Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: travel Page 1 of 14

National Federation of Press Women Conference Winds Down as June Ends

Hotel one block from the Old Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Attending the National Federation of Press Women conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was an informational experience. We were treated to a keynote address from Peter Kovacs, editor of The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s local newspaper, and a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Walt Handelsman. Also featured as speakers were Jeff Cowart of San Antonio, who talked about Creative Story telling, and Scott Sternberg, an attorney and First Amendment expert who talked about attacks on First Amendment freedoms.

Scott Sternberg readies his presentation about attacks on the First Amendment (freedom of speech).

A panel of book authors featured Stanley Nelson, editor of the Concordia (La) Sentinel and author of “Devils Walking: Klan Murders Along the Mississippi in the 1960s,” Rachel Emanuel, author of “A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana,” and Leo Honeycutt, former television journalist and author of several books including “Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana: An Authorized Biography.”

National Federation of Press Women attendees (approximately 80) in the Old Capitol Senate chamber.

Peter Kovacs, who started off the convention on Thursday, June 27 shared with us that his father, then 25 years old, was in Baton Rouge staying at this very hotel when Huey Long was shot. Why was he there? He was a traveling condom salesman. Kovacs went on from that shared glimpse into Louisiana history to talk about the Pulitzer his paper won for a series on jury law in Louisiana that allowed the accused to be sent to prison even if the jury could not find them guilty. It had to do with a now-outlawed law that allowed juries to find someone guilty with only 9 or 10 of 12 jurors agreeing on the guilt, a hold-over from the Jim Crow years.

Old Capitol. Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On Friday, the noon luncheon at the Old Senate building one block away yielded many interesting and amusing stories conveyed by Jay Dardenne. The building, itself, is a National Historic Landmark and received an Excellence for Architectural Award. According to Dardenne, the building was more than adequate to serve as the Capitol building but Huey Long wanted the tallest Senate building and decreed that a new Capitol building must be built, which it was. (Huey Long is buried in the front lawn).

Voted 11th best stained glass window in a recent poll.

For those of us who have seen Sean Penn play Huey “Catfish” Long in the movies, we may not have realized that he was a very real threat as a Presidential candidate to FDR in the election of 1936, but was assassinated on September 10, 1942, at age 42 in Baton Rouge before his 8 million followers in many other states could band together to put him in office. In his first year in office, Huey Long

Outside the convention center hotel.

paved 8,000 miles of formerly dirt roads, provided for free text books for all Louisiana students, and had placed 23 members on the family payroll. Each employee was required to contribute 10% of his or her pay check to a fund known as the Deduc fund, which was used to support Huey’s chosen candidates in their races. When told this was not kosher, Huey said, “I’ve made them pay it momentarily.”

Jay Dardenne, Commissioner of Administration for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He oversees the state budget and general government operations and served for 8 years as Louisiana’s Lt. Gov. 4 years as Secretary of State, 15 years as a state senator, and 3 years as a Baton Rouge metro Councilman. (Speaker on 6/28 inside the Old Capitol).

Ultimately, Huey’s domineering very Trump-like ways caused a move to impeach him. The Senators met in the very room where we had lunch, but they had all been placed in office by Huey and, after deliberating for one hour, refused to impeach him (“We will not vote to impeach.”).  They all signed in a circle, so that no one could see who had signed first, forming the famous “Round Robin Signature.” Chief Justice O’Neal of the Louisiana Supreme Court, when asked about the prospect of impeachment for Huey Long, said, “Don’t you think I’d give the thieving son-of-a-bitch a fair trial?”

The 6/28 luncheon was held within the very Senate room where Senators met to vote on whether to impeach then-Governor Huey Long.

When Huey was finally gunned down, he was no longer the Governor, but was serving as Senator. On September 8, 1935, Long was at the State Capitol attempting to oust a long-time opponent, Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy. At 9:20 p.m., just after passage of the bill effectively removing Pavy, Pavy’s son-in-law Carl Weiss, a physician from Baton Rouge, approached Long, and, according to the generally accepted version of events, shot him in the torso with a handgun from four feet (1.2 m) away. Long’s bodyguards responded by firing at Weiss with their own pistols, killing him; an autopsy found that Weiss had been shot more than sixty times by Long’s bodyguards. Long died on September 10 at 4:10 a.m.[109] According to different sources, his last words were either, “I wonder what will happen to my poor university boys,” or “I have so much to do.”

Speaker Dardenne shared details of another Louisiana politician,  Cat Dusett, who spoke Parisian French and did not speak English well. He once declared he would “win by a landscape” and said, “I talk out of my head.” When asked about his policy on juvenile delinquency, he said, “If it’s good for the kids, I’m for it.” Asked about Civil Rights, his response was, “If we owe it, we ought to pay it.”

Incoming President Gwen Larson.

Dardenne moved on to humorous stories of a snake oil remedy called Hadacall. (When asked why it was named Hadacall, the entrepreneur and patent medicine salesman inventor said, “I hadda call it something!”) In addition to advertising that the potion could cure cancer and insomnia, it was eventually marketed as an aphrodisiac and Jerry Lee Lewis even composed a chorus in one song, which went like this:  “It takes a knock-kneed woman and a bow-legged man to do the Hadacall boogie on a sardine can.”

 

 

 

Walt Handelsman, who has won 3 Pulitzer Prizes for his cartooning and his animated drawings, delighted the crowd with a presentation featuring some of his better-known cartoons. Some cartoons we were not allowed to photograph, but this one, featuring Bill Clinton, earned a second laugh when Handelsman told us that the next day he got a phone call from an elderly woman who wanted to know, “Who is Bill talking to? Is it Monica?”

The caption on the cartoon, (for those who cannot enlarge it on their screens)  shows (Bill) Clinton saying, “Well, this is ANOTHER fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”

 

Baton Rouge National Federation of Press Women on June 27th, Thursday

Inside the Museum.

Thursday, June 27th activities at the National Federation of Press Women began with a memorial service to former presidents of state organizations who had died in the past year. Candles were lit and and passed from member to member representing that state. We sang “Amazing Grace” (lyrics were passed out) and, since it was the day of friend Nelson Peterson’s funeral, which I was missing to be here, it was particularly poignant for me.

Leaving for the evening reception of June 27 at the Capitol Museum.

In the evening, we boarded a bus and were ferried over to the Museum associated with the Old Capitol. We were met by waiters with drinks—rose mixed with rum, pink with a raspberry in it. (“Packs quite a punch if you drink enough,” the wait staff told me, so I took it easy.) The wait staff was cordial and friendly and, in the background, a string quartet played popular music of a certain genre. (“Stairway to Heaven,” “All of Me”).

Waiters with drinks met us at the Museum.

The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Billie Nungesser welcomed us to the state and the open bar and wonderful seafood buffet was sponsored by Visit Baton Rouge and Louisiana Seafood. The food, itself, was to die for, as they say. There was even a separate “oyster tent” where oysters had been cooked and were served on the half-shell in a delicious sauce. During the dining experience, you could opt to hold a baby alligator or shop with local artisans who made jewelry, paintings or woodworking.

After dining, we were free to browse the interior of the museum, which was a fascinating place. It was a little too dark to get good shots of the exhibits, but the information was interesting and well-presented. Plus, a scavenger hunt had been set up for party goers to find a specific display, take a selfie with it, and send it in for a $100 prize.

Artist.

Prize-winning woodworker.

A good time was had by all!

Prize-winning woodworker.

Capitol Museum veranda.

Plantation woodworking.

Illinois outgoing NFPW President Maranne Wolf-Astrauskas and socializers enjoy the veranda.

Local artisan display.

Inside the Museum.

Baby alligator.

Alligator fun!

Oyster tent.

Baton Rouge: Here I come!

I started the day at 10:30 a.m. heading for O’Hare to catch a plane to Houston and, from there to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I will be for the next 3 days, taking pictures as the official photographer for the National Federation of Press Women Conference. (Wish me lots of luck!)

The getting onto the flight to Houston actually went quite well. In fact, a very nice African American porter insisted on escorting me inside the building (from curbside) and pointing me in the right direction to access my gate. Plus, I got TSA Pre-check prior to boarding the plane, which is always nice.

On the plane, I was seated next to a nice gentleman who spoke no English, so no small talk would occur. (He did know the word “Coke”). In front of me was a family with 3 small girls. The 8 and 10-year-old girls were fine. The baby of the family was horrible. She shrieked in a high-pitched powerful voice the entire way to Houston and the flight lasted from 12:45 until 4:10 p.m. It was not because she was tired or had an ear ache. She just liked to screech and the screaming was truly bad. Neither her father nor her mother nor her sisters attempted to get her to stop. I actually had to put my fingers in my ears to keep from getting a headache after the first 2 hours of this LOUD shrieking.

The plane landed at 4:05 p.m. My second flight from Houston to Baton Rouge (you cannot fly direct and I had to take United, which I had vowed never to fly again after they sold me a direct ticket from Cincinnati to Moline that doesn’t exist) was boarding. I ran for about 2 miles and got to the gate before the plane left the ground, but they would not let me board. I actually made it in pretty good time—considering how far away I was…but it was too late. I then had to go up to the second floor from the basement level because there were no rest rooms (or food places) on the basement level where the “hopper” planes depart from.

My luggage, however, did make the trip without me.

I re-booked for a 5:40 p.m. flight, which didn’t seem too bad, but, after I went up to level 2 (in Houston) from level 1, they would not allow me to go back DOWN to level 1 where Gate 1 was located. The woman guarding the gate said, “We’ll announce when it is boarding.”

I then noticed that my flight, scheduled to depart at 6:05 p.m., was now not going to leave until 7 p.m. I went BACK over to ask if I could NOW go downstairs. “We’ll let you know when it’s boarding.” Then the plane was listed on the big board as not departing until 7:30 p.m. So, I’ve now been waiting around 2 hours and have been flying or in an airport or trying to GET to an airport since roughly 10:30 a.m. The flight, alone, was 3 and 1/2 hours because of bad weather.

I went over 3 times, asking if I could go downstairs to Gate One. Each time, Cerberus (the elderly Hispanic lady guarding the door to floor one) dismissively told me to sit down and listen to her announce when they’d allow me to go back downstairs. The next thing I knew, I heard my name being called (along with 3 others) with the ominous message, “Last call for boarding for Baton Rouge for customers Smith, Jones and Wilson.” In other words, I nearly missed the second plane, thanks to the officious woman guarding the doorway.

I did get on and was seated with a lovely English-speaking girl who was a computer specialist going to Baton Rouge from Houston for work. We bonded over our mutual dislike of pretzels. We were also given pop, and I drank about half of mine before the steward came around to pick up our drinks. He had a white plastic bag and, as he stood there, pop was running out of it and onto my foot, which I pointed out. (I had not given him my only half empty can yet, nor my glass, so it was not MY Diet Coke). He totally soaked my right foot and my brand-new shoes. I hope it didn’t ruin them. He seemed totally unconcerned, making the comment, “Your shoe will dry out.” He did not offer me napkins, or a cloth, or any way of drying off my foot.

Well, yes, my FOOT will dry, but the lining of the brand-new shoes was a chamois-like fabric and now it is stained and wet.

I then had to find my luggage in the Boca Raton airport, which apparently only has about 2 employees after dark. Everything was shut. The woman I asked told me she’d be down “in 20 minutes or so” to open the locked room where my bags were stored. I sat and waited for her next to the ticketing desk for United.

I got my bags and called for a shuttle from the Hilton. I was told it would take 15 minutes. I also was told that I’d have to drag myself and all of my bags outside, where it was at least 84 degrees and very, very muggy. I went outside and I was outside for 45 minutes with no shuttle in sight. Meanwhile, all the cabs left and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to sleep on the hard metal bench I was sitting on.

Finally, the van showed up and I got on, along with a woman who said her name was Laurie Steiner. I am now putting my clothes in the closet.

Let the games begin.

Samsung Television Bites the Dust; We Hit the Road

Bridge views on I-74 bridge.

So, our 17-year-old Samsung television has developed an annoying habit of flickering as though the vertical hold has gone out on a TV, circa 1950. Remember when you used to call the television repairman to come fix this annoying glitch, and, as soon as he would arrive, the TV set would be fine?

 

At any rate, for the past several months the debate has been over whether it was the TV set or Media Com. My husband chose to defend the TV set’s constant, annoying flickering and vertical hold problems and blame it on the box from Media Com, our television provider. It was getting to the point that I felt I might become like a Japanese child and fall on the floor having a seizure before he would admit that we had to do something to get to the bottom of the problem.

Then came the news that tariffs will probably cause prices of everything to rise precipitously. These price increases may not have taken effect yet, but they will in time, and that was the key to getting in the car and driving over to Best Buy and selecting a new Samsung television set (57″) and it will now be installed on Thursday.

Since the new Samsung is at least 5 inches larger than our former set, the next purchase may well be a new couch. I have hated the current couch ever since we bought it. I should never have given it to the always-impatient spouse’s desire to simply be “done” with shopping for a sectional for our family room. It was from a sketchy place (that has since closed) and the only thing it had to recommend it was that (a) it had kick-out foot rests, which my husband thinks is the Cat’s Meow (does anyone in the year 2019 still say “The Cat’s Meow?”) and (b) it was large. It does seat a lot of people, but parts of it have gotten worn down and the support struts underneath were never up to the challenge(s).

There is a small chance that we can move the two pieces we purchased and re-arrange them further back in this room, [which we added on to our house in 1993.] Since the game table was taken to Austin and sacrificed to become our temporary kitchen table (now replaced with a REAL kitchen table set), we have more room behind this couch. I moved the couch table into the front living room, so maybe we can move the green couch(es) around and give ourselves more room to sit back and view the new TV set when it arrives?

Thus, we drove across the I-74 bridge, which has had construction going on it for months and is not due for completion until mid 2020.  One lane traffic into Iowa. I counted at least 18 cranes. Sorry the pictures are not of better quality, but the driver refused to slow down and I had to get whatever photos I could of the many cranes replacing the 1930-era Interstate bridge that joins Iowa with Illinois.

Fourth-graders Ava & Elise Wilson Report on the Eiffel Tower from Paris

My twin granddaughters, Ava (the brunette) and Elise (the blonde) were with Mom and Dad in England and France this past week. True, they missed one week of fourth grade in Austin, Texas, but who among you would say they would have learned more during the last week of school at Baranoff Elementary than they did visiting Europe? (I actually said that the last week of any school should be avoided at all costs by everyone, if possible.)

My son’s job headquarters (steel company PSI) are in Berlin, Germany, so their engineer father (Scott) decided that his chemical engineer wife (Jessica) and the girls, age 10, should fly across the pond and visit the sights. Because Scott previously worked for a British steel firm, he has colleagues who are British and one generously offered them lodging for a week in England.

I asked the girls on the phone what their biggest impression of England was and the answer was, “They talk funny.”

I’d like to be able to tell you of ALL the places they’ve visited, but I can’t remember them all. Not to worry: Nanna Connie has requested comparison/contrast essays on England versus France and the girls are keeping journals.

It is worth mentioning that, during their time in England and France, Teresa May resigned and, last I heard, Macron of France was losing to LePen. (Do you think they know this? No? Oh, OK.)

LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (TX) Alive in Spring

Decided to take Ava & Elise to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They’ve been before. As you can see, Elise is excited!

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants.  All of the gardens feature plants native to Texas, from the mountains in the West to the Gulf Coast.  The practices focus on conserving resources, providing wildlife habitat, protecting native plants and creating a sense of place. This is the Botanic Garden of Texas and an organized research unit of the University of Texas at Austin.

We took the twin granddaughters (Ava, the brunette, and Elise, the blonde) for lunch and on a stroll through the  various fields of flowers, telling everyone to stick to the path and watch out for snakes—especially rattlesnakes. In addition to rattlesnakes (western ribbonsnakes, thamnophis proximus) there are also redstripe ribbon snakes (T.p. rubrilineatus), squirrels and lizards.
In season now were Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primrose, Engelmann’s daisies, horsemint, Indian blanket (the orange ones by the tree), Rock rose, Antelope horns, Mexican hat (yellow, like small sunflowers) and standing cypress.

Wildflower Cafe & flowers.

Yellow water-lilies.

Yellow waterlily.

Waterliles.

Nature in action.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference (apologies to Robert Frost).

Pool in Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

Chinese girl at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.

Two Chinese girls at the Lady Bird Jonson Wildflower Center

Fallen tree.

Fallen tree—but the root does not seem to have been anywhere around the rest of the tree. How?

Red yucca.

Squiggy the squirrel, enjoying a snack.

Girls behind the waterfall.

Ava and the deer.

Path.

Waterfall (no girls).

Brilliant wildflowers.

Field of wildflowers.

View from up top.

View from atop the tower.

Wildflower fields from atop the tower.

Cancun, Mexico on April 19th: Vacation Pictures

Pam and I in Cancun (4/17/19).

Royal Islander, from the Penthouse, Cancun, Mexico.

The view from the Royal Islander lagoon side.

9th floor, Royal Islander, lagoon side

Moon over Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico

Harry’s, Cancun.

We’ve been here in Cancun, Mexico, since April 6th.

In that time, we have watched Notre Dame burn down, eaten at fine restaurants, and had great times with good friends and family.

One of the nicest places we dined was Harry’s, although Captain’s Cove is a long-time favorite. We have been coming to Cancun at Easter since 1991, which is 28 years. Our unit at the Royal Islander on the 9th floor was purchased in 1994 and our unit at the Royal Sands in 1997.

Our Royal Islander penthouse unit only has 3 years remaining after this year and, therefore, the pictures here focus on that “home away from home.” Last week there were 7 of us in our unit; this week only 4.

In addition to Harry’s, we tried Fred’s this year. I had the crab and it was delicious. We were supposed to dine within the J.W. Mariott tonight, but our plans changed and we decided to have one last meal at the Royal Caribbean, which is scheduled to close in July and then re-open later, but not as a time share.

The weather today was extremely windy, but the temperatures have been wonderful: balmy and warm. Another Easter vacation for the books.

View From Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Pre-Fire

Paris: the view from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

Gargoyles and pillars atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

The view from above: Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

The world has reacted as you would have expected to the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. There was shock, sadness and, ultimately, a desire to help rebuild.

I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged $139 million dollars to the reconstruction efforts. Observers on the ground commented on the steeples that fell, which were wooden, carved from a now-long-gone forest. One can anticipate that the steeple of the future may be made of some form of metal.

It is heart-warming to learn how beloved this symbol of Catholicism is not just to Paris but to the world. Almost universally, mourners around the world expressed their grief at the loss of such a beloved iconic structure. Democratic candidate Pete Buttegieg expressed his sorrow in flawless French (he speaks 7 languages and was a Rhodes Scholar). And then there were Presidents Obama and Trump. You can imagine which expressed his sentiments the most eloquently.

One firefighter was injured and we learn that the 400 valiant firefighters were fortunate enough to salvage some important things that were inside the beloved church. The famous Rose Window has supposedly been saved, and I heard that the world famous organ had, as well. I had heard, prior to these more recent updates, that, because the structure was undergoing some reconstruction, various copper statues had been removed before the flames broke out. That would be good news for the world and for France. Supposedly the crown of thorns perhaps worn by Jesus was also saved.

The world will watch as the resourceful French pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Cathedral of Notre Dame Pictures Depicting The View from the Top

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the bells of Notre Dame that the 400 firefighters were trying to save. (I believe they were successful and also saved the remnant of the crown of thorns supposedly worn by Jesus.)

Gargoyle at the top; of Notre Dame, as it was.

The narrow walkway at the top of Notre Dame.

I promised to post pictures that my good friend (and former college roommate) Pam Rhodes took within Notre Dame Cathedral and from the uppermost levels of Notre Dame Cathedral when she was there studying in 2007.

Notre Dame gargoyles.

I can’t imagine that the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral depicted and the view from the top-most parapets will remain the same after reconstruction of the ravaged structure takes place. As the news sources have repeated, Notre Dame was the most visited tourist site in Europe.

My daughter, who posted a bit of video from her visit there this past October, said it was her favorite tourist attraction during her trip. I remember attending mass there during my first trip and I stayed in a hotel quite near the church on the Isle de la Cite in 2007.

The pictures of the fire burning against the Paris sky were riveting and also heartbreaking. News that France’s President Macron had canceled a previous meeting in order to go to the Cathedral makes one realize how deficient our own President is during U.S. tragedies. The question on the lips of many is whether the Pope will make a trip from Italy to Paris.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral: View from the Top As You’ll Never Be Able to See It Again

Notre Dame Cathedral

From the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the top of Notre Dame.

View of Paris from the top of Notre Dame.

Gargoyles atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Thedestruction of Notre Dame Cathedral by fire has gripped the nation and the world in its grasp.

It is an iconic symbol of so many things to so many people. And now, with the destruction of much of it, you’ll never be able to climb to the top and take the pictures I am going to share with you today, and in the next few days: 16 in all.

Mydaughter just visited Paris in the past few months and she said that Notre Dame was her favorite tourist visit. I actually attended church there, many moons ago, and the Rose Window—which may or may not have been saved—-captivated me during the service.

In order to get these pictures, you had to travel up to the top in a very small elevator that only accommodated about 7 people at a time. My college roommate. Pam Rhodes (a Des Moines area French teacher did that), and took these photos.

I’m sharing them with you, because this is a view from the top that will never be the same again.

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