Thursday, February 18, 2021

New yacht in town -- book a dreamy boat trip to sail San Diego Bay

 

 

 NEW YACHT OFFERS
COMFORT, BEVERAGES, VIEWS





  


      

 Up, up, up goes the main sail, above, as  the Triton crew readies the yacht for a fun afternoon on San Diego Bay.  At right, on deck, the
impressive Coronado Bridge
attracts the attention of passengers as they sip reasonably priced beverages, move about the boat for ringside views of the bridge and the city 
skyline, and relax to the sound of the water and the ambiance of a beautiful vessel.

 
 

Comfy, moveable chairs and nicely arranged
benches and tables offer a range of seating.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

A GREEK MYTH inspired the story of  Triton, god of the sea.
He possessed  magical powers and became a revered messenger, protecting sailors and promoting safety in ocean crossings.
SO SAN DIEGO'S newest catamaran, the beautiful Triton, is aptly named.
She's a messenger for good times.
We spent a glorious afternoon aboard Triton, which can be rented for private parties or booked by families, couples, singles, groups -- for a delightful sail around San Diego Bay.
 Our fellow sailors were a pleasant mix of business and professional people,  students, couples looking for a lively but relaxing outing and young at heart retirees and vacationers escaping colder climes. 
Happy, relaxed sailors enjoy views, chat, drinks.
THE YACHT is downtown San Diego's new kid on the pleasure cruising block. In the boat rental business, there are numerous competitors for the leisure time dollar.  Triton won't disappoint if you're looking for a pleasant, fairly priced diversion to surprise a date, or an enjoyable outing to treat out-of-town guests. Great family reunion or birthday option.
Once aboard the boat -- based on Shelter Island, near the mid-road sign -- you'll be pampered by an attentive crew, and can wander about or just plunk yourself down to enjoy the impressive sights that make San Diego "America's finest city," as she is often called.
We circled around Seaport Village, Shelter Island, under the beautiful Coronado Bridge and past the city's array of monuments, high rises, boutiques, galleries, parks, bike paths and sculpture.
San Diego born Bruce Keller
enjoys a bird's eye view of the Bay.

It's fun to be on the water and observe other sea life, from the Coronado Ferry to whale watching vessels and pleasure crafts of all manner, shape, size and origin. We saw yachts from as far away as Rhode Island and the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Alaska and Seattle, as well as dozens who call San Diego home. We even spotted a couple playful dolphin.
OUR 2.5 HOUR cruise went by in a flash, as we made a leisurely loop under the bridge, catching a glimpse of the legendary Hotel Del Coronado across the isthmus.
 The sleek, comfortable Triton has an  impressive history.  She came thousands of miles from Texas, through the Gulf of Mexico, down the east coast to transit the Panama Canal, then up the west coast to San Diego.
The circuitous 38-day journey took place after she was rebuilt and remodeled to contemporary perfection, and she's been a focal point of southern California yachting life since she splashed into the Bay in August of 2020.
It's fun to watch the able and highly
trained crew work the sails.
 OUR PLEASANT companions mingled, made new friends, pointed out sights to newcomers and enjoyed beverages at an attractive and comfortably located bar.  The boat is thoughtfully arranged so people can be alone or join a casual chat with other small groups. Welcoming seating on the level deck includes bean bag chairs which can be easily moved or used anywhere on board. There's always an unobstructed bird's eye view.
One of the most welcome pleasures of a boat trip around the Bay with Triton is the ability to do whatever you like -- simply relax with a beverage, meditate to the sound of the sail and the swish of the water, chat with friends, be alone or enjoy a romantic time with a favorite person.
The views are gorgeous and the pace is leisurely and relaxed.
Cookie and Keller aboard Triton, a new, comfy
and contemporary catamaran offering fun outings
.
THERE ARE other charters in San Diego and we've sampled many.  Triton is roomy and new, so she is spit-and-polish clean and can carry up to 105 passengers. The Triton staff are honoring Covid precautions, though, so one-fourth and one-third capacity are standard. This enhances the comfortable, safe feeling.
She's 75-feet long and the helpful and polite crew treat passengers as if they're clients on a private yacht.  Masks are worn onto the boat, and can be shed to sip a beverage or if you're with your own small group.
Triton, true to the legacy of the god for which
she was named, offers safety and pleasant seas.
 
WE FELT quite pampered and relaxed after our afternoon, and made a couple new friends to boot.  The colors are soothing -- aquas, greys, light relaxing shades. Pillows and comfy touches encourage relaxation with a sophisticated touch.
The 13-seat bar was popular on our journey, and  parties can book the water slide option which looks like fun, as the weather warms.
A large dance floor and advanced sound system invite partying, celebrations and groups of friends.
Adults are $55 and children $15. Two sailings are offered each afternoon, at 1 p.m. and 4:30. It's easy to book on line. Or email info@triton-charters.com; 844 587-4866. triton-charters.com

Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego is our "Staycation" choice.

UP NEXT: Consider a "Staycation." This made-up word means you can drive within a day from home, and feel like you're far away. Different environment. New scenery. Change of pace. For nearly a year, we travel lovers have all been in a state of deprivation. So we are looking for change from our own winter home, San Diego, and have found splendid, relaxing, inviting, pleasurable digs nearby. Wherever you live, consider a B&B, cozy boutique, hot springs resort, spa, or nearby hotel where you might enjoy time away from the home routine, and the chance to feel you're doing something a bit different for yourself. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts and more: whereiscookie.com



Thursday, February 11, 2021

Whale watching is at its best with San Diego Flagship's Marietta


A grey whale's breech brought gasps and cheers this weeks aboard Flagship's Marietta in San Diego. The family owned company offers a rewarding whale watching experience, with distanced seating and one-fourth capacity, lively commentary and a theme of environmental respect and protection.

Charles navigated, with expert narration by Dale, who
explained the whales' migratory patterns and enhanced our
experience with detailed and lively insights into their life.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


GORGEOUS WEATHER, expert narration, smooth seas and the sighting of five grey whales made for a thrilling day on the water this week.
Our outing was aboard Flagship fleet's comfy Marietta, departing San Diego Bay at 9:30 a.m. for a four-hour search for migrating grey whales.
This is "prime whale time," according to my native California partner Keller, an avid, informed, lifelong watcher of whales. 
THE GENTLE giants are heading south now from a feasting orgy in chilly Alaskan waters.  They'll give birth in Baja and tend their young in its secluded lagoons,
Danielle is one of Flagship's attentive naturalist
guides, with helpful brochures and whale
artifacts, including these killer whale teeth.
Check out Ocean Connectors.com 

their territory for centuries. 
Our skilled Flagship team included Charles, Dale, Danielle and Hannah, all expert "spotters," ever respectful of giving the whales breathing room.  They soon found a flisky pair when we were barely into the ocean, past Point Loma, then another pair, and a single playful whale.  We saw breeching, "spy hopping," and the longed for fluke, which appears  before the whale dives deeply beneath the surface.
"Spy hopping" occurs
Seeing the whale's fluke is
a wondrous experience.

when the whales take a look around to get their bearings and see what's out there.
With so few of us on the ship, and strict distancing and masking in force, Flagship offered a splendid five-star tour. The bar was open for early-riser bloody marys and soft drinks, coffee and light snacks.
INTERESTING literature, brochures and whale artifacts are passed around by the naturalist-guides to keep passengers entertained between sightings.
Docents share information and models between
sightings, to keep the action lively.

 When the whales come into view, there's a feeling of charged excitement as we hurry to the railings. One whale might be the width of a basketball court.
Well informed guides point out other sea life
along the way, here this sunbathing seal. 














Our twin sightings may have been mating pairs, but whether they were "romantic" or not, our experts weren't certain.  They were obviously friendly and traveling together. Greys often mate in a trio, so the single whale near journey's end could hook up with one of the pair.
Passengers enjoy plenty of space aboard
Marietta, with room to be safe and enjoy.
 We've seen babies with their mothers in April, heading north. But since the gestation period is 12 months, the ones we see mating these year won't give birth until next year.
Keller took this mother and calf photo
in April, a thrill for both of us. We'll
soon watch the northbound whales.  

EACH WINTER, these beautiful southbound gray whales usually travel in pods of two or three and each year, more than 20,000 gray whales make an impressive 10,000 mile round-trip journey to the southern lagoons.
We lucky San Diegans may watch the journey close-up, so this time of year, look for us on the water -- often on Flagship. Sailor Keller has even piloted our own craft. But it's more fun for him to let someone else do the driving so he play photographer.
We'll be looking again in April for the mothers and calves.
A quintet of a larger pod of dolphin ride the bow wave of our boat
as it pushes through the water in the ocean miles off Point Loma.

Dolphins are also a delight on our whale watching expeditions. They frolic, jump and dive for us, enjoying their captive audience.
http://youtu.be/8NjCuIetD3Y
The whales know we're nearby and don't seem to mind. Some experts speculate that they are naturally curious and trusting, which could explain their near demise at the hands of ruthless and greedy whalers of yore. These beautiful creatures travel at about five knots (about six miles per hour), so when a boat captain or passenger spots one, we slow down -- usually from five or six miles out, although we've seen them at closer range.
Keller's painterly eye caught this moody reflection as we
pulled out of the harbor, with San Diego's cityscape behind.
We smile, below left, as we motor past the cruise terminal.
Flagship's family owned operation includes  a versatile fleet offering many options including private charters. We've been on the Marietta many times, once for a wedding, and for several celebrations and parties. Her roomy sundeck affords fabulous sightseeing of one of America's prettiest port cities. The indoor reception area is closed now because of COVID-19, but as vaccinations increase and health returns, she'll be open again for indoor receptions, cocktail parties, dancing and romancing.  
THE COMPANY was founded in 1915 and is known for its whale watching as well as harbor cruises and a jet boat thrill ride for the adventurous. The line's popular dinner 

cruise operation is gearing back up soon after a hiatus during COVID-19. Special holiday and, holiday and dinner cruises, and a jet boat thrill ride. Beginning Feb. 18, you can upgrade your next Harbor Tour to a Sunset Cocktail Cruise. The "Sunset Cocktail Package for Two" will be available Thursdays through Sundays on Flagship's 4:15 p.m. full bay harbor tour. Sounds like fun and includes a reserved table, champagne and hors d'oeuvres for two, with a full no-host bar.

 www.flagshipsd.com/



As the sail is hoisted, passengers are in for a treat at Triton-Charters,
with a wonderful new yacht and many options for fun on San Diego Bay.

UP NEXT: While we're exploring the high seas, we've found a new yacht in town. It's fun, it's sleek, it's Triton, a spacious, luxurious, sparkling catamaran is the newest yacht in southern California. She's making a big splash cruising San Diego Bay with masking and distancing, and treating lovers of water to a beautiful afternoon. You can rent the yacht for a private party, or join other sailors to cruise in comfort, with a lovely bar, music, a dance floor, and plenty of open-air space to visit, soak up the sights and sun, see San Diego landmarks and cruise yourself into relaxation. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, water driven activities, cruising, nature, the arts, family and more: whereiscookie.com

 









Thursday, February 4, 2021

Long running soap opera, "General Hospital," features Montana actors

 

Veteran actors Jeff Kober, left, and Wally Kurth, have both been in the profession for decades.
They have more in common than that, though. Both are native Montanans and now share billing
on one of the daytime TV's most enduring and popular dramas,"General Hospital."   

"GENERAL HOSPITAL" IS BACK TO FILMING AFTER COVID QUARANTINE BUT IT'S MASKING ON THE SET BETWEEN SHOOTS 

In 1994, actors Wally Kurth and Rena Sofer
were married in real life. Sofer played the
lively character of Lois, from Bensonhurst.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER & Courtesy ABC
 
FANS OF daytime soaps have long known that Billings, Montana, native Wally Kurth plays a compelling character named Ned Ashton  Quartermaine on the enduring daytime TV drama, "General Hospital." The long-running show has remained hugely popular, since its 1963 debut, thanks to fine writing, trending storylines and sound acting. 
With dozens of interweaving stories, plot twists and complex characters, it spins together melodramatic tales, radiating from the hospital into the characters' homes and private lives.
RECENTLY, a second native Montanan signed on to the engaging soap. Enter Billings born Jeff Kober as villain Cyrus Renault. His character -- like Kurth's -- intrigued fans so his role was quickly expanded.
Masking between takes, actors
Jeff Kober and Wally Kurth.
Generations of devoted GH followers have watched avidly as characters marry, divorce, conduct affairs. They've seen them through accidents, illness, missteps, addiction and triumphs. The early stories were set mainly on the seventh floor of General Hospital, in an unnamed midsized Eastern city (the town was called Port Charles in the late 1970s).  "The concept was of a big wagon wheel – the spokes as the characters and the hub as the hospital," says Kurth, 62, who -- except for a few years' hiatus -- has been with the show for decades as the head of a complicated, well known family. Both actors are praised for their authenticity before the camera. Kober, 67, as the nefarious Renault, 

Wally Kurth is in the unique position of appearing
in two daytime soaps -- "that's just fine with me,"
he says, but it's a lot of work and many lines.
found his antagonistic role expanded both because of his talent and fan interest. Soap production is an evolving proposition, demanding many pages of memorization from the actors, backed by timely, quick and creative writing.
INITIALLY, THE TWO Montanans played their parts in separate scenes, and GH veteran Kurth "knew" his fellow actor only through his home TV screen, and his body of work. "He is a fine, solid actor," Kurth says, noting Kober's impressive resume. Besides logging a string of memorable movie roles, Kober, who also lived in Park City, won acclaim for his TV roles.  Fans remember his Dodger in "China Beach," Jacob Hale Jr. in "Sons of Anarchy," and Joe in "The Walking Dead."

Jeff Kober joined the soap with an impressive
dossier of movies and TV shows and guest spots.
 
Both actors have been praised for their genuine quality, critical in making a show work.
Says Kurth, "At first, I didn't realize Jeff was a fellow Montanan. Because of the Covid shutdown, it took a while for us to meet." After the quarantine, months went by before the show resumed shooting. Ironically, Kurth's first scene back was with Kober. "We were both wearing masks -- so it  was a little odd. It's nice when the masks come off."
LIKE MOST talented people, each man has other interests. Kurth is a talented musician who does benefits for special causes. Kober, who played trumpet in high school band, teaches meditation and yogic philosophy, signing his emails with a friendly "peace." 
While Kober was establishing a successful film career in the 1980s, Kurth was becoming a soap star, a distinction he's held since 1987, as the only actor featured simultaneously in two soaps. He plays Justin Kiriakas on "Days of Our Lives" as well as "General  Hospital's" Quartermaine.  Kurth holds dear a real-life hospital, internationally known Shriner's Children's Hospital, a favorite charity.

Kober's character has startling connections to the town, here
 with Donnell Turner, who plays detective Curtis Ashford. 
OCCASIONALLY, LIFE IMITATES art -- in Hollywood and at "General Hospital." Kurth and GH actor Rena Sofer were love interests on and off the set in 1994. Their brief marriage produced a much loved daughter, Rosabel, who is pursuing her MFA in Fine Art at Carnegie Mellon. Says Kurth, "She is an amazing artist. I'm so proud of her."
"General Hospital" is filmed in Prospect Studios.
What accounts for the show's enduring appeal? A devotee from Menifee, California, GH aficionado Melody Cogsdill, follows the show's intersecting storylines and credits its popularity with sound acting, compelling storylines and inventive writing. "I think they have the best writers and actors in the business," she reflects. Kober's character Renault "was introduced as an unredeemable villain," says Cogsdill. "He is a wonderful actor, so I couldn't stand his character! Now I am fascinated by Renault -- and Kober's acting skills." Giving viewers a glimpse into Renault's past, she adds, "lets us see how his upbringing affected his moral compass. I look forward to more scenes with him."
About Kurth's character, the longtime fan says, "He’s adorable. I really miss him when he isn’t on the show. I can never tell if he is underhanded and charming, or just plain charming. He is perfect as the head of the Quartermaine clan."
  
Jeff Kober with Linda Hunt in an NCIS: Los Angeles episode.
FINE WRITERS, Kurth says, continue the intention of GH creators Frank and Doris Hursley, offering a captivating series of vignettes reflecting the panoply of life and the human condition: loyalty and devotion, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction, betrayal, car wrecks, theft, death, marital affairs, con artists, manipulators, idealists. There's plenty of tragedy and surprise, but also celebration -- with memorable characters, continually evolving.
The story of one famous pair, Luke and Laura, broke viewing records in 1981 when 30 million Americans tuned in for their wedding. The  episode featured famed actor Elizabeth Taylor,  a GH fan,  cast in a cameo at the wedding as the widow of Mikkos Cassadine. She bestowed a curse on Luke and Laura, believing they'd killed her husband.
Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo
appearance at Luke and Laura's
wedding, watched by 30 million
.

 COGSDILL BELIEVES both Kurth's suave Quartermaine and Kober's villainous Renault are intriguing to viewers.  She hopes they both endure. Kurth speculates that Kober's character will stick around, noting that his colleague's 40 years in the business include memorable guest spots with acclaimed actors such as Linda Hunt, on "NCIS: Los Angeles."
Actors Anthony Geary and Genie Francis had a torrid
love affair as Luke and Laura on "General Hospital."


Jeff Kober 's Cyrus Renault spars in a scene
with Alexis Davis, played by Nancy Lee Grahn
.



 (Check your TV guide and ABC for airing times.
We recommend this tour, too, once the Covid
restrictions ease
lainsidertours.com/los-feliz/ps://)






  
On set, masking and safety protocols make the work even more challenging, the men agree. Says Kurth, "We are required to wear our masks as soon as we leave our cars in the parking lot. The only time we take them off is for make up and while the cameras are rolling. It’s a little daunting running our lines at rehearsal with a mask."
It's a nice surprise, the men say, to see actual faces for the first time when the cameras roll! Perhaps, says Kurth, "It adds to our “fresh” performances!"
LEARNING huge numbers of pages in a day could tax lesser actors, but the two Montanans and the seasoned cast keep up with the pace which, says Kober, "can get crazy." He adds, "I’ve been incredibly fortunate. It’s a gift to be employed in this business at any time, but particularly in the middle of the pandemic. I couldn’t be happier."
Says Kurth, "It's challenging, going back and forth between the two shows. But I wouldn't have it any other way."  
Keller and Cookie set off on Flagship's comfy
Marietta, to be rewarded with the sighting of five
grey whales on one of their best whale watching
 watching adventures (they'velogged more than 50
whale watching trips worldwide.) 

  



UP NEXT:
 Perfect weather, a beautiful ship and gifted narration by
an experienced guide result in perfect whale watching this time of year in San Diego. Come with us aboard Flagship's Marietta, to explore the migratory patterns of the graceful grey whale. You'll learn about the life of this remarkable animal, nearly driven to extinction. We were pleased with the distancing, masking, safety aboard with one-quarter capacity and a helpful, informed crew. Flagship offers quality time and prime, leisurely viewing of the greys. Meanwhile,  remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more. Please tell your friends and share the link: whereiscookie.com

Friday, January 29, 2021

Travel's future: COVID makes a huge gash in industry. What's next?

 

While hundreds of cruise ships have been docked in 2020, there's good news for smooth sailing
on the horizon for 2021.  Many lines plan to return to the seas, with many changes.

WHEN WILL WE FLY AND CRUISE AGAIN? TRAVEL INDUSTRY GEARS UP WITH NEW REGULATIONS IN THE STORMS OF COVID 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Airline passengers will find new distanced seating protocol
and masking, during the entire flight.


THE TRAVEL industry has suffered a mighty blow these past 11 months. Slowly, in parts of the world, ships are returning to the high seas.
Airlines are beginning to schedule more flights, with strict health regulations.
Beginning this week, on Jan. 26, U.S. airlines began to require a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery for all incoming international travelers, including U.S. citizens.
America's leading cruise lines have battened down the hatches due to COVID and many are not sailing mid-to-late 2021. Some lines have sold off old ships which are resurfacing in small new cruise lines. 
Lovers of cruising will find fewer options and
more limited ports of call in the next year.

President  Joseph Biden on Monday reinstated the COVID travel restrictions that our former president lifted  on non-US citizens who have been in Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and much of Europe.
Biden also extended the restrictions to travelers who have recently been to South Africa.
SO WHAT does all this mean for the millions of us feeling travel deprived?
Fliers will find their wings clipped, with more safety regulations both prior to boarding and once checked in.  Cruising -- locked down in North America and much of the rest of the world -- will likely not make a serious comeback until late-2021. Many older ships have been sold off and the "new cruise future" will offer fewer options, less shore excursions and tight rules on touring.
Keller and Cookie enjoy a promenade aboard Queen Elizabeth.
   
The long-awaited return of the ships will begin slowly in late April, and continue through summer and into autumn and winter as the vaccine programs continue and people feel more confident to set sail again.
POLICIES are changing frequently and dramatically, so savvy travelers are planning ahead and checking the fine print. Know the rules before you go. If you're cruising, don't plan to venture off on your own. That's become risky, particularly in foreign countries.
Royal Caribbean saw an overwhelming response to its trial sailings but canceled all departures through the end of April, with the exception of sailings out of Singapore and China. The line began limited sailings out of Singapore for Singapore residents only on Dec. 1.
A cruise ship anchors off the coast of Malta.
CUNARD canceled all departures through mid-May with Queen Victoria scheduled to return to service on May 17. Sailings on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth are canceled through May 28 and June 4, respectively. The venerable old line also halted sales for cruises eight days or longer that include a call at a U.S. port through November.
Crystal canceled its river voyages until late April and its ocean cruises into June. he line also has delayed the debut of its sleek new expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, until mid-September.
OCEANIA, NORWEGIAN, Regent and many other lines have canceled sailings through the end of April and Regent scratched its long awaited world cruise for 2021.
A cruise ship pulls into a berth in Skagway, Alaska, which
will not see a return of the full season's cruising until 2022.
Princess has canceled sailings through May 15. The line has canceled cruises in Japan through June 26.
While we travelers are anxious to get back out on the water, we are also aware of the dangers and would rather be safe than sorry. So we wait.
Many of us have canceled trips to favorite Greek Isles and other enticing Mediterranean locales. We've postponed vacations to Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Chile, Brazil and the Far East.
MANY LINES have canceled or postponed their Alaska 2021 seasons. Several are still touting roundtrip cruises from Vancouver and Seattle  


to Alaska, hoping to be able to make port visits in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Carnival Freedom is still scheduled to make its roundtrip voyages to Alaska from Seattle beginning April 27, 2021. Cunard Line cancelled its planned 2021 Alaska season last June, opting instead to redeploy its 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth on voyages from the UK
 While a majority of Americans -- 53 percent-- would wait to take a cruise until it was safe, 11 percent said they would probably sail again right away and 23 percent said they would sail as soon as possible. 
American Cruise Lines with its all-domestic ports and routes will offer "premium, personalized services" with reduced capacities, sanitation touch points and assurance of responsible precautions to prevent the spread of COVID.
  For more:  latecruisenews.com; cruiseindustrynews.com; cunard.com; celebritycruises.com; royalcaribbean.com


Actors Jeff Kober, left, and Wally Kurth share
a moment in the "General Hospital" studios.
UP NEXT: Two Montana born actors are entertaining faithful fans on television's "General Hospital," one of history's longest running and most popular soap operas.  Wally Kurth and Jeff Kober didn't realize each was from Montana until friends told them -- and they met and even shared scenes on the set of the popular melodrama. Created in 1963, the storylines intersect and spin off with every manner of twist and turn. For a fun read about two talented men and their different paths to the long-running soap opera, tune in next week. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at the arts, nature, travel, family, health and more: whereiscookie.com

 









 

 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Presidential inauguration's music, poetry enhance a historic day

Lady Gaga's moving rendition of the National Anthem set the tone for a day of musical celebration.
Music highlighted the inauguration, ending the day with a concert by well known musicians.

HERE COMES THE SUN! GREAT MUSICIANS, POETS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLES IN AMERICA'S CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Editor's Note: We're publishing early this week because of tremendous interest in the Presidential Inaugural.  Happy reading. And please share the link. It's been read in Asia, Australia, South America and Europe. Apparently the world is watching! 


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Garth Brooks sang  a lovely a capella
version of "Amazing Grace."  
FOR THIS performance deprived redhead, Wednesday's inauguration was a fulfilling feast for the eyes, ears and heart.
Ample pomp and circumstance -- influenced by our English and European roots -- was accented with  Yankee spunk and innovation, making it a truly American "concert." A United Nations of participants paraded before us. It was a day of diversity and drama, with many touching moments, all accompanied by music.
The message of hope and unity was a musical joy to behold. From the stately U.S. Marine Band, with its precisely delivered military marches, to actor Tom Hanks introducing a raft of the country's best musical talents at a special "Celebrating America" concert from the Lincoln Memorial, music was the glue that held the glorious day together.
Lady Gaga was escorted
to the stage for the anthem.
MUSIC ENHANCED the snow peppered morning ceremony at the Capitol, in which Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths becoming U.S. President and Vice President. At day's end, music capped the dramatic day via a beautifully orchestrated concert from the night-lit Mall, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
The U.S. Marine Band lead the activities, from
the swearing in to the walk to the White House.
 
At the inaugural, Lady Gaga's singing of the National Anthem was a stirring symbol of the nation's longed for transformation. Resplendent in red skirt, navy blue coat with white-gold olive branch and dove jewels, she sang our nation's anthem with emotion. Her arrangement was perfect -- slow and deliberate -- no reverberations. She sang with elegance and  eloquence, preserving the song's dignity but with Gaga's trademark bluesy touches.
Singer Jennifer Lopez began her medley with
Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
MUSIC SUSTAINED the theme of unity and love throughout the day, emphasizing the new administration's goal to overcome division and rancor. At the inauguration, country star Garth Brooks' a capella version of "Amazing Grace" lingers.  He took off his black cowboy hat to close his eyes as he delivered the powerful gospel song. It was touching to hear the audience join in, even masked as they were, gazing at thousands of American flags. The flags added a splash of welcome color to the mall, replacing the usual human crowd prevented from gathering because of Covid and stringent security.
Young poet Amanda Gorman marked the day with
a spirited, lyrical poem about hope and humanity.

Poet Maya Angelou read for
President Bill Clinton.
JENNIFER Lopez will be remembered for her lovely medley beginning quietly with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," then a segue to "America the Beautiful" with a bit of the "Pledge of Allegiance" in Espanol fitted in.
  Vice President Harris wasn’t the only woman of color to break ground on this prestigious Inauguration Day. Poet Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet in American history when she recited her astonishing work, “The Hill We Climb.” 
Jon Bon Jovi sang a lyrical "Here Comes The Sun"
at a special musical celebration to end the day's activities.
POET GORMAN, protege of  Maya Angelou, who read at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, reminded us of other famed poets who read on this momentous day.  Robert Frost struggled to read a new poem -- blinded by winter sun -- then improvised with an older one, at John F. Kennedy’s swearing-in. Angelou spoke of dinosaurs, God and unity at Bill Clinton's. And Richard Blanco greeted a typically American diverse crowd with “hello, shalom, buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días.” That was at Barack Obama’s second inaugural.
Yo Yo Ma's "Amazing Grace'' ended with a few
notes of Aaron Copeland and a Quaker hymn.
OTHER FABULOUS Jan. 20 musical moments linked speeches and ceremony. The Marine Band's bugler played a perfect "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery's wreath laying. 
Singers Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, and cellist Yo Yo Ma put a musical coda on the evening. Ma's stunning version of "Amazing Grace" was particularly moving.
Rocker Bon Jovi's sweet and lyrical acoustic version of The Beatles' tune "Here Comes the Sun," reflected the hopeful mood of many Americans with Biden and Harris now our new president and vice president.
JFK's inauguration featured acclaimed poet
Robert Frost, then 86 years old.
SINCE MUSIC and poetry have long marked inaugurals, it seems a metaphor that the outgoing president did not include a poet in his inauguration. Arts were not a noticeable part of life in the White House, unlike other presidential stints in which music and concerts were an important part of life.  From Frank Sinatra to Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington and Johnny and June Carter Cash, musicians have enhanced the occupants' reigns and reflected the diversity of our culture. Long may it be thus.
   
We bring you news of cruise line reopenings, reschedulings 
and more. Travel is slowly opening up again, so have faith.
UP NEXT: Fellow travel junkies, listen up.  We're researching the return to the skies and seas. Airlines and cruise lines are gearing up with new Covid restrictions and requirements for travelers. Buoyed by the new administration, vaccinations  in all 50 states. We couldn't be happier or more excited.  With more than 125 cruises under our life vests, we've been following the industry's disastrous hit during COVID times.  Slowly, ships are returning to the waters so  and airlines are opening up more flights with strict masking and distancing. Meanwhile, remember to mask, distance, and explore, learn and live while we await a vaccine. Please share this column, too, and comment.  We appreciate that!