Saturday, April 30, 2016

Impressions of America

Now that we’ve got the big stuff out of the way, it’s time to talk about the minutia of our visit.

This happened before we got to the US, but I wanted to share it with you.
Heathrow airport: still the best place to get a £2,45 ($4.16) glass of water.
Fist off, we arrived just after the biggest snowstorm of the season. That sounds bad until you consider that they’d had an unnaturally warm and snow-free winter. Still, it was a significant amount, but by the time we arrived, it was all but gone.

That was all the snow I saw; and all I wanted to see.
And, although I complained about the weather, it was actually very nice most of the time we were there.

One of the things that impressed me was Whoopers. Whoopers are the US equivalent of the UK Malteser. They are both about the size of a large marble, have a brown confection coating and a crunchy malt middle. That is where the comparison ends, however. I used to love Whoopers, but when I tried one while I was there, I found they tasted like chemicals. Then I read the label and found out why.

Where's the chocolate?
Nothing resembling chocolate comes anywhere near a Whooper during its creation. The ingredients for Maltesers start with “Milk Chocolate 75%…” Taste the difference.

I was happy to see that the Americans are as loopy over adult coloring books as the Brits. I think it’s a fine idea, but I’m not going to pick one up until I see a “Color by Numbers” coloring book.

They were, as in Britain, everywhere.
Twice—once when I went to visit my brother out in East Batshit and again when we went to Cooperstown—I came upon 4-lane highways out in the middle of nowhere with not another car anywhere in sight.

It didn’t surprise me that there were no other cars around, after all, we were out in the middle of nowhere. What surprised me was that they had built a 4-lane highway out in the middle of nowhere. Still, it was a welcome change from the congestion endemic to southern England.

As mentioned above, we visited Cooperstown, but we did NOT go to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead, we visited the Farmer’s Museum and the Fenimore Art Gallery. Both were spectacular. And the Farmer’s Museum had the Cardiff Giant!

Don't know about the Cardiff Giant? Look it up; it's a fascinating story.
In Newark Airport, and in a Friendlies Restaurant in East Greenbush, of all places, I came across something very disturbing: every table, every seat at the bar, every space at the counter, had a computer screen. You could not go in and not stare at a computer, which invited you to spend money on a number of diversions. I fervently hope this practice does not spread, but I am afraid it is inevitable.

If you don't want to stare at a computer screen, then you can't get anything to eat or drink.
And this is why I don’t want it to spread—we’re already too attached to computers as it is:

My Grandboys.
My friend's boys, when we were over for a visit.
We did, however, enjoy spending time with the grandchildren, which was, after all, the main reason for the trip. We were introduced to the Granddaughter—already 8 months old—and reacquainted with the G-boys—now aged 5 and (in six more days) 4. And we were finally able to give them their Christmas presents from 2015.

The theme for that year was the Battle of Hastings. (This year it's Shakespeare. We’re going to make British history scholars out of those kids if it’s the last thing we do.) To accomplish this, we gave them shields, swords and an altered version of the Bayuex Tapestry.

Not bad for an old pair of trousers and some Elmer's glue.
The swords were bought at the gift shop in Battle Abbey. The shields were made by my wife, who cut up an old pair of trousers, painted them with acrylic, painted over that with a solution of water and PVA glue and then waxed it. The result was a stiff material, much like leather. This was put into quilting hoops and studded with brass tacks.

Okay, so it not really a tapestry.
Random scene. You have no idea how long it took to do this.
The tapestries (I did one for each boy) were made on scrap paper that came as packaging in a box from Amazon. I painted the paper with tea to make it look old (I didn’t have to do anything to make it look beat up; it came that way) and then transferred images onto it that I downloaded from the Internet and fudged about with on Photoshop. Then I took colored pens and filled the images in with hash marks to make them look like sewing.

The man-hours to complete the tapestry were phenomenal. And then, when I finished, I had to make another.

Mitch pretty much ignored his tapestry in favor of the sword and shield (really, wouldn’t you?) but Charlie was fascinated by his. He spent hours unrolling it, then releasing the end and letting it roll up.

Amazing what will amuse kids.
But at least they got some enjoyment out of them.

I just hope they like the Shakespeare books half as much.

Mitch, Charlie and Reagan (yes, after the President).


  1. I don't mean to be rude but there's no way I would let young kids sit around on screens like that. It's quite sad.