Monday, July 21, 2008

Back at it after a break (again)

Happy Monday.

After a break and a little traveling to clear the cobwebs, the Lens is back.

I would have loved to post from the road, but two things kept me from doing it. First, most of the places we stayed didn't have WiFi in the rooms. One place didn't even have a phone in the room. More about that below.

Second was the caution, which I really know is a bit over the top, not to broadcast that we're not going to be home for a while.

We headed south and east, but not as far as last year. In fact, we didn't get any farther south than Alexandria, Va., but did spend a day in Cape May, N.J. after spending a pleasant few hours on the water. Thereby hangs a tale, which I will tell further down in this post.

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First, I want to get to something important: veterans potentially being disenfranchised.

Roger Johnson, who is in charge of the VA health-care system in Connecticut, says he will not allow state officials or volunteers to teach the vets in his care to vote using the new computerized voting machines. He said the vets can use absentee ballots, which seems to indicate that vets who want to vote like everyone else, at their local precincts, will not get any help from him.

That stinks.

Before I chime in on this, let me say that I have quite a bit of experience with veterans' hospitals in Connecticut. I know that that West Haven hospital is federal, and the Rocky Hill veterans' home and hospital is state-run. The West Haven hospital is the only one that is involved in this.

I admit that the lion's share of my experience is at Rocky Hill, where my father was treated with courtesy and respect by the staff in the ward where he spent the last two years of his life, suffering from the Alzheimer's disease that eventually led to his death nearly nine years ago.

But I have heard enough from friends about their treatment at the West Haven hospital to know that the level of care there is just as high. They cannot do all they want for those who served their country because of sometimes stupid and nearly always crippling fiscal policies from Washington.

I spent quite a bit of time visiting my dad in Rocky Hill and got to know some of his ward mates and others. Many of these guys, some of them in pretty tough shape, were aware and interested in what was going on. To withhold their right to vote easily is dead wrong.

It's bureaucratic baloney (again, this blog is rated PG) to say that only those who request voter registration should be approached by volunteers. Some people don't know such service is available, so why not ask them?

Believe me, many of the vets in this hospital would be happy for someone to talk to for any reason. When I visited my dad, I found out that many of the vets in this hospital hadn't had a visitor in years. Years! I can't believe such a vet wouldn't welcome someone to talk to, no matter the subject.

Our state's attorney general and secretary of the state aren't always on the side of the angels, but this time, they are. They have threatened suit if the rule is not changed by the end of this month. Kudos to them.

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We spent a few very pleasant hours in Cape May, N.J. last week. We had seen my step-mother in Maryland (she's just fine, thank you), attended a joyous wedding in Baltimore and had a day to kill before heading back to Connecticut for a wonderfully relaxing Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath) with friends.

After the joyous wedding (if you get the chance to attend an Orthodox Jewish wedding, do it), we drove south and East from Baltimore, crossed the long bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway and ended up in Lewes, Del., where we caught the Lewes-Cape May Ferry.

These ships carry dozens of cars, truck, trailers and what have you on a very pleasant hour and a half sail to Cape May, N.J. The ferries have food, a gift shop (natch), but mostly places to sit and stand and watch the water. We saw three pods of dolphins and the decks are a great place for people-watching.

We checked into a pretty motel across the street from the beach in Cape May. When friend wife asked the office staff whether there was wireless Internet service, they laughed. There wasn't a phone in the room, never mind WiFi. The TV worked and it was quiet.

Cape May is famous for its Victorian and other historic houses, many of which have been turned into hotels and bed and breakfasts.

We walked around, bought some Ben & Jerry's on the blocks-long pedestrian mall, pictured, and were having a great time.

One of the things we like to do when visiting a place with a beach is to walk on that beach. We've done it from Cape Cod to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Not here, though. You can't be on the beach unless you pay up. Four bucks a day.

Even in Connecticut, where most of the beachfront is privately owned, you can be on the beach free if you can get to it. (By the way, I got no response from any of the municipalities I e-mailed with my parking-reciprocity idea. See )

You think I'm kidding? They're not. Be on the beach without the needed tag and you get fined big-time or go to jail.

Here's the proof.

I know that the restrictions are the result of some people misusing the beach, holding beer parties, leaving it filthy and the rest. But, friends, to pay to walk along the beach is silly. And to threaten 90 days in jail for a walk on the beach, or even for a family to take a swim. No wonder the hotels across the street have pools.

In any case, it was nice. We left the next day early enough to drive the entire Garden State Parkway without any major traffic problems.

Who said the age of miracles has passed?

Until next time...

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