Monthly Archives: February 2022

Philly Bound!

Liberty Bell &
Independence Hall

I made a decision a few years back, that being alone would not deter me from continuing my travels when the opportunities presented themselves. While still living in Boston, I was determined to see as much as the Eastern Seaboard as possible. 

I took an Amtrak train in early spring of 2003 and headed to Philadelphia. I had a cousin in the area but that was not my entire motivation for going there though it served as a backdrop which propelled me forward. I enjoy train rides for both the scenery and the tranquility and I can let the conductor do the navigating of the terrain. 

Of course, I did my homework and made arrangements for my hotel stay and tour guide plans. I remember the train stopping in New Haven, Connecticut, the home of Yale University. That was a memorable stop because I knew that that was about as close as I would get to that famed university. 

But, when the train stopped at Penn Station in NYC, it was a poignant moment for me. It was my first return to the city post 9-11. I felt a quiet hush as I looked out of the train window, and it was surreal for a few minutes as I thought about what had occurred there since my last visit.

We slowly pulled off and moved further south until we finally landed at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. After coming upstairs out of the terminal, the first place I saw was Drexel University sitting across from the station. University and college campuses always get my immediate attention for several reasons.

I do remember a professional brotha as my taxi driver and I recall the warm reception that I received at the Sheraton University City Hotel. My room was nice and though it was a gray day, I vowed within to make the most of my journey.

I went down to the hotel restaurant after resting and I realized that the venue was also a hot spot for the locals. As I ate, I enjoyed watching the young people dancing and enjoying life which made me feel less alone. I was totally absorbed in the food, the decorum and the joy exuding from the youth.

I later went upstairs and called my cousin who lived in nearby Deptford, New Jersey. Though she was not that far away, she kept talking about some bridge that she would have to cross if she came to Philly. I was not expecting that of her for neither of us were spring chickens at that point. We enjoyed spending hours on the phone talking and laughing. She was close to my mother who had passed a few months earlier, so we visited via the tele and it was one of the highlights of my trip.

The next day, I took a bus tour of the city which left from the hotel. I highly appreciated our tour guide who was diminutive fella who had once been a jockey. He was animated and truly lightened things up for us on that sunless day. As he showed us some of the city’s landmarks, he said of the city’s inventions, “If not Ben, it’s Penn.”

We saw the statue of William Penn sitting high up the top of City Hall, the victory steps that Sylvester Stallone mounted as he played Rocky in the blockbuster movie, the grave of Benjamin Franklin, some really skinny houses, Betsy Ross’ home and the Clothespin Statue, to name a few. We stopped and had Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches close to where we disembarked to see both The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

We entered the place where the Liberty Bell is housed and there was a small group gathered around listening to docent. I was shocked to see how small the actual bell was because I thought it would be huge like the bell that the Hunchback of Notre Dame swung on in the movie. But as we stood there in reverence, I silently claimed as Langston Hughes wrote, “I, too, sing America.”

We crossed the grounds and headed over to Independence Hall. It looked as if it was a picture from the 1776 era. I could see Benjamin Franklin and his comrades hammering out the words of the Constitution in my mind’s eye. It too held special moments for me. The space, size of the hall and even the speaker’s box seemed so small but there was still a feeling of great respect for what had been accomplished there.

I had hoped to do a little shopping at some of the well-known jewelry places that customize in the setting of stones for customers. However, I picked up catalogs, other memorabilia and jotted down detailed memories of my trip. It was a short, but sweet trip and I am happy that I made to Philly while still living on the East Coast!

Lynn M.
February 26, 2022

Walking in Oakland

My father used to take me and my three sisters to the Memphis Airport to watch the planes take-off and land when we were very young. He also took us on numerous road trips and taught us to be good drivers. He gave us vision and as a result we all have traveled quite extensively. 

Here, I am sharing a blessed memory of my two trips to Oakland. My older sister lived there, and though I had visited her in LA many years earlier, I made to Oakland in the early 90’s. I had a lot on my mind and after calling her, she said, “Come on.” 

On my flight, I sat next to a woman named Carolyn who had kind, compassionate eyes. I took that to be a good omen as we chatted because that was also the name of my dearest friend. We flew into San Francisco, and I followed by sister’s directions and took a shuttle over to Oakland to a particular hotel. I stood in the posh lobby and waited for her to pick me up. She arrived shortly after I got there, and it was so good to see her smiling face after such a long flight.

She had an apartment that sat high upon a hill that was very close to Lake Merritt. She put on some great music as we celebrated my safe arrival, and the music was distinctive. She always had the best sound systems with Sony speakers so that we could hear every instrument being played. As the former wife of a musician, good equipment was key in her life. 

I do remember walking over to the peaceful Lake Merritt and sitting on one of the benches at one point. Its mere presence was comforting in itself. Later, when we got out and drove around, we did one of our favorite things to do. Second-hand shopping! We went to either a Goodwill or Salvation Army and I do remember her haggling with an employee about a price. I think he enjoyed the banter as much as she did, and I went on to pick out some jewelry pieces. 

When we left, we walked over to a food truck and got some type of sandwich wraps. I do remember us walking and eating which may be a California thing but definitely not a Chicago thing. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Right? We were enjoying each other’s company, so I just went with the flow. The weather was great, but I soon learned that it got really cold at night though it was mild or nice during the day. 

During my stay, she drove over to the UC-Berkeley area. I recall seeing the University sign though we did not go on the campus. Yet, close by, we went to a place that had hot tubs and saunas. There, we were able to really talk, and I was able to pour out my feelings. It was both cleansing and rejuvenating and a load was lifted off of my shoulders.

As she drove, I do remember seeing a huge billboard advertising the I Dream a World Traveling Exhibition. I had seen the book of photography and interviews by Brian Lanker that features black women who have made a difference though I did not see the actual exhibit. We did stop and get food in their Chinatown, and I also remember catching a bus with my niece, her daughter, as she went to her job at a title company. 

I did return about five years later and by then, my sister was an empty nester living in another part of Oakland. She had her own stretch limo as a commercial driver, and it was parked outside of her small house. It was a beautiful navy-blue limo, and she took pride in polishing it and keeping it in immaculate condition.

I went with her to pick up a businessman that lived in Kentfield. As, she drove across The Golden Gate Bridge, I thought of how proud my father must be as he looked down on her. I knew to be very quiet as she maneuvered the limo across the suspension bridge. I saw Alcatraz Island sitting over to the left as we continually headed north. When we arrived at the man’s house, it was quaint and covered in mossy greenery and rather hidden away. She took him to San Francisco, and I sat up front with her.

I saw quite bit of San Francisco the second time around. I noticed the steep, hilly landscape. As she drove on the freeway to San Jose to see a cousin, I saw a house that sat so high, I thought that one would need a helicopter just to reach home. That amazed me as one from the flat lands of the Midwest. At one point, she drove to a spot by the Pacific Ocean where I saw a bunch of seals gathered on a rock. I also remember the people in the area reeling from the recent death of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Though I was on an adventure, I always found time to continually reach to accomplish some of my personal goals. With her help, I found the number of the famed Wild Tree Press that was located in Oakland, as I searched for an avenue to publication. I called and spoke with the editor who was both kind and encouraging. We chatted for a short while.

I have many fond memories of those two trips. We laughed when she told me that at that time, it cost a dollar to go into San Francisco, but there was no charge to return to Oakland. That’s fine. I enjoyed it and I will cherish those times with my sister as we talked, ate and walked in Oakland. 

Lynn M.
February 19, 2022

Brush Hill Tours

When I lived in Boston for four years, it was my express goal to see as much of New England as possible. As a former English teacher, it had been a long-awaited dream finally tumbling onto my lap in a haphazard way.  I was determined to make the most of my time spent in that region. 

I found my way to Lynn, Amherst and Concord, Massachusetts to visit the Eddy, Dickinson, Alcott and Emerson homes, respectively. Each entailed a lot of research on travel plans and I also enlisted the help of some of my co-workers who hailed from the New England area. They assisted me in figuring out which trains or buses I needed to take to get to my destinations. 

Then, quite like a magic wand, I was somehow led to Brush Hill Tours, a division of Gray Line Tours. Or, perhaps, it found me; but whichever way that worked, it proved to be a solo traveler’s answered prayer. My greatest challenge was simply making certain that I was at the Charles Street depot in Boston, before the bus left at 9 a.m. on that day.  

There were a variety of tours listed and the beautiful thing is that I would be back home about 6 p.m. on that same day. What a treat! Though it took a degree of spunk, the fears and apprehension quickly faded when I saw that I was not alone. There were small groups, couples and even a few single wanderers like me. I was lucky enough to always get a window seat and I had two entire seats to myself to breathe, think and listen to the driver when he chose to speak to us. 

I chose Maine first because I had met a woman where I lived who used to refer to going to ‘down Maine.’ though it is actually north of Boston. As I was boarding the luxury bus, two women called out and said, “Make sure that you take the Newport Mansions Tour!” I told them that I would, which I did at a later time. 

We went through New Hampshire first where I bought a colorful granny skirt. Once in Kennebunkport, I remember us driving by the Wedding Cake House built by a shipbuilder. It was rumored that it was built for his bride who did not have a proper honeymoon but that has been questioned. However, it was a memorable sight.

Also, along the coastline, we bypassed the Bush home and we saw several Secret Service men in tube-like water boats guarding the political dynasty’s home. Maine was so refreshing. It was like enjoying a cool drink of water filled with large ice cubes. Ahh! 

Each trip included shopping sprees and planned stops at great eateries. The drivers often talked in spurts and gave us lots of new information about that particular part of the country.

When I did take the Newport Mansion Tour as the women had recommended, we went into The Marble House and The Breakers. We saw how the Vanderbilts, and other high society families lived in the summers during the Gilded Age. I bought souvenirs at the bookstore and ate BBQ in Newport and witnessed where the famous Newport Jazz Festivals were held. And, yes, of course, I went shopping at the local shops! 

I later took the Cape Cod Tour and we stopped in Hyannis and ate scrumptious cod fish at a refined restaurant facing a pier. We even took a ferry, and we were able to get a glimpse of the historic Kennedy Compound. I remember having on my headphones and listening to some great music as we propelled along on the water. 

I could go on and on about Brush Hill Tours which became my weekend go-to. I was always surrounded by cool people who were there, but never too intrusive. They, like me, were simply travelers who were out there taking in the new! 

Lynn M. 
February 12, 2022 

Nashville Reminiscences!

Nashville was either my go-to or go-through city for many years while residing in Tennessee. The memories always bring a warm feeling like a soothing cup of hot chocolate on a cold morning. I went to Nashville on several occasions to visit family, friends or for business. Here is what I know to be true of Tennessee’s center for country music. 

When I went to visit my cousin who lived there for years, I remember the wonderful drives on I-40. Mossy cliffs line both sides of the highway and it is a straight stretch of good road.  It was so easy to put on some good, choice music and enjoy the drive. It is a calm scenic route and a perfect way to relax and leave my troubles behind. Quite like my father, long distance driving gave me time to think, change my perspective and often find answers to things that concerned me. 

My cousin had a variety of homes over that ten-year stretch, but I especially remember one cute small house she lived in that sat high upon a hill. I was listening to Phoebe Snow’s Cash In at that time and it was so appropriate. I found solace there as I relaxed and let it all go, for the moment. Through her, I was able to visit Vanderbilt University’s campus as I sat and waited for her and her friend. I even saw the old George Peabody Campus, which at one time was the home of the school for librarians before it folded and closed. 

Later, another friend moved there, and I also visited her a few times. This allowed me to go on the downtown campus of Tennessee State University and see Nashville life from an educator’s point of view. We also took in the sights and enjoyed good meals there.

And later, I went to Nashville for a media conference. I do remember staying at the Ole Opry Hotel which had an inner courtyard lined with green foliage. I could l come out onto the little balcony, look down and see greenery and beauty at its finest. The food at the chosen restaurants was memorable and scrumptious and one was known for its delicious cornbread!

 Nashville was also my go-through city. We had to drive through Nashville to get to Atlanta, also known as Hot ‘Lanta. Nashville always served as a halfway point and a safe haven. Once, my mother and I were pulling my furniture back from Atlanta and when we reached Nashville, we pulled onto a church parking lot and slept until dawn like tired children. 

Nashville was the last feeling a safety before venturing on into hilly and mountainous Chattanooga. And Lord, forbid of a driver did not know about the treacherous Monteagle Mountain. It has a great descent with little or no warning. The runaway truck lanes for trucks that could not stop, freaked my father out when he drove to Atlanta to see me.  He was a seasoned truck driver, but he talked about it for quite a time. I heard other horror stories of people unknowingly approaching Monteagle Mountain either at night or during a rainstorm. I was fortunate and had no such harrowingly tales to share! 

So, nowadays, when I see Nashville on television as it hosts the CMA’s or any other awards show, I think, yes, it may be the home of the Grand Ole Opry, but to me, it is so much more. I think of a place of peace, solitude, reprieve, safety and an oasis whether I was going to or going through that wonderful, southern city! 

Lynn M. 
February 5, 2022