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Posts from the ‘Travels’ Category

A Personal Face to the Date Which Will Live in Infamy: Dec. 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, my beautiful, kind, and brave grandfather was in Pearl Harbor, far from his Indiana country upbringing.

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My handsome grandfather hamming it up in Pearl Harbor (on the left)

Before that infamous day though, the men — and their gals — enjoyed some downtime in tropical Oahu.

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Hubba hubba: My grandmother, or the little island girl

My granddaddy was a Lieutenant aboard the USS Montgomery, a destroyer located near the entrance to Pearl Harbor when the bombers attacked. The ship wasn’t fully crewed, but it managed to depart to sea immediately, due to its location. The Montgomery eventually received four battle stars for World War II service.

Later in WWII, my grandfather took part in the Pacific Theater — ironically, in the area where I grew up, the Kwajalein Atoll — contending with the high seas of the South Pacific and kamikaze pilots.


USS Montgomery, my granddaddy’s first post — caught at Pearl Harbor

Photo Courtesy of NavSource Naval History

He eventually became Commander of the USS Shea, another destroyer. During periods of the war, the Shea was in constant engagements with Japanese aircraft. At one point, all communications were lost. To imagine being on a listing ship, with so many dead and dying fellow men, your communications completely lost, out in the vast empty waters of the South Pacific… This is what I think of when I meet veterans today.

In 1954, the Shea took part in the atomic tests conducted at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands (my stomping grounds). Regardless of these feats, my grandfather remained the most gentle soul till his death at an excruciatingly young age — I’m convinced due to the close exposure of radiation. To this day, 32 years after his passing, he remains my guiding force. James Walter Reed led his crew with an inherent gentleness and strength — a combination so very rare to the human species.

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The USS Shea, my granddaddy’s Commander post

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Commander Granddaddy visits the officers of the USS Shea in 1953

Both he and my grandmother are now laid to rest at the breathtaking Arlington National Cemetery. May this day continue to live in infamy, and never be forgotten — may the heroism of so many always be remembered. And may these days of remembrance serve to teach us lessons of loss — and futures of peace.

And finally…. Early happy birthday to you (tomorrow, the eighth), granddaddy.

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Grandmommy and Granddaddy in San Francisco, during a lucky break: LOVE.

Birthday Brother!

As much as I know he’ll be over-the-moon thrilled (YAYAY!), Happy, Happy, HAPPY Birthday to the kindest, sweetest, most wonderful brother a girl could ever hope for in this life.

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I still wear boots nearly every day, just not quite as hip as these…. Me and baldy.

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Old-school Hipstamatic in Florida? California?: There seem to be a high number of images in which I’m smothering my little brother….

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Two island kids (“Kwaj Kids”) visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains — EXCITEMENT!

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Dragging brother out to the boardwalk — about as NATURE as he gets! And, more smothering.

Oh, Victoria!

Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. Named after Queen Victoria, it was settled (in this incarnation, at least) by the British in 1841, making it one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. It’s host to famous historic landmarks, including the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel. The city’s Chinatown district is the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco’s.

Side note: I’m a lifelong tea drinker (no coffee!) … and the best tea I have ever … EVER … bought, was here. I still have the lids in a futile attempt to find it once again. We also saw an actor ducking around quietly in Victoria’s Chinatown district — of course I recognized him, being the sci-fi spaz that I am, because he was in Ghost Ship.

The region’s Coast Salish First Nations peoples established communities in the area long before non-native settlement — several thousand years earlier. These large populations, sadly, were severely diminished by “extermination, enslavement, insulation, amalgamation” (as outlined in 1841 as a solution in “dealing” with the Native Peoples) — and ultimately, widespread death (an extreme understatement) with the smallpox epidemic. It’s a story that must be remembered and closely studied by all (in North America at the very least). Victoria however, continues to have a sizable First Nations presence, composed of peoples from all over Vancouver Island and beyond.

Known as the “City of Gardens” for its flowering gardens both within and on the outskirts of the city (the amazing Butchart Gardens is just a bit north), Victoria’s rich history, temperate climate, and beautiful scenery continues to attract visitors the world over. Besides finding an amazing historic B&B (what a magnificent home it was in its heyday) in our typical last-minute style, some of my favorite sites? The Royal BC Museum; Inner Harbor; Beacon Hill Park; Chinatown; Fisherman’s Wharf — and all of the city’s architecture. Really great food, too — obviously lots of seafood, but also lots of great greenery for the vegetarians.

For More Information on Victoria:

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Heaven on Vancouver Island

My words here honestly cannot express the peace and magnificence of Vancouver Island, my uber-dream home. We took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay (just north of Vancouver), into Departure Bay (near Nanaimo).

Host to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, marshes, meadows, beaches, mountains, oceans, rivers, and lakes — Vancouver Island accommodates habitats for a plethora of wildlife species. The island proper is large and sparsely populated (and we didn’t even hit most of it, in reality — let alone the Gulf Islands). Nearly half of the island’s population lives in the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria.

Thankfully, the island’s old-growth fir and cedar forests are well-protected. There’s nothing excluded for the lover of nature; Its ancient rain forests, rugged caves and beaches, leading down to crystalline bays of the Pacific (in which we were lucky enough to witness a whale’s spout … only) — the island’s beauty is unsurpassed.

The majority of our hiking expeditions were concentrated along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the region of the Coast Salish indigenous peoples. We drove up the West Coast, north from Victoria … and as we passed Sooke, most of our communications were lost. We stayed in a room among others rented by gruff visiting/working Russian fishermen — an interesting experience, to say the least. Itinerant working anglers are … interesting (did I use that adjective already?) folk. Perhaps they were simply in shock at seeing us board there, instead of at the B&Bs an hour north. But, we did learn from the locals that one needs special satellite service for one’s laptop (and for their TVs) … and even for cell phone service. As we were told: Feel free to hike out to the beach (through the woods) — at specific, ideal times — to access your cell phone service provider. Sure. A night-hike with the bears! At first we thought this was a grand joke on the Americans; but sure enough, on the far reaches of the beach we did get a bar or two, as if it mattered — heh. The hikes were astounding; the beauty of the forests leading down to the rugged oceanside, strewn with driftwood of all sizes; the small tree islands and caves dotting the landscape — we even found raw jade in some of these caves, before the water rushed in to cover up the remaining treasures. Although it wasn’t my first visit to the island, I was in tears leaving it this time around. I was profoundly impressed by the people who cared so very much for the land, and its care — unlike some of the parks and preserves I’ve visited in the United States, sadly (read: TRASH).

Besides the obvious hiking and nature excursions available at the abundant parks and nature reserves, I missed the opportunity to visit and tour any one of Vancouver Island’s many vineyards — more than two dozen on the island support a healthy wine industry. Cheers!

Vancouver Island also offers a rich, thriving art and craft community. Artists are drawn to the serenity and beauty of the island, but also to its rich history of Aboriginal arts and legends. By far one of my favorite artistic traditions — with their incorporation of animal, spirit, and nature — it’s actually eerily similar to the art of my own lineage, the Celts. The Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakwakawa’wakw have lived in permanent settlements along the island’s shores and within its valleys (and in the general region) dating back 9,000 years. Their elaborate art, created over the centuries, celebrate life’s rites and passages. But their story of “extermination, enslavement, insulation, amalgamation” (as outlined in 1841 as a solution in “dealing” with the Native Peoples) — and ultimately, widespread death (an extreme understatement) with the smallpox epidemic — is one that must be remembered and closely studied by all (in North America at the very least).

Coming Up: Victoria, Capital City of British Columbia…

For More Information on Vancouver Island:

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Autumn in NJ

It was uncannily warm during most of my 2.5 October weeks in NJ this year, but towards the end of my stay, the cold finally swooped in to give us a taste of deliciously crisp Fall. But just a week after I returned to FL, the record-breaking Nor’easter snows hit — sheesh.

During this trip, after an exhaustive search, we found CALLIE! ♥ A 6-yr-old chocolate lab, she has, like many surrendered animals, a questionable history. She was so very lonely at the Cumberland County SPCA, and I’m eternally thankful for the connection that was made. What a bright, intelligent, and loving bundle of fur…

Bella (Belle de Nuit); or, (One of) Mom's Favorites


Assorted gourds at local farmer's market

Kerry (Kerouac) & Pooka; or, Those Who Must Be Appeased

Callie quickly learning how to hog the couch

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