Havana Daydreamin’

Where to next?

Not Havana.  Not yet.  But maybe soon.

36 years ago this month, I covered the Trinity College basketball team as the first American sports team to play in Cuba since the revolution in 1959.

Here are some of the pictures I took of Havana as it looked in 1980.

We stayed at the Hotel Sevilla, once the playground of American mobsters, still proud in its faded glory.

Hotel Sevilla

Room 162










We drank mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio, which claims to be the birthplace of the cocktail, and where Hemingway would come to consume them in heroic quantities.  True?  Who knows?

La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio



Mixing mojitos.





A night at the Tropicana

Beautiful boulevards and buildings.

scan0073scan0091Pre-Revolution American cars, that still ran by necessity on ingenuity.

scan0098 scan0100A proud woman, who graciously let us into her home to show us what little she and her family had.

scan0108 scan0109 scan0110But most unforgettable:  the faces of some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere.

scan0112 scan0113 scan0115 scan0117 scan01202016 should see the continuation of the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba.

American airlines are ready to start service to Havana as soon as the government says go.

And maybe I’ll get to revisit a place I never thought I’d see again.

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Three Boys in Paris

It’s been far too long…ten years…since we last visited Paris.

Even in the face of last night’s carnage, I think of Paris as a life-affirming place.  Just “being there” is exhilarating.

On our visits, my wife and I will typically split up during the day.  Having done the “must sees” of the city years ago, she will, in all likelihood, shop.  And I will, in all likelihood, walk.  Paris is, of course, a fabulous shopping city, and it is also a great city to walk.  (Though you don’t walk on the grand boulevards, you stroll.)

On my last walk, I came across three boys, brothers, peering into one of the city’s magnificent fountains after a soccer match.  They reminded me of my two brothers and me.

Paris 2005

Our paths crossed for only a few moments a decade ago.  Just long enough to frame them up, take their picture, and smile at their mother who, I recall, seemed grateful for a short break.

But I can’t help but wonder about those three boys.  They must be teenagers now.

I hope they’re OK.

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This morning on my NBC Connecticut Facebook page, I posted cute video from Lima, Peru.  A bulldog skateboarded his way into the Guinness Book of Records.

The video made me smile for what it was, but also because of where it happened.  I recognized the park where people lined up to take part in the event.  I had been there.  I hope to be there again.

This evening, I watch the awful events unfold in Paris.  This video brings tears for what it is, and because of where it happened.  I recognize so many sights in Paris, because I have had the pleasure of being in that great city several times.  I hope to be there again.

But the world changed tonight.  Again.

I wish I thought it were for the better.



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My Time with Dave

David Letterman’s long and successful late night run ends tonight.

There were Letterman people and there were Leno people.  I’m a Letterman guy.  Jay is a standup comedy hall of famer, but I’ve always been more comfortable with Dave’s sensibilities.

Our brief moment of bonding came in 1993, as I was getting ready to move from the Hartford CBS station to NBC Connecticut, and Dave had left NBC for the chance to compete with Leno, after losing the Tonight Show job to Jay.

He was doing satellite interviews with the affiliates, and we were told in no uncertain terms: no more than 5 minutes with Letterman.

When I was asked for a mic check, instead of the usual counting to 10, I said, “Hi Dave, Gerry Brooks in Hartford.  I saw you outside the Duomo in Florence (Italy) a few weeks ago.”

“Oh yeah?  What was I wearing?”

“Navy blue shorts, navy blue polo, navy blue Kangol cap.”

“I was!  Did you try to talk to me?”

“No, you were on vacation, I was on vacation, and I figured your life wouldn’t be enriched by meeting me at that moment.”

“Give the guy in Hartford all the time he wants.”

(Unknown voice from New York): “Dave we have to stick to schedule.”

“I said give the guy in Hartford all the time he wants!”

What Dave wanted was to talk about was travel.  We discussed Italy, then moved on to the pleasures of St. Barth’s, and then I heard the unknown voice again.

“Hartford, you’re killing us!”

Ahhhh.  They couldn’t yell at Dave, so they figured they could yell at me.  Not a good idea.

“Leave the guy in Hartford alone.  We’re talking!

Eventually, I got in a couple of questions about his show.

And now it’s over.  Dave had a great run at CBS.  I’ve still never met him face-to-face.  But our satellite time together was a “moment.”

And now, if I saw him outside the Duomo in Florence?

I’d still leave him alone.


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Life or Death?

BOSTON (AP) — A jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death Friday for the Boston Marathon bombing, sweeping aside pleas that he was just a “kid” who fell under the influence of his fanatical older brother.

The death penalty.  You’re for it, or you’re against it.  Few are ambivalent.

I am among the few.  I was for it, and then I was a media witness to the execution of serial killer Michael Ross.  Here’s how I fell into the lukewarm well of ambivalence.

Ross was executed just over ten years ago.  May 13, 2005.  Just after 2 a.m., at Osborn Correctional in Somers, CT.  He passed on a special last meal, and when asked if he had a last statement, he said his final words: “No, thank you.”  He was given a lethal injection, and with a brief gasp and shudder, he went to sleep.  Forever.

We were separated from the families of his 8 victims by a curtain.  They were understandably pleased to see the killer of their loved ones put to death.  Ross was a rapist and murderer.  His death was far less terrifying than those of his victims.  He wanted to die.  He got to know where and when.  Those 8 women, ranging in age from 14 to 25, never had a chance or a choice.

I was neither pleased nor displeased to witness his death.  I have never mentally replayed the end of Michael Ross.

What I do remember, though, is where he died.  Not the death chamber, but the prison itself. Osborn housed the death chamber, but it was not a “supermax” facility.  Still, being escorted down the hall, hearing the echo of my footsteps off the concrete, enveloped in drab olive and gray, wondering who was behind the ironclad cell doors with tiny windows…that was when I fell into ambivalence about the execution, about the death penalty.

What, I wondered, was worse.  A sterile, controlled death?  Or life in a hellhole with no chance of ever getting out?

What is worse?

I don’t know.

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5 Weeks at Home

Over.  It’s back to reality today, January 5th, 2015.  Back to work.

It is exactly 48 years since my first close encounter with cancer.  My grandfather died from esophageal cancer on January 5, 1967.

There would be too many more.

A high school friend, Barry, lost a leg to cancer, and shortly thereafter, his life.  Not many people remember Barry, but I do.  I can still “see and hear” Andy, my golf partner.  My father.  My mentor, Al.  I can still hear the roar of my buddy Brian’s Harley most Saturdays when he’d stop in for what we called “The Brian Visit.”  And there are others.

They are why I have never been fazed since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  They have been my strongest support group.  No matter how hard they fought (or chose not to), they never had a chance to survive their cancers.

They made me strong.  Because of them, I don’t feel like a “cancer survivor,” because I knew how treatable prostate cancer is, detected early.  Because of them, I had the best possible attitude, which is just as important as having the best possible care.

They were great company over the past five weeks, even if the conversations were all one-way.

But there was no better company than that of my wife.  Anyone who knows her knows she’s a saint, but she was also my hero.  We never know what we’re capable of until we actually have to do it.  And she did it.

The five weeks actually went by quickly, thanks to friends and family who came calling.  If this was a book, they’d all be named in the “Acknowledgments” section.  But it’s a blog post, so we’ll leave it at “they know who they are.”

And to all the social media supporters:  thank you.

I have noticed that whenever the word “cancer” is part of the conversation, there is a certain stigma attached.  I have been out and about, and at first, it was a bit disconcerting to hear, “Hey, you look like yourself,” or, “You really sound good.”  I get it and I appreciate it.

But as I said on my Facebook post on December 3rd, “Rest assured, I’ll be the same as ever, which some may find disappointing.” 

And I am the same as ever, minus one prostate.

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Long John Gone

We knew him only as Long John.

For years, he would be stationed by a boulder on Orient Beach in St. Martin, book in hand, available for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

Women looked at him in awe, and maybe a little fear.

Men looked at him in envy, and then, with even more envy.

He apparently made his living by letting gawkers pose for a picture with him.  For a price.


Orient is a 1.3-mile stretch of clothing-optional Caribbean delight.   There was an unwritten rule that cameras of any kind were verboten on the beach.  (Except for John’s.)

But in the five years since I was last there, that has sadly changed.  Last week, it seemed every third person had a camera or a smartphone in their hands.  Orient Beach, which had been romanticized, has now been digitized.

And what of Long John?

My suspicion is, that with the onslaught of the digital age, his business simply shriveled up.

Posted in Digital World, Noticed, People, Travel | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Into Each Life…

A little freezing rain must fall.  Actually, a lot.  In Dallas.  Where they have neither the equipment nor the manpower to deal with it.

The view from Room 712.

The view from Room 712.

So from Thursday night the 5th through Monday morning the 12th, our view was 50 shades of grey.  Grey concrete, grey skies, grey freezing drizzle, grey vapor coming off the heated pool at the Hyatt Regency at DFW.

Heated pool!

Heated pool!

Was it the Mexican oasis we flee to in December?  No.  The Travel Gods finally caught up   with us.  We were stuck.

But we had something four-thousand other travelers didn’t have.  They were sleeping on cots in the terminals.  We had a room.  With a big, comfortable bed, and all the amenities we needed to get our vacation off to a start.  An unusual start.  An unwelcome start.  But a start nonetheless.

Cots in Terminal at DFW

Cots in Terminal at DFW

DFW on a Saturday Night

DFW on a Saturday Night

We had Rummikub tournaments, watched football, read our books, browsed the internet, went shopping at the airport.

Rummikub and wine

Rummikub and wine

We talked a little more than we usually do, and over parts of five days, we had but one testy exchange, which we agreed was impressive.

Now, more than ever, flexibility is as necessary as a toiletry bag when you travel.  No matter how well planned a trip may be, and my wife is an outstanding planner, it pays to have a Plan B (or C).

And pack some patience, too.  Good thing we had plenty of that, because we knew that once the fifty shades of grey passed from one window, there would be a rainbow out the next.

Apres sunset

Apres sunset

Worth waiting for?  Oh yeah.

It’s been a great year of travel for us.  We were lucky and privileged to enjoy Mexico, Italy, London, and South Africa.

We don’t know where we’re going yet in 2014.  But I can’t wait to get to get there.

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Thanks, Rick

One of Connecticut’s finest journalists is retiring today.  His name is Rick Huntington, and unless you know him personally, you don’t know him at all.

Rick is a news photographer.  Or a videographer.  Or a photojournalist.  Pick a title, any title.  Trust me, he doesn’t care.  He has also been one of my very best friends since we teamed up at WFSB in the summer of ’79.

1983 New England Emmy Awards

1983 New England Emmy Awards

We won Emmys together, we laughed like hyenas together, we shared life’s sorrows together, we committed atrocities together, we were politically incorrect together, we partied together, and we did great work together.

We mastered the art of working quickly and efficiently, then enjoying long lunches at a good restaurant that he “just happened” to know about.

He never missed a detail through the lens of his camera.  At the scene of a news story, I would sometimes be foolish enough to ask, “Did you shoot that?”  The reply would be a withering look and a simple, “Just shut up.”

At one of many GHOs.

At one of many GHOs.

But just as importantly, he never missed a detail over the course of an interview.  He paid attention.  And whenever an interview was over, I would turn around and ask, “Rick, you have any questions?”  Invariably, he would ask a brilliant question I would never think of, or a basic question I forgot to ask.

We parted ways professionally 20 years ago, when I joined NBC Connecticut.  In the years since, his 3 sons have grown into fine young men, his always-understanding wife Wendy retired after a long career in the Farmington school system, and we have remained good friends.

We can go weeks, even months, without talking.  We don’t have to.  And when we do, it’s as if we’d seen each other yesterday.  And now, he’s ready for the next phase.

How ready?  This is how he showed up for work today.  Yeah, he’s ready.

Courtesy Eric Parker

Courtesy Eric Parker

Thanks, Rick.   Pour me a Jack.  I’ll be right over.

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An Awesome Adventure

With extreme emphasis on “awe.”

Here is a final collection of pictures from our trip to South Africa.  This was one trip I wished I had a better camera for, but my 3-year-old Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 point-and-shoot continues to serve me well.

Going up Table Mountain on the Cableway

Going up Table Mountain on the Cableway

Atop Table Mountain

Atop Table Mountain

Baboons en route to Cape Point

Baboons en route to Cape Point

Old Cape Point Lighthouse (circa 1859)

Old Cape Point Lighthouse (circa 1859)

The coastline from Cape Point

The coastline from Cape Point

The view from our patio at Mala Mala

The view from our patio at Mala Mala

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

Papa and baby

Papa and baby

Mr. and Mrs?

Mr. and Mrs?

A birdwatcher's paradise, too.

A birdwatcher’s paradise, too.



The coolest dudes in the bush.

The coolest dudes in the bush.

The beginning of the long journey home.

The beginning of the long journey home.

For all the places we’ve been and all the places we hope to go, an African safari was never on our radar.  We were lucky to be in the company of a fun bunch of people.  And we are grateful to NBC Connecticut President & General Manager Ric Harris for inviting us along.  We now have memories that will last a lifetime.

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