Friday, March 27, 2020

World changes as virus dictates no human contact, stay at home, isolate

Bruce Keller and Christene (Cookie) Meyers are biking around the neighborhood, taking photos of what's happening.
Nick, their remaining Yorkshire terrier after losing his beloved twin, Nora, accompanies them for short distances.

 Whole Foods delivery man Leon  brings
fresh fish, produce, veggies and fruit.
Keller shows his ID to verify. 



WHEN WE think of our normal life -- life B.C. -- before coronavirus -- we realize how much we took for granted: a quick trip to the store with an easy in-and-out, a stop at the wine shop for the regular purchase, a visit with our travel agent to fetch a cruise brochure, a coffee with friends after a workout or music rehearsal, all the dozens of "human" moments in our day.
How we miss a cordial visit with the neighbor we meet while walking our dogs, a pleasant conversation with the UPS man while we sign for the package, a pop in next door to deliver a bouquet and cheer to an elderly neighbor under the weather.
The beaches of southern California and much of the U.S. are closed.
Here's Torrey Pines Reserve, usually popular with hikers and surfers.
A chat at the mail box. A walk with a friend to catch up on our families. A drink with colleagues after work. The latest live theater experience.
FOR US and all of you readers, life has turned upside down.
Plays, concerts, movies are no more.
Dentist and doctor appointments are cancelled. We're reinventing life.
We stand in line on a rare store visit, marking our places on stickers set six feet apart on the floor.
Here in San Diego, our beaches and parks are roped off; we can no longer hike beautiful Torrey Pines Reserve.
Our plans for a quick, safe weekend get-away on the ocean faded yesterday when our hotel emailed us of its closure. (We'd planned to hang out in our room with a harbor view, order room service and chill.) Our favorite date-night restaurant on the ocean is closed -- even deliveries are not available.
Cookie has found Jazzercise
in videos, her salvation.
MY PAIR OF beloved Jazzercise studios -- one for weekdays, one for weekends -- are closed indefinitely. Thankfully, I can "Jazz" live three times a week now with thousands worldwide, thanks to enterprising Jazzercise On Demand. Although my writing workshops are cancelled, I can still create at the computer and play the piano.
Actor Rachel Brosnahan is "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
We're tuning in to encore watching this wonderful show. 
My partner Keller's projects are on hold -- no engineering, no contracting, no dealings with sub-contractors. Many are quarantined and those urgent on-site workers are in masks.
Our stock portfolios are in the toilet (a ray of hope for a comeback, but we're all still horribly down).  Keller's regular post-transplant blood tests and still available at Scripps Green Hospital near us, albeit through a drive-up parking lot lab behind the hospital.
Great-niece and nephew, Peny and James Ganner, at Legoland with
"Auntie Cookie" and "Uncle KK" in pre-coronavirus times. 
So we're not going anywhere at the moment. We're one of 22 million Californians trapped in our homes, and hundreds of millions worldwide.
THE GOOD NEWS is we can still write, play music, exercise, talk to our families.  Our niece and her husband, and their two precocious progeny called us on Messenger a couple days ago from their San Francisco porch.  It was wonderful to hear their voices, know they are safe and home-schooling in clever, creative ways.
 This Leo doesn't do well in a cage, Her Virgo partner is restless, too. But we keep looking forward, salvaging a laugh with favorite TV shows.
Keller and Cookie aboard a Celebrity ship, cruising the world,
their favorite diversion. Cross fingers, they'll sail again soon. 
I wrote a song to the tune of that famous show biz anthem, "That's Entertainment,"and braved posting it on YouTube.
WE'RE LOOKING to happier days when we can travel again, reminiscing about favorite trips and cruises -- to the Blue Grotto in Malta, to the Costa Brava in northern Spain, to Paris for the Folies Bergere and Lido, to Monte Carlo for gambling, to Thailand where we crammed ourselves into a tuk-tuk with intrepid Yorkshire friends. We'll cruise again, our dearest travel mode. So keep smiling.  Keep planning. Keep isolating and finding new ways to connect. We'll get through this -- together!

The usually bustling Westfield UTC Mall near us is completely deserted.
Shops, theaters, restaurants and lovely outdoor convening areas all closed.
UP NEXT: Closed! We're canvassing the neighborhood by bike in our little corner of Southern California, to see how coronavirus is affecting life, business, transportation, medical care. Entertainment and shopping are virtually at a standstill, with usually crowded parking lots completely empty and shop doors locked.  A few restaurants are serving take-out and delivery, and so far we have gas and basic groceries (with vast empty shelves and rationed paper items.) Remember through all this to explore, learn, laugh and live, and catch us Fridays for updates.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Finding beauty, peace, comfort as virus sends our world into a tailspin

The village of Zaanse Schaans on the banks of the Zaan river, features tidy houses, working windmills.
If you've always wanted to visit Amsterdam, you'll find the spring tulip cruises are advertising now.

The lights are dark on Broadway and near Times Square,
but we're keeping the creative juices flowing writing parodies
and tributes to some of our favorite musicals.


WE'VE WRITTEN a Broadway homage to connect us to the theater we so dearly miss. Check it out:
 This rainy day photo features a small harbor in Toulon, southern France.
Like everyone, our "normal" is no longer. This column specializes in travel, art, concerts and plays. But since our scheduled stories feature events and venues closed and deserted until at least month's end, we're improvising, in the best show biz tradition.
Bonaire is famous for its flamingos. Cruises will again have Bonaire
on their itineraries. Have a look at our feature on this lovely island. 
 Wonders of St. Croix
Until things are "normalized," we're writing, taking photos and sharing some of our favorite travel photos, hoping they'll give readers ideas for lifting the cloud, dispelling the gloom.
The Amalfi Coast makes good armchair reading. There are many
books in the library, and on line, featuring the fabled cliffs and inlets.
We are cheering ourselves up during these stressful times by looking to the future. Try it. Dig out those backlogged brochures you got from your travel agent or Triple A. Go on line to look at favorite cities, print out profiles, study the hotels and tours.
We're reviewing the itinerary for the China-Australia-New Zealand trip we just cancelled. With some revisions, patience and luck, we'll be able to replicate it.
Montana could offer a closer-to-home trip. Here,
sandhill cranes invite you to join them near Fishtail.
If you already have a big trip booked and it doesn't look like it will materialize, use this fallow time to check out refund possibilities. Then consider a trip closer to home.
What about checking out the place you've always wanted to go? Nothing like being an armchair traveler when we're told to stay at home.
This young Vietnamese woman was a helpful guide.

Amalfi's beauty calls
Have you always wanted to traverse the Amalfi Coast, visit Sorento, take a canal ride in Venice? Yes, Italy is hurting now, but it will rebound. So will we.
Thinking of visiting Vietnam? Why not chart out a trip now? You'll have your ducks in a row by the time the crisis is over.
You get the idea. Go with it.

Northern California's coves and extraordinary coastline and beaches
offers a chance to explore, commune with nature, enjoy. 
UP NEXT: Another week of pretty pictures, travel ideas and suggestions for clinging to sanity as the world sits still and confused, and life as it knew it is no more. Art lives on, though, and we're mining our creative in isolation, planning for the future.  You can do the same, using whatever talents you possess.  Take an armchair trip up the California coast, dust off your guitar and play a song. Bake something. Make something. Keep active. It's a time to be inventive and think outside the box, staying healthy and keeping to the rules of self-isolation. We can still explore, learn and live (for a while, let our exploration be through books, art music and contemplation.) We'll be back on track with whale watching and international travel as soon as possible.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus shakes travel industry: go, stay home, cancel, plan a trip?

 Italy is taking a terrible hit and is nearly closed down.  Here, at the Colosseum in earlier times, crowds admire the ruins. The coronavirus lockdown has left the building deserted and the entire country in quarantine.  

In San Diego, a virus testing tent was set up Friday in rain, preparing for next
 week's testing at Anderson Outpatient Clinic, near Scripps Green Hospital. 
Editor's Note: In response to readers' requests asking how our own travel plans are impacted by coronavirus, here goes.


A usually busy hotel pool in southern California stands empty.
AS TRAVEL JUNKIES, who spend four months a year on the road, the coronavirus gives us pause.
We have 11 trips on the books between March 2020 and autumn of 2022.  Seven are international. What to do? We're staying
calm. We travel with the normal amount of caution and concern, but we have an extra concern:  Bruce Keller's compromised immune system.  Our award-winning photographer's near three-year recovery from liver transplantation means he takes anti-rejection drugs. Without those life-saving potions, he could experience liver failure in two days.  A lengthy quarantine or the virus itself could prove fatal. (Sure, we travel with
Although cruise lines have curtailed travel, a future booking 
can be a bargain now. We hope cruising will be back to normal in
 a month or so. You'll find extra precautions on board, including 
plastic gloves in the galley, buffets curtailed, sanitizing heightened. 

travel with as much extra meds as insurance allows. Even so....)
World travelers Sue and John Speight
 of York, England, dodged a bullet this
 week when their Princess ship was
 quarantined and their cruise out
 of San Pedro cancelled
moments before they were to board.
Actress, model Naomi Campbell
was full out this week at LAX. 
OUR BRITISH friends, John and Sue Speight, flew from chilly England recently to spend a week with us before they hoped to board the Royal Princess for a warm week on the Mexico coast.  We helped them into the baggage-check  queue at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro and drove north to Santa Barbara, only to find they were in a hotel, arranging a premature return to the UK. Ship
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line were on board
early with refund and cancellation changes, and a hold on cruise travel.
quarantined. Cruise cancelled. Full refund including air. Hotel and meal reimbursement. Future cruise credit. They're sad but relieved.
THREE WEEKS ago, we regretfully cancelled a seven-week, three-cruise trip to Australia, New Zealand and China. Too many variables.
Jazzercising at home may be a reality
for the next few weeks -- or months.

The U.S. State Department  recommends travelers defer cruise ship travel worldwide since the virus -- like all viral respiratory illnesses -- spreads more easily in close quarters. Although we cancelled our March, April and May cruises, we're hoping by August, things will be back to normal so we can resume cruising and honor bookings. Meanwhile, six booked plays have been cancelled, two concerts, a black tie party and my writing workshop. In San Diego, Legoland and SeaWorld are closed. So are Broadway and Disneyland.
AT MY Jazzercise workout, only two of us showed up. No weights. No mats. Jazzercise is working on a video to extend to people who don't want to come out.
Cookie and Keller have many trips on the books and are
continuing their "day by day, keep it calm" methods.
Our friends were prepared to brave their Mexico cruise on Princess as respite from their cold Yorkshire winter. They're now safely home, disappointed but grateful not to be in quarantine or unable to return to the UK.
Our Center for Disease Control and Prevention's official recommendations are really nothing new. They're tips savvy travelers and people who wish to stay healthy use all year: avoid being around sick people (or forcing healthy people to be around you if you're sick), avoid touching your face, clean frequently touched objects, wash hands, use  sanitizer. We've long wiped down our airline seats and tray tables. We wash hands regularly, avoid buffets, carry sanitizer.
Bridge tours were once a part of shipboard life, but have been cancelled
on those cruises that are still operational. Handshaking is curtailed, too.

Because it's sold out in many places, here's a  recipe to make your own: Mix in a sterile jar, three parts alcohol to two parts aloe vera. Optional: a few drops of scented oil.
*Amtrack and major airlines waived change fees this week, but cut back routes.
*Cruise lines are cancelling for 30 days, with new, liberal guidelines. If you're already booked beyond the "no cruise" dates, call to make sure new guidelines apply to your booking. Consider making a hotel or cruise reservation. Take advantage of reduced fares, new guidelines. Instead of the usual sliding refund scale based on closeness of cruise -- most lines now allow cancellation up to 72 hours before sailing, with full refunds. Why not wait, though, and see what happens in the next couple weeks.
*A proposal submitted to the White House by a leading cruise trade organization would deny cruise ship boarding in future to anyone over 70 without a doctor's note verifying fitness, once cruising is restored. Hang on to your carry-on! Stay safe.

Friends in Montana have heard the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes.
Keller caught these beautiful birds in a meadow near Fishtail.
UP NEXT:  This column specializes in travel, art, concerts, plays, and nature. Thus, many of our scheduled stories feature events and venues closed and deserted until month's end. Publishing those stories now would frustrate readers, so until the world returns to "normal," we're sharing some of our favorite nature photos, with ideas for lifting the cloud, dispelling the gloom, challenging fear. Nature will continue to provide solace and strength, so take a walk, listen to the birds,, keeping a safe distance from others and being grateful for beauty. Remember to explore, learn and live. We'll be here Fridays:

Friday, March 6, 2020

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: world class theater offers quality, variety in sublime setting

The 2020 season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival includes ten promising productions in three venues.
Here, the Allen Elizabethan Theatre will present "The Tempest," "Black Odyssey" and "Bernhardt/Hamlet."
OSF celebrates its 85th anniversary with a wide ranging repertoire featuring revered classics and acclaimed new work.


The Ashland Hills Hotel offers a quiet, relaxing place to stay, 
in southern Oregon's beautiful Rogue Valley.



 Cookie samples the healing fizzy waters of Lithia
Fountain, said to contain healthy, healing properties. 

TIME TO BOOK your tickets for the remarkable 2020 season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
A year without a trip to Ashland, to revel in the country's finest repertory venue would be a sad year indeed.
So what to see?  Why not sample the entire docket.  Shakespeare, of course, with "The Tempest," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and more; cutting edge new work; fun music and adventuresome, thought-provoking theater, for OSF pushes the envelope.
 Prepare for inventive staging as the company delivers its engaging 85th season.  "Jubilee"  
A mural near Lithia Park down the steps from the Angus Bowmer Theatre
and Members Lounge.  The colorful artwork is classic Ashland.
year promises the quality and diversity that marked the festival when founder Angus Bowmer had the dream in 1935. OSF's "punch" has a proud heritage since Bowmer staged boxing matches to fund his theatrical vision. His early festivals offered variety and originality. Today's playbill honors that concept through new work and classics with an inventive OSF spin.
 "The Merry Wives of Windsor," won praise for its beautifully 
staged   telling of the Shakespeare favorite. Ensemble.
 -- photo for OSF by Jenny Graham
ALL THIS is delivered by a diverse company of professional actors from across the U.S., in the lovely hill-surrounded setting of Ashland, Oregon.  This pastoral but sophisticated southern Oregon town offers abundant diversions to attract the drama and nature buff -- tranquil Lithia Park, dramatic beauty in nearby Crater Lake National Park, river rafting the beautiful Rogue River, fine shopping with area craftsmen and artists sharing their talents, delightful "First Friday" art walks through the town's many galleries, restaurants with something for every palate and budget, a film festival, movie theater and quaint charm of nearby Jacksonville.
BOTH THE 85th anniversary season of the Festival and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Angus Bowmer Theatre  begin the weekend of Friday, March 6. Tickets are selling out for the historic weekend, with shows opening in the Bowmer Theatre and nearby Thomas Theatre. (The Allen Elizabethan Theatre opens in May when the weather warms.) 
The town of Jacksonville is unique
because the entire village is on
the National Register.
THE THEATER buff with eclectic tastes is in heaven here with world class work performed by a versatile, accomplished company. You'll find  experienced, innovative directors and a wide mix of playwrights.
 The festival's popular Green Show offers free, fun pre-play
 entertainment before evening performances begin.
Memberships begin at a reasonable $35. If you have deeper pockets and the desire to honor a loved one, consider endowing a chair.  We have endowed three through our half-century plus at OSF.
Discussions, back-stage tours,  pre-show entertainment, and other enhancements are part of the draw.
Live music is offered by first-rate musicians, such as this cellist
  who plays Bach, Mozart and more regularly in Lithia Park.
TICKETS SHOULD be booked now for the landmark 2020 season, which closes Nov. 1, with a range of 10 plays including intriguing new work, from a festival favorite, the bard's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" cutting edge plays with a message and a family musical, "Peter and the Starcatcher." (Prepare for pirates, swashbucklers, mermaids and a ticking crocodile.) "Bring Down the House" offers Shakespeare's "Henry VI" trilogy in an ambitious two-part adaptation.  Another classic, "The Tempest," takes viewers into the mystical land of the banished Prospero, with storms, supernatural machinations and OSF's twist on Shakespeare's exploration of the good, bad and gray in human nature.
World premieres are always part of OSF's mission and "The Copper Children" promises social commentary with humor. "Confederates," another world premiere, features stories of two black women 160 years apart.
Ducks dive for lunch on a stroll through  Lithia Park near OSF.
AS A FAN of the festival for more than 50 years, I'm excited to see "Bernhardt/Hamlet," celebrating the great actress determined to play Shakespeare's coveted title role.
"Poor Yella Rednecks" promises humor, pathos and imagination in the story of a young couple relocating from Vietnam to Arkansas. If you loved "Vietgone," you'll look forward to Qui Nguyen's sequel, billed as an autobiographical love story.
"Everything That Never Happened" takes a behind-the-scenes look at  "The Merchant of Venice" exploring the life of Shylock's beloved daughter, Jessica, caught in a collision of religious beliefs and family loyalties.
Many levels of participation are
available, including seat endowment
for a loved one or theater friend.
WE LIKE TO book nine or 10 plays, enjoying the lively Ashland vibe, hiking in Lithia Park, revisiting favorite old eateries and discovering new restaurants.
Humor is part of the OSF tradition, with this production
from a few years back of  Marx Bros. "Cocoanuts,"

Downtown Ashland at dusk on a cool  spring
evening. The Ashland Springs hotel is at the
heart of the small, inviting town.
Playgoers settle in for a production in
the only outdoor venue at OSF, the
 the Allen Elizabethan Theatre here.
We also enjoy Ashland's two fine Neuman Group hotels, the lovely Ashland Springs Hotel, steps from the festival downtown, and Ashland Hills Hotel in the nearby countryside, both pet friendly with fine food and tastefully appointed rooms.
Strolling outside the hotels, it's fun to
recognize actors in two the pubs and on the street. You'll observe them in multiple roles.

EACH ACTOR participates in at least two plays with three to five performances a week, usually a major role in one production and a supporting role in one or two others. A
player may headline in one production and join the ensemble in the next, since repertory means the shows run in rotation for the months-long run. There's an intense point each June when all shows on the playbill are either being rehearsed or performed.
Watch the web for specials and discounts, which often appear. or 800 219-8161;;;

A once busy hotel pool is deserted in the wake of the virus.
Next week's column shares tips, trends and warnings on travel.
UP NEXT:  As coronavirus sends the travel industry reeling, we look at the latest information, warnings and changes from cruise, airline and government officials. We also share our personal travel credo and future plans.  In the wake of change and volatility, what should the savvy travel do? We'll try to help.  Then we feature the lively Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland. Plan a visit to this first-rate dinner theater on Hargadine. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature, family and more: