Does anybody else remember the “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” books that were popular in the late 1950s and 1960s?Written by Arthur Frommer, I was introduced to the books when I was a GI stationed in Germany in the mid-1960s and took advantage of the do-it-yourself tour guides to see as much of Europe as I could on my meager military pay. And they worked if you didn’t mind staying in hostels, eating with university students and traveling on trains at all kinds of odd hours. Frommer conceived the book idea when he was a GI stationed in Europe in 1955.
The book series ended in the late 1960s and today you probably couldn’t get a beer anywhere in Europe for five bucks, much less a room, transportation and a meal.
However, as we enter the summer travel season there are still some travel bargains to be had. Close to home, the Canadian dollar has been recently fluctuating between 73 and 79 cents. A number of years ago we flew to Toronto to visit my family when the Canadian currency hit a low of 69 cents and enjoyed the first two nights at the Marriott owned Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel, which, as far as I know is the only hotel in the world located inside a major league sporting venue.
We enjoyed one of the 70 rooms overlooking the home of the American League East’s Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and were treated to games against the Cleveland Indians the first night and the Boston Red Sox the next night. When we checked in the desk clerk asked if we wanted popcorn, beer and hot dogs sent up prior to or during the game, an unexpected treat that was included in the price of the room.
In addition to the game, the hotel is located smack in the middle of downtown’s entertainment and shopping district that includes some great ethnic restaurants and bars.
Due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. currency I recall that we paid less than $200 for both nights that included the room, tax, beer, popcorn and hot dogs and the games. Now, that was about 10 or so years ago but I think it may be time to take another look. It also helps that I have relatives there that offer accommodations. The Black Diamond cheddar cheese, Labatt’s beer and ale, poutine, Canadian peameal bacon, and fried perch and smelt with malt vinegar are all worth the trek north.
It’s also time we repaid Canadian “friend-of-the-island” Uncle Dick Watson, who’s been acting as our cheese and beer mule the past number of years, and smuggled him some south of the border delicacies such as smoked mullet, menudo and muffulettas.
From articles I’ve read recently there are still some other out-of-country travel bargains to be had including the island of Bali in the South Pacific and Bulgaria in Europe. Central America also offers some exceptionally attractive prices including Costa Rica. Others such as El Salvador are even cheaper but it doesn’t make a lot of happy memories dodging death squads in the most dangerous country in the world. Or for liberals you can now go to Cuba, and help fund a murderous dictatorial regime, be lied to and led around by the nose by a Communist minder.
Hands Up I Have a Gub: The United States spends more money per student than any other country in the world, a whopping $650 billion on primary and secondary education every year, far more than on national defense and has very little to show for it. In fact the U.S. public school system can’t even produce a literate thief. In a scene right out of the 1969 Woody Allen film “Take the Money and Run” a California bank robbery was foiled when the inept bandit handed a teller a hold-up note that she couldn’t read. Because she was unable to decipher what he had written she contacted her manager for assistance causing the nervous and bungling crook to make a dash for it through the bank’s back door. He was eventually identified by witnesses and arrested for attempted robbery, parole violations and possibly poor penmanship.
National Public Surprise: Last week the Jacksonville Times-Union published a letter I submitted critical of National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm show. The comments, which criticized Ms. Rehm’s program that featured a panel that compared GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, was also a topic in last week’s blog. Much to my delight and surprise Mr. Michael Boylan, President & CEO of Jacksonville-based WJCT public broadcasting and chairman of Florida Public Broadcasting Service, made an effort to contact me and emailed me the following note:
Subject: TU Letter to the Editor
Mr. Scott – Just wanted to advise you that I have forwarded your Letter to the Editor which appeared in today’s TU to the producers of the Diane Rehm Show with a reminder that there are real consequences when, as I put it, “objectivity is compromised.” I fully expect that it will find its way into Diane’s hands as well. Secondly I’d like to offer my regrets that you found the presentation to be so offensive. As a locally managed, community licensed public broadcasting organization we take very seriously our responsibility of service to the citizens of Northeast Florida. While we can’t always control the day to day contents offered via NPR we regularly communicate how the presentations are being received by our listeners and viewers. Again my apologies.
I am impressed with Mr. Boylan’s response and my regard for NPR’s local affiliate, WJCT, 89.9 FM, went up several notches when I received his message. Now if they can expand their Doo Wop and classical offerings as well as the old time radio shows and efforts like Prairie Home Companion, they would have a couple of regular listeners in the Scott household.
People I Don’t Want Living Next Door To Me: Each Sunday my Florida Times-Union comes with Parade Magazine, a insipid piece of twaddle that I have yet to find an article in that would be of interest to anyone with an IQ above 60. The ads are almost exclusively for medical alert and portable oxygen devices, cheap cell phones and over the counter and prescription medications. The target audience appears to be seniors experiencing their second childhood as the articles are almost exclusively about TV and movie personalities. People actually submit mindless questions such as “Is Wayward Pines the first TV series Djimon Housou has done?” He looks familiar.” Someone took the time to sit down and write that twaddle and send it to a pathetic individual whose job is to respond. How sad. At least these two mindless twits aren’t writing incomprehensible hold up notes.
To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before: In a brilliant satirical response to a more than loopy Buzzfeed website piece: “Gender Segregated Bathrooms Have a Long Ugly History” National Review columnist James Lileks summed up the entire silly transgendered toilet issue writing: “Next up: ‘The Long Ugly History of Stall Dividers, and how an Open Bathroom fosters community.’ You’ll be lectured on your privacy privileges and reviled for your abject phobias.” I agree with Lileks when he says “I want to live in a society that has a cultural anxiety about bodily secretions, because the alternative is someone saying: “Well, Bob’s done his business in the corner of the break room again.”
I’ll Have The Tuna On American Standard Please: Did you know that you’re probably safer making a sandwich at home on a toilet seat than on a cutting board? Me either. But according to Dr. Charles Peter Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the average cutting board has 200 times more fecal bacteria than toilets. And that’s not the worst of it says Dr. Gerba, who was interviewed for an article in Bottom Line Personal. The doctor says the kitchen sponge is the dirtiest thing in your house and the more you use it the more germs you spread. To fix the nasty wet sponge he says to zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds, run it through a dishwasher cycle or soak it in a bleach-water solution at least once a week. To cleanse the foul cutting board he says to wipe a wooden board with a sponge that has been soaked in a solution of two tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water. Clean plastic boards by running them through a dishwasher he adds. There’s not enough room here to include the cell phone contamination he discusses but after reading it, I will no longer be holding the one the guy on the next barstool handed me to look at pictures of his kids.
A Choice Between Bad and Worse: Like many other Americans talk show host, author and lecturer Dennis Prager isn’t happy about the two choices for American President — Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump — but he says despite his criticism of Trump the past many months he’s made the decision to vote for and back Trump. Here’s why he says in a column in NationalReview.com: “If elected Hillary Clinton will fill Supreme Court vacancies with leftists, and a liberal, activist court would be so powerful that it would render who controls Congress and even the White House irrelevant for a generation. Trump has provided a list of 11 strongly conservative judges he would consider for Supreme Court vacancies. A Trump presidency is also preferable because he’d strengthen the defense budget, repeal job-killing regulations on business, repeal Obamacare, lower the corporate income tax and stimulate the economy and curtail illegal immigration. If you understand the threat the left and the Democrats pose to America, you have to support the only person who can stop them.”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Just when you thought the island was saturated there are two more restaurants on the drawing board with Dr. Robert Hogan, who has already financed two very successful downtown ventures, purchasing the former Gourmet Gourmet (aka Gigi’s Bistro) with plans to turn it into what he terms a “cozy” site. An island resident, Dr. Hogan is the co-founder and chairman of Hogan Assessments, a widely respected international firm that provides individual and organizational tools used by human resource functions to select, train and promote employees. I’ve also heard from very reliable sources that the long vacant former Spanky’s and Snapper’s site, just south of Shave Bridge, will become a Mexican eatery in the not too distant future. A Puerto Rican restaurant, Lechonera el Coqui, has been open on and off for the past few weeks, but due to my mending knee I haven’t been able to pay the 232 North 2nd Street eatery a visit yet or get any more information. Mark July 17 on your calendar because that’s when The Green Turtle once again hosts a reunion of the Honey Badgers from 2 – 6 p.m. on its backyard stage. If last year’s show is any indication this one will be a lot of fun and will feature local musicians Hal London, Mike Devereaux, Dick Veacon, Ray Hetchka and temporarily welcome home husband and wife team Hupp and Jennifer Huppmann. The iconic North 2nd Street Crab Trap stays busy year around for a lot of reasons including good food, fun happy hours, the best wings in town and because it boasts incredible ownership, management team and employees. Every eatery and bar in town should aim this high I say as I sit next to my temporary walker at home munching on Choo Choo’s special grilled wings and sipping a cold Bud Lite from guess where?