Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 2019

Yesterday I went back to State College for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Since I was just there last week I was able to concentrate on the festival and spent less time exploring the town. On my very first trip to State College in 2015 the festival was taking place and it kind of interfered with my explorations.

The first challenge was finding the event parking lot. Another car was following me and got misled since I didn’t know where I was going. There were a few signs but once I approached Beaver Stadium they failed to provide a sign that was specific for the arts festival. The sign only indicated event parking so I drove past it and had to turn around and go back. I paid $5.00 for parking for the entire day and had to place a receipt on my dashboard where it would be visible. After leaving my car I took some photos of Beaver Stadium because it was right in front of me, looming like a mountain. Beaver Stadium is the third largest stadium in the world. I walked to the nearby bus stop and waited for a Blue Line bus. I picked up a Town & Gown’s Official Program Guide at the bus stop. The first bus I saw was full so it did not stop. The next bus was pretty crowded but I did manage to find a seat. I got off the bus at the first stop on West College Avenue instead of waiting until it reached The Corner.

I stopped at the first booth I saw to buy a festival button for $10.00. This was probably a waste of money but I pinned it to my dress shirt so that everybody would know I was there for the arts festival. I walked up Allen Street and saw the stage, some kind of mist tunnel, and a water fountain for the kiddies. Near the Schlow Centre Region Library I saw the BookFest tent so I went there. I bought the book Nervermore by Paul Michael Kane from the illustrator Chris Ring who autographed the short story The Gold Bug. All of the stories in the book are by Edgar Allan Poe. I bought this book because I am currently reading a biography of Edgar Allan Poe and could use a slim volume of his short stories to refresh my memory.

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

I needed to find a restroom and I found one in the State College Municipal Building. This building appears to be open to the public and does not have any security so I think it would be a good place to find a restroom on future trips. There were some brochures and free flyers in the lobby. I lucked out and found a program and schedule for the 2019 Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival. This was exactly what I was hoping to snag on this trip. The program has a wealth of information on the festival which you will not find on the web site. For example, I learned that the playwriting competition received over 120 submissions from as far away as South Korea. There were also pages in the program for different theater groups that are unknown to me.

I began to seriously explore the art work in the artist’s booths. I saw a lot of amazing art work. Some of it gave me ideas for something I could do in Processing but I did not see a lot of abstract geometric art. Eventually I bought three art prints which was more than I intended to buy. I was just going to buy one but I was inspired. At Foster Avenue I found the Italian Street Painting which is art drawn on the street using chalk. The artist booths stretched around the block to Fairmount Avenue where I found the State College High School building. The artist booths continued down South Fraser Street where I saw the Memorial Field, KCF Technologies, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. I noticed these things because I was still looking for establishments to research. After retracing my steps I bought my first art print, Mr. Entertainment by L. Lee Junge, Giclee on Canvas, from the Jackson Junge Gallery in Chicago IL. I could not resist this art work because it was very colorful and depicted a performing arts fantasy world. Fortunately the print came in a clear plastic bag that I could put my programs and book into. I was concerned that my Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival program and schedule was going to get smudged and crumpled from my sweaty hands.

Once I had my stuff in a bag I could think about lunch. There were a few food trucks at Nittany Avenue; Specially Grilled Cheese from Selingsgrove and Brazilian Munchies. I like grilled cheese sandwiches so I went with Specially Grilled Cheese. There did not appear to be a long line to order but there was a lot of people milling about waiting for their sandwiches to be made so it took almost a half an hour to get my sandwich. I also bought a can of Pepsi for a drink and it was no longer cold by the time my sandwich was ready. I ate at a picnic table set up in the street. After lunch I walked back down Allen Street and noticed that the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center was open so I went in there. I saw the current art exhibit and the ticket booth. I picked up some brochures for Penn State Centre Stage and the Center for the Performing Arts.

Specially Grilled Cheese

Specially Grilled Cheese

Next I went to Webster’s Bookstore Cafe to buy more books. Somebody offered me a stool to reach the top shelves. I only bought one book since I was getting weighted down with purchases, Hamlet and Oedipus by Ernest Jones. Lately I’ve been thinking that I ought to be seeking out theater makers with a serious case of Bardolatry. Bardolatry is the worship, particularly when considered excessive, of William Shakespeare. People worship Shakespeare because they worship genius or the idea of genius. Harold Bloom is a notable critic who seemed to worship genius and he has already come to my attention, although I have not read many of his books yet.

After buying that book I headed across East College Avenue onto the Penn State University campus to check out the artist booths along Pattee Mall. I saw an orchestra playing on the Old Main Lawn but I did not stop to listen to them play. At the Art of Discovery booth which was a Penn State Booth I picked up a free poster of Ladies of La Vie. This poster shows the changing fashion of women on the cover of the Penn State Yearbook. The artist booths extended down Pollock Road to the Westgate Building. Along the way I saw the Steidle Building, one of the most iconic buildings on the campus, so I took lots of photos of that. At an artist’s booth along Burrowes Road I bought my second art print, an abstract oil diffusion by Sara O’Connor. This artist specializes in heavy-textured pointillism but the print that caught my eye looks more like it was produced by adding oil to liquid color, like watercolors. Sara O’Connor is based in Richmond, Virginia, the city I visited for my vacation this year.

I was keen on visiting the Penn State University Bookstore, which I imagined would be as lavish as the Bucknell University Bookstore in Lewisburg since they are both associated with Barnes & Noble. The Penn State University Bookstore was definitely a lot smaller. To reach it, I had to walk far east along Pollock Road to the HUB–Robeson Center which is a significant student center that I had not seen. It was difficult to find an entrance to the Penn State University Bookstore as it is entirely inside the HUB–Robeson Center with no outside entrance of its own. But I managed to find the place without wandering throughout the entire complex, which was massive. At the book store I bought a copy of Selected Poems 1966-1987 by Seamus Heaney. To be perfectly honest this was sort of a symbolic purchase because I’m not sure if I will ever read this book. Reading a book of poetry takes forever. Each poem has to be slowly read and thought about or you just won’t get it.

Before reaching the HUB–Robeson Center on Pollock Road I saw the Old Botany Building, the Penn State Veterans Plaza, and a historical marker outside the McAllister Building which caught my eye. The historical marker was for Combinatory Logic. It honored professor Haskell Brooks Curry for his contributions to combinatory logic. Combinatory logic is used in computer science. In fact, the Haskell programming language gets its name from this Penn State professor.

Combinatory Logic

Combinatory Logic

When I left the Penn State University Bookstore I headed back downtown and decided it was time to return to my car to drop off my purchases. This was not an easy proposition since my car was parked near Beaver Stadium. I had to get on a Blue Route bus to get there and since there were no empty seats I had to stand almost the entire ride, until a bunch of students got off. When I got to my car I discovered that some of the back windows were down a crack since I forgot to power the windows shut while attempting to roll down the driver’s side window to pay for parking. I did have a bottle of Gatorade in my car but it was boiling hot. I put up my window shades and windows before leaving my car. I would have driven home at this point but I was on a mission to explore State College so I took the bus back downtown to wander around until 6:00 p.m.

Douglas Albert Gallery

Douglas Albert Gallery

When I arrived back downtown I visited the Student Book Store where I bought an 16 GB USB flash drive with the Penn State logo. This was the only item they sold which I had any use for. I also bought a bottle of Coke because I was dying of thirst. I immediately drank the entire bottle of Coke while sitting on a nearby bench facing the Inspiration Mural. Next I wandered down the length of East Calder Way taking photos of a number of establishments which are hidden away on this street. I found College Mart, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Christian Education Center, Calder Square, Avant Garden, Looks Hair Design, Yallah Taco, Epic Art, Shandygaff, the Douglas Albert Gallery, Underground, the Escape Room, and Jax Bar Kitchen. Epic Art looked like it was a cool art gallery with round windows but it appeared to have gone out of business. I did enter the Douglas Albert Gallery which was a cramped space full of fantastic, but expensive art. I also saw the Centennial Pigs statue by Eric Berg. This statue is beside the Tavern Restaurant on McAllister Alley.

Lion Antiques

Lion Antiques

When I got back to Allen Street I sat down to hear one song played by a band on the Allen Street Stage. Then I walked up to East Beaver Avenue to walk down its length. Along Beaver Street I saw Margarita’s Pizzeria, John’s Shanghai, Kung Fu Tea, and the Palmerton apartment building. When I reached South Atherton Street I began to walk north on that street. I walked past the Imperial ‘400’ Motel and saw the University Club building on West College Avenue. Further up South Atherton Street I found Lion Antiques, Rainbow Music, and the Greyhound Bus Station. Basically this was me in full exploration mode locating every establishment I could while just walking down streets. But I was invited inside Lion Antiques which was a cramped antique store filled with high quality merchandise. I was impressed by the quirky collection of wonders and rare items. But eventually I found the books and settled for buying a book. I found The Complete Talking Heads by Alan Bennett. I thought this would be a book about the rock group but Alan Bennett is a British dramatic writer. I bought this book for $5.00 and got into a brief conversation with the store owner during which I revealed that I was an aspiring playwright. I don’t usually mention this but he asked just the right question when I revealed my interest in a book by a dramatic writer.

Even after that I was not quite done for the day. I walked along West College Avenue looking for an ATM. I passed several before entering a CVS Pharmacy because I knew their ATM would not charge me a withdrawal fee. I got $80 in cash and bought a can of Peet’s Van Latte because I was dying of thirst again. I can tell by my receipt that this was at 4:38 p.m. I then proceeded to walk very far down West College Avenue to East College Avenue. I was going to eat at The Waffle Shop but they were closed by the time I got there. Instead I entered McLanahan’s Penn State Room. This establishment proved to contain a massive convenience store where I bought a lessentials 2 USB ports wall charger and another can of iced coffee. I think I found my way back to a portion of East Calder Way because I found The Makery and an arts mural to photograph. When I reached Allen Street I made one final trip up this street and bought my third art print, an Asian watercolor by Bryan Yung for $45.00. Finally I took the Blue Bus back to the parking lot outside Beaver Stadium and left for home at 6:00 p.m. I had spent seven and a half hours in State College, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. which was a good amount of time.

The Makery

The Makery

On the way home I stopped in at  Zindel Park, on the north end of McElhattan. Zindel Park was deserted since it was getting late and the mosquitoes bothered me but I wanted to see this mysterious place again. I also took a few photos of the Henry W. Shoemaker mansion which still looks deserted, although I thought it may have been cleaned up a little.

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Exploring State College and Penn State University

On Saturday, July 6, 2019, I explored State College and the Penn State University. I had only been there once before, in 2015 for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. That is not an ideal time for visiting the town because the festival tents are everywhere and the town is quite crowded. However, it is the Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival that gave me the impetus to do a more thorough exploration of State College. The new festival has only been held since 2018. It includes a playwriting festival which is of particular interest to me. Part of my mission was to locate the various venues used by this festival.

Let’s consider the relationship between Williamsport and State College. Both cities are in Central Pennsylvania, but Williamsport is the center of North Central Pennsylvania while State College is dominated by Penn State University. A few attractions in the Williamsport area are mentioned in the Central PA Visitors Guide. State College is only an hour’s drive from Williamsport so it is close enough to be considered a cultural resource. An interesting question is do I have any connection with Penn State University? I am a graduate of the Williamsport Area Community College which is now Pennsylvania College of Technology. Pennsylvania College of Technology became an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State University in 1989. I don’t know if that gives me any special privileges as an alumni. But if I am ever heralded as a genius, I’m sure Penn State University will try to milk a tenuous connection.

A major concern for this trip was finding a place to park. I did some research and decided that the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage was a good bet. I had taken a photo of this parking garage on my 2015 trip but neglected to identify the building. I input the address into my GPS device and was navigated there without incident except for a brief detour to the Innovation Park at Penn State. After parking my car, my first objective was to photograph the Fraser Centre which looms right across the street from the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage. The Fraser Centre is a curious example of urban development for a small town in Central Pennsylvania. It is more like the kind of urban development you would find in New York City. This massive structure houses residential condos, a Hyatt hotel, a Target store, a H&M clothing store, and a Federal Taphouse restaurant.

Penn State Downtown Theatre Center

Penn State Downtown Theatre Center

On West Beaver Avenue I walked past the Post Office and the Beaver Avenue Lot. I was originally going to park here, but there are far less spaces in that parking lot. One of the first establishments I photographed was the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center. This building also houses the Woskob Family Gallery. On my 2015 trip there was a festival tent set up in front of the building so I was unable to take a good photo of the place. I think the art gallery is closed on Saturdays so I did not attempt to enter. Next to the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center is an Amazon Hub Locker. This is another curiosity of State College. Why do they need or merit an Amazon Hub Locker? I assume the hub locker stores Amazon packages for customers to pick up instead of having them delivered. Maybe Penn State students are such industrious scholars that they need a special establishment just to handle all the books they order?

The State Theatre

The State Theatre

Next I crossed East College Avenue and photographed all the establishments facing Penn State University. East College Avenue separates the university campus from downtown State College. The State Theatre is on East College Avenue along with many restaurants. I needed photos to add these establishments to my custom travel guide. I then wandered onto the Penn State University campus, walking up Pattee Mall. Pattee Mall takes you to the Pattee Library but along the way I saw the Schwab Auditorium which is also used for performances and cultural events. I also saw the Sackett Building and the Carnegie Building. And I checked out the Old Main building but unfortunately its tower was wrapped in scaffolding so I was unable to take a decent photo of the most iconic building on campus. Nearby I saw the Penn State Obelisk, a geologic column of rocks.

Penn State University makes up nearly half the town of State College and many of the major attractions are located on campus. I really like strolling through a college campus since the grounds are so idyllic and the stately buildings represent learning and intellectual achievement. It is especially pleasant to be on a college campus while not having to attend any classes or deliver any lectures. I wandered through the place secure in the knowledge that it has no hold over me.

After reaching Pattee Library I walked around the building to see the Paterno Library. These two libraries are connected together but what there really is to see on the other side was a sign, some very fancy bus stops, and the east entrance. The bus stops were strangely impressive with a long shelter and electronic signs, as if the university had its very own transit system. Past the libraries I found the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and the Palmer Museum of Art. I decided to visit the Palmer Museum of Art because it is one of the major attractions on campus and it is free to the public. The Palmer Museum of Art has two floors of exhibits. I saw a Cindy Sherman photo. They also had some nice glass pieces and a hallway of engravings. I used the restroom behind the gift shop. I was carrying my umbrella and they made me place that in the coat room. Upon exiting the art museum I found the sculpture garden but it wasn’t that interesting. But I did see a huge blue water tower. I don’t think that was a sculpture since it was massive. Nearby was the Stuckeman Family Building which appeared to be clad in copper which has turned green. Also in that area is the Theatre Building.

Nittany Lion Shrine

Nittany Lion Shrine

Next I found the the Nittany Lion Inn and behind that the Nittany Lion Shrine. As usual there was a line of people waiting to take photos of the Nittany Lion Shrine. This takes awhile since everybody wants to climb on the lion and have their photo taken. Fortunately there were not too many people, but a few with lots of kids. At this point I was baking in the hot sun and just wanted to return downtown to maybe enter an establishment to cool off. I walked down Burrows Road and saw a few grand fraternity residences and the Westgate Building, formerly the Information Sciences and Technology Building.

Cozy Thai Bistro

Cozy Thai Bistro

When I reached downtown State College I went to a restaurant on South Allen Street, Cozy Thai Bistro. I ordered the BBQ Chicken Thai Style which proved to be three large pieces of breast meat. I was only able to eat two. This meal also came with a small salad and some fried rice. The small salad had Thai peanut salad dressing on it. I didn’t particularly like that. This meal was reasonably priced and would satisfy any foodie. For Central Pennsylvania this was a mighty fine restaurant.

Webster's Bookstore Cafe

Webster’s Bookstore Cafe

After lunch I was eager to do some shopping. There was only one place I really wanted to visit, Webster’s Bookstore Cafe. The book store’s owner Elaine Meder-Wilgus is a co-founder of the Central PA Theatre & Dance Festival. That may explain why the book shelf devoted to theater, plays, and drama was so well stocked. I splurged and bought four books; The Big Secret Live “I am Shakespeare” Webcam Daytime Chat-Room Show by Mark Rylane, Bond Plays 2: Lear, etc by Edward Bond, Andromache by Jean Racine (translated by Richard Wilbur), and The Stuff of Dreams: Behind the Scenes of an American Community Theater by Leah Hager Cohen. Mark Rylane portrayed James Halliday in the movie Ready Player One. The book I bought appears to have been autographed by him so that was an added bonus.

I returned to the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage to drop off my purchase and left my umbrella there too, which turned out to be a mistake. The sun finally came out and offered an opportunity to take more photos in better light so I retraced my steps along East College Avenue and even walked up Pattee Mall again. This time I did manage to photograph the Old Main Sundial and the Old Main Bell. When I reached the rear of the Pattee Library it began to sprinkle but the rain was pretty light. Eventually I located the Pavilion Theatre and even came across the Eisenhower Auditorium which I had totally forgotten about. When I got back to East College Avenue I was far to the east and a little lost. But I saw the McLanahan’s Penn State Room and the Waffle Shop. I also found the Inspiration Mural which is another thing I forgot to look for. I entered a store, the Family Clothesline, which sells a ton of Penn State merchandise. However, the only thing I found worth buying was a small sock monkey wearing a Penn State shirt. The cashier must have been a student because she had a lot of trouble ringing up the sale. By the time she managed that it had started to pour outside the store so I was stuck there for around fifteen minutes. They did sell some umbrellas but they were way overpriced. This was when I regretted not having my umbrella on me. When the rain finally let up I walked as fast as I could back to the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage, although I did stop to take several photos long the way. Just before I reached the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage it started to pour again so I got a little wet. It only cost me $6.00 to park there for six hours.

On the drive home I encountered some horrible weather. The rain was coming down so hard that I could not see the road. Visibility was reduced to zero and driving was nerve wracking. At one point I pulled off the road but I really should have done that sooner and waited longer. I was not pleased by the hazardous driving conditions which kind of ruined the whole day and made me regret going out. But overall my mission was a huge success. I took lots of photos and improved my knowledge of State College immensely. This weekend I will probably return for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. I will probably also submit some plays to the Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival playwriting competition next year.

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Jim Thorpe in June 2019

On June 22, 2019 I visited my favorite small town in Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe. My last trip to Jim Thorpe was on September 16, 2017 and a few things had changed since then. It now costs $10.00 to park at the train station parking lot. The first thing I did was buy a ticket for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I paid $19.00 for an open air car on the forested route to Old Penn Haven. This trip takes 70 minutes and began at 11:00 a.m. But I had about a half hour before that to kill so I walked up Broadway to take some photos.

When the train returned to Jim Thorpe I discovered that Blue Mountain Sports had gone out of business. It looks like their storefront is going to be the location for a new restaurant. My first shopping destination was Sellers Used Books where I bought the book The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David M. Buss. This is an important work of evolutionary psychology which is hated by the lunatic fringe of the Far Left, the gender crackpots. I want to read this book so I’ll have more ammunition to use against their lunacy. Next I went to Soundcheck Records where I bought Annie Lennox’s 1992 solo début album, Diva, on CD. I listened to this CD on the long drive home but I did not care for it. After that I browsed the goods at the Emporium of Curious Goods. This store has a lot of New Age merchandise but the only thing that caught my eye was an expensive Art Deco statuette. I bought a Celtic Cross bookmark instead of that. I had lunch at Bear Appetit Cafe. I ordered a beef brisket sandwich which was more like pulled pork with shredded beef. It came with some tasty fries and a glass of Pepsi. While I was eating I could see a wedding party on the balcony of the Inn at Jim Thorpe.

Sellers Used Books

Sellers Used Books

I returned to my car to drop off my purchases and then went to Woods Ice Cream where I bought a vanilla cone for desert. I ordered the medium size cone but this turned out to be a lot of ice cream. All this ice cream on top of the beef brisket sandwich was too much for my stomach and I experienced some painful twisting in my guts later on. After that treat I walked up Broadway to the bookstore Trappe Alley Limited. I always thought this was an antique store but actually it is more of an used bookstore. They have an excellent selection of theater books with an unusual number on acting. I bought the book The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler because I had recently read her biography. I’m also reading her books on script analysis which are very impressive. Stella Adler was clearly a genius who knew her own worth and would not let anyone belittle her.

The Stabin Museum

The Stabin Museum

I walked far up West Broadway after buying that book, far into the west end of Jim Thorpe which is more residential. I discovered two new artist studios; Studio YNW Yvonne Wright and the Stabin Museum which is devoted to the works of Victor Stabin. The Stabin Museum appears to have been in Jim Thorpe for a long time but I never really checked it out. I explored the Stabin Museum and saw a lot of fantastic art work but the place was completely deserted. I also popped into Studio YNW.

Before leaving Jim Thorpe I climbed the hill to take photos of the Asa Packer Mansion, the Harry Packer Mansion, and Kemmerer Park. On the way home I stopped in at the Lycoming Mall. A large carnival was being set up in the parking lot. At Books-A-Million I bought a DVD, The Kid Stays in the Picture, a 2002 film version of the autobiography by film producer Robert Evans, and a book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. I also renewed my Books-A-Million club card.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Friday

The final day of my vacation was spent on a road trip. I got to see some rural areas of Virginia including a plantation instead of just the city of Richmond. The road trip was to the Northern Neck, a peninsula between the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We must have gone on Interstate 360 East because our first stop was at NN Burger in Tappahannock to get a milkshake. I got a coffee milkshake but it tasted slightly like peanut butter. Next we stopped off at some acquaintances of June’s before proceeding to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.

George Washington Birthplace

George Washington Birthplace

At the visitor center we watched a short film on George Washington’s family farm. June decided against a house tour because she said it would be boring. Instead we walked around the grounds. First we saw the herb garden which wasn’t very impressive compared to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In going over my photos I do see that I managed to snap an excellent photo of a Monarch butterfly. Nearby we saw the memorial house which we did not enter. Beyond that was two horses in a corral. Near the corral was a white outbuilding which contained a restroom. I had to use the restroom which proved to be surprisingly nice inside, but this was a national park after all. Then we walked over a long wooden bridge to see a log house with a good view of the Potomac River. We retraced our steps instead of completing the long hike around the island. After that we walked around the farm and saw some farm animals like pigs and steers.

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

The next attraction we drove to was Stratford Hall. This plantation is where Robert E. Lee was born. The gate keeper kept us at the gate for over fifteen minutes relating the family history of the Lees of Virginia. Again, June opted not to tour the Great House so we only bought ground passes at the small visitor center and museum. At the gift shop I bought a book, Robert E. Lee: A Biography by Emory Thomas. I’m not terribly interested in Robert E. Lee but he was a major figure in the history of Richmond and Virginia. He also suffered a major defeat at Gettysburg and I explored Gettysburg in 2017. The Virginia Monument in Gettysburg has a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveller. So I kind of kill two birds with one stone by learning more about him. We saw the stables and the Great House. I was very impressed by the view of the North Lawn with its rolling hills, wood fence, and woods. We saw the Octagon which was either an orangery or a garden folly. And we saw another garden and a hedge maze. In a fenced in field I even saw a llama with brown hindquarters that made it look like it was wearing pants. I’m not sure if Robert E. Lee ever owned a llama or used them on the Civil War battlefields. Later we drove to the overlook to see the Potomac River which was so wide that it looked like an ocean. On the way we drove past some cabins that looked like they were available for renting or lodging. We did not spend much time at the overlook because June was worried that the gates would be closed on us before 5:00 p.m. I saw a fox on the way back to Stratford Hall.

After leaving Stratford Hall our next destination was Urbanna for dinner but first June stopped at Montross Virginia because some murals caught her eye. Montross is a small town with just a few establishments on its main street. I did not mind this detour because I often explore small towns in Pennsylvania. We saw Angelo’s Restaurant, the Historic Westmoreland County Courthouse, Courthouse Corner (aka Carrot Cottage), the Art of Coffee, and the Westmoreland Mercantile General Store. At the general store I bought a bag of Butterscotch Sanded Hard Candies because they were packaged as Pennsylvania Dutch Candies. We also visited the Art of Coffee to look at their artwork but the coffee shop was closing. Then we went browsing at the Carrot Cottage which had a large selection of kitsch souvenirs. I saw lots of puzzles, sports memorabilia, and assorted crap. Most of it was the sort of thing you would find at a yard sale but everything was brand new. The only thing I bought was a bookmark but I was still entitled to a free gift so I also got a sports branded keychain bottle opener. After taking photos of everything in sight including many more morals we went on our way.

Montross Virginia

Montross Virginia

Somewhere near Kilmarnock we stopped to visit Eugene’s grave where we got stung by wasps. There was a small wasp nest under a plaque resting on his tombstone. I got stung on the hand but fortunately the pain did not last long and my hand did not swell up. Finally we drove to Urbanna Virginia after crossing a long bridge over the Rappahannock River. Urbanna is a small town on the Rappahannock River with a town marina. We saw a lot of boats tied up at the town marina. There were no large ships but some of the boats where fancy luxury crafts. Urbanna Virginia seemed like one of those picturesque small towns that are popular with tourists but there was not a lot there. We had dinner at the Virginia Street Cafe. I got a glass of champagne for 50 cents because they were celebrating their anniversary. I ordered the crab cakes which were really good. It came with clam chowder without milk and really good onion rings.

Urbanna

Urbanna

I had to get up early the next day to catch my Amtrak train to Philadelphia and then another train to Harrisburg. On the train I finally finished reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet and I ate most of the Milk Coffee Candy. This vacation went as well as any of my other vacations. I found Richmond Virginia to be a worthy destination with plenty of interesting sights. This was also a very affordable vacation since I was staying with my sister and did not have to pay for a hotel room.

 

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Thursday

On the fifth day of my vacation, my sister had to volunteer at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden so we went there. While my sister did her volunteer work I strolled around the gardens. First I explored the conservatory which has a tropical orchid wing, a palm house, and a cacti and succulent collection in its West Wing. The conservatory also had live butterflies in another wing. I had to be let into and out of that room to prevent the butterflies from escaping. After leaving the conservatory I did not get far before it began to rain. It was only a light drizzle which lasted for fifteen minutes but I waited it out in the Robertson Pavilion. Next to the Robertson Pavilion was a kaleidoscope sculpture by Matthew Leavall. I did not know that you could turn its wheel until June mentioned it later. I found the nearby Tea Garden but it was closed so I only went out on its deck. I saw a small creek with a plaque that read “Dot’s Garden”. After going through an area known as the Asian Valley I came across the Bloemendaal House which had a gazebo. It looked like they were setting up for an event, maybe a wedding. Next to the Bloemendaal House is the Children’s Garden where I saw a 100-year-old Mulberry tree that kids can climb on. Near the water play area I found the restrooms and some vending machines. Later on I bought a bottle of Pepsi and a package of cookie snacks from the vending machines and ate on the covered walkway up to the CWDKids Tree House. I explored the tree house which overlooks Lake Sydnor. After walking all around Lake Sydnor I arrived at the Louise Cochrane Rose Garden. I think I had time for another stroll around the entire garden before returning to the conservatory where I immediately found June. June wanted to walk through the grounds before we left so we essentially retraced my steps. This did give me a chance to take lots of photos of Lotus blossoms along Lake Sydnor which I had not given enough of my attention. June pointed out a few other things to me. Before leaving we browsed in the gift shop. I was not going to buy anything there but June left to go change her clothes so I had plenty of time to look around and eventually bought a book, Gilded Age Richmond by Brian Burns. After touring the Maymont Mansion I was a bit more interested in the Gilded Age.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

I forgot to mention that June 13th is my sister’s birthday so we finally went somewhere for lunch. We went to Lulabelle’s Cafe in the West End Antique Mall. I ordered Virginia Biscuits which where small buns, not biscuits, containing bacon and cheese spread. It came with a leafy salad and a small bowl of Thai Chicken soup. For dessert I had an ice cream sandwich with peach and cinnamon. I drank two cups of coffee to keep myself awake on this day. It turns out there were more buildings that are part of the West End Antique Mall. We only saw the furniture on our previous visit. The other parts of the antique mall were more of what you would expect in an antique mall, but the merchandise was high end stuff, not much junk. June bought a Murano glass bowl which was a good buy if it is genuine.

After lunch she drove me to Carytown for some shopping. Carytown stretches along West Cary Street and is similar to South Street in Philadelphia. Both streets are packed with boutiques and fine restaurants and serve as bohemian shopping destinations for the big city. First we saw artwork at Chasen Galleries because it was located right behind the parking lot where June lucked out finding a parking spot. We also saw a brightly colored building with a small mural, Ellman’s Dancewear. We went into a big candy store where I searched for a bag of candy to tide me over on the train ride home but I could not find anything suitable. As we were walking down the street, a car knocked over a motorcycle rider and started an argument. I used this opportunity to slip away and crossed the street to enter World of Mirth, a toy store. I was looking for some STEM toys and while they had a few things, there was nothing interesting for a serious maker. Next I went to the Plan 9 Music store where I bought a The Future Sound of London CD, The Isness. I was vaguely familiar with this British electronic music group and took a chance on this album. I listened to this CD on the long car trip home from Harrisburg but I did not care for it.

Chop Suey Books

Chop Suey Books

I crossed the street to meet up with June and we walked to the Byrd Theatre. I was eager to take photos of this cinema because the art print I bought as a souvenir featured the Byrd Theatre. Across from the Byrd Theatre was Chop Suey Books where I spent quite a bit of time browsing, trying to find just the right book. June was kind of rushing me so eventually I settled for The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer. But this was a good choice since I am reading his book on creating imaginative fiction, Wonderbook. We had ice cream at Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream. I had coffee ice cream in the hopes that it would keep me awake. June insisted that we go to Tokyo Market, a cool Japanese grocery store, where I bought a bag of Milk Coffee Candy. That was mostly what I ate on the long train ride back to Harrisburg. After that we browsed Bygones Vintage Clothing, Askby, and The Clothes Rack. There were two art galleries I suggested but June determined that it would have been a long walk to find them.

Byrd Theatre

Byrd Theatre

Before 6:00 p.m. we drove to Agecroft Hall. I picked up our “will call” tickets at the box office, which was located in the Agecroft Hall office. Our tickets turned out to be nothing more than the theater program. I treated June to her ticket since it was her birthday and seeing this play was my idea. I think doing something unusual like seeing a play is an excellent and memorable way to celebrate a birthday. We ate on a seat in front of the
sunken garden since you were allowed to picnic on the grounds before the performance. I ate a roll filled with chicken salad and some cheese crackers, plus a small bottle of Sprite. A few people set up their picnic in the sunken garden where they were serenaded and entertained by a roving band of young actors dressed in Shakespearean costumes. I got to hear a brief recitation of some lines from Hamlet. This was neat because I was currently reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. June went back to the car and I eventually went back to the box office to use the bathroom.

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

At 7:00 p.m. we took our seats and at 7:30 p.m. the outdoor performance of The Tempest began. The performance was very professional. I especially liked the character of Ariel who wore body paint and moved like a puppet. The actor playing Propsero looked a bit like Pierce Brosnan. It was interesting to see a play performed outdoors in the dark. There was a moon that night which added to the magic. Agecroft Hall was the perfect stage set in which to see a play by Shakespeare. I was worried that I would not be able to follow the story very well but I remembered a movie version of The Tempest. That helped me to anticipate the scenes. Seeing the play was definitely the icing on the cake of my trip to Virginia.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Wednesday

On the fourth day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Agecroft Hall. Agecroft Hall is a Tudor manor in Richmond. It looks like some place Shakespeare would have lived in so it is used for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. We saw the stage and the seating all set up for the 2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival. But for this day we were just there to tour the mansion and to see the gardens. First we watched a short film on the history of Agecroft Hall and how its materials were transported from Lancashire, England to Richmond. We were not allowed to take photos in the house which was furnished according to the Tudor period. But we saw beds, tapestries, old books, and portrait paintings. After the tour we went out to the sunken garden and the herb garden. The sky was overcast so I could not take any photos that do justice to the greenery but at least it did not get hot. The stone patio at the back of the house overlooks a field and some woods. It really gave me the impression of a grand estate. A yellow cat began to follow us around, meowing for attention. At the gift shop I bought a pack of cards, Shakespeare’s
Quips, Cusses, and Curses, Library of Congress Knowledge Cards for $10.50.

Agecroft Hall

Agecroft Hall

Next door to Agecroft Hall is the Virginia House, another manor house. June opened the front door to make inquiries but they no longer offer public tours. We could only take photos of the exterior.

We then drove to Carytown and stopped in at Montana Gold Bread Company to pick up some rolls and chicken salad with dill. We had a picnic lunch at the William Byrd
Park, near Swan Lake. From there it was short drive to Maymont Park. At Maymont Park we saw the herb garden, a carriage collection, and a water fountain before going on a tour of the Maymont Mansion.

Maymont Mansion

Maymont Mansion

The Maymont Mansion was my favorite house tour of the trip since it was a really grand place. Built during the height of the Gilded Era, the interiors were lavish and impressive. These rooms were designed to convey the wealth of James and Sallie Dooley and they certainly gave that impression. Our tour guide was a retired English teacher, or maybe it was a History teacher, who was really into history. He led us through a parlor, a library, the dining room, a foyer, and upstairs to some bedrooms. One of the bedrooms had a fanciful swan shaped bed. After the tour of the house was over we went through further exhibits in the basement where the servant quarters were located. After that we took pictures of the exterior and the front entrance and even ventured onto the veranda.

Maymont Park Italian Garden

Maymont Park Italian Garden

The rest of the day was spent strolling through the Maymont Mansion gardens. We saw the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden which had a winding watercourse that leads to a waterfall and a large pond. The pond had Koi fish of course. Every Japanese Garden is going to have Koi fish.

We did do as much on this day because touring the grounds of Agecroft Hall and Maymont Park took up most of our time.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Tuesday

On the third day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Virginia Holocaust Museum. I did not include this museum in my notes since I think the Holocaust is too depressing but it was near the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is housed in a former tobacco warehouse. Admission was free and there was free parking. As you walked through each room the motion detector would turn on the lights. We saw exhibits on the Kovno Ghetto, the Nuremberg Trials with Nazi war criminal mannequins, displaced person camps, the SS Exodus ship, concentration camps, etc. There was also a synagogue and a Jewish Wall of Fame where I saw a plaque for the playwright Arthur Miller. Outside of the museum there was a cattle car or freight train car from Deutche Reichsbahn which was used to transport victims to the concentration camps. The exhibits were of some slight interest to me because I was currently reading a biography of Stella Adler and she was involved in the effort to smuggle displaced persons to Palestine.

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Next we went to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, something I really wanted to see. I’m not a particularly big fan of Edgar Allan Poe but he really got around the East Coast. I’ve seen his grave in Baltimore, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia, and a recent statue of Edgar Allan Poe in Boston. We entered the museum through the gift shop. Making visitors enter through the gift shop seems to be a popular strategy for museums. While you are waiting for a tour to start, you are expected to browse the merchandise. Often you have to pay the admission fee in the gift shop as was the case for this museum. There were three separate buildings to enter although I expected everything to be in the Old Stone House. First we went out the back door to the Enchanted Garden, the courtyard which is surrounded by the museum buildings. The Enchanted Garden had a small fountain in its center and a Poe Shrine towards the back. Unfortunately the Poe Shrine was taken over by a tour bus group who appeared to be entertained with a dramatic telling of Poe’s short stories. First we entered a room which appeared to be an exhibit devoted to Poe’s days in Richmond. This room mainly had furniture like his bed, a chair, and a piano. The next room we entered had a more elaborate collection of artifacts and impressive displays like a large Edgar Allan Poe Memorial sculpted by Richard Henry Park. This large sculpture was originally on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’m not sure if this was a copy or the original. This room also had an upright coffin which you could stand in to have your picture taken and a seated statue of  Edgar Allan Poe missing its left hand. I also saw Poe’s chair. Up the stairs was the reading room which only had one shelf of books. But there was also a Poe portrait gallery over the stairs and a few movie posters. The film poster for “Der Rabe” puzzled me but this turns out to be German for “The Raven”, the 1963 film starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson. The final room was devoted to Edgar Allan Poe’s death. I mentioned to my sister that I had visited his grave in Baltimore. I also mentioned that I had read part of a biography on Edgar Allan Poe which I never finished reading. This was the book Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance by Kenneth Silverman. When we returned to the courtyard we saw two black cats which live at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. At the gift shop I bought the book Great Horror Stories: Dover Thrift Editions by various authors, a collection of classic horror short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Before leaving the Shockoe Bottom we saw a freight train go by, pulled by a CSX locomotive. The next museum we visited was The Valentine. June had trouble finding a place to park but eventually she found the rear parking lot where a valet parked the car for us. This was another museum with its gift shop at the entrance. Right off the bat we got a
tour of the Wickham House even though there was just the two of us. The Wickham House had an impressive spiral staircase and various furnished rooms to see. We learned about the Valentine Meat Juice which was the basis of the Valentine fortune. I liked the dining room which had old engravings of scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays. A Google search reveals that these are prints from The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of Shakespeare. See Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. We heard the story of how John Wickham defended Vice President Aaron Burr during his trial for treason. This was part of the same story we heard at the Virginia State Capitol. When the tour of the house was over we saw the rest of the museum which featured large display cases full of artifacts of significance to Richmond’s history and culture. There was a Woolworth lunch counter display to represent the Civil Rights Movement. Downstairs we saw lots of black and white photos of Richmond landmarks. They even had a costume department with a woman to explain how they preserve and research costumes, although I did not see that much need for costumes at this small museum. As far as I could see, they only use a few mannequins.

The Valentine

The Valentine

We had lunch in the garden behind the Wickham House. I had a toasted cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato which June said was a Southern touch. I also had French potato salad, and a plastic cup of iced coffee. They gave us wooden utensils and cardboard straws which I did not like.

Wickham House

Wickham House

After lunch June drove down to a parking lot next to the James River so we could walk across the suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge to Belle Isle. Belle Isle is used as a city park and it appeared to be quite popular. There were many people sun bathing on the flat rocks in the James River. Other people were walking their dogs or strolling along the trail. I saw many great blue herons in the James River who did not seem too shy of humans. There was a large quarry pond. After walking clear around the island we went back over the suspension footbridge which afforded a great view of the Richmond skyline. Then we walked to yet another footbridge, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, and crossed the James River to the other side before turning back. Even then we proceeded to walk a little ways along the Riverfront Canal Walk. I saw the Headman Statue on Brown Island.

Belle Isle

Belle Isle

Finally we we visited the Virginia War Memorial. We could not find anywhere to park while we visited the Virginia War Memorial so June parked at the bottom of the hill where a couple of other cars were parked. Then we walked up the hill to the Virginia War Memorial. Park of the hill was covered in small American flags which looked like a field of flowers. Unfortunately the Virginia War Memorial had some construction going on but we were still able to go inside and see the Shrine of Memory, the glass walls, and the statue Memory. After that we called it a day since we had managed to visit three museums and did a lot of walking.

Virginia War Memorial

Virginia War Memorial

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Monday

On the second day of my vacation in Richmond Virginia my sister drove me to the Virginia State Capitol for a free tour of this government complex on a hill in downtown Richmond. Richmond is the state capitol of Virginia. We had trouble finding street parking downtown so my sister eventually had to park in a public parking deck. After parking the car, we walked to the Capitol Square and took photos of various statues on the grounds. I found the Edgar Allan Poe Statue under the trees in the north west corner of Capitol Square. We couldn’t miss the Washington Monument. I also saw the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial and the Governor’s Mansion.

We used the Bank Street entrance which leads to an underground extension of the statehouse under the hill. While June used the restroom I browsed the gift shop. While we waited for the tour to begin, we looked at some costumes in a display case. A tour guide lead us through the modern underground lair, under the steps of the statehouse, and into the actual building which Thomas Jefferson designed. There was a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the stairwell. Once inside the building we entered a room with a large statue of George Washington. George Washington was born in Virginia so the state is very proud of our first President. After that we were led to the Old House and Old Senate chambers where we saw a model of the Capitol building and various historical paintings. Then we were led into the Old Senate Chamber room dominated by a large statue of Robert E. Lee standing with his hand on his sword hip, looking before him as if to say “Well lookie here”. We were told the story of how the third floor collapsed killing 62 people. Next we were allowed into the House Chamber where actual state legislative business is conducted. The tour guide mentioned that the 2012 film Lincoln was shot in this House Chamber room so I have since bought a DVD of that film.

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

It cost June $30 for the parking garage since we were there for over two hours. She was indignant over the amount and I agreed to cover half of the cost. Next we went to the Science Museum of Virginia. We ate lunch in the car before entering the museum. At the Science Museum of Virginia June rushed to the special exhibit, Pompeii: The Immortal City which featured a few artifacts from the ancient doomed city and even two plaster casts of bodies. Then we went outside and saw the steam locomotive and the Aluminaut, the world’s first aluminum submarine. We also saw an IMAX movie, Volcanoes – The Fires of Creation, at 2:00 p.m. Before the film began, the screen was advertising other museum offerings and the Forge, a maker space, caught my eye. I was expecting this to be a workshop for open source hardware and Arduino electronics but it proved to be more material oriented for wood working and the like. The museum gift shop also disappointed me with its poor selection of science books and no maker books. The Science Museum of Virginia is really just a kiddie museum with no exhibits on hard science, computer science, or any serious stuff. After that we wandered around some more and found some aquariums for lizards, snakes, turtles, spiders, and other small critters.

Science Museum of Virginia

Science Museum of Virginia

Next we drove to the Crossroads Art Center, a gallery for hundreds of artists where they can present and sell their work. This was like a free art museum with affordable art work. First I bought some Tums antacid tablets and Invisible Solid Powder Fresh anti-perspiration deodorant at a Bremo Pharmacy next door. At the Crossroads Art Center I bought a Byrd Richmond International Film Festival art print for $35.00 and a bunny card for $4.00, ZouZou’s Basement. We browsed the West End Antiques Mall next door which looked more like an interior designer’s showroom. Curiously there was a cafe in the store, Lulabelle’s Cafe.

Crossroads Art Center

Crossroads Art Center

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Sunday

My vacation actually began on Saturday with a drive down to Harrisburg PA to catch an Amtrak train to Richmond. I made it to Harrisburg without incident and managed to get across the bridge, but I did have some trouble navigating the streets to the train station. There was some road work going on which added to the confusion. But eventually I managed to find my way to the Transitpark parking lot. I could not find a way to walk from the parking lot to the train station. You actually have to walk around the block and down a tunnel under the bridge. I tried to check in my baggage but you actually have to handle your own baggage. It has been a long time since I used Amtrak to make day trips to New York City so I was uncertain about many aspects.

30th Street Station

When the train arrived in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station I had an hour before I had to transfer to the Northeast Regional train. I used the restroom and had lunch at a Pret A Manger because there would be no wait for my food. Pret A Mangers are like cafeterias where you just select packaged sandwiches, cans of soda, and deserts like yogurt parfaits. That is exactly what I got. I took a few photos of the 30th Street Station since it was featured in the recent film Glass. Also, on NYC day trips I don’t think I ever got off the train to see the interior of the train station. After getting settled into a seat on train 195 I was waiting for the train to depart when they announced that everybody had to evacuate the train. At first I thought it was just my car, but everyone had to get off due to a fire scare. After about an hour we were allowed to reboard the train. I sent my sister June some text messages to let her know that I would be delayed.

During the long train ride south I read the book John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. I didn’t even use my smartphone or Kindle because this book kept me entertained for most of the down time on this trip. The train took me through Baltimore, Washington DC, Alexandria Virginia, and Fredericksburg Virginia so theoretically I could visit any of those cities. I saw lots of giant condominium apartment buildings in the vicinity of Alexandria Virginia. June was waiting in the parking lot for me at Staples Mill Road Station and pulled around to the curb to pick me up.

Sunday, the first full day of my vacation, began with a prayer meeting and hymnal singing in June’s living room. Due to my interest in comparative religion, this wasn’t as boring as it would be for a dedicated atheist. I observed everything with a clinical eye and found the short ritual especially interesting. This ritual was the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine which seemed to be based on the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. A ritual is a symbolic action, a gesture that is meant to demonstrate something. Various other aspects of the service seemed to function as an emotional support meeting for the care of the soul with individual testimonials. There were no ecstatic moments during which the Holy Spirit could be said to enter into someone. I would have found that interesting for its shamanic aspects.

After the meeting was over we went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the best experiences of my trip since I love art museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was large enough to satisfy me with a wide variety of artwork. This was the only day of my trip when rain was a problem so I had to carry both of our umbrellas in my pant pockets.  I saw a Salvador Dali painting. He is one of my favorite artists. I saw some Fabergé eggs which the museum is famous for having. There was a monumental statue of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. I found Henry Prellwitz’s painting Lotus and Laurel which I had in my notes, a great painting with classical figures. One piece that really caught my eye was an Art Nouveau female portrait bust by Alphonse Mucha, Nature. Alphonse Mucha is the artist who designed the poster of Sarah Bernhardt which is used on the book cover of Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, the book I bought in Eagles Mere. We also marveled at the Mughal Garden Pavilion which I thought was some kind of Islamic arcade. More precisely it is a Persian style of architecture used for the walled enclosures of gardens.

Alphonse Mucha’s Nature

From the windows of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts I saw a small church which appeared to be open to the public. We checked it out and it was the Confederate Memorial Chapel, with a Civil War canon on its grounds.  We went inside and saw its stain glass windows. Also in the vicinity of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the Robinson House, a historic house which is now being used as a visitor’s center with a few small exhibits. We picked up many brochures at the Robinson House and I kept dropping brochures as we visited the Virginia Museum of History and Culture next door. At the Virginia Museum of History and Culture we saw coaches, rifles, an art gallery of paintings, a streetcar, a Conestoga wagon, and Civil War murals. I was amused by an exhibit of old technology and media which included things like an IBM XT, a Windows XP laptop, a Walkman, a Gameboy, a VHS tape, and a Zip Drive. They even had a smartphone on display which isn’t exactly obsolete yet. Some of these history museums are getting way ahead of themselves and display contemporary artifacts as if they were trying to make you feel old.

Virginia Museum of History and Culture

Next we drove to the Hollywood Cemetery were June parked by the gates. We walked a little ways along the cemetery roads but it began to rain so we went back to the car and then drove along the cemetery roads. We managed to find the mausoleum of W. W. Pool, aka the Richmond Vampire. We also found the memorial of the Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. Nearby was a chapel with a great overlook of the Richmond skyline. We also found the mausoleum  of Lewis Ginter which was of interest to June because she volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Finally we found the President’s Circle after much driving around and saw the graves of James Monroe and John Tyler. We were still in the Hollywood Cemetery after 6:00 p.m. when it closes so a guard chased us out, but he was nice about it and opened the gates to let us out.

James Monroe Grave

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New York City Theater Trip

Yesterday I went on yet another bus trip to New York City. This trip went perfectly and I found it to be exceptionally inspiring and invigorating. As I’ve mentioned before, New York City makes a very powerful impression upon me. And I have to be there to experience this. I can scarcely remember this feeling when I am not there. It is an inexplicably impactful emotional response, like an expansion of consciousness. To a certain extent this can be attributed to New York City because the city is the hub of human achievement. New York City is where everyone goes to make a big impression upon the world so everything from the architecture to the art in the museums is top notch and designed to impress. But I’m not sure this fully accounts for its thrill. The topic of New York City can bore me at times so I think my imagination and expectations are also contributing something to the mix. I am always puzzled and maddened by what is intrinsic beauty and what is heightened by what I’m seeing into an object of contemplation. Suffice it to say, New York City is a world of wonders in my eyes.

We arrived in New York City at around 9:45 a.m. My first objective was to visit the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle. The bus literally left us off right in front of the subway station entrance I needed, the 50th Street Station for the C Line, although this particular entrance is on West 51st Street. I only had to go one stop uptown to reach Columbus Circle. The first thing I saw at Columbus Circle was the enormous silvery globe at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. I took some photos of that even though it might have made me look like a Trump fan. But Donald Trump has been a fixture on the New York scene for decades so he still represents some aspects of the city. At least there were no garbage trucks parked around Columbus Circle to protect his property, the real sign of just how much the public hates this man. I also took some photos of the Christopher Columbus statue, the Time Warner Center, and the Shops at Columbus Circle entrance. I’ve been to Columbus Circle before but that was years ago and I only have a few photos of its landmarks.

The Museum of Arts and Design is a pretty minor museum. I would call it a third rate art museum, or maybe a second rate museum, but definitely not second tier in a city with so many great museums. So I had never visited the Museum of Arts and Design. It isn’t necessarily a bad museum. There are just so many other NYC art museums you would put on your list before it. One of the pleasures of making so many trips to NYC is that I can explore the more obscure establishments and see things that the majority of tourists overlook. But the big attraction for me was a special exhibit currently running at the Museum of Arts and Design, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986. This art exhibit featured many Punk Rock posters that were quite familiar to me. You know you are getting old when your favorite music and youth culture shows up in a history museum as artifacts of a forgotten era. The Museum of Arts and Design is not exactly a history museum but you know what I mean. This exhibition was meant to look back on a cultural movement that has had its day. They had two record bins for the obsolete media known as the vinyl record. Visitors could browse through the records for that experience of record store nostalgia. Virtually every record I saw was one that I once owned, although I have most of them on CD now. In fact, my smartphone has most of that music stored on its microSD card. I saw a few Blondie posters and some rare Blondie memorabilia. It occurred to me that at least one piece of rare Blondie memorabilia could even be from my extensive collection which I sold off years ago.

Museum of Arts and Design

Seeing everything at the Museum of Arts and Design only took a half hour. The next item on my agenda was a Broadway play at 2:00 p.m. so I had hours to kill. First I went to the Shops at Columbus Circle and found the Amazon book store on the third floor. I just can’t resist book stores, even though Amazon is responsible for killing most of them off. I didn’t actually buy any books there. I just browsed the titles for books that I might want to buy later on Amazon. See what I did there?

There isn’t that much to see at Columbus Circle so I walked over to Central Park and took a long stroll through the park. It was a beautiful summer day and I took many iconic photos of Central Park. Several skinny skyscrapers are still being built to overlook the park so they kind of  ruin some of my photos. Even when completed, these skinny residential towers will be an eyesore. Central Park was downright idyllic but it occurred to me that I did not visit the big city to enjoy nature.

Central Park

Central Park

By Noon I was starting to worry about getting to Midtown in time to see the Broadway play so I walked back to the south end of Central Park and entered the first subway station entrance I found, which was the Fifth Avenue – 59th Street Station for the N Line. I took a N train downtown to 42nd Street Times Square. I almost made the mistake of retracing my steps and returning to the 50th Street Station, but the 42nd Street Times Square Station is actually closer to the Broadway theaters.

I arrived at 42nd Street – Times Square around 1:00 p.m. with plenty of time to spare but I was starving. I don’t think I was really hungry, but my doctor prescribed some medicine for my arthritis, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAI)  which may have given me a stomach ulcer. My stomach is frequently rumbling and I feel severe hunger pangs by the end of the day. I’ll probably have to see my doctor about that. Anyways, I had to visit a McDonald’s to grab a filet-o-fish and a cup of coffee. I hate McDonald’s but I didn’t have time for a long wait for my food. My coffee did not come with cream or sugar which annoyed me. I drank it black because I was hoping it would help to keep me awake during the show.

There was a surprisingly long line for the Broadhurst Theatre where the play I came to see was being performed. Several hundred people where lined up half way down the block. The line didn’t move at all until about a half hour before the show was to start. The play I saw was Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally. This is a play I read a long time ago, so I had some vague idea what it was about, but I didn’t really remember it. Most plays only run for two hours and you can read a script in less than a day so they don’t really stick in your memory. The big draw for this serious drama was the great actor, Michael Shannon. Michael Shannon has long been considered a major theater actor, is more or less a major movie star now, and also an established Broadway actor since this is the second time I’ve seen him on Broadway. I also saw Michael Shannon in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night. It is quite a thrill to see him in the flesh on stage. And by in the flesh, I mean buck naked because there was a lot of nudity in this play! In fact, the play began with both Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald stark naked in bed doing a simulated sex scene. I was pretty shocked. I’ve seen nudity on stage before but never actual sex. The lights were kept low and I assume they were only simulating sex. The audience started giggling so they were more amused than shocked. When the lights came on there was some effort made not to show full frontal nudity but it took a while for them to get decent. Other than that, this was a very serious play with plenty of humor to keep it from seeming too dark. Michael Shannon shambled around the stage in a strange manner which may have been his way of portraying a character who isn’t meant to appear very intelligent or sophisticated. Nevertheless, his character, Johnny, was fond of Shakespeare and prone to misquoting him. Personally, I’ve never heard anyone quote Shakespeare in real life, not even a professional or somebody involved in the theater, so quoting Shakespeare does seem awfully pretentious to me. Now that I think of it, maybe I should do that myself. If there is one thing you can do to introduce an element of the dramatic into mundane life, it is to shock people with an unexpected quote from Shakespeare.

Broadhurst Theatre

Broadhurst Theatre

I loved the stage design which was very realistic and drank in every detail of the theater itself. The back wall was a brink apartment building facade which didn’t really fit the design of an apartment interior. I didn’t really notice this until the end of the play when they unexpectedly drew back the back wall. It was slowly pulled back into the wings. Then I realized it didn’t really make sense as part of the set. There was also a fire escape that they never really used even though some publicity photos showed Frankie and Johnny on the fire escape in each other’s arms. What I want to remember was the sight of all the stage lights covering the entire space of the area over the stage with that background of a brick facade. This really seemed quintessentially theatrical to me, New York space made sacred in a theater space.

Sardi's Restaurant

Sardi’s Restaurant

I had a dinner reservation at Sardi’s after the show. Sardi’s is conveniently right across the street from the Broadhurst Theatre and the play ended just in time for me to make my reservation. Sardi’s is a bit more formal than I like. The waiters are all in uniform and the maître d’ is very smartly dressed and strikes you as a very serious and reserved sort of man. The service is also ridiculously attentive with a waiter rushing to refill your water glass only minutes after you’ve taken a sip. But Sardi’s Restaurant is an old Broadway mainstay and reeks of good old-fashioned theater tradition and history. The place was pretty empty at first but eventually it filled up with after-matinee theater goers like myself. I ordered a chicken club sandwich which arrived as a stack of food. The large pile of French fries made this a mountain of food. I wish I had just ordered an appetizer since I was not that hungry. I also had a single glass of Chardonnay which made me surprisingly tipsy. I really don’t like feeling woozy and sleepy when I am on an adventure.

After dinner, I had left plenty of time for shopping. First I went to BookOff on West 45th Street. This Japanese used media chain store sells used books, DVDs, CDs, and other media formats. I found two DVDs that were on my shopping list: As Good As It Gets and The Thirteenth Floor. After looking down every book shelf aisle I eventually found their meager selection of Drama and had to settle for a translation of Racine’s Phedre by the poet Ted Hughes. Next I went to the big Barnes & Noble book store on Fifth Avenue. I was surprised to find they did not have a book shelf devoted to Science or Non-Fiction. They did have a decent section on the performing arts where I found Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights. I’m becoming a bit more conservative in my tastes now that I no longer trust progressive theater artists to be sensible. I question their devotion to the arts so I would rather read something written long ago. I think I can trust Stella Adler to focus on what is really important to the human spirit. There is not a single female playwright on her list! That is being a little too conservative, but she was a product of her time. Although I did not browse the science fiction titles, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word For World Is Forest was prominently displayed and this book was on my shopping list so I snagged it.

After making those purchases I made my way back to the bus pick-up spot near the Times Square Church. I got there almost an hour early but I didn’t really try to wander off to take any more photos. I was pretty satisfied with what I had accomplished on this trip and quite frankly the entire Times Square area has become too familiar to me.

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Eagles Mere and Worlds End State Park

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to get out of the house for the day. But I did not want to spend a lot of money so I relied on my previous experience to put together a cheap day trip. First, I drove to Eagles Mere which is a small village in Sullivan County. I often visit Eagles Mere on my way to Worlds End State Park. There is not much to do in Eagles Mere except to visit the book store and the sweets shop. Fortunately, the book store was open but the sweets shop was closed. At the Eagles Mere Bookstore I bought the paperback book Medea and Other Plays by Euripides, Penguin Classics. I selected this book because I’ve been reading multiple translations of Euripides’ The Bacchae and thought it would be useful to read some of his other plays. I was tempted by a large hardcover book Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, but I was reluctant to commit to reading a long book. Now I kind of regret not buying that book so I may buy it later.

Since The Sweet Shop was closed I decided to spend a little time exploring Eagles Mere just to make stopping there worthwhile. I went into the park to photograph the gazebo and then walked down one side street, Jones Avenue, to takes photos of the Eagles Mere Post Office. I noticed a large blue house which was being remodeled. It was big enough to be a hotel. I don’t know if I’ve seen it on previous trips. It may have been obscured by more trees and landscaping. At the end of Jones Avenue I saw the Episcopal Church and two benches overlooking a field. There was a bit of a vista view there so I walked over to the benches. I saw a strange sight in the grassy field below, a vintage pickup truck stuck high on a pole. It looked like somebody’s idea of art work, a sculpture. The residents of Eagles Mere are very wealthy as evidenced by the splendor of their summer homes. This statue was down the hill from a particular large and fancy ranch house so it may have been artwork on the grounds of this country estate. Nobody was in sight so I walked down the hill to take a few closeup photos.

Eagles Mere Vintage Truck Sculpture

Eagles Mere Vintage Truck Sculpture

After that I proceeded to Worlds End State Park. I didn’t intend to do any serious hiking. First I stopped in a pull off near the Loyalsock Creek to take some photos of the boulder strewn creek. I saw a pure white piece of quartz rock which I took as a souvenir. Most of the rocks are unremarkable but this one looked like a chunk of ice, rough but with no blemishes. Then I pulled in at the parking lot for the Canyon Vista Trail trailhead and walked a short ways on the trail along the creek. This part of the trail is perfectly flat and goes through some thin woods. It was very tranquil and relaxing without required much physical effort. Next I drove to the main parking lot and used the restroom. Unfortunately the Snack Shop was closed, maybe because it was Mother’s Day. There were surprisingly few people in the park, probably because it was Mother’s Day. Ordinarily, the parking lot would have been full on such a nice day. I walked down to Loyalsock Creek and shot lots of photos of the cliffs and the boulders in the creek. This is the most picturesque place in Worlds End State Park. It is also the area with the most picnic tables and camping grounds. Before leaving the park I checked out the beach area and walked across the bridge to find a trailhead for the High Rock Trail which I did not know was there. The High Rock Trail is a very difficult trail according to the warning sign so I was not tempted to try it.

Worlds End State Park

Worlds End State Park

On the way home, driving south on Route 220 I made two further stops just to avoid ending my adventure too quickly. First I stopped in at D&D Brew Works. This is a restaurant and bar located in a large red building which I have not seen in operation on previous trips. I ordered a coke, a grilled cheese sandwich, and some French Fries. This meal cost less than $10.00. A but further along Route 220 I drove to the Overlook and checked out Wrights View. This vista overlook is nothing fancy and the view was not particularly fantastic but it is the sort of humdrum attraction that feels authentic.

D and D Brew Works

D and D Brew Works

My final stop on the return trip home was Walmart in Montoursville where I bought a new dress shirt and two inexpensive DVDs, Tomb Raider and Murder on the Orient Express. Both of these films are newer versions of the old classics. I bought a new dress shirt for  my upcoming trip to New York City because I want to look presentable for dinner at a good restaurant where I have a reservation.

When I got home I dragged out my bike for a long ride along the bike path, aka the Lycoming Creek Bikeway. I rode all the way to the end of the bikeway in Hepburnville. This bike path can be found at the end of my street but I usually access it by going to the end of the gravel lane behind my house. The bikeway is somewhat scenic although I think it could be better since you mostly see nothing but grassy fields along a long stretch. The best part is the railroad bridge over Lycoming Creek. For me it is a very convenient recreational activity and it would probably add a lot of value to my property if I lived near a bigger and more prosperous city.

Lycoming Creek Bikeway

Lycoming Creek Bikeway

In conclusion, I enjoyed a perfect Spring day without spending a lot of money.

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Jetson Nano Developer Kit

I recently bought my first single board computer, the Jetson Nano Developer Kit. This single board computer is intended for artificial intelligence development. It is sort of like a Raspberry Pi for AI. The main reason I bought this device is because it has a Nvidia GPU with 128 CUDA cores. Many machine learning toolkits can use CUDA cores to speed up the processing. You need a high end Nvidia graphic card for that and they can be quite expensive. So at only $99.00 the Jetson Nano is a bargain.

Jetson Nano Developer Kit

Jetson Nano Developer Kit

I’ve been thinking of buying a Raspberry Pi and getting into the maker community but the Jetson Nano seemed a little sexier with its AI capabilities. Unfortunately it does not come with everything you will need. I had to buy a  MicroSD card for the operating system. Then I had to buy a 5V 4A (4000mA) switching power supply from AdaFruit. I bought a Edimax EW-7811Un USB Wi-Fi wireless dongle to give my Jetson Nano wireless connectivity. But the biggest additional expense was a monitor with a HDMI connection. None of my flat panel monitors had that so I spent another $100 on a Spectre monitor. You also need a mouse and keyboard with USB connections but I did have those.

So far I have done absolutely nothing with my Jetson Nano because I’ve been busy. But I have been studying machine learning so I will put this device to its intended use. I will do something serious with it. At the very least it will allow me to run some demos that require CUDA cores. I might try to use it for natural language processing, computer vision, or computer graphics. Later on I may buy a Raspberry Pi since I have the equipment for using other single board computers.

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Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I made my first trip to New York City in 2019. It is getting hard to find new things to do in New York City since I go there so often. But on this trip I decided to concentrate on the art galleries in Chelsea. Most of these art galleries are concentrated between West 24th Street and West 22nd Street to the west of the High Line. I must have visited between fifteen or twenty art galleries but I was not keeping track so it will be hard to document exactly which galleries I visited.

The bus left us off outside the Times Square Church just like they used to do. Maybe they will go back to using that as the drop off and pick up spot. I quickly found a subway entrance for the C and E lines 50 Street Station but this was in the direction for uptown, not downtown like I wanted. When I tried to use my MetroCard it read Insufficient Fare but before I could refill it somebody called me over and opened the gate for me. I should not have done that but I was thinking there may have been a malfunction or something. Although I was on the wrong platform for going downtown, I decided to go uptown and visit the Sony Plaza Public Arcade which has public restrooms. Unfortunately I found the Sony Plaza Public Arcade was closed because that building is being remodeled. I did take a photo of Paley Park as I walked past it on East 53rd Street. Actually it was not Paley Park, but some waterfalls on the side of the building that houses Burger Heaven. Anyways, I found a Fifth Avenue – 53rd Street Station entrance and took an E train downtown to the 23rd Street Station like I originally intended.

Reconstructing exactly which art galleries I visited is going to be difficult but I do have my photos as a rough record of where I went. For example, my first photo is of the Empire Diner which had a mural painted on the wall of the building behind it featuring the artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. This seemed very appropriate for the Chelsea Art District.  I remember that I tried to visit the Fremin Gallery but it was closed for a private event. I must have walked down to West 21st Street because my next photos are of the Gagosian Gallery entrance, Kravets Wehby Gallery, and Paula Cooper Gallery. The Gagosian Gallery was closed for installation. One of the art galleries I can confirm that I entered was Miles McEnery Gallery on West 21st Street which had the work of John Sonsini as its current exhibition.

Empire Diner Mural

Empire Diner Mural

I must have walked to West 22nd Street after that because I took a photo of the JoAnne Artman Gallery and the Danese/Corey Gallery at  511 West 22nd Street. Confusingly Miles McEnery Gallery is also on West 22nd Street. Several galleries are located at 535 West 22nd Street including DC Moore Gallery but I did not try to enter since there didn’t seem to be any lights on. But I’m pretty sure I went up the black stairs to visit this second location of the  Miles McEnery Gallery. According to their web site I saw the work of Tomory Dodge. I know I entered the JoAnne Artman Gallery because I have their business card. I only collected two business cards. I definitely visited the Yancey Richardson gallery where I saw some huge photographs by Victoria Sambunaris. These high definition photos were taken in Utah according to the web site. I thought they were photos of some desolate region in the Middle East. I especially like the photos of railroad tanker cars in Utah. That photo had nice composition. I did not try to take any photos of the artwork in any of the galleries because I did not know if that would be allowed. I did see a few people take photos with their smartphones. Also on West 22nd Street is the Sikkema Jenkins & Co art gallery which had their door open. That was the gallery where I saw crude paintings by artist Louis Fratino. I found these paintings slightly distasteful since they were gay erotica featuring the male body, but I dutifully examined each one. Personally I find greater beauty in the female nude and this can be understood once you realize that beauty actually lies in what represents a wonderful possibility for us. The Dia Art Foundation also seems to have a gallery on this street but it did not appear to be open.

Miles McEnery Gallery

Miles McEnery Gallery

The High Line appears to have inspired a building boom in Chelsea. I saw various condominiums being built and many of them seemed to be in a competition for the most modern and sleek building design. So I took a few photos of the more striking examples. In particular, there was black building with rounded corners behind the Guardian Angel Church. I didn’t do too much research on the neighborhood but I did see the Highline Hotel and the Star On 18 Diner on my way to West 19th Street where I located and photographed The Kitchen, an Off-Broadway theater that has been on my list of places to photograph for quite some time. I never got around to it because I’ve rarely been in the vicinity. Two very large condominiums with a striking design are being built on this block so I had to walk around some construction. Since I was in the area, I crossed 11th Avenue to the Chelsea Piers and took many photos of the IAC Building and the 100 Eleventh Avenue residential tower. I got some really great photos of these two buildings because the sun was shining bright. I will replace the photos in my notes with these better photos.

IAC Building

IAC Building

At this point, I finally decided to visit a book store in the neighborhood, 192 Books on 10th Avenue. I found their small theater section and bought the book Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine by Simon Critchley and Jamison Webster because Hamlet is my favorite play. I can tell by my receipt that I bought this at 12:57 p.m. 192 Books is a fairly small book store with just one large room. You have to wonder how small stores stay open in New York City where the rent is so high. They did have an extensive selection of art books so they must get most of their traffic from the Chelsea art gallery crowd.

Next I visited three art galleries on 10th Avenue; Taglialatella Galleries, Chase Contemporary, and Jim Kempner Fine Art. I took a business card for Taglialatella Galleries and postcards for Chase Contemporary and Jim Kempner Fine Art. Chase Contemporary had some really cool art like a giant matchbox car model and portraits by Ole Aakjær of models with yellow noses to make them look like clowns, gorgeous clowns. Jim Kempner Fine Art is an impressive gallery with large windows just under the High Line on West 23rd Street. They were showing map design art by Paula Scher.

After that I went to West 24th Street which is the street with the most art galleries. I visited the following art galleries for sure based on my photos and recollection; Marianne Boesky Gallery, Pace Gallery, Gagosian, Bryce Wolkowitz, Metro Pictures Gallery, Lyons Wier Gallery, C24 Gallery, and Lehmann Maupin. At the Pace Gallery 537 West 24th Street I saw the most impressive artwork I saw that day, landscapes by Raqib Shaw. These landscapes where highly detailed and very exotic. They were landscapes of fantasy realms populated by mystics and people with bird heads. I had to spend several minutes with each painting just to take in all the detail. The Marianne Boesky Gallery was showing large sculptures of Frank Stella and I saw a tour group being shown around. I think it was a tour being run by an art institution since Frank Stella is a major artist.

Marianne Boesky Gallery

Marianne Boesky Gallery

At around 2:00 p.m. I began to walk east along West 23rd Street in order to make it to the Irish Repertory Theatre to see the play The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey. I didn’t want to be late because this was the highlight of my trip. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Chelsea art galleries to 7th Avenue. Along the way I passed the famous Chelsea Hotel. This place still has a little scaffolding on its facade but less than I’ve ever seen so I took several photos. It does look like they have cleaned and repainted the facade pretty well.  Once I was near the theater I took photos of Champignon Restaurant and Zagara Wine Bar since I might want to eat dinner in this neighborhood after a show. I’ve been going to the Irish Repertory Theatre often enough to make this a concern.

Irish Repertory Theatre

Irish Repertory Theatre

The Irish Repertory Theatre has become my favorite theater in New York City. This was the third time I’ve seen a show there. The reason for this is their conservative approach to the fine arts. Every other theater in New York City seems to be too intent on showing how progressive they are with their casting and choice of material. Now, it is not that I seek a politically conservative theater, but I do want to see classic European dramas with sensible casting decisions. I feel I can trust the Irish Repertory Theatre to put sound artistic concerns over the prissy moral concerns of the political activists. Theater is the one art form which I prefer in its conservative form because drama works best when it observes all the rules. I would like to see some avant-garde theater but it has to be mystifying and strange, not merely politically radical. I suppose the Irish Repertory Theatre can get away with being so conservative because it is a theater devoted to an ethnic group. I don’t really get how the Irish are a downtrodden ethnic group. I think of the Irish as white Europeans just like the English, the French, or the Germans.

I had to use the restroom at the Irish Repertory Theatre because none of the art galleries had public restrooms. They only have two unisex restrooms, each just one room with only one toilet, so there is always quite a line before a show. Fortunately I only had to wait on two people before me. I had a seat in the balcony since that was the only seat left for this particular show.

Anyway, The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey is a fine old play. I read it a long time ago in a collection of Sean O’Casey plays but I really remembered nothing about it. Just past the balcony was a small room which they made into a museum on Sean O’Casey. The exhibit consisted mostly of paper items like old playbills, books, and newspaper clippings. But they also had some large poster boards made up to show the history of Sean O’Casey and his work in the theater. There were two display dummies in costume. Overall it was an impressive little museum devoted to a playwright.

The production was very high quality with elaborate sets and period costumes. Most of the actors spoke with Irish accents. There were several set changes during the show and they even used a turntable to revolve the set from a tenement room to a bar. I thought that was quite impressive for such a small theater with a small stage. Unfortunately I did doze off briefly during the show because I have to get up too early for these bus trips to New York City. Then when I get into a quiet, darkened theater I just want to close my eyes for a minute. Fortunately  I cannot sleep sitting up but I do nod off briefly.

When the play was over I went to the Champignon Restaurant because I was starving. I ordered the Steak and Frites. I ordered my steak well done but it was still a little stringy and a bit raw. Unfortunately the meat clogged my esophagus so I had to rush to the bathroom to vomit as I was gagging. This is a rare medical problem for me, but I have to be careful when eating very moist dough or stringy meat because it may clog my esophagus. This meal only cost me around $33.00. I only spent $17.37 for the book I bought so this was the cheapest trip I’ve ever made to New York City. I hardly spent any money while I was there.

Champignon Restaurant

Champignon Restaurant

Before leaving the Chelsea neighborhood I walked down to West 19th Street to take a photo of the New York Live Arts performance space. I thought I had taken a photo of this place on a previous trip but I guess I always forgot. This performance space appears to be more devoted to dance than theater. I even saw a ballerina in the window.

When I finally arrived back on 5oth Street, taking an E train from the 23rd Street Station to get back uptown, I walked down to West 47th Street  to take a photo of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, probably the only theater in Hell’s Kitchen which I’ve overlooked. Then I located the Broadhurst Theatre. The Broadhurst Theatre was advertising Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune which I will see on my next trip to New York City. I already have my ticket. The Broadhurst Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theater so this will be a thrilling experience for me. The play stars the movie star Michael Shannon who I’ve already seen on Broadway in Long Days Journey Into Night. It is always a thrill to see a movie star in the flesh on stage, right in front of you. However, I don’t know what else I will do in New York City on that trip. I’m kind of all out of ideas.

I walked to the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue hoping to buy another book before going home but by the time I got there I was worrying about missing the bus so I didn’t take the time to make a purchase. I might have been able to squeeze this in but there would have been no time to browse. Fortunately I made it back to the Times Square Church with plenty of time to spare and managed to take a few photos along the way.

I have a few notes about the bus trip itself. I bought a new travel bag which is larger than the shoulder bag I’ve been using and this worked out well considering how many devices I take on a trip. I also managed to watch movies on my smartphone using a Leizhan USB OTG Flash Drive. I was able to watch Ironman and Ironman 2 on my smartphone which really helped to ease my boredom. Before this I was listening to music for four hours on end and that gets a little tedious. We stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at Delaware Water Gap for the comfort stop. I bought a chocolate bar from the vending machine but it turned out to be partially melted. That really pissed me off. I had to put it in the freezer when I got home to make it solid enough to eat. So note to self, do not buy chocolate from vending machines.

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James V. Brown Library Spring Book Sale Haul

Last evening I went to the Spring Book Sale held by the Friends of the James V. Brown Library. I found the following books:

  • Nocturne by Adam Rapp – a play by a playwright I am familiar with
  • Moon-Child by Derek Walcott – a play by a playwright I am familiar with
  • Theories of the Theatre by Marvin Carlson – seems to be more of a historical review of the theater than a book about theater theory
  • Watchers by Dean Koontz – you see lots of books by this author but this one in particular comes highly recommended and I can never seem to find it. This book was on my shopping list so I was pleased to find it at the book sale.
  • Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda – I have not read much poetry by this poet
  • The Origin of Humankind by Richard Leakley – I have been reading more science books with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, or evolution.
  • The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker – one of my favorite science authors. This book is about what language reveals about how the mind works. A good book for an aspiring writer.
  • Science Fiction Handbook, Revised by L. Sprangue de Camp – an old book on writing science fiction

That is only eight books. I only bought books I thought I might want to read. Since I already have stacks and stacks of books to read, I really didn’t want to commit to reading even more books. My house is already so full of books that it looks like a library. They are piled up everywhere since my bookcases are full.

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Oleanna – A Misunderstood Play

This evening I saw the David Mamet play Oleanna in Lewisburg, as performed by the RiverStage Community Theatre. I did not realize it, but I have seen this play before. I keep a list of all the plays I’ve seen and this play is number seven. I probably saw it years ago at the Community Theater League. As usual, I did not drive all the way to Lewisburg just to see this play. I took the opportunity to do a little shopping and dining just to make the long drive worthwhile. I stopped in at Barnes & Noble which is the Bucknell University Bookstore and bought a paperback book World Without Mind by Franklin Foer.  This is another nonfiction book about the threat of Big Tech. I have been reading many books like this of late. I had something to eat at the bookstore cafe, a yogurt and a cup of coffee.

RiverStage Community Theatre seemed to think Oleanna was a timely play because it supports the #MeToo movement but I think they have misunderstood this play. I interpreted the play as a clever critique of social justice warriors. The playwright’s hostile intention is made clear by the ambiguity of the situation and the outrageous nature of the student’s behavior. If David Mamet had really wanted to argue in favor of social justice he would not have made the student’s actions so questionable. It amazes me that people can misread an author’s intentions so badly, but I have seen it before. What you have to understand is that a writer can play God. He will construct the story to support  his viewpoint. Even a seemingly impartial story will be constructed according to the author’s secret intentions. This is an old play which I have not seen or read in many years, so I was surprised by much it predicts the current social justice warrior controversy. But I guess that nonsense has been going on for a very long time in academia.

One of my full length plays, Charcoal Sketches, is somewhat similar to Oleanna but my intention was very different. In my play a blameless college professor is accused of giving inappropriate attention to a female student, making her the teacher’s pet, but I was interested in the subconscious motivation in self-sabotage. My protagonist shoots himself in the foot to get himself out of a stagnant situation without being consciously aware of making such a decisive decision. Unconscious determination is a subject that interests me a great deal. But I suppose my play would also be misinterpreted as supporting a feminist narrative.

After the play was over I stopped in at Wendy’s for a Big Fish sandwich and a small vanilla shake. I don’t like most fast food, but fish sandwiches tend to be really good.

The next play I will see is The Plough & the Stars by Seán O’Casey at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. This will be the third play I’ve seen at this theater. It has become my favorite theater in New York City because all the other theaters have abandoned artistic excellence in favor of demonstrating how politically correct they are in their casting and material. I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that, but it has clearly replaced every other consideration so you get trivial plays attacking the basis of national holidays and other crap. When the theater gives up on art, artists must give up on the theater, or find some smaller theater that keeps up the tradition.

 

 

 

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Rabbit Hole – A Very Bunny Play

On Sunday evening I saw the play Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire at the Community Theatre League‘s Moyer Studio. This was the first play I saw this month. I shall see three plays this month after a long dry spell. This is one of the plays I have read. It is a serious drama, really heavy, and not all that bunny. There were not very many people in the audience so half the seats were empty. I really liked the set design which was very realistic. It included the kitchen for the classic “kitchen sink” drama and the living room. The television set was an old cathode ray tube display instead of a modern flat screen TV. The set design really made me feel like I was spying on people in their home. It would be a very typical middle class house so I felt this was the drama of everyday life as experienced by real people. The acting was pretty good with only some occasional excessive expression.

I was able to park in the parking garage across the street without getting a ticket or going through the toll gate. I guess there is free parking on Sundays.

The next play I shall see is Oleanna next Sunday in Lewisburg PA. Then on April 27th I am going on a bus trip to New York City where I will see The Plough and the Stars at the Irish Repertory Theatre. The Irish Repertory Theatre is now my favorite theater in New York City because I can trust them to make good artistic decisions. Every other theater seems to have become too morally prissy to do European plays with traditional casting.

My playwriting is kind of on hold but I did complete my forth full-length play this year to submit to the major playwriting competitions. My next play is going to be a completely new play on shamanism to replace my previous attempt. After that play is written I will concentrate on marketing since I will finally have enough literary property to implement my marketing strategy.

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The Painter 8 Wow! Book

At work I usually read a book during my lunch break after eating my packed lunch. I sometimes pick a book that I just want to finally get through. But often I read a technology book that will be seen as vaguely work related. Currently I am reading The Painter 8 Wow! Book by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis. I bought this book way back in October 29, 2003 on Amazon but I never got around to reading it. I decided to finally read this book due to my new interest in creative coding.

Although I had a few notes on how to do things with Painter 8, I have been adding even more pages to my notes while reading this book. I have added topics on aligning shapes, the color set tools, blending colors with pastels, cloning and tracing, color masks, feathering, liquid ink, masks, and sketch contrast.

Painter 8 offers limited options for scripting although you can record your actions. Gimp seems to have better scripting options using Python so I will learn how to script drawings using Gimp. This will give me the ability to do creative coding using natural-media brushes, something that Processing still lacks.

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YouTube Data Backup Tool Bug Fix

Today I fixed a bug in my YouTube Data Backup Tool. The problem was the view count for a video could be larger than the maximum size of an integer. The solution was to change the data type for the view count variable from integer to long. I also made this change to the like count and comment count. The current version of this program is 1.3.6.0.

My YouTube Data Backup Tool is the only Windows application I have developed to sell. As a passive form of income it is only good for “beer money”, not that I drink beer. The problem with this form of passive income is that an application must be maintained. Any sort of paid work would pay better than working on this Windows application. I sell the YouTube Data Backup Tool for only $5.00 because it does not do anything except make back ups of your YouTube playlists. Eventually I will add more features.

I use Visual Studio 2013 for this project even though its Git support is buggy.
InstallShield Lite for Visual Studio 2017 is not supported for the Visual Studio Community Edition so I cannot migrate this project to Visual Studio 2017. I have a private GitHub repository for this project but I am distributing the software using Google Drive.

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Learning Fortran

Lately I have been learning the old programming language, Fortran. I don’t particularly like Fortran or plan to use it, but I have run out of things to learn about C++, Java, Python, or C#. So far I have learned how to work with numbers, loops, and arrays. Today I have learned how to work with strings. Formatting numeric output in Fortran is a little tricky so I will have to create a separate topic in my notes for that. I am running Fortran using GNU Fortran or GFortran which is part of my Cygwin installation.

I was using Visual Studio Code as my code editor but it does not integrate well with a Fortran compiler. I have discovered that the NetBeans IDE works a lot better. NetBeans  will run my code by creating the necessary make file automatically. I had to create my own Fortran syntax highlighting file, shBrushFortran.js, to use with SyntaxHighlighter 3.0.83, the old JavaScript library developed by Alex Gorbatchev. This gives me Fortran syntax highlighting in my HTML notes.

The only mildly useful thing I have learned so far is that Fortran supports complex numbers. I have been working with complex numbers to reproduce some geometric designs which are based on the complex plane. I have been improving my math skills and learning Fortran may help with that since this programming language is mainly used for science.

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Creative Coding

I have almost finished reading “Processing for Visual Artists: How to Create Expressive Images and Interactive Art” by Andrew Glassner. And not a day goes by when I do not learn how to do something new in Processing.js. For example, today I learned the formula for finding points on a bézier curve given the anchor points and the control points. This will come in useful when I attempt to reproduce curves that must hit certain points.

Although Processing is somewhat limited to geometric art, I continue to find interesting projects within this limitation. Some of my recent projects in sacred geometry have included; Metatron’s Cube, the Seed of Life, the Flower of Life, and a shaman’s dreamcatcher. I plan to explore other possible projects in gem or crystal geometry, Art Deco geometry, Islamic tile geometry, and various signs or symbols. I share a few of my sketches at Open Processing.

Processing gives me a fun way to solve programming challenges that involve some math without getting bored. It is a great way to learn more about computer graphics without being overwhelmed by technical material. Sometimes I figure out how to do the same thing in Python using its Matplotlib plotting library.

I think this is the ideal way to express my creativity using my existing professional skills. I bought a lot of books on figure drawing but I never get around to reading them and it would take a lot of practice to improve my drawing skills. Drawing would also lack the problem solving that Processing requires. Messing around with Processing is almost as fun as playing a computer game because you are dealing with the same kinds of computer graphics, only with more creative control.

Some of my work is cutting edge even if it isn’t all that spectacular. I have figured out how to do some simple things in Processing that have never been done before. I am still in the process of exploring various ways to produce basic shapes.  Eventually I will seek to promote my work in the greater art community.

 

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