Dramatic Stone Harbor skies

I drove to Stone Harbor on Saturday morning for Gavin and Amanda Keirans’s wedding, which was beautiful. Overcast skies and periodically wet conditions on both Saturday and Sunday ultimately didn’t do anything to dampen the beauty or excitement of seeing Gavin and Amanda, and so many friends, together. Before I left Stone Harbor early on Sunday afternoon, I took a walk through town, picked up a coffee and breakfast sandwich at Coffee Talk, and walked to the 97th Street beach where skies threatened a deluge to come.

Driving back on the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway was not enjoyable, but the dramatic view over Logan Circle from the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network office was a rewarding sight.

Downtown Steubenville

After visiting Fransiscan University of Steubenville yesterday, I drove downtown and explored a bit before hitting Route 7 South along the Ohio River, marking the Ohio and West Virginia boundaries. Downtown Steubenville doesn’t look to be in great shape, although the relatively recent rehabilitation of historic Fort Steuben was compelling. I didn’t realize Dean Martin was born in Steubenville. The American flag is flying at half mast in honor of Sen. John McCain.

So many towns and communities like this in America’s great middle, some on the track of natural reclamation by the countryside they once cut into, and others somewhere between health and sickness, just waiting for the promise of the Information Age and ubiquitous connectivity to breathe new life into the place.

Visiting Franciscan

I got into Cincinnati yesterday afternoon and will be here for the rest of the week, but on the way out from Philadelphia I stayed in State College on Monday night and decided to visit/stop in Steubenville on Tuesday night so I could visit Franciscan University of Steubenville for the first time. I’ve met a number of Franciscan alumni over the past few years and they’ve all been sober, serious, and remarkable people, so I wanted to see where they came from; or at least where they spent a few years in college.

After my brief visit to campus, I visited downtown Steubenville and its Fort Steuben, which once protected the American frontier. After that I hit the road and completed the remaining four hours or so to Cincinnati, arriving downtown to meet for dinner at Sotto off East 6th and Walnut.

Visiting Palo Alto

After biking around Stanford’s campus on Sunday evening, I checked into Hotel Keen for the night. Explored downtown Palo Alto for an hour or so, grabbed some pizza, etc. Awoke the next morning and walked a stretch of University Avenue and some of the side streets, with views like these:

It’s a beautiful downtown, feeling a lot like a focused/wealthier version of many college towns. After a while, I hopped in my car and took CA-92 west toward the Pacific Coast Highway and its beaches.

Biking Stanford

After finishing breakfast at Napa Institute yesterday morning and huddling with Bobby Schindler, I decided to drive south to Palo Alto to work on some writing. Strategically, this meant that I was able to visit Stanford’s campus and spent about 90 minutes biking it on a Lime-E bike like I did in Seattle with the University of Washington last Sunday. I ate a late lunch at Kirk’s Steakburger’s and got to work. By the time I got onto the campus, the shadows were growing long in the fading hours of daylight—but this made it all the more special, and the great numbers of young, old, and very young alike across campus, enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon in July, made it great.

Afterwards, I docked the Lime-E and parked my rental car in a parking garage in Palo Alto at University Avenue and Bryant Street, walked University Avenue, enjoyed the vibe of the somewhat chilly downtown, had some pizza, and checked into Hotel Keen just off University at High Street for the night.

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Fremont Brewing

After a morning run along the waterfront in Seattle and lunchtime and afternoon meetings, Bobby Schindler and I walked from our hotel to Pioneer Square to ship some things from the post office. It’s a beautiful old neighborhood that’s very much in transition, strangled on its waterfront side by a hideous elevated highway that can be seen below. As the neighborhood changes, I wonder what will happen to so many of the people there who already have nowhere else to go. And I wonder how soon the neighborhood will really change.

Afterwards, we caught a Lyft north to Fremont, and had two beers at Fremont Brewing which I rode past yesterday when out with my Limebike. A good place with good beer, even on a Monday evening. Met two young people who had just graduated from Seattle Pacific University and who were setting out on their lives, with interest in art and history respectively.

Seattle, by electric bike

I landed in Seattle late last night; first time back since I was here in May 2011 at the tail-end of my first cross-country Amtrak trip on their “Empire Builder” line.

After a full day yesterday biking Washington, I didn’t expect to do the same today. In travel, however, energy can be unpredictable, and I felt like getting outside again to enjoy as much of Seattle as I could during my limited time here. (I leave for San Francisco on Tuesday morning.)

Started out on a Limebike in Pioneer Square, which is a beautiful neighborhood architecturally, but has been ravaged by an elevated waterfront highway on one side, and massive stadiums on another. The result is lots of dead space and “no man’s land” zones, and the consequence is that Pioneer Square is home to much of Seattle’s population of homeless persons.

The “Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” had old and new posters up in various places. I remembered some of this communist-chic from my 2011 visit, but am nonetheless amazed that allegedly humane and progressive-minded people have married into a communist intellectual family, whose first cousin is national socialism, with a straight face. These are political ideologies which together have led to the intentional and brutal destruction of 100 million+ human lives in the past century across Russia, Germany, China, Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, etc. That’s a conservative estimate.

Struggled to get my Limebike up major hills, eventually making it to First Hill and St. James Cathedral. Switched to a Lime-E bike (Lime’s electric assist bikes), and everything became as smooth as yesterday’s Washington/JUMP bike experience.

After scanning the map of Seattle, decided to head toward University of Washington to check out the campus, and along the way passed Broadway and picturesque Roanoke Park and its neighborhood’s beautiful view of Portage Bay. Crossed University Bridge just as it was being raised to allow a tall boat to pass and lingered to admire Portage Bay a bit more. Shortly thereafter made it to University of Washington, which is one of the most naturally beautiful campuses I’ve visited, particularly with its view of Mount Rainier in the distance. After about an hour there, I made my way toward Fremont and along the Lake Union waterfront path there after stopping in Solsticio cafe for a water and yogurt. Rode past the Adobe, Google, etc. corporate buildings along the water for a bit, and past a street fair, before heading back toward the city across Fremont Bridge.

Largely downhill for a while, through Westlake, down to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle, then along the waterfront past the Maritime Discovery Center where the enormous Norwegian Pear was docked, along past Belltown (where I had stayed seven years ago), and eventually down along the bike path and train tracks by Pioneer Square, and the docks and shipping containers that nourish America’s needs across the Pacific Northwest and beyond from distant shore. As I reached the 20 mile mark, I realized I was tired and that it was past time to check into the Silver Cloud Hotel, so I locked the Lime-E across from Safeco Field just as the Mariners/Rockies game was letting out.

Later made my way back to Belltown for dinner at the 5 Point Cafe, where I sat and read a bit of Roger Williams’s “Evan Pugh’s Penn State: America’s Model Agricultural College” while bearing the dilettantish service of a place whose cliquish aura left little to recommend it.

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Pantheon mass

Earlier today, we were enjoying the fountain at the foot of the Spanish Steps. I searched for nearby places for a Sunday vigil mass. The Pantheon, or Sancta Maria ad Martyres, stood out as the best option, so we walked over for 5pm mass.

It turned out to be a very special, memorable experience; certainly the most remarkable place I’ve ever celebrated mass. A line of at least 200 visitors stretched well into the piazza on our arrival. I went to the head to a security guard just as a family was allowed in on condition that they were only there for mass and not tourist reasons, and confirmed that they would stay for the whole mass. We were able to get in the same way. On entering a few minutes before mass began, the entire interior was empty except for maybe the 100 or so already seated in the moveable pews. As mass began, the “international character” of the Pantheon’s mass was evident: one reading in Italian, one in English, etc. A few more joined us as mass began, totaling probably no more than 150 people.

The chanting of the Kyrie Eleison was incredible; graceful and sacramental and heartfelt. Our priest had an incredible voice, and in this way the entire liturgy felt like it was sung as a melody of praise. Incense rose over the course of the mass more than a hundred feet to the Roman dome, occasion for remembering prayers worthy of God’s ear as much as an occasion for marveling at the Roman temple built to “all the gods” being for centuries and millennia now a place of worship for the God of revelation.

I took some brief shots outside the Pantheon, then inside immediately at the conclusion of the mass and then shortly afterwards once tourists were allowed back in: