National Electronics Museum

Leaving Asheville, I took a room in an airport hotel overnight before embarking on the long trip home. On my morning walk I chanced across the National Electronics Museum, with this fine statue of Arthur C Clarke out front. I had just enough time to wander through their very cool exhibits. And just in time… according to the link above, they’ve lost their lease and are looking for a new home.

There was a nice mix of explanation and hands-on and just look stuff on display. It started with the very basics of electromagnetism, continued through lights and radio and radar, to computers and microwave ovens, and climaxed with a big display about satellites and rockets and mars rovers. The building was also tenanted by some little division of Northrop Grumman (not a coincidence), and there was plenty of military electronics on display as well.

That’s the “thrift store” of stuff they are getting rid of.

Tater Tot Tetris

On the way out of Asheville, I stopped into the airport café for a burger, and I got these absolutely amazing Tetris shaped tater tots.

Since they are served in an airport, I suppose they’re not particularly rare, but I thought they were especially delightful.

Asheville!

My final stop on the tiki tour of the US was Asheville NC for a visit with dad and Judith. Here we are in the Botanic Garden, a lovely little walking spot close to their place.

Seeing this young bear in their apartment complex was a surprise highlight. Apparently not all that uncommon.

We were joined by old friend Steve who now lives about an hour away for dinner and pétanque at Rendezvous, which was a super evening.

One of dad’s involvements… the very cool antique radio museum.

More from Brattleboro

Here’s me and Bernie having a beer at the new River Garden marketplace, run by the increasingly successful Whetstone brewery team. In some ways, I think the cardboard cutout version of the senator was better company than the man himself would have been … Less strident, and all I actually wanted to do was sit and have a beer.

Chuck, Susan, me. Three of the four Saturday night Bridge players reunited for early morning Prosecco.

A very happy grandpa Prov at Sunday dinner.

I got up the next morning, checked out of the Latchis, and went to the bank to empty out the safe deposit box before driving to Boston and catching a plane to North Carolina. Is it the end of the Brattleboro Adventure? Was owning real estate there a prerequisite for our participation in the community?

Stay tuned…

What’s happened?

Well, after an effortless adjustment to US time, I struggled mightily on the return to NZ. I caught a cold, it took a week plus to really get back to sleeping at the right time, etc.

So, here’s October almost gone! I’ll catch up with a few posts…

Let them eat limes

I walked through WalMart yesterday, just for nostalgia/ entertainment. Of course NZ has the Warehouse, but you could put four Warehouse stores in a decent sized WalMart.

Everything in NZ is expensive for whatever set of reasons. And if that’s part of the price of paradise, we’re happy to pay. But still… here’s some things that are irksomely dear in Aotearoa… and we don’t really know why since they are grown locally.

These next two are easier to understand… American products have to be imported. But still.

Bringing the news to life

We still read the Brattleboro Reformer online. It is fun to be here and see some of the big stories IRL.

The newly hired Town Manager came in intending to shake things up. One of the biggest impacts of his tenure was to change the town’s ambulance services provider from Rescue Inc. to Gold Cross. Big uproar.

Shortly after, on the job just a few months, that new Town Manager quit to take a job in the neighboring town where Gold Cross is headquartered. More uproar.

Here’s two big stories in one… I’m sitting in stupid traffic on the old bridge, and looking over at construction of the new bridge.

This mural is getting a lot of press. It is just being painted — there was a whole crew working on it yesterday — on the previously ugly and graffitied retaining wall in front of the house we used to own.

Same but different

This is the sweetening setup at a Starbucks in Baltimore.

I don’t know if this is actually or exhaustively true, but… I don’t think you’d ever see three different fake sugars in NZ, and I think you’d always see raw sugar there.

And related… although this place has wooden coffee stirrers, on this trip I have been reintroduced to the hell that is the little tiny plastic stirrers that don’t actually stir. I had blocked those right out of my memory.

Can you go home again?

I’ve been in Brattleboro for a day and a half.

I can still see why I was so enchanted with the place when I first arrived a dozen years ago. Knowing what I know now, I might look a bit more critically at the crumbling infrastructure and the hard cold demographic facts. But still: what a cool place!

The picture above is emblematic of one aspect of Brattleboro’s trajectory. When we lived here, that building was a Baptist church struggling to survive. They sold their Tiffany windows to pay the costs of running the winter homeless shelter and finally sold the building.

It’s now home to Epsilon Spires, an outfit that aims to blend art and music with science and conversation to create a sustainable society. Does any of that make sense? Only time will tell, and I do wish them good luck in their attempts.

Zounds grate two mi

This little walkway in a park along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is peppered with homophones. Fun!

I like this bottom one especially because in NZ they sound even more alike. In swim practice we sometimes use a “pull buoy” to float the legs and focus on just the arms. So when the coach calls out for people to put the “pool boy” between their legs I can’t help but snigger. Heard it a hundred times. Still funny.

Baltimore Remembers

After my initial encounter with the Heritage Walk and its poorly translated attempt at inclusivity, I found several of the sites on the itinerary.

The Holocaust Memorial has a bunch of descriptive text on plaques, but the Santayana quote on the statue’s base sums it up: THOSE WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE PAST ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT.

Irreverently, I couldn’t help but notice that the gravel areas under those trees… probably intended to evoke a railroad siding where the death trains pulled up… would make a great pétanque ground.

The Katyn Massacre Memorial. An event I knew nothing about. See ‘condemned to repeat it’ above.

The house where the actual Star-Spangled Banner was made.

Rats!

That’s a couple of workers gawking and taking pictures of a bunch of rats in the alley.

Baltimore has been a shock, there’s no question. I’ve spent the last five years in one of the most livable cities in the world. Baltimore is , I would guess, quite a ways down that list. The potholes. The overflowing dumpsters. Whole blocks of retail boarded up and falling down. Even on the waterfront most of the shops are empty. And I’ve noticed that there isn’t a crane visible anywhere… they’re not building anything in this downtown area.

The people are struggling as well. I’ve seen so many homeless people shambling around. People with terrible health problems picking in the gutters for cigarette butts. And even the people I interacted with as a business traveler… workers in restaurants and the hotel, cab drivers… seemed dispirited or angry or just out of it. I’ve recently celebrated a birthday, so I’m even older and therefore even grumpier about the shortcomings of the next generation… but still, this seemed extreme.

And yes, I sat at an outdoor restaurant the other night and watched the rats scurrying back and forth, and I’ve seen them two other times just out and about.

I have no idea how much of this trouble is COVID, but I’m sure it’s been a factor. But even before COVID, Baltimore was known as a tough place. It calls itself The Charm City, but some powerful magic charms are surely needed.

The student becomes the teacher

I was so proud to see my friend and longtime colleague Carol awarded Volunteer of the Year yesterday. I’m a little fuzzy on exactly who shares this honor with me, but I get at least some of the credit for hiring her into her first post-grad school job. 20 years ago!! I’ve learned a lot from her, and I can only hope I’ve contributed something to her over the years… at least some things to NOT do.

The project that catapulted her to this dizzy height was a 3-year (!) effort to define an inclusive and affirming set of gender codes. Now, there’s a standard way to record a meaningful gender in the medical record for all those people who used to be lumped into “Other”. High profile, sensitive, contentious… you can see how steering that ship earns you an award.

Well done Carol!!

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