Saturday, December 27, 2008

Restaurant Report: Texas Land & Cattle Steak House

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- My wife Diane and I are currently in the hometown of the Alamo working on a number of projects, including an upcoming travel guide. As usual, have taken the opportunity to experience some of the local cuisine.

Tonight we had dinner at the Texas Land & Cattle Steak House on the downtown River Walk (201 N. Saint Marys St.). All sorts of non-local restaurant chains have appeared on the River Walk since the last time we were in San Antonio and we wanted to eat somewhere that we could not just as easily find everywhere else. Diane had also eaten at this restaurant some years before while in town on business and had a positive experience there, so we deemed it a good bet.

Most importantly, we had an excellent dinner. Diane had an 8-ounce smoked sirloin with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, a house salad, and a glass of pinot noir. I had a 12-ounce ribeye with bleu cheese crumbles, steamed spinach, a caesar salad, and a glass of pinot noir followed by a glass of cabernet sauvignon (the latter, drier wine being much nicer with my steak than the former). The meat was excellent and perfectly cooked, just as we had ordered it, and the sides were great as well. And the staff were all very friendly and responsive and the service was timely.

There were, however, a handful of downsides to our visit, all of which seemed to be rooted in a general state of disorganization. One was that our table was kind of grungy, with a few crumbs and some grease, and we had to finish wiping it off ourselves after being seated. Another is that there were no bleu cheese crumbles on my steak when it arrived (but some was brought out within a few minutes and it did not end up on the check). Yet another was that no bread was brought to our table or offered to us, something that we did not notice until we were leaving the restaurant and noticed it on other tables. We had the impression that the staff was spread a little thin, that they were doing the best they could, and that almost everything was coming together alright but that a few things were slipping through the cracks.

These are all relatively minor points, of course, and certainly might be unrepresentative of a restaurant that serves such fine food. We will follow up with additional information as we are able to obtain it!

Note: This and other restaurant reports from our current trip will initially be brief, as they are being posted from the field. They will be updated as appropriate, especially before inclusion in any sort of print guide or posting to other travel-related sites.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fort Sill Historic Sites

MANGUM, OKLAHOMA -- Tuesday, Dec. 23, was a gloomy, freezing day when I set out from Mangum for the 65-mile journey east along the Wichita Mountains for a visit to Fort Sill, located just outside the town of Lawton. Visiting relatives over the holidays and working on a number of projects -- including a book called Mysteries of the Old West for Pagan Publishing -- brought me to the "Sooner State" and I figured I would check out some of the sites at the historic artillery post as long as I was just down the road from it.

My first stop on post was the old, square, stone structure that can be seen from I-44 and which I assumed to be the original fort built on the site, or a reconstruction of it (part of which can be seen in the image at right). Gerald Stuck, the caretaker for the horses used by the "Half Section," Fort Sill's historic artillery demonstration unit, told me that is a mistake many people make -- along with the assumption that it is the post museum and is open to the public. It is, in fact, the old stables originally used for the quartermaster's draft animals, and the museum itself is located up the hill about a half mile away. He was gracious enough to chat with me for a few minutes, however, and to tell me a little bit about the Half Section, for which he is currently the commander.

I made my way over to the Fort Sill Museum and spent the next couple of hours there, where I enjoyed a 21-minute film about the origins of the historic post and took the time to view all the exhibits in the former infantry barracks. John "Chad" Chadwick, the guide on duty and a former resident of my own state of Virginia, was a great source of additional information and I really enjoyed the time I spent chatting with him.

Once I was done at the museum, I made my way over to the original Post Guardhouse which, among other things, had been used to house Chiricahua Apache military leader Geronimo after his surrender to the U.S. Army. The famous Indian chief died of exposure during his return from a drinking binge in Lawton one cold winter night.

My final excursion on Fort Sill was over to the other side of post, to the Indian cemetery where Geronimo himself is buried. There are some local rumors that the famous warrior's skull and some of his bones were stolen by a miscreant visiting the fort in 1918, but Chad explained that the miappropriated remains had been taken from a crypt and could thus not have been those of Geronimo -- whose grave was unmarked at that time. As the picture here shows, however, it is suitably marked today.

Other historic highlights on Fort Sill include an Indian museum, which was under renovation and closed the day I was there, and a new artillery museum scheduled to open in the summer of 2009. I would not have had time to spend any time at either of those sites anyway, and will just have to try to hit them on a return visit. One of the most important maxims I have learned in my many years of travel -- and one that is inevitably hard to live by -- is that "You can't do everything."

But if you have the chance, I do recommend you visit the historic sites at Fort Sill! And I can hardly caution you not to go there on a cold, dreary day in the winter. After all, I had a great time during my visit, and a lot more personal attention than I likely would have gotten on a warm day during the summer when crowds of people were there.

The Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum is located at 437 Quanah Road, Fort Sill, OK 73503-5100; telephone (580) 442-5123; fax (580) 442-8120.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Preserving Family Legends for Future Generations'

As someone who is increasingly intrigued by their own family ancestry, I have recently had the pleasure of discovering a book that takes a unique approach to genealogy and which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

Preserving Family Legends for Future Generations (Roots & Branches, 2008), by Oklahoma author M. Carolyn Steele, approaches the subject of personal genealogy from the perspective of preserving family history by writing semi-fictionalized stories based on the best information the interested historian can obtain. Steele's personal preference is for short stories, but she also discusses novel-length stories and even provides an entire section on self-publishing, largely for the purpose of creating custom-made booklets suitable as gifts for interested relatives.

"My purpose is to encourage everyone, no matter their writing abilities, to preserve their family stories in an entertaining and readable format," Steele writes in her introduction to the book. "Relating a family legend brings the story to life for that instant, but writing it down preserves it forever."

While Preserving Family Legends for Future Generations is very encouraging and instructive, it is also frequently entertaining. Steele includes a number of samples of her own writing, for example, which relate stories about an ancestor who escaped an enemy firing squad during the Civil War and a somewhat risqué grandmother who was murdered by her fifth husband at the age of just 29!

I was very pleased and flattered, by the way, to learn that Steele's source material included my own Everyday Life During the Civil War. Just as she strives in her work to produce something worthy of sharing with others, I am always happy when I am able to accomplish the same thing in my own.

(Note: For anyone who wonders at the presence of a review of a genealogy book on this site, I have taken the liberty of allowing material related to spiritual journeys reside here, too. Beyond that, very little that interests me does not ultimately result in some sort of associated physical trip, so it is appropriate from that point of view as well.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

KIA Spectra: Worst Roadtrip Car Ever

MANGUM, OKLAHOMA -- Contrary to all appearances and expectations, my wife and I were disappointed to discover that the compact KIA Spectra is a terrible choice of vehicle for a roadtrip -- the main reason being its terrible gas mileage!

We had a car reserved with Enterprise and picked it up at the airport in Oklahoma City the day before this post. We had a subcompact reserved and were offered the Spectra as a free upgrade which, not knowing anything about the car, we accepted. It had a full tank when we headed out on the road for a trip of about 150 miles, and we were surprised to see how quickly it ran down past the halfway mark.

I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt and assumed that, being a pretty small car, it just had a small gas tank. Assuming it had a capacity of 10 gallons, for example, it would still be getting a respectable 30 miles-to-the-gallon-or-so. Upon perusal of the onwer's manual, however, I was shocked to discover the tank had a capacity of 14.5 gallons! Almost inexplicably, the stupid little car was only getting about 20 MPG highway.

Beyond its dismal mileage, the Spectra has a number of other features that don't recommend it for a roadtrip, the main one being its frighteningly small size. That is the kind of thing you can live with if it is offset by some commensurate benefit (e.g., good mileage). In the case of the Spectra, this just adds insult to injury.

I am not sure why the Spectra gets such rotten mileage. Maybe it has something to do with the stupid little wheels it is equipped with -- it almost looks like it is running on spare "donuts" -- and all the extra revolutions needed to get it down the road just end up eating the gas. Maybe it would perform just fine for local driving. But we won't ever take one on a roadtrip again, and we recommend you that you don't either. As I like to say -- you've been warned!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cruise Update: Aruba

CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION, ORANJESTAD, ARUBA — While in port in Aruba Diane and I decided to go ashore and walk around a little bit in the capital city of Oranjestad. It was remarkably hot, bright, and sunny, a marked improvement over our stop on the island together in January 2007, during which it rained off-and-on the entire time.

Highlights of our brief visit included watching the iguanas that dwell along the rocky shore to the east of the cruise port, going by the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum, and walking as far as the statue of Queen Wilhemina at the eastern edge of town.

A characteristic of royal statues bears mentioning here: any dates they bear are likely to refer to the years that the monarch reigned. Thus, on the afore-mentioned statue of Wilhemina, the inscription “Nos Reine Stima 1898 – 1948” refers to the years that she ruled over the Netherlands, not the dates of her birth and death. This was not readily apparent to the group of tourists who stopped and posed for pictures with the queen while we were there.

“She wasn’t very old,” one the of the men said upon reading the dates at the base of the statue.

“People didn’t live very long in those days,” an equally vocal but apparently more stupid woman in the group said, referring to the brutally short lifespans of the Paleolithic Era/mid-20th century. “They were lucky to make it to 40 or 50.” She was doubtless grateful to have reached that age herself in our own more forgiving times.

During our stay in Oranjestad we also had a nice chat with Senator Benny Sevinger, a member of the Aruban parliament. Like many people we have spoken with, U.S. citizens and non-Americans alike, he expressed pleasure at the results of the recent presidential election. He was also very well informed, and when we mentioned that we were from Virginia immediately knew that was one of the states Obama had carried.

Cruise Tip: Eating and Drinking Ashore

CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION, ORANJESTAD, ARUBA — Every time I am on a cruise and go ashore in any particular port I see people from whatever ship I am on going into local restaurants and ordering meals. I don’t get this at all and, for the most part, would recommend against it for anyone on a cruise.

In short, if you’re on a cruise then you’ve already paid for your food, and you are essentially paying twice for any meals that you eat while off the ship. And I have never, frankly, been on a cruise where the food was not great (I have also never been on one where I did not hear some other people complaining about the food, of course, but this generally represents a personality type and such people might as well save their money too and not bother buying meals ashore that they are going to also be displeased with).

Drinking ashore is, of course, generally another matter altogether, in that alcoholic beverages — and even soda — is not generally included in most cruise fares. Drink prices are not generally going to be much different ashore than on board a cruise ship, so it makes perfect sense to have a few drinks in port if you are so inclined.

Of course, I am willing to accept that there should be exceptions to these suggestions. When my wife and I were on a cruise in the Mediterranean a couple of years ago, for example, the shipboard menus did not include any sort of regional cuisine, which had very much been hoping for. Because of our craving for Greek food, we ended up having a couple of very nice meals ashore, notably in Mykenos and Santorini (where I had delicious fried sardines and an excellent cuttlefish stew, respectively).

Likewise, if you’re away from the ship for an extended period of time while in port then it may not behoove you to save money at the cost of going hungry. There may be some good alternatives available to you, however, as follows:

• Try ordering room service before going ashore and asking when you call for it if they are able to wrap it up for you (assuming you are in a port where bringing food ashore is not prohibited).

• Many excursions offer food in their price and, if you are going to be away for the ship for awhile on one, then you might want to select one of those that do.

• Nuts, crackers, and other snack-type items might be available in the shipboard buffet and easily wrapped up in napkins or placed in a bag and taken ashore with you.

So, there are options and exceptions to weigh when you are considering eating ashore. All factors being the same, however, make the most of your money by eating on board your cruise ship — but feel free to drink at the establishments at whatever ports-of-call you happen to be at!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Greetings from Celebrity Constellation!

CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION, CARIBBEAN SEA — As indicated by the preceding deateline, I am posting this travel update from the beautiful Celebrity Constellation and am currently somewhere in the mid-Caribbean, having left the island of St. Maarten last night and currently being en route to Aruba, which we will reach tomorrow.

My wife Diane and I sailed out of Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Oct. 30 for a 12-day cruise that, in addition to the afore-mentioned ports-of-call, also makes stops in Bermuda and Haiti before ending Nov. 10 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As the resident destination lecturer, I have been earning my keep by speaking while on board and have been giving talks on “Ghosthunting Along the Mid-Atlantic Coast,” “Exploring the Bermuda Triangle,” “A History of St. Maarten,” “Blockade Running During the Civil War,” and “Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures of the Great Lakes” (most of which tie in one way or another with various books I’ve written).

Anyone reading this, especially people who I have met on various cruises, should feel free to comment and let me know how you have been doing yourselves!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hiking the Bermuda Rail Trail

CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION, KINGS’S WHARF, BERMUDA — It took me a year-and-a-half to walk the Bermuda Rail Trail, but it was one of the most enjoyable things I have done during my visits to the island and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing something a little different that is also a little bit physically demanding.

My first trip to Bermuda was in May 2007, on a cruise out of Norfolk, Virginia. It rained the entire three or four days we were on the island and that limited what we were up for doing. I noticed, however, a trail running from the capital city of Hamilton to the village of Somerset, that followed the track of an abandoned island railroad, and determined that I wanted to hike it the next time I could.

That opportunity presented itself in October 2007, when I once again cruised to Bermuda, this time on the Azamara Journey, doing two one-week cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey. One day during the second week, I took a Green route bus out of Hamilton aalong the north shore of the island to Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse. (Buses, by the way, are one of the most convenient and economical ways to get around Bermuda and can take visitors just about anywhere they need to go.)

After visiting the lighthouse, I walked down the hill to the Rail Trail and followed it back into Hamilton. It was a bit longer than I expected — about eight miles — and I was pretty beat by the time I made it back to the port. But it was worth it. The trail followed the path of the old train line, and went through cuts carved through sandstone and coral and stretches of forest that displayed the multivaried subtropical vegetation of the island. It was, in short, a veritable natural history tour of Bermuda. It also provided a rare, almost mystical sense of isolation on fairly-densely-populated colony.

On this trip to Bermuda, our ship was berthed for the first time in my experience at the Royal Navy Dockyard/King’s Wharf, across Grand Harbor from Hamilton. So, this time my wife and I took a bus from the dockyard to a point called Somerset Station, at one end of the Rail Trail, and then proceeded to hike to Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse along the sections I had not yet experienced.

The best parts were definitely as good as what I experienced last year and I thoroughly enjoyed the six-mile hike (after which we took a bus into Hamilton and thereafter a ferry back to the dockyard). It bears mentioning, however, that my wife was especially displeased by the sections of the trail that broke out from a parklike setting and overlapped with the auto road, and other people might dislike this aspect of the trail as well.

I, however, cannot recommend the Rail Trail too highly, and the time I have spent on it has been among my most enjoyable experiences on the island. I would love to hear from anyone else who has walked this trail and know what they thought of it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obscure Virginia Driving Law

I just received an email message from the friend of a friend of a friend -- or something like that -- regarding a fairly obscure Virginia driving law that has been on the books about six years as of this writing. "FYI," my friend wrote to me. "New law in Virginia. Good to know ... it is being heavily enforced." The original and anonymous writer's tale of woe is quoted below:

"In case you are not aware, there is a relatively new law in Va, and I want to give all of you a heads up because of a traffic citation I received last Sunday morning. As I was traveling in the right lane on the Dulles Toll Rd to the airport, I came upon a stopped state trooper on the right shoulder who had stopped a vehicle; he was pulled all the way over on shoulder. I was driving the speed limit and remained in my lane and even slowed down; there was a speeding car that passed in the left lane, thus I stayed in my lane. The next thing I know, the trooper is behind us with his lights flashing and I thought he was going to go after the speeding car, but instead he pulled me over.

The first thing the officer said was that I was not speeding, but the reason he pulled me over was because I was supposed to move over to the left lane prior to passing a stopped emergency vehicle. I told him I wasn't aware of the law and he said he had just gotten hit the previous day by someone who hadn't moved over. I thought he would give me a warning since I wasn't aware of the law and was driving responsibly and haven't gotten a ticket in over 10 years, but he gave me a summons where I have to appear in court. This is a class 1 misdemeanor violation which can result up to $2500 in fines and up to 1 year in jail. I've included links regarding the law, which of course I found after the fact, so you are all aware."

I did check out the various links the writer provided and verified that the basic facts underlying the story all seem to be true (my own readers can check these out at and

Knowing the driving laws of one's own state is certainly a good idea and I am glad to help spread the word about this one (especially as Virginia has in recent years shown itself to be somewhat oppressive on this subject). But I will note a few things beyond what the original message covered.

First, it struck me while I was reading through this that I always move over a lane whenever I am coming up on any roadside activity, flashing lights or not. I don't recall anyone ever telling me this or knowing it was a law, and it just seems obvious to me that passersby should stay the hell out of the way of anything happening at the edge of the highway (unless, of course, it is something that requires them to render assistance).

Second, I think any contention that this is a "new" law is stretching the point a little bit; the link to the article about the law is -- perhaps interestingly -- exactly one year old as of this writing and the law was five years old then. Six years is not exactly new.

Third, while the underlying facts of this story are true and do bear paying attention to, the writer does not mention what happened when he went to court, what the ultimate penalties leveled against him were, etc. The law in question, for example, does state that a driver should "if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that occupied by the stationary emergency vehicle or (ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions." So it certainly does sound as if there are provisions for making a claim that it would not have safe to change lanes. In the absence of additional information like this, the email warning really only provides half a story, and that begs some questions.

Which brings me to my final point, which is that I am always a little suspicious of the motives of anyone who disseminates stories like this anonymously. To the extent that they are making the roads safer by helping people understand driving laws and may help prevent someone from getting an unnecessary ticket, they deserve our thanks. But in light of the likelihood that they are pursuing some sort of an agenda that they are leaving as obscure as the law they are complaining about -- such as lobbying against it -- readers need to maintain a healthy skepticism.

Monday, October 20, 2008

'Ghosthunting Virginia' Cover Images

A number of people have asked me about the images that appear on the cover of Ghosthunting Virginia, so I figured it would be useful for me to post here about that for anyone who might be interested. Both of the images are ones I took while traveling around the Old Dominion doing research for the book.

The main image, of an almost classic Victorian haunted house, is the J. Sidna Allen home, just outside of Hillsville, Virginia. Allen was one of several men who initiated a gunbattle at the Carroll County Courthouse in 1912, resulting in the deaths of several people. Allen lost his home as a result of this event and his subsequent prison sentence and some people claim that it is haunted by his embittered spirit. I spent only a short time at the house and, while I have no evidence to support this, did feel more a sense of unease there than at most of the other places I cover in the book.

The other image is Virginia Mourning Her Dead, a statue on the grounds of Virginia Military Institute that presides over the markers of 10 cadets from the school who were killed during the Civil War (six of which are buried right there). It is reputed to sometimes shed tears over the fallen young men.

Questions or comments related to either of these images and the stories associated with them are welcome!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Virginia Inns, et al, to Avoid

For every hotel, motel, or inn that is great it seems there are two that travelers would do just as well to avoid ... Following are places in the Old Dominion that I had some sort of issue with when working on my most recent book, Ghosthunting Virginia. In most cases, this involved them failing to reply in any way to correspondence I sent, a pretty good reading on their attitudes toward customer service. Stay at them at your own risk and don't say you weren't warned! (Note that there are many places that are neither exceptionally good or bad that I will never bother to mention on this TravelBlogue.)

Martha Washington Inn (Abingdon, Virginia)
I very much wanted to devote a chapter in Ghosthunting Virginia to this historic inn (which has been covered in a number of other venues and does not make a secret of its reputation for being haunted). They completely ignored a total of five email or phone messages that I left everywhere from general mailboxes to the general manager, indicating a top-to-bottom culture of neglect for responsiveness. And no, I am not willing to accept that their resident ghosts intercepted my messages.

Best Western -- Hunt Ridge (Lexington, Virginia)
My experience with this place was especially strange ... Prior to my visit to Lexington, I called the hotel's main number and, when a woman who identified herself as Sue answered the phone, asked for the email address of the manager. She asked if I would mind holding and I told her that was fine. I then waited a full 10-12 minutes for her to pick up again, and when she did I once again explained what I wanted. She then responded by telling me that her full name was Sue Spencer, that she was the hotel manager, and that she does not give out her email address. "Even for business purposes?" I asked. "Even for business purposes," she said. Well, that doesn't make any sense at all! What sort of a hotel manager does not make themselves available via email in the 21st century? And, all that being the case, why didn't she have the courtesy and professionalism to just tell me that in the first place, rather than wasting everyone's time by putting me on hold as a device for ending the conversation? "Yahoo! Local Yellow Pages" has a section for reviews of businesses, and I posted my experiences there (and under my own name, not some funky pseudonym). Within just a couple of days, however, my comments disappeared for reasons that were never revealed to me (although the review complaining that "there was something on the carpet by the window that looked like animal feces " was still there as of this writing).

Doctor's Inn (Galax), Frog Hollow B&B (Lexington), Garden and Sea Inn (Chincoteague), Llewellyn Lodge (Lexington), Riders Rest (Lexington): All of these places simply decided not to respond to one or more pieces of email correspondence. So much for customer service!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best 'Ghosthunting Virginia' Inns

During the course of fieldwork for my latest book, Ghosthunting Virginia, my wife and I had the opportunity to stay at a number of excellent inns around the Old Dominion (and a little beyond in one case). Following are our favorites -- one in the coastal region, two in the Shendandoah Valley region, and one in the mountain region -- and we can vouch for and recommend all of them wholeheartedly.

1848 Island Manor House
(757) 336-5436
4160 Main Street
Chincoteague Island, VA 23336

Built by two affluent professionals in 1848 as an impressive manor house, this home played an important role during the Civil War and is today the most historic B&B on Chincoteague. No fewer than three ghosts are believed to haunt its chambers.

The Carriage Inn
(304) 728-8003
417 E. Washington Street
Charles Town, WV 25414

Located just across the Virginia state line in Charles Town, West Virginia, this beautifully restored, Civil War-era bed-and-breakfast was both the location of a historic meeting during the war and the home of a Southern spy. It is also an ideal location for anyone exploring the area around the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and is convenient to historic areas like Harper’s Ferry.

Fuller House Inn
220 W. Boscawen Street
Winchester, VA 22601

Located in a historic home with sections that date to the 18th century, this inn has been the site of numerous paranormal phenomena. It is also a great place to stay while exploring haunted places in and around Winchester and the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley.

Volunteer Gap Inn and Cabins
(276) 398-4323
579 Volunteer Road
Hillsville, VA 24343

Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this rustic inn and its five associated cabins are perfectly located for anyone traveling through this mountainous region of Virginia, particularly those investigating Devil’s Den, the Carroll County Courthouse, or other nearby sites.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Upcoming 'Ghosthunting Virginia' Events

For anyone who is interested, I am going to be promoting my new travel guide, Ghosthunting Virginia, around Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area over the next couple of months. My publisher, Clerisy Press, has been posting my upcoming book signings and radio/podcast interviews at a convenient site called BookTour, on which I have a page.

View my page on America's Haunted Roadtrip

Friday, August 1, 2008


Welcome to my new "TravelBlogue"! I have been traveling for more than four decades (since I was about eight months old, when my family moved from Erie, Pa., to Athens, Greece), and have always enjoyed relating my experiences. One of the main ways I have done that is through my work as a freelance writer and author of several, activities that frequently get me out on the road. And for the past couple of years I have also worked as special interest and destination lecturer aboard cruise ships, which both gives me a venue for sharing my experiences and allows me to enjoy new ones.

There are any number of experiences that I cannot easily incorporate into whatever project I happen to be working on at any given time, and having a place to share such things is a big part of why I have started this site. This blog will thus serve as a venue for things I come across in my travels that are good, bad, or otherwise interesting -- and, hopefully, of use to anyone who reads about them! Your feedback is also welcome and will help make this site more akin to a conversation than a monologue.