Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Last Morning on the Mainland

I wake up in that jolting way that only happens on a plane. The traditional announcement that “we are starting our descent into Boston” has just come across in a somewhat audible tone. My row-mate is still dozed off. She and I had chatted briefly once onboard, both relieved that the middle seat was unoccupied by chance, but we didn’t go into further detail. It’s always challenging to make small talk on a plane and then usually descend into awkward silence. In this case, a little chat is all that’s needed, especially on a red eye.

The plane lands smoothly and there’s a wait for parking at the gate. I see a few flights departing, presumably heading back to the West Coast, maybe going elsewhere. Our plane parks, the unloading is a clunky process as usual. Among the three-quarter full range of passengers, maybe 10 have been wearing masks for the journey. I think briefly about how wearing of masks are moving at rapid speed from a physical question mark to something that is more mandated. I realize, since we’re “early” arriving at 4:50 am, that I’ll probably be able to make the first bus back to the Cape. I remember that my ticket isn’t officially from Logan, though, meaning I’ll have to get on the Silver Line and mosey over to South Station, then wait in the arrivals hall. I have an hour or two to play with, so I feel it’s okay.

I’m off the plane and moving along. I look back at the display to see where the plane is going next. Slingshotting back west to Los Angeles at 8:05. The arrival gate of choice is about as far back as it can be, but it’s not a long walk. I look at the gate I’d departed from six days ago. Today’s plane is going to Detroit, a place now in my past, but still on my “regular visit” list. I move right through the must exit area and check the phone for the time. It looks like I could make that first bus down to the Cape. There’s the bus! I hustle over and make it on, alongside between five and ten other passengers.

The driver notices my ticket is from South Station and gives me a light chiding for boarding at Logan instead, with its corresponding higher fare. I say I hadn’t planned to get this bus – not lying – and that’s fine with him. As it turns out, no one boards at South Station. I remember that the northbound driver last week had been fine, no comment made, about my riding all the way to Logan.

As we leave Logan, there’s also the now-traditional moment of passing under the airport departure signs. In nearly three years of being back in Massachusetts and now going SOUTH rather than the traditional/historical NORTH to “go home” from Boston, the airport has become the only place where it still feels weird for me to do that intentional geographic shift. Except this time, I notice that a new sign has been installed, now adding Lynn instead of only Revere as a featured destination, and for some reason that makes me feel more settled.

Of course it’s dark outside as we settle into the southbound ride along the steady southeast Expressway. I try to doze back off with uneven success. Now my thoughts turn to how to spend the two or three hours in Hyannis. It can be organic once I get there. Eventually the sun starts to rise as we cross the Cape Cod Canal, just after 6 am.

The Hyannis transportation center is quiet when the bus pulls in. My car’s still there, so the weeklong parking experiment worked out. I get the long and short feeling of time passing as I walk back to the car. I catch the sun finishing its rise on the hood and decide to drive around town to see what’s open, and because I have never been in Hyannis at this hour. Main Street is expectedly quiet. I find one place open – the Sea Street Café – as I loop back on the more residential eastbound one-way sibling of the street.

I’m the only customer, unsurprisingly, and choose a seat in the middle of the restaurant. I tell the waitress that I’m settling back into Eastern time after a red-eye flight. I can’t tell if she believes me. I order my traditional diner meal of pancakes with scrambled eggs on the side, plus an orange juice. It goes down well. I continue to be aware of my need to get to the Woods Hole boat, but also feel like I can be as leisurely as I want.

After the meal, the sense of time picks up speed as I go “up” to the more commercial area of Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and additional stores in the Hyannis commercial district. Target is first. It’s my second time in their new store that opened last fall, part of the renewal efforts at the Cape Cod Mall. My impression is the same disappointment that I felt on the earlier visit – the store feels cramped and like the inventory is selective. I get what I need but feel like I’ve forgotten a few items. The last item is a white mocha that I don’t really need, but it tastes good as I go around the corner to Trader Joe’s. It’s a little after 8 am.

I know what I need in the store, and decide to be more modest this time around, except for getting two gallons of lemon ginger echinacea juice. I’ve secured it all, is it time to head back in the direction of “my” island? The closer-to-Hyannis island is on my mind, however, as I realize I could go back “down” to the (other) Steamship Authority terminal to watch the (other) ferry depart to the (other) island. In fact, I’d done that same activity exactly a year ago today, so I decide to do it again.

The wind has picked up considerably as I pull into the terminal staging area at 9:13. The Eagle is getting ready to leave, so I snap a quick “selfie” with it in the background. I want to take a video of it reversing out of the dock, too, but I’m a few seconds too late to catch the boat horn, so all that gets recorded is the slightly creaky movement, and the turn to starboard isn’t as pronounced as the Woods Hole routine of the boats.

Time is still moving along but I have a few more minutes to spare. I’ll head back “up” to Whole Foods, located in a different area than where I was earlier, but still relatively close to the other destinations. I only get a few things. The cashier says that one item is two-for-one on Wednesdays. I tell her I don’t consume enough to make the discount a valuable one.

Now it is time to head for Falmouth, after one last stop at the Speedway on the edge of town. Always best to get off-island gas, and to allow a few miles of higher speed driving before the boat and going back to maximum of 45 MPH on the island.

Route 28 is moving at a good clip; I think back to other recent times when it had been slower on this stretch, and the previous time in particular, when I’d been in even more of a hurry. Nonetheless, time is still moving along, so once at Mashpee Commons, I decide to take the more expedient Route 151 bypass route through Mashpee and North Falmouth. That does give me a few extra minutes to take the “back way” into Woods Hole, in part because I like to close the loop differently than I started it and remember that I took the “regular” route out of town last week.

The back way is comfortable, and this time, I take it all the way into Woods Hole. It’s still early, so it’s not busy, but I do see that my boat has arrived, so I loop up and around the hill back down to the ferry entrance. It’s the same two or three people as usual and they still don’t recognize my car or name. I drive around to the line and sit back and wait for boarding to begin.

I don’t know that this is an indefinite one-way ticket back to the island. That the ferry schedule will be drastically reduced 10 days later, or that the coronavirus will soon rear its invisible head at a speed that seems hard to imagine.

For now, another off-island excursion has come to a close. I board the boat and reflect on the successful weeklong adventure as familiar island sights return to view.

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Massachusetts, Movies, Traveling

The cinema that becomes the nostalgia

(I started writing this in January, but didn’t get very far into it.)

It may seem strange for a hallway to provoke nostalgia, but that’s exactly what I felt while wandering around Showcase Cinema Woburn on a Friday night in January, a rare weekend night off the island.

From a point in the fall of 1996 (I think this Jean-Claude Van Damme feature was the first of many movies we regularly saw there) until sometime a year later in the fall of 1997 (pretty sure this oh-so-1990s film was the end of the routine visits), this cinema was a regular destination for my dad and me. He did not like the “quality” of our closer-to-home cinemas that were in operation at the time, and thus suggested we drive a little farther afield to the multiplex in Woburn. I grew a bit fixated on the mechanics of going to Woburn (and other cinemas in the area that we occasionally alternated with) and eventually made sure that we were managing to see most if not all of the individual screens in the complex. And with Woburn, we ultimately succeeded in covering all 14 of the individual auditoriums.

Our frequenting of the cinema coincided with a modernization project for the complex, where the interior gave way to a 1990s update, with a lot of blue color, refinements to the screens, and improved carpeting, among other features, but notably NOT the stadium seating that was coming into fashion at the same time in other just-opened complexes around the Boston area.

So the Showcase developed a certain nostalgic place in my memory, being as that I would still see it when on Route 128 and listed in the movie ads, etc, over the years, even though I don’t think I had seen a movie there since 1998 … UNTIL NOW (said in movie trailer voice).

I arrived early for the movie on that Friday night in January. It was the late show, 9:45 pm or something like that, and since late shows don’t exist on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s become exciting for me to attend them when I can. The movie was showing on screen 3, where my dad and I had seen Star Trek: First Contact, The Saint and maybe one other feature in that ’96-’97 period. (We kept a written record of what we saw at each cinema – including which screen, and I remember some of them to this day.) As I walked around the cinema with few other people in sight, the memories of those films and the specificity of the experience came right back.

I doubt that modern audiences would care about the details of the screens as much these days – especially now in mid 2020 as the cinemas fight for their survival – but for this 90’s kid it was an exciting way to learn about different experiences of presentation and make a moviegoing experience somewhat uniquely memorable. I don’t know when I’ll next get back to the Woburn complex, or feel a need to, though clearly those memories will stand strong.

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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Summer Solstice, Summer Sights

it’s become a source of irritation to me that it seems increasingly difficult to get back in the blogging routine. Over the past year and a half I have published TWO posts. And yet, I’m still online constantly, going about my daily digital routines.

But what if I actually sat down and wrote something? On this blog that I continue to pay for? Imagine that.

So, this morning’s heavy rain on Martha’s Vineyard and concurrent status as the first official day of summer seems to be a good time to actually come back to the blog.

But what to write about? In my present full-time islander iteration, I seem to have mastered the art of short off-island trips. Last weekend was the last opportunity for awhile, and this time my sights turned to northern New England, as in New Hampshire and Vermont.

There was something familiar and pleasant about seeing the signs for roads I grew up with while making that same drive with family. The journey to our usual destination in Vermont, in particular, is so familiar that I could create a checklist of where to stop and when. But for this occasion I decided to change it up and go “the other way” all the way north along I-93 through Franconia Notch, ultimately to the road’s terminus in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where i would be spending the night just north of my intended destination.

There was also something familiar and pleasant about simply having an OFF-ISLAND DRIVING EXPERIENCE where one could go higher than 45 MPH and not have the thought of a ticket go into one’s mind. The lack of geographic limitation – if I had more time I may well have driven on to Canada, just 50 more miles north – also factored into the appeal.

The I-93 route has always had a feeling of being more mysterious and dynamic than the blander I-89 route across New Hampshire. The sensation reaches its apex in the Franconia Notch Parkway, which “required Congress to pass a special amendment to the standards applied across the rest of the U.S. interstate system” as briefly described here, and was originally not even signed as part of I-93. The mystical feel is also evident in a different way at night, when you can’t even see the mountain tops, and I recall feeling that way on my previous evening trip through the notch, near the end of 2015.

This particular pass through also made me notice how the parkway is a rare (for New England) evocation of Southwest and West Coast driving experiences, with the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona being perhaps a particularly close equivalent, which I’ve now seen for myself but had no idea of on childhood trips through.

And then the road widens out again and its onward north into Vermont. The Green Mountain State has always felt welcoming to me, though it had been slightly over a year and half since i was last in the area. As with any state lines, there is a noticeable change in “feel” from the start, and makes me recall the opposite “back to real life” feel of re-entering Massachusetts, which I experienced again on this weekend’s trip.

Once in St. Johnsbury, I wrote on Facebook later to close out the day:

Back in St. Johnsbury Vermont for one night only, celebrating 30 years of coming to the Northeast Kingdom, recalling two separate instances of considering moving here.

I didn’t realize until today that this Father’s Day weekend trip also honors the memory of a short trip here in 1990 with my dad, possibly also on Father’s Day weekend, when we caught the then-new release DICK TRACY at this very cinema, and friends back at Karme Choling were very interested to hear how the movie was.

And the mix of nostalgia and acknowledgment of the present seems a good way to wrap up this reflection exercise and notation for today.

 

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marin county, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Movies, Traveling

Twenty Eighteen Renewal

Having lost track of what I wanted to do in this blogging space over the past year or so, I’ve resolved to renew emphasis on filmgoing and dramatic criticism for now, and see what may come of other experiences ahead.

Century Cinema, Corte Madera, CA

While recently back in the great state of California, I enjoyed a few filmgoing experiences. The 2017 moviegoing year ended in the same place where the 2016 moviegoing year had both ended and began: the Century Cinema in Corte Madera, CA. I’ve surely written before about how this particular cinema is the ultimate in big-screen entertainment for Marin County and possibly the entire Bay Area itself, with one single large screen and almost always featuring the latest and biggest blockbuster. Legend has it that the Cinema has always been a top commercial venue of both choice and gross for the Star Wars films, and that tradition continued with its screening of The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Skywalker Saga.

This was my second and likely last big screen viewing of the film, and I found it more enjoyable the second time around, though not an overall tops experience .If the first viewing was about riding the crest of anticipation mixed with a dose of melancholia stemming from Carrie Fisher no longer being among the earthly realm, the second time around was a way to sit back and enjoy the ride of the story, while also staying present in the flow of the narrative and not over-anticipating elements i already knew were coming around.

The impressive marquee of the Regal Santa Cruz 9

Later in my California stay I enjoyed some moviegoing as rainy day counter-programming. The film of choice, somewhat randomly, was Molly’s Game, a new drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and seeing the film brought back memories of seeing Sorkin’s The Social Network in California for the first time in 2010, which I ought to do a retrospective post about at some point. I wasn’t really aware of the story of Molly Bloom and her self-made poker empire, so that helped to keep the material fresh. Chastain, who seems to have gained a new level of confidence in her public persona within the last year or two, carries the film splendidly but never too show-ily, even letting herself blend into the background of a few scenes and letting the story focus on gender politics along with systematic challenges of business and professional identity, among others.

Unfortunately, the film takes a sharp turn into sentimentality for its final act, and thus caused me to lose interest in its overly pat resolution. Sorkin obviously loves his dialogue, delivered in trademark rapid fire style, but the material could have used some greater editing. The film narrative is one that shifts back and forth in time, making for an absorbing and immediate sensation, but I had to wonder what it would have been like as a more straightforwardly chronological story. (Most likely not as dynamic, of course.)

On a different note, the filmgoing experience for Molly’s Game (in downtown Santa Cruz) was unusual in that a person was being arrested in the lobby as I walked in for my film, and I’d be very curious to know what became of their situation.

My third California film became The Post, a very East Coast story that I had tried to see on the East Coast itself earlier in the holiday break, only to discover that showing was sold out. Related to that general East Coast feeling, my knowledge and appreciation of Martha’s Vineyard history led to an intriguing subtext while viewing this film, which features several real-life individuals – Katherine Graham, Robert McNamara, and more – all of whom summered here on Martha’s Vineyard and socialized together, concurrent with their “real lives” in Washington. The island’s storied weekly paper, The Vineyard Gazette, is even name-dropped in one brief sequence during the film.

I knew that the filmgoing experience with this film might be a bit frustrating, as I was heading to a large corporate style multiplex, but I wasn’t expecting to wait ten minutes in line due to limited staffing at their box office. As well, the film was showing in a “premium” cinema, which meant a higher ticket price, and that might have been more irritating if I hadn’t been using a gift certificate.

So I arrived a few minutes late to the film, but it puts you right in to the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the early 1970’s. The story eventually falls into the mechanics of leading up to One Big Event, and therein lied some of its problems for me. While undoubtedly well-told, once that Big Event is past, the film seemed to rush along to its conclusion. There’s no doubt either that Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks offer stellar work as the two main real-life characters in the story. But … Streep is obviously Streep, and i had to wonder what a lesser-known actress might have done with the part. On the other hand, Hanks seemed more at ease, and not necessarily being Tom Hanks, than in some of his other work I have seen in recent years.

The Post also lays on the contemporary allegories a bit too thickly, never in the sense of “this is happening again, ahh!” but in a bit too much of a showing the past to make your own judgements about the present. Nonetheless I feel I would still recommend the film.

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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Nostalgia is Good, Until It’s Not

This afternoon i chose to indulge in some nostalgic activities (as opposed to an activity that provoked nostalgic sensations) here on Martha’s Vineyard. The island has an extensive range of memories for me spanning my whole life, as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, and, at this point in my life, it offers a larger array of memories than the area of Massachusetts where I officially grew up. If asked, I say I “partially grew up” here on the island, which isn’t an exaggeration.

I am noting this today because it seems that each time I intentionally go back to a particular area of the island that has a number of memories for and with my paternal side of the family, there is a gradual but noticeable curved sensation of enjoyment. Initially being in that area provokes something like a warm fuzzie: “hmm, yes, there are many memories here and I’m glad to acknowledge and recall them…” which then carries itself on with a familiar mix of past and present. That feeling gives way to one that’s more rooted in the present, like an “okay, here I am, and I’m going to stop what I’m doing and JUST BE for a few minutes, because the present moment involves what feels like lots of running around.” Or something like that. And then, there’s an abrupt shift, which could be provoked by something like a phone call or seeing another person, or it could take the form of a sudden realization, to the tune of “OK that’s enough to look back on for now. Don’t get lost in the past.

I didn’t really realize that those sensations have been chronic, but something about this particular activity today made me recognize that the cycle has played itself out before. And maybe it will again. While I will continue to think that it’s good to be respectful and acknowledging of the past, it’s possible that if the desire for nostalgia comes up in the future – as it probably will – I will be more mindful of how much time and thought I wish to spend with it.

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Michigan, Traveling

Last Call in the Mitten (for now)

My post counter tells me that this is entry no. 313, which I think is a super coincidence, since today is move-out day from “The 313” aka Metro Detroit.

I’m certain that this is not a final goodbye from the state of Michigan, which has been a friendlier place than I could have expected over the past 4 years, and I’ve become quite loyal to in a variety of ways, such as defending Detroit itself from its national low-brow stereotype, and offering insight on the cultural differences from one part of this large state to another.

This could be the part where I get all sentimental about the journey of the last four years, and perhaps that is warranted in due course. But the main thing to remember is the process of evolution that I went through with my time in this state, where I arrived for one thing, which led to another, which led to another … all in a very natural and organic and welcoming way.

So I will close with an embrace of Michigan itself, which has the highest amount of freshwater coastline in the US and the second longest total shoreline in the country short of Alaska. There are many other perks to life here in the Great Lakes State and I feel a sense of continued appreciation and gratitude for them all.

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Traveling

No Longer (Never?) A Hosteler

My current lodging arrangement while visiting Switzerland is comfortable and hospitable, but it has also made me reflect on whether or not I still want to arrange hosteling, or if I was ever really into the experience of hosteling.

Part of the reason stems from how my first hosteling experience was a negative experience, where I had some things stolen that I had left in the shared room. While that was admittedly a somewhat naive choice to not keep things with me at all times, that particular hostel initially appeared to be a serviceable and welcoming environment.

A year or so later, when traveling in Europe became a more frequent activity thanks to studying in London, I segued back into the hosteling life, with the most memorable experience probably being one location that was right on a black sand beach on the renowned Greek island of Santorini. My dabbling in hostels continued over the next few years, and I recall particularly memorable destinations elsewhere in Europe, including Vienna, Helsinki and Belgrade, while other locations were not quite as memorable.

Ultimately I segued gradually into booking personal hotel rooms instead of hostels, which was initially due to increased travels with my cat and thus needing to learn the art of the “pet-friendly” accommodation. After my cat passed away I found that I’d gotten accustomed to the more personal and less communal style of lodging, and eventually came to rely solely on hotel accommodation (when needed) for a long-haul trip last year.

So all of that meant that this current hostel stint felt like a step back into an earlier era. There were some perks – such as being reminded of how seniority rises quickly, where the Thursday newcomer is the veteran by Saturday – while other moments reminded me of the less desirable aspects of communal living, such as people coming in and out at all hours of the night or using poor etiquette (lots of noise) when moving themselves out.

All of which to say I’m not sure I will be hosteling in the future, but I appreciate the memories of hostel experiences more than I realized.

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Traveling

Modern Day Memories

This weekend I’ve journeyed back to the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, where I previously spent a memorable weekend just over 10 years ago in May of 2007. The unquestionable highlight then was a somewhat spontaneous decision to go skydiving, though one could also argue that the entire experience was a literal high point of a month long Eurotrip.

When the 10th anniversary of starting that Eurotrip occurred last month, I spent some time reflecting on that experience, and how it seems surprising in the present day that I managed to travel around a wide array of Europe (15 countries, I think) for a six week period and coordinate logistics as I went along, such as lodging, transport timing, places to eat, sleep, what to see and so forth. It seems retrospectively surprising especially as it took place just before our current mobile communication era began, when the iPhone was introduced at the end of June, 2007. It’s also retrospectively impressive in that it was mostly a solo trip, with the most interactions with friends happening at the start and towards the end of the experience while in Germany and Scandinavia, respectively.

At some point around that anniversary time, I also reflected on the process of remembering a place, specifically regarding spots that I’ve visited only once. The question mainly was around whether it’s worth updating a memory with a new one or the previous (only) visit was satisfying in a way that I don’t want or need to update it.

I find those ruminations coming back to mind while here in Switzerland and updating the memories of 10 years ago. It is nice to be less “on the move” than the previous visit, which found me staying in 3 different locations over 3 consecutive nights. It’s also of some amusement to update the memories, as I did not recall until arriving here that I actually stayed at this hostel on one of those three nights in 2007, and actually in the same room.

I’ll be thinking about that “updating” again in the morning with a trip back up to the Schilthorn, the iconic mountaintop restaurant prominently featured in my favorite James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and which itself has been updated since 2007.

Of course the main thing through it all is staying present.

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Blog Challenge, Traveling

The Other Side of Your Scene

We all must wonder what happens when we (you, I, me, us) leave a scene. Life goes on in all ways but we don’t see it. Or we hear about it later but don’t witness the actual action. 

I have been thinking about the other side of my/our actions recently. It started with an awkward moment while visiting Mississippi last week. A friend and I were getting take-out at a local restaurant that she and her family occasionally visit. I was obviously new to the restaurant so I didn’t know how things worked and what the specifics of their menu and operation were. I decided to order a lemonade as part of my meal, which I sipped on while we waited for the rest of her order. While I enjoyed the drink, I was also irritated that it came with a nearly complete cupful of ice, which, of course, also decreased the total amount of liquid in the cup.

So, this overabundance of ice meant that I finished the drink by the time my friend’s order was complete. The restaurant offered free refills, so I thought I was helping them by pouring my ice out into the dispensary below the soda fountain.

Except it wasn’t a dispenser, it was where they scoop out new ice for each customer.

When the clerk responded in a very slo-mo “I can’t believe that just happened” kind of way, I realized my mistake. However, as the customer, all I could do was say “sorry” with some sheepishness and leave the restaurant.

But what happened at the restaurant after we left?

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Movies, Traveling

Peak Filmgoing

I haven’t been to my once-regular hangout, The Redford Theatre, at all this year, and it seems unlikely that I’ll go over there before the school year concludes in a few short weeks. The likely reason for this is the lingering satisfaction – even nearly a year later – of getting to see my favorite James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at the Redford on the big screen last June.

After seeing the film onscreen once before – and coming close to seeing it onscreen nearly 20 years ago in 1998 at the Brattle Theatre back in Cambridge – I was still excited to see it again. Reasons were similar to why I am often drawn to reissues or revival screenings: the immediacy of the cinematic experience can’t be replicated in your home or in a lighter setting. That’s especially true with this Bond movie, which offered a level of intensity and character that was arguably unmatched until Casino Royale appeared on screens 37 years later.

The previous screening, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, offered the excitement of 007’s 50th anniversary year and took place in October, 2012. I’d made a special trip to the city for the event, and was not disappointed – mostly – except for the fact that a key sequence of the film was completely missing from the print that they showed. Thankfully that did not happen at the Redford and the emphasis was on the quality of the experience, complete with old-style intermission as is customary with their classic film showings.

Of course another part of the appeal of this experience stemmed from having visited the primary filming location itself, as referenced in my YouTube clip below, high in the Swiss Alps. I’m currently looking in to making a return visit there, just over 10 years after when I previously went, and am hoping it will work out.

So with the peaks of an experience like that with OHMSS, why would (or how could) I top that? It’s nothing against the Redford, though, and they continue to be a strong resource and community member of Detroit.

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