Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for July 2011

Phoenix Embraces the Desert

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Retired wagon in desert near Phoenix

By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

PHOENIX  —- Unlike its legendary-bird namesake, this sprawling metropolis ranked among the top-10 fastest-growing regions in the nation did not re-energize itself by rising out of its own ashes in the burning desert. More like that pink rabbit in the battery commercial, it just grows and grows and keeps on growing, stretching its sub-division and shopping centers over or around every cactus and crevice in the Valley of the Sun.

To get our arms around this urbanized sprawl that has positioned attractions and accommodations as much as two hours apart, we traveled by car, bicycle, horse, and balloon.

It was in Peoria, abutting Glendale at the northwest corner of this metropolitan mammoth of some 4 million people,  that we launched our exploration of this megalopolis by visiting the Challenger Space Center, one of several strung across the country. Retired personnel from space-program-supplier Rockwell International Corp. take visitors seamlessly through scenarios that allow you to fly space missions complete with emergencies calling for sudden solutions.

Still in up-in-the-air mode, we headed to Deer Valley Airport on the northeastern edge of town for a mile-high 90-minute balloon ride to enhance our perspective of the local growth.

If such a diversion doesn’t sound appealing, you can take a quick drive to South Mountain Park where several viewpoints offer panoramic views of this vibrant valley. The best time to head there is the first two weeks of April when rain-fed blooms carpet the mountainside. The education center inside the park’s entrance building tells you all have to know about the various critters and cacti.

For a closer look at those, we took advantage of a mountain-bike tour – others took a more leisurely hike – of Usery Mountain Regional Park east of the city. That’s where we were told that the giant saguaro cactus, which grows only in the Sonoran Desert that stretches from Arizona into Mexico, develops “arms’ not to denote its age but to balance itself against the relentless wind.

To pick up more easy knowledge, about an hour away is a hands-on complex designed to keep anyone from 8 to 80 entertained for hours on end. While the Challenger facility transports you into learning mode without you realizing it, the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix caters to the touch-and-feel gene in all of us.

Visitors are encouraged to learn first-hand how to build a house, make a giant nose sneeze, watch heart surgery or clumps of iron filings dance to “Flight of the Bumble Bee,”and test their piloting skills.

There’s much more to this town than desert, of course, and one of its first breakthroughs was the 1929 opening of the Arizona Biltmore, which is worth a visit if, for no other reason, than to gawk at the walls lined with photos of celebrities at play there over the years and its ceilings lined with gold. More than 30,000 square feet of the glitter glistens over the lobby, a special meeting room, and main dining room that look and feel old enough to be comfortable without being frayed at the edges.

Prominent among the valley’s notable resorts is the Phoenician, which is tucked into a fold of local icon Saddleback Mountain. with its eye-candy nighttime vistas of the twinkling town lights to the south.

About an hour south, in the Gila River Indian Community, is the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort built by the Pima and Maricopa tribes of Native Americans. It’s on the grounds of a casino the two tribes built jointly. A miniature parasol-protected riverboat putt-putts gamblers on a man-made creek between the hotel lobby and casino every 20 minutes. You can tour the facilities via horse-drawn wagon or range farther by heading out on horseback from the riding stables. In the evening, storytellers pour out yarns from Indian lore and legend around a patio campfire.

The tribes also imported Rawhide, an Old West town complete with on-the-street simulated gunfights that had been a Scottsdale attraction for more than three decades. Real-man vittles eat up a majority of the menu at the Rawhide Steakhouse and Saloon, where you can rip into ribs or rattlesnake, which is as good a way as any to digest memories of this desert dynamo.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 27, 2011 at 6:45 am

Two Good Men

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By Cecil Scaglione,  Mature Life Features

It isn’t every day I get to have lunch with a couple of priests.
Nor is it every day I travel a few thousand miles to nosh with a couple of high-school buddies whose friendship can be traced back to the 1940s. They grew up around the block from each other in the shadow of the Pro-Cathedral of the Assumption in North Bay, Ontario.
Monsignor John H. Caswell was already in the parking lot of the lakeside roadhouse when I arrived. The Right Rev. Father Dennis J. Murphy slipped in seconds later. Our last gathering had been more than a quarter century earlier when a handful of the old gang set aside an evening at Murphy’s cottage on the south shore of Lake Nipissing. It was during an alumni gathering at Scollard Hall, the North Bay high school we attended in the 1950s when a dozen or so Resurrectionists molded a couple of hundred boys into shape each year.
Since graduation, Caswell crafted a television network in Sudbury for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Murphy carved a career in Catholic education.
This Cas-Murph-Scag lunch was set up after my wife and I, now living in San Diego, decided to take an R&R (relatives and reminisces) swing up to Pennsylvania to visit her folks and to Toronto to visit my brother Louis. An auld-lang-syne visit to North Bay seemed appropriate. A quick e-mail to Caswell was all it took. His ready response was that, while both men manage crammed calendars, such meetings deserve priority since old friends are passing away with regularity.
As we greeted each other, neither priest showed signs of his recent battle with cancer. Caswell trumped esophagus cancer a few years earlier. Murphy had just completed a radiation program for his prostate problem. “I thank God for Cas’s presence during my treatments,” Murphy said later.
There was no table talk of the awards and accolades these two retired reverends logged over the years. For example, Caswell’s work with Cath-Com Productions earned him a prestigious Gabriel Award in 2005 from the Dayton, Ohio-based Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals. Sharing the awards program that year was U.S. television icon and NBC news senior vice president Tim Russert, who died recently. That same year, Murphy was cited by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees for his support and service as, among other positions, director of Catholic education.
Our lunch was punctuated with a lot of pauses over the passing of associates and acquaintances, grins and nods over accomplishments by colleagues and classmates, and guffaws over dredged-up happenstances of long ago. The two clerics were eight years old when they met in 1943, shortly after the Caswells moved to the Bay from Smith’s Falls. “One of my earliest memories was being invited to play ball after supper with his family,” Caswell said. Not only did Murphy have a few brothers and sisters, he had “a big side yard.”
“We certainly played road hockey – the R.H.L (Road Hockey League) – from that time on,” Murphy added. There were touch-football games with other kids on the block. And the pair played on the same midget hockey team at Scollard Hall.
“Dennis was ahead of me in school, so he had a jump start on giving the seminary a try,” Caswell recalled. “Remember, at that time there were a number of guys from our home parish who were already ordained or in the seminary. This was inspiring in itself and, when Murph went, it was only natural that I should give it some serious thought.” Murphy attended St. Augustine’s Seminary in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough while Caswell chose St. Peter’s in London, Ontario. Caswell was unable to make Murphy’s 1960 ordination in the church that dominated their neighbourhood because St. Pete’s was not yet out for summer vacation.
But Murphy made Caswell’s two years later. “He was on Bishop (Alexander) Carter’s staff and master of ceremonies for the diocese (of Sault St. Marie) for all such events as ordination,” Caswell said. “It was a special moment for me,” Murphy added.
Murphy continued his studies in such faraway cities as Rome and Brussels, did parish work at the Pro-Cathedral and Corpus Christi church in North Bay, held administrative and leadership posts in local, provincial, and national religious and secular boards and commissions, and wrote extensively on Catholic education. He was also appointed co-ordinator of Pope John Paul II’s September 1984 visit to English-speaking Canada.
Caswell applied further education, experience and expertise to building the diocesan communications network into a polished professional organization centred around its weekly Mass for Shut-Ins telecast while taking on parish work, including several years as pastor of Christ the King church in Sudbury, Ont.
And over the decades, they nurtured and nourished their friendship. “It really is quite remarkable,” Murphy said, “that during the last almost 50 years, although I worked many of those years in Ottawa and Toronto and Cas was in the diocese, we managed to see each other often. There were the summers when I was home. The same was true for many long weekends, Christmas and Easter holidays, and so on. It didn’t seem to be any big deal, but we just stayed together.”
“We try to stay in contact as much as possible without getting in each other’s way,” said Caswell. “I have always had the enormous blessing of being considered part of his family and he was always considered part of mine. It’s a given that he and I are always there for each other, in good times and bad. If there has been any mentoring, it’s been more by example than words.”
“The business of being there for one another is true,” Murphy added, “We certainly have prayed for and remembered each other not only in … less-felicitous moments but on all the happy occasions that have been part of our lives. I don’t recall us being much into offering spiritual advice or guidance to each other but I am sure we have communicated to each other much of what we hold of value.”
Such as their ongoing friendship.


(This article originally appeared in Forever Young News)

Tuesday Apr 20, 2010

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

Swiss Jewels Stud the Alps

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 By James Gaffney,  Mature Life Features

LUCERNE, Switzerland — We stopped in the rolling, sun-drenched foothills of the Alps on a spring afternoon and sat by a small herd of milk-chocolate-colored cowbell-clanging dairy cows. A pair of the curious creatures inched towards me – or, more precisely, my feet — and in a quiet calculated move commenced nibbling the toes of my loafers.

“Maybe your leather shoes reminds them of a distant cousin,” wisecracked a fellow hiker.

This was just an added fillip in the surprising walkabout in the UNESCO Entlebuch Biosphere, a natural reserve that makes you think of Colorado on steroids.Our stroll through this postcard landscape was less than an hour’s train and bus ride from bustling Lucerne, the hub of our visit for a few days.

View from Murten’s Old Castle wall

I’d really expected this country to be barely more than its legendary three Cs — cows, chocolate and cheese. That perception was dashed the first day I headed out to explore Lucerne, tucked like a jewel on Lake Lucerne, along the Reuss River. The city is tied together by a network of historic bridges that link the city’s clean-swept pedestrian-only districts, such as Hirschenplatz and Weinmarkt resplendant with half-timbered buildings and Renassaisance-style painted facades.

Everywhere are cozy squares filled with inviting cafes, fashion-forward boutiques and stylish hotels like the Wilden Mann Luzern on Bahnhofstrasse, our home away from home. Everywhere, it seemed, was history, even inside the 670-foot long wooden Kapellbrucke, or Chapel Bridge, one of the city’s many cherished landmarks that features 120 captioned triangular paintings from the early 1500s that depict Lucerne’s history.

Not unlike Amsterdam and Venice, Lucerne’s pulse springs from its meandering waterfront walkways that beckons the romantic of heart at night. As this country’s understandably most popular tourist destination (and essential stop on European bus tours), breathtaking Lucerne is Switzerland’s calendar-girl city — mercilessly pretty and not a hair out of place.

“People in Lucerne are a lot more conservative than people in Geneva and Zurich,” said 20-year Lucerne resident Eliane Ritschard. Which helps to explain the popularity of the city’s Swiss Transport Museum, or Verkehrshaus, the nation’s most visited museum. It’s a Smithsonian-like collection of past and present forms of rail, road, sea and air transportation.

None of which is to suggest that this cosmopolitan city of 60,000 is merely a history-filled relic of European past content to rest on its laurels. To glimpse this enclave’s edgy contemporary flair, we co-mingled with art lovers at the Kunstmuseum Luzern (Museum of Art) and Sammlung Rosengart Museum. The latter houses the impressive (and sizeable) personal collection of the late Sammlung Rosengart’s Picasso paintings, watercolors and drawings. The Museum of Art, situated on the fourth floor of the futuristic KKL Culture and Congress Center, is an architectural showcase of glass and steel. Amid this expos‚ of postmodernism we feasted our eyes on a cache of avant-garde art that included a multimedia exhibit by acclaimed Swiss-born artist Urs Lthi.

“I feel as though I’m discovering genius for the first time,” my museum-junkie traveling companion from New York noted, as she admired a self-portrait of a middle-aged, bald and overweight Luthi lying on the beach and dropping a ball.

We left German-speaking Lucerne and headed north by rail to explore the French-speaking 12th century medieval town of Fribourg and its day-trip-worthy country cousins, La Gruyere and Murten.

Fribourg, tucked alongside the Sarine River and touted as Switzerland’s most “amiable and easygoing town,” calls for good walking shoes because everywhere you need to go is uphill, or at least seems like it. Like many medieval European towns, Fribourg is best viewed from as high a vantage point as possible. So we huffed our way up the winding roadway that leads from Old Town up a steep hill past chalet-style homes sporting window boxes of seasonal flowers. Finally we reached the little wooden chapel, built in 1684 and parked ourselves on a nearby bench a few yards from grazing cows for an unsurpassed view of the city below, the sun warming our faces and the Alpine wind blowing through our hair.

Back in Old Town, we stopped in at Brasserie de L’Edge across the square from our accommodations, the Romantik Hotel Au Sauvage on Plache-Superieure for a cold glass of local Cardinal beer and to soak in the after-work wind-down rhythm of the Old City as the late-afternoon sun cast a warm yellow hue over the dormers of former burghers’ townhomes.

“If you squint your eyes,” my companion said, “this scene looks almost like a painting.”

To peer deep into the heart of this millennia-old country’s heritage requires a short bus ride from Fribourg to the 400-year-old rural township of La Gruyeres, to visit a factory that helps produce the cheese of the same name that Switzerland single-handedly put on the international map and dinner tables worldwide. Gruyeres, the cheese, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is among the best on the planet and still hands-down the favorite among those who know a thing or two about fondue.

Nearby is the photogenic hilltop town of Gruyeres Ville, population 100, home to the 13th-century Gruyeres Castle, and the H.R. Giger Museum and Bar — named for the local artist, sculptor and set designer who won an Academy Award for creating those horrific creatures seen in the 1979 movie “Alien.”

We got the chance later to twirl bread cubes at the end of long forks in a simmering pot of the delectable melted Gruyeres.

Next morning we explored the medieval, arcaded town of Murten. A stroll along the ramparts of the Old Castle wall was rewarded with panoramic views of the lovely red-tiled rooftops of this 800-year-old community. No visit here is complete without a boat trip to Sugiez in Lake Marten’s wine-producing region, The Vulley, for lunch at the well-reviewed Restaurant l’Ours, before a Swiss-style walk in the clouds through the hilly countryside and wine tasting in the nearby cobblestone-lane town of Praz.

If you plan to travel by rail here, your best bet is to buy a Swiss Pass, which must be purchased in the United States before leaving for in Switzerland. It covers not only rail excursions but also bus fares and museum fees.

For more information on travel in Switzerland, contact your local travel agent, Swiss Air at (887) 359-7937) or Switzerland Tourism (301) 260-2421.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Ann Arbor’s Grown Up

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By  Igor  Lobanov

Mature Life Features

ANN ARBOR, Mich. —- No disrespect meant to Thomas Wolfe, but you can go home again. I learned this when I returned here for the first time since my college graduation 57 years ago.

Locals still call this Midwestern college town a bit west of Detroit “A-Squared.” And it’s still anchored by the main campus of the highly-regarded University of Michigan, ranked 18th among the world’s universities by Quacquarelli Symonds, the London-based global rating service.

Despite significant expansion over the decades, UM’s “Diag,” the diagonal walkway through the shaded expanses of grass, along with the century-plus vintage Law Quadrangle reminiscent of Britain’s Oxford campus remain popular with many of the 38,000 students on campus. Classes on the often share building space with $900 million in high-tech research projects. The town’s 114,000 inhabitants represent more than twice the population a half century ago, yet the core commercial area remains concentrated among the four blocks just west of the campus.

The 1980s economic downturn, coupled with the arrival of a mega-shopping center on the outskirts, have driven out many traditional small businesses. Entrepreneurs and artisans have stepped into the gap. While the university long has lured the highest level of cultural events, the town now attracts a variety of popular music venues, theater groups, art galleries, fashionable boutiques, and trendy restaurants that feature cuisine from a dozen nationalities.

Ann Arbor has morphed over the past five decades from a relatively reserved college town in the traditionally conservative Midwest to an urbane community with a level of cultural panache difficult to match. Quiet residential streets, especially in older neighborhoods, roll by broad lawns fronting large homes set back for a feeling of openness.

Motoring or bicycling through the pastoral countryside brings one to small outlying communities sprinkled with homes that date back a century of more and house the gentle ambience of yesteryear. As you canoe or kayak along the tree-lined banks of the gently-flowing Huron River, you can still catch glimpses of gray herons standing tall in the rushes or a mother duck leading offspring off to shelter.

The only sound you’ll hear as you pass through the center of town is the splash of your paddle. Urban noises are muffled by the trees. It’s definitely a different way to experience Ann Arbor’s city life. Artistic, intellectual, and recreational opportunities aside, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) listed Ann Arbor in 2008 as one of the nation’s healthiest towns, adding that the town has much to offer those seeking a retirement location. One of the reasons, according to U.S. News and World Report, is that the university medical school’s three teaching hospitals are ranked among the top 20 in the nation.

Among the things to see and do is the university’s Museum of Art’s recently opened wing that houses displays ranging from a Nigerian ironwood ceremonial ax to a Cambodian Apsaru Warrior metal sculpture. In town, you can mingle with acoustic-guitar folk-music lovers at The Ark, an intimate club-like setting where the audience is close-up to a different group every weekday night. If you like jigs and reels with your Guinness Stout, pop into Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub on a Sunday evening. Anyone who can toot a tin whistle, pick a banjo, or squeeze a box accordion can sit in with local musicians. The night we stopped by, 10 players were making the joint jump.

Among Ann Arbor’s legitimate-stage options is the highly professional thespian group at the 140-seat Performance Theatre that presents dramas, musicals and at least one world premier each year. In neighboring Chelsea 20 minutes west, the respected Purple Rose Theater founded by actor-director Jeff Daniels focuses on New America plays with a Midwestern voice.

Imaginative and avant-garde art and crafts abound in the shops around and along Main Street. For example, at 16 Hands, named after the eight members who established the cooperative, you can buy a rain chain, a copper-and-aluminum hanging contraption that transports water from your roof down to a container away from the house foundation. At the century-old Ann Arbor Center for the Arts on Liberty Street you can watch youngsters create cups and bowls by shaping clay on a rotating wheel.

In mid July, the city attracts up to 500,000 visitors to the annual four-day Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. Hundreds of booths and displays crowd downtown streets and the UM campus.

For more information, visit, or call (800) 888-9487.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 19, 2011 at 10:30 am

Seminars at Sea

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By Igor Lobanov,

Mature Life Features

Elderhostel has taken its wide-ranging education programs for older adults onto the world’s waterways. The Boston-based company’s catalogue, Adventures Afloat, details cruises through December 2009, listing more than 130 itineraries designed for people 55 and older.

While land-based offerings last from one to four weeks, focus on educational and cultural sites, and often involve stays on college campuses, shipboard programs cover wider areas and are tailored to the length of the selected cruise line’s itinerary, plus time for exploration ashore during port calls.

The catalogue lists cruises on large ocean-going vessels, small ships that are mostly coastal cruisers, and riverboats. They range from North American waters including the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, and the Mississippi and St. Lawrence rivers to farther-away venues such as Antarctica, New Zealand, and the Rhine, Yangtze and Nile rivers.

Here are a few examples.

A voyage through the bays and inlets along Washington State and adjoining British Columbia aboard the 90-passenger Spirit of Endeavor in mid-October includes two nights in Seattle followed by seven nights onboard touching on Vancouver, the hauntingly peaceful Princess Louisa Inlet, Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and Port Townsend on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Shipboard lecturers focus on the natural and cultural history of the region as well its marine life.

On the other side of the continent, the 60-passenger river steamer Canadian Empress offers an 11-night cruise on one of the world’s largest rivers, the St. Lawrence, between Quebec City and Ottawa Oct. 17-29. The route involves intricate channels, seven locks, and the Thousand Islands region, where European and New World cultures intersect. The educational program will trace the country’s history from its origins in the 1600s as a fur-trading post. The itinerary includes two nights in Quebec City and in Kingston, Ont., six nights aboard ship, and a guided walk through the old port of Montreal.

If you’ve been hankering to explore the two great waterways of the American Midwest, the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, consider the 188-passenger River Explorer on its Oct. 29- Nov. 6 sailing out of Cincinnati. You’ll visit the city’s landmarks as well as the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers before boarding the vessel for seven nights cruising down river to Aurora, Ind., then to Paducah and Louisville, Ky., where you encounter the Mississippi and turn upstream to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and the Gateway to the West, St. Louis. Passengers debark at Cape Girardeau and travel back to Cincinnati by coach..

Another choice could be a cruise on the Danube from Prague to Vienna aboard the 200-passenger Mozart. A 16-day itinerary begins at the bohemian capital of the Czech Republic and includes stops at two other imperial capitals, Budapest and Bratislava. Along the way, the vessel passes abbeys, castles, towns and villages. Walking field trips illustrate Prague’s history and treasures that include its castle, Old Town and other areas. An example of one of the sea cruises is the March 30-April 20 voyage from Santiago, Chile, up the west coast of the Americas to San Diego, Calif., aboard the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam.

The itinerary emphasizes the culture and natural history of Panama and Costa Rica. The 18 ports of call include Coquimbo and Arica in Chile, Callao in Peru, Manta in Ecuador, Fuerte Amador in Panama, the Panama Canal, Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica, and Puerto Caldera, Puerto Chiapas, Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Excursions include pre-Incan settlements in Chile, Lima’s classic museums of Peruvian treasures, and a crocodile safari. There are also visits to an historic church and coffee farm in Guatemala and the renowned cliff divers of Acapulco.

For more information about Elderhostel’s cruises, call 877-426-8056 or visit on-line.

September 03, 2008

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 19, 2011 at 6:28 am

Posted in Cruising

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Holiday Heads-up

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(Somehow, this item got tucked into here, waaaaaaay out of date.)  Got the suitcases and coolers to air out for next weekend’s packing. Driving to Phoenix Monday Dec. 20 to spend the week visiting with the kids and grandkids. Will also be neighbors with Joe and Edith Brown from Kitchener in a mobile home park near Steve and Heather. Joe was a photog at the K-W Record when I worked there, which seems like a long time ago on a galaxy far away.  Should be a comfortable week. Have to get to the discount houses there and pick up some new wardrobe items since I’ve given all my XL clothing away and need to replace them with mediums..

Will update this with some of the thoughts and things that mark Christmas commemorations in the desert sprawl.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 17, 2011 at 6:44 am

Louis’ Birthday

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‘Twas a bright afternoon 72 years ago when Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway Dr. Hall emerged from our tar-paper railroad shack in Feronia and told me he’d brought me a baby brother. I was told of making the comment, which I recall, that the doctor take him back “and throw him in the lake.” I remember the day because I was 4 1/2, old enough to remember, and  any visit from the doctor was memorable. We lived in Feronia, about seven miles from North Bay, and we received few visitors other than the farm folk who lived in the community. It wasn’t even big enough to be a hamlet. I also recalled in later years that, while I was told to stay outside and play while the doctor was there, it wasn’t all that long and I never heard any noise from inside. But I do remember it was a bright, buzzing July day out in the country — one of those days when you could hear the bugs so busy at work none were bothering you.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 17, 2011 at 6:04 am

Posted in Memories & Milestones

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