Friday, October 27, 2017

Travel is enhanced by friends, youngsters, doggies, new perspectives

A gathering --  family, friends, doggies -- in Bozeman, for coffee enroute to Yellowstone National Park.
From left, Bruce Keller, Rick Cosgriffe, Elliana Broscious, Christene (Cookie) Meyers, Ruth Rudner and David Muench.

It's fun seeing Yellowstone through new eyes -- and those young
eyes are learning how to photograph the park's wonders.


MY FAVORITE trips -- aside from the romantic ones  -- are family adventures, with two, three or even four generations. A cruise is perfect, with everyone doing his or her thing during the day then coming together for dinner and story-sharing at day's end.
A variety of ages and backgrounds makes for learning -- stretching, growing, looking at the world from another's point of view.
"Grannie Cookie" and Rowan Jones
 are hands on at the wonderful Musical
 Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Ariz.

 Cookie and pal Grady Martin on a hill above the Pacific,
overlooking La Jolla Shores in north San Diego.
Cookie, Keller, Kristen and Zack cruising Lake Tahoe. 
WE'VE HAD grand times with my late mother at the Folies Bergere and the Opera Bastille in Paris, splendid cruises with sisters, brothers and nieces on the Rhine River, Baltic, Alaskan 

fjords and Caribbean. I've taken my late husband Billy's grandson Rowan Jones to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, a grand place where hands-on exhibits let one try instruments from around the globe.  Rowan, who calls me "Grannie Cookie," became a crack drummer.
We've taken Keller's daughter, Kristen, and her fiance Zack, cruising on Lake Tahoe, enjoying dinner, drinks and dancing and catching up.
Stopping to smell the roses -- or share
the ice cream. Here, Cookie with
Nick and Nora in Julian, Calif.
My Montana neighbor, Grady Martin, was a frequent visitor to southern California, where he lived for many years.  I have happy memories of our times in his old stomping grounds, now my part-time home.
Cookie, Keller and Cookie's sister Misha on San Diego Bay
aboard their favorite Hornblower for a dinner cruise
TRAVEL slows me down.  It offers the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and learn about their towns -- or show off mine.  When my sister Misha comes to San Diego, we always take a dinner cruise. Sometimes we go for a sail, with "Captain Keller'' at the helm.
From left, niece Amarylla, Cookie's mum Ellen, sister Robbie,
and Cookie (Christene) tucking into appetizers on a Baltic
cruise a few years ago on a favorite ship, Celebrity Century.  
When I'm at her home in Atlanta, we share cooking in her beautiful kitchen. When my niece Amarylla comes down from San Francisco, we hit the aquarium or Sea World. 
I'VE TAKEN sisters, niece and my late, much missed mother on the Baltic and all around Europe. Never have I enjoyed a sail-in as much as the morning we entered the harbor in Cobh, Ireland, from where my mother's grandmother came. "I'm home," my mum cried. Later on that same cruise, in Amsterdam, we took mum to the city's legendary smoke shops, where she enjoyed a few tokes and several brownies.  We sang and told stories and made friends from all over
Friend Corby Skinner and Cookie cruising near Athens.
Europe that memorable night. That same year, my friend Corby Skinner and I traveled with a group of six other friends through the Greek Isles. Fun seeing Hadrian's Gate and ancient ruins with curious Corby.
Near the end of her long life, my grandmother Olive delighted in meeting her first great-grandchild, Amarylla (now a mother herself).  Wee Ama lovingly massaged her great-grandmum's arthritic legs. My parents lived to travel with their first great-grandchildren. 
STOPPING TO smell the flowers -- and perhaps to look one a new up with a curious niece or great-niece -- is a singular pleasure.
 Sharing your strawberry ice cream cone with a pair of hot, thirsty Yorkshire terriers is fun, too.

Keller and Cookie at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles. 

COMING NEXT: Steve Martin's lively and touching Tony-nominated musical, "Bright Star," which he co-wrote with his friend Edie Brickell, is a stunning work, with an amazing bluegrass band on stage, a touching storyline, fine acting, snappy choreography and a delightful script (no surprise there, for Martin is a terrific writer, too.) We take you opening weekend to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles where the musical is in revival and selling out, after opening a few years back in our stomping grounds, San Diego, at the Old Globe, being revised for last year's Broadway run, and worked over again by Martin and Brickell for L.A. audiences.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Yellowstone's gorgeous geysers are a spouting wonder of the world

Yellowstone's extraordinary geysers erupt at various times around the clock.  The  Grand Prismatic Basin is a good place
to see geysers if your enjoy a hike. So is Upper Geyser Basin, because of the frequency of the "blasts" and plumes. 


Photographer and counselor Rick Cosgriffe makes his annual fall pilgrimage, 
as behind him clouds, geysers and waterfalls merge in steam and spray.
Stage Coach Inn is perfect base for geyser hopping  


TRAPPER JOHN Colter must have thought he was hallucinating. Or that he'd died and gone to you-know-where.
A thermal pool at the Norris Geyser Basin reveals gorgeous greens and golds.

 When he happened on the wonderland of eysers, hotpots and warm bubbling springs in 1808, he may have doubted his eyes. Or thought the end of the world was near. (I always think of the three Weird Sisters in the opening of "Macbeth."Even now, after nearly 100 trips to Yellowstone National Park, geysers, mud pots, molten pools astonish with their vivid colors, scents and shapes. So check in to the vintage, well located and historic Stage Coach Inn in West Yellowstone -- and begin your nearby geyser hopping adventure.

Yellowstone's geysers and hot pots offer an artist's array of color.

NOTHING LIKE a geyser to make you feel small, insignificant and aware of your "lowly cog" status in the  the universe. Yellowstone, mostly in Wyoming but claimed by Montanans as ours, is the world's best place to see geysers. Oh, sure, they exist in Chile, Iceland and New Zealand, but not on the spectacular scale as the Yellowstone geyser bonanza.

SO WHAT is a geyser? Simply put: a hot spring in which water intermittently boils, sending a tall column of water and steam into the air.

The Stage Coach Inn in West Yellowstone offers a perfect stay
with a lovely breakfast, comfy rooms and great location.
Black and white image makes the steam of these
eerie Yellowstone geysers even more surreal.

Trapper Joe Meek stumbled upon what is now known as the Norris Geyser basin area in 1829. His stories of fire, brimstone and boiling pots were met with unbelief.  In the 1830s, mountain man Jim Bridger began exploring the Yellowstone region. Few believed his reports of petrified birds and trees and waterfalls "spouting upwards."  

Take a turn-off from the beaten path, to discover beautiful pools, geysers. 
From left, clockwise, Bruce Keller, Rick Cosgriffe, Christene (Cookie) Meyers
and Elliana Broscious enjoy a recent Yellowstone outing on the geyser trail, 
A RAFT OF explorers followed,  traversing the strange and wonderful geyser basins, pondering the park's glories.  After Colter, naturalists developed a way to log the various thermal features and the term “geyser,” came into being. The term originated in Iceland in the late 18th century.  It comes from the word, geysir, the name of a particular spring in Iceland, and is related to geysa meaning "to gush." Some of Yellowstone's geysers erupt every 10 minutes or so.  When I was a child, Old Faithful was just that, sending gorgeous plumes as high as a hotel, every hour -- give or take a minute. Today she erupts every 35 to 120 minutes, seldom going over over 180 feet. She is still the park's most famous spouter, having erupted more than a million times since Yellowstone debuted as the world's first national park in 1872.
Yellowstone's "big four" include geysers, hot springs,
fumaroles and mudpots. A fumarole is an opening  
through which hot sulfurous gases emerge.
Hot pots and geysers north of Gibbon 
Falls, before the junction to Canyon.
place to see geysers and mud pots is Artists' Paintpots, gurgling pastel-colored mud and springs, bubbling, dancing and hissing under a blanket of steam. Besides Old Faithful, Castle Geyser and Riverside Geyser are other popular ones to show off the unique geothermal features of  

Yellowstone's steaming vents, eruptions and hot springs.  The "big four" features are geysers,  hot  springs, fumaroles and mudpots.
Yellowstone claims 500 geysers, half of the world's total number, located in nine unique and varied geyser basins within the park. Steamboat in the Norris Basin is the world's tallest
Book your geyser-hopping hotel at:

From left, great niece Elliana, Keller, Cookie's brother Rick, with Nick
and Nora sacked out on the bed at a Bozeman Hot Springs cabin.

COMING UP: Traveling with family and pets can be a delight if you plan correctly.  Be sure to have plenty of dry, warm clothes if it's a winter trip, and make certain the young have enough distractions -- natural and otherwise -- to keep them engaged. Here, part of our family enjoys a night in a rustic cabin at Bozeman Hot Springs, enroute to a weekend in Yellowstone National Park. Even the Yorkies are snug this chilly autumn night. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for each week's post, with a fresh look at nature, family, critters, the arts and travel.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Yellowstone in autumn -- great time to explore, see critters, as the leaves fall and winter's in the wings

Well fed bison roam near Norris Junction in Yellowstone National Park, with geysers spouting behind them.
The Roosevelt Arch, approaching Mammoth from withinn the park, honors 
Teddy Roosevelt's guiding spirit in establishing the park system.

Yellowstone Park's founder

and patron saint.



Bruce Keller, left, and Rick Cosgriffe, right, enjoy a photography session
on a four-day journey through Yellowstone. They frame a grazing cow elk. 
YELLOWSTONE is beautiful in all four seasons.
But my favorite time is autumn, when the air is clean and there's frost on the ground in the morning.
When the tourist rush is over and the critters are on the move.  Winter's in the wings and the deer and elk are mating and making lots of noise.
Grizzlies azn sometimes
be seen near the Cody
Entrance, as here. 
A gorgeous wolf is one of two packs lovingly tended at the Grizzly 
and Wolf Encounter Center in West Yellowstone
The bison and bears are fattening up -- and  at the West Yellowstone's wonderful Bear and Wolf Discovery Center, you can see close-up the critters you might not spot roaming in the park. The Center rescues, cares for and exhibits in a natural habitat animals who for various reasons cannot be returned to the wild. We spent three hours enjoying the lectures and films and watching well tended critters rooting for food hidden  for
Sam, the largest of the West Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Center
roots around for food hidden by the trainers.
them to find.

WHATEVER PART of Yellowstone's glorious two million acres we visit, Teddy Roosevelt's best gift to the country shines like a well loved tiara.  We hiked several of the park's 1,210 miles of marked trails, seeing many. We usually stay at Lake Yellowstone Hotel or Old Faithful Inn, but this time opted to stay in West Yellowstone and drive in daily.  This allowed a leisurely afternoon at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West, a true gem which cares for and makes comfortable animals who cannot be returned to the wild. 
Taking our great-niece along was a benefit.  Seeing the park through young, excited eyes reminds us of its wonder. 

Geyser discoverers, clockwise from left: Bruce Keller, Rick Cosgriffe,
Christene (Cookie) Meyers and Elliana Broscious exploring Yellowstone. 

NEXT UP: Part two of our photographic essay on the park features the phenomenal geysers which help make it a destination for international travelers and family looking to entertain and educate all generations.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for our weekend post.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Piano pleasures: A life of music brings joy to musicians, audience

Cookie is at her happiest playing piano.  Here, she entertains at a housewarming party.
Cookie serenades at friend Corby Skinner's on the 1902 piano
she purchased for his home, The Castle, built that same year. 



I'll see you again
Whenever spring breaks through again...
This sweet memory
Across the years
Will come to me
Though my world may go awry....

--from "I'll See You Again," by Noel Coward

MORE THAN any other art form, music has the ability to connect people and cultures.
Nephew James Hayes, on double bass, plays
with Auntie Cookie at his home,
Purple Martin Farm, in northern California.

Cookie also plays saxophone,
here at the Cowboy Bar
in Fishtail, Montana.
It can reach out and touch us in a way nothing else can. It joins us in unexpected, moving ways.
Who'd have thought that I'd play piano at a black tie dinner hosted by Chong Sangchon, mayor of Seoul, Korea, in 1979. (Our delegation of 12 American Women performed "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific" and the mayor requested a Korean folk tune I somehow conjured.) That same trip, I serenaded Mike Mansfield, then Ambassador to Japan, in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. (He asked for "Don't Fence Me In" and his wife Maureen put a dainty box of tea sandwiches in my purse when she realized I wouldn't stop playing to dine.)
A couple years before, when our chartered flight from JFK to Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee in London was delayed, the chief publicist for United Artists asked me to entertain fellow writers. We sang show tunes and enjoyed champagne and caviar for two hours then were happily poured onto the plane.
Cookie plays the vintage Wurlitzer organ in Wellington,
New Zealand's Southward Car Museum. The museum's
chief organist brought her up on the revolving pedestal.
WHEN I WAS a little kid, I'm told, the adults were drawn from post-dinner cocktails to an unexpected concert. There, in the music room, not quite three-year-old Cookie was playing "You Are My Sunshine" on the family's Steinway.
Music has been my balm, my joy, my fun, my friend as long as I can remember.
In February of 1986, just a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union, my sister Robbie and I were holed up in a Moscow hotel during the coldest day of the year.  The snow was thick, the temperature was a chilly zero degrees and all tours were cancelled.
Cookie admires her tip jar last weekend
at the Petroleum Club at show's end.
Robbie and I tipped a pair of waiters bounteous rubles to move an ancient upright into the lobby bar.  I coaxed a few tunes from that rickety old piano and told the three bored bartenders to stand by, even though it was before noon.
Within a half hour, the bar was packed as I played Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Gershwin, an Israeli lullaby, German polkas and a medley of American show tunes. The bar ordered in sandwiches and more vodka and we shut the place down at midnight. I'd taken only three brief breaks and loved every Moscow minute.
Great niece Penelope Margaret Ganner watches intently as
Cookie plays and sings on the Bay Area family's piano.
Absarokee veterinarian Rex Anderson
and Cookie play duets at Montana
Jack's, before it sadly closed.
I WON'T FORGET that magical day. The Kremlin and Red Square could wait.  Someone produced a harmonica and we paired for Scott Joplin ragtime and western swing. An Italian woman with a beautiful soprano voice sang my mother's favorite aria, "Un Bel Di" from Madame Butterfly.  An Irishman pulled a penny whistle from his pocket and let loose with a jig. I chorded along. The French contingent requested "La Marseillaise" and marched around the lobby, hoisting their wine glasses in rhythm to their national anthem. An English couple asked for Noel Coward tunes.  I remembered "I'll See You Again," that bittersweet ballad, and plunked out the tune for "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," which the couple joyously delivered.
Cookie at the Lawrence Welk piano at the Welk Resort
north of San Diego.  The piano was played on the show. 
We sang "Getting to Know You," Anna's wonderful song from "The King and I."  We sang, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from "Oklahoma" -- and it was, despite the cold.  Had we not been snowed in, there would have been no musicale, no communion, no lifelong friendships (I still get holiday notes from the Frenchman from Aix and the Irish couple).
FOR WEDDINGS, funerals, birthdays, celebrations -- good times and sad times -- our family has cherished music. It goes with me on the road. I've played piano quintets and barroom stride, on cruise ships, in saloons,  barns and former brothels, grand concert halls, basements, penthouses and living rooms. I've played for hundreds -- even three thousand -- -- and I've played for myself alone, to cheer up. I played on a keyboard in the glory days of the 747 when the first class cabin had a piano bar.
I'm classically trained, in the style of my Vaudevillian grandmum Olive who was equally at home with Mozart and movie themes. May it ever be thus. Now, what would you like to hear?

UP NEXT: Yellowstone in autumn.  Could there be a more breathtaking part of the northern Rockies?  It's time for our annual Yellowstone road trip and we're taking you along to explore the park's wonders with us. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend -- original essays on travel, the arts, nature, and whatever strikes our fancy!