Monday, August 11, 2014

What was missing from my 'Big Apple' visit

A recent article on graffiti in NYC made me think back to my one-and-only trip to NYC.

It was late 1994 and I was excited I had an invitation to accompany a friend to NYC. She was going to see a medical specialist and she asked if I would travel with her.
I thought the trip would be fun with some sightseeing and shopping. I was in need of a change of pace and something fun and different to do, so off we flew to JFK.

Our taxi from the airport was driven by a man wearing a turban. We gave him the address to our hotel and we held on in the back seat during the exciting, fast drive from the airport to the heart of Manhattan.  I don't remember seeing a checker cab, but there's a sea of taxi cabs on duty in the city.

And I'm glad I had bought a new coat with a liner. It was November and people were wearing fur
and leather coats and jackets.

The air was brisk. Christmas decorations were on display. The neon lights and taxis were never still, even during the early morning hours.  I know because I gazed out our window in the wee hours of the morning. There were maybe a dozen less taxi cabs but delivery trucks and people galore were moving about on the streets.

From our hotel room near the Rockefeller Center, we walked along 5th Avenue, Park Avenue and visited the top floor of the Empire State Building. We peeked into the foyer of Trump Tower and went into Macy's and took the wooden escalators up and down a few floors. At Times Square I watched Brandy perform. Her debut album was out that year. She was cute singing and dancing in her winter white hat, vest, leggings and  boots. We even took a short carriage ride through Central Park, browsed in FAO Schwarz. We decided to not go in the glitzy Plaza Hotel.

We rode past the old World Trade Center buildings in a double-decker bus. I remember thinking those buildings were a solid city block massive at their bases. The support under those building had to be strong and steady for all that mass that reached way up into the sky.

One WTC construction is in progress. Totally amazing on the construction engineering of such tall, huge buildings. I bet none of the workers are afraid of heights. I wonder what their hourly pay is? View this special beam installation.

We ate at the famous  Stage Deli, now closed, where I got hooked on NY cheesecake. We had breakfast at some small joint. Food was served fast. Leisure eating is frowned upon. In
the Big Apple there's no such thing as leisurely eating. In a New York minute you're served, you eat, you pay and be on your way so the next customers in line can be seated.
I did go back to the Stage Deli for a cheese cake to bring home.

I saw only one grocery store and it had a parking lot in front of it.

There were street vendors selling all sorts of merchandise and food. Just about every block there were small grocery stores you walked into to pick up enough groceries or necessities to carry or put in a cart. In front of many of these stores were beautiful cut flower displays which added to still multiple bursts of color along the street accompanied by the moving bursts of vehicles and people.

The city had a vibration I could feel. It's alive with palpable, tangible, visible and smellable energy. There's lots of concrete and little natural growing greenery other than in Central Park and maybe a very small plot of green grass with a few trees here and there. In between all the buildings one after another, with no space in between, I caught a glimpse or two of the sky. Good thing the island has a strong underlying bedrock to support all the man-made structures.

Construction is going under the street level.

What I didn't see was graffiti.

I wanted to see the sights of NYC to say I've seen them, and one of the sights I wanted to see was graffiti.

When it was time to take the subway to get to my friend's doctor's office, I remember being a bit apprehensive going underground. At first I didn't spot where the subway entrances were. At ground level you see these inconspicuous rails over to the side on sidewalks. When I went up to them, there were steps descending down below the street. I had never been underground, so I was a little nervous.
I had seen movies about gangs and muggings on subway cars. I wasn't into experiencing any of that but I did want to see subway graffiti.

This is how I envisioned but also a bit afraid of how the inside of a subway car might look.
I  wanted to see the graffiti art.

I imagine Manhattan was kept graffiti-free for the tourists, so I was hoping the subway would be my chance to see up close and personal some real NYC graffiti.

The closest I'd been to seeing graffiti looks like a big blur on railway cars going too fast for me to gaze at the words and art.

The underground subway station surprisingly was well lit, bright, open and clean. No graffiti on the walls. There were turnstiles and lots of people. It was quiet and I my nervousness was eased. My friend had been to NYC before so she knew her way around. Our subway came, we got on and sat down.

On the subway train, people were quiet. There is no eye contact, no chit chat, no smiling, just other people going about their business. Nothing exciting to see. We came back the same way. My subway adventure was uneventful and graffiti-free.

I saw no graffiti. This article explains what happened to graffiti and graffiti artists.
Today, subway car windows are scratch-proof and the walls of the cars are replaceable.

Painting on subway cars is a crime.

Spray can art is bright and vivid. No paint brushes needed. I wish I'd seen this artist in action. He doesn't spray on public buildings or subway cars. Considering all the spray paint he has to buy and the canvas, he sells his art at a very reasonable price.

NYC is crammed like sardines with buildings, taxi cabs, vehicles and people. There's plenty of good food to be eaten fast. I don't think any chef would have any difficult time finding employment. I wonder if people do a lot of cooking at home or is the norm to stop for a quick bite to eat and keep moving?  I didn't see any who looked overweight. I did hear a lot of foreign language being spoken that I almost thought I was in a foreign country. There are plenty of places of spend your money just walking along the streets in Manhattan and be entertained for free by looking at the people and sights as it's in constant motion 24 hours a day.

I asked our taxi driver if he'd drive through Harlem on the way back to the airport. He seemed puzzled why I'd want to go there. I thought he could drive by the Apollo Theater. He granted my request and drove one block into Harlem and one block out. 

We were gone almost three days and I'd go back to the Big Apple just for the food. It was all marvelous and scrumptious! Generous portions, tasty and served quickly. My pretzel from a street vendor was big and warm. I want one right now. And I'd go back to visit more sights. There was so much I didn't get to see, e.g., museums, Brooklyn, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, and more).

Perhaps I'll be fortunate and get another chance for an adventure to visit the sights in and around NYC in this lifetime. With a pass I could tour some underground tunnels, (since I'm now okay to be underground ) and other interesting sights.

And, one of these days I've got to catch American Graffiti.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Surprise Salad

I made a salad today using what I had on hand.
It looks good and tastes very good. The mixture is quite pleasant.

I call it Surprise Salad because it was a surprise to me how well it turned out.

If you like what you see, try making it yourself, then invite me over.

Surprise Salad
 Surprise Salad
    (fruit and veggies are sliced thin and/or narrow with all seeds removed)
  2      Roma tomatoes
 1/2    onion, white or red
  1      cucumber
 1/2 c. mushrooms
  2      stalks of celery.  sliced
  1     Granny Smith apple
  1      Papaya
  1      small can ripe sliced olives
 1/2 c. walnut pieces
 1/2 c. chopped parsley
  Balsamic and Basil vinaigrette dressing- with EEVO. The kind I use has 4g fat per 2 Tbsps.

Combine all fruit and vegetables in a bowl. Drizzle 1/2 c. Balsamic and Basil vinaigrette dressing. Toss well to distribute the dressing. Cover and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. Toss again before serving.

This salad will satisfy all your taste buds and then some.

If I had a banana and some raisins on hand, they would've been added.

Feel free to embellish or change the amounts as you wish and make this salad your own surprise.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Code Talkers

I've been meaning to write about a group of men who helped us win WWII. The Navajo Code Talkers they were called.

Here is the Navajo Code Talker's dictionary  having been declassified, we can now see what this unbreakable code looked like.

It was a genius idea to devise a code that was partly based upon the alphabet and word association.

Here's more info on how this code came about using the complex Navajo language where tone of voice can have a different meaning of the same word.

The following are interviews of just eight of the Code Talkers.

Peter MacDonald, Navajo Code Talker.  It was destiny he do something great for his country, after dropping out of school after the 5th grade and joining the Marine Corps.

The Navajo language was not written down so of the 400 recruited to use this code by memory only was one of the reasons it was undecipherable by the Japanese during the war and proved very valuable by the Marines.

Here is Samuel Tso, another proud Navajo Code Talker who didn't want to be called a draft dodger. He tells of the 'First 29' and how he volunteered to run across Death Valley to locate machine guns and how he knew he would survive that mission.

John Kinsel, Navajo Code Talker, tells of the meaning of the colors and symbols and how the Japanese almost got one letter of the code and how he got sick with malaria in South America, and he tells about receiving the Purple Heart which he had to prove he was in the service.

Keith Little was orphaned. Listen to his story hearing of the 'sneak attack' on Pearl Harbor and hearing President Roosevelt say this is a day of infamy. Listen to how he volunteered for the Marines at age 17 and went on to be a Navajo Code Talker.

Kee Etsicitty, a Navajo Code Talker, tells how code talkers had to have a good memory in
order to translate into code.  He tells of why he had short sleeves in uniform and a little about
 enemy conversations on the radio and more.

Joe Vandever, Navajo Code Talker, tells of how it was in war and how he got word from a bird that
he would return home and he speaks of being brave.

Samuel Tom Holiday, Navajo Code Talker, tell of his early years and more.

Chester Nav, Navajo Code Talker, who as of April 2014, is the last of the First 29 Code Talkers.
He speaks of raising sheep when he was young, the livestock massacre, and the hard life living
on the reservation. He explains he was raised as a warrior to protect what he loves and he had to
join the Marines to protect the United States. He tells that until the code was declassified in 1968, he could only speak of his work in the service of just talking on the radio. In 2001 the Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

These men volunteered and bravely served during a time of war so we could live in the land of the free. I would say they served us well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bikers on an awesome mission

Recently I learned about an awesome biker organization.
Their mission is nothing less than what I would describe as AWESOME!
 These black leather wearing guys and gals are truly angels on wheels.

Bikers Against Child Abuse. BACA, they're called, are they're doing some mighty good works for kids who've been abused.
Am I the only one who wishes any adults thinking about abusing an innocent child have to face BACA?

Any child would feel safer with BACA around. Take a look.

They are serious because their cause is serious. 

A child should not have to grow up in fear. Bless each of them.

Ride on BACA!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Disability overcome

The Paralympic Games are held following the regular Olympic Games every four years, and give athletes with a physical disability who qualify to compete just like 'non-disabled' athletes to go for the gold.

All athletes have a competitive spirit to win

Photo credit: dtcreations from

Trisha Zorn,  blind from birth, has won 41 gold medals in various swimming competitions.  I believe she holds the record for gold metal wins in any Olympic Games.
 Michael Phelps won 14 gold metals for his swimming wins in the regular Olympic Games.

The Special Olympics are for those athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The Deaflympics are for those athletes with hearing disabilities.

All of these athletes had to start some where and practice, train, practice, train,   the win local,  regional and national sporting events in order to advance and quality to be eligible for the Olympic Game.

Regardless, all competing in any of the Olympic Games have to prepare and face stresses associated with the pressure of these Games.

 The fact that they made it to the Games, means they had to overcome physical, mental and/or emotional challenges. 

 Even with their disabilities, they've accomplished more in the realm of physical endurance and strength than most of us even desire to even try.

They're all winners in my book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Scaled-down dwellings are all the rage

I've been fascinated with the tiny home movement. These dwellings are adorable and quite the contrast compared to the massive square footage homes have spread out in recent years. Why work just to pay that huge monthly mortgage payment when you can live small and have lots of dough left over for other things, lots of other things.
And, tiny homes sure make house cleaning a tiny chore. What's not to like about that?

Photo credit: wallyir from

Take a look at these small homes- ranging from under 100 square feet to 370 square feet.

I couldn't help but think of the shotgun houses I've seen. They are compact and make full use of interior footage because of the the lack of a hallway.

Then there are the micro-homes which can be made in whatever shape you prefer.

And garage homes with 250 square feet. and I might add looks to be very spacious.

 And for those who like being near the water, you might consider small homes on or near the water, like these.  And, many of these house boats are priced in the $20s. Wow!

And this man made a dwelling out of a garbage dumpster. See video.

All in all, I can see some manufacturers coming out with all sorts of combined fixtures/appliances/furniture  to give the most bang for the square feet in these scaled down dwellings where space is a premium.

For the most part, I think making the most of every inch of living space is a great design for  dwellings, eliminating empty, unused space and leads one to not accumulate and unnecessary stuff.

American Indians were at the forefront of compact dwellings with their teepees, longhouses and such, and they didn't have to climb up a ladder to get to the bedroom or the bed.  And climbing a ladder might be the only draw back that I see in most of the designs to access the bedroom overhead. This could be no problem for the young but it might be dangerous for anyone with a knee problem or not too steady holding onto a ladder after just waking up needing to get to the bathroom in a hurry.

My experience with small living space was twenty years ago when I moved a storage shed out to the country to begin moving my belonging out of a two-bedroom apartment when I was in the process of moving to the country. All my furniture was placed inside a 12 X 16 foot wood floor, metal-roof storage shed with two windows, a door, an overhead light and two wall sockets. It was Springtime and I slept so good when it rained. Everything was within arms reach and I was so happy living in that little space with my dog. I really didn't want to move out of it.

So whatever size dwelling you like, in whatever material you want it constructed of, if it's what you like, live it up and live large in your small dwelling.

 The size of a home matters not.  Just as long as it's where your heart is, it's home.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Swimming the distance

I've been amazed with Diana Nyad, the distance swimmer, and her solidly-determined goal to swim without a shark cage between Florida and Cuba. Well, on her fifth attempt to complete the distance, she now holds the distinctive title as the first person who can honestly claim to have done it and can show proof that she swam it!

I was thinking she had to have a team of helpers to make this happen, not once, but five different times. That must have taken lots of man hours, planning, and belief in her.

I have some questions I would like to ask Diana Nyad.

How does one train to swim this distance?
Who are your support team, are they paid, and how much?
Do you have sponsors? And if so, who are they?
Can you sleep while floating?
Did your skin shrivel being in the water that long?
What did you eat and drink during your swim?
Were you able to speak and could you hear those in the boat at all times?
What is the amount in dollars in equipments, boats, manpower, etc for each attempt?
Are you in the Guinness Book of World Records?
And why was this challenge something you had to do?

Her first attempt was in 1978. Her victory was achieved in 2013.

Congratulations! and what a motivation you are to all of us!