Travel

hominygrits2.jpg I think I stopped giving grits a chance many years ago when Lucy became our family pet. She's an amazing bird, a Yellow Naped Amazon parrot that has an unbelievable vocabulary, an infectious laugh, can tell my identical twin brothers apart and eats grits every morning for breakfast. Sounds charming but think about being awakened by a bird with a loud, piercing voice calling my name every morning demanding her grits.

By golly, you better get them right or she gets mad and starts screaming. She likes her grits a bit runny, butter, salt and pepper with a sprinkling of cheese. They need to sit for a few minutes so they won't burn her beak because that really makes her mad. Get it right and she turns into this loving soul who will say in her lovely southern accent "Praise the Lord" and "You're a very pretty girl." Gee thanks.

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pebblebeach.jpgI become the biggest sports fan for whatever I am exposed to for the moment. Sort of a lucky combination of being a stewardess for a major airline and being able to travel the world for free has put me in a position to be in the right places at the right time. This week I will be absorbed in the World Baseball classic series as I am taking the USA team to Toronto. Two weeks ago it was golf at the AT&T tournament in Pebble Beach. 

Last summer I was in New York City. My flight got in so late that the only room the hotel had left was the Penthouse suite. I am sure they balked, giving it to me who was paying nothing. I got in the elevator and happily pressed the PH button. The other two guys in the elevator commented on how the heck I got that room, how was it, how did I get so lucky. Later on I wandered down to the free coffee station and ran into the same two guys. They said instead of having coffee that I should join them and their friends in the bar. So I did. They said they played golf and not until I looked up at the TV in the bar and saw one of them being interviewed on ESPN, did I realize they were 'real PGA golfers.'

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marthasvineyardship.jpgAbove the title of our local paper, the VINEYARD GAZETTE, is the pithy quote (they always have a pithy quote), “With rod and tackle box, I’m slogging through soft sand, A red sun going down in the surf, Swag-belly clouds drifting in,” authored by Peter Makuck. Just below the Gazette title is its mission statement: “Devoted to the interest of the six towns on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.”

The world simply does not intrude on the Vineyard!

This week the above the crease headline reads, “Patricia Neal – Sparkling Stories And Sunflowers To Say Goodbye.” (We will all miss that dame!) Near it is the ‘shocking’ story of a Trustee who nearly – nearly! – Ran over a nest of LEAST TERN CHICKS on the barrier beach, forcing his resignation. (If only our federal government could function with this kind of immediate civic responsibility!)

The Vineyard Gazette is as good an introduction to Martha’s Vineyard as anything I know. Even its dimensions – larger than most newspapers – forces one to sit back (preferably in a rocking chair), open the paper and read... not scan, but read! We people on this Island actually still read, support bookstores, treat authors most gently, and buy local painters. In other words, we love this Island and the eccentric characters that reside here. And, eccentric we all are!

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taco.jpg After growing up in Western Massachusetts, it didn’t take me long to become spoiled living in Los Angeles. Not only do we constantly have fresh produce from around the world, but delicacies from every nation are well-represented.  Mexican food didn’t reach my hometown until I was in college and even then it was either Chi-Chi’s or Taco Bell, neither of which is very authentic or culinary genius. Regardless of quality, the food was something completely new and I was immediately hooked on guacamole, chips, salsa and greasy crispy tacos. Once I landed here – and got a taste of the real thing – there was no stopping my cravings for all things “South of the Border.“ L.A. is the crossroads of the world when it comes to food and I never realized how lucky I was to live here until I went to Europe for a month. 

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ghan-graphic-1-550pxIndividual cabins. The dining car. Pre-dinner aperatifs in the lounge. While some people may believe that these amenities are relics of a bygone era of travel, their features and comforts exist on The Ghan, part of Australia’s Great Southern Rail Line that connects the Northern Territory to South Australia.

All vintage idealistic notions aside, this Thoroughly Modern Matthew wanted to see if it was possible to go from point A to point B in a velocity I don’t travel in that often: S-L-O-W. Would the lack of crowds and technology compliment or confuse me along my journey? Would I tire of a trainride that is the antithesis of fast, modern travel? And could I even survive without wifi?

Well, I did. And I loved every minute of it.

After spending a few days in a very muggy Darwin, I boarded The Ghan as a band played on the platform. It added a vintage send off as I imagined Australian travelers might have experienced decades ago. Had I not been lugging audio and video equipment I might have forgotten I was standing in 2012.

Train travel was once a major method of getting around, and The Ghan, formerly the Afghan Express, has been doing so since 1929. As it cuts through the outback, you realize that this massive area is where camels and trains excel; not much else would be able to make it across this inhospitable trek. The trainline itself was expanded in 2004, allowing travelers to make it completely across Australia, from The Northern Territory all the way to Adelaide in South Australia. I had stops in Katherine and Alice Springs and met such lovely people.

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