Category Archives: All 50 States

State #21, Oklahoma, the Lord of the Plains

ok-entrance-sign.jpgI first visited Oklahoma in 2009 to visit some friends from deployment. The Will Rogers Airport is one of those small gemlike airports (like El Paso, Texas, KCMO and Arcata, California): perfectly sized and breathtakingly easy to navigate. Let’s give it up for small cities’ airports. Driving down from Kansas City is also pleasant. After miles of blue horizon, Oklahoma City leaps up, incongruous against the grassland and the shining occasional streams.

On the adobe Paseo, I bought a bracelet. Someone had reimagined common items by taking a 100-year-old Mah Jong chip domino, stitched it to a snip of leather from a worn belt, and making a wrist cuff. Isn’t that all of us? Reimagined? In Colorado, I saw petrified shatters of a 34-million-year-old redwood stump from which sprouted a modern, living pine tree. Dinosaurs become birds, ferns petroleum, Chinese games jewelry. The plain shudders off the buffalo and sprouts skyscrapers: Devon Tower, Chase Tower, First National Center. And of course the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. I think it’s important to reflect upon these gravestones to tragedy. By the contrast, we appreciate inhabiting the land of the living a little more.

The plains states have a huge seasonal shift in temperature, and they are surprisingly steamy in the summer. I kayaked on one of the rivers, where a cottonmouth was skimming across the surface in a surreal zigzag. Who knew snakes could swim? It felt so good to come inside from the sun and humidity to the vestibule of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art where an enormous Chihuly icicle cooled the eyes.

If I had to pick one Oklahoman to profile, it would be Quanah Parker, the last Comanche chief (though by birth  he was a Texan). In 1836, Comanches raided Fort Parker (near present day Groesbeck, Texas) and carried off nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker. She was raised by Comanches and married a chief: Quanah was her only child to reach adulthood. The settlers recaptured Cynthia, against her will, and long after she had made a home among the Comanches and considered them her people. First her baby daughter Prairie Flower died, and Cynthia herself sickened and died –some say of a broken heart.

All his life, Quanah walked in two worlds. He was one of the most talented war chiefs and led the “Lords of the Plains” in the final battles against the encroaching US Army. Seeing that the settlers had superior weapons and more personnel, he negotiated a treaty. He then turned his skills from war to business, and enriched the Comanches by charging cattle ranchers to graze their herds on his territory. He became a friend of President Teddy Roosevelt, lobbied Congress, and fought to retain Comanche heritage and culture in a changed world. His memory lives on, cherished by numerous descendants, as this very busy man took seven wives and produced 24 children. He is buried in Fort Sill, Okla., next to his beloved mother. If the road takes you to Cache, Okla., visit Quanah’s Star House, as it has fallen into ill repair.

Quanah Parker went from the Stone Age through the Industrial Revolution in one lifetime. His life is an example that however we started, we need to adapt to constant change. But the earth is to some extent a closed system. Things change form, fade and shine, but nothing ever disappears into nonexistence.

That’s my take on the Sooner State. Next up, Kansas (One of the Many Places to Claim) the Gateway to the West!

Side note: Oklahoma’s state poem, suspiciously, has been 404’d.

IMG_4781
Me!

Corey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

State #20, Arkansas, Scuba Diving and American Beaux Arts

Riddle me this, where can you combine diving and visiting a flamboyant arts community, including a parade with a crocheted fire truck? Key West, right? Could be. But if you want to combine those experiences with a haunted hotel that was once a sanitarium –you’ll have to look to the land of Waltons and Clintons.

Crocheted Firetruck, Eureka Springs 2016
Admit it, you thought I invented the crocheted firetruck detail out of whole cloth, didn’t you?

Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to be exact. One of the multifold beauties of travel is that it challenges you to rethink your preconceptions. Northern Arkansas is green, peaceful and offers hot springs and cool freshwater diving. Visit the Crescent Hotel , whether you stay, take the truly gruesome Crescent Ghost Tour , or relax in the New Moon Spa. The remodeled spa is actually just down the hall from a morgue; you see, the hotel had a past life as a sanitarium run by a notorious and actually murderous quack: Norman Baker). More history on the Crescent Hotel; thankfully it is again a beautiful hotel, and not a sanitarium decorated in purple and gold.

While I didn’t stay at the Crescent Hotel, I enjoyed the Inn at Rose Hall, owned and operated by Mill Valley emigrés. Check out the Grotto and (Literal) Wine Cave that has seating by an actual cave.  Cave restaurants must be a thing in this part of the world.

On to the Northern Arkansas diving: Beaver Lake has a dive park north of the dam. A beautiful park all around. Nota bene: bring dive shoes with treads as the smooth rock formations at the entrance are slick and slippery. If you need gear or practice in a heated pool, C and J Sports can provide both.

IMG_2648
Diving: it saves you a bar tab! (To be honest, I wish we could tell you it was a wild night at the dive shop… but the cork had leaked, so I am afraid all I had for my efforts was a bottle of  Patron Lakewater.)

After you’ve dived Beaver Lake, if Eureka Springs has only whetted your appetite for art, you can drive west on U.S. Highway 62 to the small town of Bentonville, about 30 miles from the Oklahoma border and home to the only art museum in the nation since 1977 to be founded with a major endowment (a major endowment is defined as more than $200 million –Crystal Bridges had $350 million).

IMG_3984

Crystal Bridges is an inversion of what you would expect to find in green and rolling ArkHoma. Alice Walton, heir to that purveyor of globalized goods, gave this part of the nation a museum to display four centuries of American art. The museum is forever free to the public.

IMG_3977

I walked through the galleries in reverse chronological order, which is probably a statement on how I apperceive existence, but for the purpose of this writing was a cool way to appreciate this collection. My retrospective began in the late 20th century, with cowpats of melted aluminum and an oddly poignant oblong of green candies.

IMG_3972
“Untitled” by Felix Gonzales-Torres, 1991.

You could interact with the died-young artist by taking a candy and eating it, which was intended to show both transience and regeneration. It seems that non-representative art needs contextualization; part of its meaning is its point on the x-axis of technical development and the intellectual background of its creator.

IMG_3973
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! “Landscape” by Mark Tansey. 1994.

Traveling into the past, art becomes more representative. Portraits meld from abstract to glowingly representative to flat and cracked. Landscapes unscroll from steaming and industrial through mythic representations of the West to the primitive use of placing things in the background above the foreground to show distance.

IMG_3979
“Blackwell’s Island.” Edward Hopper, 1928.

Crystal Bridges makes a statement about the universality of fine art. Hundreds of millions of dollars of beaux arts are displayed here, in a small Ozark town of trees and country roads, free for all to admire, rather than sequestering sculpture and paintings in the echoing mausoleums of a megalopolis.

IMG_3996
“The Old Arrow Maker.” Edmonia Lewis, 1872. 

I liked the interaction of form and content in the above marble, an artistic medium developed by empires dead for centuries. The content is people who, like the Etruscans, came under an empire.

img_3946
A guest book at a wedding? Directions to the next way station? A “No Trespassing Sign?”

Finally, I visited some indigenous art work, not contained by Crystal Bridges and south of Fayetteville. Before there was U.S. Highway 71, people were travelling by foot and leaving their version of road signs and blogs. The “Indian Shelter” is a natural scoop in the rock along a trail in the modern day Ozark National ForestOzark National Forest. It’s unmarked and underneath a winding mountain road. Where exactly? You’ll have to ask the owner of the Locke Mountain Cabins –I can’t give out all the secrets in one blog post!

 

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

State #19, Ohio Takes Flight

OH sign
As we know, the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland…

I put Ohio next to Pennsylvania and not Michigan for a reason. There is some contention as to Ohio’s regional classification: some say it doesn’t belong to that nebulously defined conglomerate of the “Midwest” as it is next to Pennsylvania –but like West Virginia it can’t be Mid Atlantic as it has no coastline, and it can’t be in the South as it was on the Union side during the War between the States –though Cincinnati for its own inscrutable reasons has placed its airport across the river in Kentucky.

Ohio may be the gateway to the Midwest, but it feels more eastern to me.

My most recent contact with the Buckeye State was a robocall from the charmingly named Chagrin Falls, Ohio. (440.999.8019 for the record.) I didn’t answer the robocall, but I did research the village. Debate on the origin of its name is ongoing, but the prominent theory espoused by historical markers posits “Chagrin” is a corruption of “Seguin,” the name of an early French explorer. Seguin is also a city in Texas, pronounced “su-GEEN,” because that’s how they do it in those parts.

dsc_0011
Chagrin is a village near Cleveland.

Having been a Michigander, most of my involvement with Ohio involves the northern rim of cities: Toledo and Cleveland, and Dayton further south and center.

Toledo has a fanatical love for its native Mud Hens, which is my favorite ball team name of all time. In fact, I knew a Toledo Soldier who planned his mid-deployment leave from Iraq around Mud Hens Opening Day. He had been to opening day for 24 years, and wasn’t going to let a war on the other side of the globe deter him. I admire this level of dedication. Should you venture to Toledo, in war time or in time of peace, check out the fried pickles at Corporal Klinger’s favorite restaurant.

You may be able to trace the interstate animosity between Ohio and its northern neighbor not to the Michigan-Ohio State game, but to the Great Toledo War. Truthfully, more people have been killed as a result of the football game, and the latter is usually much more exciting. Though falling far short of 20th century thermonuclear threat standard, the Toledo War did involve at least one barroom stabbing. The stabber had the wonderful name of “Two Stickney,” and in response to the stab heard around Maumee River, Michigan marched on Toledo with a fairly formidable force of 1,200. Thankfully, the federal government in the form of President Andrew Jackson intervened before there could be more bloodshed. Ohio kept Toledo, and Michigan got the Upper Peninsula. And the Michigan-Ohio State game still rages…

Cleveland is not your grandma’s flaming Cuyahoga. The Cleveland Museum of Art is an eminence gris housing world class collections that vary from British Portrait Miniatures to Islamic art. I remember visiting the CMA in high school, walking an endless glass aisle of Grecian urns (perhaps even some with odes) and realizing, this is how we all end up: our daily lives will be collated, archived, curated, and the amphorae of olive oil and Dell laptops will one day be glassed in and explained by placards. Where will we then be?

OH also in Cleveland
Also in Cleveland
I visited Dayton, Ohio, in 2016. My cousins wanted to see the musical version of “Lion King,” itself an animated and be-animalled version of Hamlet. Dayton was once the home of National Cash Register. The University of Dayton benefited from its demise due to structural unemployment, differently from the benefit of structural employment in algorithms that today positively affects a few people in the San Jose/Los Gatos area.

About eight months after our Ohio visit, my mom noticed a vintage Dayton NCR machine displayed at the Schulenburg, Texas, Sausage Fest. (Yes, this is a thing, and the sausage is fantastic. For all of you who think rural Texas is cripplingly evangelical, one of the vendors roasting chicken had a sign with the byline, “This Cock Always Satisfies.”) What relevancy Texas and its sausages have to Ohio, I cannot say, but at some point a cash register did change hands.

Do not depart Dayton without satisfying your curiosity to see an actual ICBM. Yes, Minutemen are on display alongside some history of US military aviation at the National Museum of the US Air Force. Why Dayton? During the heyday of cash registers, Dayton was home to a pair of brothers who ran a bicycle shop, but are better known for their work in Kitty Hawk, NC. Hint: the Air Force Base is halfway named for them.

Where now? Let’s jump to Arkansas, a gate way to the south and west!

What do you like about Ohio?

 

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

 

State* #18, the Keystone of Pennsylvania

Let’s move inland from Washington, DC, to Pennsylvania –which is a fitting direction as most of my visits to Pennsylvania were actually through and not to the Keystone State. I-76 and I-81 knew me well. Even without roadsigns, you know you’ve left Ohio behind when the land rose a little and the road flowed between stacks of purple rocks, bearded with ice in the winter.

Surreal Breezewood is the antithesis of where no cars go: it’s where only cars go. You leave I-76 and turn south on I-70, and hopefully it isn’t a weekday morning or you will meet the DC commute sooner than you think. Or anything to do with a holiday.

Breezewood is a good place to get that restoring coffee, or if you have passed the point of caffeine resuscitation, to take a snooze. The New York Times calls Breezewood a “dense bazaar of gas stations, fast food restaurants and motels,” and the current City of Motels is wholly an offshoot of the interstate system, but Breezewood has always been a crossroads.  You can elude the asphalt and sodium lights by staying at the nearby 1788 Inn, built in that same year and accommodating travelers ever since.  Plus, I put a lot of value on names (I still have Cupertino in my Iphone weather app because it is such a lovely sound), and can you think of a nicer name than “Breezewood?”

PA Liberty Bell
I promise you I did not actually touch it; this is just my tromp d’oeil prestidigitation.

My one intentional visit to Pennsylvania was a trip to Philadelphia with an Army buddy. Like the other eastern cities that matured before the interstate, it is great to walk. Don’t tell San Francisco, but Philadelphia makes a mean cioppino in addition to the eponymous cheesesteak. After indulging your tastebuds, you can indulge your morbidity with a visit to the Mutter Museum, an exhaustive display of medical oddities. And of course the Liberty Bell, like the upside-down airplane stamp and the tower of Pisa, famous for its imperfection.

Pennsylvania’s north-south strips of ancient mountains make for interesting cities, layered up and down the rock faces. Harrisburg straddles the Susquehanna. Pennsylvania is of course coal country, where the prized hard anthracite was mined for years. Centralia, which doesn’t actually exist anymore, has a vein of coal beneath it that has been burning since 1962. In 2003 or so I ventured west of I-81 looking for the smoking roads and outlines of houses, but I just found low hills and fading towns.

*To be pedantic, Pennsylvania is not a state: like Virginia, Kentucky, and Massachusetts, Pennsylvania is a commonwealth. How do they differ? The plot thickens…

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

The State of the District of Columbia: Museums and Marionberry Jam

DC Capitol
With colleagues, back when I used to have a job.

For someone who self-identifies as politically inert, I have spent time and energy in Washington, D.C.

I won’t bore anyone with the meetings or the classes on  the budget process, but I will tell you what I saw and what I like.

When Ronald Reagan lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, an enormous line of mourners snaked through the night to pay respects. The National Mall was lit with fairy globes, and at some points along the line, children slept unattended. A gentleman and his son wore black tie, walking between people in sandals and mantilla-ed women carrying Bibles. It was a night out of time.

A friend gave me a tour of the Old Executive Building (my favorite edifice in DC), including ghost stories such as the suicide who dented a brass banister on the way down… the dent is still there, as is arguably the spirit. Can you believe that in the 1880s both the Department of State and what would become the Department of Defense fit beneath this set of mansard roofs? I propose we downsize the DoD until it can return to the OEB. Doubtlessly my retirement would also be downsized, so maybe I had better keep quiet.

My visit to the OEB was nicely timed, so we watched George W. and Laura Bush cross the South Lawn to Marine One.  We observed from a large room with windows that started at about five feet up the wall. My friend said, “you can go up to the window to get a better look,” and as my head appeared in the window, a counter-sniper popped up in the windows of the Treasury putting binoculars on me. I must have looked innocuous, as the Secret Service didn’t shoot me. It’s always a good day when you aren’t shot.

In January 2009, I attended the Commander in Chief’s Ball at President Obama’s Inauguration (someone had extra tickets).  The Building Museum did a very nice job.

DC Inauguration
My stunning photographic oeuvre of a sea of cellphone videographers and (I think) President Obama in the mid left. I really can’t tell to be honest, even though I took the picture. Fortunately, C-SPAN has archived the 2009 CINC Ball.

I recommend the Army Navy Club for dinner; elegant dining, and a wonderful library. There are little pieces of an older and more elegant DC here and there.

But my most memorable DC experience was not elegant at all. A coworker had a side business renting buildings in Southeast. Among other misadventures, such as adding an entire second story without a building permit and describing an attempted carjacking as “kids playing pranks,” he rented a campaign headquarters to Marion Berry in that politician’s apres-prison run for Ward Eight. He was a bit behind in rent (as in, he hadn’t paid the $7,000/month in four months), and he and my coworker were going at each other.

Serendipitously or not, I visited Oregon and discovered the eponymous Marionberry jam. I gave the coworker a jar, he passed it on to his recalcitrant tenant, and apparently this healed the rift. I don’t know if Berry ever paid the rent, but he did send along an autographed T-shirt of his comeback campaign in return for the jam, so I have that going for me.

But let me proceed to the recommendations. This is a wonderful area to visit, and everyone knows that, so hit it on a weekday during the fall or early spring.

DC Cherry blossom

If you visit April-ish, brave the crowded basin for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The trees were given by Japan in 1912, and though some wanted them destroyed in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, thankfully they remain (actually their descendants remain, as cherries don’t live that long). There are blossoms on the branches, carpeting the lawns … and when the wind blows, they infuse the air as well, so that the whole world is motile and delicate pink blossoms.

DC Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle. Home to bookstores, restaurants, and chess players looking for Bobby Fisher. Also a large escalator.

DC rhymes with FREE: it provides a budget tourist with many options. First and foremost, the entire Smithsonian. I like the National Portrait Gallery; the National Gallery of Art, which offers ice skating in the Sculpture Garden during the winter; and the Renwick Gallery, which is not on the mall and focuses on crafts rather than beaux arts. The stacked-Lifesaver Hirshhorn has a poignant Brancusi that to me symbolizes the the stunned 20th century.

A word of caution: the most popular Smithsonian Museums are Air and Space, Natural History, and American History: don’t attempt those on the weekends, especially in the summer. And don’t forget the new ones! The National Museum of the American Indian is a collection of living cultures rather than a catalog of a time that has passed. If you get to African American History and Culture … tell me how it is! Haven’t yet had the pleasure.

If you do visit in summer, check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival: from the Silk Road to a literal circus. The National Mall is good for a run, walk … or a solemn viewing of the War Memorials. You can feel Korea’s bitter winter while you remember this forgotten war. WWI visually represents the death of the 19th century, which it was: a quiet cupola among the trees. The Vietnam Wall makes the dead darkly visible; you descend from a trickle of names to a nine-foot-deep valley, then turn the corner and ascend. On the 20th anniversary in 2004, I volunteered to read ten names, so that all could be read in order. It took days to go through the 58,195 names.  The person in front of me ended by saying, “he was my husband, whom I love to this day,” and the one behind me said, “he died in my arms.” I went there to honor my uncle, who came home, and it impressed upon me the importance of not taking our loved ones for granted. Ever.

DC White House 090817
‘Sup Donald? (Actually, it was chez Barack when I took this picture, but six of one, 12 dozen of another as Malaprop would say.)

On with the review… not free but worth the price: the Newseum, on Constitution by the Canadian Embassy, our closest friends. You can hit the Spy Museum (more fun than content, but fun) and the small Chinatown at one stop. The Navy Yard hosts the National Museum of the US Navy. DAR Constitution Hall has a museum, and for free you can eyeball the Canal Keeper’s House.

DC Exorcist stairs

Where to eat: I started this paragraph and then realized that no place I used to visit seems to be extant. Brickskeller, though sleazy and completely pathological about its claim to 1,000 beers, was at least fun. The French restaurants in Georgetown are probably now owned by Starbucks. I used to like the Old Tooth for its food court, but it has come under new management, and I don’t know what it’s like these days. So get some Palm fries, I guess.

And finally … DC has some great road races. My favorite is the Army 10 Miler (that’s the right length for my attention span), but I did run the Marine Corps Marathon. Once.

I will leave you with the picture of this staircase. Anyone remember the movie? There will be a prize for correct answers!

 

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

 

 

State #17, Virginia Has It All

Since the last post, Maryland, was a bit morbid, I will double down and start Virginia on the same note. It is the state in which I have had the most near-death experiences. The most spectacular was having AA Flight 77 crash through the second floor of the Five-Sided Funny Farm when I was on the fourth boarding an elevator, but I also had a pretty frightening car crash (right by the same building about a decade later) and was almost knocked off the deck of USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) while stationed in Norfolk.

Despite its penchant for attempting my demise, I really like Virginia. I lived there three times, both in Norfolk and in Arlington. Interesting trivia: the Pentagon is in Arlington but has a DC mailing address, either to dissuade mail bombs or as concealment from irritated citizenry and servicemembers fighting assignment to its five-fold corridors of power. (I suspect the latter.)

What’s there to like about Virginia? It is a state that has everything: big cities and quaint towns, ocean and mountains, farms and forests. In one day you can visit Virginia Beach’s crowded shore and step back in time to the village of Waterford. Colonial Williamsburg and a Busch Gardens are co-located. And Californians take note: Virginia makes some pretty mean whites at vineyards like Tarara.

VA skyline drive
Billion-year-old rock on the old, old crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Let me move from south to north discussing “my” Virginia. First, the Norfolk/VA Beach area. I recommend VA Beach in the off season, as it is a concrete boardwalk with the usual blocks of haunted houses and seafood buffets. At its north end is this pre-Depression grand old lady that once had its own rail cars running from Chicago, New York, and DC. Interested in the metaphysical? Check out the Edgar Cayce Foundation complex. You can take a test to see if you have ESP (apparently, I do not) and even coordinate to earn a MA in Transpersonal Psychology.

VA flowstoneIn Norfolk, I like the Chrysler Museum and its surrounding neighborhood of Ghent. You can take a ferry to the nearby Portsmouth Bier Garden. Fort Story has the beautiful Cape Henry Lighthouse. If you are a DoD cardholder, you can rent one of the MWR cottages in Dam Neck, on prime beach front without paying top dollar. For day trips, I recommend Skyline Drive and Luray Caverns, where you can have an underground wedding complete with a stalactite organ. Another hotel pushing a century of service is the charming Mimslyn Inn.

Now, many people do not consider the National Capital Region (NCR) as authentic Virginia, and I understand that some Southerners don’t even consider it the South. As a Westerner by birth and a Mid-Westerner by education, I don’t have a dog in that fight. I spent most of my Virginia residency in the Arlington area, so that’s what I will write about.

VA view from apt
View from my apartment in 2010 or so. The Marine Corps Marathon is going by on the street below, and if you squint you can see the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, the Old Post Office, and the Capitol Building. When the trees were bare in winter, I could kind of see the White House. As you can see from the photo, the narrative is more impressive than the visual.

I suppose everyone who’s ever worked at the Pentagon has a good anecdote. I don’t have any thrilling claims to fame besides once seeing Donald Rumsfeld at the POAC, but it is an interesting building. Built quickly during WWII (ground broken September 11, 1941), it is filled with odd hallways and “you can’t get there from here” routes that seem to change monthly. Think the E Ring is the outermost edge of the building? The loading dock nicknamed “The Hall of the Mountain King” is actually R Ring, and you can access it underground.

On the night shift in 2003, a coworker found a third sub-basement –with an all night cafe. You passed through dim hallways with unmarked and padlocked doors to reach, at 0300, a bright little cafeteria where an old gent told you happily that his “aigs” were the best in DC. I think he had come with the building and been there ever since, and I am also convinced that behind one of the doors is that room where they put the Ark of the Covenant in the last scene of the first Indiana Jones movie.

In better known Pentagon trivia, no one has ever confirmed (nor denied) that Soviet ICBMs were actually trained on Ground Zero Cafe. It did not, however, survive capitalism as they tore down the little shack that was a decent greasy spoon –and put in one of the large vendors serving sandwiches that came in frozen on a truck. I’m not bitter or anything though. The aigs were in fact better down by the Ark of the Covenant.

If you don’t have Pentagon access, you can still find a good place to eat in Arlington, an area that fast-forwarded from farms to WWII expansion to  Baby Boom bedroom community to crowded and franchised –but with some lacunae of interesting spots. Check out  Arlington Cinema and Draft House to watch a show while you eat. Further south in Shirlington Village: Carlyle Grand Cafe and Capitol Brewing Company. Pentagon City is home to a particularly bland “Irish pub” that is used as the site of countless office gatherings … but Lebanese Taverna doesn’t disappoint. If you are staying in that area, check out the Americana Hotel, a legacy motor court now surrounded by tall Marriotts and Doubletrees.

VA Pentagon City Mall
Pentagon City Mall in its inaugural festivity, January 2009.

Crystal City has an underground shopping complex connected with tunnels. It looks like something out of Logan’s Run and is oddly disconcerting at night. The shops close but the tunnels stay open to allow transit between offices, apartment buildings, and the Metro. The florescent lights and piped in music stay on, too. The effect really is something out of a 1970’s view of the future, when we all live underground and wear bright colored jumpsuits, there is no war, and everyone is named Michelle.

VA Logans Run Crystal City

Other highlights in the Arlington area are the Mount Vernon Trail, Mount Vernon itself (go during Christmas, when they recreate the Christmas of 1787), and of course Arlington Cemetery. I have left this for last as it is Memorial Day weekend.

VA Arlington cemetery lenfant

Recently people have drawn attention to the distinction between Memorial Day (to remember the war dead) and Veteran’s Day (to remember all who served), and some have stated they do not like the phrase “Happy Memorial Day.” I get it, and I understand the irritation with those assuming this federal holiday exists solely to celebrate opening the pool, grilling some burgers, and cracking a beverage. But I suspect the dead don’t want to be remembered in a wholly solemn manner 24/7/365. The fallen servicemembers I knew would certainly have wanted you to have that beer and enjoy the pool (maybe not in that order). So this Memorial Day, let’s remember our dead, and let’s enjoy the time we have living. I know if I were the one under the lawns and stones of Arlington, that’s what I would want you to do.

VA cavingCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

 

State #16, Maryland, Death and Life-Saving

Maryland has the distinction of being the only Catholic colony and of having been a neutral state during the Civil War. I have never lived in Maryland, and I am afraid all true Marylanders will be incensed to know that during my two tours in the National Capital Region (NCR), I did in fact reside in Virginia. I should probably keep that on the downlow and not put it on a blog or anything.

NATIONAL NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER
Building 1 in 2003. Since the merger with Walter Reed, the campus has expanded.

In 2004, I worked as the deputy public affairs officer at Bethesda Naval Hospital, which actually was then National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and now is NNMC-Walter Reed-National Capital-OMG WTF BBQ or something. It looks like the Internet truly does live forever, as an article I wrote has digitally survived over a decade. I was working here when I served as the PAO for USNS Comfort on a short underway to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Newport, R.I.

https://www.goarmy.com/amedd/health-care/facilities/walter-reed-army-medical-center.html
The current facility. Plus ca change…

The beautiful Art Deco tower (Building 1) wasn’t up to 2004 standards of patient care, so the non-patient areas were banished there. Public Affairs had a shabby suite of offices with a million dollar view of Rockville Pike. I think that was the first and only time in my military career that I had a corner office in the sky. Our big issues at that time were the birth of conjoined twins (who were later successfully separated and are now teenagers) and the Marines wounded in Fallujah. A young man who died of his wounds was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Bethesda has always had intersections with history that weren’t happy. The first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal jumped out of the window seven floors about my office. Or DID he jump? JFK was autopsied here; this blog has a first hand account. Nidal Hasan attended the co-located Uniformed Services University of Health Services (USUHS) –in fact I knew a prev med officer who had been in class with him. She said the other students’ complaints about his erratic behavior were ignored and that he was just pushed on to another duty station with a lukewarm OER. Highlights the importance of making difficult personnel decisions rather than passing the buck.

By some reports the photo lab in Building 1 is haunted, probably by an angry and exhausted photog on deadline, or maybe by Forrestal. One of my proposed ComRel events was a “Haunted Bethesda” Halloween tour, but it was kiboshed pretty swiftly. On a lighter note, the broad sweep of lawn was haunted with Canada geese who didn’t realize they were supposed to migrate but instead, in one instance, had their babies in one of the art deco planters. Apparently they were protected and could not be removed, despite the constant complaints of patients at whom they had hissed quite aggressively.

But I also had some fun in Maryland …

MD Ocean City boardwalkI once spent a Saturday driving and driving and driving to a State Park in southern Maryland to enjoy a crab feast. Wouldn’t be Maryland without crabs (GET those minds out of the gutter). It was a humble setting, an open shelter with a BBQ pit where corn and potatoes were roasting. Soon, however, two panel trucks arrived and were heartily cheered by the assembled company. One had taps on the outside and was filled with beer kegs, and the other had steam coiling from the doors. They unloaded boxes of freshly steamed Maryland blue crab. You put down some butcher block paper on the picnic table and dissected the crab with mallets and nut crackers. A native daughter of Maryland showed me the art; first you take off the top shell, remove the lungs and take out the mustard (optional to eat, and if you know what the mustard really is, you will realize why it is optional), then you methodically remove the meat. Don’t neglect even the skinniest legs; an expert can retrieve good stuff, and with amazing speed.

MD poefirstgraveAt one point I attended a wedding on a Civil War-era ship in Baltimore Harbor. The USS Constellation was the last US Navy warship designed to operate solely with sail power. Today she is cemented to the floor of the harbor, but you can still operate a nice party. Also in Baltimore is the grave of Edgar Allen Poe. Heard of the Poe Toaster (not to be confused with a poetaster)? Since 1949, a mysterious figure has been leaving cognac and three roses on Poe’s grave.

Overshadowed by the DC suburbs and Baltimore is the charming and more tranquil eastern peninsula of Maryland. Ocean City has a beach boardwalk that like all vacation areas is best enjoyed right before the season starts. I visited on a rainy weekend in April. Also check out the Ocean City Life-Saving Service Museum. They were the Coast Guard before Coast Guard was cool.

That sums up Maryland for me: life and death, healing and hospitals, graves and life-saving … and while conducting this serious business, we need to make time to feast, to celebrate, and to amuse ourselves.

MD old souvenir shop

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

State #15, Delaware, Enormous Jets and Small Beaches

When you think of Washington crossing the Delaware, you are actually thinking of New Jersey.  The Delaware Water Gap is actually Pennsylvania and New York. The state of Ohio has a city named Delaware, as does Arkansas, and the Delaware people (actually Lenape) currently reside in Oklahoma and Kansas. But today I am going to discuss the state of Delaware, our second smallest state, the first to ratify the Constitution, and the only state to have a circular boundary, an arc 12 miles from the cupola of the courthouse in New Castle.

So what is Delaware? For me it is theater airlift and beaches with cool breezes.

AF photo showing coffins arriving in Dover, DE. via http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101137468. Retrieved May 25, 2017.In 2006, I traveled from Iraq via Ramstein Air Force Base to Dover Air Force Base on a huge cargo plane that also carried two flag-draped coffins. I did not know the individuals, but it doesn’t matter. I do know them because they are all of us. I could have been underneath that flag instead of trying to sleep on the icy aluminum of a tin can howling through the air five miles above the Atlantic.

From 1991 until 2009, media were not allowed to photograph the coffins, a restriction with which I disagreed as that decision should be the family’s. Some want to grieve privately, some want the public to acknowledge their loved one’s sacrifice. So here is a picture, beautiful in color and composition, showing the draped coffins.

A C-5 Galaxy is about the size of its name: the largest cargo aircraft the US has ever built (can weigh 1,000,000 pounds when loaded) and the largest in the Air Force’s inventory. According to the Air Force, its tanks hold over 50,000 gallons of fuel, which you can visualize as filling six standard railway tank cars. One C-5 can fly 80 Soldiers and all their gear over 2,000 miles without refueling. The C-5 has 28 landing gear to hold all this weight during takeoff, taxi, and landing –and is an impressive sight to behold.

Liberian Support Operation
That is a big mama right there! 

My other visit to Delaware was earlier (2004) and happier, a summer day away from steaming DC concrete in Rehoboth Beach. Only (ideally…) three hours of driving from Arlington, VA, Rehoboth and its neighbor Dewey Beach offer white sand and cool sea air. If you get tired of chilling with your toes in the sand, you can do all the usual parasailing, bike riding, kayaking –or drive 90 minutes south to Crisfield, MD, where you can catch a ferry to Tangier Island: population 600, with its own distinct dialect. A hotel room will run you about $150-$200/night, AirBnB about the same, but for the budge conscious, Henlopen State Park offers camping.

Rehoboth’s Dogfish Head Brewery may have been the first location wherein I tasted an IPA. The original location is closing this summer but fear not: a larger venue will open next door. I do not see the Immort Ale with its stunning 11% ABV still featured, but it does offer a beer for breakfast, a concept of which I cannot say I disapprove.

Don’t miss in Delaware… The Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover AFB. Amateurs talk tactics; professionals discuss logistics, and Air Mobility Command has a big piece in logistics.

Next state … though I am writing this from Arkansas, I am going to keep with the Mid-Atlantic theme and move on to Maryland, where I once worked in the same hospital that autopsied JFK and let a Secretary of Defense fall to his death. Any guesses?

 

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.

State #14, New Jersey, Beneath the Sea of Secaucus

Does it surprise you that the largest consumer scuba and dive travel show is located not in Florida or Hawaii –but in Secaucus, NJ? I attended in 2010, in dreary March, and it is a delightful coral island in the concrete ocean that feeds NYC. I have not actually dived in NJ, but I included a photo to show the type of gear you need to retain body heat in the cold water.

NJ cold wx dive gear

Staying warm, dry and topside, you can easily spend a weekend at Beneath the Sea, between shopping for gear and destination travel and attending the presentations.  You can travel vicariously to Palau, Socorro, Raja Ampat, Belize … in the space of four booths. You can admire award winning photography (my attempts usually blur the tail of a fleeing fish that had been doing something amazing right before the shutter snapped), and you can hear first-hand about expeditions to dive with hammerheads or beneath the Antarctic ice shelf.

There is something special and egalitarian about the dive community. To a large extent, love of diving is the only price for platinum membership. The people who have done the most are often right there on the floor, staffing booths and fielding questions from new Open Water divers.

New Jersey, despite its northern latitude, has made significant contributions to the dive community. When I first became excited about diving, I began filling up my bookshelf on the subject and found some great reads about diving on the Andrea Doria and the mysterious U-869. Also check out an incredible story about commercial diving beneath Manhattan: on 9/11.

What I did not know is that NJ also offers fresh water diving in the Delaware River. If you have a double life as a diver and furniture maker, this is the place for you: the cold water has preserved submerged timber that now has salvage value and is ideal for musical instruments and beautiful furniture. During the lumber boom over a century ago, many of the logs sunk during transport and are now the only source of old growth hardwood. Plus underwater train wrecks.

NJ not in NJ
Also not in NJ, nor will you see this diving in NJ, but I did take this picture of a Christmas tree worm on coral with friends from NJ, so I guess it counts for the purpose of this article.

On my travel list: the Jersey shore. No, I do not want to exchange fisticuffs with Snoopi and J-Ello. I would like to visit Cape May. Anyone been? Check out the photo on this page: much more Pensacola than Paterson. And yes, of course you can dive Cape May. There is even a wreck of a concrete ship. Built during WWI when metal was scarce, the Atlantus actually floated and actually crossed the Atlantic. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Next state … either Delaware or Arkansas. I can’t decide. Delaware makes sense for geographic progression, but I will be in Arkansas this week, so I can include more pictures. Either way, I have made it through about 28% of our beautiful and heterogeneous states! Thank you for reading.

 

SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at greensundiver@gmail.com.