I recommend this series to any reader who enjoys escaping into imaginary worlds, and loves reading books about books! Her world building scratched what I will always refer to as my “Harry Potter” itch. An invisible library whose sole purpose is to send their librarian agents out into alternate worlds to capture/claim books for the library? Check! Fae and dragons? Check! Secret agents, a detective who resembles Sherlock Holmes, and an assortment of other possible spies and traitors? Check!
Ah, San Francisco, with your urine-soaked streets and parks. You certainly have a smell and a look like no other. You get an A+ for making tourist traps too, and even provide a great free workout via stairs up Lombard street. Union Square is a mob scene disaster to shop/walk/breathe. Haight Ashbury is touristy weird, but has a great bookstore and is fun to walk a bit and people watch, checking out the old Victorian houses in the neighborhood. Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, and the park = the best thing going on out here.
Then there is Fisherman’s Wharf. I knew it was a trap, but we had to eat before we got trapped on that awful ferry to the prison. Do you know what these people did to me out here? We went into some chowder restaurant and they had soup and chili in bread bowls. The menu read: “Stagg chili – $8.25.” I asked Bob, I said: “What’s Stagg chili?” We discussed it amongst ourselves and concluded that it must be the West Coast’s answer to Black Angus. Well, I get a bowl and it tasted like holy hell. Super bad. But I ate it anyway because it was the most expensive cup of chili I ever ordered in my life.
I get back here tonight and I’m still thinking about how awful that expensive chili was. Do you know what Google told me? It’s a can of chili. These people served me cannedchili out here.
As soon as I find my receipt I’m going to tell you who did it. And no, we did not mistakenly wonder in to a soup kitchen (although that is a real possibility out here, and you will know you are in one because there will be a Bernie Sanders sticker covering up the broken window, and they will probably be dishing out Bison Chili straight from one of Ted Turner’s fourteen Venezuelan ranches). Anyway, I ate my can of “chili” and prepared to go to prison. How fitting.
A disappointing and frustrating visit. A perfect example of what happens when government gets its claws into anything, and completely ruins the experience by apparently making the goal to sell tons of cheap tickets in high volume vs. offering a curated private experience, and letting guests choose their preferred mode of experience.
I was not able to get a single photo inside the main cell block because I was too busy elbowing my way through. Compared to Missouri State Pen; Eastern State Pen; Mansfield Reformatory; and the West Virginia State Pen, Alcatraz (my former holy grail of abandoned prisons) gets an “F -.” The more than failing grade is attributed not only to poor general guest experience, but in lack of access to the buildings. All four of the prisons mentioned above are proud to offer about 95-98% guest access to the public at an affordable admission price. Alcatraz is not a private business, so it doesn’t feel the need to be good.
I’m not saying I’m somebody, but when the author of “Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums” tells you to skip this one, I’m trying to do you a favor. You aren’t going to be able to see anything except the back of the head of the person who is walking in front of you. Really, truly, terrible. A big fat, glaring FAIL.
Also, I’m not sure why you can’t take a helicopter over there. Do you think I wanted to spend my free time sitting on a ferry squeezed in between some people I don’t know? For God’s sakes, some poor kid played his harmonica THE ENTIRE BOAT RIDE. I thought I was in steerage on board the Titanic, and I thought I WAS GOING TO DIE ON THAT FERRY.
I just sat on that boat, watching this poor old guy pick his nose, amazed that I had found a mode of travel worse than commercial air. I did, I found it, and it was this boat. Don’t do it to yourself.
But on a high note, there was Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge. Neither of which, I might add, gave off the merest hint of urine. And no one, not even one time today, tried to make me eat canned chili.
Eighteen miles of paved bike/walking trails along the coast. Magnificent, but crowded!
In 1879, an unknown writer (Robert Louis Stevenson) holed up at the French Hotel while waiting for Fanny Osbourne to divorce her first husband so they could get on with their lives.
Scenes from Big Sur
Dear Sur: You are prettier than Montana. We drove you twice just to make sure.
Scenes from San Simeon
Elephant Seal Pups:
Scenes from Hearst Castle
Let me put it to you this way, it takes a certain type of asshole to stand in front of you at the very end with his hand out for more donation money after the $50.00 tour, while we are all standing under a ceiling that is plated in 22 carat gold leaf. Just kidding, no one had their hand out. I’m referring to the audio tour guide begging for more donation money as we rode the bus down the hill. Hilariously tacky!
I do have to say that the Roman Pool seems haunted, though. I kept waiting for something to swim up to me. I don’t know what, but I felt like something was brewing underneath that pool. Maybe they buried the bodies down there.
If you are a child of the 1980s, Alvin Schwartz’s holy trinity of scary stories for children likely gave your library card a decent amount of exercise. I recently sat down one winter’s evening to revisit the tales. These Boo Men would have given T.S. Eliot a case of the Hoo-Has! (And perhaps you’re alive/And perhaps you’re dead/Hoo ha ha – http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n16/mark-ford/i-gotta-use-words).
I did not remember Stephen Gammell’s illustrations being so terrifying, but many of them truly are!
My favorite tales from “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” which is the first installment of the series, include “The Thing;” “Cold as Clay,” “The Guests,” and “Room For One More.” I loved that these all involved ghost stories or premonitions of death. Arguably, as an adult reader, the stories that foretell death are truly the most terrifying tales in the bunch. In “The Thing,” the boy touches the wraith to see if he is real, is followed home by said wraith, and is seemingly marked for death, succumbing within the year. Whether or not the laying of hands on The Thing is what caused his death, or not remains open for debate. What I mean is, if the boy did not actually touch the wraith, would the premonition not have come to pass? Could he have escaped death, or was it coming for him nonetheless, no matter what he did?
For instance, the character in “Room for One More,” has a dream of a hearse pulling up in the driveway, and the driver looks at him and says: “There is room for one more.” He thinks that he is dreaming. He goes into work the next day and finishes his day. He goes to leave the office and presses the button for the elevator. Inside, stands the driver of the hearse. “There is room for one more,” he says. The man declines, and the elevator goes on to crash and everyone dies. The man somehow escaped death because he remembered his dream and did not go when summoned. But does he escape without consequence? When death comes again, will he be even more pissed?
These stories are based on folklore, and had to have an origin, mind you. Once, when the world was young, maybe the veil was thinner, and death marched openly, and gave you a fighting chance if you were cunning enough to be paying attention and heeded his warning. Death as a forerunner. Hmm…
“More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” contains a story that is straight out of a horror movie, and if I ever write a horror script, I will make this scene my own. “One Sunday Morning” is the tale of Ida and what she sees when she is awakened in the dead of night by the church bell. Those of you who know firsthand that one of the scariest places you can ever be is inside the darkened sanctuary of a church at night will be creeped out beyond belief by this short tale. What do they get up to in there during the dead of night? You don’t want to know. And you certainly don’t want to be there for it! The Annotations about this little piece of folklore state: “this tale is rooted in the ancient belief that the night belongs to the dead and that places of worship are haunted after dark.” I have no doubt.
“Scary Stories 3” contains two very chilling tales of death’s arrival: “The Appointment,” which is apparently another ancient tale (this one is based on a young man seeing death in the marketplace in Damascus), and “Like Cat’s Eyes,” which reminds me of what happens in the 1990s movie “Ghost,” when the bad men die. CREEPY AS ALL GET OUT!
If you have not picked up this series since you were ten years old, I highly recommend that you treat yourself to a new look as an adult. But not if you are alone at night in your house. Don’t get crazy.
J. N. Adam Memorial Hospital — Perrysburg, New York After determining that the loud, repetitive banging we were hearing was just a door blowing in the morning breeze, we approached the hospital entrance – on our guard…just in case Modified Nikon D100 (Near infrared capture) More of my work can be seen here J. N. Adam Hospital and Tuberculosis Sanitarium
This is the latest installment in the 44 Scotland Street Series. Much like the Isabel Dalhousie series, nothing much happens. This is not to say that the books are about NOTHING. Not so. They are about life. This is my favorite series by Smith.
Alexander McCall Smith sometimes seems to me to be to literature what the great Observational Comics are to comedy. Not always funny, per se, but masters at telling stories about “real” life. And how timely some of these stories are.
In this installment, Smith cracks wise a bit about political correctness, and how everything is out of bounds now “interdicted by self-appointed guardians of sensitivity.” Domenica and Angus have a conversation on which she remarks “Now we’ve come to expect that everybody we see wants to kill us.” A most interesting remark.
Smith is one of my favorite authors, and I think I have read just about every book he has published. Beautiful, beautiful, words.
I was nearly in tears when I thought one of the characters was dying. Although, the description of his last thoughts is perfect. If we must go, please let it be like this: Page 159 –
“He was aware of movement; some pressure on his arms, as if somebody were pulling him, and for a few moments he resented that there should be this intrusion. But then he felt sleep claim him, and all sensation drained away, faded, and he no longer cared. So this was what it was like to die: it was an abandonment, a giving up, an allowing of life to drain away. It did not mater, he thought. It did not matter.”
The Irene/Stuart relationship is getting interesting and very controversial. I was not in agreement with Stuart’s choice, but I bet many others are.
Lastly, a piece of advice from our friends across the pond: “Never eat at a restaurant called Momma’s.” Now that remark, I would normally have to take umbrage against. However, I have not eaten at any such establishment called “Momma’s,” although growing up, we often visited “Mama’s.” Well, obviously that’s just different.
Unfortunately for me, The Baxter is no longer functioning as a hotel. However, they do special events, and lease commercial and residential space. There are dining options on site. My choice was The Bacchus Pub, and it was fantastic!
Is it haunted? I have no idea, but would love to hear from anyone who has stories!