June 2011

Two Evenings With The Boston Pops

Keith Lockhart

Week 21 of 52

We’re seeing not one but two Boston Pops concerts this week. Unlike Red Sox games, we were able to get tickets… (maybe they need to work some sports angle into their marketing). Shown above is their conductor, Keith Lockhart, who looks like he’s winding up for his pitch??? Anyway, he was wonderful to watch; lots of energy and it really looks like he’s having fun. GO POPS!!!

We heard a tribute to Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin Thursday night, and tonight’s concert begins with some fun orchestral music including the William Tell Overture followed by a performance by bluegrass music stars Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Symphony Hall in Boston is renowned for its sound, and Harrison was there regularly in the early ’70s when he worked for the radio station that broadcast Boston Symphony and Boston Pops concerts. It’s been a treat for him to hear music there again after so many years.

Boston is a great town, but it’s had its challenges. Like many big cities in the last 30 years or so, they’ve made some decisions that are painful to implement but result in big quality-of-life improvements. Back in the 1950s, Boston split apart the historic area we’re living in by building a gigantic, poorly designed, and extremely ugly elevated freeway right through it. In the mid-1980s they decided to move the freeway underground. That project, known as The Big Dig, was expensive and remains controversial, but from our perspective it was sure worth it! Almost every day we walk on or by the Rose Kennedy Greenway that replaced the freeway when the Big Dig was completed. We see a neighborhood, a community, fountains, parents playing with their kids and their dogs, people reading on the grass, playing in the fountains, riding the carousel. A total transformation of the ugliness Harrison remembers from his time here.

So here’s a request to all of you out there who ever have an opportunity to vote for re-routing highways or other creative ways of re-creating green space. Even if it costs a gazillion dollars and takes 20 years, we’re here to tell you to support the cause! (If you can believe this, Seattle, normally a very progressive city, voted DOWN one such proposal and is considering a ballot measure to vote down another. HEY SEATTLE… come to Boston and take a look.)

Our dear friend Ann from the Big Island came to visit us in the big city for a couple of days. You might remember we visited her and her husband Richard at their place on Cape Cod. The three of us visited the New England Aquarium (we wouldn’t put this on our Do Not Miss list; we’d give it 5 out of 10 stars). But we saw a cool 3D movie at the IMAX, hit happy hour at the Chart House nearby and had some great pupus (they call them appetizers here!), then took a nice evening walk home. The next day Ann and Sharene walked through the Public Garden (a beautiful botanical garden in the middle of the downtown Boston) to fancy Newbury Street and did something they never do back in Hawaii… went shoe shopping! (Flip flops are just fine back home, but shoes are a bigger deal here!) They also toured magnificent Boston Public Library, built in 1848, which is definitely ON the Do Not Miss list.

Chihuly at MFANo, this isn’t the glass museum in Tacoma, but it is the work of the master glass artist, Dale Chihuly, from Washington. He has a current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts and is it a hit! The photo here is part of a long glass “garden” that takes up an entire room. If this traveling exhibit comes to your town, don’t miss it (10 out of 10). There was so much to see at the MFA, we need to go back to finish up. Besides the Chihuli, we saw all 4 floors of the new Art of the Americas wing, which leaves at least 3 wings of art still to see! Luckily, the price of admission gets you in twice in a 10 day period. We like that idea!


With Fred and Brenda in Boston

We’re toasting our dear, dear friend Fritz who passed away last year. We sure miss you and wish you were here with us!

Saturday we had old friends Fred and Brenda, formerly from California now living near Boston, over for lunch and then a walk to Hanover Street for some afternoon coffee and dessert. Brenda is Dutch so we got some good tips from both of them on things to do and what to expect when we start our time in Amsterdam. So we would like to say Dank u wel! for coming to visit us and for all the great advice.

Honolulu Tower 2003 Home PageSometimes we call ourselves retired, but we still do have a number of business obligations to take care of on the road, including maintaining the websites for MauiHotels.com and our rental properties. Harrison spent some time this week updating several of those sites and realized that some of you who read these weekly updates might find our About Us page interesting. For those of you who don’t know us very well, that page talks about our early days together and how we wound up in Hawaii.

Our month in Boston is flying by! Here it is the third week and now we need to think about packing for our big trip across the pond on July 6. It’s been a wonderful time so far and every day we are grateful to be on this adventure. It’s all the more fun to know that so many of you are joining us on the virtual ride.

A hui hou!
Sharene and Harrison

Boston Celebrates and We Love The North End

Week 20 of 52


Bruin Paul Revere

Bruin Paul Revere

Saturday was a GREAT day for Boston! Over a million people took to the streets for the parade to honor the Bruins, their beloved hockey team who won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years after a tough 7 games against the Vancouver Canucks. Harrison lived in the Boston area the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, and he left the following year. Now he’s finally back and they win again. Coincidence? We think not!!

After the parade, the fans all changed out of their black and gold shirts, put on their red and blue ones, and headed out to the Red Sox game: if you were in the crowd and not wearing black, gold, red or blue, they knew you weren’t from Boston! This is a town with a huge dose of pride when it comes to their sports teams. People have been wearing their jerseys all week long and it’s all you hear on the news. Even Paul Revere was decked out in a Bruins shirt!

Although we’re not professional sports fans, we planned to go to a Red Sox game while we were in town so we could see historic Fenway Park. We didn’t realize the Red Sox have sold out every home game since 2003! By the time we tried to order tickets for this home series, there were no two seats together in the entire stadium, and Fenway Park holds almost 40 thousand fans! We are SO not in Hilo anymore.

So with all the celebration and whooping and hollering and the excitement in the air all around the city, we did what any two self-respecting non-sports-fans and crowd avoiders would do: we went to a museum! We did have to make our way through thousands of fans, though, to get to the subway, so we guess you can say, “we were there!”

SO, WHERE WERE YOU ON NOV. 22, 1963? (How humbling that we know there are many reading this who weren’t even born yet!) For those of us who can pinpoint exactly where we were when John F. Kennedy was shot, a trip to the JFK Museum and Library is a melancholy reminder of another era. A beautiful tribute to a young man who planned to be a writer but turned out to be a very deft and beloved politician, president and statesman. A great way to spend the afternoon and a nice refuge from all the celebrations going on in the streets!


We may not be pro sports fans, but we do love the North End of Boston. This place is a walker’s dream; in fact, we haven’t driven our car in two weeks. The North End is the Italian area of Boston — you hear people speaking Italian all the time and Italian opera coming out of some of the store fronts. MAKE NO MISTAKE THOUGH, BOSTON IS A VERY DANGEROUS CITY!!! We’re being assaulted at every turn by all the Italian restaurants, cafes and gelato shops within just a few blocks of where we live! The sights and aromas from the cannelloni, capellini, ravioli, cannoli, biscotti, tiramisu, tortoni, loaves of ciabatta and cups of cappuccino are intoxicating. Then you have the old buildings, beautiful architecture, the harbor, the parks; it’s all very charming and has made our experience here fantastic. (Much different than when Harrison was a student, living in cheap housing and getting robbed 7 times!)

With KevinSpeaking of Italian goodies, here we are indulging in a gelato and cappuccino night cap with Kevin. Harrison and Kevin have been friends for (yikes) over 40 years. They both went to MIT, worked together as broadcast engineers, shared an apartment for a time, and have kept in close touch since. Kevin grew up in Boston but has lived near San Francisco for over 30 years. He happened to be on vacation in his home town so we had him over for dinner, and afterward we took a nice walk to Hanover Street for dessert.

We had another great evening this past week, taking a scenic walk along the new Harborwalk (just built in 2009) to the Blues Barge. Every Thursday night in the summer, the Boston Harbor Hotel offers a free blues concert from this floating stage. It was a perfect warm, clear, gorgeous night to listen to some good music and then walk home. Life is good and we’re having a great time in the big city.

It’s June 19th and we want to wish all the dads out there a wonderful (sports filled or not!) Father’s Day, and for all the people out there who still have fathers, don’t forget to call….

A hui hou and arrivederci!
Sharene and Harrison

Cleared For Boston Arrival!

Simulator Jet Pilot

Week 19 of 52

Our Boston ApartmentOn Monday we drove from Cape Cod to Boston and moved into our chic apartment (thanks once again, craigslist!) in the historic North End (Boston’s Little Italy) where we will stay until we leave for Europe July 6th. Our apartment is in a former chocolate factory with plenty of room for us and our computers and with a guest room for any of you who might want to visit us before we jump the pond.

For the first time on this trip, we have found the type of urban environment we envisioned when we started, where you can get to everything you need by walking or public transportation. Shops, restaurants and fabulous architecture are all within an arm’s reach and we’re across the street from the wharves with a nice view of Boston Harbor. Sharene is in heaven and if we weren’t already booked to Europe, she would probably just stay here!

We expected to have a quiet week getting settled into the apartment and exploring a bit of Boston. Then we got an invitation to dinner Tuesday night with Harrison’s friend and MIT colleague David. Like Harrison, Dave also spent a lot of time at the MIT radio station when he was a student, and he later lived in Palo Alto, where he knew several of Harrison’s friends. For the last few decades he has been a Professor at MIT, where he is a leading researcher in a field known as Computational Genomics, in which computers are used to model complex biological processes. Oh, and along the way Dave just happened to invent the technology for making payments over the Internet.

Dave's AirplaneDuring the delicious dinner with Dave, his wife Heidi and their daughters, Dave mentioned that he was flying his airplane to Orlando the following morning to do some routine recurrent pilot training. Harrison knew Dave was a pilot, but it was only then he learned Dave’s airplane is a Cessna Citation jet! That’s his airplane on the left, with its unique double helix paint job representing Dave’s work in genomics.

Jets are very complex airplanes. All good pilots do recurrent training on a regular basis and Dave trains with the best, FlightSafety International. After mentioning that he was flying to Orlando, he made us one of those offers you can’t refuse: “Why don’t you fly to Orlando with me?” We couldn’t get ready in time to leave early the next morning, and Sharene decided to remain in Boston, but Harrison made arrangements to fly commercially to Orlando Friday morning, watch Dave and his copilot, Leslie, while they trained in one of FlightSafety’s full-motion simulators (which are so lifelike that the FAA certifies pilots to fly the real jet after training in the simulator), and then fly back to Boston with them Friday evening.

The SimulatorWhen Harrison arrived at the FlightSafety simulator (photo at right), the instructor was running Dave and Leslie through a gauntlet of engine failures, weather problems, equipment malfunctions, and even a cockpit fire (all simulated, of course, but very real) that stretch the pilot’s ability to handle any emergency. Being about to fly a thousand miles with these pilots, Harrison was happy to see that they handled every problem professionally, safely, and successfully.

Here’s Harrison on what happened next: Then Dave surprised me: “Why don’t you take the left seat and fly a little?” WOW. What a generous offer — these machines are expensive! I climbed into the left seat of the simulator and the instructor set the airplane down at the end of Runway 4R in Honolulu (in a simulator you can go anywhere instantly). I know the Honolulu airport very well and there was the tower, the terminal building, and all the general aviation buildings out my (simulated) window, just like they look in real life. With Dave’s help in the right seat with some of the engine controls and avionics, I took off, flew around Honolulu, landed, took off again, flew down the Oahu coast a bit, came back and landed one more time. It wasn’t the most graceful flying I’ve ever done, but I made it back without damaging the airplane or doing anything really stupid. Since it was a completely new kind of flying for me, and probably the closest I’ll ever get to flying a jet, I’ll consider it a success! That’s me at the top of the page in the left seat of the simulator.

Dave in the Left SeatThen it was time to fly back to Boston in a real airplane. The jet was waiting for us next door at the Cessna service center, and within a few minutes Dave and Leslie did their preflight and we took off into a beautiful Florida evening. Dave wisely chose NOT to invite me to sit in the left seat on this flight! (That’s Dave in the left seat.) But I was just behind him and able to follow everything he did throughout the flight, including diverting around a large formation of nasty thunderstorms.

With Dave After the FlightAbout three hours later we landed at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, a fitting destination since I learned to fly at Hanscom 42 years ago. It was a magical day and certainly one of the peak experiences on this year-long journey that has been full of peak experiences. Thank you, David, for giving this very-part-time pilot an unforgettable adventure!

IT Mood MeterSo it’s been another good week: Sharene falling in love with Boston, a gorgeous, chic apartment within walking distance of everything, and a fun day of flying for Harrison. Not to mention the discovery of cannoli at the famous Mike’s Pastry! So when we spent an afternoon exploring MIT it was no surprise when the MOOD METER caught us smiling as we walked down the famous “Infinite Corridor”. Yep, the facial recognition system puts a happy face on you if you’re smiling — or a sad face if you’re not! Those MIT people aren’t just smart, they have a sense of humor, too…

Until next week,
A hui hou!
Sharene and Harrison

Merci Mimi Blais and Merci Beaucoup Canada!!

Notre-Dame Montreal

Week 18 of 52

Mimi BlaisWe have had pretty good luck timing our cross-country trip to see friends and events along the way, and during our stop in Montreal we had hoped to visit our friend, brilliant pianist and unique personality, the Queen of Ragtime, Mimi Blais. Unfortunately, Mimi was performing in Missouri this week, not far from where we passed a couple of weeks ago, so we missed hearing her play and we missed her in Montreal. But we got the next best thing: she graciously invited us to stay in her apartment while she was away. Seems we find ALOHA wherever we go!

Montreal has all the attributes of a big North American city with the charm of France. The combination of buses and subways got us all around town quickly and cheaply. Montreal also has a hi-tech bike rental system, BIXI, that lets you rent a bike at dozens of BIXI stations around the city, use it for as long as you need, and drop it off at the same or any other BIXI station. The automated stations keep track of your time and charge your credit card only for the time you use. We took BIXI bikes for a ride from Le Vieux-Port (the old port area downtown along the St. Lawrence River) to St. Helen’s Island, site of the 1967 World’s Fair, and back across another bridge to a different section of town without having to worry about getting our bikes back.

In the Old City, the interior of the Notre-Dame Basilica (photo at the top of the page) blew us away. The photo shows just one part of this amazing building. There’s also a separate chapel with an astonishing bronze altarpiece. We haven’t been to the Vatican, but this has to be the most impressive church we have seen, even topping our memories of Notre Dame in Paris. The Catholics sure did know how to find incredibly talented craftsmen.

Quebec City

Quebec City has lots of charming cafes; we had a fantastic lunch at Bistro Le Brigantin.

Montreal may have the charm of France, but Quebec City has the charisma of Paris! The city is one of the oldest in North America — some of the buildings in the old section date back to 1600 — and drips with European charm. Unlike Montreal, not as many people speak English in Quebec City. We dallied three days here, wandering around and marveling at the architecture, museums and fountains, listening to street musicians, shopping, and then sitting at a sidewalk cafe and having a coffee or gelato.

Chateau Frontenac

Looking at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel from the lower part of the old city.

Inside the old “walled city” we certainly got a taste of what we will experience on the European part of our trip. Between the setting and everyone speaking French, it’s like being in France without the jet lag. And outside the historic section lies a large metropolitan city in a picturesque setting next to the majestic St. Lawrence River, with fantastic parks and a spectacular waterfall, Montmorency Falls. Charm, convenience, and green space, what more can anyone ask for in a city? Quebec City is Sharene’s new favorite!

F la Mode

WTF lamode?

We aren’t easily offended by coarse language but we had to take a second look at this window display on a main street in downtown Quebec City of what appears to be a trendy new line of fashion. Perhaps the F word means something different in French? Somehow we can’t see this brand establishing itself at your local Sears or Walmart! Ah the adventures of traveling to new and exotic places!

Haskell Free Library

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the US/Canadian border at Derby Line, Vermont.

Harrison likes to seek out geographical oddities when he travels. On a visit to Vancouver BC several years ago, we drove to Point Roberts, Washington, which is part of the United States but the only road in and out goes through Canada.

So as we approached the international border between Quebec and Vermont, Harrison remembered hearing of a town with buildings that straddled the border. One house has its living room in the US and its kitchen in Canada! The town is Derby Line, Vermont, and we visited the Haskell Free Library and Opera House that indeed is bi-country. There is literally a black line on the floor inside that divides the building between the two countries.

It’s possible (but prohibited) to drive across the border at this unguarded intersection. Locals told us they walk back and forth all the time and we did, too. How civil.

Richard and Ann


Once we came back to the good ol’ USA, we drove through some more incredibly picturesque territory… this time in Vermont and New Hampshire. The green rolling hills and trees were just stunning and we had lots of sunshine (yea!).

As we write this we are on beautiful, sunny Cape Cod, Massachusetts, visiting friends from Puna, Hawaii! We are staying with Richard and Ann who spend summers at their quintessential Cape Cod “cottage” across from Nauset Bay, one of the prettiest areas of the Cape. These two have spent the last two years renovating and adding on so now this “cottage” is a summer rental that sleeps 10! Plus they have their own house on this bay view lot. So we are 6000 miles away and, once again, sharing good times and lots of aloha with dear friends from Hawaii.

Lugging our luggage

Two countries, four provinces, 15 states, and 22 beds, lugging all the luggage above in and out of hotels and homes of friends and family!

So here our cross-country road trip ends. Tomorrow we land in Boston for a full month! We found a great waterfront apartment in a historic building on the North End and we’ll spend the next month exploring Boston and preparing for our time in Europe. We’re looking forward to one place and one bed for the next 30 days.

Thanks for coming along with us on our cross-country trip; we’ve had a lot of fun and appreciate all the wonderful comments from everyone along the way.

Until next week,
A hui hou!
Sharene and Harrison