In Remembrance

Ten years and this is what stands there now.  The memorial was unveiled yesterday. New buildings are going up. The memorial museum will open a year from now. The rest is hoped to be done by 2013, including the “Freedom Tower,” which will be 1,776 feet high – the tallest building in America.

It’s starting to look like part of the city again, at least to my visitor’s eyes. There’s no longer a pit there, as there was two years ago when I last visited.  Tours pass beside it, usually with the guide holding up a brightly colored umbrella or such to lead her flock.  Vendors sell “programs.” People stop to look at the construction, remember, and photograph the area. Some even pose before the camera, smiling with the new buildings behind them. This last action, no matter how wrong it seems, best shows just how much time has passed.

Ten years. Every year when this day comes around, it feels so recent. It’s still raw. (And this coming from someone who didn’t lose anyone in the horror. As far as I know, it wasn’t even close. I can’t hold a candle to those whose 9/11 was much more personal.) But then tomorrow rolls around, and life goes back to normal.

It was strange when we realized that we’d be out East on the tenth anniversary. We discussed going into the city today, try to attend a memorial in honor of those lost, but ultimately decided against it, for various reasons.

Instead, we spent the day out on the Atlantic. But more on that later. Right now, it’s important to remember.

Posted in East Coast

Walden Pond

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” – Thoreau

Walden Pond. Frankly, I understand why Thoreau decided to live beside it.

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Posted in East Coast

Concord – a taste

Here’s a taste of what Anya and I have been surrounded by since yesterday evening. We should have a more in-depth look in the next day or two.

Orchard House - the home of Louisa May Alcott (this is where Little Women was set)

A replica of Thoreau's Cabin on Walden Pond

Walden Pond

Posted in East Coast

Mark Twain

Mark Twain. One of America’s most beloved authors. I could go on, but would probably only be repeating what you already know. So, instead, here are a few fun facts:

  • His iconic white suit was actually a symbol of mourning. Being a world-traveler (many times over), he was familiar with the Indian custom of wearing white when mourning. After his wife died, the white suit became a staple of his wardrobe. Not an everyday thing, but worn enough to become one of his trademarks
  • Mark Twain loved billiards.  So much so, he had balls and cues painted on the ceiling of his study, where the table was kept.  Because of this, he kept his desk facing the wall, so to keep from being distracted.

  • He specifically instructed for his house to be decorated with black and orange (he preferred the word “vermillion”) brick. Why? To confound the neighbors.
Posted in East Coast

A New York State of Mind

The Strand. One of my favorite places in New York. Their tag line is “18 miles of books.” It is wonderful.

New York is a very interesting place, to put it mildly. Especially when it involves Coloradans like us.  The endless subways. The inability to tell which direction you’re headed each time you pop out of said subway (unless you know what you’re doing; Anya has done all navigating this trip – she’s on top of things). The flocks of yellow taxis. The mass of people everywhere.  All these things cannot be found in Denver.  The biggest difference, however, is the attitude.

Colorado is laid back.  New York is intense.

Coloradans start sentences with “Well…”  New Yorkers say “Look-“

Certain Coloradans (who shall remain nameless) have procrastination down to an art form.  New Yorkers don’t dare hesitate for a moment.

It makes for a very interesting combination.

There isn’t much to say about our last days here. Unlike last time, we mainly spent them wandering around the less touristy places, to get a better feeling for the city. This mostly consisted of heading to local shops in different areas while trying not to get run over by taxis, bicycles, and fellow humans.  We succeeded once again, I am happy to report. All limbs are accounted for.  Tomorrow we’ll be heading back North to more quiet areas of the country. Are feet look forward to the rest.

On an unrelated note, driving out here is an adventure.  Not just because the East Coast intensity causes special things to happen when put behind the wheel.  There are road signs that say things like “cars may not pick up disengaging passengers.”  Tolls are abundant; I’m not used to having to pay to enter a highway.  But my all time favorite was the stop sign at the end of the on-ramp to a freeway, requiring you to go from 0 – 55 mph in what seems like ten feet before entering New York traffic.  A whole new level of merging fun.

Posted in East Coast

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

To give this year’s trip a semblance of guidance, Anya and I decided to focus on literary destinations.  How much this focus ended up influencing our final plans is hard to say, but we will be touring several houses of a literary nature. Today, we stopped at Washington Irving’s house, known as Sunnyside.

Just outside of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, it was once a farm that Irving bought and redesigned himself.  He placed the house in just such a way that you really can’t see if from the top of the hill…

…unless you’re standing in the right spot.  From the original road that leads to the front door, it can’t be seen at all until you’re almost to the front door.

The road leading to and the grounds surrounding the house still look like they did in the 19th century, when Irving lived and died there.

Everything looks rather overgrown; there aren’t any highly manicured gardens or such around.  However, Irving landscaped the entire place.  This was originally all pasture, but he wanted it to be like the rugged forests, so he planted the groves of trees all around the house.  There’s a little pond further up. You’d never guess it wasn’t all natural.

According to the tour guide, Irving designed the house and grounds in the Romantic style? As I’m not artistically or architecturally minded, I still have no idea what he meant by that. But the house is a fantastic mishmash of designs.  The tower on the right is Spanish. The windows are Dutch. The chimney is British. The back porch is Italian. And to top it all off, it’s covered in wonderful explosion of ivy. What is it about ivy-covered houses?

There is a railroad that runs right along those wires.  When Irving needed to go into New York City, he could walk right down there and flag down a passing train.  I never knew this about him, but apparently he was one of the most loved people of his time. One of the first celebrities, as it were.  He was also the first American to make a living off of writing. Many famous people visited him here, including Charles Dickens…and pretty much every other famous writer from that time. Five presidents too.

Sadly, photography isn’t allowed inside the house.  It doesn’t look very big, but there are ten bedrooms in this “cottage.” As large as it is, however, “cottage” seems right, as the entire place is very cozy. And it remains much like it was when Irving died in 1859.  Right up to the shelves of books in his study. (Which made my inner archivist excited. Sadly, I couldn’t get close enough to read the labels.)  I would move in right now, but I think the museum might have a problem with that.

Posted in East Coast

“I had wandered into it at noon time…”

“From  the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants…this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of  SLEEPY HOLLOW…”

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Posted in East Coast

Chicago-Midway: Land of the bar

10:11 AM.

We’ve been up for 6 hours all ready. There’s something wrong in that. As I type, we are sitting in the B concourse of the Chicago-Midway airport. There’s a lone baggage cart outside our window, waiting for the airplane to arrive. Hopefully our bags are in it. If not, I hope they enjoy Charleston, which is where our last plane was headed.

The thing that really jumps out at you while here, aside from the closed “For Emergency Only” doors framing either side of the walkways (In case of emergency, avoid the large open space. Use doors.), is the availability of beer. For example, for breakfast, we ate at a place called “Let Them Eat Cake Bar, Bakery, and Cafe.” Which of these things does not belong?

Posted in Traveling

San Francisco Snippet: Stella’s!

Let me introduce you to the best dessert in the world.  Let me stress that. The. Best. Granted, I haven’t been able to put this theory to the test just yet, but anything that makes you do a happy dance with each bite has a fair chance of holding that title.

This, my friends, is known as an Ovali. A pastry consisting mostly of raspberry filling and a custard which your taste buds will thank you for. (Your hips, not so much. But don’t worry, they’ll be too distracted by the multitude of hills they’ve been forced to climb to notice until later. Besides, you’re on vacation. Ignore those spoilsport hips.)

To top it all off, the puff pastry is covered in two different kinds of sugar. “Yum” doesn’t begin to cover it.

I have only found this pastry in one place…so far. In the midst of North Beach (the Italian section of San Francisco), there is a small place called Stella Pastry.  Everything I’ve tasted there as been delicious, but you already know what I’d recommend. So, should you be in the neighborhood…

Posted in San Francisco

San Francisco Snippet: introduction

San Francisco.

What is it about this city that draws people so?  Why have I never heard anyone say they did not enjoy a vacation to the City by the Bay? I’m sure each would have their own answer to that.  The picturesque nature of the place. The attractions. The weather.  Pick a feature.

For my part, San Francisco has always been as much my home as Colorado is. I was born there, and have returned for a time almost every year since.  As such, I’ve gotten to know both the touristy and the not so well known places of the city pretty well, and I’d like to share them with you. Snippets of a city you should visit if you ever get the chance.

Posted in San Francisco