Category Archives: Travel


When I was younger, my mother, with my sister and yours truly in tow, would visit Germany almost every summer, to catch up with her side of the family. More than once she wound up booking us with Icelandic Air, because flying from New York to Reykjavik to Frankfurt with them actually wound up being cheaper than a direct transatlantic jaunt with Lufthansa would have been. Go figure.

Anyway, we’d come in for a landing in the small hours of local morning, but thanks to the perpetual daylight of Icelandic summer, we could see the countryside we skimmed on our final approach. It was oddly beautiful — a rocky and achingly empty landscape, overhung with gray mist, but colored with lichens in every hue from green to ochre. I always thought that I’d like to go back and hike it someday, and perhaps I will yet.

I was reminded of all of this by running across a story about Reykjavik electively going dark, albeit briefly, to afford its inhabitants a better view of the night sky. A dome of stars undimmed by light pollution is a beautiful thing, and I tip my hat to any city with good sense to embrace that sort of wonder. (As a bonus, they might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Lucky devils.)

Those Icelanders, they’re all right.

The Cargo Cult Erects Monuments

Should I have entertained any lingering suspicion that the permissive treatment I recieved at the Freer Gallery, at odds with the written policy hanging before my eyes, was some kind of anomaly, it was dispelled at the Museum of Natural History.

Like the Freer Gallery, the museum greeted visitors with a placard expressly forbidding weapons. (I don’t carry the knife for use as a weapon, but it’s pretty hard to argue that three inches of honed steel couldn’t be put to offensive use by one with the right inclination.) It also forbade food. Finally, it required that visitors pass through a metal detector before entering the museum. Figuring that we were well beyond the gray area, I put the knife in the bag containing our dim sum and handed the bag to the attending guard.

He poked disinterestedly at the food containers and handed the whole thing back to me. Shrugging, I returned the knife to my back pocket and walked through the detector. Some understanding of the game’s rules was beginning to dawn, and so I wasn’t entirely surprised when it let me through without a hiccough. I did have to wonder just how much metal I would need to carry before raising a red flag, but never mind.

The gemstone and mineral exhibit was impressive, although the entomological section was disappointing. (All the exhibits were dead. Dead, dead, dead. I’ve seen more impressive living specimens at the Memphis zoo, and more impressive dead ones on the walls of Celina’s co-worker‘s office.)

“You missed all the fun.”

It figures that if we happen to be visiting the nation’s capital during the occurrence of a minor and ultimately harmless security incident that winds up producing a panicked and disorderly evacuation of numerous federal edifices and therefore making the national news, Celina and I will somehow find a way to be on a clothes-shopping trip in another part of town when all the excitement goes down.

This seems to be an extension of the same principle whereby we seem to be elsewhere whenever a really interesting earthquake hits the Bay Area; in both instances, I don’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.

Cargo-Cult Security

Being a well-trained little sheep, I made sure to place my my clip knife into my checked baggage. Once we landed in D.C., though, I resumed carrying it in my back pocket. It didn’t occur to me, though they’re all on the National Mall and therefore within line-of-sight of the Capitol, that the museums we were planning to visit might have developed their own flavor of post-9/11 paranoia.

At the door of the Freer Gallery, we encountered a guard whose duty it was to search Celina’s purse, using a small dowel to poke about the interior without placing her hands in jeopardy. While she went about her task, I read the sign behind her, which declared that knives, among other things, were barred from the museum.

Wanting to be a good citizen — and, I’ll admit, wanting to avoid being raped right through my pants should I later be found out — I unclipped my knife, held it out to the guard on my open palm, and asked as politely as I could if I might be permitted to check it.

She paused and said, almost apologetically, “Oh, that’s okay, sir — we only check bags.” So in spite of the sign at her back expressly forbidding it, and despite my complete willingness to check it, I would up carrying the knife through the museum, because doing otherwise would have required causing a fuss.

I really don’t know what to say.


Celina and I will be visiting the nation’s capital this week. The culmination of the trip will be the wedding of John and Jody on Saturday, but the preceding week will, if all goes well, be a whirlwind of museum visits and similar sightseeing. It should be fun. I’ll try to keep notes here, and perhaps post the occasional photograph. (Which reminds me that I’d better hurry up with the packing if I want to have anything on hand to take photographs with.)


Belize was hot. Belize was humid.

But it was pretty, and I finally got to meet my brother-in-law, so… win.

Also, if you are ever in Placencia, be sure to stop by and have at least a cone of Tutti Frutti’s superb gelato. Maybe it was just the sunburn talking, but I swear that was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.