All posts by weaver1888

Thinking about America! We can do better.

BILTMORE

Christmas at Biltmore

BILTMORE

A visit to Biltmore is a feast for the senses. Wrap yourself in the scent of fresh evergreens as you admire holiday décor featuring wreaths, garlands, and the sparkle of thousands of ornaments on more than 55 glorious Christmas trees. The celebration continues across the estate, including colorful holiday blooms in the Conservatory, commemorative Christmas wine at the Winery, special menus in restaurants, and Antler Hill Village’s must-see evening illumination display.

A short visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains with his mother immediately sparked George Vanderbilt’s imagination in 1888. He found the perfect location for his country home. Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau is a true marvel, the largest undertaking in residential architecture. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen came together to create America’s premier home and the environmental wonderland that surrounds it.

On Christmas Eve 1895, the country retreat George Vanderbilt had spent so long planning was marvelously decorated and full of festivity. The finished home contains over four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

George Vanderbilt married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in Paris in 1898. Edith is a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the first governor of Dutch colonial New York. After honeymooning in Italy, Edith and George returned to live at Biltmore. George and Edith’s only child, Cornelia, was born on the evening of August 22, 1900, in the Louis XV Room. It was a celebrity birth, even by modern standards.

George Vanderbilt passed away at the age of 51. Vanderbilt is buried in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum on Staten Island. He left an enormous philanthropic legacy. Edith sold approximately 87,000 acres of the estate to the United States Forest Service in 1914 for less than $5 an acre.

Cornelia and her husband, John Cecil, opened Biltmore House to the public in 1930. Leaders in Asheville hoped the celebrated house would increase tourism during the Depression. During WWII, the house stored priceless works from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

To avoid a faux pas, always refer to the estate as BILTMORE.  THE Biltmore is a hotel in New York.  Enjoy a trip to Biltmore and enjoy the festivities.

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THE ROANOKE TIMES

Published in the Roanoke Times

0n October 27, 2018

 

October 19, 2018

Letter to the Editor

Republicans have a problem this November: Healthcare is the hot issue in the midterm elections, but their stance on it is wildly unpopular. So, they’re trying a bold political tactic: Covering up and making up new facts.

Large portions of American voters want to keep the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. President Trump and Mitch McConnell have both recently claimed that all Republicans feel the same way – even as they fight in court to vaporize those protections and vow to take yet another stab at killing the ACA entirely.

There are 36 anti-ACA Republicans running in unfriendly congressional districts in November – more than enough to flip the House to the Democrats. The GOP could overcome this with an ACA alternative that did everything they claim they want to do: lowering regulations and costs while protecting patients. But this is a fantasy, thanks to another, even more difficult math problem.  This stuff involves trade-offs the Republicans are unwilling to make.

Congressional Republicans don’t say what they would do about much of anything, save “Cut taxes more” or “Try to kill Obamacare again.” This reflects a Trump-era party that has no idea what it stands for anymore, aside from nurturing cultural grievances. In Southwest Virginia, voters cling to these cultural things even when it means their families get less health care, jobs are not available and educational opportunities are second-rate or non-existent. My friends and neighbors, in this election vote for things that will make a DIRECT difference for you and your children. Health care, jobs, and education for our part of Virginia—vote for Jennifer Lewis.

T. Michael Smith

 

RUDE

RUDE

Bad behaviour

We find ourselves living at a time of incredible rudeness. Everyone needs to have an opinion, on everything, at all times, and this opinion must be delivered forcefully. We have been taught to celebrate meanness. In our country, the rise of a very rude man to a most powerful position has brought into sharp and terrifying focus just how dangerous one moment of rudeness might prove: it might lead us to nuclear apocalypse.

So, what does one do when confronted with rude behavior? Well, we can have the guts to call it out. It’s our duty. The only way to end rudeness is to make a conscious decision to do so. We should not have to put up with rude behavior.

The rage, injustice, and hurt we feel at the inexplicably rude behavior of someone leads us in directions that are uncomfortable and often wrong. For me, the trick to handling rudeness is to pause, take a breath, and ever so gently deliver a sentence as simple as “Just stop.” We can do it with grace. We can handle it well, by handling it without a trace of aggression and without being rude ourselves. Because once a rude person has had the looking glass held up to them and can see their actions through the eyes of others, they are far more likely to end that behavior themselves. This can be done by you, by me, by everyone. You and I choose to be civilized so we can expect others to be civil.

 

The Shopping Mall (Part 2)

Clothes

Sometime in the years 2016-2017, my granddaughter became a full-blown teenager. I got the first glimmer of this change when I went clothes shopping with her last August.  This year there was no doubt the transformation had occurred. Accordingly, and with some trepidation, I set out for the mall with both my granddaughters: 9 and 15.

The car conversation went something like this:

“Mom said we should shop for Hattie (9) at Old Navy. Since she doesn’t like jeans, they have a good selection of the leggings she likes. They also have shirts for her as well,” says Emma (15).

“Great. We can just shop there for you too,” I respond.

“Granddad, you have to be kidding, I hope?”

“YES.”

“Sometimes, Granddad, you can be cruel.”

The selections at Old Navy were very good as far as Hattie was concerned.  Of course, Emma took charge and began pulling things from the racks hoping that her sister would make fast decisions.  But Hattie has her own notions when it comes to fashion.  She has graduated from wearing a pink tutu with everything, but she knows what she likes. It took a while, but finally, we had some choices for the leggings and three tops or shirts or whatever.

Off to the dressing room, they went.  I noticed how careful Emma was with Hattie and how protective.  It was good to see the love these two girls have for each other.  The fitting lasted 20 minutes.  There were a lot of men and boys milling around waiting for mom, girlfriends or daughters to emerge.  One guy picked out two shirts from a sale rack for himself and another picked some Birkenstock knockoffs. Old Navy has some good merchandising techniques.  Total time including checkout, 51 minutes. And the receipt was only one GASP.

Hollister

Somehow, I knew Hollister would be different. This store positions itself as a cool SoCal beach shack as you can tell from the picture. You expect to see surfer dudes and gals talking about waves and boards.  What you see is a bunch of teens looking for something awesome to wear for the new school year. By the way, Hollister is a division of Abercrombie and Fitch and was established in Ohio in 2000.

One Mom was holding a pair of jean cut-offs.  Back in the day, you would simply take an old pair of jeans and cut the legs off. Today you pay $45 for the same thing.  I assumed the Mom was holding them for a daughter.  She held the cutoffs up to her waist.  I wanted to say something, but sanity prevailed since I didn’t want to be arrested for harassment.  Luckily, her daughter came to the rescue.

“You have got to be kidding Mom. Put those back! They are not for you!”

Emma was in action. First the jeans. Last year I was opposed to ripped jeans, but I have seen the light. I am not in control.  A pair of white ripped jeans and a pair of skinny jeans came out of the pile.  Then on to the shirts.  This took some time, so I found a nice chair.

There was a dad with a worried look on his face as his daughter had at least 6 pairs of jeans and as many shirts over her arm.  She headed for the dressing room.  He stood beside my chair and looked to be in pain.

“She can’t possibly wear all those clothes,” he said.

“She doesn’t know that!” I responded.

Since this was my second year of back to school shopping I was a veteran and I sounded like I knew something.  He sighed and looked resigned to facing a very large bill. That could easily be 5 gasps.

All of Emma’s stuff fit, but she told me to stay seated while she shopped for a few more things. The girl with all the clothes came out with a big smile and announced that all but one pair of jeans fit There was a big sigh of resignation from her dad. We are hopeless!

Well, we were next in line at the checkout.   The girl at the counter took all the stuff and began to sort it out.  She held up a purplish, lacy something or other and said, “I just love this color in a bra.” I froze, turned scarlet and made some sort of gurgling sound. Emma looked at me and turned scarlet.  The sales girl looked at me, “Granddaughter?” and smiled. I shook my head yes. The item disappeared into the bag. I was still recovering my breathing when the receipt came. I failed to look or gasp.

Chick

I was in need of sustenance–I was a little dizzy and in need of a real lift.  The chicken store was just down the hall.  I made a dash for it as the girls lugged their bags down the corridor after me.  A diet DP was just the thing along with a spicy chicken sandwich all the way with waffle fries with plenty of ketchup.  No need to gasp at this place. I will deal with the calories and fat later!

vans-logo-2

RETRO sneakers!  Are you kidding me?  History does, in fact, repeat itself.  Last year, it was high-top gumboots from LL BEAN and this year it is white sneakers with no strings and elastic on the side. This was a three gasp item–how much can a little canvas and some rubber be. Of course, it’s the label–I get it!

Next stop Claire’s–the junk store of all junk stores.  Hattie needed some new fake nails.  This time they were purple with blue stripes.  Her mother does not let her out of the house with them on.

I love my girls and am already looking forward to next year.  I hope Emma will still go with me.

WEAVING A NEW TAPESTRY

WEaving

Why don’t we in the USA talk about politics in the language of the heart? If we cannot be heartbroken, for example, that the wealthiest nation on earth is unable to summon the political will to end childhood hunger here and now—how can we create a politics worthy of the human spirit, one that has a chance to serve the common good? It is sad to think that the answer may be NO!

Hungry Child

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are viewed as proponents of war by some because a few of their alleged adherents engage in hateful and violent behavior that distorts and defies the values they claim to represent. All the major religions of the world at their core, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, are committed to compassion, hospitality, and love.  In this fact lies the hope that we might reclaim their power to help reweave our tattered civic tapestry. When we (citizens of the USA) forget that politics is about weaving a tapestry of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy. Reweave our tapestry.

POOR

As Americans, we should all be opposed to autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.  But this seems to be the direction for the USA.  Our leaders are disrespecting the rule of law.  Personal recognition and gain seem to be the focus and this political idolatry accompanies a false and unconstitutional notion of authority. Our elected officials are called to serve our citizens not engage in tyranny.  Let’s rid ourselves of leaders who put ideology ahead of governance.  At least throw out the crooks and thieves in Congress. And there are many!

LYNYRD

IMG_0356LYNYRD’S WORLD

I like Lynyrd Skynyrd so

I named my cat Lynyrd

He likes to climb

Upon my desk

The right foot comes up

Then a

 big push of the back

On to the sill, he goes

Touching the window with his nose

To see the outer world

Still filled with many woes

He stretched and yawned

Then prepared for the leap

On to the bed for sleep

The spot he found

On a pillow that’s round

Was for Lynyrd quite fine

His world’s better than mine.

 

 

TO UBER

TO UBER

Uber is a new verb in the lexicon of Americans.  If you are in a city and you want to get from point A to point B, bring up the Uber app on your smartphone, tap the button and the screen asks where you are going.  You answer, the name of the driver, his/her picture pops up, and a map appears to show you where the driver is and how long it will take him to get to your location.  Amazing huh!

My friend Christine and I went to Baltimore to eat at Bo Brooks Seafood and

Bo Brooks

 

visit the National Aquarium.  Christine had visited Bo Books 45 years ago at around age 25 and remembered the crabs as tasty, bordering on spectacular.  Even though Bo moved the location to the Canton section of the city, the crabs were still good and the mallets were quite useful.

The National Aquarium was outstanding. We spent four hours at this wonderful facility.  We saw many varieties of fish, turtles, frogs, and nettles.  The main tank was so large that it took four scuba divers to feed the fish. We also saw a dolphin show that was very good and we needed a rest.

Dolphin

We stayed at a terrific place called The Hotel Indigo, a smallish boutique in downtown Baltimore.  We left our car in the garage for our entire stay and we ubered around the city.

Our first driver was Muhammed.  He took us on an adventure through several neighborhoods in Baltimore following the instructions of his GPS to Bo Brooks. There was Middle Eastern music playing on the MP3 player and the car was spotless. No money changed hands as everything was handled seamlessly via credit card on the app.

After having a wonderful dinner of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay and crab cakes, we left the restaurant and hailed Uber. Our ride was seven minutes away and we watched his route as he wound his way to us.  He called to tell us he had arrived and I told him we were at the other end of the parking area.  He came to us. Our driver’s name was Waqid and he drove a new Toyota mini-van. He talked all the way to our location. Very friendly!

The next morning, we were off to the Aquarium.  Our driver was a local named Gary—native of Baltimore.  He was like a tour director. He was quick to tell us about the good restaurants and local sights. When we arrived at the inner harbor, he pointed out all the good places to eat and shop.  Gary was the best driver of the six we had.

We were tired, the traffic was bad, and our next driver took eight minutes to arrive.  His professional name was Richard, but he preferred to be called Asher. He asked where we were from and Christine told him, Roanoke. He laughed and told us that he grew up in Roanoke. He went to Patrick Henry High where Christine taught.  Serendipity at work!!

About 7pm, we decided to go out to eat. For some unknown reason, we decided on Mexican.  I found a 4-star Taqueria on Eastern Avenue.  Our Uber driver, Raymond, took us to the exact location.  It was in a very seedy neighborhood and the place was closed.  He wouldn’t let us get out of the car. Instead, he took us 7 blocks in the opposite direction to a very trendy area and the James Joyce Pub and Restaurant.  Lamb stew and Shepherd’s Pie were just the thing and delicious. HOORAY for Raymond!

Hafiz took us back to our place. He got a little confused at a split intersection and we had to redirect. But he got us there without any problem.

Both Chris and I loved our Uber experience.  It is the only way to get around a city like Baltimore. We had x rides in total and spent $60.  Because I parked my car, I avoided a $60 valet fee and paid no parking fee. Balance is wonderful.