore excursions cost about $100 US apiece, that is not a bad option. But I bet a cruiser could hire one taxi to the town and a different one back to the ship. See Taxi Messina, their website is in Italian, but you can email them (address on website) and they will be able to answer your email in English.

Here are some other options to travel to Taormina and back.

Here is more on Taormina.




Port of Malta

There were some stunning Greek islands plus Athens in our itinerary, but of all the places we visited, I am most determined to return to Malta and Rhodes. And when I return, it will be sometime between December and February when the highs only hits the low 60's. Both Malta and Rhodes are home to ancient cities, Mdina and Valletta in Malta and old Rhodes in Rhodes, that are both beautiful and haunting.


Chloe arrives in Malta

When we arrived in Malta, we saw some buskers arranging cab rides for about 120 Euro for four hours. We accepted that offer and it was a mistake. Our driver was very crabby, the cab smelled of smoke and when I asked him to put on the air conditioning, he complained that air conditioning made him sick and after he did turn it on, he kept on surreptitiously turning up the temperature (it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside). Rather than taking the risk of randomly being saddled with someone cranky (once you made a deal, you are kind of stuck), it would have been better to take a cab to each destination and then dismiss the cab. We saw cabs waiting everywhere, including Mdina and the Blue Grotto.


Valletta, Malta

Our cruise ship docked in Valletta, but by the time we finished our island tour and returned to Valletta, it was over 100 degrees so we did not see very much of the city. But Valletta is stunning and as MacArthur proclaimed as he left the Philippines, "I shall return."


The Blue Grotto in Malta

One of the first stops in Malta should be a boat tour of the Blue Grotto, a group of sea caves.


The Mdina Gate


Another perspective of the Mdina Gate

Then we were on to Mdina, an ancient walled city (8th Century). Mdina is accessed by walking across an arched stone bridge (overlooking a lawn, not a moat) and entering through the Mdina gate. When the Order of St. John ruled Malta, there was a drawbridge.

Mdina is spectacular. It is beautiful and historically significant - walking down the streets transports you to a fantasy land. The producers of "Game of Thrones" must have felt the same way, they used Mdina as one of the sets for Kings Landing.

Check out a bit about the history of the Order of St. John in Malta. They certainly were a blood thirsty lot for a hospital charity.


Chloe in a doorway in Mdina


St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina, Malta


Alley in Mdina, Malta


Mdina, Malta


Carmelite Priory in Medina Malta a

We visited the gorgeous Carmelite Priory and its adjacent restaurant in Mdina. The Priory was very cool inside without any air conditioning, just like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. No one can afford to build thick stone buildings anymore, but surely there is a way to mimic that cooling effect using today's technology.





The Beach in Mykonos where it all hangs out

Mykonos was everything we expected: beautiful beaches, fish restaurants and white sunbaked homes built up the hills. Mykonos also has a thriving club scene for people who don't have to be back on a cruise ship by 6PM. Oh well, those club dancers would be pretty horrified if a bunch of cruisers armed with selfie sticks hit the clubs.

In Miss Wendy's humble opinion, there are two types of vacationers - people who go to a destination and relax (pools, beaches, drinking, shopping and restaurants) and nerds who go on tours (museums, libraries, antiquities). Mykonos is perfect for the first type of vacationer, a place to relax and have fun. My family, however, descends from a long line of world class nerds. So Mykonos was fun to look at, but that was about it.


 


Welcome to Rhodes

When we arrived in Rhodes, we took a bus tour to view some skippable antiquities and then were dropped off in the town of Rhodes (same name as the island).

Rhodes was invaded by the Italians before World War II and their influence can be seen in some very ugly and modernistic (read fascist) buildings on the outskirts of the old city. But the old town of Rhodes was not bombed during the war, and it is simply stunning and well worth a return trip.

Rhodes gives off a vibe that "A whole lot of sh*t has gone down here."

Check out Agatha Christie's Poirot "Triangle in Rhodes" - Season 1 Episode 6. Part of this show was filmed on location in Rhodes. But the show would be worth a watch to see the fictional Poirot and his female companion mincing down the streets of Rhodes, dressed in impeccably tailored clothing. I think I mentioned how hot it can be in Rhodes. For more on the fictional Poirot's choice of attire.


A bit of shade in Rhodes


Rhodes


Door in Rhodes


Chloe, girl photographer, in Rhodes


Chloe befriends a Rhodes cat

 


 


Chloe in Santorini


View from a Santorini Restaurant


The Village of Oai in Santorini

First, Santorini is breathtaking. The architecture is uniform - stunning white buildings with a speck of blue trim climb up the hills. The ocean views are dazzling. Staying in one of the hotels at the top of the cliffs in Oai would be a wonderful (but very expensive) way to vacay. There are loads of restaurants, bars and shop to keep one entertained, but getting down to the beach will be extremely troublesome so be sure to book a hotel with an infinity pool so you can float close to the ledge, looking down the cliffs, and won't need to go back down to the shore until you are ready to leave the island.

P. S. If you are any kind of tour that drops you off at the gondola to go back to your ship, you should start groaning now. First, no bus can get anywhere near the gondola so you will have a long walk from your drop-off spot to the gondola and when you finally arrive, there is at least an hour wait to before you can board. And I think I mentioned something earlier about just how hot it is in Greece.

Hint from Miss Wendy: If you are in southern Europe in the summer, wear nothing but non-see-through (or see-through, your choice) cotton gauze and frequently pour a bottle of water over your head and your clothes. This should turn your hair and your clothes into an evaporative cooler. Hey, unless you are some minor celebrity (Hello Ms. Lohan), no one will care how you look or take your photo. And you will never see any of those those people again, so why not.

For more on Santorini


Out next stop was Athens, Greece. Athens is everything everyone has always said and more. But someone could visit heaven and believe that they are in hell if the temperature and the humidity is in the high 90's.

We took a tour of Athens including the Acropolis, and even though we left at 7AM, it was already blazing hot. There is no shade at the Acropolis; it is on top of a hill with low growing vegetation and stunning views of the city. Everything in life needs a bit of shadow and fog and very few things look their best at high noon, including Miss Wendy's face.


Chloe at Caryatids Porch Acropolis Athens


Caryatids Porch Acropolis Athens


Chloe and Stuart in front of the Parthenon. Chloe wet her tee shirt at a
water fountain and put it over her head under her hat - very smart move


Herodes Theatre, Acropolis

For more on Athens.


 


View of Sunset from Cruise Ship Balcony


Twice I have taken a tour to Sorrento and then a boat tour to Amalfi and back - once in October of 2014 and again this year. Out of all the tours I have taken, I would be willing to do this one over again (this one and St. Petersburg). Sorrento is lovely and would be a wonderful place to go for vacation. There are luxury hotels surrounding the downtown area. The idea would be to check into one of those hotels and then spend your days lounging by the hotel pool and wandering through the streets of Sorrento.


Chloe at a Garden shop in Sorrento


A Street in Sorrento


Produce Stand in Sorrento. Notice all the lemons. Lemoncello is big in Sorrento


Outdoor stairway in Sorrento


The gentlemen of Sorrento playing Dominoes


Chloe photographing Sorrento


 


The Amalfi Coast by viewed from the boat.

A boat ride on the Amalfi coast is a not-to-be-missed joy.


Amalfi


Amalfi


After the cruise, we had one final day in Rome to catch a few more sites. So check, check, check we went.


Chloe and Stuart at the Trevi Fountain


Piazza Novona


Chloe in the Fountain at the Spanish Steps


Spanish Steps October 2014 After the Summer Crowds Leave Hint! Hint!


Babbington Tea Room at the Spanish Steps

And finally it was time for tea. We visited the Babbington Tea Room adjacent to the Spanish Steps twice - once before and once after the cruise. Having tea at the Babbington feels like popping back to London for an hour. Highly recommended.


 

August 16, 2018

It was the afternoon of June 27th and we were back on Italia Rail on our way to Rome's Termini Station. We had booked a hotel close to the train station, the Hotel Raffaello. I had stayed at the Hotel Guiliana in the Termini Station neighborhood when I was in Rome in October 2014 and I really love this area. It is quiet but filled with wonderful surprises with cutting edge restaurants, gourmet pizza places and small boutique shops. There is a great little convenience store, PAM, a few doors away from the hotel which sold everything from detergent to a freshly prepared salad. The hotel was also just up the street from a piece of foodie heaven, the Via Urbana restaurant.


Termini Station Neighborhood at Night


Termini Station Neighborhood at Night

The next day we were on to Vatican City - the Mount Everest of museum and church tours. The first time I toured the Vatican in October of 2014, one of my traveling companions had made arrangements for a small group tour. This time we purchased through Viator and were given tickets to tour the Basilica and later escorted into the Vatican and left on our own to tour. This was not a very good idea. The Vatican Museums are huge and if you just follow the signs that say "To the Sistine Chapel" you can walk for up to two hours, thinking you are just about to find the Sistine Chapel, skimming over some of the most beautiful art in the world. Yes, it's two hours in wonderful surroundings, but still a bit disorienting. Much better to find a smaller tour with a personal "curator;" here is a suggestion.

There are two main parts to any Vatican tour - St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel.

St. Peter's Basilica is an Italian Renaissance church which is purportedly the burial place of the martyred apostle St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. St. Peter's is said to be the largest church in Christendom. Many architects worked on the continuing design of St. Peter's Basilica, including Michelangelo who worked on the Dome, which dominates the Rome skyline. One of the fascinating aspects of St. Peter's Basilica is that you enter through various side doors. There is a huge brass door, the Porta Santa or Holy Door, but it is cemented shut and only opened every twenty-five years.


Admiring Crowd in Saint Peter's Basicilica


Embalmed Body of Pope Innocent XI in St. Peter's Basicilica - died 1689


Statue of Saint Peter in Saint Peter's Basilica


Doorway in Saint Peter's Basilica


Chloe standing in front of St. Peter's Basilica in St. Peter's Square.
Now all we need is the Pope.


Chloe and Stuart being spritzed at the Vatican Fountain

The Vatican Museums are both overwhelming and stunningly beautiful. Like the Louvre, they are impossible to view in one day, thus the suggestion to find a tour guide.


Chloe in the Vatican Museum


"Study for Pope II," 1961 by Francis Bacon


Georges Roualt's "Portrait of Christ


 

August 5, 2018

We left Venice on June 26th and were off to Florence via Italia Rail for a day and night stay. The trains are very civilized in Italy. It was only two hours from station to station and the scenery from both Venice to Florence and on the 27th, from Florence to Rome was lovely. I can definitely understand why so many middle-aged American women take a look at Tuscany and say, "Oh, to hell with my family and all their carrying on," and pack it up and relocate.

We were done with luxury hotels (those things costs money) and checked into the very adequate Hotel Paris in Florence. The Hotel Paris is a clean, decent, moderately priced hotel in a stunning old building. If you are into shabby chic or loved "The Grand Budapest Hotel," you will get this place. If the Fairfield Inn is your idea of slumming-it, maybe not. The hotel is in a great location; it would be within walking distance of the train station for a backpacker or someone with one small rolling bag. We, however, were going to be gone for almost three weeks, ten days of which would be spent on a cruise ship so we had LUGGAGE in all caps and needed a CAB, also in all caps. The Hotel Paris serves a decent breakfast which is a real plus when you are "touristing around" in a group. The less talk about just where we should eat breakfast, the better.

Here is a great video of Florence.

Florence has five major attractions for someone who will only be in town for one day: the Duomo, the Academia Gallery, the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens.


The Duomo


The Dome

The Hotel Paris is a quick walk to the Duomo, the cathedral of Florence. The Duomo is named for the cathedral's dome which was a marvelous feat of engineering in the 1400's when it was built. For more on the Duomo.


Michelangelo's David at the Academia Gallery

And then on to our 3PM appointment at the Academia Gallery to see Michelangelo's David, a must stop on any trip to Florence or otherwise all of your conversations about your trip will be along the line of, "Oh, you were in Florence. Did you see David?" There is nothing like the fear of future-competitive-vaction-storytelling to keep someone moving along, knocking out all the "must sees."

I had purchased tickets before we left the US for both the Academia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery. Click here to purchase tickets.



19th Century Plaster Casts in the Academia Gallery


19th Century Plaster Cast in the Academia Gallery

19th Century Plaster Cast in the Academia Gallery

A wing of the Academia houses the ghostly plaster casts (for marble statues) created by Lorenzo Bartolini. There are nail holes on the casts which were used to guide the artist as they created the eventual statues. Many of the marble statues were destined to be installed in cemeteries as part of a sepulcher. The sad countenances of the statues give the gallery an atmosphere of loneliness and grief and the painful-looking nail holes don't help.


The Palazzo Vecchio (R) viewed from a sidewalk cafe across the piazza


What could be Dante's death mask at the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio


Detail of Grotesque at the Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio was formerly the seat of the government in Florence. Today it is a museum and home to an impressive collection of art and the supposed "death mask" of Dante Alighieri, a mask that featured prominently in Dan Brown's "Inferno" and the film made from the book, also titled, "Inferno." For more about the mask and the Palazzo Vecchio.


Botticelli's Madonna of the Rose Garden at the Uffizi Gallery

The next morning we were off to view the U-shaped Uffizi Gallery, with its myriad galleries of stunning art. For more on the Uffizi Gallery.


All Hail the Uffizi Gallery


Sleeping Ariadne at the Uffizi Gallery


View of the Palazzo Vecchio from the restaurant at the top of the Uffizi Gallery

The restaurant on the top level of the Uffizi Gallery is a must stop both for the coffee any marching tourist will need and the view. From the rooftop, you can see the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the way to our next stop - the Pitti Palace. For more on the Ponte Vecchio bridge


Ponte Vecchio Bridge


Chloe pointing to the Ponte Vecchio bridge


Pitti Palace

The Pitti Palace was built for the Pitti family in 1457 and it still maintains the name of the original family. In 1549, the property was sold to the Medicis and became their primary residence. The present Pitti Palace has been substantially enlarged since it was first built and now consists of several "museums," the most important being the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments. The Boboli Gardens, the largest green space in Florence, are behind the palace and can be viewed from inside the Pitti Palace. We only had two hours before we had to catch our train to Rome, so all we could do was run through the Pitti Palace, glance out a window at the Boboli Gardens, wish we had more time, blow kisses and promise to return when we were able to spend the time these wonders deserved. For more about the Pitti Palace.


Galleria Palatina in the Pitti Palace


Pitti Palace


Ceiling Detail at the Pitti Palace


 

August 3, 2018

More about Venice (scroll down for the first night):

My traveling band (my son Stuart and granddaughter Chloe) arrived in Venice on June 23rd and we checked into the amazing Hotel Danieli. The Danieli, originally the Palozzo Dondolo, was built in the 14th century. In 1824 it became a hotel and has hosted luminaries from Charles Dickens and Proust to Seven Spielberg. The Danieli is nosebleed expensive, but staying there is a once-in-a-lifetime joy.


Lobby of the Hotel Danieli

The Danieli has a lobby bar where a tourist can sit and watch the beau monde at the check in desk. The lobby bar is also a good source for the multiple cappuccinos needed to stay awake when you are six hours ahead in time or in the case of Stuart and Chloe from Los Angeles, nine hours ahead in time.



Chloe at the Terrazzo Danieli, the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Danieli

The Danieli has a world renowned restaurant, Terrazzo Danieli, on the top floor looking out on the Venetian lagoon. We ate dinner there our first night at the hotel. The food is excellent and there is also a breakfast buffet that I would characterize as full English plus. Breakfast is 45E apiece, but the buffet is so bountiful so you won't need lunch. If the buffet isn't quite enough to take you through till dinner, there is always a gelateria on every corner in Venice.

The Danieli is steps away from St. Mark's Square, the heart of Venice. At night, the restaurants in the square feature small orchestras. There are multiple orchestras for the multiple restaurants, but they have worked it out "among themselves" to take turns playing. Sitting at one of the outside tables, eating desert and listening to the music was terrific, even though we knew the locals must be snickering at us for paying the ridiculously inflated prices. Oh well, I can snicker back when they visit New York.

i
The Venetian Lagoon


The Canals

Chloe Girl Photographer Chloe on her gondola throne

For the rest of the trip, Chloe will be my model. She's young, cute and darling and her face doesn't sag with jet lag.

In 1979, I saw the now classic film "A Little Romance," starring Diane Lane, and ever since have wanted to take a gondola ride under the Bridge of Sighs. Well we did and when we did, our gondolier told us that the Bridge of Sighs actually connected the Venetian court with the prison, so as the prisoners walked over the bridge, they would tend to sigh. A bit of a bummer, that.

We took the gondola ride (for about 85E) but most of our transportation was by water taxi. Everything in Venice is accessed via the canals. When the hotel says it will call a taxi, it means a water tax. There are also water buses, the vaporetti, but we had a limited time in Venice so we used the water taxis.
Hint: When traveling from the airport, try the shared water taxis. They will take you to the closest dock to your hotel and they are filled with cheerful people are are also on vacation. When you are totally jet lagged and in need of a shower and some coffee, it helps to be reminded just why you decided to do this in the first place.


View from the roof of the T Fondaco Del Tedeschi Department Store

One of the prettiest views in Venice is from the rooftop of the marvelous T Fondaco Del Tedeschi Department store, the Harrods of Venice. We had to wait in line to get out on the rooftop, but anyone who buys anything in the store is allowed to spend 15 minutes on the roof.

T Fondaco Del Tedeschi opened in 2016 and brought luxury shopping to Venice. Yes, there are some small boutiques in Venice, but they are crowded out by small stores filled with imported Chinese souvenirs and the very necessary gelaterias.

We stopped for coffee and a snack at the excellent Amo, a restaurant right in the middle of the department store's ground floor. Amo was designed by famed architect/designer Philippe Starck who has one of his many homes in Burano, one of the islands in the Venice lagoon.

P. S. The only way to access the department store was to cross the Rialto Bridge, something you will want to do anyway.


The Doge Palace

The Danieli is a few steps from the Doge Palace, the home of the former ruler of Venice, when Venice was the Venetian Republic. The building itself is stunning and it is filled with room after room of wonderful art.

We were not able to get last minute tickets for the night time tour of St. Marks Basilica, but it is on our bucket list for the our next time in Venice.


Stuart, Chloe and Miss Wendy on the water taxi

The next day we took a water taxi tour of Murano, Torcello and Burano, three islands in the Venice lagoon.

I was not terribly impressed with Murano. We toured the glass factory and saw Murano glass being blown by master craftsmen. It was interesting, but incredibly hot. A nice documentary viewed in an air-conditionied room would suffice.

Torcello was fascinating, however. There is an ancient cathedral - Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral (founded in 639) - which has some bizarre Byzantine-Romanesque mosaics, dated back to the XI and XII centuries. The mosaics featured more hell than heaven and I am sure were very effective at scaring the locals into becoming Christian. We were not allowed to take photographs in the Cathedral so use your imagination - angels using swords to push sinners into the fires of hell and other lovely images designed to scar children for life etc.

There is a sweet little church on Torcello, Church of Santa Fosca, a popular wedding venue.


Locanda Cipriani on Torcello

Also on Torcello, is the first Cipriani, the Locanda Cipriani - a small hotel and catering establishment (the weddings). The Locanda has a wall of photographs of famous visitors including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II who both stayed at the Locanda Cipriani, but not together, of course.


The Tasteful, Color Coordinated Laundry of Burano

Chloe in Burano  

The last lagoon island we visited was Burano, a small fishing island/village with stunning painted houses. The folk lore is that the reason for the bright colors was so drunk fishermen could find their homes. But for whatever reason, it is wonderful. The colors have made the island a tourist attraction, so if a home owner wants to paint their house, they have to get permission from the local board which will tell them exactly which colors they can use.

Many of the houses have curtains over the front door for privacy when the front door is opened for the breeze.

Burano is known for the colorful houses, but also for lace making and restaurants serving freshly caught fish.


 

July 25, 2017

Well, I'm back with tales to tell after half a year off line.

First: "Why I left home and what I saw."

June 21, 2017 - off to Venice Italy - the City of My Dreams:

After spending nine months (the time I used to spend producing a person) having a bionic knee installed and then buying an renovating a coop, it was time to "Get the hell out of Dodge."

I flew out of JFK on June 21st, arriving in Venice on the 22nd, a day earlier than my traveling band. We had reservations for three days at the Hotel Danieli, but not until the 23rd, so I booked a room for one night at the Hotel Diana, what looked to be (according to Booking.com) a nice hotel just off St. Marks Square. Thought being, "I will be comatose anyway to why not?" Big mistake. The Hotel Diana was supposed to be a five minute stroll from the dock, but that is actually ten minutes of pulling a rolling bag over the ancient jutting stones that pave the streets and piazzas of Venice. So it was pull, roll, yank, "Yikes, that was my big toe," pull, roll, yank, "Yikes, that was my other big toe," all the way to the hotel.



Hotel Canal Entrance (what you are supposed to do)
Photo Credit Wendy R Williams

I can't recommend the Hotel Diana. Not only is it a hike from the canal, but it is down an unmarked side street so there is a lot of wondering around involved (and yes, I meant to use the o in wondering). When I did find my lodging, I had to check in at the hotel across the alley as there is no manned front desk at the Diana. My room was Lilliputian - anyone who had trouble with the parallel parking portion of the driving test, would have difficulty using the bathroom. On the good side, it was cheap (around $200), clean and safe and once I found it, the alley was everything I love about European cities. When I left the next morning, I had the desk clerk call a porter who I paid an inflated 40 E to take me to the Danieli - I am sure he heard Danieli and added 10E. A much better idea would have been to pay at bit more and stay at the Hotel Savoia and Jolanda, right on the canal and next door to the Hotel Danieli.


Deserted Restaurant
Photo Credit Wendy R Williams

That first night, I hauled my lonely jet lagged body on a walk through the streets. Venice is haunting at night. The cruise ships have left and the side streets around St. Mark's Square are deserted. Away from St. Marks Square is a maze of narrow winding street and alleys with shops filled with Carnival costumes and gelaterias on every corner. All that was needed was a saxophonist playing Coltrane.


Shop Window
Photo Credit Wendy R Williams

Twilight in Venice is porn for romantics. The streets wind, the buildings dilapidate and stories float through the dusk in a city best seen in shadows and fog.


 

December 25, 2017

Dear Readers,

Merry Christmas! If you are running about trying to figure out what to contribute to the feast, here are two of Miss Wendy's favorite holiday recipes.

Miss Wendy's White Trash Fruit Salad

1 large can of fruit cocktail (drained)
1 large bag of colored miniature marshmallows
1 large container of Cool Whip

Mix ingredients in a bowl and enjoy

Miss Wendy's White Trash Queso

One package of Velveeta cheese, sliced
One jar of salsa
16 ounces of half and half

Put all ingredients into the crock pot, heat and serve with chips.

Happy Holidays!


 

September 26, 2017

I am thinking about starting GoFundme.com account to purchase a toga and a violin for Donald Trump.


 

September 23, 2017:

Who knew alligators could fly?


 

September 21, 2017

Ruminations: I could not help but snigger when North Korea' "Glorious Leader" called Mr. Trump a deranged dotard. Of course, I immediately showed my age by not having to Google the word dotard or for that matter snigger. What's next? Bitch slapping? And yes yes yes, there is nothing funny about seeing two world class idiotards hissing at each other. When I was growing up in South Texas, if two yard cats got into a tussle, we just threw a bucket of water on them. Unfortunately, that is not an option here.

P. S. It was standard practice to keep bucket of water on the porch of South Texas homes. Not just for taking care of fussy cats, but to use if the dogs suddenly decided to become amorous just as the preacher was pulling in the driveway.


 

September 9, 2017

Ruminations: I wonder what a Republican family who lost their beautiful home in Houston's Bellaire thinks about climate change now. I don't think any scientist has said that climate change caused Harvey, but they all say it made the hurricane much worse than it would have been without climate change. I have been convinced that we are threatened by global warming ever since I first saw Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth." But I know a lot of people who live in Texas would refuse to watch a movie made by a Democrat so how are they supposed to have known about it. It's not like Ted Cruz made a film.

When people talked about climate change, the normal prediction was that New York and Los Angeles would be under water first. No one predicted Houston, yet here we are.

P. S. Houston is a blue city in a red state. But even so, the powers-that-be in Houston tend to be Republican climate-change-deniers.




September 4, 2017

It is amazing how much smarter everyone is now that we have Google. In the olden days, a person such as Miss Wendy would have to get dressed, put on her hat and drive to a library and deal with microfiche (if you don't know what that is - Google it).

 


 

September 3, 2017

Regarding Nurse Wubbels, the Salt Lake City nurse who was roughed up and arrested by a cop (Jeff Payne) for refusing to break the law and allow him to get a blood sample from a comatose burn patient (see WashingtonPost.com):

There is a very simple explanation about why this cop became abusive to a nurse who was following the law.  A neighboring town's police force had chased a suspect down the freeway at high speed resulting in the suspect plowing into a truck causing the truck driver to suffer severe burns. The neighboring police force will and should face severe financial penalties for their recklessness, so they got in touch with their cop buddies in Salt Lake and asked them to get a blood draw in the hope that they could claim contributory negligence on the part of the truck driver.  That's why the officer wanted the blood and that is why he got so mad.  He was defending the blue wall.

Listening to his rage, it is obvious that he has previously been able to bully his way into getting a blood sample without a warrant and cannot believe that this time he was not able to plow his way through.


 

September 2, 2017

Reading the national news feels like strapping in to take a quick drive around the Indianapolis Speedway. When 2020 finally comes around, someone really needs to run on a dignity ticket.

Low class is not better than no class at all.



August 31, 2017

Burning Man is in full swing - see this article in the New York Daily News. Burning Man is ultimate proof that life does not need to make any sense whatsoever.


 

August 30, 2017

Melania Trump had a Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" moment when she sashayed off to the Texas Flood (not that is not a country band but it would be a good name) in six inch stilettos. Now Mrs. Trump has the right to wear any shoes she wishes, but it was still fun to watch such a clueless display.

 


 

August 28, 2017

Last night was the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones. I simply don't know what I will do with myself until sometime in late 2018 when the final season of the show will begin. Check out the New York Time's recap.

 


 

August 27, 2017

Ruminations: There is another Hurricane in Texas with another evacuation call. Looking at the news coverage of the people stranded by rising waters, you could wonder - just why didn't they evacuate? Well, if you want to leave you had better leave long before the evacuation order. Because afterwards, the freeways heading north turn into parking lots filled with motorists in overheated cars who are stuck in over one hundred degree weather with never enough water. The choice is risk drowning in your home or having a heat stroke on Interstate 35.

And as with any problem concerning the weather, no one takes responsibility. And South Texas's evangelical Christians don't have anymore clout with the weather than the local witch coven.

 


 

August 25, 2017

Afterthought: When Trump goes to bed at night I bet he dreams of a balcony from where he could rally his supporters like darling Evita had at the Casa Rosada and Mussolini had on Rome's Palazzo Venezia. Of course, there is the concern that if the White House did have such a balcony it would be in DC where 80% of the residents voted for Hillary Clinton. So his "adoring" crowd would be carrying pitchforks.

When this nightmare is finally over, someone needs to write a musical with a tap-dancing little Donnie Trump.

 


 

August 23, 2017

Last night's Trump Rally in Phoenix:

A lot has been said about Trump's unhinged rant last night in Phoenix. Now, after the week Trump had where his gun kept malfunctioning and aiming for his toes, he desperately needed a "make-out" session with his friends/followers just so he could feel better. But what kind of idiot schedules a rally in Phoenix in August and expects anything to go well? It was 107 degrees outside folks.

 


 

August 22, 2017

Ruminations on modern medicine and Greenwood Cemetery:


Greenwood Cemetery
Photographed by Katherin Wermke and Beatriz Schulze for
Barcelona Photographer

Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as an "over-flow" cemetery as Manhattan church yards were filling up rapidly (the first housing crisis?). It is also one of the most beautiful places in New York City - a gorgeous haunted park with paths that wind by stunning mausoleums and mature trees.

I spent a morning at Greenwood Cemetery a couple year ago when I was researching my book "Solange's Song," the sequel to "The Big Apple Posse Trilogy" (yes, that was a plug). I was looking for Jean-Michel Basquait's grave, which by the way it very modest, but covered with strange voodoo trinkets making one wonder who brought the Gris-gris and exactly what do his dead neighbors think about these "goings-on.”

But it was not the gorgeous monuments that told the stories of New York's former wealthy and famous residents that blew my mind; it was the fact that hardly any old people were buried in Greenwood before the mid-20th century. People in their 20's, 30's and 40's were dropping like flies, but graves for people in their 60's and 70's were few, because by the time people would have reached these ages, they were already in the ground. Those were the times when if a person had the flu, cancer, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, they could die simply because there were no drugs to treat their condition. Some of the saddest graves were those of children who died before the age of 10 (diphtheria?), the graves of young women who died in childbirth and whole families who died from the Spanish flu and were all buried together.

The moral of this story is: The next time you become riled up by the cost of modern medicine and drugs, take a trip to Greenwood and consider your alternative.

 


 

August 21, 2017

Today is the day of the solar eclipse. Here are some tips on how to watch the eclipse from the New York Times. No point in saying this to New Yorkers (who always know everything anyway), but don't look directly at the sun.

 


 

August 20, 2017

The wonderful legislature state of Texas is at it again, going in apoplectic fits because the Speaker of the Texas house is blocking a dearly cherished ( by the right-wing nutters) "bathroom bill." This bill is opposed by titans of the business community who don't want their state to lose millions of dollars and become more of a laughing stock than they already are like the state North Carolina. This is legislation that is in search of an issue to solve. I live in New York City where pretty much anyone can use the bathroom they choose and my only complaints have been about the fact that some women can't take care of their business without showering the toilet seat and most public bathroom are out of paper towels.

As to the usual "What about the children?" I don't know any Mom who does not supervise her small child's visit to a public bathroom, including standing outside the men's room door ready to run inside when her sons are too old to accompany her into the ladies' room. As for schools, the scariest thing in public school bathrooms are bullies, not trannies.

As to why this is going on in Texas, it's because everyone except the ultra-religious right wingers are too lazy to vote in their primaries. So when they walk into the voting booth, there are some really scary people behind the Republican button.


September 4, 2016

I'm back: "The University of Chicago has warned incoming students not to
expect “trigger warnings” when they arrive on campus.“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings.'” quote from fortune.com.

Miss Wendy highly approves of the University of Chicago's approach drawing from recent experiences (aka the sh*t) in her own life. When Donald Trump first decided to run for President and opened his mouth to spill his spew, it took all of Miss Wendy's considerable stamina to stay in her home and not run around the block screaming and tossing her wig(s). But now she is used to this recurring horror, can stay seated in her chair and is progressing to the point when she can merely snigger. So desensitization does work.

This may not be progress.


October 24, 2015

Ruminations on the Benghazi Committee: I watched a good part of the 11 hour marathon and came away with a few thoughts:

1. First, Hillary won. She fogged them - answering their questions authoritatively but quietly. Hillary's total control increasingly infuriated the Republicans on the Committee, turning them into a pack of unhappy chihuahuas, jumping up and down while barking furiously, totally bewildered that they were unable to scare their prey.

2. The next thought was - how did the Republicans who are supposedly in charge, not see that coming? Surely they had met the ultraconservatives on the committee - Chairman Trey Gowdy, and Representatives Susan Brook, Jim Jordan, Mike Pompeo, Martha Roby, Peter Roskam and Lynn Westmoreland - and had some idea how they would come across on national television?

3. Maybe I am being really cynical, but is it possible that Speaker John Boehner (who was planning on resigning anyway) just had enough of being harassed and harangued by the ultra conservative Congressional Republicans and decided to hand them enough rope to go hang themselves as in, "You want to form the 8th group to investigate Benghazi, have at it guys."

4. Republicans have this saying that Americans want to vote for someone they would like to invite home for a beer (thus W). But after seeing that pack of sweating miserable attack dogs, would anyone invite them over for anything?

5. Memo to whomever is left of the so called Republican leadership: You were had guys and I wonder how long it will take you to figure it out?


 

September10, 2015

Rootstein Mannequin's Philippe Blond Male and Female Mannequin
The Blonds Designs
Photo Credit: Wendy R. Williams

Rootstein Mannequins hosted a presentation/party for the The Blonds collection last night. Rootstein had created both a male and a female mannequin from the likeness of Philippe Blond ( half with his brother David of design team behind The Blonds). The gorgeous mannequins were dressed in Blond designs and the mannequins, the designs and the guests were simply fabulous, darlings - simply fabulous.


 

September 5, 2015

Ruminations:

It was a slow news week so we were treated to the 24-7 spectacle of a Kentucky country clerk, Kim Davis, being thrown in jail because she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. (It was actually fun to watch.)

The Judge in the case, did not have much choice. As long as Davis was at work, she has stated that not only would she not issue licenses to gay couples, she would forbid her employees from issuing them either. Davis is an elected official so she can only be removed by being impeached which is never going to happen in Kentucky. Fining her would not work either because Davis's fine would happily be paid by her fundamentalist Christian supporters.

So right now, it looks like Davis is going to sit in jail until the Judge figures out a way he can let her out without her immediately instructing her clerks to once again cease issuing licenses. Judge Bruning also summoned all Davis's deputies to her contempt of court hearing and they were all questioned about their willingness to issues licenses in Davis's absence. Five of the six swore under oath that they would and the very next day, gay couples were able to go to the courthouse and get a marriage license.

Most of the Republican candidates are going on record as supporting Davis in her fight for her so-called "religious liberty." But I would love to see where those Republican candidates landed if an Orthodox Jewish county employee refused to issue building permits for hamburger joints because hamburger joints serve cheese burgers (mixing dairy and meat). Or better yet, if a Hindu county employee refused to issue building permits to all meat servicing or selling establishments as in - there goes the grocery store.

I am sure when Ms. Davis was elected County Clerk, she never thought her job would change so that she had to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, but it did. Now her choices are to follow the law or get another job. It is a simple as that.

This situation will resolved itself, most likely at the voting booth when the good citizens of that Kentucky county decide that they don't want to continue to be the laughing stock of the nation and that they also don't want to pay for being the laughing stock of the nation - court costs plus overtime for the police to deal with demonstrators, not to mention the cost of room and board to keep Miss Kim in jail.

And where will this leave Miss Kim? Well, out of what must have been a pretty darn good job in a part of the country where good jobs with benefits are hard to find. Miss Kim is not a woman who will be able to cash in on the lecture circuit. She will either be waiting tables or making 20,000 a year as the secretary at some right-wing Christian academy. And just where will all the people who were "egging her on" be when it comes time to take a Carnival Cruise or pay her bills.


 

June 19, 2015

Rumination on the state of race in America:

1. On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. His level of hatred is unfathomable - he spent the hour before the shooting attending a prayer meeting with his intended victims.

But as soon this horrific tragedy was reported, conservative pundits immediately chimed in to state that the shootings were not caused by the fact that in the United States of America, any nut job can get a gun. The President of the NRA even stated that the deaths were the responsibility of the murdered pastor because he opposed letting parishioners carry guns into the church. This ill advised rant has since been removed from the NRA website.

And none of South Carolina's Republican politicians think Roof's level of racial hatred was in anyway influenced by the fact that the state of South Carolina insists on flying the Confederate flag on the grounds of the capitol. Dylann Roof liked the Confederate flag too - he displayed it on his car's license plate.

I don't know what Confederate flag flying supporters have in their hearts when they see that flag, but to the civilized world it is a sign of blatant racial hatred. Supporters say they fly it in support of tradition and all I can say is, "And exactly what tradition is that? Is it the tradition of beautiful antebellum homes built and staffed by slave labor?"

As President Obama stated in his address after the shootings:

"We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.

Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear:

1. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it."

2. I am from Dallas, a city about 30 miles south of McKinney and when I heard the story about the McKinney pool party, I immediately knew what happened. Some disgruntled homeowners saw a bunch of boisterous black kids celebrating high school graduation in "their" pool and called the police to report that there were people on their pool who looked like they "did not belong." The police immediately dispatched 12 policemen who arrived to look for the people who "did not belong." Everyone was in a swim suit so how could they tell who "did not belong?" Why, by the color of their skin of course. The cops then took control of these marauding swimmers and one made the national news when his assault of a young black girl was filmed by a white kid who had no problem filming because the cops assumed that he was where he belonged.

I raised my children in the South and there were a few occasions when they attended parties that became too loud and the neighbors called the cops. You know what happened? One squad car would show up and two cops would tell the kids it was time for everyone to go home. It was just a normal Friday night gig for the local police. But my children are white. "Do not belong" is Southern code for black.

The city of McKinney will probably have to pay big time to settle the lawsuits that will quickly ensue and they should. Being hurt in the pocket book will encourage the city council to pay a lot more attention to the actions of their police department.

Who knew when the cell phone was first invented that it would become the eyes of the world and an instrument of social justice.


 

May 26,2015

Don't Mess With Texas?

The Lone Star state continues to make a fool of itself and in the process, supplies fodder for derision by the national media. First the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, alerted the Texas National Guard to keep a close eye on the some war games the Pentagon hosts every year in six Western states just in case the government (led by known socialist Muslim Kenyan President Barack Obama) is planning on invading Texas to take away Texans' freedoms. Then the legislature is working up a bill to take away the salaries of any county clerks who issues marriage licenses to gay couples after the expected Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. And another bill to protect clergymen who refuse to participate in gay nuptials. (That last one makes my head reel - what gay couple would ruin their ceremony by insisting that a sanctimonious Baptist minister officiate or for that matter that a homophobic baker create their cake?)

For a quick laugh, check out this photo in the Dallas Morning News. Am I the only one whose first impression is that the two gentlemen so closely entwined in the center of the photo are a gay couple celebrating their marriage anniversary with a cake festooned with pink roses? And what is going on with that third gentlemen so intent on snuggling into the happy couple from the rear?

This is all very sad but also incredibly funny. In the words of Jane Austen's Mr. Bennet, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”


 

April 12, 2015

Ruminations:

1. Don't you just love the way online ads are targeted to your previous searches. Thank the Goddesses restaurants can't send smells via WIFI - we would all be too fat to walk through the door with our new purses.

2. The Republican candidates all seem ready to implode by braying against three issues the majority of American favor: gay marriage, normalizing relations with Cuba and forging a nuclear agreement with Iran. (They are ready to go to war secure in the knowledge that their sons and daughters will not be on the front lines.)

And why do they do that? Because they receive large campaign contributions to represent niche interest (social conservatives, Cuban Republicans and the war machine {Haliburton etc}}) and in the United States of America, candidates represent moneyed interests, not the people. They have to or they would never be elected. But it is still disgusting. (Caveat - Democrats represent moneyed interests too, but not so much on social issues.)

Quick hint to the Republican party: If you want to remain relevant in the future (even in 2016), you simply must quit being photographed together. A large group of white men in suits do not represent the United States of America. The entire Republican party would benefit by a trip to Disneyland to see exactly what America looks like today - a total melting pot of nationalities and races, all of whom are able to afford to go to Disneyland.


 

March 24, 2015

Ruminations: It was a very slow news day yesterday. Senator Ted Cruz announced his campaign for the Presidency of the United States and all the new outlets covered it. Seriously.


 

March 22, 2015


Sia
Kourtney Kardashian Hosts Season Preview
Marquee Dayclub in Las Vegas
Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV, USA
March 21, 2015
Venue & Location:
Photo Credit: PRN / PRPhotos.com

I have no idea why Sia goes through life with a wig over her face, but I am glad she does. Sometimes it is hard to stay awake and this kind of thing helps.


 

February 7, 2015

We are back with the Republican no-nothings. Both Governor Chris Christie of "lock up those diabolical health workers who dared to go to Africa" fame and Rand Paul have chimed in to say that parents should have some choice about vaccinations. They both immediately had to rent a backhoe to excavate their feet from their mouths.

We get vaccinated and get our children vaccinated because we all live together in a global herd where one person's illness can kill someone else.

Governor Christie has obviously never heard that old adage, "Engage mind then open mouth."


 

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2011

Dear Readers,

Today is Thanksgiving! If you are running about trying to figure out what to contribute to the feast, here are two of Miss Wendy's favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Miss Wendy's White Trash Fruit Salad

1 large can of fruit cocktail (drained)
1 large bag of colored miniature marshmallows
1 large container of Cool Whip

Mix ingredients in a bowl and enjoy

Miss Wendy's White Trash Queso

One package of Velveeta cheese, sliced
One jar of salsa
16 ounces of half and half

Put all ingredients into the crock pot, heat and serve with chips.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 


 

November 16, 2014

Ruminations: Now that our Ebola panic is over for the time being (the streets of New York City are not filled with hemorrhaging subway riders, Williamsburg is not steaming from the stench of dead bowlers and the schools and workplaces in Texas have not been decimated by Frontier Airlines customers who are bleeding from their eyes), here is an analogy between Ebola and fire. (In case you are living under a rock, there have been no known transmissions of Ebola in the United States except for the two Dallas nurses who took care of an Ebola patient in the end stages of his life when he was highly contagious.)

Fire, like Ebola, can be devastating. It can wipe out entire towns (see California and Texas) and kill indiscriminately (just read the New York newspapers). And we all know this and are rightly afraid of fire. BUT - we also know a few things about fire and how it is spread and feel perfectly comfortable having a gas stove, a wood burning fireplaces and/or even storing a cigarette lighter or matches in our pocket or purse. And we have no protocols in place to be sure that people who buy homes with gas furnaces and/or fireplaces, have taken courses in fire safety and have well behaved children.

Scientists tell us that Ebola can only be spread by contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is symptomatic and even then it is the most contagious when someone is either about to die or has died (thus the infection of the two Texas nurses). But politicians saw hay to be made by ignoring this fact and spreading fear with statements like "we don't know what we don't know" and "the CDC has been all over the place on Ebola" because there was some discussion on how many pairs of gloves should be worn and the need for more training on how to remove the protective gear, a situation involving only health care workers.

So here is a message to Governors Cuomo, Christie and Le Page who decided that they knew more about how this should be handled than the CDC. No, you "don't know what you don't know" but medical professionals and scientists who have been fighting Ebola in Africa for forty years do "know what they know" so you (the Governors) need to quit braying and listen for a change. I am absolutely positive that if any of the three of your came down with a tropical disease you would go to the best doctors/scientists for treatment and not even think about calling your fellow governors for advice.

So Governors: Quit jailing health care workers when they return so they will continue to go to Africa and put out the fire that could devastate the world. Because if Ebola ever showed up a highly populated poor country like India, it would be disastrous. The only doctor I read about who supported quarantines for returning medical workers said something ridiculous along the lines of how doctors never know when they are sick and will go to work anyway. What? A doctor who was in Africa watching people die hideous deaths would just blow off their own elevated temperature? That would be like stating that a doctor who was bitten by a rabid dog could not be trusted to get rabies shots and should be locked up to be sure he or she takes care of the business of not becoming a rabid animal.


 

October 29, 2014

Tentgate: Kaci Hickox Versus the Governors:

If you were not under a rock, you now know about last weekend's mishegas. Kaci Hickox, an asymptomatic volunteer with Doctors Without Borders, was snared as the first catch in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's mandatory quarantine of all health care workers who return from treating the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Nurse Hickox had been traveling for two days when she finally arrived at Newark Airport where she told the truth about where she had been and what she had been doing. Even though the forehead fever scanner showed no heightened temperature at that point, she was thrown into a room where she was isolated and interrogated (interrogated???) for seven hours including by someone from Customs who came into the room and barked questions at her while he was wearing a gun. After being detained in such a fashion, they retook her temperature using the forehead fever scanner and she now registered 101. Nurse Hickox, who has an advanced degree in epidemiology and has formerly worked for the CDC, explained to the gloating "forehead scanner" that she was upset and flushed and that she did not feel unwell and would they please use an oral thermometer to get a more accurate reading. Instead they called seven police cars to escort her to the hospital where she was tossed into an isolation tent with a portable toilet, no shower, no TV, no reading material where she remained from Friday until Monday when she was finally released. The New Jersey Health Department has refuted this saying she had a cell phone (her own), reading material (supplied by other nurses at the hospital), take out (Pizza Hut on Sunday) and a computer with wifi (also supplied Sunday after 48 hours in the tent). And this was all done even though after her temperature was rechecked at the hospital, she registered as 98.6 and the doctor said that she obviously did not have a temperature. She now at home in Maine and vowing to oppose Maine's newly imposed quarantine for returning health care workers.

(I recently traveled to London and arrived at Heathrow at 2AM my time and had to go through Customs in an overheated hall. It took hours and I am sure if anyone had put a scanner to my forehead I would have had a higher than normal reading. And I would not have been alone. Everyone in my line looked absolutely beat and we were sweating buckets. Plus we were all disoriented after having deplaned and walked what seemed miles through the airport and then stand in line for an hour in what to us was the middle of the night.)

Tentgate occurred because the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, got upset because he heard that Dr. Nancy Snyderman from NBC, who had recently returned from reporting on the Ebola crisis in Africa, was spotted picking up take-out and New York's Governor Cuomo got upset because Dr. Craig Spencer, also recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Africa, had been taking the subway and bowling.

Quick reality check: From everything I have read from the CDC and the NIH, Ebola is only contagious after you have symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and people who are starting to feel sick don't normally want to get take-out or go bowling. Especially not doctors who have recently returned from an Ebola hot zone where they have first hand knowledge of what a horrible death it is to die from Ebola. Is the assumption that these medical professionals are suicidal? And if so, please give us the evidence. I have not heard of a single incidence where someone with a medical degree who had been around an Ebola patient, started to have a fever and did not immediately self report.

The only reason I can see that the governors want to impose these 21 day quarantines is to reassure the public that they are doing everything they can to stop the virus, but by doing so, they are perpetuating the myth that non-symptomatic people are contagious when they are out bowling, getting food, or riding on a subway. Now that is enough to panic anyone. Who would not wonder why when we are being told that we won't get Ebola unless someone vomits or defecates on us, the City of New York is paying to decontaminate a bowling alley? What do they know that we don't know? Well, they do know politics but from everything I have read about this crisis from medical professionals, they obviously don't know much about medicine.

Here are the reasons why these quarantines don't make sense or at the very least should not be applied to medical professionals.

1. Which medical professional after seeing Nurse Hickox imprisoned in that tent by a braying Chris Christie would not be discouraged about going to Africa to help stop the Ebola crisis at its source. All of these people are highly trained medical professionals and according to the WHO, we now need 5000 more VOLUNTEERS (going to help in the Ebola crisis is not a highly paying job for a medical professionals - it starts at 1731 a month). We desperately need these medical professionals to stop this plague in Africa before it spills over and infects our country with hundreds of cases. What if this disease spreads to India where everyone lives on top of each other and their public health system is sparse? How many cases would then "pop up" in the United States.

2. It is utterly silly to "catch" medical professionals who not only declare where they have been and what they have been doing but their organization notifies the US when they are about to return. I know politicians would rather "fish in barrels" but really?? What Governor Chris Christie should have done instead is immediately release Nurse Hickox on Friday after her normal oral thermometer reading and ask her advice on how best to combat Ebola in the state of New Jersey.

Also, what about the medical professionals who are treating Dr. Craig Spencer? Are they also to be tossed into a tent and if so, who will treat the next Ebola patient while they sit in the tent? Well you can say we have better control in the US than in Africa. To which I reply - Dallas.

3. The real danger we face is from patients like Thomas Eric Duncan flying into the US. And oh, you can say, but we can prevent that by stopping that nonsense. Well maybe him, because he was not a US citizen, but there are plenty of US citizens in the hot zone who now have no reason to tell the truth about who they have been around and what they have been doing. Because who wants to go sit in that tent? And these travelers are not trained medical professionals who would know to immediately self report. And saying that we can examine the passports of these travelers to see where they have been is ludicrous. African borders are notoriously porous and American citizens who have business in a hot zone will now decide to drive instead of fly when they visit their manufacturing plants, deliver their bribes or whatever business they have in the hot zone.

4. And here is the real clinker. We are now going into flu season and lazy Americans (no flu shots) will now be popping up at emergency rooms all over the US with fevers and sore throats which are exactly the presenting symptoms of Ebola. And because their governors have led them to believe that they could have been exposed on the subway, while bowling or picking up take-out, they will think they have Ebola instead of the flu. Are we really to put thousand of them in tents while they await their (very expensive) Ebola tests?

P. S. Please get your flu shot! Flu killed over 50,000 Americans in 2011. The flu (unlike Ebola) is airborne and you can catch it on the subway or while you are bowling. Now that is something to fear!


 

October 23, 2014


Sarah Jessica Parker and Oscar de la Renta
FIT 2012 Couture Council Award
For Artistry in Fashion
David H. Koch Theater - Lincoln Center
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Photo Credit: Nick Hunt for Patrick McMullen

The fashion world lost one of its best and brightest when famed designer Oscar de la Renta died on October 20, 2014. De la Renta dressed first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama and his creations always decorated the the runway at the Oscars. His latest fantasy creation was the beautifully ethereal wedding dress worn by Amal Alamuddin when she married George Clooney. Rest in peace to a true artistic genius! He will be missed.


 

October 3, 2014

Ruminations: Looking at the fiasco in Dallas where a man who had recently traveled from Liberia was sent home from an emergency room because the workers supposedly thought he had some other kind of virus, is pretty horrifying. And after it was discovered that the man in fact was infected with Ebola, the Dallas authorities thought it was prudent to make four members of his family (including a 13 year old child) quarantine in the same apartment where the Ebola patient became violently ill. The fact that this quarantine took place for a week without any kind of decontaminations taking place has greatly increased the chance that we will now have patients 2-5.

I moved here from Texas 20 years ago and I know exactly what happened. Emergency room doctors and nurses at private hospitals are trained to not admit anyone to the hospital unless they absolutely have to and then if they do admit them, to send them home as soon as possible or barring that, transfer them to a charity hospital. This is to insure that the hospital does not get stuck with a enormous bill for which there is absolutely no reimbursement. This would especially be true for a Liberian citizen where there would be no hope of having him enrolled in Medicaid.

So their top thought in their minds was not "Liberia, could he possibly have Ebola?" but "Proscribe some antibiotics he probably cannot afford and get him out of here." That is what they are trained to do and that is what they did.

If there is anything to be learned from this it is that "your health is my health." We all live in a global soup where we can easily infect each other with a huge variety of illnesses from Ebola to SARS to antibiotic resistant tuberculosis. Our public schools are petri dishes. Anyone whose child attends a public school should be vitally interested in all of their classmates having health care, if for no other reason than so those classmates don't come to school and spread Strep Throat. Or if you live in Los Angeles and are too fashionable to have your own children vaccinated, catch a retro disease like polio or diphtheria.



 

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