Friday, June 29, 2007

Figure It Out Friday 062207

Who are these people, where are they, and why are they there?

Here is the answer

Poetry Friday - When I was Very Young

Personal Journeys Through A.A. Milne's Poetry
When I was very young, I was presented with two slim volumes of poetry by A.A. Milne by a maiden cousin I called, Aunt Charlotte.

She was very much like Gone With The Wind's Aunt Pittipat and she was very sweet to me.

The volumes were. When I Was Very Young and Now We Are Six. They represent the poetry inspired by A.A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin, and his friends.

Nearly 50 years after the gift, I still reread the poetry; they strike a chord with me. At the time they were written, they reflected childhood innocence and introspection. Most of the poems are deceptive as they are far more sophisticated than one would expect.

In my future posts, I'll share something personal connected to one of the poems.

Today, I think I'll start with one of his lesser-known poems, but one that describes the idyllic weeks I spent at my Aunt Hopie's (Charlotte's sister) summer home, Cove Cottage at Gloucester Banks, on the banks of the York River in Virginia. My father and I used to go down to the beach (the river is an estuary and we were very near Chesapeake Bay, so there was a beach) to take walks and gather crabs and clams. The wind could be fierce and I remember seeing whitecaps on the water.

Aunt Charlotte had inscribed a personal message on the page of this poem:

Sand Between the Toes

I went down to the shouting sea,
Taking Christopher down with me,
For Nurse had given us sixpence each-
And down we went to the beach.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor'wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

The sea was galloping grey and white;
Christopher clutched his sixpence tight;
We clambered over the humping sand-
And Christopher held my hand.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor'wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

There was a roaring in the sky;
The sea-gulls cried as they blew by;
We tried to talk, but had to shout-
Nobody else was out.

When we got home, we had sand in the hair,
In the eyes and the ears and everywhere;
Whenever a good nor'wester blows,
Christopher is found with


Visit more Poetry Friday participants at A Wrung Sponge
Past Post: Poetry for School and Soul: Growing Up With Poetry

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Writing Contest - Whatever Blows Your Dress Up!

My stepmother says skirt instead of dress. Whatever blows your skirt up is used by her and has always tickled me.

I'm also great Marilyn Monroe fan and imagine my extreme pleasure finding that This Eclectic Life had produced a Marilyn Monroe button. I've proudly displayed it on my side bar

They are seeking humorous pieces and I've decided to submit my latest: Hat and Pearls.

Here's the link to This Eclectic Life's Whatever Blows Your Dress Up's contest.

Scribbit up in Alaska has a wonderful writing contest as well. It's interesting to hear about life up there and some of the wonders and challenges. Her next Write Away will be July 3rd, so be sure to visit for those details.

Hat and Pearls

I can’t really plan ahead or make longterm, personal commitments; that’s the nature of my work.

I’m a professional designer of curriculum-based educational tours throughout North America as well as a tour guide based in the Washington, DC area. As an independent contractor, my life revolves around a phone call, a fax, or email. At any given moment, I could be asked to either design or conduct a tour, especially during the summer. That is why I did not write in advance for the various free tickets to the events surrounding the dedication of the National WWII Memorial in 2004; I simply thought I would either be out of town on business, or I would be assigned a VIP tour that would take me to the events and dedication. (Tour guides in DC get to do a lot of neat things!)

But the phone didn’t ring and I had a couple of days before the next convoy of safety patrols from Florida, which are traditionally the end of the student tour season on the East Coast.

It was too late to request tickets and many events were no longer available. In the past I have tried to be at the various dedications because I like to be part of an historic event. But this one was closer to home because this Baby Boomer was the product of two WWII veterans and wanted to honor their service in some way. (Yes, my mother enlisted in the US Marine Corps right after Pearl Harbor, but had to wait a year, welding the USS Missouri together at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the meantime, until she was old enough.) I was disappointed that I couldn't be there to represent my parents.

Ah! But there was going to be a religious dedication service at the Washington National Cathedral and I thought that would be an appropriate venue and gesture for my purposes.

So again, I followed my mother’s advice: Wear a hat and pearls, and you’ll be received anywhere! Heeding this, which had served me so well in the past, I donned a cocoa brown, floral print, silk dress; a large cocoa brown straw hat with flowers; heels; and the requisite strand of pearls. (Pictured above)

When I finally arrived at the Cathedral, there was a large crowd waiting outside, hoping to get in, because tickets were required and security was tight. But as a local tour guide, I know how to finesse these situations and was also well-known by the ‘purple lady’ docents who frequently spoke to my groups.

I managed to get through the crowd to the security entrance; there was no argument from anyone that I sashayed my way to the front of the line, after all, I was wearing a hat and pearls!

I inquired of those in charge with security whether they would let the general public in, and they hedged a bit. Suddenly, one of the cathedral staff recognized me, and motioned that I could come in. She gave me a ticket for the seating area in the back of the Cathedral. I was grateful and silently blessed my mother for her advice.

But before I could sit down, an usher in a cutaway asked if I would accompany him. I took his arm and was promptly escorted to the third row, center! (This would be pretty good in Broadway or Hollywood terms, but spectacular here!)

I settled myself in my seat (they don’t have pews in the WNC) and looked around.

Imagine! I was sitting behind the Doles! Yes, former Senator Robert Dole, (who was National Chairman of the WWII Campaign Fund), and his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole were seated directly in front of me. Friedrich St. Florian, the architect, was seated directly behind me! (He was short, so I removed my hat.) Tom Hanks was a couple of seats from me and I was across the nave (center aisle) and two rows away from former President and Mrs. Bush! In fact, as I looked around, I was the only one who wasn’t a dignitary!

It then occurred to me that some of the VIP’s were either late or not coming and they needed to fill seats for the television cameras! I felt as if I was one of those Barbie and Ken seat-fillers at the Oscars! And I'm sure that it was all because I was wearing a hat and pearls!

Needless to say, it was a lovely and dignified service. At the end, my section stood up and was escorted through one of the doors, where VIP buses awaited. Naturally, I went with the flow. (I decided to 'lay low' and blend in.)

When I was about to board, I was stopped and asked for my pass/ticket. (Gee. I didn’t have one!) But before turning away to join the hoi polloi, several hands were outstretched to offer me their extra Dedication tickets! During the bus ride, I was given all sorts of tickets to venues, some very exclusive! These tickets were divided into various categories/class, but I just accepted what was offered and attached them to the metal chain that had been provided to be worn around the neck.

When asked what my 'function' was, I simply replied, “I’m here on behalf of my parents.”. (Which was true: My father had died seven years previous and my mother was unable to travel.)

“Who are your parents?’


No one batted an eye.

We arrived at the memorial and I was seated near the current President Bush and other dignitaries. In my particular section, I was surrounded by venerable WWII veterans their spouses, family members, or caregivers; many of these veterans were in wheelchairs. I was close to several Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, and Battle of Midway survivors. (It must have been the Pacific rather than Atlantic section!) Unfortunately, the intense heat and humidity was affecting several of them and my thoughts ran to a DVD I have shown to my tour groups depicting the last reunion of veterans at Gettysburg.)

Again, I was enthralled by the service and to be in the midst of these war heroes; it was a moment in history, I shall never forget. ( I have since described it in detail to the many groups I have conducted through the memorial.)

The rest of the day and evening was spent attending all those ticketed events! (My feet finally gave out and I was too pooped to Jitterbug at the Kennedy Center.)

When I finally arrived home, I took off the chain that held all the tickets and glanced at them. The one on the top had gained me entrance to the prime section at the dedication. For the first time I had the chance to closely examine what was written on the ticket; I was astounded!

It said: WWII Honoree!

Wordless Wednesday 062707

This man represents a significant 'first' and also has a
Georgia connection.

(The WW originally slated for this week, has become a Museum Monday)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

I've been Tagged by a gentle hand!

Yes, elementaryhistoryteacher has decided that there are some of her constant readers she would like to know more about, and I was one of the chosen eight! I am flattered! (Incidentally historyiselementary is one of the sites up for a Bloggers Choice Award. My vote has already been cast!)

I entered the blogsphere as a contributor to a friend's political blog; I thought it was cut and dried: Something is posted by the webmaster and comments were made and exchanged by contributors (many times, acrimoniously). I had no idea when I began that there was so much going on in other neighborhoods!

And this seems to be one of the most pleasant neighborhoods! As I have already stated in a recent post, I have met some wonderful people - a real eclectic group! We may never know one another's name or identity (isn't that delicious?!), but I have been learning and experiencing so much!

Here are the rules:

1. Let others know who tagged you. 2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves. 3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts. 4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.
The above rules need to be posted.

Now for the tidbits:

1. I am old enough to have shaken Eleanor Roosevelt's hand when I was six! It was my mother who told me to run over to her and shake her hand after we had visited Hyde Park. (Evidently, Mrs. Roosevelt had been conducting a VIP tour for some Asian doctors.) She was so sweet! I told her that my mother sent me and that I was supposed to shake her hand. She clasped my hand between her hands and asked me my name. After I told her, I asked her what her name was. You can imagine how astounded I was that this nice, elderly lady had been married to President Roosevelt and I had just visited their home! I didn't know what to do, so I curtsied and thanked her for letting us visit her home (I was very polite, then). She thought I was lovely and charming! When I ran back to my mother and stepfather, I was so pleased! My mother looked at me and asked me who that lady was and naturally, I told her everything! My mother looked at me seriously and said, "For the rest of your life, you will remember that you shook Eleanor Roosevelt's hand."

And she was right! I tell that story to each group I conduct through the FDR Memorial. The irony is that my family have always chuckled that I actually curtsied to Eleanor Roosevelt; while my mother did have a sense of history, she and other members of her family left the Democratic Party because of the Roosevelts!

2. I had intended to become a Classicist/Medievalist, then apprenticed, on Broadway, in theatre administration (working with the Phoenix Theatre which included Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, and Barry Bostwick), and ended up in student tourism as something to do 'between jobs'. I've been 'between jobs' for over 25 years! I LOVE MY JOB!

3. One of my postings was just published in the AFT quarterly magazine, American Educator. It was the first time since high school (does that count?) that something of mine has been published! This was so unexpected! I have made a copy of the check and will frame it! Time to splurge!

4. I'm a lot sillier in person and on tour than I am in print.

5. I love to cook and entertain. My specialties: Italian, French, and Thai. Small, intimate dinner parties are my favorite. (But I can't bake a decent cake to save my life!)

6. I am a procrastinator. Even as I write this, I should be attending to other business, So many creative projects, including a children's play, are on the back burner. I need some more self discipline or a slave-driver!

7. If it is in black and white, I'll watch it! I don't care what AFI says, Casablanca is the best movie ever made!

8. I'm addicted to tea. I brew tea the old-fashioned way and have over twenty varieties and blends at any given time in my cupboard.

Photo of me: Here I am addressing a safety patrol from Florida at Arlington National Cemetery

Now for the, You're It!

GreenManTim at Walking the Berkshires

Dave Tabler at Appalachian History

Walter Snyder at Ask the Pastor (While I am not a Lutheran, this is a wonderful site. Walter had cited me as one of the five blogs that made him think, unfortunately, I was on tour at the time - I'll respond this week! I also did not realize that a thank-you isn't enough; etiquette demands reciprocation! )

I haven't heard from Jarod in a long time, but I find his site fascinating as well as his art. Jarod's Forge

Sheila O'Malley at The Sheila Variations and Founding Fathers


Mrs. Mecomber at New York State Traveler

Apple, my favorite schoolbus driver and Mom!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

They're back! Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles

Today, I had a quick lunch with some friends who were returning home to Massachusetts from their vacation in Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.

Their older son (4 1/2 ) was waxing lyrical about the TNMT's. As I don't have any small children, I haven't kept up with the current movies. (He was extraordinarily impressed I was originally from Spidey's hometown (neighborhood), Forest Hills, Queens!)

Oh dear! I thought that the Turtles were all past history, but I've got to deal with it again!

Years ago, I remember trying to describe to a group of eighth-graders how Brumidi painted the Apotheosis of Washington inside of the dome of the Capitol: "He was flat on his back atop scaffolding, like Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel."
"You mean, the Ninja Turtle?"

After clearing up the misunderstanding, I ended up taking the group to the National Gallery of Art.

The students were amazed to find out that the names of the pizza-eating Turtles were after famous painters and loved seeing the art.

While the NGA doesn't have a Michaelangelo, they do have a Leonardo DaVinci, a few Raphaels (St. George and the Dragon is a favorite), and sculptures by Donatello in their collection.

Introducing students to great art through the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles?


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Museum Monday 062507

I was going to use this for a Wordless Wednesday, but I decided to use this for Museum Monday.
Please tell me what this is, at which museum this can be found, the hidden message, and what this has to do with New York City.

Craig Ferguson : An Open Letter Regarding Honorary Citizenship

Dear Craig Ferguson,

(I know you Google yourself, so you might just read this!)

I have been watching, with great interest, your campaign to get honorary citizenship in this great nation of mine.

So many people in the world want to be US citizens and are going through many channels (legal or otherwise) to achieve this.

Interestingly enough, I have never heard you tell your viewers, seriously, why you would like to be a citizen. That might be an interesting monologue and show. With all the negative attitudes concerning America, it would be good for us to hear something positive about our country.

Normally, one does not campaign for citizenship: Either one waits after making out the requisite application, is given honorary citizenship as a result of lifelong service, marries into it, or demands it through mass protest demonstrations. Of course, I had the good fortune to be born here, which is automatic.

The history of honorary citizenship in the United States goes back to the Marquis de Lafayette when he and all his male descendants were granted honorary citizenship in several of the new states.

The notion of citizenship was much different in the early days of our country, as many who had fought in the Revolution and lived within the accepted boundaries of the new republic had not been born in America, but citizenship was extended to them. The states were also, under the Articles of Confederation, far more independent. Hence, one who was categorized as a citizen of a particular state, was ipso facto a citizen of the United States.

Lafayette, though, was never formally declared an honorary citizen of the United States until 2002! (Which was unfortunate since he was not around to enjoy the privileges extended by this.)

However, he was feted, shown around, and even given land and money during his visit in 1824. (I mentioned that in an earlier post.)

The first actual honorary citizen of the United States was Sir Winston Spencer Churchill in 1963; then followed, Raoul Wallenberg, William Penn, Hannah Callowhill Penn, Mother Teresa, Lafayette, and Kazimierz Pulaski. (A bill to honor Anne Frank in this way is currently under consideration.) All but one, Churchill, became honorary citizens posthumously. Going this route you'll probably wait much longer or be dead. Is that what you really want?

As much as I enjoy your show and feel that you have contributed greatly to late night between 12:37AM -1:37 AM, and think you would be a model citizen (!), I fear that you don't have a rodent's you-know-what of a chance to influence the almighty INS to speed up the process. It is unfortunate for you that the state citizenship no longer gives you national citizenship. If I were you, I wouldn't push the issue because some nasty INS agent, who watches Conan, might just put your application on the bottom of the pile after this.

So take a number, wait in your comfortable host's chair, go over the inane test questions, get a good lawyer, keep checking your status , and continue what you're doing to improve late night television.

It will happen.

Yours sincerely,

The Tour Marm

P.S. I'll be at the Warner to see you. Do you need a tour guide in DC?

Layfayette in America Exhibit at the New York Historical Society
Washington, DC Review and Tailored itinerary.
Craig Ferguson: Role Model

Friday, June 22, 2007

July 4th - Saluting Jacquie Lawson

It seems incredible that Jacquie Lawson, who is based in England, comes up with all these wonderful patriotic cards for us! (I haven't seen anything for Britain!)

I've been a fan of hers for years, ever since her first Christmas Cottage card. (Her Christmas cards, though not religious, are sweet and reflect the English experience.)

She uses her own pets (Chudleigh and Molly), the pets of neighbors, and the surrounding homes (including her own) and countryside. There's some history of her charming and picturesque village and Chudleigh's diary included in the site. There is also a fascinating section concerning how the cards are made.

All of her Fourth of July cards have been breathtaking, and this year's is no exception. (I especially like it since I live in the Washington, DC area and go to the National Mall near the White House to see the fireworks.)

But the America the Beautiful, Liberty, and Sea to Shining Sea are spectacular.

Her first American patriotic card was poignant. It was released in 2002 to reflect the spirit after September 11th. It is called, Raise the Flag, and still brings a tear to my eye. It is suitable for Veterans Day as well as Memorial Day.

One can preview the most recent July 4th card here.

Since I am constantly on tour or business trips, I use these cards to keep up with friends, family, business associates, and clients to let them know that I'm still alive and thinking of them. People usually write back and thank me for the card, updating their personal lives. I once gleaned the list to add more recent contacts and was stopped in the street by a tour guide colleague that I had dropped from the address book. "What happened to the cards?"
"You've never replied in the three years I've been sending them."
"That doesn't mean I didn't like them; I looked forward to them!"
So David was added to the list again.

The wonderful thing about the Jacquie Lawson site is that it is spam-free. and you're not required to join to pick up a card! They are all beautiful and tasteful. (Except for the Halloween ones!)

The yearly fee for these cards is nominal ($10.00 for 1 year and $16.00 for two years), but I have sent over a thousand this year alone, so it is a great bargain! (Think of the cost of cards and postage alone!)

It's a great way to keep in touch and people love them!

And no, I don't get a commission, but why not advertise something that brings so much pleasure to people?

So put your hand on your mouse, click, and check out the site! (Be sure to pet Chudleigh and Molly for me!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Figure It Friday # 12 Answer

A Moon Rock!

As groups enter the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Air and Space from the mall side, they tend to miss a lonely, black steel tower that is almost obscured by the security area. But if it is found, the delight on the faces of these students is unmistakable, for it displays a piece of moon rock brought back by the astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission.

Not only can it been seen, but it can be touched! The connection that one is touching something from a celestial entity over 240,000 miles away that represents the highest scientific and engineering achievement of mankind, is not lost.


“Awesome! “

These are the words I routinely hear exclaimed.

Many take a few moments to reflect, the serious expressions on their faces belie the depth of thought; never underestimate these, most are quite profound and poetic.

While the moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum is private, personal, and tactile, the moon rock imbedded in the Washington National Cathedral’s ‘Space Window’ underscores the majesty of the event and puts it into a theological context. This rock was also a gift of the same astronauts, one of whom (Michael Collins, the only one not to have walked on the moon’s surface) had been a student at the St. Alban’s School for Boys, which is the academic choir school attached to the more properly named, Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Looking up from the Cathedral, one is surprised that the red moon is actually depicted larger than the earth and the moon rock has been placed smack in the center.

One student looking up thought it was the eye of God looking down upon her! Others experience an epiphany that God’s kingdom is not confined to earth but is infinite. Most just think it is ‘cool’ that a space window would be in a cathedral. Bosses* above the window are carved to represent Alan Shepherd in his capsule and footprints on the moon.

These two places rock!

*BossArchitectural term: A raised ornament, such as one at the intersection of the ribs in a vaulted roof

PHOTOS: : This Washington National Cathedral is not the only cathedral where the moon landing is celebrated, Blue Peter, a children's show in Britain had a contest for children to design bosses for York Minster Cathedral in Yorkshire. A six year old Rebecca-Rose Welsh, the youngest winner, designed a Man on the Moon for their vaulted ceiling which had been destroyed after a disastrous fire.

Gathering Moon Rocks. NASAexplores - student sheet


Moonrock at the Air and Space Museum

Photo of the moonrock at the Air and Space Museum

The National Museum of Air and Space now also hosts some American icons from the National Museum of American History. They have various educational programs and activities all of which can be requested in advance: (A favorite of my groups is the paper airplane contest!)

Educational Programs and visits

Discovery Stations

Science Demonstrations

The Washington National Cathedral/Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul requires appointments for groups and charges a small fee for tours. The most popular tour is the architectural tour of the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in the US and 6th largest in the world! US History is represented by windows, statuary, and even the pulpit! Visitors are welcomed and a donation is suggested. As a house of prayer for all people, one is invited to attend worship services.

Space and Technology Window

Cathedral Statistics

Educational Tour Information and Touring Options

Group Visit Request Form

Worship Times

Close Up Tours

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday 062007

Elementary schoolteacher got it correct!

This above is one of my own photos. It is taken through the glass wall.

Here is my story:

I watched it being built.

I passed it almost every day, looming higher and higher beside Interstate 395.

I was appalled at the severity of the three talons that seemed to scratch the sky.

I thought it was an intrusion on the Virginia and Washington, DC skyline and understood why others did not want it near the Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima)

It was the St. Louis Arch disassembled.

I drove to the site and stood in the midst of it.

It seemed so sterile.

I looked up and saw the three protrusions, the sculpture of four colorguards, and the fighter jets etched into the glass wall.

I read the quotes and words on the walls.

I contemplated the meaning of all of this.

I understood.


I purposely did not read about the new Air Force Memorial because I like to get the ‘feel’ of things on my own. My approach to memorials is akin to my approach to any great work of art or literature; I explore my feelings first, then do the research. After the dedication on October 13th, 2006, I drove to the memorial.

The ‘talons’ were the vapor trails of three jets.

The color guard is to honor all who served and make it photo-friendly for visitors.

The etched glass represented the Missing Man Formation.

I was standing on a runway.

On both ends were etched walls containing quotes from officers and pioneers of aviation, core values of leadership, and the names of those who had earned the Medal of Honor.

The memorial sits on a promontory, in the shadow of the Navy Annex/Headquarters Marine Corps and overlooking Washington, DC, Arlington National Cemetery, and the side of the Pentagon that was hit on September 11th.

There is some irony in the fact that this memorial also is within a stone's throw of Fort Meyer, where the Wright Brothers first tested warplanes. It was there on September 17, 1908, with Orville Wright as the pilot, Lt. Thomas Selfridge (a passenger) became the first death in a powered aircraft accident.

There is so much to talk about here.

Of course, I had to figure out a way to introduce and interpret the memorial, give a brief history of the United States Air Force, the importance of air power, feats, battles, and leadership, to all my seventh and eighth graders. I wasn’t quite sure how to begin..

When I brought my first group to visit the memorial, I was inspired, I simply asked them, “How did you get to the East Coast?”

“We flew.”

The rest came naturally.
For details of the memorial click here.

For two reviews from the Washington Post, click here and here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Broadway Shows: Teaching Moments

One can't plan a tour of New York City without including a Broadway show!

Most groups opt for the musicals rather than the plays, which is a shame in many ways, as there have recently been some stunning productions of 'straight' plays, both comedies and dramas. In fact, I'm not sure that many people realize that the musical is just one part of Broadway. But for the purposes of this post, I shall concentrate on the big, brassy, Broadway musical. (For a wonderful site exploring the history of musical theatre, try John Kenrick's

The first Broadway musical I saw was the original production of My Fair Lady when I was six years old! No, Rex Harrison and a very young Julie Andrews had since left, but the costumes, scenery, choreography etc. were still the same. I was 'hooked'! My mother and I used to see a show every two months. I remember the original productions of Camelot, Sound of Music, West Side Story, Oliver, Annie, and 42nd Street as well as star-studded revivals of the late '50's through the '80's.

Many of the musicals in those days were far less complicated productions as Andrew Lloyd Webber and a mature Sondheim had not emerged with what can only be termed as almost opera. And the simple song and tapdance numbers became Las Vegas spectacles.

For three years I apprenticed in theatre administration on and off Broadway with the Phoenix Theatre when actors such as Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, and Barry Bostwick were starting out with our company. Ah! The good old days!

Nowadays, the obvious musical choices have been Lion King, Beauty and the Beast (closing soon to make way for The Little Mermaid), Tarzan, The Color Purple, Wicked, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Rent, and Phantom of the Opera . Only the first three are 'G' rated. Just because there's music involved, doesn't make it appropriate i.e. Avenue Q, Chicago, and Chorus Line.

Les Miserables, one of my favorites, has recently returned. Despite containing a scene in a brothel, Les Miz has extremely spiritual messages of transgression, charity, sacrifice, death, grace, and resurrection. This would certainly be my choice over the evil, embittered, stalker, kidnapper, murderer, and would-be seducer that is known as the Phantom of the Opera. Why people find him romantic is perverse to me. Most students, who remain awake, don't question the true message because they are so mesmerized by the production values and music.

Recently, I was taken to task by some students for not choosing The Color Purple (with Fantasia). I asked them if they had read the book or seen the movie? None of them had. I informed them that there was content related to incest and prostitution amongst other issues. I'm not sure that many parents would find that appropriate for their seventh or eighth graders. We simply have to play it safe. I told them that I expected it to tour their area and invited them to have their parents take them, if their parents found it acceptable.

Interestingly enough, Mary Poppins for many of my groups, was a hard sell. The same groups that requested Beauty and the Beast, shied away from Mary Poppins; I wondered why this was. Some teachers told me that they were concerned about seeing a new production because it was an unknown entity to the kids and not 'cool'. I personally feel that it is better to see a' first run' show and cast, than one that is on its fourth cast or has already toured. The musical Hairspray is now a movie. Besides, what can be more exciting than to say that one has been the first to have seen something?

I had heard wonderful reviews from friends who had seen Mary Poppins in London, so I was reasonably certain that it would be better than the disastrous Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang from two years ago. It was unfortunate that Mary Poppins won only one Tony Award for scenery and the musical Awakenings (unsuitable for most school groups because of the explicit nature of the book and material) swept the awards. Mary Poppins is nevertheless a feast for the eyes and the musical numbers are fantastic!

Mary Poppins, the theatre musical, has some elements of the Disney movie, but they have added a great deal from the original books by P.L. Travers.

The second act is riveting.

This show continually affects my students on several levels, and during intermission, there is generally much discussion and many questions concerning the family dynamics, business ethics, the life of servants, class system, differences from the movie, and the production itself. This show certainly touches the students on many levels and deep feelings are explored

During the most recent performance of Mary Poppins I attended, my group was intrigued by a musical number which was almost a horror story; the toys in the nursery came to life to taunt the Banks children. About a dozen students ended up talking amongst themselves about how children take out their frustrations on their toys. One student added that she used to tell all her secrets to one particular doll and she would never have treated that doll badly. There were similar revelations and exchanges of ideas.

The teacher, overhearing the discussion, was upset and requested that they not delve too much into the plot and just accept the show as pure entertainment. Well, she really missed the boat here, and a good opportunity for a teaching moment.

But theatre has never been just pure entertainment. The ancient Greeks used theatre to educate. On Broadway, musical theatre has always been known for its social messages and political agenda from the first performance of, Showboat, on to Wicked and Hairspray. One can find all sorts of messages in the so-called, family-friendly musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein. I really can't think of a show currently playing that doesn't affect us in some way or another on the social level. (Hmmm, Spamalot?)

One of my favorite shows for teaching moments is Annie. Not only does it have snappy tunes, toe-tapping dance numbers, and tugs at the heartstrings, but it is a good starting point for a discussion of the Great Depression and the rise of President Franklin Roosevelt. Annie is a metaphor for the state of this nation during the 1930's.

Additionally, as I have stated before, one of the residual benefits of No Child Left Behind, has been the development of curriculum and standards-based materials by museums, tour sites, and theatre.

Mary Poppins is no exception. The Disney organization, as well as other producers of shows, have developed study packets for groups for pre and post classroom study. Some shows send 'trunks' of materials to the classroom as well as the option of having someone visit the class to introduce the show. Then there is Camp Broadway. All one has to do is ask.

I can always tell the groups that have been prepared, they're the ones not restless in their seats nor talking throughout the show. (Believe it or not, I have actually seen students sitting in the theatre listening to IPODS and MP3's during a show!)

The ephemeral nature of theatre and the experience of a live show stays with us and affects us for our entire lifetime. The concept that the performance one is attending is unique, is not lost on the theatregoer. I have attended the same show many times, only to find that the performances vary in one way or another. (During a recent performance of Legally Blonde, the character of Elle literally lost her blonde wig before the Bend and Snap musical number! Though hysterical to see hair fly across the stage and how they dealt with it, I doubt there will be a repeat of that in future performances! I was glad to have been there for that!) The memories of individual performances by Richard Burton, Sir Alec Guinness, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Ethel Merman, will forever stay with me; in actuality, they were but brief moments in time.

While arguably a revue is meant to be pure entertainment, the Broadway show is not and it should be explored and discussed. It is the way young people learn to thoroughly appreciate theatre.

Never underestimate your students, they are far sharper and perceptive than you can imagine!

The Greeks knew what they were doing.


The next time you plan on taking your students to a theatre performance, inquire of the theatre if they have any educational packets for your groups. Chances are that they will have something as most shows in the past six years have developed materials and lesson plans. Many theatre companies have education departments; talk to them. There might also be resources online that one can download.

You might also ask about specific adult content, themes, and age appropriateness when booking. Most sales people connected with student tour operators don't know about the individual shows, so it is best to go right to the source. Don't book a show because of pressure from your students or the popularity of the show, one must face parents, administration, and school boards! What is acceptable for some of my public schools, may not be for my private, and parochial. ( Incidentally, my personal opinion is quite different from my professional opinion!)

I haven't yet seen Curtains (next on my list) and I can't wait to see if Young Frankenstein will be suitable for school groups.

This Broadway Baby makes it her business to see all the shows and give an honest assessment to my groups. It's a hard job, but somebody's got to do it!

Interested in Mary Poppins?
Disney Group Sales Email - inquire about educational materials
Group Sales Telephone: 800-439-9000 or 212-703-1040
Newsweek Review of Mary Poppins
New York Times Review
About Camp Broadway
Panasonic has teamed with Camp Broadway to create distance learning materials
Disney Cyber Lesson Plans
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, can give your students a Q&A session with cast members immediately after the show (in the same theatre) for a small fee which goes to the charity.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lost and Found

Nearly two weeks ago, the teacher in charge of the group decided that we should walk the entire length of the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. It was rather late and I was tired and asked if we could take the bus instead. My teacher was adamant and inquired which path was better. I opted for the 'high road' because it was lit by a series of lamps and the one along the pool was dark and littered by Canada Geese droppings.

Unfortunately, the 'high road' turned out to be a gathering place for gigantic swarms of gnats, although harmless unless they fly into your eyes, nevertheless, they are still annoying. Frightened students started to scream, waving their arms, and anything they had in front of them which would disperse the gnats. Many started running toward the WWII Memorial only to slam into another swarm! (There were about ten of these!) It was an amusing sight that had me laughing between 'bouts', being careful to keep my mouth shut while in the midst of the gnats.

When we finally reached the memorial, the teacher said it would have been better to have taken the 'poopy' route! (I think next year she'll take the bus!) However, one young man was extremely upset, for he had lost his wallet.

One of the other teachers tried to retrace his steps with him to look for the wallet and asked the usual questions regarding the last time he saw his wallet etc. He was sure he had it with him at the Lincoln Memorial. It became evident that it must have flown out of his fanny pack while he was 'defending' himself against the gnats.

The head teacher was rather cynical and wrote this off to irresponsibility. It was a done deal in her mind that he would never see his wallet again and that someone would find it and the $200 inside and declare it a holiday! I told her I would pray for it; again I was faced with a cynical expression. This young man was a nice fellow who didn't seem like the careless or absent-minded type. I felt badly for him.

Despite being brought up in cities where one experiences a greater cross-section of behavior, I am not cynical; just the reverse. I have a great deal of faith in my fellow man and the grace of God. In fact, there have been several instances on my trips that lost items had been found and returned. I told her that I would call several places the next day to report the wallet missing and try to track it down. She didn't understand why I would take the time and trouble to do this. What were the odds that a small, dark, ballistic nylon, fold-over wallet would be found or turned in? Well, one doesn't get, unless one asks.

The next morning I called the US Park Service grounds personnel, both the Lincoln and the WWII memorial National Park Rangers, DC police, as well as some other numbers given to me. Interestingly enough they all did have wallets and purses that were either found or turned in by others (So there are honest people in the world!), but not the one I was looking for.

The young man was devastated and accepted the inevitable truth.

Our day was being spent at the International Spy Museum, National Archives, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian before touring the US Capitol and meeting their US Representative.

It was at the National Museum of the American Indian that my teacher received a call on her cell phone.

She quickly handed me her cell phone and on the other end was a voice proclaiming that the wallet had been found!

It was the voice of another tour guide who had followed the same route with her group (for the same reason) and were evidently right behind us! When she picked up the wallet, she noticed that there was a school ID in it, besides the money, and set to track down the owner.

After she returned to her hotel room, she hooked up her laptop and researched the school to find that indeed, their eighth grade was in Washington, DC. She called the school as soon as it opened (a three hour time difference since the school was in California) and was able to get the head teacher's cell phone number!

At the point of this call, she was aboard her own tour bus and was two blocks away from the Smithsonian we were visitng!

Naturally, I literally ran out to meet her and retrieve the wallet.

Imagine my surprise when it was pointed out that she had been a new tour guide I had spent time encouraging three years previously! Hugs all around!

She certainly went the extra mile!

She wouldn't accept a 'reward' as she felt what she did was her duty - the right thing to do.

After thanking her and hopping on her bus to thank the group and let them know how much this was appreciated and how good it was that they were honest and compassionate, I rushed back to the museum to reunite the young man and his wallet. All the cash was there.

The young man was joyous and the teacher was flabbergasted. I gave thanks and I used the opportunity for another teaching moment on compassion and honesty. (The two, in my mind, go hand-in-hand.) The teacher said that some of her lost faith in people was found. (Some!)

It also brought home the fact that blessings and grace can be found and not all the lessons learned on tour are academic.


The other tourguide's group was eating in the same Kosher Jewish restaurant in New York City before the Broadway show, as we were! She recognized me and came over to my table where I introduced her to all the teachers, the entire group, and especially to the young man. I was glad they all had the opportunity to put an actual face to the person responsible for returning the wallet.


I think not.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Figure It Out Friday #12

These fellows are looking at something that is featured in the stained glass window.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wordless Wednesday 4/24 Answer: Tecumseh or Tamanend

My students touring the United States Naval Academy this past May were fascinated by this!

The Legend of Tecumseh

The photo in the original Wordless Wednesday posting is of the bust of Tecumseh painted to look like Waldo of the Where's Waldo? books. This bust is on a high pedestal at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. I have added photos of the unpainted Tecumseh as well as the latest one (taken by me - click it to see more detail) during Commissioning Week which depicts Tecumseh as a commissioned officer.

Here's the Scuttlebutt:

Midshipmen will make offerings of pennies to Tecumseh, the large bronze reproduction of the figurehead of the USS Delaware that sits in front of Bancroft Hall, to bring them luck on their final examinations. Chinese majors were known to have burned incense in front of Tecumseh. (The figurehead was actually supposed to portray Tamanend, a village sachem of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people who signed a famous treaty with William Penn, but Midshipmen remaned him for the better-known Tecumseh. There actually was a USS Tecumseh but it had no figurehead as it was a single-turret monitor; it's now at the bottom of Mobile Bay, just off Fort Morgan.

Tecumseh is revered as the god of 2.0, which is the passing grade for the Academy. He has become an idol which receives 'prayers' and offerings of pennies thrown by loyal midshipmen who also render a left-handed salute for good luck in exams and athletic events. He is in 'warpaint' for Parents' Weekend in August, Homecoming, before Army/Navy contests, and for Commissioning Week (see above for 2007).

More Trivia and Connections to other Tour Sites:
Tamanend is the same as Tammany, of New York's Tammany Hall fame. A statue of him stands on Gettysburg Battlefield honoring New York's 42nd. The Delaware were the native Americans who entered into the longest unbroken treaty with William Penn in 1682; Tamenend was of that early period.

Touring the Academy

The United States Naval Academy offers curriculum-based tours for school groups and there are facilities for meals which would include picnic sandwiches and a cafeteria. On a recent visit with a Lutheran school, we opted to tour the inside of the Jewish Chapel of the new Commodore Uriah Levy Center
rather than the swimming pool.The architecture is stunning and gave the students the opportunity to learn more about Commodore Levy, the contributions of Jews in the Navy, Judaism. Bancroft Hall (the largest dormitory is where one can see an actual room. Additionally the chapel and crypt of John Paul Jones are not to be missed. In season one of the most impressive sights is the noonday formation when all line up before going to lunch.
There are also private tour companies that add the Naval Academy to the curriculum-based historic tours of Annapolis which would include the only Statehouse to serve as an US Capitol.

Naval Academy Tours – 410-293-8687 (Website is currently under construction 6/13/07)

Capital City Colonials – Costumed Guides/Historic Interpreters Certified by the USNA

Three Centuries/WatermarkCostumed Guides/Historic Interpreters Certified by the USNA

To learn more about the Naval Academy's traditions and urban legends, please click here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Old Glory by Norman Rockwell

June 14th is Flag Day, a holiday that has somehow been forgotten. Here are some thoughts from people who have not forgotten:

The following words were spoken by the late Red Skelton on his television program as he related the story of his teacher, Mr. Laswell, who felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite in class each day.

"I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester

and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you.

If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?"


me, an individual, a committee of one.


dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.


my love and my devotion.

To the flag

our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever

she waves, there's respect because your loyalty has given

her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job!


that means that we have all come together.


individual communities that have united into 48 great states.

Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and

purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to

a common purpose, and that's love for country.

And to the republic

a state in which sovereign power is

invested in representatives chosen by the

people to govern. And government is the people

and it's from the people to the leaders, not from

the leaders to the people.

For which it stands, one nation

one nation, meaning "so

blessed by God"


incapable of being divided.

With liberty

which is freedom -- the right of power to live one's

own life without threats, fear or some sort of


And Justice

the principle or quality of dealing fairly with others.

For all

which means, boys and girls, it's as much your

country as it is mine.


Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country

and two words have been added to the pledge of Allegiance...


Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said

that is a prayer

and that would be eliminated from schools too?

Click here to hear Red Skelton recite the above

Author Unknown:

Hello. Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of the United States of America.

Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you — because it is about you and me.

I remember some time ago, people would line up on both side of the street to watch the parade, and naturally I was leading every one, proudly waving in the breeze.

When your Daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed it against his left shoulder so that his hand was directly over his heart — remember?

And you, I remember, were standing there, straight as a soldier. You didn't have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember your little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you with her right hand over her heart — remember?

What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've added a few more stars since you were a boy, and a lot more blood has been shed since those parades of long ago.

But now, somehow I don't feel as proud as I used to feel. When I come down the street, you just stand there with your hands in your pockets. You may give me a small glance, and then you look away. I see children running around you shouting; they don't seem to know who I am.

I saw one man take his hat off, then he looked around, and when he didn't see anybody else take off his hat, he quickly put his on again.

Is it a sin to be patriotic today? Have you forgotten what I stand for, and where I have been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea and Vietnam!

Take a look at the memorial honor rolls, and see the names of those patriotic Americans who gave their lives to keep this republic free. When you salute me, you are actually saluting them!

So when you see me, please stand straight and place your hand over your heart, and I'll know that you remembered. I'll salute you by waving back!

"The Flag Goes By" by Henry Holcomb Bennett

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off! The colors before us fly
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land's swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor, --all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off! Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off! The flag is passing by!

From George M. Cohan:

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'Neath the Red, White and Blue.
Where there's never a boast or a brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eyes on the grand old flag!

There's a feeling comes a-stealing,
And it sets my brain a-reeling,
When I'm listening to the music of a military band.
Any tune like "Yankee Doodle"
Simply sets me off my noodle,
It's that patriotic something that no one can understand.

"Way down South, in the land of cotton",
Melody untiring,
Ain't that inspiring?
Hurrah! Hurrah! We'll join the Jubilee!
And that's going some,
For the Yankees, by gum!
Red, white and blue, I am for you!
Honest, you're a grand old flag!

You're a Grand Old Flag
You're a high flying flag
And forever, in peace, may you wave!
You're the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave!

Ev'ry heart beats true 'neath the Red, White, and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot
Keep your eye on the Grand Old Flag!

I'm a cranky hanky panky,
I'm a dead square, honest Yankee,
And I'm mighty proud of that old flag
That flies for Uncle Sam.

Though I don't believe in raving
Ev'ry time I see it waving,
There's a chill runs up my back that makes me glad I'm what I am.

Here's a land with a million soldiers,
That's if we should need 'em,
We'll fight for freedom!

Hurrah! Hurrah! For every Yankee tar
And old G.A.R.
Ev'ry stripe, ev'ry star.
Red, white and blue,
Hats off to you
Honest, you're a grand old flag!

You're a Grand Old Flag
You're a High Flying Flag
And forever, in peace, may you wave!
You're the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave!

Ev'ry heart beats true 'neath the Red, White, and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot
Keep your eye on the Grand Old Flag!

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

Keep your eye on the grand old flag.