Monday, July 28, 2014

Stories of Terror Strike Home

I’ve written about the intertwining of current events and news articles with my life experiences. Today provided examples of both the bemusing and tragic juxtapositions of reality with my past.

Monday’s New York Times ran an article on Chatham, Mass., where a little more than two decades ago my magazine co-sponsored a retail innovation technology award (RITA) competition at the Chatham Bars Inn. Invoking the perquisite of office, I brought along my whole family for three days of fun, walking and biking around Chatham and playing on the beach, a mini vacation catalogued by Gilda on our VCR camera, the tapes of which I recently converted to DVD format. Gilda filmed me walking from my meeting to the beach where Dan and Ellie built sand castles.

One of Gilda’s and my fondest memories of our children is dinner in the dining room of the Chatham Bars Inn. The dozen adults—judges and spouses—ate together. As required by the hotel, the men wore jackets and ties. Ellie and Dan, respectively 8 and 11, ate at a separate table in a separate area of the dining room. We dressed them up in their finest outfits. The wait staff treated them like a prince and princess. They were models of decorum, acting very grown up amid very grown up surroundings.

The Times article chronicled the increased presence of great white sharks in the waters around Chatham, a terror the town has not only learned to live with but also has embraced for economic benefit (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/28/us/sharks-in-cape-cod-town-draw-tourists-flipping-the-jaws-script.html?ref=us&_r=0).

A continent away, in the waters of Venice Beach, Calif., where Gilda and I stayed two years ago, terror of another kind struck Sunday. A lightning strike electrified the salt water, injuring about a dozen swimmers. One young man died. 

Like many of you, I heard of this tragedy on the radio news. The deceased was not identified. As I was riding Metro North to Manhattan this morning to attend a rally against man-made terror by Hamas against Israel, a friend at my former magazine called. The young man who died was the son of our West Coast saleswoman. 

It’s been hard to breathe deeply all day. The support for Israel rally brought out collective grief, not just for Israelis killed in the conflict in Gaza but also for the hundreds of civilian Palestinians killed, injured and trapped in the crossfire. Jews identify with the suffering of other Jews, and other peoples. It’s in our blood, our DNA, given our long history of persecution. But it’s mostly an abstract association. Among the six million who were murdered in the Holocaust, many of my relatives could be numbered. But I never met them. I have pictures of but a few of them. 

Similarly, I know many Israelis, friends and relatives. I long for a time when they won’t be in daily danger, when they can return to the beaches of Tel Aviv and Herzliya without fear, without searching for the location of the nearest bomb shelter.

Nick Fagnano just wanted to wash the sand from his body when he waded into the Pacific Ocean right before the lightning struck. I might have met Nick once when he was a teenager. I truly don’t remember. But I knew his mother for most of the 32 years I worked for Lebhar-Friedman. Mary joined the sales staff of Chain Store Age in 2003. She and her husband, Jay, always talked positively about their son, his devotion to baseball. He was a pitcher on the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School baseball team. In September he was to enter USC as a junior to study urban development.

Headlines and initial stories said, “20-year-old man” killed by lightning. Yes, he was old enough to be called a man. But to Mary and Jay, he will always be their boy, their only child, taken from them in a freakish confluence of timing and nature. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Free Range Child Rearing

I called home from work one day to discover Gilda had left 10-year-old Dan in charge of watching himself and seven-year-old Ellie while she went to and from the cleaners four blocks away. I went ballistic.

How could you be so delinquent, so irresponsible, I demanded of Gilda when I came home. She calmly responded there was nothing to fear, that Dan was more than capable at his age of caring for both of them in the few minutes she was away.

I bring this up now because of a segment on the Brian Lehrer Show I listened to Thursday. His WNYC public radio guest was Lenore Skenazy, author of the book and blog Free Range Kids, her conceit being that children today need more independence, that fear they will be snatched, or worse, has been overblown by the media and overtaken our collective psyches, particularly those of parents of young children.

Lehrer and Skenazy discussed the recent arrest of a South Carolina woman who let her nine-year-old daughter, armed with a cell phone, play in a popular park while she worked in a nearby McDonald’s. For details of the alleged charge of unlawful conduct toward a child, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail, and their conversation, click on this link (http://www.wnyc.org/story/less-hovering-more-exercise/), or for a CNN article click here (http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/21/living/mom-arrested-left-girl-park-parents/index.html?iref=allsearch).

I will avoid taking sides, though the Murray of 25 years ago clearly had an opinion. But I can’t seem to be anything but nostalgic for the freedom my friends and I had in the Brooklyn of the 1950s and early 1960s to play outdoors, even in the street, to walk two long avenue blocks to play in the PS 254 schoolyard all day where stocky-built, black curly haired Tyrone was the local bully, to ride city buses to school and sometimes often wait 20 minutes or more in the rain or freezing cold and snow for a bus to arrive. 

This was not the bucolic Stand By Me coming-of-age experience. Rather, it was an ongoing immersion into city life complete, for me at least, with a mugging in Coney Island when two early teenage friends and I snuck away on the elevated subway one Saturday afternoon to enjoy the rides in Steeplechase Park. It was a quick, almost casual, mugging. We were about to walk into Steeplechase. I held a $20 bill aloft and before I realized it wasn’t Stanley or Jerry reaching for the money, the twenty was snatched from my grip by three youths who jostled all of us before racing away. We were unsettled, but still had enough money to spend an hour or two at Steeplechase. 

We had to keep our trip secret. Stanley and Jerry came from families that prohibited traveling on Saturday, or touching money. I didn’t have those restrictions, but my cousin Michael was coming to our house that afternoon and I had some explaining to do about why I was not home to play with him. I fibbed that I was at the schoolyard playing ball and had lost track of time. 

Fast forward to Gilda’s and my parenting prerogatives. When Ellie started seventh grade we were surprised to learn she no longer qualified for busing. White Plains provides busing to students who live at least a mile from school. We hadn’t moved. The school hadn’t moved, so why had Ellie been stripped of busing privileges? Seems a new busing administrator had mapped out a different, less than a mile, route. 

Gilda and I were upset. Ellie was unperturbed. Gilda ferried her uphill to school every morning; Ellie relished the down hill walk home, even disdaining offers of rides from parents no doubt concerned about a 12- or 13-year-old girl trekking on streets without sidewalks with the need to cross busy Mamaroneck Avenue.  

Some parents are reluctant to send their kids to sleep away camp, much less for a full seven or eight week summer. We shipped Dan out when he was nine, Ellie when she was seven. When Dan asked for an all-night birthday party, we agreed, never thinking he and his friends would stay awake the whole time. But they did and it is still fondly remembered as another example of Forseter libertarianism. 

When Dan learned to drive at 16, we gave him a credit card. Thirteen-year-old Ellie got one, as well. Both credit cards have their pictures on the back. Nearly 20 years later the pictures have yet to be updated by the bank. The point is, we trusted them to handle the cards in a responsible fashion. They did.

Yes, bad things happen. But they can happen even in the most careful circumstances. It’s normal to be vigilant. It stifles growth and independence to be suffocating. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stairway to the Animal Kingdom and a Letter from Israel

I've often fessed up I hate exercising. But I do take advantage of natural exercise moments, such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator. After leaving the car on the fifth floor of Gilda's self park regular garage at Mount Sinai hospital Wednesday afternoon before a doctor’s appointment, I chose to walk down the stairs. Halfway down I saw an animal curled up on the landing. Furry. Grey with a black streak down its back. Pointed snout. And a black Zorro mask across its eyes. He, or she, took one look at me and went back to sleep.

I quickly retreated away from this slumbering raccoon and jumped on the elevator. I advised the garage attendant to call the police or animal control squad. It took him a while to understand me. He said he’d call housekeeping. A few blocks later I stopped in the hospital’s garage security office and told them about the raccoon. They, too, promised to call the proper authorities. When I returned to the garage 90 minutes later the attendant said no one had shown up. I did not go looking to see if the raccoon was still napping.

At what age do we transfer authority? Here’s the thing. When visiting with the sleep apnea specialist Wednesday I couldn’t stop thinking how young he was. Probably no older than our son Dan, who is 35. I’m used to conferring medical authority on doctors older than me, or my age, or at least in their fifties. But as I age—and I expect to continue to do so for decades—doctors I see will be getting progressively younger. I’ll have to train myself to trust them.

I have the same questions concerning education experience and gravitas when I see young, talking heads dissecting world events on television. Or when their cohorts talk business, except when it comes to technology. When I watch a baseball game the players don’t seem as young as they really are. Again most of them are younger than Dan, but they look older. Or am I merely transferring my age bias to my brain and making them appear older?

By the way, I’ve decided to do an in-hospital, overnight sleep apnea test rather than an in-home test. My young doctor convinced me the results would be more useful.


Letter from Israel: Gilda's cousin lives in Kvuzat Yavne, a kibbutz about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Gaza Strip. Her kibbutz is among the most successful, with a varied economy including the canning of pickles and olives that she helps manage. Here's an excerpt from an email we received Wednesday:

“So much has happened and is happening. We average 2-3 missile attacks a day. Our homes have no secure rooms but the rest of the kibbutz is covered. Some of the missiles have hit pretty close. The Iron Dome is a miracle and has been shooting most rockets out of the sky. The fallout from this is very dangerous in itself but less than direct hits.

“Two new ways to get around: 1) always plan where to run for cover if you’re caught outside when an air raid siren goes off; 2) when driving, always have the radio on loud so you can hear when they break in with an announcement of an attack. If it’s by you, stop the car, get out and take cover.

“Our son Eldad was called up during the first few days and is now on the border with Gaza keeping watch to prevent infiltrations . Much as it is worrying, those that have family members fighting  inside Gaza have even greater fear.

“To those who attended Eldad and Tehila’s wedding on Kibbutz Saad (which Gilda and I did, along with her brother, sister and her husband), the kibbutz (on the border with the Gaza Strip) today is an armed camp. Heavily shelled. There were two direct hits in front of the dining room right where the chuppa was. The elderly, children, and most of the residents have moved to safer surroundings. 

“We have 60 seconds to make it to shelter; they have basically zero. Funny how there were once emergency plans to evacuate Saad to us…

“All the kibbutzim around the Gaza Strip are empty of almost all their civilian residents. It’s impossible to live with constant shelling and bombardments. The fear of tunnels has turned the whole area into a nightmare. Shelling is something you learn to live with, no matter how nerve racking, if you have a safe room to take cover in. Infiltrating terrorists through a tunnel under your home is a whole new ball game. Every evening now we hear the numbers of the soldiers killed over the last 24 hours.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Do I Have Apnea? Let Me Sleep on It

I couldn’t have asked for a more timely article to appear in the newspaper. A day before I am to meet with a specialist on sleep apnea testing at Mount Sinai Hospital, The New York Times printed an article comparing the experience of one of its staff writers to an in-hospital overnight test with a new home version (http://nyti.ms/1nOF0nZ). 

I had already met with a colleague who assured me (if that is the right term) I was a prime suspect for sleep apnea, a condition “characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.”

For one, I snore a lot. Second, my uvula (it’s not as “dirty” as it sounds—it’s the teardrop piece of your body suspended at the back of the upper palate) was larger than normal. When lying down, my uvula inhibits the flow of air. Air vibrating around the uvula can cause snoring. Third, in the past, when napping, I sometimes was startled into alertness with the sensation I had stopped breathing for a moment. 

Four out of 10 adults snore, but when your bedmate finds it interferes with her sleep, it’s time to do something about it, if possible. The first doctor assured me (there’s that word again) something could be done, but only after a test confirmed I indeed suffered from sleep apnea.  

Surgery is an option I will not consider, as it is not always successful. Instead, I could wind up wearing an appliance while asleep that projects the lower jaw forward, creating a wider air pathway as well as encouraging more nasal and less oral breathing. I already wear an appliance on my lower teeth to protect my molars from grinding away enamel, so I don’t expect any resistance to that remedy if it is prescribed.


Few events in my life aren’t blog worthy—heck, it’s cheaper than therapy—so you can look forward to finding out how my snoring issue is resolved, to Gilda’s satisfaction, we both hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day. 
                                       —Johnny Nash (1972)

I’m living a version of Flowers for Algernon. I realized last Friday while driving to Whole Foods that for the first time in nearly 60 years I could see distances better without my eyeglasses than with them. It both excited and scared me.

For those not familiar with my literary reference, or the film adaptation, Charly, Flowers for Algernon is a story published by Daniel Keyes in 1958, around the time I first put on glasses to correct my long-range vision. The plot chronicles the experience of a developmentally challenged man treated with an experimental surgery to increase his intellect. The surgery is successful, as it had been for a laboratory mouse, Algernon. Alas, the successes for Algernon and Charly were only temporary. 

Each year during the mandatory eye test at my elementary school I squinted my way to a passing grade until my subterfuge was discovered. I was diagnosed as near-sighted and have been wearing prescription glasses since seventh grade.  

While in my 40s I had difficulty reading name tags at the many conferences and conventions I attended, so I asked my optometrist to make a pair of bifocals with clear glass on the bottom. Not so fast, he said. First, an eye test was required. Naturally, the exam found I, like many aging Baby Boomers in their fifth decade, was suffering from presbyopia, a gradually diminished ability to focus on close objects. 

I tried a pair of progressive lenses, the kind without lines that work for long distance, mid-range, and close-in but I couldn’t acclimate to them. I felt seasick each time I put them on. So I opted for old-fashioned bi-focals with a line demarcating the different lenses. 

Gilda’s eyes, meanwhile, ignored the fact they were just 11 days younger than mine. For the better part of another decade Gilda enjoyed perfect vision. Then, one evening in a CVS, she complained about blurred writing on a can of peanuts. I eased her over to the Magnivision display tower and handed her a pair of reading glasses she reluctantly donned. She immediately started laughing, amused by her frailty. She’s been wearing glasses—designer, prescription, progressive lens glasses, mind you—ever since, though she does keep a pair or two of the cheap nonprescription ones around just in case she can’t find her “real” glasses in a pinch. Astigmatism prevents me from using Magnivision-type reading glasses.

Which brings us back to my current predicament. I keep checking to see (pun intended) if my distance vision has reverted to better-with-glasses, but it has not. I’ve arranged an appointment with my eye doctor, but it’s not until August 8. 


For the next three weeks, should I drive with out without wearing glasses?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Little Doubt, War Is Hell

Here’s an exercise for you—every time you see the word “South,” substitute Gaza; every time you see “North,” read it as Israel. See how prescient and current these comments are:

“You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

That’s a quote from a December 24, 1860, letter sent to Prof. David F. Boyd of the Louisiana State Seminary by William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Civil War Union general, reputed to have coined the saying, “War is hell.” It’s not important if he did or did not. What is relevant is his first had knowledge of the consequences of war. 

From his 1864 Letter to Atlanta (substitute Gaza):
“You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.”

For the last week, since the aerial war of rockets, bombs and missiles has ripped through Israel and Gaza, I have been tense with dreaded belief that the only way terrorists will be stopped from launching attacks is by ground, door-to-door combat which will inflict heavy casualties on both sides as Israel roots out underground caches of war materiel the Palestinians have chosen to amass rather than invest in making Gaza a land of peace and prosperity. 

As you may recall, I am involved with Shalom Yisrael, a group of Westchester-based volunteers that annually has brought to America for two week vacations first responder-trauma care providers from the Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip. One of our guests this year, Lilach, a midwife who lives in Nirim, a kibbutz some four miles from the southern border with Gaza, and who works in Be’er Sheva, sent a note this morning:

“The last week has been very difficult. We were forced to leave our home in Nirim after the education system here was shut down, to help families with young children from the kibbutz relocate to a safer haven in a kibbutz in the north - Mishmar Ha’emek. I (Lilach) am here with the families (and also continue to work at the hospital in Be’er Sheva, about 2 hours’ drive from here), while Esther remained in Nirim to help maintain a life routine there. 

“The kibbutz suffered several direct rocket hits within its perimeters, but luckily no one was injured, and there was only relatively minor damage to property. But normal life has been completely interrupted and we are unable to work the fields. The bombings from Gaza and the ongoing bombardments from the Israeli Air Force mean that life in Nirim is accompanied by an unending soundtrack of war. We know that people on the other side of the border are also suffering, and think of them as well—even now. 

“The worst aspect of this situation is the uncertainty and inability to plan ahead—will it take a few more days or a few more weeks? So far we have been able to provide plenty of good time for the children, but they have also started asking, when do we go back home? We cannot answer, and this is very difficult. 

“Thank you all for thinking of us and for your great support and concern. It means a lot, and gives us strength. Hopefully, this terrible conflict will be over soon. 


“Shalom” 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Viking Hand, A World Cup Trip and Two Sad Notes

Those who know me might be surprised, even amused, by this next piece of information, but I have it on scientific authority, at least according to my brother, that I have Viking blood in me. Perhaps that explains my repeated viewing of the Kirk Douglas-Tony Curtis 1958 movie "The Vikings" and my interest in watching the current History Channel mini-series, "Vikings."

I have, as does Bernie, what is called Viking Hand or Baron Dupuytren’s disease. Here’s a link describing it (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1305903/), but the long and the short of it is that on the palm of my left hand a small nodule has appeared recently. Its occurrence is usually limited to people of European descent, from areas where the Vikings are known to have traveled in their marauding and trading days. 

According to the National Institute of Health, “The Viking age of exploration, trading, and colonization lasted nearly 300 years. They raided as far as Newfoundland to the west, the Mediterranean and its many ports to the south, and the Caspian Sea—by way of the rivers of Eastern Europe, such as the Volga and Dneiper—to the east.” The Viking Hand could have could have easily been impregnated into my ancestors’ gene pool in Central Europe, by a Viking or by someone whose foremother a Viking ravished. 

While my sister Lee doesn’t have Viking Hand, not yet at least, our family has always believed she displays evidence of a Tatar invasion. Her high cheek bones, slightly slanted eyes and darker skin tone are traits not shared by any others in our family. 

For those who haven’t stopped laughing at the image of me running around as a Viking, let me remind you that Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis were both nice Jewish boys cast as fearless Norsemen.


World Cup Trip: The World Cup is almost over but I was amused by a recent article in the travel section of The New York Times. Here’s how it was described: “Instead of taking an expensive direct flight to the World Cup in Brazil, Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, took a cheaper and more adventurous journey through four countries over 16 days.”

I found it quite extraordinary that The Times would think anyone but the richest of people, or those retired, would have 16 days to gallivant around before attending soccer games, the ostensible purpose of traveling to Brazil. 


Sadder Note: As you might have read or heard, Louis Zamperini died last week after a 40-day bout with pneumonia. Zamperini is the former Olympic runner who, as a World War II bombardier, survived a plane crash, 47 days afloat in the Pacific Ocean in a rubber raft and then two years of inhumane treatment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Gilda and I listened to the Laura Hillenbrand book of his life, “Unbroken,” while driving through New Mexico last month. It is kind of eerie to now know we were thrilled by Zamperini’s exploits at the very moment he was fighting, ultimately unsuccessfully, for his life.


A Sad Note, Closer to Home: Here’s an example of why I am uncomfortable with most social media:

A few days ago I received an email from LinkedIn encouraging me to contact someone I knew who was registered on the business/social media site. Trouble was, he passed away several months ago. It was, to say the least, quite jarring to see his smiling face being used to hype LinkedIn. 

I realize LinkedIn cannot keep abreast of the passing of any of its users. But that reality does not condone or endear the service or that of any other social media to me. 

















Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tales of the Southwest

It’s been two weeks since Gilda and I returned from New Mexico. I guess it’s time I wrote about our adventures there.

New Mexico calls itself the Land of Enchantment but a more apt moniker might be Land of Casinos. In a state with just over two million citizens there are 28 legal casinos. By comparison, Pennsylvania’s nearly 13 million residents get to place their bets in just 12 casinos. Arizona sports 23 casinos for its 6.5 million population.

How the New Mexico casinos can make money on an average 75,000 state residents—that includes minors—is a testament to low overhead or very unlucky bettors. Or probably both. 

Getting back to the Land of Enchantment tagline, New Mexico surely does have some beautiful landscapes. But it also has vast stretches of flat desolation. 

We set out for New Mexico from Tucson after attending our grandniece’s bat-mitzvah. Our son Dan advised us to stop at White Sands National Monument (for those who may not know, as I didn’t until recently, a national monument does not mean it’s a statue. Rather, it is any location designated for preservation by the president should Congress, in its infinite wisdom, choose not to ascribe to it national park or landmark status).  

As its name implies, the surface of the national monument are dunes of what appears to be white sand but is in reality cool-to-the-touch particles of gypsum that water and wind erosion have granulated. It’s the largest gypsum dune field in the world, more than 275 square miles. It was easy to think of the sands of Arabia as we drove through White Sands, an image made all the more real when we spotted a camel and its driver sitting passively atop one of the dunes.

White Sands in south-central New Mexico is distinguished for another reason. In the adjacent White Sands Missile Range, on July 16, 1945, the world entered the atomic age with the detonation of the first nuclear bomb at the Trinity Test Site. It’s open to the public just one day a year, April 5 in 2014.

In nearby Alamogordo, Gilda and I experienced our first “pay it forward.” When we went to the cashier to pay for our dinner at the local IHOP (we were desperate for some place to eat at 8 pm) we were told an anonymous person had covered our bill. I didn’t think we looked destitute, but maybe we did appear a little bedraggled after a day blasted by wind laden with 90 degrees of heat. It might have been “dry heat” but it was still plenty hot.

The five hour ride north to Santa Fe was not very picturesque, but we had a great audio book that kept us at the edge of our seats—“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, the story of Louis Zamperini’s life from troubled youngster to Olympic runner and status as a premier miler, his service in World War II, his survival after a plane crash in the Pacific, his capture and internment by sadistic Japanese guards, through his life after the war. (Hillenbrand also is the author of “Seabiscuit.”)

Santa Fe was serene. By contrast, our visit to the nearby Puye Cliffs, the ancient ancestral home of the Santa Clara Pueblo, literally turned our knees to rubber. The literature advises the cliff dwellings tour involves “walking on steep slopes (paved) at high elevations.” Trust me, it is waaaay more challenging.

We descended from the top of the cliffs two ways. First, we very carefully negotiated a rock passage no wide than 18 inches. A false step and we would have tumbled hundreds of feet. Next we climbed down a ladder, but not an ordinary ladder. Its rungs were spaced further apart than any ladder I had ever used. I had difficulty planting my feet on each rung. I have no idea how my much shorter wife was able to find her footing without missing a level. 

For the next two days both of us experienced charley horses in our legs. Still, it was worth the hair-raising effort to learn about the culture and heritage of the people who lived in New Mexico before Western Europeans arrived. 

A day trip to Taos revealed some spectacular scenery. The next day we went south to Albuquerque including a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world’s third longest single span. Sandia Peak is more than 10,000 feet high.

So here are some interesting observations and facts about New Mexico I didn’t know or realize before our trip:

·     New Mexico is the fifth largest state in total square miles.

·     My concept of the Rio Grande was that it separated part of Texas from Mexico. But the Rio Grande is much more. It begins in Colorado and flows through central New Mexico. It is the fourth or fifth longest river in America.

·     As I don’t fly as often as I used to I was amazed by the technology conveniences airports in Albuquerque and Denver provide travelers—plentiful and free outlets and charging stations for phones and laptops, plus comfortable club chairs and tables. 

·     It seemed almost every merchant we met came from back East and had a connection to us. In a Namb√© store in Taos, the manager originated from Naugatuck, Conn., just north of Seymour where we lived when I was a reporter for The New Haven Register. What’s more, he said the customer before us also hailed from White Plains. In Albuquerque, the balloon store owner grew up in North Chatham, NY, not far from Gilda’s home town of Saratoga Springs.

·     Many of the soldiers captured in the Philippines at the beginning of Word War II came from New Mexico.