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Packing to Go

April 22, 2013 2 Comments

Travel is an adventure. I like to take just the right amount of stuff from home to give me extra room in my suitcase. I typically find something I want to buy and bring back home with me. Since I am on a long trip this time I am including an extra duffel bag inside the suitcase for large finds. I have arranged my accommodations, except for the last 3 nights, which I can decide when I get to that.  I am meeting friends at the beach, planning a party, and going to a performance.  What do I need? What do I want to purchase in New England?

I always take:

  1. layers of clothing
  2. 2 iPads
  3. 1 laptop
  4. still camera
  5. 2 video cameras, one for underwater
  6. my cell phone
  7. very comfortable walking shoes

I enjoy shopping for or finding:

  1. tea
  2. cosmetics and body care products
  3. vintage clothing
  4. art
  5. natural items like rocks and shells
  6. food
  7. maps

I know Cape Cod will have all manner of souvenirs, but I typically like things that are out of the ordinary.   My friend who lives there makes wampum out of shells, so I look forward to purchasing a special commemorative set of jewels to go with the setting.  I doubt that Plymouth Rock, Colony, etc. will have the kind of item I like to buy.   I expect the Wampanoag tribe may have some crafts or books at the museum in Mashpee that will interest me.  I love to collect stories and history.  Since I am visiting many of my ancestors I expect to find some facts I do not know now. I am excited and open for a new culture, new cuisine, new (old) cities and towns, and friends I have not yet met.  I have been gardening, supervising a construction project in my home, and working in the office to clear the desk and put all business in order.  One thing I never take with me when I travel is my day-to-day concerns. My work is finished here for a couple of weeks. I will bring you along for the fun, gentle reader, as I to discover what is special about  Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Providence, the Best Travel Agent

January 21, 2013 5 Comments

Providence RI

Providence RI

Making travel plans is a study in availability. As a seasoned professional I like planning trips almost as much as taking them. I can enjoy a spontaneous jaunt as well as the next person, but planning can make the difference between a mediocre and a memorable travel experience.  It is good to have purpose, even if it is simply to change the scenery.  It is also very smart to have all the essentials covered so you can virtually do whatever strikes your fancy while you are at your destination.  I enjoy studying maps more than almost anything, so all kinds of maps inform my decisions.  I like the freedom of a car but not the hassle of parking and driving in heavy traffic.  Details of transportation and accommodation need to match the budget and the preferences of the traveler. Providence is foresight.  Providence involves taking care of the details in advance.  When you do your part, the divine Providence takes over and creates magic.

Details contain not only the devil, but also a great deal of delight if handled correctly.  There are some basic outlines to create good vacations, but the key is to make the details cater to the taste of the traveler.  That is where I excel.   I have many years of experience in travel of all kinds.  More importantly, I am specific, particular, and discriminating in my personal preferences.  I do know what I like, and know how to procure it at the price I want to pay.  I also know that many people would be uncomfortable in a museum all day, or in a hot spring all night, so I am happy to travel sometimes alone.  This means I am free to linger or to cancel plans on my own whims. I have hit the road with various groups in the past.  I believe I have done my penance in that regard, and can travel for my own purposes now.  Often groups isolate themselves from the local culture, not intentionally, but because they are involved with each other all the time.  It can be a huge turn off to find yourself anywhere with a large tourist group you had not planned to encounter.

Find great value by shopping for exactly what you want instead of seeking the cheapest trip. Using a credit card to pay for travel you can’t afford to take will almost inevitably end in heartache.  Buyer’s remorse is debtor’s remorse when your holiday fun is digging a hole in your credit rating and peace of mind. Prepay for the hotel.  You can get fabulous discounts for a non refundable prepayment.  Better yet, when you take the trip it feels like the lodging is free.  It is very liberating.

  1. Travel off peak.  Go when others do not go to that location.  The first two weeks of December is always the best for all destinations.
  2. Study the details of the area, including special events. Tourism boards are just waiting to tell you everything there is to know about their areas
  3. Consider alternative lodging, like Air BnB, for a more local contact
  4. Weigh the cost against the time consumed when thinking of doing something cheap that takes up a big chunk of your time on holiday.  Your free time should be valuable to you.
  5. Be particular.  If you do not feel excited about the destination, keep studying.  Choose a place that perfectly suits your needs and desires.

I am planning a trip to Plymouth Colony and the vicinity in April.  I am finding so much to do in a very small area, that the research is really a blast for me.  It looks like the right trip to discover Providence, RI.   My ancestors are all over the place, and I have never been there.  This is my kind of adventure.

Tucson’s Butterfly Jungle

December 3, 2012 8 Comments

In Tucson we keep a small power packed tropical jungle full of exotic butterflies. We live in a draught filled desert, so besides the regular showing of of our local flora, our Tucson Botanical Gardens provides a little slice of steamy tropical heaven for visitors.

Visiting the tropics

Visiting the tropics

I support the gardens and enjoy visiting at all times of year. The contribution to our botanical heritage is important. This oasis provides a luscious environment in the heart of the city for those who treasure gardens.

strike a pose

strike a pose

The collection of butterflies is seasonal. They arrive in the fall and stay until spring.

Butterfly on stone

Butterfly on stone

We do not mind hanging out for a while in the mist.  They even play jungle sounds,  Here I am with an antler fern coming out of my head.

sitting in the butterfly jungle

sitting in the butterfly jungle

The star attractions are born and die constantly.  The butterfly tenders bring out new boxes of babies, born right next door in the nursery every day.

twice as lovely

twice as lovely

They are whimsical, friendly, and short lived.  They are kind of like a living sand mandala.  They brighten the world for a brief time.  They invite you to come on down to their jungle for a break from everyday cares.  They know the secrets to getting it while you can.

on my head

on my head

Guilllaume Vigne, my 12 Great Grandfather

September 28, 2012

Manhattan in 1600s

My 12th great grandfather was in the first settlement of Dutch immigrants in Manhattan.  Guillaume and his wife Adrienne were  in New Amsterdam in 1613 as part of the crew of the trading ship Tiger.  The ship burned in the harbor.   After your ship burns you have fewer choices than before your ship burned.  They persevered, as was their way.  I am a result of their persistence.

Guillaume Vigne (1586 – 1632)
is my 12th great grandfather
Daughter of Guillaume
Daughter of Maria
Daughter of Abigail
Daughter of Aeltie
Son of Anneke Abramse
Daughter of Cornelius
Son of Annatje
Daughter of Johannis P
Son of Anna
Son of Swain
Daughter of Jerimiah
Son of Minnie M
Son of Ernest Abner
They came to New York after staying in Leiden, a very popular place for my entire family at that time.  They offered religious tolerance at a time when Catholics were out for blood.  People took big risks in those days to be part of a religious group. After arrival in Manhattan they had to survive by their wits and ability to trade and farm in the surroundings.  Adrienne gave birth to the first Dutch male child born in the new world.  Their daughter Maria continued to thrive and trade and live in Manhattan with her new fancy Dutch husband from Albany.  They were very established by that time.  After all, just 4 years after Henry discovered the Hudson the Vignes were there in the Tiger.  You could say they were original New Yorkers.  I can say no wonder I love lower Manahattan so much and feel at home there.

Tony Hsieh

September 16, 2012

Tony Hsieh of Zappos

On my recent tour of Zappos headquarters in Henderson NV I was treated to a glimpse of Tony Hsieh himself. As I departed with my shuttle driver for the ride back to town he was entering the building I was exiting. I stared for a moment to make sure he was himself.  I had a fleeting question in my mind about the possibility that a hologram of Tony is somehow implanted into each person’s visit, but they are all prerecorded and projected on a green screen or something.  He was low key, in jeans, and moving along with purpose.  He did have the presence of mind not to be sitting in his desk when the tour comes along, but I was very excited to see him.  It is hard to describe the way I think of his celebrity and my connection to it.  I have been a shoe lover forever, but this is so much more than just shoes.

I admire him for his mastery of alchemy in capitalism.  I admire his good taste and his smart choices.  Moving the headquarters to the former Las Vegas City Hall is an example of upcycling that makes my heart beat faster.  He has a strong agenda to grow his culture and provide right livelihood for his employees.  The company and all of the customers who shop there are the major lucky beneficiaries of his vision of business.  I love the way they completely make obvious how the culture works, how it remains strong, and how it serves all involved.

Environmental Design

September 11, 2012

largest chocolate fountain


conservatory of light and decorative planting

fantasy giant bee

flower lady bugs

flute playing nymph

acrobatic arts

water fountain

glass ceiling flowers

When you travel what kind of design changes do you like to make? I usually enjoy design that is neat and modern, uncluttered and sleek.  This is just not the way to design a gambling casino, as I have discovered.  When I see the world’s largest chocolate fountain I am not at all attracted to it.  It is obvious that many people like it a lot.  There is a place for public art, and since casinos have a lot of the public’s cash to use, it is fitting that they create adult fantasy environments. If flowing chocolate and giant bees are your thing, you will totally love the Bellagio in Las Vegas.


September 6, 2012

The merging of the senses is a process and a practice. To create an artist or inventor can call on all the senses and blend the associations into new meaning.  You may be synesthetic in certain parts of you life, such as personal fashion or cuisine.  I make an attempt to both try new experiences and blend all the sensory information into art.  My artistic sense was inspired long ago by my design teacher, Max Gottschalk, who began the semester with a lecture about designing your life.  I also hung out with Max later in his life and had the pleasure of doing some major synesthesia with him when he was 92 and pretty far out there.  At that time he used to refer to “sonic water”  when we were in the water.  I questioned him thoroughly about this sonic water, but he provided little detail.  I still wonder about that.

I went to Las Vegas to tour Zappos headquarters recently.  My goals were entirely fulfilled on the tour.  In order to get there I flew to Vegas, stayed at a big casino hotel, and coincidentally went to a fashion show.  I flew home after a little more than 24 hours, but the tightly scheduled events, including the Mormons on the plane ride back, have all become one big circus in my mind.  Without intending to do so, I created the circumstances that are perfect for synesthetic problem solving.  I left with a design in my head for a very important event I had been planning for ages.  The juxtaposition of over the top Bellagio surroundings, Zappo’s over the top customer service, and clothing designer Joey Galon’s over the top evening gowns have all merged in my creative process to outline the best little mermaid bat mitzvah after party ever attempted.

I am on a mission to create for my 13 year old friend Mollie a party that expresses her own creativity and that of a few of her close friends.  With the date is closing in, and I had no real plan to pull this whole idea into shape.  I have given her a sewing machine, a 20 minute sewing lesson, and some prom dresses.  Thanks to the various senses that merged the Las Vegas experience for me, we now know what we are going to do!!! Mollie will assemble the girls and fit them into the dresses they like best.  She will cut off the bottom of the dress and we will retrofit them all to be mermaid dresses.  Some individual craft work on the bottom of each dress will make each an individual and unique piece of art.  I always like to put lessons inside a fun project because that inspires me.  I believe I can deliver sewing and fashion design lessons from the upcycle perspective to some unsuspecting young ladies.

office of the most successful capitalists on earth

glass flowers

Zappo’s Tour

August 20, 2012

I recently learned about the Zappo’s tour of the headquarters in Henderson, NV. Free tours can be booked, and for a fee of $49.00 a question and answer session with the staff can be added. I have always liked doing business with Zappo’s, but hearing about what it is like to work there has made me intensely curious to see what they do.  I met a woman who had worked as an assistant to Tony Hseih, the founder of the company.  She went on a tour across the country with him promoting the company.  Her description made it sound like the best job anyone could ever have.

I was not aware that Amazon had bought Zappo’s, but they retain a special company  culture.  The new leader in customer service operates with the ideal of happy, fulfilled employees. I think this is a brilliant approach.  I sense that employees  deliver resentful or unsuitable service to customers when they feel resentful of the treatment they receive at work.  By making employee happiness a priority, the company learns more about happiness in general, and naturally projects a welcoming demeanor.  The connection between the staff and the customer is highlighted.

I have watched a few videos produced by various visitors in the past, which helped me make the decision to go myself. I am not sure what I expect, but I expect to have those expectations exceeded, whatever they turn out to be.  I will file a full report of my investigation of the Zappo’s culture and systems.  I look forward to the adventure in learning.

Paracelsus, the Luther of Physicians

June 3, 2012

Paracelsus was born in 1493 Einsiedeln, Switzerland.  His father was the physician at Einsiedeln Abbey, a Benedictine baroque monastery with a grand history.  His father was his first teacher. When he arrived at University of Basel medical school he was familiar with alchemy from working with his father. He left Basel quickly after he was accused of heresy , and  became a wandering healer, traveling all over Europe.

Some of the contributions he made to the science of medicine are well known.  He is attributed for introducing opium into use as medicine.  He is credited with being the first physician to seriously consider dosage as well as the particular part of the medicinal plant being used.  His theories included science as well as natural magic, all part of the healing culture of his time. The Doctrine of Signatures is an important concept he used to explain and research how plants interact with humans. He expanded on the work of former herbalists as he taught and worked in different countries. His travels included a visit to China.

His practice included both magic and science. He understood and worked with elementals, which were a common belief in his time.  He took this concept farther when he posited that we have both a sidereal and an elementary body, linked while we are alive.  He was both controversial and well respected.  I learned about him when I traveled to Switzerland for the first time.  I adore the tiny mineral water spa town of Bad Ragaz, where he practiced for a time with the local Benedictine monks, who operated a healing center using the mineral water spring.  The Quelle Paracelsus is now a modern medical and therapy center of the highest quality.  I have been many times over the years and always enjoy walking up the Tamina Gorge to experience  the well preserved museum and springs.  There is a small chapel up there dedicated to Mary Magdalene that I love for it’s charm.

For his time Paracelsus was radical and disruptive.  His ideas about health and alchemy clashed with the medical schools, but accomplished many cures that were unusual for the time. The springs he recommended that I have visited, Bad Ragaz and  St.Moritz,  have enjoyed long healthy development around the mineral waters for centuries.  This dedication to “the cure” creates a magnet for the best therapists and medical professionals to be drawn to live and work in the beauty and the elegance of these special places.

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