All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Big Apple: Day 4, Part 1: Battery Park to Statue of Liberty

Good morning all!  It is Friday, October 14, 2011 -- Day 4 in New York City.  

Our  initial plans have changed from day to day but since we are on the last full day of being here, our first priority is to head out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then we plan to do the rest of the American Museum of Natural History and next go off to Soho for shopping (once Casey returns from work), dinner at Little Italy and if it isn't pouring rain like it was last night when we returned from the Comedy Cellar, we will do a carriage ride in Central Park. One hour at a time and we will see how the plans change today! I'm in a low right now so I'm waiting to ride it out before I hit the shower. Catch you all in a few!  

The huge wine bottle in Lindy's window

We are showered and ready to roll so Nika and I went next door to enjoy a somewhat-leisure breakfast.  All of our breakfasts so far have been hurry up and eat by grabbing something at our hotel's continental breakfast, but today, I thought let's change it up and stop and smell the roses for a moment.  In this case, it was breakfast next door at the famous Lindy's.  

Lindy's Restaurant:  Lindy's Restaurant- the famous Broadway delicatessen renowned for serving up the best New York Style Cheesecake to well known mobsters and mafia hit men and Hollywood legends alike throughout the early twentieth century. This place had all the glitz, glamour and dark history to make it a fixture of all things New York City.

The original restaurant was closed in 1969 but in 1979, a new "Lindy's" was opened to continue serving up the same great deli food and world famous cheesecake. It remains one of the top must-see restaurants for visitors to Manhattan.  We had breakfast there and it was, as many reviews have noted, high-priced, but what we each wanted to order contained a lot of food, so our outstanding waitress advised that Nika and I could split an order which would make it enough food for her to eat and enough carbs for me plus still get our beverages of choice.  After wiping our plates clean and steeping ourselves in enough coffee, we were off to catch the bus.  Grayline Express bus, that is. But stop the bus! We finally figure out that we are probably going to miss the Express bus, so figured since I am now adept at riding the subway and we don't want to wait another hour for the next one, we might as well hope a train out to Battery Park instead.   

We jump on the subway, again, right next to our hotel and the restaurant and switch trains wherever the hell it is that Nika tells us to get off and on at.  I just sit and let her figure this part out.  Once we arrive at Battery Park (our entrance to jump on the ferry to head out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty), we take some time to gently tour the grounds. 

Ok! I couldn't help myself!
Battery Park: Battery Park is a 25-acre public park located at the Battery, the southern tip of Manhattan Island, facing New York Harbor.  The Battery is named for artillery batteries that were positioned there in the city's early years in order to protect the settlement behind them.  At the north end of the park is Castle Clinton, the often re-purposed last remnant of the defensive works that inspired the name of the park; Pier A, formerly a fireboat station; and Hope Garden, a memorial to AIDS victims. At the other end is Battery Gardens restaurant, next to the United States Coast Guard Battery Building. Along the waterfront, ferries depart for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and there is also a New York Water Taxi stop. The park is also the site of the East Coast Memorial which commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II, and several other memorials. 

Bust a Pose: Of course, there are also the little oddities that you find at Battery Park, too.  Take, for instance, Miss Lady Liberty standing about seven feet tall, begging tourists to have their picture taken with her (actually he -- on stilts).  I fell victim (yes, I had to pay to have her cozy up to me for a picture) but it was all for my personal New York experience, as you can see from the picture above.  By paying her you get the luxury and having her drape you with a flag and the honor of holding her torch.  (And, yes, again, all I got out of that was the picture!!)  Gullible? always! 

The Urban Farm at Battery Park
 The Urban Farm:  Amongst the skyscrapers that outline and form a circle around Battery Park, the most unimaginable thing we would find is a garden.  But there it is, as pictured at right. Students from eight city schools and a number of community groups use the space which include approximately 80 organic vegetable plots.  The Urban Farm came about after Millennium High School's Environmental Club requested permission to plant a vegetable garden in the park.  The one acre farm is fenced off by donated bamboo poles.  

Hope Garden in Battery Park is a memorial garden dedicated to AIDS victims. The garden has also served as a temporary September 11 memorial, housing The Sphere, which was damaged in the attacks. The garden has also been used as a site for environmental demonstrations since it is a tourist attraction.

The Sphere
The Sphere:  The Sphere is a large metallic sculpture now on display in Battery Park, but which once stood in the middle of Austin J. Tobin Plaza, the area between the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. After being recovered from the rubble of the Twin Towers after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the artwork faced an uncertain fate, and it was dismantled into its components. Although it remained structurally intact, it had been visibly damaged by debris from the airliners that were crashed into the buildings and from the collapsing skyscrapers themselves.

Six months after the attacks, following a documentary film about the sculpture, it was relocated to Battery Park on a temporary basis—without any repairs—and formally rededicated with an eternal flame as a memorial to the victims of 9/11. It has become a major tourist attraction, due partly to the fact that it survived the attacks with only dents and holes. The Sphere is 25 feet high and cast in 52 bronze segments.  The artwork was meant to symbolize world peace through world trade, and was placed at the center of a ring of fountains in Tobin Plaza, and was designed to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Kaaba. It was set to rotate once every 24 hours.  

Castle Clinton
Castle Clinton:  or Fort Clinton, once known as Castle Garden, is a circular sandstone fort now located in Battery Park. It is perhaps best remembered as America's first immigration station (predating Ellis Island), where more than 8 million people arrived in the U.S. from 1855 to 1890. Over its active life, it has also functioned as a beer garden, exhibition hall, theater, public aquarium, and finally today as a national monument. Originally known as West Battery, it was renamed Castle Clinton in 1815, in honor of New York City mayor Dewitt Clinton.  It is the departure point for visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 

American Merchant Mariners' Memorial:  As we walk through the doorway of Castle Clinton and out the back area we find ourselves heading toward the shoreline to the metal line dividers set up to guide us to Pier A where we will depart.  Just before we start to snake through the lines, we find the American Merchant Mariners' Memorial.  Dedicated in 1991, this haunting memorial stands on a  rebuilt stone breakwater in the harbor and displays a bronze figural group and boat which are based on an actual historical event; during World War II, a Nazi U-boat attacked a merchant marine vessel, and while the mariners clung to their sinking vessel, the Germans photographed their victims.  
American Merchant Mariners' Memorial

When the idea was first conceived, it was meant to commemorate the thousands of merchant ships and crews which were put into military service since the Revolutionary War. In World War II alone it is estimated that 700 American merchant ships were lost, and 6,600 mariners gave their lives.  As is depicted in the photo at right and creating an emotional dynamic, depending on the ebb and flow of the harbor’s tides, the one figure (whose hand you see coming up out of the water), struggling beside the boat, is submerged each tidal cycle.  When viewing the monument, it brought tears to my eyes.  As I said, it is very emotional to see with the water lapping up and over the struggling hand in the water.

Once inside, we are herded into a gathering space where eventually we form two lines to start our departure to the ferries.  It is at this point that one can somewhat possibly imagine what it must have felt like to be an immigrant in the days before when hoards of those seeking a better life in America were herded into ships to descend upon the soil of New York City.  The lines that formed to head out onto the loading platform were interspersed with inspiration phrases such as pictured at right  from President John F. Kennedy and, and below, from Benjamin Franklin. 

Once we are safely aboard our ferry that will take us first to the Statue of Liberty, we are able to gaze out into the New York Harbor waters to see other ships that pass by as we catch up to speed.  

Staten Island Ferry:  Off in the distance I spy a Staten Island Ferry.  The Staten Island Ferry is a passenger ferry service operated by the New York City Department of Transportation that runs between the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island. 

Staten Island Ferry's "Kennedy Class"
There are eight ferry boats in four classes currently in service. Shown at right is one known as a “Kennedy class,” which was built in 1965. Each boat can carry 3,500 passengers and up to 40 vehicles, is 297 feet long, 69+ feet wide, with a draft of 13 feet, 6 inches.  A draft is the depth of a vessel's keel below the water line, especially when loaded.  The keel is the main structural member of a ship, running lengthwise along the center line from bow to stern, to which the frames are attached.  They also have a weight of 2,109 gross tons, service speed of 16 knots (which is a little better than 18 mph), and engines of 6,500 horsepower (for all you horsepower nuts).  

Next I catch the sight of another vessel in the water.  It is a shipping boat owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics is a privately owned Norwegian/Swedish shipping company, established in 1999 and co-owned by the two shipping companies Wallenius Lines and Wilh. Wilhelmsen.

The company offers a range of logistics services, including supply chain management, ocean transportation, terminal handling, inland distribution and technical services. It is one of the world's largest companies in the transporting of rolling equipment; automobiles, heavy machinery (mining, construction, farming equipment), yachts, trains, power stations and others. Headquartered in Oslo and Stockholm, it has main regional offices in New York, Tokyo and Sydney. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics received the distinguished Norwegian American Trade Award for 2008 from the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce.  

Partial view of Ellis Island

Then out farther in the harbor waters, I see Ellis Island.  It is captivating to see, set apart off in the waters.  The thought of it somehow reminds me of Alcatrez Island in California.  I am not sure if it is the facade of the buildings or what.  It looks ominous. We'll talk more and see more of Ellis Island in my next post.  

Then not to damper the mood too much at the start of our aquatic journey, I spied the real Miss Lady Liberty off in the distance standing proud and awaiting our boat to dock.  
Statue of Liberty Off In The Distance

As we began our approach to Fort Wood, located on what is now known as Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty hangs her hat (or torch, in this case), I would be remiss if not to first mention a little about Fort Wood and its home. 

Fort Wood was a star-shaped fortification on Bedloe's Island (now known as Liberty Island). Its walls were used as the distinctive base for the Statue of Liberty. It is named in honor of Eleazer Derby Wood.  Wood was an American Army officer in the War of 1812, and a graduate of West Point who became the first graduate of West Point to die in battle.  He was greatly admired by the Army's commanding general Jacob Brown who commissioned a monument in his honor at West Point and also Fort Wood on Liberty Island.

Liberty Island is the small uninhabited island in New York Harborbest known as the location of the Statue of Liberty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the island has a land area of 14.717 acres, which is the property of the federal government. Liberty Island is located in the Upper New York Bay surrounded by the waters of Jersey City, New Jersey, but its built portions and docks fall under the jurisdiction of the City of New York. The historical developments which led to this construction created the rare situation of an exclave of one state, New York, being situated in another, New Jersey. An exclave is
strip of land that belongs to a political entity but that is not connected to it by land. The island is operated by the National Park Service, and since 9/11, is guarded by around-the-clock patrols of the U.S. Park Police Marine Patrol Unit. Liberty Island is 2000 feet (600 m) east of Liberty State Park in Jersey City and is 1-5/8 statute miles (2.6 kilometers) southwest of Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Public access is permitted only by ferries from either of the two parks, Battery Park in Lower Manhattan or Liberty State Park in Jersey City. 


A hot topic of boundary disputes or border wars, The Statue of Liberty itself is claimed as a symbol by both New York and New Jersey. It is a tug-of-war of sorts as everyone from the two states try to lay claim to this grand lady.  She was featured on New York license plates from 1986 through 2000 and on a special New Jersey license plate celebrating Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The Statue is also seen on the New York State Quarter. The national monument was the symbol of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, still used by the Raritan Valley Line. (The Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal is nearby).

Though it is uninhabited, the United States Geological Survey includes it as part of New York's 8th congressional district. Both New York City and Jersey City have assigned the island lot numbers. Utility services, including electricity, water, and sewage, to Liberty and Ellis Islands are provided from the New Jersey side. Mail is delivered from the Battery. 

As we walk around Fort Wood in order to catch the various glimpses of Miss Liberty as she proudly shows off her green-covered drapings, we find there is more to see there than just the Lady herself. 

There is, for instance, the World Trade Center Memorial Grove.  The plaque, at right, that sits in front of the group of trees notes that they were  dedicated to those who lost their lives in the events that transpired on 9/11. 

Also, for now at least, there is the Liberty Bike

The famous “Liberty Bike” built by Orange County Choppers and featured on the popular Discovery Channel / TLC television series “American Chopper” is currently on exhibit (began October 2011) at the Statue of Liberty throughout 2012 in celebration of her 125th Anniversary.

This motorcycle is entirely plated in copper that was preserved from the centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty National Monument through an exclusive agreement with The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., under direction of The National Park Service / US Department of Interior.  The “Liberty Bike,” like the Statue of Liberty, is a work of art formed from copper and iron. There are many design features on this special motorcycle that were inspired by Miss Liberty, such as:  The shift lever is crafted from a section of cable that once carried electrical power to her torch.  The handle bar design was inspired by the spikes in Miss Liberty's crown.  The "DaVinci" designed carburetor is fashioned to resemble Lady Liberty's torch and lights up when the bike is running.

From start to completion this bike took only four and a half weeks to complete.

Manhattan Skyline: And, another added feature of Liberty Island is the chance to see the Manhattan Skyline.  The skyline, which you can see in the picture above can be viewed through viewfinders on Liberty Island so you can focus up a little closer.  You can see the haze from the rainy mist and fog settling in around the skyline.  It can also be seen, somewhat in the picture below of Nika, who is all cuddled up in her blanket she brought along.  Although it was a fairly nice day out, the air temperatures dip somewhat when we are out in the watery boundaries of Manhattan. 

The placard recognizing the Manhattan Skyline reads, "In 1886, the Statue of Liberty standing on her pedestal, stood taller than any other structure in New York City.  At 305 feet, 1 inch, it exceeded even the Brooklyn Bridge, which had been completed three years earlier.  However, the Statue was soon surpassed in height by the forest of tall buildings which today gives Manhattan its world-famous skyline."  

Rock from Norway:  Also there is the rock that reads" This stone from the mine that produced the copper in the statute of liberty was brought with the sailing ship "Sorlandet" as a gift to the US of America from the Citizens of Karmoy, Norway.  7/4/1986"

 Statue of Liberty:  Now that I have touched on almost everything else on the island, I suppose it is time for me to get around to talking about the main attraction -- Miss Lady Liberty herself. A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.  The Statue of Liberty, also known as "Liberty Enlightening the World" is a titanic neoclassical sculpture of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tablet (known as a "tabula ansata") on which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.  With a broken chain laying at her feet, she has become an icon of freedom and of the United States. 

Statue of Liberty:  I suppose it is time for me to get around to talking about the main attraction -- Miss Lady Liberty herself. A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.  The Statue of Liberty, also now known as "Liberty Enlightening the World" is a titanic neoclassical sculpture of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tablet evoking the law (known as a "tabula ansata") on which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.  With a broken chain laying at her feet, she has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.  
Yeah, I had to do this ( a couple times!)
You Said How Big? As you already probably know so much about Miss Liberty, I thought I would share a few other details about her which you may find interesting.  Let's talk about her physical attributes.  Even though she may not look so collassol in the picture above (between my fingers), did you know that she, herself, is 151 feet, 1 inch tall? With the foundation of the pedestal that she so proudly stands on, we come in at a whopping total of 305 feet, 1 inch (from ground level to the tip of her torch); from heel to the top of her head - 111 feet, 1 inch.  The length of her hand is 16 feet, 5 inches; her index finger is 8 feet, 1 inch long; her head from chinny-chin-chin to the top of her cranium is 17 feet, 3 inches.  The thickness from ear to ear is 10 feet; the distance between her eyes is 2-1/2 feet; her nose is 4 -1/2 feet long; the thickness of her waist is 35 feet; the width of her mouth is 3 feet; her tablet is 23'7" long by 13'7" wide, and 2 feet thick.  The weight of the copper used in the statue is 60,000 pounds or 30 tons, while the weight of the steel used in this statue is 250,000 pounds, or 125 tons.  If you think that is a lot, here is the grand slam – the total weight of the entire statue is 450,000 pounds, which translates into a stellar 225 tons.  Now, if there was ever somebody who needed to lose a little around the middle!!! (I’m not feeling so bad right now – okay, I know, not exactly apples to apples).  

A Little Inner Makeover:  It was announced earlier last year (2011) that the Statue of Liberty National Monument would be undergoing a $27.25 million renovation that would includes safety and other critical facility renovations.  This, of course, began in October -- right before we visited.  Two years prior to that they had just reopened the crown to visitors, which had been closed down since the 9/11 attacks.   They plan to install code compliant stairways within the monument, update mechanical, electrical and fire suppression systems, replace the elevators, and rehabilitate restrooms. The improvements will also allow for increased visitor access to the monument, including the pedestal and the museum.  All good, but not for us since we were then unable to go up into the Statue.  Approximately 3.5 million people visit Liberty Island each year, but, before the project began, only a small percentage actually secure a reservation to enter into the monument and scale to the top. With approximately three groups ascending the crown per hour, an average of 240 visitors climb to the crown each day.

Webcams at the Statue of Liberty:  In October of 2011, it was announced that The Lady would now also be known officially as "Liberty Enlightening the World." Why, you ask? Well,  beginning then she could actually be called "Liberty Enlightening the World Wide Web" thanks to a series of new web cams placed around her torch.  

Yes, besides rainy it was also windy!
Several remarkable views will be just a touch of a mouse away. On clear days, three cameras will provide unobstructed panoramas and live views of the famed New York City skyline, along with a front row seat to watch views of the majestic Hudson River and ships in New York Harbor. And that's just looking out.  The two remaining cameras provide truly unique views with one provideing a ultra wide-angle interactive view of the famed golden torch and the final camera looking downward.

Using today's technology, you can now go online and see views from her torch, her crown and even see a panaromic view of the skyline.  Wow!  Just go to and click on "Torch Cam," "Crown Cam" and/or any of the other views that are listed. 

Now, onto the question that I know is just eating at you.

Why is She Green?  The answer is the air.  As I have previously described to you, her "skin" is made of copper, and when copper is exposed to oxygen in the air, it undergoes a chemical reaction known as oxidation.  The reaction causes  fine crust or film to develop that is usually green in color.  This layer actually protects the original metal underneath.  With copper and bronze, this natural process is called patination (i.e., you know you have heard or said "something has a nice patina").  It took nearly 30 years for The Lady to turn from her original copper color to the green you see in the pictures here.  On our sightseeing excursions around New York City, we have witnessed this process on other buildings, too, where bronze metals were used for roofing and/or ornamentation and through the years the caps on the buildings or their little decorative trinkets have turned green (with envy)!   

Alas, there wouldn't be a place in New York City to see if it didn't sell something, too.  And, Liberty Island is no different.  It has its own souveneir shop where we made our way through and I did just minor damage.  One of my finds was a Statue of Liberty Barbie doll which I purchased for my niece/goddaughter, Kailey, for Christmas.  Nika also spied a New York sling bag for me.  It was something I had been looking for on our trip. More to carry, but I am getting used to that.

The Ferry we are going to catch to go to Ellis Island

Okay, we've done the tour of Liberty Island and its famous inhabitant.  It is time to say goodbye, so off we go to catch the next ferry in time to head on over to Ellis Island.  Part two of our aquatic adventure is about to being.  This boat trip isn't over yet, folks.

But before I leave you, I can't help myself -- I have to do it one more time, but this time from the ferry.
Okay, I'm done doing that now!
[Next post -- we're off to Ellis Island.]

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Big Apple: Day 3, Part 6: Dinner (Irish Pub) and a Show (Comedy Cellar)

Okay, so here we are, we have now just left the Museum and we have to jump on the subway and quickly head back to the hotel to freshen up.  Also, I have to plug my camera in to recharge it.  While at the Museum my battery went dead and, of course, I forgot my backup battery at the hotel! DUH!!  Since we are back at our room just chilling for a few moments, I thought I should take a picture of me taking a pic of Nika and share that with you!  Haha!
Chilling in the Room

Getting back to the hotel at virtually the same time as Casey -- as this was Casey's first time at this hotel since Nika and I changed hotels early that morning when he left for work -- we got ready and then went next door to The Irish Pub for a great supper (while watching the Brewers game on TV).

The Irish Pub: Located right next door to our hotel, at 837 7th Avenue, The Irish Pub was established in 1939 and sits in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. They offer a wide variety of foods from the traditional Irish pub fare to classic American dishes and consider themselves a premier sports bar with many TVs and two 100" big screens.  At first, we were seated in the window which was a very narrow counter situated along the front or street-side of the bar.  It was packed in there at the time.  We told our hostess and waitress that we would love a table if one became available.  We had no more than sat down and she came back for us and seated us right where we could watch the big game -- well, big game to us at least, since it was Game 4 of the National League World series playoffs in which the Brewers were playing the Cardinals.  We were a little skeptical about cheering too loudly because New York had just lost out in their series and we didn't want to disturb any mourning that might be going on. With the series beginning on the 9th of October, the Brew Crew was in Game 4.

Casey and Nika at The Irish Pub

Game 4:  To refresh your memory of Game 4, here is a quick recap. Brewers starter Randy Wolf kept Milwaukee from falling into a 1–3 series deficit, by throwing seven innings, and striking out six batters. Bernie's Brew Crew then scored two runs to tie the game in the 4th inning, with Hairston hitting an RBI double to score Prince and then Betancourt followed up with a single to score Hairston.  We then scored another run in the 5th on a single by my hero Braun, and another run in the sixth, thanks to the Cards Thierot's error. Wolf, along with relievers Rodríguez and Axford finally shut the Cardinals down to even the series at two games apiece and guaranteeing that the series would end in Milwaukee. 

Me At the Irish Pub with my Imaginary Hubby
Back to the Irish Pub -- At right, I spoofed for the camera with my arm around my imaginary hubby -- yea, I suppose I could have brought a cardboard cutout of Bob and put him next to me, but it would have been extra baggage charges on the plane! hahaha! As for my meal, I had the fish and chips and it was so good. This was a indeed a legitimate Irish pub because all the wait staff had true Irish brogues, which was so fascinating to listen to.

After finishing our meal, we jumped on the subway for the second time (actually it would be the third) that day and off to Greenwich Village to the Comedy Cellar for a 10:00 p.m. comedy show that included 6 nationally known comics (who all live in the NY City area or burbs).

Casey and Momma
The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority, a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and also known as MTA New York City Transit. It is one of the oldest and most extensive public transportation systems in the world, with 468 stations in operation (421, if stations connected by transfers are counted as single stations); consisting of 209 miles of routes, which translates into 656 miles of revenue track; and a total of 842 miles including non-revenue trackage. In 2011, the subway delivered over 1.640 billion rides, averaging over 5 million rides on weekdays, over three million on Saturdays, and over two million rides on Sundays.  

The New York City Subway is the seventh busiest rapid transit rail system in the world in annual ridership, after Tokyo's, Moscow's, Beijing's, Shanghai's, Seoul's, and Guangzhou's (f/k/a as Canton, China) rapid transit systems,  and the busiest in the Americas. It is one of the four systems in the United States, along with portions of the Chicago "L" system, PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson in New Jersey), and PATCO (Port Authority Transit Corporation), to offer service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Crime rates have shown variations over time, with a drop starting in the 1990's and continuing through today.
All Three!
Photographing: After the 9/11 attacks in New York, the MTA was extremely wary of anyone taking photographs or recording video inside the system and proposed banning all photography and recording in a meeting around June 2004. However, due to strong response from both the public and from civil rights groups, the rule of conduct was dropped. In November 2004, the MTA again put this rule up for approval, but was again denied, though many police officers and transit workers still confront or harass people taking photographs or video. 

On April 3, 2009, the NYPD issued a directive to officers stating that it is now legal to take pictures within the subway system so long as it is not accompanied with suspicious activity.

Nika and me

Litter accumulation is a perennial problem in the subway system. In the 1970's and 1980's, dirty trains and platforms, as well as graffiti were a serious problem. The situation has improved since then, but the 2010 budget crisis has threatened to curtail trash removal from the subway system.  Just the other night, I heard on David Letterman that the Mayor had issued a proclamation banning eating on the subway (supposedly because of the draw of rodents).  Luckily,  I didn't see any huge rodents!

We had to consult the large subway maps to determine which lines and routes we were going to take to get out to Greenwich Village.  I am glad that Casey and Nika knew what they were doing, as I certainly didn't!

Getting on and off the subway was a lot easier than finding the Comedy Cellar itself.  We exited the subway and then tried to get our bearings on where we were walking.  We asked many people for directions but most didn't know where they were going either, so they were of little help -- probably all tourists like me!  Finally, we found someone who sent us in the right direction.

As we approached the Comedy Cellar we saw there were two lines out front.  I showed the person at the door our tickets and he told us to get into the line East of the establishment, which snaked around the corner, and we hopped in line.  The other line out front which went in the opposite direction was the line for those seeking a free pass into the show.  The CC distributes a limited number of free passes for shows taking place Sunday through Thursday.  If you are a local you just try to be the first ones there in hopes of snagging one.  If you are a tourist, I wouldn't recommend it, because  you run the chance the show is sold out and that everyone shows up for their tickets, and then you have wasted your time waiting in line.   People stand in long lines outside hoping to that people will not show up for their reservations. If there is room for these sold out events, then they allow those standing in line to come in. But with a capacity of only around 80-90 seats, they get sold out fast.

While we were standing in line, one of the comedians came out to entertain us while we were waiting.  He worked his way down the line doing a few jokes and magic tricks.  It helped pass the time, which wasn't really all that long as I think we were only in line less than a half hour.  Once the ticket holders to the earlier show emptied out, we worked our way in and found the seats we wanted and felt comfortable with.  First, they were close to the bathroom (that is, if you can call it a bathroom -- seriously, a one-seater shared by both sexes, that I have seen closets bigger than this!); second, we got end seats -- so we were not closed in; and third and most importantly, we were what we figured was out of reach for a comedian to pick on us!  You do not want to place yourself in prime real estate reach of a comedian because you know that out of the three of us, one of us would be the target at some point or another.

Next, let me give you a few tidbits of quick info on The Comedy Cellar. 

The Comedy Cellar - the lit-up area is where the comedians performed
The Comedy Cellar is a comedy club in Manhattan, where many top New York comedians perform. It was founded in 1982 by then standup comedian, and current television writer/producer Bill Grundfest. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village at 117 MacDougal Street, the upstairs portion is a restaurant called The Olive Tree Cafe, where many of the comedians hang out after performing. They share the same menu, kitchen, and staff.  Many people eat at the restaurant before attending a show.

The Comedy Cellar uses what is known as a "showcase format," as opposed to a headline format like most clubs. A show will consist of between five and seven comics performing sets of roughly 20 minutes each. 
People Filing in To Find Seats at The Comedy Cellar

Regular performers there include, and maybe you have seen or heard of some or all of these: Colin Quinn, Opie and Anthony co-host Jim Norton, Mitch Fatel, SNL star Darrell Hammond, Dave Attell, Louis C.K., Nick DiPaolo, Artie Lange, Dave Chapelle, and radio host Marc Maron. Also, some rising stars in comedy frequently perform, including Dov Davidoff, Robert Kelly, Sherrod Small, Keith Robinson, Gregg Rogell, and Ben Bailey.  Each week consists of two shows a night on Sunday through Thursday, three shows each Friday, and four shows on Saturday. The New York Post regularly rates the Cellar as the best comedy club in New York.  Musician John Mayer has also been known to dabble in a stand-up comedy performance there occasionally.  We found out that there is always the high probability of unannounced drop-ins by the likes of Dave Chapelle and Robin Williams. Much of Jerry Seinfeld's 2002 documentary Comedian was filmed at the club, and it also can be seen in a 2006 Pepsi commercial starring SNL star Jimmy Fallon. 

There is a two-purchase minimum per person.  But they offer a full bar with beer, mixed drinks and specialty cocktails, plus you could also order something from the upstairs menu which features burgers and wings or snack-type foods.

The Comedy Cellar

Continuing On About Our Cellar Experience:  I did mention before about the bathroom but the surroundings was that of a typical basement, with very low ceilings, dimly lit, and very, very tight quarters.  You could tell from the mixture of the crowd that the majority were probably college-age regulars, but there were those, like me, in the middle age range and also couples who appeared to be out for date night.  With the raucous atmosphere, you are taking your chances if you select this as your first-date night location, though. 

We couldn't take pictures during the show but, as you can see from the pictures above, this shows our seats which were great. We were in the first row right behind the front row which was fantastic because you could see the comedian great, but yet you were not in the immediate front row and getting picked on by the comedian!  A lot of politics and talk of Occupy Wall Street plus good old racial talk across the board. That is what I love about these comedy shows (if you have thin skin you shouldn't go) as this is a no-holds barred show. Every ethnic group and race gets beat up along the way but it is all in good fun.  If it is an African-American comedian, the Caucasian people are barbecued and served up on a platter, and vice-versa. The Middle-Eastern descent gentleman in the picture above (the only one who is facing the camera) definitely picked the wrong seat.  He was fodder for the comedians as they used him as their primary focus for Osama Bin Laden- and terrorist-type jokes.  And, this was when there was a lot going on in the Middle East in the way of territorial-boundary wars, etc. There was also a couple in the first row who were picked on pretty heavily, too.  Then there was the African-American woman with a pretty "heavy" chest, dressed a little too provocative, that also was a constant target.  See -- picking your seat really is something you need to pay close attention, too. 

The comedians we saw were: Andy Hendrickson - from HBO US Comedy Arts Festival, Xm/Sirius, Great American Comedy Festival; Moodi - from Comedy Central's "Tough Crowd", The Howard Stern Show, "Sopranos", Comedy Central; Lee Camp - from Showtime's "The Green Room", Comedy Central's "Fresh Debate", Contributor to "The Onion"; Sherrod Small - writer and actor on the new TBS show "Are We There Yet" which is produced by Ice Cube, "Red Eye" on Fox,  VH-1's "Best Week Ever", Comedy Central's "Tough Crowd", Showtime at the Apollo; and Justin Silver - from NBC "Law and Order" MTV New Year Comedy Special.  I was totally surprised with Justin Silver, as I have seen him regularly on Law and Order and did not realize he did stand-up comedy.  And then, of course, there was the host, Ardie Fuqua, who was just hilarious, too! It was a super night of comedy and I would definitely recommend this to anyone visiting New York City. 
After our 10:00 p.m. show ended, it was announced that since we had already gotten tickets and were there, we were being offered the opportunity to stay for the Midnight "Nasty" show.  Unfortunately, though, since it was already 11:45 p.m., it would have gotten too late for Casey since he had to go to work the next morning.  As those of us who weren't staying filed out, the patiently waiting line outside eagerly were ready to pounce on the empty seats.  You have to be a die-hard fan to wait in line like that, especially in this case since it was raining outside.  And here we were with no umbrellas with us either.  So we made a mad dash to head to the subway for some shelter from the rain. 

Once inside the subway, I found that there is always late night entertainment. 

Drummer in the subway

Music In the Subway: This guy, pictured above, was playing in the subway on our way home back to the hotel (probably around 1:00 a.m.). He was super and was also selling his CD's. He was what was labeled as a one-man E-percussionist.  Riding the subway, I found, can be very entertaining because it seemed there was always someone doing their musical thing along the way, whether it was this one-man band, a 3-person mariachi band that hopped on one car, or mimes that we encountered on one trek that pantomimed to the music.

With the rain still coming down, it was a good thing that our subway exit was just on the other side of our hotel building.  And, due to construction renovations to the facade of our hotel, there was scaffolding set up so we were able to walk underneath that to avoid the rain.  

Once inside our hotel room, Casey was hitting the pillow pretty fast.  I still had to download pictures to Facebook, as promised, so it was nearly 2:30 by the time I climbed under the covers.  

All in all, it was a great night for a dinner and a show! Day 3 of my New York Adventure finally closes.  It has unequivocally been another satisfying day in The Big Apple journey.  Time to turn in, so I say to you. . .Good Night All! Until tomorrow when we start Day 4.

Easter Family Gathering 2012 -- Yes, It Is All Cracked Up To What It Is Supposed To Be

Family holidays -- gotta love them!  I do, I really, really do!  I toil, bake, cook, clean, and run around like a chicken with its head cut off to host a holiday party (or any party for that matter), but I love, love, love doing them and wouldn't have it any other way. 
Centerpiece on my Kitchen Island
This year, as it is every year for Easter (for over 15 years), I hosted my side on Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.  The holiday is made bigger when my sister, Suzi and her family from Minnesota come down, because (due to the distance, obviously) they don't get a chance to spend every holiday with us.  My niece and goddaughter, Kailey, is however, allergic to dogs.  We have Pongo in the house and Wolfie outside.  Due to her allergies, I always make sure besides vacuuming, that I shampoo all my carpets and wash all my throw rugs, to help possibly forgo any problems for her. 

Friday Prep Day: So, Friday brought shampooing carpets, besides the last minute tasks to getting ready.  The tables were set -- this year since another set of good china had been added to my collection, everyone was able to sit down to a total coordinated effort.  I know this sounds trivial, but to me I always am trying to coordinate all -- I'm very anal, if you haven't deduced that by now!  Black tablecloths with Easter table runners, my white china trimmed in gold, gold chargers for the adults, clear goblets, my good silver and gold flatware, and gold and black cloth napkins.  I took out my new and antique soup tureens to place on the tables, along with water pitchers, salt/pepper shakers and also grabbed water and milk pitchers from my collection that coordinated with the table settings.  Once all the napkins were placed on each place setting, I was satisfied with the arrangements, but knew that I had one last minute item that would go on each plate -- that I would wait until my youngest niece, Tabba, to arrive to have her help me with.  
What is left of my adult table setting after we got done eating.  See the new upholstered chairs!
I was up very, very early that morning, but still it seemed my day was slipping away rapidly.  I still had to make the desserts, salads, jello, cupcakes, wash floors and the throw rugs.  Plus, I had to get groceries.  My initial plan was to go early in the morning, but I decided I didn't want to break up my day, meaning that once I got up I wanted to hit the floor running and sweating and didn't want to have to clean up and change to go to the grocery store.  And the lawn needed to be mowed.  Luckily, after serving up a quick lunch to Bob, he agreed to go out and take a whack at the lawn, which has always been my job to do.  One less thing on my list. 
"Kids" Table - this was the centerpiece for their table which contained all the eggs for the hunt (alot missing now)!
Off to Get Groceries: Now, by the time I had gotten all but the desserts made, it was already 6:30.  I quickly cleaned up, changed and was on the road to Monroe by 7:00 p.m.  With two quick stops (okay, they weren't necessarily "quick" but quick as I could get when I am running around), I had the Durango loaded up with groceries and a few other Easter fill-in treats for the baskets.  My new find for this shopping trip was "Kinky Liqueur" which is a blend of distilled vodka, blood oranges, mango and passion fruit.  I glanced at my clock in the car as I turned on the ignition and couldn't believe it was already after 8:30.  My how time flies when you are having fun -- NOT!!  I just simply don't really enjoy grocery shopping anymore -- especially when I am in a rush (which 99.9% of the time when I grocery shop, I am).  

The kids' and Bob's Easter "Baskets"

Late Night: On the way home I called Bob and asked him to turn the oven on, as we were doing a rising crust oven pizza for supper.  I figured that could bake while he and I unloaded groceries.  With the groceries unloaded and a little supper under our belts, I shooed Bob off to bed so I could get down to some serious dessert-making.  My goals: devil's food Easter cupcakes, Better Than Sex dessert and a new find -- Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake.  The latter is the one I have never made before, which is always my personal challenge at each holiday; to find a new dessert and spring it on everyone.  Of course, I hadn't quite read through the whole recipe before and so once I sat down with it to read it in detail, I found it was going to be a little more time-consuming that originally planned.  With all the desserts complete, by 2:30 a.m., I pulled the finished cheesecake out of the oven.  Now I had to let it cool down before putting in the refrigerator.  I decided I needed to sit down on the recliner to maybe get in a quick snooze, so off to la la-land I went for one-half hour.  At 3:00 a.m, I awoke to find that the cheesecake was sufficiently cooled down, at least enough to put in the refrigerator.  Once done, off to bed I went, only to be awaken a little after 4:00 a.m. by a low.  

I dragged myself downstairs and had a quick snack of some milk and cheese and guided myself out of the low; sat down in the recliner for a half hour to read, rest and recovery, and by that time Bob was up.  Time for me to get up and rolling some more.  By 5:00 a.m., I was able to start functioning again, so it was time to put together the other foods that needed to be baked, cooked, etc., and to get some more last minute laundry done.  
My Easter Basket from Casey/Nika; Bob and I also got Easter candy from Brady/Jenne
Unexpected Helper(s): Later that morning with a few Facebook posts, my niece/goddaughter, Maci, decided she would come over to help me finish up getting everything ready.  She said she would be over around 10:00, which was an hour before others were to arrive for appetizers.  When she appeared, she brought four of my five littlest nieces along.  Hmmm...not sure how much that is going to help?  Faced with questions about this and that, I finally sent them to my "kids' entertainment drawer" and told them to grab the sidewalk chalk and they could go outside to play with that.  Next thing I know, they are running back in because Wolfie (who loves anything that is not tied down), took off with one of the bags of chalk.  They chased him but couldn't keep up nor could they find out where he dropped it at.  Well, they still had one container to use.  With Maci working hard, I left her with instructions of what to do next while I went upstairs to get ready. 
Early Arrivals: At 10:40, I heard voices downstairs and realized that my son, Brady, had arrived and also my sister, Suzi, her hubby Greg and littlest angel, Tabba.  As is her nature, Suzi went right to work to help get the last minute things ready, and I called for Tabba to come upstairs so I could put her to work on her little task.  Once we had our kiss-and-hug greeting over, I handed her packages of Peeps and gave her implicit instructions on what to do next.  She was to place one Peep on top of every place setting, in the center of the napkin.  Off my little "current 4-year-old, just-shy-of-a-few-days 5-year-old" went. 

Tabba -- My Little "Peeps" Helper

Once dressed, I came downstairs to find she had indeed done her job well.  She had even rewarded herself with a leftover Peep.  (I am told that giving sugar to children on the morning of a holiday is a forgiven sin! Okay, so maybe I made that up!! But when you come to Aunt Shari's house, I get to treat them to all kinds of goodies!) 

My helpers, Maci and Suzi, were hard at it.  Now here is the funny part.  I can tell everyone appetizers are at 11:00, and no one shows up until noon.  I think, even though my family will claim it is me, that they are all habitual latecomers.  So, when sister Suzi and family showed up even before 11:00, I was surprised, but pleasantly thankful.  I rewarded her by telling her cocktail hour had officially started.
A picture of some of the "hidden" eggs in the back yard
Our family always does an Easter Egg Hunt, weather permitting, and I always let the little ones decorate their own baskets,  pails or whatever I have designated for that year's gathering utensil. This year, I gave them yellow gift bags and had a box full of Easter stickers and markers for them to decorate their own.  This keeps them busy them for a little while.  So I sent them off to the living room to entertain themselves for a bit. 

The rest of the gang slowly started arriving.  The older and younger kids settled into the living room to set up a game of Sorry.  After getting through some appetizers, punch and cocktails, it was time to eat.  With others also bringing food and drink, feast we did.  I am always so glad for the time that we can share as our big family gathers together.  It is not only a time to gobble up food, but catch up with everyone, share their opinions, cackle a little, share remembrances -- that is what family time is all about.

Then it is time for clean up.  We linger a little over an after dinner cocktail or two and slowly start to clean up from the feasting activities.
Serious game of cards - Golf
Spoons: The "older" and "younger" kids then cleaned off their table as once they are done eating, it signals time to play games.  They next come in search of spoons to play a mad game of Spoons.  I have learned through years with them playing Spoons and what could be considered trial-and-error, that they are no longer allowed to use my teaspoons.  They need something with a little more gruff behind them because the teaspoons bend easily -- that is not to say they are cheap spoons.  These are solid spoons, but a game of Spoons at my house with all the cousins gathered together involves the possibility that no one backs down when they grab a spoon and there is a good chance another person has attached their fingers to it, too.  It means that sometimes (as in the case in point between Casey and Brady) someone might be yanked up and lifted across the table in pursuit of the winner of that specific spoon.  (And past history has been that if they are using my teaspoons, they get bent.  The rule now is tablespoons!)

Now, I can also claim from my own experience, that I am just as devoted to claiming a spoon and have yanked people off their chairs in order to win that spoon.  When my Mother plays with the grandkids, she knows what she is in for, but she can be just as steely when it comes to vanquishing a coveted spoon.  They also know there is a chance they will leave the battleground with battle scars such as scratched arms and hands, bruises from being knocked off your chair or skidded across the table.  It runs in the blood, you can see it pumping through their veins, you can see it in their eyes -- we are all Bravehearts playing out Mel Gibson's character in our own quest for the sacred last spoon.  One or two people will go down in each battle and be trampled under in the next ensuing game to finally become the victor in the end -- in my house it is not a sport for the faint of heart!  Before each battle day, these minions pump iron to ready their muscles for the ensuing day's battle. At each gathering, the previous victor is marked with a "Scarlet V" and it is noted that they will be the first to go down.  Chests are thumped, there are screams of failure and delight, and egos stroked and deflated. The tales of games past are relived only to be consumed by the newest game at hand where fresh stories are created to regale at the next gathering when again they converge in search of the highest honor -- the last person standing with a spoon in their hand!  At the end of the day, though, the combatants shake hands and walk away from the table . . . usually only to gather up the cards for the next battle at hand -- a game or two of card games of different sorts . . . a little quieter but none the less competitive.
From young to older, the kids love their card games as much as they love playing Spoons
Clean Up Duty: While the kids are off vying for the imaginary golden belt, the adults find time to sit back and gab a bit.  But dishes need to be done, so we are also stacking, clearing off, washing and drying the good china.  My brother-in-law, Wes, always has two duties when he comes to my house.  First, before the meal, if he is early enough, he carves the meat(s) for me.  Second, after the meal, he also does scrap duty.  We give him ice cream pails of the leftovers scrapped off the plates and he dutifully takes them outside to dump them over the fence.  Our cats and dogs adore Wes.  To them he is the Master of Scraps. The feline and canine animals around our farm know when it is a holiday or a party.  Once they see the cars pull in, they know it is going to be a feast day and they will usually begin to gather on the front steps in anticipation.  When the white ice cream pail comes outside loaded with scraps, you become the Pied Piper of O'Connor Dairy.  Wherever you go, they will follow!
Wes; Strawberries and; Cream Cheesecake; Kinky Liqueur- Yes, that's my martini glass with some Kinky in it!
Easter Egg Hunt: While we are cleaning up, the kids have now broken up into two groups.  The older ones, who are the Easter Egg Hunt egg-fillers, and the younger ones, who are the patiently-waiting-seeking-to-get-as-many-eggs-as-possible hunters.  The rain has held off, so that bodes well for the Hunt, but it is starting to sprinkle, so once the eggs are filled, the older kiddies head outside to plant them around the back yard.
The After-Math: Clean up means everything gets washed and set on the dining room table for me to put away in its appropriate spot or hutch.
The five younger ones have to be threatened a few times as they jostle for a peak or two out the windows to figure out their own plan of action.  Once we get them lined up at the front door, we decided that Maci had better grab Tabba and take her out first.  One, so she can get a head start against the older girls, and two, so she doesn't get trampled by the stampede of sisters and cousins.  It is all for yourself, if you drop it, you lose it; unless it is Tabba's and then it is off limits.  One day she will have to apply that same courtesy to her younger cousins when they are able to run around with the rest of them.
Niece Kailey Picking Eggs
Once the rain begins to fall a little harder and we have determined that all the eggs have been gathered, it is time to go inside to open up the treasures.  I holler at the girls to head out to the living room where they can dump out their finds.  That is the moment when Nika warns me that maybe this is not a good idea.  "Why" said I.  After some evil eyes given to her by me (my renown interrogation techniques), she finally spills the beans that maybe some of the egg contents are not suitable to be dumped onto the carpet.  Oh, boy! This isn't the first year this has happened and it certainly won't be the last!  Opening Easter Eggs from the Easter Egg Hunt can sometimes be filled with "little" surprises.

Niece Kelsey opening her findings

What's In that Egg? In years past, the older kids have found it amusing to throw some oddities into the mix by putting a few items into the eggs that you wouldn't normally find.  This year there was a strawberry and a grape or two that found their way off the fruit tray into an egg or two or three, and besides opened empty candy wrappers, there were also a couple filled with . . . powdered sugar.  Oh no!  Did someone just say that little Tabitha found one of those and is opening it?  Too late! As Maci was helping her, Casey decided to help even further and a puff of powdered sugar exploded out wherein those two decided it was time to shower each other with powdered sugar.  Never mind the mess that it created everywhere else!  Kids -- they never grow up! I was quickly able to put a kibosh to what could have been a powdered sugar bath by quite a few of the kids.  Never a dull moment!
Nieces Brooke (L) and Autumn (R) with their eggs

Aw www . . . just wouldn't be a holiday around our place without a few antics stealing some moments!  But that is okay, because the kids grow up so fast . . . and then again . . . sometimes they don't.