Chicago Lights

I recently made a sunset landing at Chicago O'Hare to visit Lenore and Paula in East Dundee, IL. Lenore had just had her surgery that removed a tumor and 8 inches of her intestine. I was supposed to be there to help out but Lenore was already doing well after her week of excellent post-surgery care from the nurses, doctors and Lyla . And Paula and their favorite neighborhood cafe - The Measuring Cup - did most of the cooking.

Lenore was well enough to take walks so we did just that. We walked to The Measuring Cup to eat a breakfast pizza and pick up chicken dumpling soup, ginger cookies, and apple and chocolate pie. We walked the nice trail behind the library and the deer posed for us. We walked with Paula around the neighborhood to take pictures of Christmas lights. And I heard the cackle of and saw a flock of cranes for the first time.

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Full Kee

Recently Lyla, Tracy, Austin, William and I met up with old friend Ellen Law and her husband Sam at a Chinese restaurant of Ellen's choosing called Full Kee. We had all been to the DC location of Full Kee but this was special because Ellen is a regular customer and can order "off menu". There is a movie called The Corruptor about a chinophile NYC cop (played by American action star/underwear model Mark Wahlberg) who is sent in to help Chinese cop (played by Hong Kong action star Chow Yun Fat ) deal with a dangerous Asian gang in Chinatown. Here's some dialog from the movie:

Nick Chen: Beef intestine noodles, want some?
Danny Wallace: Uh, no.
Nick Chen: You wanna be a Chinese, you gotta eat the nasty stuff.

Well, Ellen did not order the nasty stuff for us but we were thrilled to know she could have. What she ordered was delicious. The only odd thing was the dessert - a sweet thick concoction made with pea green soup and tapioca.

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Halloween and some other stuff

The little girl on the 3rd floor has not put up any artwork on the past couple of holidays so I thought her artistic aspirations were over. I was surprised when I saw something on her door at Halloween but a little disappointed at the uninspired decoration. But then I looked closer and was pleasantly creeped out

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And we saw some nice old school paper Halloween decorations on a walk around the neighborhood.


The fall colors were nice this year. Here are some pics at work and from my balcony.

At work


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At home

The night before Halloween I had drinks with Dana and Tati and Dana's new dancer Hala. Here's Tati and me matching the couch fabric so nicely.


And then there was the fun halloween party at Dana's where I dressed up as a 60's go-go dancer. Take a look.

Growing crops in the office

My new Russian office-mate Olga rescued a plant that someone had thrown away. It slowly stopped shedding all its leaves and soon started producing a couple small blossoms. One day I noticed large green pods and these eventually turned into red peppers! We are scared to eat them but we are enjoying the colors.


Public Speaking

Last weekend I was busy helping Dana and his company with their concert here in DC. It was great to see Sara and Susan from MIT who I have not seen since we went to Peru. Two pieces were performed - Hyphen which premiered last year and for which I created the video projections and music montage and Island which premiered last weekend and for which Sara created the video projections. The new piece was about the Immigration station/detention center off the coast of San Francisco. Sara used haunting historical images from the Angel Island archive and projected them from above the dancers. The effect was amazing.

After two of the three performances Dana, Sara, Connie (dancer), Judy (costume designer) and I took questions from the audience. I am not real comfortable with this. Dana thinks it shows me that he appreciates my design work but mostly it just shows the dance audience that I am not very articulate. I am getting a bit better at it but I still do not enjoy it. I did get some nice comments/questions after the performance from people who like me do not want to speak in public.

Here are some pictures from the theater and at Dana's after the Sunday night performance where he treated us to dirty martinis and pizza.

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The dancers getting ready. Anne, Dana's rehearsal mistress and her new baby, Marie Elizabeth.

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Ann and Sara. Pulling the projector down.

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Martinis and Pizza at Dana's

Dancing Fools and Ornaments

I finally got my hands on the little performance that the non-dancers did for the dancers in Peru. Sara, Susan and Richard (from MIT) and I put together a dance, mostly based on dance movements from Dana's choreography. We put it together in about an hour which is obvious but the dancers loved it.

Also if you missed it as the Picture of the Week, the 2009 McDonald Family Christmas Contest has been announced:


The theme is Christmas ornaments! How fun is that! It has been on the list of suggestions for a while and we've had a lot of literary themes lately so I thought it was the right time. This year is a big anniversary of the contest. I started the contest 20 years ago to try and climb out of a pit of depression. I never would have believed we would still be doing and that it could be so challenging, frustrating and stressful yet so ultimately fun and creative. 20 years, can you believe it?

So as we say to each other every year: Let the procrastinating begin!

Summer's over..What will the future bring?

The pool is closed until next May and I am sad. It was a great swimming summer - lots of heat and little rain.


Summer swimming is over but it is still ice cream weather. We finally took out the ice cream maker and made up for our late start by making three batches - almond, cinnamon and grapefruit ice. All wonderful and they tasted great together.

I'll have to find an alternative to swimming laps (especially if we are going to make more ice cream). I did try a Zumba class this past week with my friend Brooke. Zumba seems to be a mixture of several styles of dance - samba, salsa, hip-hop, bollywood. It was quite fun and aerobic. It may just work.

This past Thursday Brooke and another friend Marcia and I went to a neighborhood French restaurant to catch up with each other. I tried dubonnet for the first time and although I will probably not order it again I am glad I tried it. Now I know "fortified wine" means too sweet for me. It did come in a nice glass.


After dinner we went over to Dana's house and he read our fortunes with some fortune telling cards that he has had since he was a child. He was amazingly accurate with Brooke' s fortune, Time will only tell with my mine.

This is Dana and his greyhound Pico. I am not a dog person but I do like Pico. He seems to know me and likes to stand calmly next to me.

I am not in Prague

Three fourths of the family are in Prague right now for the 9th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships and it is so hard not to be with them. Lynda has worked so hard to qualify to race, to get into shape and to travel to practice with the Philadelphia team. Lyla and my mother worked with hotel to arrange a party for Lynda and her dragon boat friends and for my parents' anniversary. It was very hard to miss that. Lynda's friends are party animals. And my family has pretty good party skills as well. So I have been thinking of them a lot. I thought of making last minute plans to join them but I just felt I couldn't ask my bosses for the time off since I have taken so much time off already this summer. And last Sunday as we cycled past the Czech embassy I thought of knocking on the door and requesting immediate asylum.

We have been getting a few reports from Prague and everyone is having a good time. Here is a report from Austin with a picture he took of Lynda with her medals and a picture from Lyla of Lynda and Gordon (AKA Golden).

As some of you know my sister Lynda (50) has been battling cancer for the last 7 years, or so. Well, through a recovery program in Charleston, SC, known as Dragon Boat Racing, she has kept strong and enthuistiastic about her recoveries from her 4 times with the cancer chemo treatments and surgeries. She had tried out for the American Dragon boat team about 4-5 months ago in Penn. and made the team. Drgon Boaters sit in a boat with  a dragon's head in the front and a tail in the back, and have 20 paddlers, person pounding the drum up front to keep the paddling rhythm, and a steers person in the back. She is now racing in the World Cup Games here in Prague. Yesterday she, and her team mates, won a Silver and a Bronze Medal in the Grand Masters Mixed 1,000 meters, and Grand Master's Ladies 1,000 meters team. "Grandmaster" means over 50. So, it was my parents 54th Anniversary, and we had planned a party at the hotel for them with the family who were able to be here, and Lynda's Dragon Boat friends who were able to be her, as well (about 8). It is hard to describe the joy, jubilation, and triumph that was felt when my sister Lynda and here boyfriend Gordon (also a Dragon Boater from up north) came into the room.

She has 3 more days of racing, but I wanted to let you all know this.  And we leave Monday to come back to the states.

Have a good day. We are 6 hours ahead of you all right now. So, Good Morning, and go get yourselves a cup of coffee.



Detention of a god!

I am somewhat horrified that the most popular actor in the world - my friend ShahRukh Khan - was detained at the Newark airport for almost 2 hours.


Vintage Drinking on Edisto Island

The weather was great. The ocean water temperature was perfect. The tides were well timed for morning and evening kayak trips into the marsh. And David made us classic cocktails all week.

Negroni, Evans Cocktail

Gin & Tonic, Josette Cocktail

Dandy, Marguerita, Gin & Tonic (Fever Tree Tonic Water), Baranquilla Green Jade

Ford Cocktail, Lucien Gaudin

Marguerita, Gin & Tonic, Vodka Tonic, 20th Century, Brandy Alexander

Grande Bretaigne

David left so Lutz and I slummed with plain old vodka and plain old Tonic

Some drinks were very exotic with interesting combinations of liquors and liquers. I had no real favorite - I enjoyed every one that I drank.

Some other highlights:

  • Catching up with everyone.

  • TV shows and movies on DVDs
    Movie - 28 Days Later (zombies!)
    TV - Mad Men, Flight of the Conchords, The Guild, and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel
    I missed Eagle vs Shark and The Thin Man

  • Susan swimming with us in the ocean fully clothed including large Andie McDowell style hat

  • We took our usual 3 hour walking trip to Jeremy's Inlet - a place that is supposed to be rich in fossils. I did find a couple
  • Fried Chicken, sweet corn, shrimp, flounder, crabs that we caught, blackberry cobbler, smoked chicken salad, fruits and vegetables from George & Pink's

  • Dinner at Whaley's a new pub/restaurant that used to be a gas station and little store.

  • I won a Scrabble game!

  • Cocktails at Ingrid and Tom's

  • Kayaking in the dark - last time I was too chicken to try. I was only mildly afraid of the zombie alligator that I knew was out there somewhere.

Check out more pictures

And here's the video:

1957 and 1967

So Lynda went up to Montreal for a Dragon Boat Festival race last weekend and visited the site of one of our childhood experiences - Expo '67. She, Lyla and I sorted through our memories and even though we remember having fun we could come up with only a few solid memories. We all remember camping and buying amber. There were a couple of pavilions we remember including the US geodesic domed pavilion, which is still there. Even this very comprehensive web site did not jog many more memories. Lynda took this picture of the dome on her trip.


Now let's talk about other memories. For my birthday my dad sent me a very nice email about what he remembers about the time I was born until I was about 5.


Just a follow up to the card we sent for your birthday. In thinking of all the other things that were going on at that time it occurred to me, yes it was your birthday but it was also our birth day for mom and me.

You were our precious newborn, our second child and we continued on our way to becoming the family we are.

We had just moved into a renovated army barracks on the campus of Lewis College, a lay run Catholic College. It was a comfortable place: rugs over the cement floor, 2 bedrooms, a good sized living room and a small kitchenette with stove, sink, refrigerator and a combination washer/dryer. The window of the living room looked out onto a large grassy field. Looking out the kitchen window we saw our little neighborhood of barracks each with a small plot of grass and flowers between the house and a small sidewalk.It was a nice place to live.

Your baptism was at the church in Lockport. We had a nice reception in the house and on the grassy area outside. Guests were:
Omite and Opapu, my mother and step dad Hughie and Olita and Juris Valainis.
I can’t remember who else. We had just moved there and didn’t know anyone.

As we soon found out the barracks was a duplex separated only by a relatively thin wall. Dr. Judy Mendels and her elderly mother lived on the other side. They obviously were very close and commonly harmonized on Dutch songs while they were doing their supper dishes. Judy is the one who took care of you one time while mom and I (and probably Lyla) went into town, probably Joliet, for something. When we went to pick you up Judy, who was very much like Zita, was typing out her class notes (she taught French and German). She had one end of a 6 foot ribbon tied around the back of her chair and the other around your waste. You didn’t seem to mind it at all and Judy knew she could concentrate on her notes.

It was a good time for us. We had had a good income because I had been awarded a summer scholarship to work with Dr. Wasserman at Argonne Laboratories which was an easy drive away. Dr. W. was a wonderful person. He was Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University in Munich before he had to leave Germany being Jew during Hitler’s rule. He was immediately accepted onto the faculty at the University of Chicago and wound up at Argonne with faculty status at the U. of C. We had tea at mid afternoon and he would tell me about his time growing up in Germany.

I believe we only lived in the barracks about 2 years and moved just after or before Lynda joined us into a very comfortable and roomy brick house, still on campus. We were one of the few faculty members who qualified to live there I think it was because we had children. Actually ours was one of a string of 6 of these houses (sometimes alluded to as fertility row). During the war they were probably occupied by military bass.

There was a large grassy field in front to the house and a spacious grassy yard in back. The back was the area where mom and I often reminisce about seeing you frolicking, half dancing half running completely naked in the rain across the grass. Mom says you were like a gazelle, I pictured you as a fairy in Mendelssohn’s Midnight’s Summer Dream. Mom says she knew then you would become a dancer.

Just after Lenore was born we moved to our the old house in Lockport. Its address was 1812 State St. and it probably was built in the late 19th or early 20th Century. The areas where light fixtures were in the ceiling still had gas lines running to them, the floors were slanted. Lyla will remember her upstairs bedroom where she watched out her window as the house across the street almost burned down. We had an old barn in our backyard. It was a cute old house, comfortable enough for the time and now I had a full Fellowship to do research for my Doctorate with Dr. W. at Argonne and Dr. Jones at Loyola, Stritch School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy as Joint Advisors. The stipend allowed us to live comfortable enough and I spent most of my time during the week in the lab. On Sat. I listened to opera and scrubbed floors (a form of excersise), yes hands and knees, a bar of FelsNaptha and a strong brush. John Kennedy was running for nominatrion. You children watched Capt. Kangaroo and Yogibear and Boo Boo and had a neighbor friend named Movi.

Well, this is a kind of stream of consciousness, but things you may not remember when you were very young. I guess you can tell it was more about me than you, but then I do read your blog.

Love ya

I know that's a lot to read but what you should come away with is that I was one of those little kids who once ran like the wind outside buck naked while being chased by my embarrassed parents and that a neighbor/babysitter tied me to a 6 foot ribbon so I would net get into mischief. But what I came away with is a flood of memories.

I remember most the house on State Street.

  • I remember the long driveway with our Rambler parked near the concord grape vine that divided our driveway from the neighbor's.
  • I remember picking and eating those grapes and petting a cat near those grapes when I was supposed to be inside.
  • I remember the screen door that was hooked shut to teach me I shouldn't continue to pet the cat when I am supposed to come inside.
  • I remember my mother putting us all in the bathtub to distract us when the police came to the house because someone was found sleeping in the barn.
  • I remember wood interiors of the house and a basement where we once went when there was a hurricane warning
  • I remember us kids all getting measles and mumps and a doctor that made house calls.
  • I remember stomping on bees in the big gassy yard after one stung either me or Lyla.
  • I remember watching Captain Kangaroo and Saturday morning cartoons.
  • I remember the house across the street burning and the poor family standing outside helpless.
  • I remember the Texaco station nearby with its Texas star sign.
  • I remember there was a candy store nearby but I cannot picture it.

Some of these sound like not so pleasant memories but they really weren't. They were more observations as I started making sense of the world around me.

From Google satellite images there is now a car dealership where the house was.

This picture was taken in the yard. The barn is on the left. I am in the middle on Omite's lap


Guest Appearance

Lyla and Tracy have two cats Precious and Kakis (pronounced kachis). Precious is friendly, likes to be around people and is always underfoot blending in with the oriental rugs. Kakis, on the other hand, is rarely seen and if you do see her she is a blur because she is trying to get as far away from you as fast as possible. That is until lately. At a recent event at Lyla's Kakis actually was in the same room as us for a short time and when she ran away up the stairs it was in stages. And then 2 weeks ago Kakis showed up during our video chat!



Neighborhood News:
There has been a farmers' market sponsored by the city of DC set up about a block away from our building on Saturdays. The first week there was one stand. The next week there was also a bakery. This week there were three stands, a bakery and someone selling jewelry. This is from the first week.


And speaking of vegetables Joe made a wonderful salsa verde recently. The main ingredients are tomatillos, avocado, and jalapeno peppers.


And speaking of wonderful food I went to dinner with dance friends Brooke and Dana just after my birthday and Brooke brought cupcakes! Here's Brooke and Dana and Dana's dog Pico.


4th of July 2009

On Friday we took a 20 mile bike ride out in Virginia. It was a beautiful day. Early on we stopped so I could take a picture. I liked the mimosa tree and wildflowers next to Four-Mile Run under the power lines.


Apparently I hit the shoot button as I put my iPhone back into the mesh pocket on the back of my jersey. When I got home and transferred my pictures I found this picture of the trail:


And here's another picture of mesh I took from my office desk last week. A grasshopper stopped by for a visit.


June 2009 events

Catching up with family after my vacation. Graeme was in town for a visit and to visit colleges. Zita took care of the colleges and Lyla, Austin and I took care of the entertainment.

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Crab Cakes, steamed shrimp and banana splits at Austin & William's place last week

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Fun at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival over the weekend

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A nice visit with Chris and Gail this week.

Fun with a llama

The last day in Cusco I set up PhotoBooth outside the sound and lighting booth and got pictures of the tech guys and then of all the dancers with a giant llama used in another show that was backstage. The music is an old Peruvian folk song that is used in one of Dana's dances and that the tech guys danced to every time they heard it.

Lima - this is a long one

Tuesday, June 9 - Sunday, June 14:

After our trip to the theater after our arrival we took cabs to the Pacific ocean which was about 20 blocks away. We walked through a nice park on a cliff above the ocean. We saw the huge statue of Christ in the distance and the surfers in wet suits just ~200 ft below us. We walked to a nice shopping mall where we ate dinner. I had tiradito, a less fussy ceviche dish that one of the embassy employees had told us about. It was quite good.


From Cusco to Lima we flew over the Andes Mountains and then as we were landing in Lima at sea level we passed some fishing boats - maybe catching the fish for my tiradito. Here's the group that went for the walk along the coast. The bright blob in the background is the statue of Christ.

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Here is our hotel, which was adequate but not nearly as nice as the one in Cusco- outside, inside and the lovely view

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Some scenes around our hotel. We stayed in the Miraflores area of Lima which is a nice residential area. It was safe to walk alone in the day but not at night.


After out first night in Lima when I got almost a full 8 hours of sleep bedtime became later and later. After opening night we went to a Chinese Restaurant with Embassy folks and the director of the dance festival and as we were leaving we passed a Casino so we played slots for about an hour. Susan, who you see playing here, actually made some money. Everyone else lost everything although I don't think anyone played more than $5.00. Then we met up with Dana and went to a gay bar called BoBo Bar and danced for a while.


After the Friday night performance we went to the Embassy Public Affairs Officer beautiful house for a nice dinner party. Dana has some wonderful friends in Peru and they were invited as well. After this party many of us went to a lesbian bar called Twin Life. In this picture you see fashion designer Miragolas, lighting designer Qui Que, his girlfriend Desiree, then Mecho, who helped me navigate the huge computer mall and has a great sense of humor (Miragolas is his girlfriend), Richard from MIT and dancer Shu Chen. Dana's love interest, a Japanese Peruvian guy named Johan who is also very nice, is in the back behind Desiree.

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Saturday we went on a city tour with a guide. We went to a museum of ancient artifacts, the main square and then to the catacombs under the Church of San Francisco used for burials and a hiding space from pirates, Unfortunately we could not take any pictures in the church (last picture).


I think it was Saturday that the techies - Sara, Susan, Richard and I - performed a dance we choreographed mostly using dance movements that we liked from Dana's choreography. We used the laundrymat song from Dr. Horrible's Video Blog and it lasted two minutes. The company thoroughly enjoyed it and hopefully I can get a video of it from one of the dancers. This picture is from Miyako's collection.

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Saturday night was the final performance and afterwards we went to a really nice restaurant near the hotel where I ate ravioli and a cappuccino parfait (ice cream). Then the whole company went back to Twin Life bar. That night it was packed and very loud so we mostly sat on the sofas outside what I would call a dance cavern and people watched while drinking our favorite Cusquena beer.

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Sunday was the day for shopping, which I had done none of in Lima, and leaving. The best shopping we were told was at the Inca Market about 7 blocks from the hotel. And it was. The goods ranged from cheap trinkets and silly tshirts to beads to textiles to religious art to fine silver jewelry. You had to do a little bit of bargaining but not too much. I found prices were pretty consistent for the same goods in the various stores. Sara was good at finding the unusual stuff in Cusco and she did the same in Lima. I bought some nice things from the guy in the rust colored scarf. I like the way he sort of blends in with his wares. From the market we went and at falafel at an Arab-Peruvian restaurant.

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Before heading to the airport we piled into 4 taxis and had a scary crazy ride to Tati's parents beautiful home for snacks and dessert. Tati's mother served all sorts of unusual fruit desserts and wonderful cakes and pisco rum, straight up. For some reason my favorite was the relatively bland but delicious artichoke salad tea sandwich.

Tourist police

So it was a great trip. Dana's dancers are all great to travel with - fun and no drama. There were a couple of illnesses and mishaps. Sarah the dancer had a stomach flu after the Cusco performance but was well agin by the first Lima performance. Richard the MIT student had some stomach pains the first morning in Lima and as a precaution Dana sent him to the Anglo-Peruvian Hospital where they discovered he had appendicitis. He was operated on that night and two days later was back to normal. The Embassy staff was very helpful in getting him the best care possible. Sara from MIT had her purse stolen in a restaurant. We were all sitting in a group of tables around hers and saw nothing. They were good. Her passport and iPhone were stolen and she and Dana stayed a extra day in Lima to get everything settled. The police were very responsive and helpful but alas the thief was long gone. I had a cold and lost a red alpaca scarf that I had bought in Machu Picchu. But luckily Dana found it at the BoBo bar the last night we were there. He had become friends with the doorman. He was also a good friend of the owner of Twin Life by the time we left.

I would definitely go to Peru again in a heartbeat. I need to see more of Lima and some of the more ancient archeological sites in Peru. I would also love spending more time with Dana's amazing friends from Lima.


After our trip to the embassy we all visited the theater to meet with the technical crew and set up some equipment. The theater was in a heavily guarded school (most homes and buildings are heavily guarded in Lima) that specializes in English language learning - The Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano. Dana did some interviews with local press. I believe it was during this time that Susan and Sara and I discovered the local cafeteria that sold empanadas and Dunkin Donuts. We visited there a lot over the next couple of days.

Here are some press sites:
more pictures

Some shots around the school and theater:

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Dana being interviewed for a local dance blog


Ceasar and Fernando were part of the theater crew. These guys were great.

Diplomatic Affairs

Lima is a huge city!

We arrived Tuesday morning and after settling into the hotel (which is sparse but has the most important amenity - wireless) Dana, Sara, Connie and I were whisked away by a cultural attache named Jose Carlos to the US embassy to meet the ambassador. Security was very tight but once inside it was just like any other office building, except that there were certain elevators we were not allowed to use. There was an official photographer waiting with the ambassador to take our picture as soon as we walked in which was fun. He sent me the picture which was great. It is so much better than anything I could do.

We talked to the ambassador for about 20 minutes about dance, movies, arts funding, real estate in Washington and the unrest in the north of Peru. He said he was planning to attend the performance Thursday, which he did. I stood next to one of the secret service men during the performance. There was one situated on either side of the audience and then several outside the entrance to the theater.


Here's the impressive embassy building from the outside:

Last days in Cusco

Sunday, June 7 & Monday, June 9

The performance in Cusco went really well. There were about 150 in the audience which was better than we expected. I hung out in the tech booth most of the day with the theater lighting and sound guys who were all fun as well as professional.



Again on the way to the theater there was all sorts of stuff going on. There have been protests due to the unrest in the amazon area so there was a strong police presence and then there was some sort of typical Sunday morning parade.

I had a very good trout ceviche for lunch.


After the performance we had Pisco sours and food at a children's themed restaurant. We had fun with hats. After that we went to a bar and danced the night away.


On Monday several of us went to the church of Santa Domingo, a Spanish church built on top of an Incan temple. There was a interesting museum of large religious oil painting which were used to teach the Incas the ways of Christianity. The gardens were also lovely and the inside of the church - where photography was not involved - was filled with wonderful paintings and statues. On the way to the church we paid to take pictures with two women with farm animals.


After leaving the church we walked down another typical Incan stone wall street and came across a small. This is where I made my first purchase of beads. The saleswoman's little girl was cute but a bit shy.


Lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich with fries and a beer with coco leaf flavoring. I would never have it again but I am glad I tried it. Note the funny color of the ketchup.

We spent our last night in Cusco at a big handicraft market. We saw a lot of the same stuff we had seen at other markets but I did buy some gifts. Dana helped me get the best price. After the market we ate some pretty decent Mexican food

Machu Picchu

Early Saturday morning we took a van to a train station and a 4 hour train ride down to a town called Agua Calientes (Hot Springs) 8000ft above sea level. From there we took a 30 minute trip up to Machu Picchu where we will had a two hour guided tour of the Inca ruins. We stayed until around 5:00 and got home about 9:00. It was a amazing trip.

The Incas built the site around 1400 AD and abandoned it about 100 years later. Walking around the site we really had a sense of what it had been like living in this isolated small area surrounded by huge mountains. Our guide was good. I had read most of the information in the travel book but she provided that information and more. It was a beautiful sunny day, around 70 degrees. Everyone who went was glad they did. It was not cheap but it was worth it.

We had to take a train and a van home. On the train there was entertainment which was scary and cheesy. One of the conductors dressed up and wore a mask that was a little clown and a lot scary (I had a nightmare about him that night and cringe when I see the mask in the markets) Then there was a fashion show featuring alpaca wool garments. You were of course encouraged to buy the garments. The van ride was nice because we drove through small villages and saw some of the night life. There was a parade on the highway that seemed a bit dangerous. The stars were bright which was unusual because the moon was almost as bright as the sun. If the moon had not been up the stars would have been absolutely amazing. The moon made it possible to see the snow on the mountain peaks.

Some sites on the way to Machu Picchu. I took the picture of the outside of the train from the bathroom. Shu-Chen, Ricardo and I posed for Ricardo's camera at a train stop.

The cute but touristy town of Agua Caliente (we actually had a nice meal there before returning). The man sitting next to me on the train was a Spaniard who works for the cell phone company - Telefonica. He was very nice and gave us some good places to visit in Lima. I took his picture next to a Telefonica ad.


Looking down at Machu Picchu at the start of our tour. Katie and Sarah had been encouraged to pose this way when they visited the pyramids in Egypt. We insisted that the do the same here.
Tati and I posed as we did in a similar setting in India. Sarah and Susan from MIT. Susan had bought a new SLR camera cheap the day before and was very excited to use it. Tati and Miyako both protected from the sun.
Florain, Miyako and Shu-Chen strike some dance poses.
Fun with Llamas.

The train ride home. Tell me that guy isn't scary! I took the last picture while waiting for the van at the last train stop.


Friday, June 6

Good news: my altitude sickness is gone and we are all in the same hotel - the good one.

We went to the theater Saturday morning to continue the technical setup for the show (which is Sunday). The technical crew at the theater Josse, Fidel, Luco, William - are all lots of fun even with the language barrier. Two of the MIT group speak spanish fairly well so we are managing. After the tech setup we all went out for pizza and beer.

In the afternoon we all went to a travel agency and paid for our tickets to Machu Picchu, did a little shopping, went to the market that is very near the theater to buy baskets (we could not transport the props for one of the dance pieces so bought substitutes here).

Later in the hotel lobby we worked on the music for the new piece with the various audio/video software we had. We needed to incorporate some poem readings by one of the dancers Shu-Chen into the music, timing it with video and adjusting the levels of the music so she could be heard. While working we ate our dinner - beef and chicken jerky, nuts and fruit, Twix bars, starbursts, beer and coco tea..



On Sesame Street there was a cool little cartoon and song about finding your way back home by noting the landmarks. I have thought about that a lot as I go back and forth from hotel to theater. The above pictures are sight on the way to the theater up the hill, through the Santa Clara arch, past the sewing shop to the Kusikay Theater. On the way there are many people who approach me with flyers for restaurants, entertainment, etc. We have started collecting ones for massages.

In the last picture in front of the theater you see Dana, dancers Kelly, Miyako, Florian, Ricardo, then Sara and Richard from MIT, Enrique the lighting designer from Lima, Susan from MIT, Luco the sound guy from Cusco

Dana buying baskets at the market and the group working on sound and eating junk food

Tomorrow, Machu Picchu!

Cusco - first day

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

The Washington contingent left around 8:15pm June 3 (almost 2 hours late due to storms) and now four planes later we're finally here. We almost did not make the last flight due to some customs issues involving a $10,000 projector (bought at a discount for $5000) but we did make it with Dana being the last person on just before the doors were shut. There are 16 of us total - 5 technical people (that includes me, a lighting designer from Lima and 3 video and sound experts from MIT, Boston), 10 dancers and one girlfriend. When we arrived in Cusco there was a band of Andean musicians playing for us and lots of people trying to sell us something.

Cusco, (11,000ft above sea level) is a beautiful town nestled in the Andes mountains. There are narrow steep stone streets, big plazas, and again lots of locals trying to sell us something. We are split into two hotels and the techies and one of the dancers, Ricardo, are the lucky ones. We are in Casa Andina, a modern hotel with hot water, internet access, free breakfast and a good location. The other hotel has only occasional hot water.

I am suffering from altitude sickness - head ache and a little nausea. It probably did not help that we ate some absolutely delicious but rich food and drank local beer at a place called the Inca Grill and then walked up to the theatre 10 blocks away and then made the round to trip again to get DVDs and other equipment for a tech run through. I went to sleep at 9:00pm and missed a nice meal at a tea shop. I have been drinking coco leaf tea which is supposed to help but although it is differently delicious I am not sure it is having any effect.

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The Cusco airport and the tech crew - Richard, me, Sara, Susan, Enrique (AKA Batman)

Our hotel room/internet cafe (Sara and Susan)

The views from our hotel room. The main plaza is to the right where the churches are.
The stone foundations you see here and which are all over the city are from the Incan era.
The Spaniards built on top of them.

The main plaza and my Andean trout/potato dinner - our hotel is off to the right of this church

Incas, Dragons and Finches

Happy Birthday, Lenore!!

I am off to Peru next Wednesday with Dana and his dancers and am very excited. We will visit 2 cities - Cusco and Lima. From Cusco we will take a ay trip to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, 8000 ft above sea level. I am looking forward to seeing architecture from both the Inca civilization and Spanish invasion, good Peruvian food, Pisco sours (too bad we wont be there for National Pisco Sour Day). My only concerns are altitude sickness, pickpockets and my spanish speaking skills, which are probably at a pre-school level. I will try to blog but I don't know how easy it will be to find internet access.

Recent activities:

Lyla, Tracy and I headed down to the Potomac River to watch the Washington Dragon Boat Festival. We met up with Golden but we were not able to stay to see him race.

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The dragon boats launched in front of the Watergate and Kennedy Center.

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Here are boats racing heading to the right and returning to the launch are going left. Lyla, Tracy and Golden hanging out.

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Web-footed and non habit-wearing spectators (I think they are nuns).

I usually would have planted flowers on my balcony by now but the weather has not been that pleasant. I do have some rosemary and marjoram that Zita gave me when Lyla, Tracy and I spent last Saturday working in her garden so that's a great start. But the upside of a late planting is that the birds have been stopping by to grab some of my dead twigs from last year's garden to build there nests. One day last week purple finch couple foraged through one of the planters:

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My car passed DC inspection this past week!


Saints and Angels

It's been raining a lot so when cabin fever hit I decided it was time to get all the pictures back up our bedroom wall (Joe painted the bedroom last July). I had acquired some new pictures so there was some re-arranging to do. I think it turned out well. It's nice to all the stuff I've been collecting over the years that still mean something to me.

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This wall has it all - aliens, japanese art, visionary art, Latvian textiles, a little mirror, a clipping from a New Yorker magazine circa 1979 and a crude little sculpture of St. Anthony. I have rejected most of my Catholic School upbringing except for praying to St Anthony when I have lost something. It seems to work most of the time. The exception is a DVD of Swades, the Bollywood movie that was filmed at my workplace. Did I lend it to any of you?

Coincidentally, Lenore sent me a photo of a painting of St Anthony circa 1485.

New Latvian wood carving from Santa.

Another Latvian wood carving and decoupage from the 70's. A Hong Kong movie poster, a fish print from Tracy and a paper cutout from Tree.

Last night I attended Dana's concert at the Smithsonian. A work-in-progress of his new piece Island , based on the stories of Angel Island, was performed My friend Sara did the video using really cool technology that she has access to in her work at MIT. When the full piece is shown in the fall the video projection will be from above. Here are some fuzzy pictures I took during tech and the actual performance. (The red lights were not part of the new piece).

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Early Summer

I am sure it will cool down again before it gets really hot but the last two days have been very warm, in the 90s. The air-conditioning has not been turned on yet so these last couple of days remind me of my high school days when my parents decided that an attic fan was enough to cool a big house full of sweaty kids. Actually I am liking it. I could not live without air-conditioning but I would like to live with less of it.

And most of the time I love sleeping with the windows open. This morning though, not so much. At 6:30 am a honking duck woke me up. It went on and on. I finally got up and looked out of the window. The pool 15 floors down had just been uncovered this week in preparation for a Memorial Day weekend opening. In the yucky murky green water of the pool were two ducks and on the deck was a black cat, probably licking his lips although I can't be sure. The one duck was very alarmed. It was a great "Peter and the Wolf" moment. I wanted to yell down "Hey, the cat can't swim and you can fly" but I suspected that would have little effect so I went back to bed and covered my ears. The honking eventually stopped. Joe was up already documenting the situation.


Family Update from the Midwest:

Dianne sent me photos from the Sheridan Family. Here's Emma Skye and her younger brother Leo and Dianne's lovely Easter dinner table.

Dianne, anytime you are with Austin and you see a antique store Austin is already in there checking out the Fiesta ware.
Thanks for the pix!



Last weekend my friend Gail married Chris her fiance of 6 years (he asked her to marry him on their second date) in a beautiful ceremony in a historic home in Georgetown. The best moment was when the familiar "Here Comes the Bride" music faded out and Etta James' "At Last" faded in as Gail walked down the aisle. I know all of Gail's friends have said "At last" at least once since hearing they had set a date. It was great to see old friends and family. Gail and Chris as well as Austin, William, Lyla and Tracy were featured in last week's Picture of the Week. Here are some more pictures.

For the rehearsal Chris brought a bird decoration to represent the real birds that live with them. Nobody would have been surprised if the real birds had shown up at the ceremony.

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A wonderful singer sang "At Last" again for the first dance. Lyla and I gave a toast from the entire McDonald family (photo taken by the wedding photographer).

Easter at Austin & William's

Lamb curry, mushrooms, salad, bread, red and orange pepper gravy, cupcakes, soup, hot cross buns - all delish.


Spring 2009

It's that time of infrequent but welcome warm days preceded and followed by rainy, cold, windy ones made tolerant only by bright colorful early spring flowers. We took a nice walk around the neighborhood recently starting at our buildings loading dock where we saw some soggy old discarded pictures on the ground.

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We headed over to the embassy area whre the cherry blossoms and daffodils were in bloom.

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The National Cathedral can be see through the treetops in this last picture.

Movie reviews

Stranger Than Fiction:
A story of a man who starts hearing a voice narrating his life and realizes that he is a character in a book and that he is going to die in the end. It was nice to see Will Farrell in something a little more thoughtful that his usual comedies. He was delightfully subtle and the movie was a nice combination of quirky and surreal.

Rachel Getting Married: Wow! I found this movie about dysfunction during a family wedding very powerful and moving. The directing was a little self indulgent but I liked all the activity/cameos/camera angles and the story and the performances of the main characters were amazing. The father is played by Bill Irwin who was a performance artist/clown/mime in the 90's. He did a great job in the movie but it was fun to see small glimpses of his past career in some of his body language. I have to say Anne Hathaway did an surprisingly good job as a recovering alcoholic.

It Came in the Mail

Nothing like coming home from work and noticing a 12 inch tall TV action figure known for his focused loyalty to his country as much as for his equal-opportunity torture tactics pointing a gun at you. So we now have Jack Bauer as part of our home security system (which otherwise consists of 2 door locks and a chain and a ton of dust that would disable any perpetrator suffering from allergies - that's you, Austin).

Here are some pictures showing his scale as well as a glamour shot in front of the box he arrived in.

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jack bauer glamour shot

24 has been pretty good this season - much better than last season. I like the new characters but there is not enough of Chloe pouting and sneering at her computer sending Jack the immediate information he needs to get the job done.

We are also watching season one of Battlestar Galactica and it is amazing. I was afraid it would be too Star Trek franchisey but it has a great balance of sci-fi, drama and romance - nothing cheesey about it.

We are still enjoying season one of Flight of the Conchords - it can be a bit silly but the songs the two kiwi boys in the band sing every episode are always good and their clueless manager Murray is always entertaining.

NY Subway Rumblings

I went on another short trip to NYC this week. I drove up with Dana and Judy, the costume designer, on Tuesday. The few times I have been to NY I have taken the train so I saw different view going into the city. I could see the Statue of Liberty and the sight of planes taking off at Newark airport right next to the highway was impressive. We stayed in spartan digs in one of the NYU dorms in West Village which are adequate. The rumble of the subway underneath disturbed my sleep a bit but I still enjoyed the image of trains speeding directly below through ancient dark moist cavern like this. After we arrived Dana and I went to a thrift store in the basement of nearby St. Luke's church and then had coffee in a cute little cafe (much nicer and cheaper than Starbucks). I bought a great purse and suede skirt at the thrift store at definite bargain basement prices.

Wednesday we were in the theater most of the day. I was mostly responsible for doing the sound and video checks with the technical staff. I was able to take some time off to walk around Washington Square and East Village. The performance went well - there was a good crowd. After getting all the props back to the dorm Connie (dancer), Sara (set designer), Yao (board member, fashion designer) and I went to a 24 hour diner on Bleecker St. When I hear "Bleecker Street" I think cool bohemian cafes a la Joni Mitchell. This place was not anything like that but it was open. I was in bed by 1:00 am.

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tech rehearsal shots

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dress rehearsal shots

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At the coffee shop and the 24 hour diner

Recent Past

Well, Austin updated his blog before I did so I must have been gone a long time. So hopefully I'll make up for my prolonged absence with lots of content.

First, I added pictures from Lynda's party on the main Web page. Austin was responsible for some of those pictures. Lynda's party was a blast. She and my mother planned a perfect 50th birthday party and us worker bees did a great job with the furniture moving, cake, drink, music, entertainment. BoBo, a local Edisto caterer, did the party food (he and his wife are sleeping in the Photo Booth video). Here are some pictures that Dell took of the fun.

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Note the fingernail polish. I had my first ever professional manicure that morning.

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And now, going back in time, here are pictures from my Christmas at Washington Hospital Center and Williamsburg. It wasn't clear at first whether Austin would be able to join us after his quadruple bypass surgery but he managed to get out on good behaviour. And it was a treat to have William with us. Lenore's and possibly Austin's pictures are included.


Next I would like to document a weather and time related disaster that occurred on my balcony. Sad.

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Before and after.

And here are some recent pictures. I took some during our walk today in the very light snow. We are supposed to get a lot more snow tonight.

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A new fountain at the condo building next door and some pretty blue pots with matching shutters a couple of street over.

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Again from the condo building next door.

From Dana's party at a bar near his house. Lots of fun.

Portraits from a Party

Here is a preview of Lynda’s 50th Birthday Party of the Century:

Todd, NC

I took a quick trip to Todd, NC just outside of Boone over the MLK weekend to visit with Susan, Hunter, Andrea from Todd and David and Susan from Atlanta and Lane and James from DC. We stayed in Susan’s old house heated mostly by a big wood-powered stove in the living room. We were very comfortable - all those bodies probably helped. We took a nice long walk around Susan’s house, watched some movies but mostly ate, drank and talked. Since I missed this summer’s beach trip it was nice to be all together again.

And you bet I took some pictures: