Sunday, September 23, 2007

Summer's End: Idlewild & Falling Water

Today is the first day of Autumn, the autumnal equinox with equal hours of daylight and darkness. Today is also the 12th, 11th or 10th day of Ramadan, depending on when the start was locally declared. It would have been interesting if the equinox coincided with the middle of Ramadan, but it's off by a couple of days. Summer is officially over today, although in other ways, it's been over for a few weeks.

The unofficial summer season in the US starts on Memorial Day (late May) and ends on Labor Day, which is the first Monday in September. Usually people have picnics on Labor day, go out of town, hit the outdoor swimming pools before they close, or just use the long weekend in other ways.

We started the summer with a trip to California, to visit my brother's family. The kids met their cousins for the first time and had a blast at Disney Land. My sister-in-law works there, so we had lots of advantages, including the very highly experienced guides. It was also the kids' first time on a plane. After the first plane took off, Ahmed remarked on the view,"Hey, it looks like somebody drew this." Honestly, they seemed less impressed than I thought they would be with the whole airplane experience. Maybe it is not such a big deal from their perspective, and neither is wireless communication! They were more impressed with meeting Goofy than flying.

Dinsey high point: Moody battles Darth Vader at the Jedi Academy. When he got on stage, Vader pointed to him and said, "Your lack of faith disturbs me!" Hannu turned to me and exclaimed, "How did he know?"

On Labor Day weekend we went to the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania. It was actually completely unplanned. We just decided it on Friday evening, left Saturday and returned Monday. We mainly wanted to take the kids to a special amusement park, called Idlewild, then visited Falling Water, a grown-up attraction, on Sunday.

Idlewild is an interesting children's park, actually established back in 1877. It is an old-fashioned, low-key kind of park. One of its parts is called Storybook Forest, where you stroll through the sets of various children's classics, and we had the perfect weather for it.

A lot of the sets had a friendly person at the door, usually a character from the story appropriately dressed and welcoming the children. The above picture was taken in some sort of schoolhouse set, but the lady playing teacher looked like she had the nastiest migraine headache that could be imagined! Hana and I were not sure whether she was really sick or just acting out the part--we had a blast watching her react to Moody and other inquisitive little brats!

Tala looking crooked in front of the Crooked House

Geppetto's workshop had everything except Pinocchio, which is probably owned by Disney. Interestingly, the park also says it is "the second best children's park in the world," without naming the first!

A big attraction in the park is a trolley ride through Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe, which is fashioned after the longest-running series on American public TV, created by the legendary Fred Rogers. The show was made at the WQED studios in Pittsburgh, near the campus of Carnegie Mellon, and we used to see Mr. Rogers at the gym. I did not grow up with Mr. Rogers, but for my classmates he was a childhood icon. For Libyan readers who are old enough, I can say Fred Rogers was the Abdalla Krista of American children programming. Mr. Rogers used to start his show singing the theme song as he changed from his work clothes into slippers and a cardigan. One of his cardigans is now at the Smithsonian Institution (a US national museum.) I wonder if Mr. Krista was ever recognized officially for his Children's Corner program on early Libyan radio...

All the rides at the park were old-fashioned, slow-paced, analogue fun

The modern addition is called the Soak Zone, and it was pretty effective... and a good segway to the next part

Falling Water is the name of a house (and architectural marvel) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s, to be used as a summer home by the Kaufmanns. Wright charged $8,000 for his work. The house is built into a cliff side and over a waterfall, and designed to blend in with nature. The floor in one of the rooms is just bare smooth rock, with beautiful fireplaces, terraces, etc. The Kaufmanns ultimately donated it to the state for public use. Back in September of 1987, almost exactly 20 years ago, my father visited me in Pittsburgh and I took him there because he started his career in construction and has always been fond of it. The building connoisseur in him was simply awed by it. The Misrati money connoisseur in him was even more awed that anyone would just give it away-- but also thankful.


  1. lol @ The Misrati money connoisseur, its a bit simmillar to what i call my Misrati son :o)

    nice time had by you all and the kids are looking well, mashaAllah, many years ago my father took us to Disney land, great place :o)

  2. Mr Rogers! I lived for that man! He was the best!!!

    Looks like you had a nice time... can I send you my six kids so you really can see what a trip is like?? lolol... only joking!