To spend quality time in at least one area of every state. Quality time means exploring the area; rest stops, gas stations, airports or train stations do not count. The goal is to explore the natural and cultural environments of these regions. Each location visited has a story, pictures for my amateur hobby addiction, and maybe a piece of jewelry/art.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

History, High School and Victorian Bathhouses

On the hiking trail in
Hot Springs National Park
Did you know that this year marked the centennial of the National Park Service?  Do you know how many national parks there are?[i]  How about total elements in the Park Service?[ii]  I do, and I am on a mission.  If you have read any of my musings, you know that I LOVE getting outside and enjoying these bits of natural treasure.  I wanted to make sure I celebrated the Park’s Birthday by visiting a few new places… I wanted to up my park number a bit.    At the same time, my boyfriend wanted to join me on one of my park visits.  He was new to this type of trip-quest.  He wanted to see what I saw and enjoy the beauty and the history, yet he is not a hiker.  (Heck, I have not got out enough the last few years).  So looking over the list of parks, I decided the perfect spot was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. 

I have been to Arkansas only one time before, and it was a side trip off a trip in Texas.  On that Arkansas visit, I focused on the southwest quadrant of the state – visiting Hope (Clinton’s birthplace) and the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro.   I wasn’t that far from Hot Springs the first time, but I just ran out of time.   That heat while in the park, in June, was awful and wiped me out.  But I also was gobsmacked, Arkansas was beautiful.  It was nothing like I pictured in my head as a flat dead brown land– instead I saw beautiful waterways, rolling hills and plenty of green.  So a special trip to Hot Springs in late autumn sounded like a good plan.

To get there, we flew to into Little Rock.  For a three day trip, I planned to spend 1 full day in the capital city and a day and a half in the resort town.  We had a plan, and we needed one if we were going to fit all of it in.  I fully admit that I have in intense pace when I am power touring, and that is not for everyone.  I have gone easy on prior trips with my partner, but he was warned that we had a mission.  So, from the moment we stepped off the plane until the moment we got back to the airport, we were cooking.  It was funny (for me).  I think he is still tired from the experience!

Walls of plates at the Flying Saucer
Our first stop, once we got off the plane, was the Flying Saucer for a late meal and relaxation.  This place came highly recommended from some plane seat neighbors, who told me it was an eclectic “must- see” locale that was casual, open late and in a great area of the city that we could not miss.  So, we headed straight to the UFO pub for some grub.  Immediately upon entering, you notice that the walls are lined with plates – those cheesy decorative plates.  And they are from all over the place.  We were seated in front of a HUGE big screen television showing the game, and I could not stop scanning the walls looking at all the places the plates illustrated.   Mixed in, and on the ceiling, were color ringed plates with names – and this was where their “wall of fame” was enshrined.  The Flying Saucer is known in Little Rock for its beer list - Over 200 kinds.  And if you register, and finish the list (NOT in one setting, but many), you are immortalized on a plate.  So, as we chowed down on loaded tots and an arugula and prosciutto pizza, I read crazy plate sayings.  This place is a trip.  And it has spunk – it was that perfect casual meal in a place with character. 

Junction Bridge
After food and drinks, we headed to the waterfront to walk over Junction Bridge, mosey down some pathways and settle our food.  We were lucky it was a gorgeous evening.   For once (in a blue moon) the weather cooperated with me and the sky was clear.  So we were able to walk across the river to take in our first real views on downtown Little Rock.   Thanks to historical preservationists and green space planners, efforts to keep bridges over the River standing and make them pedestrian accessible, have been a huge hit. This area was one spot everyone told us to visit when hearing about our weekend adventure in Arkansas.  The three bridges over the Arkansas River are one of the most iconic views in the city.  Postcards are littered with these views...Especially at night when their colors play on the waters.  Wandering the pathways to look at the sculpture art by the river was another story.  We did not see much outside of the pavilion and one of the main things I left on the table in Little Rock was finding the “Little Rock” that the city was named for… it was down that path somewhere. 

Little Rock Skyline
from the Clinton Library
The next day began our power tour of Little Rock.  We needed clockwork precision to make this all work.  I wanted to fit in 3 museums, a park, a distillery and a damn bridge before we headed to Hot Springs that evening.  I am a bit ambitious, I admit. 

Art Deco in abundance at
Little Rock Central
To meet our goals, we made sure we were at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site the moment it opened.  You can’t come to Little Rock without seeing this bit of civil rights history.  We arrived before it opened and I was able to beg our way into the first tour of the day. (Note for future visitors, make a reservation)  The fantastic ranger walked us through the history of the Little Rock Nine – beyond anything we learned in our few paragraphs in a school text book.  Sitting in the visitor center, we spoke as a group discussing the doctrine of “separate but equal” and what it meant here; uncovering nasty truths of
This HS remains state of the art
how city and state leaders conspired to ensure that students would not integrate even after the Brown vs Board of Education ruling (ruling that separate was not equal), and then hearing the accounts of everything these children and their families endured just so they could attend the best public high school in the city.  Did you know that city leaders actually shut school down for a year?  No, neither did I.  They fail to mention that in the textbooks.  And just when you thought the city had reached a low, we walked through the Little Rock 10 (yep, it started as 10)’s walk to school.  The experience was enough to make you cry, feel disgusted  and be fighting mad at the same time.  You can’t visit this place without being inspired by the bravery of these students.  I am in awe – pure awe.  It touched me deeply. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

We Swear We Had That Trip Planned BEFORE The Election

Best Friends on an Adventure

My best friend and I planned a trip to Canada for her birthday.  She lives outside of Seattle, and after several visits to see her, we explored Seattle to death.  So, we ventured to Olympic National Park one year.  Last December we visited Vancouver Canada.  This year, the plan was Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  When we planned it, we did not consciously make the decision to plan around the election, nor did we know how it was going to turn out... so imagine 2 vocal Hillary supporters now headed to Canada the weekend after the election.  It was comical.  It was sad.  And it was a good break for the craziness going on at home.

Honestly, I did not know much about Victoria before this trip.  I did not know it was the capital of British Columbia.  I did not know that it was heavily British influenced.  And I did not know that it was so small.  I was able to guess about its greenery and weather from our trip to Vancouver.  Locals swear it does not rain as much there as it does in Vancouver, but the weather report said it would be dreary.  We were also told to plan for a fancy city, that with its European influence, that we had to dress the part.  So, packing for this trip was a nightmare.  We looked like we were moving in!

My bestie did all of the planning this time around.  I can't tell you how amazing that felt - normally I am the planner. But she looked into everything and made all the arrangements.  I got to relax for the ride and just enjoy.  She is not just a planner but a serious regional blogger.  She runs a successful site - WhatsUpNW.com - that highlights things to do and see in the Pacific Northwest.  And with this, her first trip to Victoria, she reached out her feelers and got us incredible access to some fun things to do.  So, heading in, we had arrangements for museums and food.  Our whole trip will be reviewed on that site, in detail... seriously, check it out! 
Olympic Mountains from the
Straits of Juan de Luca

Harbor and Parliament

So our trip began with a 2 hour road trip to the land of Twilight fame - Port Angeles.  How can anyone plugged into pop culture not think of that series when in that region, yet alone a place that plays a specific part in the lore... so, I warned my friend to watch out for sparkly vampires and giant werewolves as we drove along the edges of Olympic National Park to get to our ferry.  Alas, the sun was never out to test strangers with a sparkle view, but we did pass several locations for the local Native American reservation along the way. [I should make a note that I am not a huge fan of this series but while on a road trip, stuck in bridge traffic, it passes the time.]   The town itself is a gateway area - filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, pubs, motels and other necessities around a ferry line and outside a park.  We didn't have much time to wander, but we found a quaint place for something warm to drink, and to buy another warm hat (it was freezing that day).  Once on the boat, it was smooth sailing on the Straits of Juan de Luca to Victoria.  The light drizzle and low hanging clouds made from some gorgeous scenery as we pulled away from the States. 

Fountain in front of Parliament

Once we docked in Victoria, our AirBNB host picked us up, drove us to her condo while giving us a quick overview of the city streets.  We stayed on the fringe of OldTown/Downtown in an adorable condo, that was perfect for our weekend. It allowed us to dump our bags and hit the streets.  We headed directly to the iconic harbor (yes, where we just came from). 

Veterans' Memorial

The City lights up the waterfront so that it looks like something out of a Disney Park.  It is simply stunning and obviously the heart of downtown.  The main tourist street - Government Street branches off from the harbor; harbor cruises and whale watching tours dock there, the major city sites are within a few blocks.  It is a hub.  And like a moth to a flame, we headed right to it, to stare at the pretty lights all around the area and explore the grounds.  We found Veteran's Memorial surrounded by flowers for Remembrance Day - both of us saps, we teared up at the beautiful words on the plaque  "To Our Glorious Dead - "They died the noblest death a man may die, fighting for god, and right and liberty, and such a death is immortality" listing the World Wars, Korea, and Afghanistan.  We took pictures by the Native Canadian totem pole and worked our way through the crowd staring into the lit fountain.  The whole area was packed with people trying to get that postcard worthy shot of iconic Victoria. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Working My Way, Backwards, Through Some Fall Trips

Well, here we are again.  I was doing so good.  I caught up with most of my summer travels... and now, here I am behind again.  One of the dangers of travel is time loss.  I am convinced!

Hot Springs, Arkansas Sunset
So, we are 1 day from Turkey Day, meaning November is almost over.  I am looking down the gauntlet at a HUGE winter trip with 2 friends, cruising through the Caribbean for the holidays.  We are going to St Marteen, Tortola. Dominica, St Kitts, and St Thomas.  I have only been to St Thomas (on one amazing weeklong 30th Birthday trip with a girlfriend), so this trip means I will visit 4 new places.  I have plans to see the famed Gordo Beach (huge boulders), to swim to sea turtles (as long as they show up) in St Thomas, to take an open air train ride in St Kitts, to take a hike in St Marteen... I have plans... And I had to shop because we are going in style on the Queen Mary 2.  We have balls on this boat... 4 balls. 2 weeks!  4 Balls.  Lots of outdoor activities.  Fancy clothes for the fancy boat. Before the cruise, I have plans with my New York girlfriend to see Sutton Foster in Sweet Charity's special 50th Anniversary showing.   Ugh!  Packing will be FUN!

Of course, to gear up for this, I have been resting and planning... hahaha, NOPE, who am I kidding?  I have been hopping all over.  I visited fantastic friends in Denver, New Orleans and Seattle.  I went with my best friend to Canada.  I went to a "new" national park with the boyfriend for an old fashioned bath in Hot Springs.  In between, I squeezed in a few shows and concerts because life is more exciting with live music!  And then I got sick... I think all the running around caught up with me.

Now, I have to play catch up with the blog again.  And the best way to tackle this will be to go backwards.  So, in the coming weeks leading up to my Caribbean cruise, I will be reviewing some of the amazing weekend trips I have taken. 

Lesley and I in front of Parliament
I will look back on my timely trip to Victoria, British Columbia and relive the beauty of the waterfront, tale tales of wonders about bugs and art, and the extreme niceness of every local we met.
Little Rock Skyline!

Pere David Deer at Global Wildlife Preserve
I will walk you through a traditional bath at the Buckstaff, and for a hike around the Hot Springs Mountains as well as revisit some serious history lessons in Little Rock. 

I need to write about the great conservation efforts to for grazers on the North Shore.  I love how every time I visit New Orleans, my friend and I do something new while still honoring my love of all things art, music and good food.

Autumn in Golden
And that Denver/Golden autumn needs to be showcased.  While I only visited to see a few friends, we did take in some stunning colors in the cities.  And while there, I helped a friend of a friend build a Day of the Dead alter, my first! 

I had a fun and busy fall.  Lots of fun things happened in between those great trips, that I would ideally like to highlight. We had a fantastic trip to Fredericksburg for pumpkin picking, we saw a few great shows at area theatres/venues to see Elle King and a new Disney Musical - Freaky Friday, and enjoyed the changing of the seasons locally!  Ideally, all that stuff deserves a write-up, I just don't see all that happening.   So I will focus on these 4 trips.  I just need some time (and a new computer). 

So expect posts to come flying... promise!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fall and Winter Plans

I wish upon a star that I can just find a way to parlay my love of travel, life-long learning and exploration into something more....

Well, autumn has arrived!  A few leaves are starting to turn in the DC area.  I don't know if I am ready for this.

  • Denver
  • New Orleans
  • Arkansas
  • Victoria, Canada
  • NYC/NJ
  • Caribbean

We are well into fall, and I have already ran though a few corn mazes!  The air is crisp and I am hankering to get to an apple orchard for some fresh fall produce to cook up in my kitchen.  I recently purchased a pumpkin pie scented oil diffuser that is making my place smell like I have baked something yummy... now I need to do it!

Fall also means that I want to get out for a last bit of fresh air - I want to hit a trail and soak up the colors, feel the sun on your exposed skin and enjoy the sites and sounds of the changing of the season.  And for some reason, DC's fall is lack-luster AGAIN!  So, off I go... I had a few things planned early, and some trips will be last minute.

In October, I had a few weekend trips planned to Colorado and Louisiana to see friends and loved ones.  Short trips, but important ones since I don't get to these areas for work any more.  New Orleans is one of my favorite cities and part of my heart... I am excited that I got there before Halloween again!  And Denver is beautiful in the fall - the yellows are always spectacular.

In November, I am headed out for a big National Park visit in Arkansas - Hot Springs National Park!  This is a big one!  With the Parks Centennial, I made an effort to get to a few new (to me) parks and park units, and an Arkansas   weekend gives me a chance to see Hot Springs and Little Rock High School Historic Site.  And then will flip around to Seattle to visit the best friend for her Birthday celebration, where we mark the occasion in Victoria Canada.  She runs an amazing web site called What's up Northwest, and with her connections, we will have an epic weekend! 

In December, I have am trying to find time to visit Florida again (we will see if I can get this to work)... and I will return to NYC!  I will be headed to Broadway to see my fav, Sutton Foster in Sweet Charity with my good friend before I embark on a 12 day Caribbean trip on the Queen Mary 2.  I may not have been on the New Kids on the Block cruise this year nor did I get to my final state, Hawaii, but this cruise may just make up for that... this cruise will stop by a few new places for me - including St Kitts, St Marteen, Tortola, and Dominica as well as a return trip to St Thomas (I have not been there since my 30th birthday).

Caves, Trails, History and Muscle Cars

I am back from Kentucky... it was a trip of national parks full of caves and history, some interesting oddities and the National Corvette Museum.  Science, History, and America's Great Sports Car, its an eclectic mix for sure.  I can't say I got bored.  It was a feast for the mind; geology lessons were everywhere (even in the Corvette Museum) and Lincoln's past was part of the area's identity.  It was a feast for the eyes; the topography is gorgeous, filled with rolling green lush mountains and interesting rock formations.  And it was a challenge for the ears; cave sounds are faint, but present and walks through the woods were filled with wind blown leaves and scurrying creatures busying themselves for the cold months ahead.  Not once did I lack for something to see or do. 

I have wanted to return to Kentucky for at least 10 years... it is such a pretty area.  As I make my way through the National Parks, Cave Country was a necessity.  Mammoth Caves is a behemoth ... its gigantic and its still being explored.  Already, it stands (expands) as the largest cave system in the world.  There are over 400 miles of explored cave in the park; the park service estimates that over 600 miles still exist unexplored (by man) still to come.  While you do not need to be a spelunker to see the caves today, you can sign up and help map new areas with special outings in the park service (experienced spelunkers only - this is not the cave to get your feet wet, literally).    Me?  I am not a cave crawler... now, I have bobbled my way through some caves through the years, but those were always pre-explored trails... maybe one day before my old dancer knees completely go out I will have to get down and grimy.  For now, I hike!  And hike I did!

I came here for the Caves and I was going to see them.  So, I signed up for the longest hike they offered through the system - a 4 mile trek that the parks called extremely strenuous!  Yikes! And only 4 miles - how was that a possible designation?  I have been on hikes that that parks called strenuous before and survived them all (some better than others), but "extremely strenuous"?  What was that?  And earlier this year, I was on a hike in Cornado that was painful, and yet that was marked moderate (realized much later that I was at elevation - oops).  I worked myself up about this hike.  And once I arrived to sign in, I had a ranger suggest that I sign up for another limited opportunity at Great Oynx Cave (within the park).  "I was here for the caves"... I kept repeating that mantra in my head as the pre-cave lecture told us over and over again that we could die in the cave.  Again, just what as I doing?  The ranger spoke of over 700 stairs and steep incline, of tight passages and no way out after mile 1.  AGHHHH.  And then we got in there and going... and it was fine.  I was fine.  It was not a killer trail.  It was just one NOT for people that do not get outside.  It was not for people that do not move.  It was not for people with claustrophobia.  Yes, there were lots of stairs and plenty of switchbacks, but we rested after each steep assent.  No big deal... but I could see how it would be, because if you got hurt or overestimated your abilities, it would take you hours to get help.  And that is a YIKES!

Gypsum Flowers
Cave Cricket!
Inside the cave, I will be honest, is not the prettiest cave system you have seen.  This is not famous for its formations (there are some)... it is famous for its size.  We stood in one cavern that was over 900 feet tall.  We saw a few great formations... but for me, the coolest cave feature was the gypsum formations.  Sadly, the overwhelming majority of them had been poached from the cave walls well before the site became a national park, but there were a few around to see.  Many formations looked like delicate flowers, some more like spindly flowers and there was one room with a popcorn ceiling full of the element.  You would think museums all over would have specimens of this cool formation - NOPE!  Gypsum is highly sensitive.  The cave environment is stagnant... once outside, changes in temperature and humidity could lead to them to "melt".  Just leave the cool stuff in the cave people!  And that goes for the amazing cave creatures that evolved to live in this completely dark environment.  On our tour, we learned we could not go down to the river since there were species unique to the cave (i.e. the only ones anywhere); eyeless shrimp and fish that were also translucent.  On the trails, we saw some cave crickets that looks like something out of a scifi movie when then mated with daddy-long-legs, and some spiders.  No bats!  The bat population at Mammoth has been decimated from White Nose Fungus... Don't carry those spores around people - wash your shoes.  And the park made sure we did after each cave entry - walking us down a Woolite filled pathway.  White Nose is nasty; it suffocated the bats, covering their airways with a fungus. And while there are reports on successful ways to cure infected bats, the question remains in just "how to administer to them" in the wild; you could take at more than the fungus.  It's a sad conundrum. 

I needed clean shoes for the rest of my trip... because although White Nose is present in Mammoth Cave - it is not in other locations, so you have to be diligent.  After my day hiking above and below ground at Mammoth, I was faced with the wrath of Mother Nature... she rained out my evening Ranger talk... and she wasn't done because her storms the night before did not die down; I woke up looking at a massive thunderstorm.  Ugh - it always rains on my trips, without fail.  I had planned my history excursion to go according to Lincoln's timeline... but "best laid plans."  A quick look on my weather apps told me I had a half day window to get up to Indiana and explore Lincoln's birthplace ... and off I went to see the place Lincoln grew up in. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Heading Off To Visit Another Park - Kentucky is Calling!

There are 59 National Parks (as of this moment), and well over 500 units in the park system (including monuments, historic sites, sea/lakeshores, recreation areas, battlefields, etc).  I have visited 37 parks, about 155 units in total.  After this weekend, those numbers will tick up slightly.  I am off to visit Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, along with Lincoln's Birthplace and Boyhood homes in Kentucky and Indiana. 

The caves have been on my list for quite a while.  I started reading up on them before my first and only trip to Kentucky in the early 00's. I did not know much about Kentucky, so out came the maps to study up ...  With that trip, I was in Moorehead for work and wanted to explore the area.  Mammoth was too far away for a weekend journey, so I used my time to explore eastern Kentucky. And explore it, I did!   I traveled down the Daniel Boone National Forest in late autumn, hiking some trails while enjoying the rolling topography; I took in the colors, the geological features (stone arches) and soaked in the views.   The end of the trails brought me to  Southeaster Kentucky.  I ended up at Cumberland Gap and Cumberland State Park for one of the most spectacular natural phenomenon I have ever witnessed, moonbows!  Think rainbows but at night using the light of the full moon.  Cumberland Falls is the only place in North America you can see a moonbow and one of only 2 places in the world to see one consistently.  Of course you need perfect full moon conditions to see one - and I got that and more.  That night, I got a perfect moonbow, followed by a lunar eclipse with a meteor shower, followed by the return of the full moon for a double moonbow. I saw bows in basic colors to a white halo glow.  It was glorious.  You can't make this stuff up... and as I stood in the falls mists, on that cold late autumn evening, I knew I was gonna get seriously sick (and I did), and it didn't matter because the stars aligned for one memorable shows of nature. I still recall this lunar opportunity with awe.   I ended my journey  with something completely different, by traveling back to Lexington (where I started), celebrating horses and their power.  I was able to pay respects to Secretariat.

So while my travels through eastern Kentucky was thorough, Mammoth Caves has always been out there calling me to return.  I have visited the other cave systems in the park system, including Carlsbad, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, but this one is the longest system in the world (over 400 miles explored). It was unique and I needed to go.

I finally bit the bullet! 

I have a 4 hour cave tour scheduled and a plan to visit the area.  Calgon, take me away... Actually the National Parks are taking me away (and I need it). I need to recharge.  I am  looking forward to seeing what Mammoth Caves and the surrounding area has to offer... and I will report back! I am ready to learn something new and my camera is packed.  See you on the flip side.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Classic Crooner, Boy Bands, Pop Stars, Broadway, and a Living Legend!

Summer is unofficially over (the equinox is not here YET)... I am not sure how it is September already.  I was so caught off guard that I missed my first post-Impressionism lecture at the Smithsonian - I knew it started in September, and I knew Labor Day just passed, but I just failed to connect the calendar dots.  Time flies too quickly.  It is scary. 

I would say where did the time go, but I have the answers - at work, weekend getaways, and in the many moments I had this season enjoying live music.  It has been an amazing summer for music.

 I found myself at quite a few Broadway shows (I love me some Broadway belting).  Looking back, this might be one of my best Broadway viewing seasons in a long while.  This summer, I saw shows solo, with friends, and with family.  There was my 4th of July bender where I saw Finding Neverland, She Loves Me, and Beautiful; and then near the end of August I saw American in Paris and Waitress.  Before the summer season even started, I grooved to Disaster the Musical and tapped along with Dames at Sea.  In DC, I finally saw the classic orchestrations of Bridges of Madison County.  (And there were more this past winter with Bright Star, Allegiance)  In those shows, I saw some Broadway legends and legends to be... I could not contain my excitement to see Gavin Creel along with Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski (She Loves Me) and was giddy before Waitress with Jessie Mueller and Disaster packed with stars including Faith Prince and Adam Pascal. I saw Star Trek legend George Takei and legendary Lei Salonga in the gut wrenching WWII flashback (Allegiance).   I left shows in awe of Keale Sette (Waitress), Lesli Margherita  (Dames at Sea), Carmen Cusek (Bright Star) and Jennifer Simard (Disaster); these are names I will seek out in the future, easily.  All told, I saw 11 shows... and the year is not over.  Many new cast albums have been added to my collection - keeping me dancing in my seat while at work looking over paperwork!

The Lawn at Wolf Trap!
Broadway did not end there... Wolf Trap, National Park for the Performing Arts  had an incredible season.... and one of the shows I attended was with stage and screen siren Kristen Chenoweth (you know her - Wicked, Charlie Brown, West Wing, Glee, Pushing Daisies...)  So, braving the rain (not for the first time), a friend and I picnicked on the lawn to hear jokes and stories along with Popular, Fathers and Daughters and covers from many Broadways shows .... she even stumped us with a little known number from Flora and the Red Menace (leaving many of us to random google searches). 

Wolf Trap delivered more rain and more fantastic moments when I got to see Tony "freaking" Bennett!  My boyfriend and I sat through an epic thunderstorm, with lightening flashing too close for comfort, under a tablecloth, to see this crooner.  I refused to leave... he is Tony Bennett, and he turned 90 years old.  How many more opportunities would be have to see this living legend?  Don't know, but I do know that neither of us had seen him yet, so we weren't going to let wet asses keep us away from this show.  Acknowledging the storm, he cracked a few jokes as the classics he sang referred to weather, rain and sun. We were not exactly in a smoky room at small round tables with candles (how else you think of the old jazz singers with their bands preformed)... but man was it worth it to hear how he can still swing that voice. 

Tony was not the only legend we saw this summer... I got to see a Beatle!  A Beatle!  We went to see Paul McCartney.  And the boyfriend still gets giddy about this show, calling it the best we have ever seen.  He played for over 2 hours, pounding the keys and working the strings - singing songs from Pre-Beatles to his most recent song with Rihanna and Kanye.  It was an honest and true rock concert with lights, lasers and speaker issues... he joked that we all wanted the Beatles stuff and he could prove it with all the cell phones that came out at those moments; he admitted that he likes singing more than that... and that he likes to push.  And the crowd ate it up.  He could have played all night.  Sometimes, he didn't even need to sing because the crowd did it for him... like the entire place singing Hey Jude "lalalalala." It was an amazing, transcendent experience.