My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation: Denver, Newark & Portland

Two tons of hay are hauled and stacked in the barn, three loads of laundry are drying on the line, the dogs have been run, and I can't stain decks in the bright sunshine (gee, too bad!) ;-) So I can finally finish and publish my first (of several, for I have no self-discipline when it comes to sharing photos) vacation post! :-)

Vacation Days #1 & 2...

I decided to take you to Maine more or less the way we got there, via Denver. Though lucky you, you won't have to endure the 6-hour drive there nor the hideous midnight flight on the redeye to Newark, on a jet with overhead compartments barely big enough to hold a small purse; hard, cramped seats that reclined all of 1/4"; the crabbiest, snarkiest flight attendants in the biz; and in my case, a video monitor on the seat-back in front of me that was scrambled and tiling and refused to shut off all night. I could see its flashing technicolors through my closed eyelids, so I hung my sweater over it till I got cold and needed to wear it, at which point my seatmate and I constructed and mounted a cover for it from our barf bags. (I felt so Apollo 13!) ;-) It worked great, but since I was in the aisle seat it kept grabbing the attention of those crabby flight attendants. So all through the night, each of them woke me up from my fitful doze to reach across me and pound on the useless off button on my arm rest, snarling in a loud whisper as they did, "You CAN turn that OFF, you know!" They all refused to believe me when I told them that no, it's broken and so no, I CAN'T, and kept pounding the off button till they each finally said, "Huh," and walked off. Except for the one who felt it necessary to add, "Well it was working before!" Right, like I boarded the plane, took my seat, and immediately set about the entertaining inflight activity of vandalizing my video monitor while they demonstrated to us cretin passengers how to fasten a seatbelt. By the final wee hour, off button-pounding reprimand I got from flight attendant #5, I was ready to line them all up, shove each of them out the emergency exit door at 30,000', and then sleep the dreamless sleep of the innocent and just. But I managed to hold it together till we landed at 5:30am, so have no exciting stories of my air-rage, arrest and trial to blog about. Bummer! ;-)

Instead, here's our vacation, beginning with our after-dinner walkabout (dinner being at Watercourse Foods, which I neglected - not for the only time on this trip - to photograph) in the historic Denver neighborhood surrounding the Watercourse restaurant. It was a beautiful evening, and we admired a lot of the wonderful old buildings, many of which have been turned into law offices, and their lovely gardens. Here are a few of our favorites...

I love those climbing roses!
They matched the little pink roses on my tank top.
So I'm camouflaged and you probably can't see me. ;-)

BW poses in front of a house
whose window trim and double porches we especially admired!

I loved everything about this one!

And who doesn't love a perching gargoyle?
(Those dead branches - in June - set a Halloweenish mood!
Reminds me of the spooky neighbors' place in "The 'Burbs!")

This was a funny place... those huge, drab gray additions to either side of the original warm, red-brick home were just odd. But I was quite taken with the wonderful ground-floor porch with its arches and planters. I took a close-up of it, but don't have time to post it because we have a flight to catch! ;-)

Insert redeye (never more aptly named) flight misery here.

I must add that one of the flight attendants did act as we disembarked like she felt at least a little sorry for the inconvenience I suffered because of my broken video monitor. So there was that, at least!

So we arrived in Newark with a three-hour layover in front of us after no sleep. You'd think it would be boring, but you'd be wrong! For there was, of all things, wildlife to photograph! Right there in the airport! No, really! Look!

This pigeon must live in the terminal, and certainly strutted around like she owned the place and clearly knew where all the most food-crumb-intensive spots were! I followed her all over with my camera as together we wove in and out of gate seating areas, around food kiosks and sprinted through the desolate, crumb-less expanses of hallway with nothing to offer a pigeon in pursuit of breakfast but restrooms and shoeshine booths.

The pigeon ignored me, while my fellow humans often stared with puzzled looks at me taking photos while they completely ignored the pigeon! One poor lady in one of the gate seating areas seemed so undone by the fact I appeared to be photographing the chair legs and ugly carpeting that I stopped taking pictures long enough to point to the pigeon and say, "Look, we have a visiting friend!" She just stared at me, still baffled, so I pointed more vigorously, like I do with my dogs when I'm trying to point out a treat on the floor that they're oblivious to, and said, "LOOK, THERE'S A PIGEON RIGHT THERE!" With this clue to work with she finally looked where I was pointing, saw our feathered friend and reacted with great delight. But the pigeon had another breakfast possibility elsewhere, so once again we were off and running. She was so fast that although I was using the sport setting on my camera, between her running and my jogging to keep up all my action shots are blurry. Still, this photo shows off her beautiful markings and her cute orange feet in action...

When I look at this photo I imagine her saying (as I found myself saying on a 30-minute layover in Cleveland on our return trip), "Why the hell do they ALWAYS have to drop us at Concourse A, Gate 1 and make us leave from Concourse C, Gate 74?" Even Charles Kuralt observed 20 years ago in A Life on the Road that, "a master airline computer hums all day to assure that no passenger may ever depart from the same concourse at which he landed."

But at last we arrived in Maine, gathered our luggage, picked up our rental car (a snazzy little royal blue Nissan Versa, which I kept insisting on calling "our Vespa"), and were off to explore the mean streets of Portland. Here's a happy if tired BW overlooking the harbor from the parking garage. Parking garages often offer the best views!

We'd been looking forward to breakfast at Little Lad's Basket Bakery & Cafe, but alas - there was a sign in the window saying they'd been evicted and were seeking a new location and manager (couldn't help but wonder if the "old" manager must have failed to pay the rent!) So we munched on goodies from our stash from home (savvy vegans - and air travelers - never travel without a stash of contraband food) and hit the LL Bean outlet store, where I got a spiffy pair of $40 hiking shorts for $13 and BW got a great shirt at half price which he wore every day from then on, so you will see it in its sky-blue glory in every photo of him from here on out, I believe! :-) And then we did recon at The Green Elephant, where we planned to eat dinner, enjoyed a mini shopping spree at Whole Foods to restock our stash for the road and ate a little brunchy-lunch from their deli while sitting in our "Vespa" overlooking the nearby water, then drove to Brunswick, 20 minutes up the Interstate, to check into our motel and get showered and changed. And after all that, it was back to the Green Elephant to meet our friend Sue for a splendid vegan dinner! Which, fortunately, I remembered to photograph. (Which, sadly, is more than I can say for the dessert!)

BW's Tofu Tikka Masala
That boy loves his curry, and this dish was awesome!
All their soy is locally made from Maine-grown organic soybeans!

My Far East "Duck"
I've never eaten dead duck flesh in my life,
so can't say - and don't care - if this dish bears a resemblance.
But I can say it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten!
And aren't those carrot curls pretty? :-)

Sue gives the "nom-nom fork jab" (akin to a big thumbs up)
to her delicious Tofu & Vegetable Teriyaki dinner!
We also had an appetizer of Roti Chanai (fried flatbread),
which you can just see on plates in the bottom of this pic.

I must add that Sue looks the same as she did in high school,
which of course makes her totally putrid. ;-)~

As I mentioned, I failed to photograph our desserts, which is a shame because they were as beautiful as they were delectable. But when they arrived we dove into them, the camera utterly forgotten, like we'd just crawled into the restaurant on emaciated bellies after weeks without food. So you won't get to see - unless you go to The Green Elephant and order them for yourselves (which we highly recommend) - our fabulous Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Orange Mousse Pie. BW got the key lime and Sue and I got the chocolate-orange, but BW got to sample mine and we got to sample his and they were all absolutely divine! (For some reason their online menu doesn't list their desserts, which are all vegan while the rest of their menu is, with one exception, all vegan or easily veganized by simply omitting the gratuitous egg). The food was fantastic, the restaurant clean and comfy, the prices reasonable and the service great. I've eaten at several veg restaurants around the country and "the Elephant" is #1 in my book so far (and I'm not alone), so getting to spend a little time with Sue and share such a wonderful meal was a special treat and a great start to our Maine vacation!

Coming up next... Brunswick & Sullivan. Unless a Wildflower Wednesday or hay-hauling post intervenes. :-)


  1. With the exception of that horrendous flight, everything was off to a wonderful start for you! The pigeon is absolutely gorgeous and those houses! Oh my. I'm super jealous that you got to eat at Watercourse and the food at The Green Elephant looks so good! I'll be looking forward to reading more!

  2. Two tons of hay? I'm awe struck. Good work! Good job it's not deck-staining weather...sounds like you deserve a bit of a rest.

    Ugh! Hate flying, and it's after getting more horrendous these days from the sounds of it...nothing like crabby flight attendants....just the thing to make you journey at 30,000 feet restful and pleasant! Love the Apollo 13 action though!

    Is the Watercourse Foods place in Newark? I assume so, as for those houses..for me, it's a tie btw the 2nd and 3rd one.

    Sounds like that pidgeon's hit pay dirt...he's all: "yeah, yeah, stupid boring humans...come on spill some food, drop some crumbs...make yourself useful!" He/she is very pretty and unique looking. And, I don't know what that lady was so confused about...doesn't everyone take photos of chair legs and shabby carpets (with a bonus pidgeon)? It's so fetishy. Oh, it's just me? OOOPs! Just messin' :00

    OMG, the food at the Green Elephant sounds so good! I'm all over that place next time I'm in Maine! And, it was fun to see a face shot of "Happy No Ears" she does look rather youthful!

    Looking forward to more vacation details!

  3. Molly ~ Isn't the start of a vacation just the best thing? :-) We'd flown on a couple of overnight flights to London years ago, so we knew that part wouldn't be much of a picnic, but things have really deteriorated when it comes to travel by airplane. Didn't keep every plane we were on from being stuffed to capacity with passengers, though! I say, bring back good passenger train service!! Trains were always my favorite way to travel - it's how my mom and I would get from wherever we were living on the East coast to Montana every summer when I was a kid. It was such a relaxed, fun way to go! Anyway, at least our flight home was in an older and therefore roomier jet, and was a lot more comfortable. And the video monitors were all overhead instead of right in your face! :-)

    Our dinner at Watercourse Foods was good (though I'm not a big fan of their seitan), but in our opinion The Green Elephant blew them away!

    Rose ~ Thanks for the hay-hauling kudos! I'm grateful you are awe struck - we were mostly heat-struck. ;-) We still have another ton and a half or so to haul yet - second cutting alfalfa/grass from a ranch way out in the boonies. Won't be ready for a while yet (thank goodness!) Then we can start stacking a couple tons of wood pellets in the garage! Ack.

    I'm no fan of flying anymore either. It's just gotten ugly. And I must look nefarious to the TSA ("Thousands Standing Around") people, because on both legs of the trip, my carry-on got searched and on the return trip I got pulled aside and frisked! (I was wearing shorts, a handkerchief-style tank top and flip flops, what could I possibly be hiding?!)

    Watercourse Foods and those fancy old houses are in Denver - I realized after you asked that I hadn't been clear about it, so I've remedied that! Thanks! I'm sure Newark has some cool old houses too.

    I think that pigeon had a pretty good gig going. There was no shortage of humans stuffing their faces and dropping crumbs all over the place. At least there's a pigeon in Newark who benefits!

    I was surprised there weren't more photographers capturing the subtle, urban beauty of worn, soiled, dingy carpet and rusted metal chair legs myself! What's happening in this country?! LOL

    A visit to The Green Elephant nearly justifies a flight to Maine (even a miserable one) all by itself! But there were so many other fun things going on there too, and I will be posting about as many of them as I can, I promise! :-)

    If only I had a scanner, I'd scan a high school photo of Sue (I have some fun ones of her at our graduation especially) and post it next to the one I took at the Elephant, and you'd see just exactly how putrid she really is. :-)

    Thanks for your fun comments, kids! I'll try to get my next vacation post up before mid-week.

  4. Hey, hey, hey....putrid NOT. It's the haircut and the same old oxford shirt hiding the 25 extra pounds know. But thanks for saying I look good. Those "you look greats!!" don't happen very much anymore.

    Thank you for my morning laugh. You never cease to crack me up. Reminds me of the clever stuff we wrote back and forth in our highly creative content note passing days.

    You didn't share with me over din the lovely, yet snarky "flight attendant" scenario sans the well it was working before video screen. Perhaps BW suggested you let that one go.

    Imagining you chasing that pidgeon out "crumbing" was also fun. I shall look for pidgeons on my next trip to the airport and count on them to provide an inter-flight workout opportunity. If not I'll photograph ugly ass carpet and chair legs....or pretend to and catch the blank faces of the unimaginative who wonder what I'm doing.

    Agreed on the Elephant. That was a fabulous meal and the company made it amazing. It was so incredibly great to see you. How do you remember what everybody ordered? Crap I can't remember what I had for dinner last night. you and to BW and to all the furkids. Lay off the hay and the deck staining and let's get those vaca pics posted....before the Obamas trump your Bar Harbour region captures.
    PS....Still no invite to the reunion....guess I'll eat some worms.

  5. Sue ~ Yuh-huh, y'are so putrid! :-)~

    I'm glad I provided you with a morning laugh! :-) Don't you wish we'd kept all those witty notes we passed back and forth in algebra? I think Uncle Tom may have confiscated at least one of them, but we could have probably published the others and become quite wealthy. LOL

    I didn't share the snarky flight attendants/busted video screen story with you over dinner because I was busy stuffing my face with that glorious food, and we had other, more interesting things to talk about in the too-brief time we got to spend together (like, "So whatever happened to so-and-so?") Besides, I wanted you to enjoy a least a few fresh anecdotes when you read my blog! :-)

    That pigeon was a fun and unexpected photo-op, and yeah - the morning workout after being stuffed into that plane all night didn't hurt either! Double dare ya to take photos of weird, unphotogenic things with strangers around and report back on their reactions!

    Our evening at the Elephant was just grand, and so great to get to spend that evening with you! Felt like we just picked up where we'd left off the last time we were together! I remember what we all ate because I considered it such memorable food, but I remember the exact names of our dishes because I swiped a "to go" copy of their menu and made notes! (Old blogger trick, lol)

    Pretty funny that President Obama stole our vacation idea! We are SUCH the little trend-setters. ;-)

    As for the reunion, that's just too odd. Their loss! At least we got to enjoy our own! :-)

    Big hugs from all of us back to you, Tula and Princess P!

  6. After that TOTALLY entertaining, funny and descriptive description of the first two days of your vacation, I will no longer be able to send you my journals which are comparitively boring and dry.

    I feel like I was there and since I love travelling with you - that's huge for me. I really would have enjoyed following you in the airport following that pigeon!

    Thanks for taking the time to share all those photos. The pigeon ones are my favorite and I love that I finally get to see Sue!

  7. Jo ~ Oh you can so keep sending me your travel journals, silly goose! I tried to keep one on this trip, but only made it to day #2 before it petered out to a scribbled word here and there like the name of a fun dog we met, or a new vegan treat we discovered - and that was that! I did squirrel away "stuff," though (like brochures and menus and such) to help jog my memory (which, despite Sue's belief to the contrary, is decidedly NOT photographic! Just ask BW, who is always having to devote vast chunks of his days to helping me locate my glasses or keys! LOL)

    I LOVE that this post made you feel like you were there! I wish you had been - you're such a blast to travel with! But on the other hand, if you'd been following me following the pigeon I would have been laughing too hard to keep up with her and wouldn't have gotten those photos that are your favorites on this post! :-D

    I'm so glad you got to enjoy a lunch break today and spent some of it visiting the first post about our vacation adventures! You're sweet to thank me for taking the time to share my photos (and you're most welcome!) - thank you for taking the time to visit and leave your lovely comment! :-)

  8. You're sweet to say you're willing to read my boring journals. I might send some along when I'm done typing them, just to fill in the blanks between the pictures I sent you. I'm enjoying yours so much - I'm glad you're enjoying writing them.


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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