Category Archives: Travel

New York, New York (Pictures Day 15)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver. Bright & early on Day Three we headed out toward Liberty Island – it’s hard to take a bad picture there.

From Liberty Island, the skyscrapers of Manhattan look like a mountain range rising out of the sea. In the haze over on the left you can see the Goldman Sachs Tower. (“There is an evil there that does not sleep…”) In the foreground at the left is our next destination – Ellis Island.

Getting off the ferry from Liberty Island, this is the front entrance to the Ellis Island Museum.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect a lot from Ellis Island. I knew what it was, we’ve been members for years as supporters, but I figure it was just pretty much a thing to see, check off the list, and move on.

Wrong!

The Great Hall, where millions of immigrants from all over the world entered the United States from 1892 to 1924. It’s gorgeous, meticulously restored to how it looked around 1900.

From the museum rooms off of the second floor balcony, you can look out over the entrance, past the dock, and see the Statue of Liberty. As much as it had an effect on me seeing it for the first time, I can only imagine how it looked to refugees and immigrants coming to this country, looking for a better life in a new country.

Displays like this were truly moving. The museum does a fantastic job of not just showing you a building, but bringing it to life with stories and pictures.

It went far beyond just random displays and artifacts. Here, for example, on the podiums at the far end of the Great Hall, the life & death decisions were made, allowing someone to enter or ordering them to be sent back out of the country. A copy of the ship’s manifest is shown, with the highlighted part showing the entry records for one of the current Park Rangers at the Statue of Liberty.

That’s some powerful stuff.

The upper level of the Great Hall, with the display rooms leading off to the side all around.

Everything at Ellis Island revolved around the Great Hall. Imagine this room packed to the walls every day of the year with hundreds of families, most carrying everything they owned, most not speaking English, not knowing if they would be let in or what might lie ahead if the were admitted, but know that it had to be better than what they left behind.

Looking out the second floor from the side opposite the Statue of Liberty, you see Manhattan. How many of these buildings, streets, subways, trains, and homes were built by laborers who came through this building?

Leaving Ellis Island, I know that I’ll be back again, the next time to dig into the displays and exhibits in more depth, when I’m not on a ten-day, how-much-can-we-cram-into-the-trip schedule.

This trip was in August 2016, before we got so far mired in our current political situation. Looking back at Ellis Island, then looking at this week’s news, I have to wonder why this country is watching men, women, and children be slaughtered in Syria and other places, while we turn our backs on them and refuse entry.

With a visit to the Statue of Liberty first, then the tour of Ellis Island, this was a day full of strong emotions. But the strongest were to come next.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Photography, Travel

New York, New York (Pictures Day 14)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver. Bright & early on Day Three we headed out toward Liberty Island.

Since we didn’t have tickets to go up into the base of the Statue or up to the crown, we did a walk around the island to see Miss Liberty.

It’s not that big of an island. We did the whole thing in about forty minutes and we were taking it slow and steady because: A) the heat and humidity were killers, and; B) I of course was taking pictures about every ten feet with five different cameras.

See those people up there on that next level up? They knew to get tickets a few weeks in advance.

Imagine what it was like for immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to come into New York Harbor and see this. There’s no wonder that it’s such an iconic symbol of our country and what we stand for.

Without getting too political (that’s for my other site), if we want to continue to be the society that we’ve worked for the last four hundred years to become, we need to continue to stand for those things.

I don’t know that it’s possible to take a bad picture with this subject matter.

I think the worst that would happen would be people saying, “What a lousy photographer, he must have worked hard to take a picture this bad – but jeez, doesn’t that Statue look gorgeous? Wow!”

While it was hotter than hell and twice as muggy, the clouds made for a perfect backdrop.

Nice lens flare, I like it.

The Statue of Liberty doesn’t have a bad side. Period.

Leave a comment

Filed under Photography, Travel

Green California

We drove back from Milpitas/San Jose to Los Angeles today. We took the 101 down since it’s a much more pleasant and scenic drive than the straight, flat, and boring rampage down on I-5.

What was overwhelmingly obvious no matter where you looked is that the record rains this winter have turned California GREEN. Not “green” as in “spring’s here,” GREEN as in “did we take a wrong turn and end up in Ireland?”

The bad news, of course, is that sooner or later (it will be sooner) all of this verdant new growth will bake and turn brown and be tinder for a record brush fire season. Record brush fire seasons always follow record rainfall seasons, just as the spring follows the winter.

2 Comments

Filed under Photography, Travel

At Consonance 2017

Too busy listening to concerts & chatting with friends I see far too rarely to write much. But (of course) there are pictures!

For Interfilk Guest Leslie Hudson’s concert there was plenty of help.

The Guest of Honor concert was the main event tonight. From left to right are Leslie Hudson, Mary Crowell, Betsy Tinney (amazing cello!), and GOHs Bill & Brenda Sutton.
For those I haven’t indoctrinated into SF true fandom, when I’m done having fun I’ll explain those terms.

For now, it’s the open filk:

With luck, we’ll be up way, way too late doing this!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fandom, Music, Science Fiction, Travel

Off At A Con

I’ll have to tell you more about it tomorrow or Sunday. I flew up to San Jose this evening and saw the most AMAZING sunset between two layers of clouds.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Flying, Photography, Travel, Weather

New York, New York (Pictures Day 13)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver.

Despite the adventures and late night of the previous day, Day Three of our New York adventure started early. We had to get down to the water again, this time to Battery Park. We had a date with a very important lady.

It was already hot, muggy, and hazy. Hey, New York City in August. What did you expect?

We had seen her for a bit on our tour around Manhattan the previous day, and even from a distance across the water she’s magnificent.

Once you get closer to Liberty Island, seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time was literally breathtaking for me.

Manhattan makes a great backdrop, don’t you think?

The new One World Trade Center tower peeking around from behind her.

Honestly, how do you take a bad photo with this material? But, and this is important and something you should never forget, even if you take a LOT of pictures, take a moment to put down the camera for a minute here and there and look.

You come into port on Liberty Island after moving around to the back of Miss Liberty.

There’s actually a pretty decent cafeteria run by the Park Service just off of the dock. If you haven’t had breakfast yet and want to let the crowd off the boat thin out a bit, take a rest and eat. Then walk around and see what’s peeking up over the trees.

Directly in back is the entrance to the base of the statue and the steps up to the top.

Here’s your #1 tip if you’re going to New York City and want to go up into the Statue of Liberty instead of just walking around the island – make your reservations EARLY. During the summer, just going up into the base to get a better view requires about two weeks advance notice. To get a ticket to climb up to the crown, you need to get one at least three months in advance.

We didn’t.

But as we’ll see, that didn’t matter much. Lady Liberty is still spectacular from the ground.

1 Comment

Filed under Photography, Travel

New York, New York (Story #3 To Accompany “Pictures Day 12”)

On Monday I posted Day Twelve of my “New York, New York” picture travelogue and hinted that there might be a couple of stories that went along with that part of the day. Tuesday I posted the first of those stories, with the second one yesterday. Let’s finish.

Story The Third

To recap, it was the first full day in New York City on my first trip there. A long, long day with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the full Circle Line tour around Manhattan, the search in the heat and humidity to find a cab to CitiField, the late start to the game, leaving the game early because we were exhausted, missing the theatrics of a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback by the Mets, then a long cab ride home in heavy traffic.

It’s just before midnight following all of that. We were staying at a place right next to Central Park (thanks again, Aunt Eleanore!) and as we get there the cab is pulling up on the opposite side of the street, next to the park.

There’s a fair amount of traffic, and while they might not think anything of a cab stopping to block a lane of traffic for a few minutes, it was a new experience for me, and I was trying to hurry to minimize the delay. (I’m not from around there, as we’ll see demonstrated even more vividly in a short time.)

The Long-Suffering Wife had been sleeping while we were stuck in traffic, so I’m trying to get her awake and out of the cab.

Not enough going on all at once? Okay, since you’re bored and just picking lint out of your navel, how about you pay for the cab ride?

Before I went on this trip I had used a cab only rarely at best. (I live in LA – we drive everywhere or don’t go.) The NYC cabs made it easy to pay with a credit card, but every single cab was an adventure with different protocols and displays. Chip or swipe? It says chip – no, don’t do that, swipe! I have to swipe because there’s no chip slot right? No, it’s underneath there, you can’t see it in the dark? Am I supposed to press the screen? These buttons on the side? Which button? The screen’s really dim, it’s really dark, and I have I mentioned that in all of the hubbub I can’t find my glasses and I’m blind as a freakin’ bat up close these days?

Yeah.

Well, at least they make it easy to add the tip. I actually appreciated that. Somewhere in the process you get a screen that gives you the 10%, 15%, and 20% figures. You just pick one, or you can override. One less thing to think about.

We finally get done, get out of the cab, our friendly Mets fan driver heads off looking for his next fare, we manage to get across West 59th Street without being killed, we drag our sorry butts upstairs, and we’re ready to collapse. TLSW heads off to strip off her soggy clothes (did I mention that it was in the 90’s with 90%+ humidity all day, rain showers off and on) and I start to empty my pockets, empty out the backpack, recharge batteries for all of the cameras, and so on. I pull out the receipts I had from the various purchases all day and stick them into the envelope where I was keeping them – and on top I notice the receipt from the cab ride back from Citifield.

Tip amount = $0.00.

Wait, I didn’t do that did I? What kind of an asshole stiffs the driver on a cross-town cab ride in the middle of the night?

The kind that’s hurried, confused, exhausted, in unfamiliar territory, and blind as a bat, I guess.

But, there’s got to be a way to fix this, right?

This, this right HERE, this is where I might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

I know the cab company even if I don’t have the cab driver’s name or the cab number – but I’m sure they’ll have that information. Why not? I’ll give them a call at 0:15 AM to ask.

No joy.

It’s bugging me, but it’s late. But tomorrow…

Tomorrow (pictures coming) between our other adventures, I make three more calls to different numbers and agencies, trying to figure out if anyone can help me identify the driver and put me in touch with him. I want to let him know that I screwed up, that I’m an idiot, not an asshole, and give him the tip he had earned.

On each call I patiently explained what had happened and how I wanted to get some help to fix it – on each call the guy was flabbergasted, at best. I was obviously the first person in the history of civilization to have this problem, to consider it a problem to begin with, and to decide to try and rectify the situation. (It’s good to know I’m Number One in something!)

I’ll bet good money that there are four dispatchers in New York City that to this day tell stories about this clueless yahoo from out of town who tried to track down the one cab driver who he had mistakenly stiffed for a tip. I’m sure the stories get better with each telling. I doubt they’re much wrong.

The final guy, at some City agency that oversees cabs, listened to the story, asked if I was kidding, asked me to clear up a couple of things in the timeline for him, asked again if I was kidding, and finally took pity on me. It was time for the stereotypical New York wisdom to be passed down from native to clueless yahoo.

“Buddy, shit happens! He’s a New York City cab driver, he knows that far better than you do. Let it go.” And he hung up on me.

As he should have.

1 Comment

Filed under Travel