Friday, November 25, 2016

Saluting in San Diego...and Reviews

Part of the San Diego Bay from the flight deck of the USS Midway
Once again this year I traveled to San Diego to learn from an exceptional group of beaders. There are women here from all walks of life who get together to take lessons from three outstanding people in the field and to share knowledge, techniques, and laughs with each other. This time Heather Kingsley-Heath, Virginia Blaklock, and Beki Haley were our fearless leaders – but more about Beader’s Dream Retreat later.

On my previous visit to San Diego I used the Old Town Trolley Tours to get around the city
Unconditional Surrender
(see Retreating in San Diego). This year I did a bit of walking and visited two sites I wanted to explore. My first stop was to see Unconditional Surrender. This giant statue is one of a series of sculptures by Seward Johnson. It was designed after the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on V–J day in Times Square. While some folks think this is a gaudy, tacky sculpture, I quite like it, particularly since it sits in a park next to the USS Midway. One of the Near-Normal Travelers, a veteran of World War II, says that it personifies the feelings that were common to the soldiers and sailors who had survived and made it back home in one piece at the end of the war. There are several other versions of Unconditional Surrender that can be found in Hamilton, New Jersey; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Normandy, France. I’d like to visit them all.

As I headed for lunch at a restaurant I wanted to check out, I discovered another set of statues. Located in a small waterfront park on Port tidelands and adjacent to the
Bob Hope performing for service people statues
Unconditional Surrender statue and the USS Midway, the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military not only shows the beloved comedian entertaining a variety of service people, but a public address system continuously plays selections from his performances. Bob Hope and his USO tours spent more than 50 years to entertaining soldiers, sailors and airmen. His stage was set up under combat conditions on many battle fronts as well as in remote outposts throughout the world. Particularly appreciated were his visits during the Christmas season since the people serving were cut off from their homes and families. It’s an entertaining and touching tribute to those who have served in a variety of capacities. While I was aware of his work with the USO, I didn’t realize the extent of it until I read his book, Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me. The book is a history of the US and Hope’s experiences from 1938 - 1990. It did make me laugh, but it also made me cry. It was especially poignant since I finished reading it on July 4th, the day we celebrate our country's birth. It underscores what I've believed since military 'advisers' were sent to Vietnam: hatred in its many forms is the enemy to freedom. If you hate someone because of their beliefs, background, religion, color, and so forth you are taking away your own freedom as well as theirs. From 1938 - 1990, Hope and his Gypsies visited people in the military engaged in wars, both declared and undeclared. He brought them a bit of home and the reminder that they were supported even if that particular military action was not. Each year he wanted his Christmas with the troops to be the last performance for the military because there was peace in the world. Peace still hasn't arrived; it's that Christmas present we're all hoping to receive.

After lunch I walked down the block to my last destination for the day, the USS Midway. Now
Top L to R: Operation Frequent Wind, Tomcat
Bottom L to R: Easy Way Airlines, Sea Knight
a floating museum, this air craft carrier has an interesting history. Construction on the ship was begun in October, 1943 and the ship was launched in March, 1945; it was commissioned eight days after the surrender of Japan in September 1945, so it saw no action in World War II.  As the flagship for Carrier Division 1, the crew tested equipment and techniques for cold-weather operations in the North Atlantic and was the first to launch a large rocket from a moving platform. Between deployments, the Midway was used as a training and testing vessel, accommodating newly developed heavier aircraft. In the mid-1950s, the ship was a part of the operations in the Western Pacific, providing aircraft for cover as civilians, Chinese nationalist troops and even livestock were evacuated from the Tachen Islands during the Quemoy-Matsu crisis. In the 1960s the Midway was once again called into battle; aircraft from the ship flew strikes against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam. And it was from the Midway that a rescue helicopter penetrated the farthest into North Vietnam to bring out the pilot of a downed plane. By the end of 1972, Midway’s helicopters had rescued 48 pilots, with 35 of those rescues under combat conditions. Perhaps the greatest contribution to the Vietnam War was Midway’s participation in Operation Frequent Wind. After offloading half of the ship’s combat wing, ten helicopters were loaded on board to ferry people fleeing Saigon to the fleet in the South China Sea. In one heroic rescue, Air Force Major Buang-Ly flew his wife and five children in a small plane through heavy fire, circling the Midway until volunteers could clear a spot on the deck for him to land. With little fuel left and with deteriorating weather conditions the Major bounced the plane onto the deck and rolled to a safe stop. The Midway was also prominent in Operation Paul Bunyan and in response to the hostage crisis in Iran when followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Although the Midway was an older ship and in line for being retired, it was put into action in the North Arabian Sea in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and participated in Operation Imminent Thunder causing Iraq to withdraw. Unfortunately, Operation Desert Storm began the next day. By 1991 Desert Storm had officially ended and the Midway was deployed to the
USS Midway Museum
Philippians to evacuate the 20,000 military members and families after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the
last action by the Midway. In 1992 in San Diego it was decommissioned and then removed from the Naval Vessel Register in 1997. In January 2004, the Midway was moored at its final location, to be opened to the public that June as a museum. I spent a couple of hours roaming the decks, talking to sailors who had served aboard the ship, and delighting in the beautiful views from the flight deck. Although I enjoyed my time spent on this floating museum, it would have been more interesting to me had either of the two Near-Normal Travelers, Dave or Vince, been with me since they are both navy veterans and have many stories to tell.

Then it was time to walk back to the hotel and begin getting ready for intensive beading.
Left T to B: Scheherazade's Diadem, Hubble stitch ring
Center: Belle
Right: Delilah
This year we worked on three projects plus a bonus piece from Marcia DeCoster. Marcia’s piece was a cute little ring done in Hubble Stitch. The beaders there for this bonus class had a great time getting acquainted or re-acquainted with each other and all of us walked away with something we could wear the rest of the week. It’s always fun to have a product finished! My next class was with Heather Kingsley-Heath and what a delight it was! This lovely lady from the British Isles created the Albion Stitch, a remarkably versatile stitch that can be used for almost anything you can imagine. Her piece, Belle, uses chandelier parts to create an eye-catching necklace. Virginia Blaklock was one of the first people to actually write a book about beading, and I’m proud to say that I have a signed edition of Those Bad, Bad Beads. Her piece, Scheherazade's Diadem, is even more challenging than it is beautiful; but, with Virginia and Carol Perrenoud as patient teachers, we all mastered the process. One of the most entertaining people in beading is Beki Haley; I’m always glad to have a class with her and to see her equally amusing husband, Sean. Beki’s bracelet, Delilah, used the Hubble Stitch and other stitches to create a ribbon-like piece that is a riot of color. I’ve finished this bracelet and it’s quite comfortable to wear; one of my family members is a bit miffed that it won’t fit her wrist.

USS Midway Ship's Bell
I’m looking forward to going back to San Diego next year to interact with this great beading group, again. And I know I’ll have another adventure or two exploring the area around San Diego for its museums, environment, shopping, and food. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed:
Four carrots
The Embassy Suites San Diego Bay - Downtown (601 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 
Left: Bathroom
Right T to B: Bedroom, Living area
92101, (619) 239-2400) was our headquarters again this year. The rooms are quite comfortable with plenty of toiletries, trash cans, seating areas and places to put your ‘stuff’. The internet is good and access was free (although I don’t know if that was because we were in a group). Breakfast, which came with the room, was good; you can have hot food prepared or eat off the buffet. I did both and was not disappointed. In the evenings there is a happy hour with snacks and free bar drinks. The servers are happy for whatever tip you want to provide. Some days the snacks were better than others, but the drinks were always good. The only real negative is the cost of the parking, $46/day – very expensive particularly with so much public transportation and free parking in the area. 

What we did:
Four carrots

National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military (Navy Pier, San Diego, CA 92132, (619) 686-6200) was a really nice surprise and I’d go back to it, again. I’d also probably spend more time there examining all of the statues more closely.
Three and one-half carrots
Unconditional Surrender (55 Tuna Lane, San Diego, CA 92132, (619) 686-6200) deserves more than just a drive-by, but once you’ve seen the statue and read the information, you’re finished.

The USS Midway Museum (910 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 544-9600)
View down through
the deck
would probably have received a higher rating had the two other Near-Normal Travelers been with me. I’m not a huge war history buff and once I’d enjoyed all the colors on the aircraft and seen the officers’ quarters, I was ready to move on. However, I did like being able to walk out on the Plexiglas deck and look down several stories into the hold of the ship.

What we ate:
Four carrots
Seasons 52 (789 W Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA  92101, (619) 702-0052) is actually a 
Left T to B: Menu logo, flatbread
Right: Grits
chain, although a rather trendy one. They serve seasonal and local foods, have a full bar, and are not at all adverse to people sharing plates. We were there at an early hour so we had the full attention of the bartender who chatted with us while we looked at the menu, making recommendations about food and drink. Teri had a very nice glass of Gascon Malbec and I enjoyed a glass of Jam Jar sweet white wine. We shared a very good Roasted Roma Tomato Flatbread and an order of Shrimp and Grits. Both were very flavorful, but the shrimp and grits had pieces of nicely browned chorizo. We enjoyed our meal and the service. The prices are rather high, but splitting items keeps the costs down and still is a satisfying amount.
Three and one-half carrots
Puesto Mexican Street Food (789 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 233-8880) has very good food, fairly good service (depending on how busy they are) and an 
Top L to R: Beaders, Menu logo, Guacamole
Bottom L to R: Tacos, Piña Colada, Burro Blanco
interesting drink menu. The specialty here is the taco; there are a wide variety of meat, and vegetarian selections. I had Chicken Al Pastor, Chicken Verde, and Carnitas, all without onions and with avocado instead of guacamole. Mixed drinks are only ‘on the rocks’ or frozen rather than blended; I was surprised at how good a Piña Colada could be without the extra blending. My friend, Teri, had a Burro Blanco that had great flavors, too. Since they were not busy, the kitchen was able to make a special guacamole without onions. My only two complaints with this restaurant are that it’s incredibly noisy and if you don’t get there at opening time the service suffers.

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine (565 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 233-6623) is
Top L to R: Menu logo, Crab puffs
Bottom L to R: Fresh bread, Tuna
in the heart of San Diego’s Gas Light District. We were greeted with fresh hot bread and little spoons of crab puffs; the bread was very good and evidently the crab was tasty. Both the food and the service were high-quality, but getting dishes without onions or spinach was a bit of a challenge. I finally told the waiter to pick something that was small and had neither of those ingredients. After talking with the chef brought me a plate of Tuna Poke that was very nice. Again, my complaint was the noise level; it’s much too loud for such a nice setting. Walking from the hotel to the Gaslight District was fun, but riding a Pedi cab back was a hoot!

Three carrots
New York West (601 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 239-2400) is a little café that is associated with the Embassy Suites; it’s basically a bar with food service. The 
L to R: Menu, Fish
restaurant has changed hands since last year and the offerings are different, and in my opinion, better. Service was also better. I had a very nice piece of fish that was well prepared and tasty. The prices are reasonable and you can take the food and the drinks back to your room if you’d like.

Two and one-half carrots
The Fish Market (750 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 232-3474) was a bit of 
Left: Menu
Right T to B: Fresh bread, Smoked tuna
a disappointment. I had expected the rather high prices, but I had also expected a better selection of seafood. The fresh, hot bread was a good way to pass the time while I read the menu and also while I waited for my meal. I finally chose Pacific Albacore that had been smoked. The waitress said that the fish was served cold, and that suited me just fine. What I didn’t like was that the fish was dry and hard. The chunks of cheese served with the dish were nice, but didn’t make up for the fish. I’d go back to this restaurant again and try something different just to see if other offerings were better.

Cynthia and Teri in a Pedi cab
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