Monday, August 27, 2007

THE HEARST CASTLE; AMERICA'S BEST KEPT TOURIST SECRET

In 1977, a close friend had bachelor party...that never happened.

On the way to his big event, my friend who was NOT a drinker, quietly sat in the back of my car and unbeknownst to another friend and I, drank half a bottle of cheap wine...Blue Nun, to be specific.

By the time we got into Manhattan, he was ranting. After we parked, he became so loud and obnoxious that our entire group of eleven was refused entry into the comedy club "Catch A Rising Star." The future groom was so whacked and out of control that his younger brother (Mr. I'm Too Cool For Everybody), volunteered to take him home. Our pointless night took the rest of us to an empty "old-man" bar where we chased 95c shots with 40c six-ounce Piels draughts... and went home.

A couple of days later, a twist in the story gave it a happy ending. My friend (the future groom) said his brother struggled to keep him on his feet until they got their apartment's door. His brother propped him against the wall with one hand. Then grappled with a ton of other crap in his pocket to get his keys. When he fumbled the keys, they dropped to the floor.  My teetering friend was difficult to keep on his feet as his brother bent down to retrieved them.  That's when my friend vomited on Mr. I'm Too Cool For Everyone's head.

Today's blog features that same friend, more specifically his wife. Before they got married, someone once said that I was jealous of his wife because she kept him and I apart. This wasn't at all true however, I was jealous of HIM...not in any kind of weird way...but because that nimrod had such a wonderful girl.

Down-to-earth, intelligent, pretty and funny, the reality was, I enjoyed her company more than his. After college, he and I went our separate ways until a chance encounter when I lived in Las Vegas. He was living in Los Angeles and was attending a business seminar at the Flamingo-Hilton. Our schedules clashed while he was in town so we promised to keep in touch.

Months later in May 1980, I heard about the Hearst Castle in San Simeon California. I arranged to borrow my roommate's car and called my friend in L. A. He cleared the day and I set-out for my first drive through the Mojave Desert. That leg of the trip can be saved for another time but its safe to say that before cell-phones, Map-Quest and lap-tops; it seemed like was a death-defying experience to a first-timer...flying solo...in someone else's car.

When I arrived, I was informed that my friend couldn't go because he had to firm-up the finer details of a new business venture. However, he asked if it would be all right if his wife went in his place, (the deal he was working on resulted in him buying a worm farm in Maine...that's right, you read it correctly, a worm farm in Maine).

The next morning, I was elated by this change of events. She and I set-out for one of the happiest non-family related days of my life. The scenic drive through Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach along coast highway (Route-1) was memorable. But the one thing that was more beautiful than our surroundings was, her. The therapeutic conversation flowed as we spoke and laughed for 195 miles.

Just past the town of San Luis Obispo in San Simeon, the Hearst Castle is cut into the jagged cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean .

THE BIG HOUSE "CASA GRANDE," (rear). THIS PICTURE DOESN'T DO JUSTICE TO THE PROPERTY'S SCOPE.

La Cuesta Encantada or "Enchanted Hill" was built as a pleasure palace by newspaper publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (Patty Hearst's grandfather). Construction started in 1919, continued for more than thirty years and was never considered finished. This oblong complex includes: a 115-room main house, guests houses and pools as well as 8 acres of cultivated gardens, and the ever-popular "so much more."

AERIAL PHOTOS CAN'T DEMONSTRATE THE ESTATE'S VASTNESS.

In these corporate times, it's hard to imagine an individual could ever own so much stuff. To accumulate it, Hearst treated Europe's financial hardships prior to and during WWI like a colossal yard sale. He bought up unimaginable volumes of antiques and art treasures and decorated his houses to the delight of visitors such as: President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charles Lindbergh as well as Charlie Chaplin and hundreds of other Hollywood luminaries and business moguls.

After Hearst's death, his heirs donated the land and everything on it to the state of California. The curator's then divided the castle into three separate tours. I don't recall which one we took or how they differed but I would expect them to all be worthwhile.

Our drive back to L. A. was capped-off with a detour into the mountains of Santa Barbara. She recommended a favorite restaurant and I wasn't disappointed. Overlooking the Pacific, this famous shack-like eatery (the name escapes me) was rustic (open air...no windows), yet elegant.

Twenty-seven years later, I still refer to the Hearst Castle as our country's best kept tourist secret. In 1995, I wanted to recreate that day when my family and I were in San Diego but it was too far to take baby Andrew. I'd love to go back but until I do, I can still Google it to refresh the great memories. You should check it out too and tell me how right I was.

Monday, August 20, 2007

WE DON'T GO CAMPING...BUT PROBABLY WILL ! ?

The story below is not embellished.  The events at the Navasink Falls are forever burnt into my mind because it combined humor and the real potential for tragedy.  So it seems incredible that after thirty-five years when FACEBOOK re-united me with two other witnesses, neither of them remembered the incident.

Hospitality Creek is the campground that my family was invited to last week. Near Williamstown NJ, about thirty west of Atlantic City this pleasant oasis is hidden behind the thin line of trees along Route 322.

This beautiful and immaculate property is impressive.  It has a large man-made lake (complete with live swans) , a state-of-the-art kiddie water park and an in-ground pool.

Our hosts took us lakeside and nestled under the trees, we picnicked. My son Andrew knew a lot of the kids from school and we watched them thrash about in the lake.

Later we took a tour of the grounds.  You'd be in heaven if you like seeing every type of camping vehicle; luxury mobile homes, Winnebagos, slide-out campers and tents. One family brought up six kayaks and we all got a chance to use them.

Later with a hardened shell of big spray covering 95% of our bodies, we had a barbecue and socialized with other couples.  Our kids ran off the burgers, hot dogs and chips by playing "man-hunt" and chasing each other through the woods.

At ten-thirty there is a curfew which signals the beginning of the real kid fun. In the ninety minutes that followed, twenty or so of Andrew's friends experienced the joy of border line juvenile delinquency as they ran around trying to avoid getting caught by the "Golf-Cart Nazi." He's the eighty-year old who patrols the joint after dark.

At midnight, we drove home and took much appreciated showers.

The whole campground experience reminded me of the bygone era of bungalow colonies. I'm guessing that bungalow colonies still exist but that they are being phased-out and are evolving into such camping meccas as Hospitality Creek.  It's a similar concept except your home/shelter is mobile and you can take it with you wherever you want to go, (like a half hour from home).

Seeing the fun my son had running around in the dark reminded me of the story referenced in the opening of this blog.  I was twenty and we had great times at a friend's bungalow colony outside New Paltz NY.  The actual town was Accord (they pronounced it Ah-Cord not Uh-Cord).  The height of this weekend was the memorable experience at a nearby swimming hole called Navasink Falls.

Our destination was a long walk through the woods. When the trail ended, we had to tip-toe along an ever-growing trickle of water. This rivulet deepened to a ten-inch stream and emptied into a deep, oblong lagoon. At the far end of this secret paradise there was a thirty-foot high cement foundation for an obsolete train trestle.

On this occasion, we were six couples sunning ourselves after swimming and jumping off a lower ledge of the cement foundation. The locals teenagers occupied the top of this platform and the brave ones did magnificent dives from that great height.

We were there an hour when in the distance, we saw other friends (the nerd couple Dave and Candace...don't call her Candy).  They were carefully navigating the stream as they emerged from the treeline. They were made for each other; aside from being a pair of dull milquetoasts, they were also as pale as they could possibly be without being albinos. Typical of them, despite it being 90 degrees, they were wearing shoes, jeans and button-down shirts.

Dave held her hand.  At the agonizing pace of a snail, they maneuvered inch by inch from dry rock to dry rock. Suddenly, Candace slipped and fell face-down into the depths of the ten-inch water. Mind you, the apparent drama queen's back never got wet as she kicked, floundered and screamed. We were all laughing until Dave (the big wuss) while standing next to the victim yelled, "Help, help she's drowning!"

All our unwitting hero had to do was encourage her to get to her knees, pull her up by her shirt collar, (or grab the sluggette's long strawberry blond hair and yank her up).  Instead Dave kept hollering, "Help me, help me." None of us budged. Then, like Tarzan, a local kid dove off the top of the trestle, swam a hundred yards against the current and pulled Candy's...I mean Candace's head from the water.  He might have saved that moron's life.

Now that's the kind of memories I wish for my son. He might even get them because today we got an E-mail from our Hospitality Creek host and we were invited/encouraged to do an over-nighter with them next year. I didn't think we did the camping thing...but probably will.

Monday, August 13, 2007

PSYCHO-SOMATIC

Years ago, during an interview, NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley referred to his college days as "Psycho-Ceramic". The interviewer recognized psycho-ceramic as an example of a malapropism...the ludicrous misuse of words that sound alike. Unaware that he was being set-up, the interviewer chose to make the correction. Wryly, Barkley said, "I know what I'm talking about, I majored in Psychology and minored in ceramics!"

The actual term psycho-somatic means; a physical disorder brought on, or made worse, by one's emotional state. Nevertheless, most of us bastardize psycho-somatic to mean; an imaginary physical disorder.

Unfortunately for me, my recent discomfort and occasional pain were quite real. I waited about two months for it to go away but it didn't. I mentioned it to my regular doctor during a routine visit and he diagnosed it (correctly) as a hernia.

A hernia (in my case) is a hole in the gastric wall that allows a section of the intestine to poke through and sag into another body part. Until recently, repairing the gastric wall was a major operation. It involved cutting the patient open and as much as six weeks of recovery time. Luckily for me, with today's technology, they have the option to drop a scope through three small holes in your stomach, abdomen and navel. Then through the miracle of science, they "un-invasively" patch the hole.

I was told my surgery was routine and I went home the same day. They said that other than some constipation, that I'd be my same jolly fat self the next morning...as long as I didn't carry anything heavy. Well, it was a rough night anyway and there was nothing psycho-ceramic about seeing a certain pouch-like body part balloon-up like a blow-fish.

Fortunately, it was more scary to look at than painful. So I iced it down and thought I was okay. The next day, in addition to the expected general body soreness, the swelling returned but the ice had little effect. Later at night, I examined myself and was shocked to find that particular swollen body part had become entirely black and blue.

Fearing an infection, I called the surgeon and asked him if he left a screwdriver or a chisel inside me. He apologized for not mentioning this possible gory side-effect and assured me that it was nothing to be alarmed at.

I will have a follow-up visit with him on Friday. I am relieved and feel pretty good. I expect to be back at work on Saturday.

Hopefully, this ordeal and anything relating to it will never have to be mentioned in this column again.

Monday, August 6, 2007

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

We have traced our family tree and are now proud to announce that my son Andrew is officially the first singing, dancing and acting Edelblum !

Andrew proved this with his portrayal of Tweedle-Dee in the Galloway Summer Drama Club's presentation of "ALICE IN WONDERLAND." Andrew sang, did a River Dance-esque jig as well as acted. His talent for physical comedy was evidenced by the audience reaction to him.

ANDREW AS TWEEDLE-DEE AND BRENDAN (LEFT) AS TWEEDLE-DUM

TWEEDLE-DEE


The four weeks of rehearsals ended with a grueling last three days before a dry-run performance for day-campers. They then had the first two of three performances on Thursday August 2nd at 1:PM and 7. The final performance was a matinee the next day.

In addition to the joy of participating, Andrew made new friends and bolstered other relationships. He is also putting the final touches on a parody "ALEX IN WONDERLAND;" complete with his own spin on the song lyrics. He should have it available on his web-page soon.

www. freewebs.com/andrewmedia

LEFT TO RIGHT, AMANDA as the CATERPILLAR, ANDREW, BRENDAN, ADAM as the WHITE RABBIT, SHORT ALICE, and MEDIUM ALICE, (ANDREW'S FRIEND JOHANNA as TALL ALICE is just off camera).

MEDIUM ALICE HELPS THE TWEEDLE"S UNTANGLE.

THE TWEEDLE'S ARE TANGLED AGAIN !

SHAUN (center) as the MARCH HARE, with MEDIUM ALICE and the MAD HATTER.

Many thanks to the director Mr. Conover as well as Mrs. Ret and the other volunteers that made this show the smash success that it was. For posterity, I did video-tape the show. So if you're in the neighborhood...the show is fifty minutes BUT you can 't see it until you've seen all of Andrew's 7-hour+ Bar Mitzvah video.