Pinch Me Places: Machu Pichu

This post debuts what I plan to be a regular feature on this blog, at least for a while: "Pinch Me Places." That is, the surprising (to me) number of places I can't believe I've actually been to, sights I've seen firsthand, travel experiences that make me say to myself, "pinch me."

The first "Pinch Me Place": Machu Pichu, Peru, which the lovely Robin and I visited together in 2009, following a wonderful mission trip to Arequipa, Peru, under the leadership of our friends Don and Christie Latta. Don blessed us so much by making the arrangements for our travel to Cusco, then to Machu Pichu. I don't know if we would have made it otherwise. Even then, it involved a nail-biting early morning cab ride, a train we caught just in time, a winding bus ride up the mountainside, and THEN a hundred-stair heavy-breathing climb from the parking lot to the site.

But once we got there, oh my. No matter how iconic it is, no matter how many photos I've seen before, it's nonetheless breathtaking to see it in person. Pinch me.

Machu Pichu (the phrase means, "Old Peak") is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire.The Incas started building it around AD 1430, but it was abandoned roughly a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Though the Spaniards never laid eyes on the site (apparently never even knew about it), the Incas abandoned it to move further away from the conquistadors. It was "discovered" in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian.

Our guide said no more than eight hundred people lived in Machu Pichu at its peak. Though other theories have been advanced, he said it was a sort of university for noble Incas...they were sent there to be educated in the traditions and teachings of the Incas. It seems so strange that it was so relatively small, and its lifetime as a city was so short. It's just too majestic and impressive to be such a modest flash-in-the-pan, as cities and civilizations go. But the accomplishment of those who built it is a monument. It is truly breathtaking. A "Pinch Me" place.

My Great American Ballparks

I love baseball. I've been a fan since I was a kid, and an obsessive fan from the Cincinnati Reds' 1970 pennant-winning season through the baseball strike of 1994-1995. Since then, I've remained a Reds fan and a baseball fan, but not particularly a major league baseball fan.

Still, I have some great baseball memories. Once upon a time, I hoped to visit all major league parks in my lifetime (but they keep building new ones, doggone it!). Though I've given up on that dream, I still treasure the memories of the eight major league parks or stadiums I've visited in my lifetime. They are:

1. Crosley Field, the home of the Reds from 1912 through June 24, 1970. In fact, I remember attending the last game at Crosley, won by the Reds with back-to-back home runs by Lee May and Johnny Bench.

2. Riverfront Stadium, where I attended countless Reds' games during its 1970–1995 life. Among my wonderful memories of this cookie-cutter stadium are seeing Tom Seaver come out of the players entrance after a 1979 playoff game my friend Bob and I couldn't get into. Also, taking my daughter Aubrey and son Aaron to many $1 clergy-pass games in the mid-80s and attending the game BEFORE Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's hit record.

3. Great American Ballpark, (see photo above) the Reds' home since 1995. A nicely designed park with many nice features. Unlike Riverfront and Crosley, there's not a bad seat in the house.

4. Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets from 1964 to 2008. I attended a game or two there in 1979 and/or 1980.

5. Yankee Stadium.I'm so glad I made it to a game in "The House That Ruth Built" before this historic venue was demolished in 2008-2010. I was there in 1979, I think.

6. Fenway Park. Attending a Red Sox game in Fenway was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Especially since the demolition of the original Yankee Stadium, there is no more hallowed place in baseball than Fenway (and Wrigley in Chicago; both were built in 1912).

7. Anaheim Stadium, now called Angel Stadium of Anaheim. I was ten-year-old boy attending an Angels' game here in 1968 with my grandparents, two years after the then-California Angels (one of the the first two American League expansion teams, debuting in 1961) moved into their new home after having spent four seasons renting Dodger Stadium.

8. Busch Memorial Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1966 to 2005. I attended a couple games here in 1971 and/or 1972. I remember well persuading my dad to leave a game in which the Reds (my team) were down six or seven runs late in the game. On the way home, listening to the game on the radio, we heard as the Reds rallied and won the game in dramatic fashion. Since that day, I don't think I've ever left a game early.

Memory Lane

Last night the lovely Robin and I took a drive down to the utterly gorgeous Gwen Mooney Funeral Home in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. We visited with the family and friends of a dear friend from long ago, whom we hadn't seen in many years, and whom we won't see again until we are reunited in heaven.

On the drive down and back, however, I had the chance to reflect on how glad I am to live in an area where so much of my personal history and so many memories reside. On the drive to and from the funeral home, I passed the thrift store I've bought many books in, the theater complex I've taken Robin to many times since we were in our teens, and the church where I saw Annie Hering (of Second Chapter of Acts) perform, among others. I passed the GE plant a friend and I broke into one night in our teens (thank God for the statute of limitations), the old Erie Canal locks I've driven through countless times, the former home of two brothers we used to pick up for church activities, and the cemetery I've strolled through many times. And that's just the beginning. Nearly every mile of the trip down and back evoked a distinct memory of the past forty years, provoking gratitude that, while I have moved fifteen times in my life, I nonetheless live in and around the city I have always considered home.

Clifton Firehouse

One of the signature sights of Ludlow Avenue in Clifton is the 106-year-old (and still serving the community) firehouse at the corner of Ludlow and Clifton.

It is a striking, historical building, which the lovely Robin and I admired on our recent date night in Clifton.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Esquire Theater, Clifton

The lovely Robin and I concluded an already-full day (she: at a seminar on the UC Campus, me writing at Sitwell's, then both of us dining in Clifton) with a movie at the Esquire Theater on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.

The Esquire, renovated and reopened in 1990 (it had fallen on hard times in previous decades) is now a wonderful little neighborhood theater. It has won awards as well as appreciation from the public. It ain't cheap ($9.50 a ticket, though some weeknights are $6) but it provided a memorable evening in a unique place.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Olive's Restaurant

Word to the wise, based on my visit with the lovely Robin to Olive's Restaurant in Clifton: when the server tells you they're known for their pizzas, order a pizza.

Olive's is a nice place, with a hopping bar upstairs:

And a restaurant downstairs.

I had a steak and cheese "deep dish," sort of an open-faced calzone. It was okay.

Robin had spaghetti and meatballs, which just didn't hit the spot for her (though she loved the salad). When she asked for more sauce, she was given cold sauce. "Cold," she said. "Can you believe it?" in a tone that would make Dame Judy Dench proud.

However, the server very kindly removed the entree from the bill, which we greatly appreciated. So maybe in the future, we might try Olive's again--for the pizza!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Ludlow Ave,Cincinnati,United States

Sitwell's in Clifton

My writing perch this afternoon is Sitwell's Coffee House in Cincinnati's Bohemian Clifton neighborhood.

Sitwell's, located next door to the venerable Esquire Theater on Ludlow Avenue, is named for Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), a British poet and critic who once visited the U.S. (in 1948), but never made it to the Sitwell Coffee House. Probably because it didn't exist until many years later.

Above is my corner booth, with a cool "Convers-O-Call," an ancient intercom (methinks) device.

I ordered a brie snack with walnuts and craisins, and a yogurt fruit smoothie to fortify me for the afternoon's writing. Which I should be getting to. Any minute now. Seriously....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

True West Cafe

A series of unfortunate events--well, just one, actually--resulted today in my first opportunity to pay a short visit to the new True West coffee shop on Main Street in Hamilton.

The establishment, across the street from Hughes Drugs in the 300 block, is quite homey, housed as it is in a former home.

It is much roomier than I expected, with ample seating downstairs...

And upstairs...

The "Milky Way" coffee (chocolate and caramel) was good. The cinnamon roll looked good but could have been better. But they served it on real china, so kudos for class.

In any case, I liked it, and plan to return.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

14 Reasons I Love Taking My Grandkids on Vacations

1. They find interest and excitement in EVERYthing!

2. They don't hesitate to tell you what they like and what they don't like.

3. They make walks way more fun.

4. They are still learning about stuff I usually manage to overlook.

5. They even make timeouts look adorable.

6. I get to introduce them to S'mores.

7. They make me laugh.

8. They make for amazing pictures.

9. They remind me how much fun it can be to throw stuff, climb stuff, jump over stuff, and stuff stuff.

10. They share with me (sometimes).

11. They get me (and others) to do things we wouldn't otherwise do.

12. They know how to suck the marrow out of each moment of every day.

13. They make even rainy days charming.

14. I love to see my kids loving their kids, and their kids loving them.