Friday, June 15, 2018

'Hotel Del' greets the present with old-fashioned, genteel welcome

The Hotel del Coronado is a landmark in southern California, known around the globe. It was built in 1888.

ON APPROACH, the stately Hotel Del Coronado looks like a setting for "Masterpiece Theatre." It has that lofty look of an important location. Built in 1888 -- the largest wooden structure of its day --
Tourists pause to take a few photos of "the Del" and enjoy the view.
it is know affectionately as "the Del" by legions of fans and return guests around the world. The hotel has history, mystery and a VIP guest list to accentuate its elegance.
A proud landmark of San Diego, the hotel's history is inextricably linked to that of Coronado, referred to as "the island," by natives, but actually connected to mainland California.
When built, the hotel drew attention for its opulence and size.  Designed as a Victorian seaside resort, it was large, impressive, grand.
Marilyn Monroe on the beach at the del
in 1957, filming "Some Like It Hot." 
PLAYGROUND of the rich and famous, the Del has hosted crews and stars for the making of several movies.  The most famous is the 1958 comedy "Some Like It Hot," the Billy Wilder classic.  It starred Marilyn Monroe as the sultry but innocent member of an all-girl touring band. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon masquerade as women to escape the mob and -- suspend disbelief here -- the girls buy that they are female.
The setting is supposed to be Florida, but this southern California landmark stood in.
The Del's opulence includes ornate chandeliers.[
The Del's beauty and allure remain, a century plus.
Frank Baum loved the Hotel Del, here relaxing
with his family on the grounds.
JFK and daughter Caroline checking in.
At left below, the traditional winter ice rink.
Since its opening, "The Del" has been the place to stay for  diplomats, actors, wealthy tourists, military brass. Frank Sinatra joined its centennial celebration in 1988. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway and Burt Lancaster bunked there. In recent years, Ellen DeGeneres, Jack Nicholson and Oprah Winfrey checked in. Guests range from JFK and Ronald Reagan to royalty, inventors and rock stars.
Liberace is said to have been discovered playing piano in the lounge. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," spent months at the hotel, writing and reading to children. He designed the chandeliers still in the Crown Room, basing them on the crown worn by his "Oz" lion.   The Del's most infamous guest is Kate Morgan, who registered under an alias on Thanksgiving in 1892, staying a few days.  She killed herself on the steps near the ocean.  Was she ill?  Heartbroken over an ill-fated romance? Her third-floor room is often requested. People claim to see ghosts and apparitions there and in the gift shop and stairs.

PRICES HAVE gone up since the hotel opened, charging $2.50 for a room, meals included. The hotel cost only $1 million to build with various types of wood, using wooden pegs rather than nails. Today, a room can run upwards from $363 to a plush grand suite for over $1,000.
The property was part of a land grant, originally gifted to a  Mexican family who sold it for thousands. The Blackstone Group  sold its 63 per cent stake in the hotel for $210 million a few years ago.  If you've a yen to get hitched at the Del, and invite 100 friends, figure to spend between $32,000 and $45,000 -- that's for ceremony and reception.
On the National Historic Register since 1977, the Del has become "the talk of the western world" as its founders envisioned.  Elisha Babcock Jr. and Hampton L. Story dreamed that the hotel would become famous. So it has.

Michael Lewis Cusimano and Caitie Grady shine in "Once" at Lamb's
Players. Others in the stand-out cast include Manny Fernandes as Billy.
BEST BET: "Once," at Lambs Players Theater, is a terrific rendition of the popular movie. An unlikely couple finds romance through their mutual love of music. Set in an Irish pub, the always lively Lamb's Theatre company puts its all into creating a believable musical world where destiny may not mean being together forever. Wonderful ensemble work, spirited choreography, fine music and engaging characters make a wonderful theater experience.

The King Tut exhibition at California Science Center in Los Angeles
is a delightful and fascinating trip back in time -- 3,300 years ago.
UP NEXT: A wonderful show of artifacts found in the chamber of King Tut's tomb -- including the mummy of Tut himself -- is at California Science Center in Los Angeles. The marvels of the discovery are shared on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb in Egypt. Of 150 artifacts, 60 have never been outside Egypt. We take you there -- on a journey into a wealthy, flourishing society of 3,300 years ago. Remember to explore, learn and live and check out whereiscookie each Friday when we post a fresh new look at travel, the arts, nature, family and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Old Town Trolley treats visitors and locals to unique views of seven cities' splendors

The Old Town Trolley operates in seven U.S. cities, offering a unique and lively way to see each town, here San Diego.


Horton Plaza with both historic and contemporary buildings is a good
place to "hop off" and take a stroll, shop or find a fun restaurant. 

The historic Hotel Del Coronado is on the trolley route.
Little Italy beckons, a fun
and lively place to stop.
STEP ABOARD the Old Town Trolley in seven U.S. cities and be entertained in a leisurely way as you play tourist and learn something new about the town.
Located in Boston, Key West, Washington D.C., St. Augustine, Savannah, San Diego and Nashville, the trolley takes pride in showing off each city to its best advantage, exploring the historic sights and famous landmarks as well as charming hidden corners that might not be well known.
Its hop on-hop off feature is a huge draw, allowing passengers to exit for lunch or a snack, shopping or a museum, or simply to stretch, wander and learn.
IN SAN DIEGO, we boarded in Old Town with friends from Seattle. We four experienced all 10-stops with a mid-point "hop off" downtown, to share a meal
Enjoying a trolley stop, from left, Bruce Keller, Christene
(Cookie) Meyers, Julia Ratliff and her mother, Pam.
Buildings with vintage
character are described.
at a favorite restaurant. We strolled and stretched near our beautiful Horton Plaza, in which one of our favorite venues, the Lyceum Theatre, presents award-winning drama by San Diego Repertory Theatre.  We loved showing off the theater and plaza to our pals, Pam and Julia Ratliff, who share our connection to Stillwater County in Montana.
After our leisurely lunch, we waited only five minutes for the next trolley.  Stops are frequent so you can time your strolling, museum visit or meal and never have to wait long.  Trolleys arrive every half hour or less.
A trip through Barrio Logan gave us a look at delightful art.
BALBOA PARK is also a fine place to "hop off" -- with wonderful museums, fountains, gardens and strolling paths. One could easily spend a day in Balboa Park alone. Each city has its parks, monuments and historic points, a lively nightlife and restaurant area -- in San Diego, Little Italy looked so inviting our friends returned there for dinner before heading to Coronado where they were based.
The Star of India is the show piece of the San Diego Maritime Museum.
If you are visiting one of the Old Town Trolley cities, your trip on the trolley will be greatly enhanced if you ride with a local person.  The driver-guides we had were great but having native son Keller with us really enhanced the day.  His asides were enriching -- about the harbor, Maritime Museum and Star of India, Horton Plaza, the restaurants and sports complexes,  his childhood haunts (he was born in San Diego) and more. He described our Hispanic neighborhood, Barrio Logan,  as "a blossoming artistic, industrial area with Mexican roots." At its heart is Chicano Park, with murals depicting the community’s activism, and famous Hispanic figures such as artist Frida Kahlo.
Families are welcome on the trolleys.

Warehouses have been converted to inviting galleries, taco shops and breweries.  At the harbor, the Maritime Museum houses a submarine and vintage ships including the Star of India.
Drivers are knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating
if you have a particular question or interest.
ANOTHER PLUS of the Trolley tour is a booklet of free attractions.
And if you live in one of the seven cities, you can enjoy the trolley for free, when accompanied by a paying adult guest. Thanks to our Seattle friends, we enjoyed this perk.

Actor James Sutorius gives a brilliant performance in "The
Father," displaying his title character's range of emotions.
A terrific cast backs him, here Robyn Cohen as his daughter.
                                                       --photo by Aaron Rumley

BEST BET: Magnificent,emotion packed             
theater, "The Father," is on the boards
at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach, through June 24. Actor James Sutorius gives a masterful, nuanced performance as the title character, a once brilliant engineer plagued by memory loss. Fine acting and direction of a stand-out ensemble give dimension and feeling to the complexities of dealing with aging, dementia. The Florian Zeller work deftly expresses the confusion,  disruption and emotion of a family challenged to cope. The play is to be savored, even as it makes us uncomfortable. Sutorius and company and director David Ellenstein provide a  thought provoking evening of satisfying, moving,  theater with wit and grace.

The Hotel del Coronado, known affectionately as "The Del," is a landmark
in San Diego, and known throughout the western world.
UP NEXT:   We take you to the beloved Hotel del Coronado, across the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.  Home to movie stars, the wealthy, and setting for several movies, including "Some Like It Hot," with Marilyn Monroe, "the Del" has aged like a graceful matron. When built, she was the largest resort hotel in the world, made entirely of wood. She's survived and thrived and we share her lively history.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Lively Jewish Arts Festival marks silver anniversary in San Diego

World class baritone Nathan Gunn, right, is accompanied by Michael Bagby in "Nathan Gunn: Flying Solo" at  the Lyceum.
The talented singer and gifted pianist entertain with several interactions. Gunn's Scottish heritage plays into the theme.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    --Photo by Ed Krieger
Yale Strom, composer, filmmaker, author, violinist, and his talented
wife Elizabeth Schwartz are on tap with Hot Pstromi June 5.


and courtesy San Diego Repertory Theatre

FANS OF fine klezmer music, delightful Yiddish tunes and fabulous fiddle playing won't want to miss the "Klezmer Summit" June 5. It's a highlight of the landmark 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.
San Diego Repertory Theatre proudly hosts several events in
the 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.
We haven't missed the klezmer evening in my 10 years in San Diego. It's a gem in the rich cultural tapestry of San Diego.
Gifted violinist and renaissance man Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi headline the celebration.  The festive evening features audience favorites of the fest's past 17 years: Alexander Gourevitch and Freilechs, Strom's wife and collaborator singer Elizabeth Schwartz, contrabass virtuoso Bert Turetsky, jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and soulful fiddler Myla Wingard. Befitting the celebratory occasion, complimentary kosher knishes will be served.
A tribute to the music, poetry and enduring power of Leonard Cohen will be
presented by vocalist Perla Batalla  at the Lyceum on June 25.
The month-long, 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival began Sunday in a private home with a performance by actor and playwright Hershey Felder. A perennial favorite in San Diego, famous for his inspired one-man shows about Beethoven, Berlin, Bernstein, Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, Felder wrote and directs another festival highlight, "Nathan Gunn Flying Solo," on stage at the Lyceum through June 10. The brilliantly delivered one-man show offers music and anecdotes about one of America's greatest baritones.
Yale Strom, past fests and klezmer connection
Unique to the one-man show genre, Gunn tells his own true story -- written with style and colorful detail by Felder. At opening night, Gunn charmed the audience with his rich, charismatic voice, singing
Bernard and Dorris Lipinsky
and Elaine Lipinsky founded
the successful festival. The
family carries on the tradition.
a potpourri of American musical classics, contemporary songs and opera. His "C'est Moi" from "Camelot" is delightful and his Papageno in "The Magic Flute" irresistible -- complete with green bird feathers.
Todd Salovey welcomes all to the
25th annual celebration of Jewish arts.
Other festival highlights presented by the San Diego Repertory Theatre include an evening with comedian Elon Gold on June 14, a tribute to the music of Leonard Cohen by vocalist Perla Batalla June 25, and American musical treasure Andy Statman playing clarinet and mandolin June 27.“We are excited to have such a diverse and uplifting array of Jewish music, theater, film and art to share with the community,” said Todd Salovey, Jewish Arts Festival artistic director, saluting the variety of performances and slate of acclaimed artists. "We welcome all of San Diego to enjoy...." Ten performances will take place at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, North Coast Repertory Theatre, Encinitas Library and Congregation Adat Yeshurun in La Jolla.
AT NORTH COAST Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, a staged reading of a new play by Ali Vetirbi is June 18 at 7:30 p.m. "In Every Generation" is billed as "a mystical journey through continents, languages and 
North Coast Repertory Theatre features a June 18 staged
reading of a new play about an Italian Jewish family. 
generations." The story of family and nation unfolds as an Italian Jewish family gathers for Passover Seder. The plot line: over matzah ball soup and vegan brisket sibling rivalries simmer, plagues fall, and miracles are both remembered and forgotten.
The festival also features lauded films and a staged readings of a world premiere, “Losing the Nobel Prize,” written and directed by Salovey, based on the book by Brian Keating. “The Mudanza” will be performed by Teatro Punto y Coma, the theater company of the Mexican Jewish community.

THE FESTIVAL'S founding Lipinsky family is among San Diego's 100,000 Jewish residents. The Jewish community's consistent, generous support of the arts is enjoyed at many venues throughout the region, from La Jolla Playhouse and its state-of-the-art theaters to Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach and dozens more. Festival dates and times at San Diego Rep, North Coast Rep and Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. For a quick overview, go to
UP NEXT: Trolley time at last. We look forward to sharing a fun time  aboard Old Town Trolley, a highlight for tourists in seven U.S. cities. We spent a delightful day with visiting friends on our our home trolley in San Diego. The "hop on, hop off" feature give riders a chance to pick their interests, as they enjoy both obscure and well known city landmarks and attractions. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend -- a fresh look at the arts, travel, family, nature and more.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Transplant triumph: marking a year since a remarkable event

"Cookie and Keller," aka Christene Meyers and Bruce William Keller, once again at large in the world, here
in the caves off Malta. The two travel writers and photographers are marking a year since his transplant this week. 




A YEAR AGO, Keller had been home only a few days, from a nearly seven-hour liver transplant. While he was being "reconfigured," I kept vigil on a recliner in the Intensive Care waiting room at Scripps Green Hospital.  We'd gotten "the call" at 10 p.m. after our Friday "date night" May 13. I was toweling off from a shower.

A year ago, cause for thanksgiving

Earlier, we'd walked the beach, enjoying a meal which capped a long week of building projects for him and teaching and writing for me. We were drowsy during "Hawaii Five-O" and were heading to bed. But new plan: we checked into Scripps at midnight and by 4 a.m., surgery had begun. Alone in the waiting room. I turned on TV, wrote in my journal, watched re-runs of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," checked CNN, meditated, took a walk in the moonlight and decided against calling my family because of the hour.
Keller, above in his beloved
scuba diving mode, and,
recovering with homework.
Keller and Cookie enjoyed their traditional Friday date night.
Later that evening, they learned of a potential donor.

The nurses kept me posted throughout -- much appreciated -- and at 10:40 a.m., chief surgeon Dr. Jonathan Fisher, appeared, saying Keller had done splendidly. He speculated Keller would be in the ICU several days before moving to the main hospital for  more time. I was relieved that he would continue on
Scripps' watch.  The ponderous transplant manual had me nervous -- so much to think about, to monitor. So many meds at precise times. Changes in eating. Would he be able to maneuver stairs to our second-floor bedroom?  Should I rent a hospital bed for downstairs?  Would the pain be manageable?
Dr. Fisher and cheery P.A., Joe, w/K.
I LIKED DR. Fisher, who took time to visit with me and answer my many questions.  He's a New Yorker, and we chatted about my classes at Sarah Lawrence College and his medical studies at Columbia. We'd been prepared by a huge efficient, bright and spirited team of transplant nurses, doctors and counselors. I'd been sitting in on a support group (very helpful) and had done copious homework, taking notes at every doctor visit, developing my own mental health survival kit. Our chief hepatologist, Dr. Catherine Frenette, had held our hands gamely through the long 18-month wait for a donor.

A family reunion celebrated niece Kira's wedding in Oregon in June.
Below, Keller and our niece, Peny, count out anti-rejection meds.
OUR USUAL life of international travel was surprisingly not affected -- except for changing a few dates.  As we climbed up the list, we kept closer to home, but we got the okay six months before "the call" for our annual autumn Europe foray, a delightful trip to Malaga and a 10-day trans-Atlantic crossing. I became emotional, as waiting dragged on. Near the end of the vigil, Dr. Frenette assured us that the waiting was always difficult, but to keep the faith. All would be well. My worries would be overcome. She was right!
WHEN KELLER was transported to the ICU, he did not need the customary ventilator. I speculated this his amphibious diving and sailing life contributed to his excellent lung power. He was released from Scripps on a record-breaking third day post transplant and despite my frayed nerves, we developed a routine at home as he recovered -- walking, taking small trips, getting back on his bicycle and into the water. Stalwart, he took few pain meds and has been mostly cheerful throughout. No significant personality changes, but he is a better dancer and his musical pitch has improved!
Nationally known, award winning hepatologist, Dr. Catherine
Frenette, is Keller's chief doctor during the process.
We've had few bumps in a wonderful year with family, friends, theater, and travel. We missed only two Friday date nights near the beginning. The meds have decreased from 25 to seven. The lab checks are less frequent -- from three a week, to once, to monthly. The
blood work is monitored closely, and recently, absorption of the life-saving tacrolimus was altered when Keller took his meds with coffee rather than food. This can be life-threatening, so we closely watch it.  My lone faux pas as nurse was to decrease the tacrolimus myself because it was making him tremble. I was rightfully reprimanded. Won't repeat that.
 LIFE CONTINUES for our loved ones, with challenges, tragedies and triumphs. We attended several memorial services and I wrote 
three eulogies, including one for a dear friend killed in a car crash during a Montana snow storm.
When things go wrong, hang on  
The autumn trip to southern Europe went off as planned, five
months after the May, 2017, surgery. Here, Tarragona, Spain. 
Another friend passed away after a heroic battle with cancer.  Yet another is fighting for her life. Loved ones have gone into treatment, moved, separated, changed careers, married.  We've had the pleasure of entertaining visitors from several states. We spent Christmas with niece Amarylla and family in San Francisco, logged over 100 plays since last May, spent a wonderful five weeks in Montana and delighted in a family reunion at our niece Kira's Oregon wedding.  Our annual trip to southern Europe included a magical week in Paris in November and a return to the Folies Bergere and the Eiffel Tower.
Happy, healthy, Keller bikes around Mission Bay each Saturday. Life has resumed with all its wonders.
PETS HAVE died and our friends have grieved. Nick and Nora are approaching 13, and we know what that means.
Keller and Cookie at Sea World, enjoying each day.

More than several readers of this column asked why I refer to my partner as "Keller" and not his Christian name, Bruce. Some of you know that I have lost two husbands. (No, not misplaced.  Their ashes are in urns made by my gifted potter brother, Rick.) My first husband was Bruce. My second was William.  Keller's name is Bruce William.  Thus the "Keller" moniker.
We continue to live with gratitude, hope and the awareness that nothing is permanent, and that we are all just passing through.
Treasure each moment. Carpe diem, indeed.

UP NEXT: World famous baritone Nathan Gunn dons his
kilt and several other costume suggestions to
entertain in "Nathan Gunn Flying Solo," by musical
whiz Hershey Felder.  The show runs through
June 10 at the Lyceum in Horton Plaza, as a highlight
of the 25th annual Lipinsky Jewish Arts Festival.
Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us
Fridays when we post a new take on the arts,
nature, family and travel at whereiscookie 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Royal fuss: Affection for the Royal Family traced to QEII's coronation, childhood wonder


Four generations of Windsors mark the line of succession to the throne.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth on June 2, 1953, here with
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, greeting the happy throngs. (They will

celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary in November of this year.)

'WHY DON'T you write about your fascination with the Royal Family?" Keller asked me.
"You've probably seen more royals than most Montanans -- probably more than most Americans. And you adore that family."
I do love "my royals."  I've met the Queen Mum and her granddaughter, Princess Anne, the Queen's only daughter.  I  perfected my curtsy in July of 1977 when I was invited to a four-day celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 25th year on the throne. (Knees bent, one foot in front of the other. No problem.)
Princess Anne meets gentle giant actor Richard Kiel, who stood 7 feet, 2 inches.
He played the character Jaws in the James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me."
Princess Anne represented her mother, QEII, at the 1977  screening in London.
SO WITH the spotlight on the  
wedding and honeymoon of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a few thoughts on my enduring affection for the royals -- and all things pomp and circumstance.
My love affair with them began when I was a toddler, on June 2, 1953.  I remember it well.
  Queen Mum: Beloved and always "hatted"
The occasion was Queen Elizabeth's coronation -- the first to be televised. I sat on my mum's lap (yes, we called her mummy, not mama), holding my grandmum's hand. We were glued to the set, along with 27 million others in the United Kingdom and twice that many Americans. Our three generations joined a fascinated global retinue -- my mother, her mother, I and my infant sister. It all seemed splendid. I asked if the  Queen's gown, cape and jewels were heavy. "Yes, they probably weigh half as much as the Queen," mum replied, "for "Elizabeth is a small, elegant woman, don't you know."
AS PRINCE Harry takes actress Meghan Markle to be his wife, it will be very theatrical.
"That's why you love all this," my Keller chides. "It's your theater background."
Champagne toast: Prince Harry and
Meghan Markle earlier this year.
He's right, of course.  What could be more theatrical than centuries-old coaches made of gold, tiaras that weigh more than my Yorkshire terriers, oversized hats, soldiers, horses and endless parties, receptions, concerts and, yes, curtsies. Not least: family. Meghan is changing the royal family and the way it views things. She's divorced, her mother is a proud woman of color. She's American!
I've written magazine and newspaper articles about  meeting "my two" memorable royals in July of 1977.  I was invited by United Artists and the Silver Jubilee to cover the celebration during Queen Elizabeth II's 25th anniversary as monarch.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles at their
wedding in 1981, leaving St. Paul's Cathedral
which offered more seating than Westminster.
The United Artists film, "The Spy Who Loved Me," was part of the festivities and Princess Anne attended in her mother's place.  I remember her as gracious and beautiful, in a satin gown.
Bond, James Bond (and Cookie)
She daintily shook hands with Sir Roger Moore, who played Bond, and Richard Kiel, who played his nemesis, Jaws. (Kiel's hand was huge so Princess shook only a finger. My photos proved that.) Later, I met Queen Mum at a reception.
Queen Elizabeth II in 1984, purchasing souvenirs in Wyoming.
I AROSE EARLY to watch Princess Diana marry Prince Charles, and sadly visited the tunnel in Paris where she met her fate. When in 1984, Queen Elizabeth II came to Wyoming to look at horses, no reporters were allowed.  An expert rider, the Queen inspected thoroughbreds, rode, hiked and kept a low profile, calling it a private vacation -- no interviews.  She did go shopping in Sheridan, dispelling the myth that she carried nothing in her purse. Friends who saw her at Ritz Sporting Goods in the small western town, said she paid cash for her souvenirs.
Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I.
She based at the Wallop family ranch in Big Horn and visited the nearby Bradford-Brinton Museum. Her hosts were her friend Lady Porchester, nee Jean Margaret Wallop, a Big Horn, Wyo., native and sister of another prominent Big Horn personality, Sen. Malcolm Wallop.
The beloved late Queen Mum
hoisting a pint at a pub in Odeon
Square during Silver Jubilee.
EVEN BEFORE I became a film reviewer, I saw every movie I could about the royals-- particularly Queen Elizabeth I and later Queen Elizabeth II.  My favorite QEI actress is Glenda Jackson, although Judi Dench made a magnificent older royal.  Bette Davis had just the right amount of grit to give her QEI the proper feistiness.
Dame Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I.
As for the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has spent over 65 years on the throne and has been fodder for pop culture ever since I watched her put on that first crown -- little Cookie sitting glued to the family's first television.
She has been the subject of many impersonations -- including some irreverent ones by Monty Python and many others.  The Queen is said to have a good sense of humor -- she'd have to.
Cookie and Keller met the Queen Elizabeth when she sailed into Long Beach.
An avowed "cruise junkie," Cookie has fond memories of QEII sails.

MY FAVORITE ship by far is the now retired Queen Elizabeth II.  I crossed the Atlantic on her seven times and sailed the Norwegian fjords and Mediterranean on her. The new Queen Elizabeth is lovely, too, but my heart yearns for the days of dinner in the Queen's Grill, and an interview with Kevin Kline or Josh Logan, two of many celebs I interviewed on that venerable ship.
I'd love to interview the Queen -- or at least meet her -- but if not, I've had a good life with "my royals."  I wish Harry and Meghan my own royal best. 

One year ago, Keller had his two-week follow up with his primary transplant
surgeon, Columbia trained Dr. Jonathan Fisher, at Scripps Green Hospital.

A fabulous ensemble interacts with an appealing gaggle
of puppets in the smash hit "Avenue Q" at New Village Arts.

NEXT UP:  It's been a year of ups and a few downs, since Bruce William Keller had his successful liver transplant. Several hundred readers want to know how it's gone so -- not known for wall flower protocol -- "Nurse Cookie" tells almost all, including how Keller is doing ("fabulous," he says) and how she nearly lost her nurse's cap. Tune in and remember to explore, learn and live.

BEST BET: "Avenue Q" at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad, is the most refreshing musical to come down the recent theatrical pike in our prolific, play-loving corner of southern California. Human actors sing, dance, tease and experience life along with a gaggle of charming, hand-operated puppets. We saw the Broadway production and loved it.  But the intimate staging at New Village Arts puts the audience close-up and personal in a way the larger house couldn't. An extraordinary cast of strong voices carries out AJ Knox's snappy direction. The winning ensemble is backed by Nina Gilbert's fine musical quintet to share appealing stories and life lessons. Our opening weekend  audience was captivated: SRO with cheers and a standing ovation! The storyline follows the denizens of a sketchy New York neighborhood but their problems are universal and tenderly told -- loneliness, money woes, confusion of goals and need for purpose. Don't miss it.