How to Help Puerto Rico

The World is Your Playground

How to Help Puerto Rico

Over the past two decades I’ve visited Puerto Rico on nearly a dozen vacations. I circumvented the island numerous times, marveled at the hospitality, enjoyed the Latin culture, sunned on the beautiful beaches under palm trees, told friends and readers to visit, and appreciated that this island was a bit of America with it’s own unique heritage.

I’ve been bringing my son Aidan, now 14, since he was an infant.  From charming abuelas who would pinch his toddler chubby cheeks in the  street to learning to speak Spanish and making new friends as a teen — Puerto Rico means so much to him too.

Puerto Rico

To see the island flattened by Hurricane Maria hurts. To watch the almost hostile response to the crises from our government as the island copes with both the lack of electricity and running water is painful, frustrating, and completely flabbergasting.

As travelers, I try to…

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Short Stays, Long Histories

The Brown Palace Hotel, Denver (1892)

Historic Denver hotel

The first of a long line of presidents to visit the Brown Palace was Teddy Roosevelt who arrived in 1905 after a bear hunting expedition. His entourage took up two floors. There was a banquet in his honor and $10 got you a seat. His group is said to have consumed 500 quarts of champagne and 1,500 cigars. (There is still a cigar lounge on the premises.) He supposedly was seen banging his fists on a banquet table while leading his guests in song.  He returned to the Brown Palace in 1912 when he was seeking another term in the White House running (unsuccessfully) on the Bull Moose Party ticket.

Inside the Brown Palace

front desk clock

hotel lobby

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo. (1908)

Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is known as the hotel that inspired the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s novel the Shining, later made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick. King spent one night at the Stanley. In Room 217. That is the same room where in 1911, during a power outage caused by a thunderstorm, chambermaid Elizabeth Warren entered with a lit candle. Due to a gas leak this caused an explosion that sent Warren crashing through the floor and down into the dining room below. Warren had two broken ankles, but she survived and in fact continued to work in the hotel until the 1950’s when she passed away. Some say she has never left and is the reason why some guests in Room 217 find that their clothes have been folded and put away. She has also been suspected of inserting herself between unmarried guest couples.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

Stanley Moter Car Company

Along with his twin brother Francis Edgar, Freelan Oscar Stanley, builder of the Stanley Hotel, founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, producing cars like this one.

Looking ouit at the Rockies

YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colo. (1907)

Estes Park YMCA statue

During its more than 100 years of existence one of YMCA of the Rockies most famous visitors was a 1,000 pound bull elk named Samson. His was not a short stay. In fact, Samson was a seasonal visitor to the YMCA grounds for six years. According to Colorado Life magazine, “He would make the rounds on the Y grounds, where he had become trusting of humans and was admired and respected by staff and guests.” In 1995, Samson’s stay came to an abrupt end when he was illegally killed by a poacher with a crossbow. His death enraged the entire community of Estes Park. It resulted in tougher anti-poaching legislation that would become known as Samson’s Law. While the big guy was gone, it has been pointed out that he was quite prolific and had a large number of descendents. So his genes are no doubt still in evidence amongst the Estes Park elk population.

YMCA Estes Park grounds

Volleyball at the Y

Happy Trails to You

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Gone fishin’. And hiking, biking and horseback riding in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Forest Canyon

Rocky Mountain National Park

River in Rocky Mountain National Park

Big Thonpson River

Rocky Mountain National Park

mountain animal


Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountaintop trail

Rocky Mountain National Park

Ypsilon Mountain

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On Saturday Night, Chihuly is Lit Up


Chihuly Nights

New York Botanical Garden

(through the end of October)
Chihuly nights

Sol del Citron

Chihuly nights


NYBG conservatory

Chihuly at NYBG

Red Reeds with Logs

New York Botanical Garden


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Red Rocks: Where the Venue Itself in the Show

The stage at Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Entrance to amphiteatre

the stage

Denver skyline

Denver skyline from the top of the amphitheatre

Red Rocks, Colorado


The Red Rocks amphitheatre

Beatles cover band

The Beatles played the Red Rocks Amphitheater in August of 1964 on their first American tour. This is not the Beatles, but rather a mediocre cover band called 1964 Tribute.

heading out

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Dogs Love Baseball

In some places they call it Bark in the Park. Others say Pets in the Park or Dog Days. Whatever they call it, minor league baseball teams, and especially the independent league teams that have to try every trick in the book to fill the seats, have discovered that if you invite dogs to the game they come with a ticket-buying owner or two. These photos show some of the canine fans of the Suxxex County Miners and the Rockland Boulders. And they’re happy to be there. There is nary a bark at Bark in the Park.

Dog pool at Palisades Credit Union Park

Cooling off at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, N.Y..

Baseball dog



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Nashville’s Legacy

what they wore

Boots on Broadway

the strings they plucked

Buck Owens guitar case

Buck Owens guitar case

what they drove

Webb Pierce’s car at Country Music Hall of Fame

what they hung on their walls

Hatch Show Print

Hatch Show Print has been in business in Nashville since 1879. Their first print job was a handbill announcing the appearance of the Rev. Henry Ward Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother. For much of its history, from the 20’s until 1992, Hatch was housed at the Ryman Auditorium, the historic home of the Grand Ole Opry. Hatch still prints 200 posters for each show at the Ryman. They’re sold to patrons for $20.


Hatch Show Prints

where they played their favorite songs

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Six Reasons Why Nashville is the Music City

1. The best bar bands in the world play in Nashville’s honky tonks.

2. Records

Nashville record store

Ernest Tubb Record Shop. If it ain’t here it probably ain’t country.

Jack White’s Third Man Records

3. Guitars

Carter Vintage Guitars

Taylor Swift's guitar

Taylor Swift played this one

4. The Mother Church of Country Music

That was the name given to the Ryman Auditorium during the 30+ year stay of the Grand Ole Opry. The building itself dates back to 1892 when it was called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. It was renamed the Ryman upon the death of Thomas G Ryman who raised the funding for the building. In addition to sermons, the Ryman, in its early years hosted music like John Philip Sousa’s Band and speakers that included Susan B. Anthony and Booker T. Washington.

The church of country music

The Opry left the Ryman in the 70’s for seemingly greener pastures. The old auditorium underwent a renovation in the 90’s and still serves as a downtown venue for a wide range of music. This fall’s schedule includes UB40, Boz Skaggs, Ben Folds, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kesha. Jason Isbell is booked for a week of shows and the Academy of Country Music Awards presentation is this week.

Historic Nashville music venue

5. The Ole Opry is still Grand

When the Opry left the Ryman it moved a few miles outside of downtown to an off-highway location. It built a bigger and more spacious facility, but no doubt lost some character. But once you get inside….

The Opry is a pretty unique show. It features multiple acts that do two or three songs at the most. On the night I attended there were 11 performers in a two hour time frame. But this isn’t amateur hour talent show, there were Grammy winners, County Music Association award winners, even one Country Music Hall of Fame member. And it’s a live radio show that you can hear on WSN Online There’s even a live radio announcer reading commercials after every couple of songs.

Before I went to Nashville, I would have told you I’m not that interested in country music. I’ll never say that again.

Nashville's Grand Ole Opry

Riders in the Sky

6. The Legend of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Just a few of many

Cash Museum, Nashville




(Photos are from the Johnny Cash Museum)


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A Season of Ballpark Food

Citi Field, Queens, N.Y., home of the New York Mets

Citi Field food

Pat LaFrieda filet mignon sandwich. Delicious. But costs about as much as an upper deck ticket.

the classics

Pulled port sandwich

Blue Smoke pulled pork. Tastes much better than it looks in this picture. This was a late inning buy. The staff had lost interest in presentation.

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater, N.J., home of the Somerset Patriots

Burrito Bowl

Burrito bowl with beef brisket and roasted tomato salsa

TD Bank ballpark beer stand

and for a chaser

Healthy plate

Considering that I ate all this other stuff, I didn’t think a stop here would help that much.

Arm & Hammer Park, Trenton, N.J., home of the Trenton Thunder

Thunder food guide

Palisades Credit Union Park, Pomona, N.Y., home of the Rockland Boulders

Japanese in Rockland

Chicken teriyaki and dumplings. One of the best ballpark meals I had.

Skylands Park, Augusta, N.J., home of the Sussex County Miners

hot dogs

The best straight-up hot dogs I had were at Sussex County


Best deal of the summer. (And they’re every bit as good as they look.)

Miners sausage

Italian sausage with peppers and onions. In a state where there is an Italian deli on ever block, they could do a lot better than this. By the way, I went to several Miners games. I didn’t eat all this at one game.

Yogi Berra Stadium, Little Falls, N.J., home of the New Jersey Jackals


Jackals gelotti

funnel cake

Yikes! Look a the sugar on this one.



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Trump’s Little Whorehouse on the Prairie

At the very end of the 19th century, some 100,000 or so prospectors made their way north toward the Canadian Yukon in search of their fortune. Most of the participants in the Klondike Gold Rush came away empty handed. It has been estimated that gold rush mineronly about 4% found gold. But some others learned they could make a fortune off of these fortune seekers. Because when some of the guys did score some gold dust, they might go over to the nearest pop up town and look for some loving. And that’s when they’d head on over to Fred Trump’s place.

16-year-old Friedrich Trump, grandfather of Donald Trump, arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1885. If you are just counting cash, Grandpa Trump was an immigrant success story. But, like some of his descendants, he had an erratic relationship with the truth and with the law. Trump lied about his age to become an American citizen. He built one of his first establishments in Washington state on land he didn’t own. On his way up to the Yukon he set up a canteen on a dangerous mountain pass known as Dead Horse Gulch. It got its name from the number of dead animals that lay strewn across the pass as a result of owners who whipped them to exhaustion. What did Trump serve at his canteen? Horse meat. Today we might call it road kill.

gold rush

Trump started out in New York working in a barber shop. After a few years he headed west seeking his fortune. His first venture was to buy a restaurant called the Poodle Dog, which he later renamed the Dairy Restaurant, in the middle of Seattle’s red light district. David Cay Johnson, author of The Making of Donald Trump, describes another of Grandpa Trump’s early ventures: “On a piece of land he didn’t own, right across from the train station, Friedrich built a hotel of sorts—one intended mostly for, shall we say, active short stays, not overnight visits.”

But where Trump made his real money was in gold rush territory. He opened a restaurant called the Arctic with a partner in the town of Bennett, British Columbia. Bennett was a way station for fortune seekers headed north. On the menu was salmon, duck, goose and swan. High end stuff for gold rush country. And it was open 24 hours. But, alas, it was no place for family dining. An ad in the Bennett Sun in 1899 mentioned the “private boxes for ladies and parties.” These boxes came equipped with a bed and a scale. We know what the bed was for, but the scale? I found this answer in the Canadian news magazine Macleans:  “’Ladies of the night’ often hiked the trail in skirts, and they stayed at the Arctic Hotel to entertain gold diggers, using a scale to weigh gold powder for payment.”

A new railroad line eventually bypassed Bennett. Trump disassembled his restaurant, loaded the lumber onto a barge, and reopened in Whitehorse, the terminus of the rail line.

Pockets full, Grandpa Trump hightailed it out of gold rush country in 1901 amidst rumors that the Canadian Mounties were about to begin enforcing prostitution and alcohol laws. He headed back to Germany where he married Trump’s grandmother. But he didn’t stay long. The Germans, determining that he had left to avoid military service, tossed him out. So he picked up his 80,000 marks (estimated to be the equivalent of a half-million Euros today) and headed back to New York where he made the first Trump family real estate investments.

Was the Trump family fortune originally earned on the backs (or should we say some other body parts) of the sex workers of the Yukon? No one really knows for sure whether the profits came from the roasted duck or the ‘sporting ladies.’

Much of what we know about Trump’s grandfather comes from the research of Gwenda Blair, author of the book “The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire.” That book was written in 2000, long before we thought Trump was a serious Presidential candidate.

Trump himself has denied the whole story. He claims his grandfather was of Swedish descent. But it is believed the Swedish heritage claim was started by Trump’s father who, during the years between the world wars, had a number of Jewish customers for his real estate business and wanted to hide the German heritage of his parents.

When he finds out there is money to be made, Trump might change his tune. In true Trumpian entrepreneurial fashion, some Canadians are trying to restore the Arctic and make it a tourist attraction. Imagine the lure, for the American tourist in particular, of getting to bring the family to the site of our 45th President’s grandfather’s whorehouse.

(Photos from the New York Public Library public domain digital collection.)


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