A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper personal column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in more than 130 countries.-- My metaphor--Sunrise on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Never on the Rocks"--investigating Scotch whisky

A whisky tasting  is an experience in Scotland
My story in today's Journal Record
Investigative journalism at its best...that's what I thought when I asked for a travel assignment from the Journal Record daily business newspaper in Oklahoma City this summer. 
"Sure," said Editor Ted Streuli, when he learned we were going to Scotland. "Report on the business of scotch"
So in our trip to the UK, Susan and I had to experience Edinburgh, and I made sure to investigate Scotch whisky. That meant multiple "interviews" of the subject--because a "one source" story is shallow.
(Note--AP style--scotch is capitalized only when preceding "whisky." "Whisky" is the spelling in Scotland--elsewhere it's spelled "whiskey" if produced elsewhere.)
Alan Rogerson in Edinburgh
It was a tough assignment, but someone has to cover this beat. I also interviewed friend Amie Hendrickson, manager and certified sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop, who provided important local information.
So today, my story appeared in the Journal Record. Ah, the power of a byline, it tastes almost as good as...well, maybe not.
Whisky stores are everywhere in Scotland
I'll share the written story in a few days, but if you want to read it first, buy a Journal Record.
For perspective, there are more than 100 whisky distilleries in Scotland, which in land area is smaller than Maine. The next largest number of whiskey distilleries is in the U.S. with 15.
In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took.
Your investigative reporter at work

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Childhood is gone"--Harper Lee's new novel

Gut-wrenching, and prose as poetry, and insight.  That's my initial reaction reading "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, purchased by Susan from Best of Books in Edmond--she'd reserved it ahead of time.​
Yesterday, after 99 pages, I told her, "Well, It's not 'To Kill a Mockingbird,'  and not as serious. It's a good story, some good humor in conversations, but no drama, yet."
Then I picked it up again in the afternoon, turned the page to a new chapter, and like Scout, was jolted.
Reading some more this morning, on the back porch, where wrens and cardinals and robins flitted around the feeder and lawn, I found peace, prose and insight that fits even today, especially in light of those Oklahoma racists waving flags in President Obama's face this past week.
Here's one small excerpt:
"...in terms of a recurring story as old as time: the chapter which concerned her began two hundred years ago and was played out in a proud society the bloodiest war and harshest peace in modern history could not destroy, returning, to be played out again on private ground in the twilight of a civilization no wars and no peace could save."
Don't try to compare it with "Mockingbird," which is mythic, but you and everyone will.   It is a sort of sequel, set 20 years later. Even the covers are similar, which is symbolic. I'd just say, "Childhood is gone." Of course the new book has critics. So? 
But it is Harper Lee's beautiful writing and story telling, and in addition to the reality of racism, there is humor, grace, insight and depth to the characters and into 1950s America, and to 2015, apparently,  as well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A window on real education, in a word

Cambridge students punting while they attend, and tourists "attending" to students.
Words are windows on the way we live. Thinking about our pilgrimage to Cambridge--the town and mostly the University...students don't "attend" Cambridge...they "study at"--and therein, with just one word,  you have the difference between real higher education, and in America, especially public education. Isaac Newton  and Charles Darwin didn't attend Cambridge, they "studied" there, for example.

Ready to punt
There's another word with a difference.
Here, "punting" is what Bob Stoops does twice. In Cambridge, "punting" is boating on the River Cam. Cambridge is named after the first bridge over the river back in 731 AD. Cambridge as a University was founded in 1284, but we do have some similarities at UCO and in America. We have buildings, and we have students, but they attend here, not study. There are many more bridges at Cambridge these days, some dating from the 1500s and 1600s. The University has 33 colleges, none of which has more than 1,100 students "studying" there.
Ready to punt
If you go to Cambridge, you have to go punting, and we did...down the river, on the "backs" of the medieval campus buildings, with other tourists and students. 
At top is a photo of why I prefer the English punting, two students who "attend" Cambridge. Susan and I did too. 
Top students get the best rooms, and windows
For more windows, here are some others. Here are some  windows dating from 1460 behind which some excellent students live. I learned that the best and biggest  rooms go to the students who have the best grades.
 And for lower classmen and other students who just "attend" rather than "study," I expect the rooms are somewhat less kind. 
Punting on the River Cam, with King's College iconic chapel in the background

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Haunting windows of UK itinerary discoveries

The Benedictine abbey, destroyed when the Protestants revolted.
We worked almost a year on putting together an itinerary for the trip to England and Scotland.
Susan did most of the work, using travel books, and then we turned to Vickie Nichols of Nichols Travel for more help.
We made some of the arrangements ourselves, including a stay in Cambridge, and bed in breakfasts in York and Keswick, driving through the moors, Lake district and into Scotland. 
Someone still decorates the graves of monks.
Still we rented a car in York, and braved me learning how to drive and sit on the opposite side of the car and road than here. 
And behind the wheel of this new Mercedes, thankfully with a gps system we named "Maggie," we discovered countryside and people we never dream of, nor planned on our large itinerary. 
Discoveries included the ruins of this haunting, historic  Benedictine Abbey on a high, windy bluff overlooking Whitby, a fishing village on the coast of the North Sea.
For some reason I'm having trouble writing and organizing these trip stories, but the them of windows helps keep be going. Susan's priority were the moors and mine was Cambridge. We missed much and changed schedules. More about that later.
So for the record, here's the official itinerary--we neglected to plan for all the walking--anywhere from five to nine miles a day, so we lost weight!
  • London--five nights. parliament, Westminster Abbey, Churchill's War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Tower bridge and the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly circus, British Museum, Harrods department store, Dickens' house and museum, side train trip to Canterbury Cathedral, and various pubs, using the Tube (subway, cabs, double-decker bus, and walking..
  • Brit rail to Cambridge--one night. My pilgrimage to a real university. Punting (not the Stoops' kind) on the River cam. Painted one watercolor.
Haunting windows on the past

  • Brit rail to York--three nights. touring York Minster, largest cathedral north of the Alps. Toured the National Railway Museum, a little boy's dream of real locomotives. Visiting Viking center, visiting pubs, walking the medieval walls. Car trip to Scarborough and discovering Anne Bronte's grave. North through the most beautiful country I've ever seen. Whitby and the Abbey. The Yorkshire Moors. Whitby was a religious site from the mid 600s. The Abbey was built about 1225, after the Catholic Normans had conquered England.  Henry VIII disestablished the monasteries in 1540 and destroyed it. The windows are haunted, in more than one way. Bram Stoker lived in Whitby and the abbey  may have been an inspiration for "Dracula."
  • Keswick--Lake district, two nights in a country house. Drove through beautiful North York Dales. Drove to Grasmere, toured Wordsworth's Dove Cottage and grave. Hiked in the mist alongside on of the lakes. Painted one watercolor.
  • Scotland and Edinburgh--three nights. Drove up through Scotland on the rural roads, Turned in car at Edinburgh after nightmare traffic.  Took 12-hour small bus tour to Loch Ness and through the highlands. Shopped Edinburgh. Toured Edinburgh castle, and sampled great Scotch. At and drank in pubs.
  • Took tram in front of hotel for 30 minute ride to airport, five pounds each. Home.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Windows into a wonderful world--2

Old window at Canterbury Cathedral
Windows tell you a lot about a place, a people, a time, a civilization, We take ours for granted, though I wish our 1970s house had bigger ones. Many of the newer ones do, but they're not distinctive, just cookie-cutter pre-fab ones.  
Go back in time and you'll find American windows smaller, especially on the frontier, or in pre-white man days when there was no glass. We're spoiled today with storm windows, screens, air conditioning and more. 
Parliament, Union Jack, from Westminster cloisters
Over time, windows reflect a civilization and culture, and that tells you something about the shallowness of America. Only in some aging neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere do you find windows with character, grace and style.
Windows draw me, my imagination--so many stories, histories, ghosts, hopes, fears--demanding to be photographed, to be encountered.
In England and Scotland I found different stories, growing out of centuries of habitation.
Too many words--I was overwhelmed everywhere I went, and it's hard to write about, to organize. The windows help. 

Canterbury Cathedral, from its cloisters
Earls Court Tube station--our window to the rest of London

A sea of red buses outside the 18th Century pub, The Clarence

Parliament...windows on freedom
Westminster, windows on the past