Finally stepped foot in THE city


…With 8 million people… Where you can walk for 10 miles, yet barely dent it.

New York is part of all our consciousness through references in novels, songs, news and history.

I'll bet you know the names of its neighborhoods and streets. I'll bet you've picked up its slang.

It is the most American of all cities, considering its role as an entry point for early immigrants and origin of political and cultural change.

Smoggy and humid, the city is a symphony of sirens, honking, construction tools and words in a hundred languages. Sewage, salt water and every kind of imaginable food smell permeates the air.

New Yorkers — for all their diversity — behave like a giant community as they weave around construction and monuments, watching each other with a cellular device, cigarette or slice of pizza in their hands. 

They cross streets in a continuous, choreographed rhythm.

They are honest, fashionable, practical adapters.


The reality of life in this concrete habitat, shared by birds and dogs and horses and bugs, is a far cry from life along the back roads.

Then again, the second I stepped off my train in Grand Central Terminal, I knew I could hack it.  So I guess I've got some New York in me. Maybe just enough.


These first three images were taken near Central Park in Manhattan. In the above image, artist Franz West's suclpture "The Ego and the Id" wraps itself metaphorically around a skyscraper.


Times Square puts on a never ending capitalism and media show.


An antique is on display and lockdown off Broadway.


George Washington peers out over Wall Street at the site of the nation's first capitol.


Underpinnings of a funky bridge near Chinatown.


And the buildings may as well be trees…

(I saw lots more, including awesome graffiti and inspiring Halloween shopping along the Bowery, but alas, my camera's battery died.)

Chasing the right dream

Claudia Torres came to the United StatesIMG_4588 from Medellin, Columbia when she was 19.
"I love this country. I met my husband here and had my son here and most of my friends are American," she tells me in a lilting accent that makes ordinary words sound like a song.

The 46-year-old Norwalk, Conn. resident teaches Spanish and preschool and nannys part time. She and her husband, an Ecuadorian immigrant, met while in college and became citizens later.

Though hers is a success story, Torres worries others are not making the transition. They are chasing the wrong dream, a misunderstanding of values that even native-born residents fall prey to.

"It's about family. It's not about green dollars. People think about money all the time and they forget values," she says.

"The United States opened its doors to every body," Torres adds. "We should integrate ourselves into American society and learn its laws and its culture."

There are many differences that must be adapted to. Some are humorous, such as the less boisterous observation of Christmas and rigid way time dictates daily life.
Others are serious: differing ideas of discipline versus child abuse, for example, and a police force that cannot be paid off to get out of a speeding ticket, could result in criminal charges.

"Orgullo" or self-pride can be a stumbling  block.
"Immigrants say, 'Oh I don't want to speak because I will make a mistake,'" relates Torres. "That is wrong. Americans don't laugh at you because you make a mistake. When you know the law, you get more respect. When you make the effort, Americans give you more value."

"You need to create that separation," she says. "It's not to forget about where you come from, it's not to forget who you are. But you need to learn about where you are coming to."

She adds, "You need to learn the American dream — it's not that we come here to work like machines — because we are human, we have familes. We have to see our kids grow up."

Architectural opulence in the Gilded Age


While in Newport, Rhode Island (another fun east coast city to maneuver in an RV), I toured two mansions: Rosecliff (pictured) and Marble House. 

Rosecliff  has a red-carpeted, heart-shaped stairwell that was at one time covered in a foot of ice while the mansion was abandoned and in disrepair.

Marble House was built to be the summer abode for William K. and Alva Vanderbilt and their three kids. The family spent just three summers together in it.

Alva, a notoriously strong-willed feminist, received the mansion as a "gift" for her 39th birthday.

Everything inside was on a large, fairytale scale.

According to Wikipedia, Marble House would have cost about $140 million to build today.

Both homes were used during filming of "The Great Gatsby," released in 1974. No pictures were allowed inside.

Through Boston, I walked the line

With Johnny Cash in my head, no less.

The so-called "Freedom Trail" links historical monuments on a cool 2.5 mile walking tour through Boston's center.


It was raining most of the time, but I didn't bust out my umbrella. Seattle-born people are hardcore that way.


A beautiful array of old American flags in Massachusetts' capitol building includes one displayed backwards to show its more neatly embroidered side.


Further down the road, Granary Burial Ground, founded in 1660, is the city's third-oldest cemetery.


Our tombstone engraving norms sure have changed. This close to Halloween, I found the old style sort of creepy!


Old and new buildings in a skyline are one of my favorite things… keep reading for a closeup of the glass skyscraper.


Boston's Quincy Market is a great people watching and grub getting hangout.


But the very Italian North End district won my heart.


Easily could have spent all day here listening to people chit chat in Italian and Boston accents.


Paul Revere sort of resembles Paul Newman, don't you think?


Paul newman

In front of an historic church, a modern memorial to lost Iraq War vets


And that spectacular building, again….


When I'd had my share of walking around and reading plaques, I hopped on the subway and headed outbound to meet a friend at Harvard.


As I walked through Cambridge toward a campus entrance, I saw a perfect looking apple someone had forgotten about. It was sitting on a ledge inside the school, separated from the outside world by iron bars. The apple and the tree in the background made me contemplate the knowledge we attain through higher education.


At least the W.A.S.P.y university's motto is "Truth"


And it's not considered Ivy League for nothing. 


The beginning of the beginning


It was beginning of the beginning for the United States of America and the beginning of the end for native tribes' societies when the Pilgrims landed here in 1620. It was also December, so while I am kicking myself for being here in near freezing weather in mid-October, they were even less prepared.


Plymouth Rock is symbolic, but I found the portico built over the rock in 1921 to be equally important. Here, 300 years after those tired refugees walked ashore, a firmly established nation erected a symbol of permanence. We had yet to face the Great Depression, wage battle with nuclear weapons or experience terrorism on our own soil.


To this day, the town of Plymouth is an energized place.


Groups of school children embark on physical history lessons.


While the shoreline is haloed in a crowd of boats.

The quiet just north of Boston

Manchester-by-the Sea is a cute little town in Massachusett's North Shore region
that swells with vacationers during summer. An unseasonably early cold
spell returns its beaches to nature.

Man 1


Nearby in Topsfield, a typical looking church illustrates the boxy colonial style that predominates in area towns with settlements dating to the pilgrims.

Toppsfield church

Alone for just a second,"Tall Tex" surveys a busy crowd at the annual Topsfield Fair.

Tall tex

An architecturally interesting house of prayer


Late twentieth-century modernism is on display in this sleek, harmoniously landscaped addition to South Portland's Reform Congregation Bet Ha'am.

Two full-length skylights on either side of the ceiling strategically integrate natural light. The curve of the structure suggests an ancient meeting tent.

Below, a walkway separates the synagogue's classrooms in its older brick building from the new sanctuary, providing a subconscious transition from sacred to profane.

"The goal is to have the liturgy tied to the natural world around us," says Jeremy Moser, chair of the building committee.


Southeast Maine Americana

The mermaid-blue Atlantic Ocean is full of sailors and submerged history. Maine is the first state I've been to on the Atlantic coast. The ocean looks just like it did years ago when I was in Portugal.


Today, a U.S. Customs House built during the height of Portland's role as a trading port in the late nineteenth century, still processes imports and exports.


Sea gulls — which I'd nearly forgotten about — socialize in Portland's historic Old Port District, a cobblestoned array of businesses, restaurants and stores catering to residents and tourists, who arrive by car, foot and Leviathan-sized cruise boat.



A friendly sign speaks to me…


"And may you avoid the traps of your foes!" they should add.


A monument to "Liberty Ships" — built in South Portland en masse to deliver supplies to World War II troops — rears over a small section of Maine's craggy coast.


I love this covert McDonald's in Freeport — forced to tone things down to comply with zoning laws.


While in Yarmouth, map software company DeLorme wins the award for largest rotating globe. My second cosuin, Portland architect J.P. Pondelis, took this photo of "Eartha" floating above me.


On my journey, I have driven past many cemeteries. As I proceed east, they just get older, like this collection of headstones in South Portland. "There goes another sleeping city," I think.


And since Halloween is fast approaching, I ordered you guys a ghostly house and some fog in the Portland area countryside.


Leaf peepin’ in New England


Fall foliage is one of those difficult things to capture. Bob Ross could do a better job with his paintbrush than can I with my Canon camera.

But driving about 45 miles per hour on the back highways New England provides an everchanging technicolor dreamscape. Fleetwood Mac is my soundtrack.


"Come on baby, now don't you be cold / Just remember that love is gold," sings Christine McVie.


Monet also could have done some justice to Durham, Maine's Roundabout Pond, a small recreational area 30 miles north of Portland.


New Hampshire is ‘just better’

Tim Ray turns 80 this month and has lived his whole life in New Hampshire.

IMG_4131 Currently he resides in Rumley, a small city about 115 miles northwest of Boston.

A few years ago, Ray and his wife drove a motorhome through the midwest and the southwest, then home.

"I was so glad to be back," says the former mechanical manufacturing plant employee who now works full time as a rest area attendant.

In frank, New Englander style, he adds: "It's just better."

What exactly makes the "Live Free or Die" state so great?

"The people are good. "And you have the mountains."

It's kind of cold, though, isn't it?

"You get used to that."

Summer is the best time of year, Ray says. He has fond memories of trips to the the Maine coast with his six children.