Monthly Archives: November 2019

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World/New York University 15 East 84th Street New York, NY 10028

Don’t miss this little ‘gem’ of a museum down the block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is fun to discover these small gallery museums that the University’s run.

Visiting a Museum: Small, Medium & Large

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World/New York University

15 East 84th Street

New York, NY  10028

(212) 992-7800/Fax (212) 992-7809

http://www.isaw.nyc.edu

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d1572637-Reviews-Institute_for_the_Study_of_the_Ancient_World-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I just happened to stumble across this museum on the way back from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw that they were having an exhibition entitled “A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate”. The exhibition is on the craftsman who created the ‘Ishtar Gate’ and the ‘Processional Way’ in the Ancient City of Babylon.

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Glazed brick art from the ‘Processional Way’

The small exhibition contains many examples of clay bricks that were used to build the decorative walls and pathways, artwork from the ‘Processional Way’ were displayed as well as smaller decorative art pieces from the time period.

Institute of Ancient Studies III

Some of the works in the exhibition

The exhibition also showed tablets from the time period, information on…

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Day One Hundred and Forty-Nine Visiting the Hudson River Valley for Fall Events and to see the foliage September and October 2019

I have been travelling up to the Hudson River Valley much more than usual this Fall. There has been so much going on between the events up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds since the Fair in August and all the of the ‘Mansion Hopping’ and visiting to historical sites for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”,  which I have been concentrating on building over the Summer and Fall. I have been visiting on most weekends between September and the end of October.

Travelling up to the Hudson River Valley in the fall is an amazing time. Because of the lack of rain over the summer, the foliage turned much earlier than it usually does and the trees starting turning yellow and red in the end of September and beginning of October as opposed to last year and the year before where it was more the end of October and middle of November.

I started my journey up to Dutchess County right after the Dutchess County Fair at the end of August and continued through the end of October for Halloween events. I had bought a small Santa from a woodcarver for a small Mother’s Day present for my mom and she absolutely loved it so I had to seek him out again at events through the next three months. He was tough to find.

My first trip Upstate was for the Cornell-Marist Football game on September 21st. Because I have to teach college on Saturday mornings I left for the game later in the afternoon and I got to Marist College during the beginning of the second quarter.

The Marist College campus off Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is one of the nicest college campuses I have been to in a while. The campus sits right on the Hudson River and the nice part is that the football stadium is located right off the highway so as I was driving in I could see what was going.

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Big Red Football

Long story short it was not the greatest football game I had ever been to and we won 21-7. Cornell University has not invested in its football team the way it should and it was like watching two high school teams play.  The funny part was that Marist College and Cornell University have the same school colors so it was hard to see who was rooting for who in the stadium.

The one nice thing about the stadium is that on the other side of the stands of the stadium that Marist has lawn sitting and that is the best way to watch the game. It was also about 85 degrees that afternoon so it was the perfect football weather and I got tan while watching the game.

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Sitting on the lawn side of the field is the best place to sit

After the game was over, I decided to explore the campus. God, the Marist College campus is gorgeous. The campus has expanded over the years since I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and our campus was beautiful as well. Marist College has rolling hills, lush green lawns and the most amazing view of the Hudson River. People should just visit the campus to walk around. The foliage was just starting to turn so the view of the river and the hills that surround it was spectacular.

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Homecoming and Reunion Weekend at Marist College

The next weekend I was back Upstate again to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck for Oktoberfest. This interesting event was the smaller of the two events that I attended at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds after the Annual Fair in August. This was a smaller craft event that took up one section of the fairgrounds mostly where the craft exhibition space had been during the fair and the rides were located. I had gotten this event and the Sheep & Wool event later in the month mixed up and the wood carver was not there (later when I did meet up with him at the Sheep & Wool Festival he said that he was not invited). Still I stayed and explored the fairgrounds on this warm sunny day.

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Along the main path, there were all sorts of arts and crafts vendors and gourmet food vendors selling their wares and there were a few food vendors towards the back of the event but the lines were so long that I decided to eat outside the fairgrounds. So I took a trip up to Red Hook, NY which is located just north of the fair grounds and had lunch at Village Pizza III at 7594 North Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some lunch.

The food at this Village Pizza is just excellent and so reasonable as well! I had the most delicious Calzone ($6.95) that was just loaded with mozzarella, Parmesan and Ricotta cheese and was a gooey delight with every bite. Their red sauce that I have mentioned in my of my Upstate New York blogs, is just excellent. Well spiced and loaded with flavor.

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Village Pizza III is just excellent for lunch and dinner

I came back two weeks later for the Sheep and Wool Festival which was a whole different experience. The Sheep and Wool Festival which takes place the third week of October was a much bigger festival, larger than Oktoberfest but just a little smaller then the Fair. It was a lot of fun walking through the rows of yarn, specialty crocheted and knitted hats, blankets and baby items plus all the handcrafted items for the upcoming holidays.

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The Sheep and Wool Festival

I did find the wood carver, Joe Gleeson,  on this trip and was able to buy to small Santa’s that he had in stock. It seemed that he had a good sell through at the Dutchess County Fair and there was not much left and he was just trying to keep up. I love Mr. Gleeson’s surrealist designed Santa’s. After making that purchase, I walked all over the fairgrounds looking over the displays and all the crafts people. There were a lot of interesting vendors offering the most beautiful and interesting items.

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Carapace Farm Puppetry by Susannah White

Mr. Gleeson has the most beautiful wooden carvings of Santa’s, Elf’s and Snowman. Bonnie’s Beast’s offered the most creative felt and knit play animals from felt wool. Artist Patricia McGarth created homemade all natural doggie treats that tasted like an all natural cracker. They were not bad to eat for a human. Utopia Bath Ltd. has an interesting bath line and lotions. Artist Susannah White builds and creates puppets through her Carapace Farm Puppetry. She carries the most interesting hand and finger puppets and masks. Artist JoAnn Clark is a fiber artist who specializes in Needle felted folk art. She created the most interesting animal art and figurines. Ameila McIsaac created flowering art through her Flowering Art Homestead company.

 

Sheep and Wool Festival

The sheep were surprisingly friendly

For lunch, I discovered that Janken’s, the Food Truck vendor I had eaten lunch at during the Fair was at this festival as well and I made the ‘B-Line’ to have lunch there. For $15.00,  I got their special again. This was a half pound freshly ground beef patty that was juicy in the center and caramelized on the outside. Then they top it with Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Glazed Ham, Pulled Pork and homemade pickles with a side of freshly made potato-cheese porgies cooked in butter and sweet onions with a side of sour cream. Okay, yes it is not for the cholesterol minded person but I eat this twice a year and do I enjoy it. I walked the Fairgrounds twice just to work it off.

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Do not miss the Hamburger and pirogi special at Jayken’s Food Truck

After the time at the Sheep and Wool Festival, it was next to the ‘Pie and Punch Evening” at the Kearney House in the Palisades Interstate Park. I had been to the Kearney House two weeks early on a Sunday but it was closed due to a Square Dance fundraiser they were running so I saw this on the Internet and thought it sounded fun (Please see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house would all be lit by candles and fireplaces as there is no electricity in the house. What could be nicer?

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Kearney House lit by candlelight

Well just to let all you readers know that the Palisades Interstate Park is closed after dusk and does not reopen until it is light out the next day and there are NO lights either on the roads going down the hill to the basin or in the parking lot. When I mean the park is pitch black, it is pitch black. I thought this was dangerous since the road leading to the basin is very steep, not much of a barrier along the cliff side and no lights on the signs. Let’s just leave this that there was a small boulder that I did not see and it did not get out of my way. The next hour in the park was not fun!

After I calmed down and was an hour late for the event, everyone could not have been nicer to me at the get together. Once I relaxed and had some hot spiced punch and a few pieces of pie and some cheese I calmed down. The boulder aside, it was a very nice event and I had a good time.

The Kearney House is an old Revolutionary aged home that had been used by the Kearney family as Inn and resting place for sailors and shippers using the Hudson River back when it was bustling with trade. The family ended up selling it before WWI and it was bought by the parks system. The division that runs the Kearney House and fundraisers for its upkeep run these themed events.

The house was all lit up by candlelight in both rooms and both fireplaces were roaring when I got in the room. It was the pies that calmed me down. They offered three different pies, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple and Pumpkin that were from a bakery in Closter, NJ and were ‘out of this world’ delicious. The apple pie had the sweetest filling and tasted like pears were baked into it along with the apples. The strawberry rhubarb had a tangy-tart sweet filling to it and the pumpkin had a nicely baked creamy almost custard like filling all with this amazingly buttery crust. This is the type of pie that can make you forget all of your problems.

Kearny House

Kearney House story telling

On the table as well were wedges of sharp cheese and accompanying breads, roasted peanuts, ice cold water and served to you by volunteers in period costume. If I had not been so shaken when I entered the house (and of course the couple who helped me with the car told everyone at the party what happened so everyone was extra nice to me) and all the volunteers who helped with the event had not been so nice, it could have been a bad night.

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The house lit by candle light and by the fireplace

Still there was a tour of the house both upstairs and into the attic, a musician playing songs and then a half hour of story telling all by the glow of candle and fire light that made the evening special. I ended up having a nice time talking to the other guests and getting to eat the endless slices of pie.

I left a little better than I arrived but I will tell you two things: I am NEVER going into this park again after dark, so matter what the event is and that was the last time I set foot in the Kearny House. It was so dark in the parking lot when I left I almost tripped on the barrier on side the of it.

My next trip up to the Hudson River that next Sunday lead me to Beacon, NY to visit Pollepel Island/Bannerman Castle Island and to visit the mysterious castle in the middle of the Hudson River (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had talked about visiting Beacon, NY in my other blogs for the Third Thursday Shopping nights during the holidays and my visit to the DIA-Beacon in VisitingaMuseum.com.

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Bannerman Island

When visiting Bannerman Island please remember that it is open seasonally and opens in later April and closes at the end of October so you have to plan your trip there accordingly. I got there the last Sunday it was open and please note that you do need advanced reservations to go to the island. I lucked out as there was two trips out to the island that day and there had been a cancellation that afternoon and I was able to make the boat trip.

The trip was on somewhat rough waters as it was a gloomy day with the sun peaking out only at the end of the tour. When we got to the island, we landed at the small dock and then had to walk up over 70 steps to the landing  at the top of the hill. It wasn’t hard but hardly ADA compliant. We had excellent tour guide who knew the whole history of the island from when the family bought the island in 1900 to when the sons sold the island in the 1950’s.

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The Bannerman Castle was actually an armory for munitions for the Bannerman company. Francis Bannerman IV bought the island to store his inventory of his military supply business and the items were stored there awaiting shipping to all over the world.

The castle itself had partially blown up in the 1920’s when the munitions caught fire and then in turn burned in 1969 and  the interiors were destroyed. Recently part of the wall to the castle collapsed so the building is now being held up by metal rods to prevent further collapse.

The tour took us up the path toward the former arsenal so we could take a better look which is pretty dramatic sitting by the water with the vegetative growth around it. Mrs. Bannerman had once had the whole area landscaped with an exotic garden. Now that part is all growth and weeds.

Travelling up the path from the ‘castle’, we walked up the path that had been landscaped by the local garden clubs who have been put in charge of landscaping the old paths and gardens leading to the family mansion at the top of the hill. The mansion is going through a renovation so there is not much to see but there is a small gift shop inside and the history in the building. The outside of the mansion is being landscaped and used for theater show, movie nights and concerts. The views of the river are spectacular.

Bannerman Mansion view

The view from the mansion on top of the hill

We exited down the back path and saw more interesting views of the Hudson River. There are more gardens on the way down and we heard more of the history of the island in that it was closed off until recently and was only visited by kayakers and adventurers. The island is now open for all sorts of activities.

On our way back, the tour guides gave us their own take on visiting the island which was pretty funny. They run these tours and can’t believe how mesmerized people are by buildings that were falling apart.

As we took the boat ride back to the dock in Beacon, I noticed that the foliage had an unusual line to it up on the hill. It was dead towards the top of the hill and the rest of the trees were combination of yellow and green. The tour guide said that an unusual early frost hit the trees and the ones at the top of the hill had already gone dormant.

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It was unusual foliage in Beacon, New York

For the rest of the afternoon, I explored downtown Beacon and all the innovative stores and trendy restaurants. I ended up though eating at a Pizza and Stuff II Pizzeria at 339 Main Street. The pizza there is delicious. Those trendy restaurants prices are ridiculous and I am not too sure how the locals afford some of these places.  Still it is a beautiful and quaint downtown with nice businesses set in the distance of the Hudson River mountains. The foliage around the town sets the tone.

As Halloween approaches, there will be more to do and see. Check out my blog on Halloween Again 2019.

 

 

 

 

Places to eat:

Village Pizza III

7514 North Broadway

New York, NY  12571

(845) 758-5808

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Village-Pizza-III/113437418688745

Open:  Sunday 1:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-11:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48473-d819096-Reviews-Village_Pizza_III-Red_Hook_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Janken’s Food Truck

Not much information but there are at the Fairgrounds during events

 

Pizza and Stuff II

339 Main Street

Beacon, NY  12508

(845) 838-2222

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g47291-d5510044-Reviews-Pizza_and_Stuff_II-Beacon_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Dutchess County Fairgrounds

6636 Route 9

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-4000

http://dutchessfair.com/dutchess-fair/general-info/

(Open for Seasonal Events)

 

Marist College Campus

3399 North Road

Poughkeepsie, NY  12601

(845) 575-3000

https://www.marist.edu/

 

The Kearney House/Alpine Landing

Palisade Interstate Park

Alpine, NJ  07624

(201) 768-1360  ext. 108

https://www.njpalisades.org/kearney.html

Open: The Kearney House is open seasonally usually weekend from 1:00pm-4:00pm; closed for the season except for special events. Please visit their website.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g29743-d19332567-Reviews-Kearny_House-Alpine_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3519

 

Bannerman Island

Pollepel Island

Newburg, NY/Beacon, NY

(845) 237-2326

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47508-d2252346-Reviews-Bannerman_Castle-Cold_Spring_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48254-d2091254-Reviews-Bannerman_Cruise_Walking_Tour-Newburgh_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3554

 

Vendors to seek out at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds:

 

JoAnn Clark, Fiber Artist Needle Felted Folk Art

woolwoman4U@embarqmail.com

(724) 735-4637

 

Joe Gleeson, Woodcarver

Gleesa@optonline.net

(845) 229-8458

 

Susannah White, Carapace Farm Puppetry

carapacefarm.com/carapacefarm@gmail.com

(716) 464-0931

 

Bonny’s Beasts & Birds

http://www.bonnysbeasts.com

 

Utopia Bath Ltd.

http://www.utopiabathltd.com/www.utopiabathltd.etsy.com

 

Amelia McIsaac, Floweringheart Homestead

(518) 821-4769

Ameliafloweringheart@gmail.com

 

Patricia McGrath, Laughing Paw Farm

http://www.laughingpawfarm.com/info@laughingpawfarm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of the Marist-Cornell Football Game:

 

Lester’s 1534 Second Avenue New York City, NY 10021

Don’t miss the seasons at Lester’s, a true Upper East Side Institution.

Little Shop on Main Street

Lester’s
1534 Second Avenue
New York City, NY 10021
(212) 734-9292

Home

Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-7:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm/Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm

Five Locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Greenvale, Rye Brook and Westport, CT

I came across Lester’s, a clothing store for children’s, teens and adults when I was walking around the Upper East Side on ‘Day One Hundred & Four’ on my blog “MywalkinManhattan” when I walked this section of the Upper East Side. I saw crowds of school kids coming in and out of the store with their parents and stopped in for look.

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Don’t miss the children’s section

What I discovered was a store that almost sets the tone for what most people would think the Upper East Side teen might want for school, summer camp and casual wear. The store was stocked with all sorts of jeans, tops and shoes for the toddler to teens alike. There are Layette sets for infants…

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Wah Fung Number One Fast Food 79 Chrystie Street New York, NY 10002

Don’t miss the excellent roasted meats at this Chinatown hole in the wall restaurant!

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Wah Fung Number One Fast Food

79 Chrystie Street

New York, NY  10002

(212)

Open:

Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00am-7:00pm/Closed Mondays

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4355773-Reviews-Wah_Fung_Fast_Food-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I have visited Wah Fung Number One Fast Food Restaurant several times on recommendations from YouTube and reviews on TripAdvisor . It is considered to be one the best restaurants in New York City for Chinese Roast Pork and one of the cheapest (see my reviews on TripAdvisor).

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Wah Fung has a simple menu

This tiny hole in the wall restaurant is located across the street from Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, a thin strip of park that separates Chinatown from the Lower East Side. The lines for food that are mentioned online are no exaggeration. The two times I visited during the week the lines were about ten deep but move very quickly. Everyone takes the food to go.

The food is wonderful if you like simple Chinese cooking. They have…

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Sun Sai Gai 220 Canal Street New York, NY 10013

Don’t miss Sun Sai Gai for afternoon snacks.

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Sun Sai Gai

220 Canal Street

New York, NY  10013

(212) 964-7256

Hours: 7:00am-8:30pm

http://www.sunsaigai.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d534662-Reviews-Sun_Sai_Gai-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Sun Sai Gai is a small restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. I have been coming here for years after discovering their selection of buns for sale for between $1.00-$1.50. Two of these buns are the perfect quick meal or afternoon snack. I love both their Roast Pork Baked Bun ($1.20) and their Steamed Pork Bun ($1.00). Both are soft buns that are loaded with sweet roast pork. They are huge and flavorful and I have always found them to be fresh (See review on TripAdvisor). They are a great snack when walking on the street.

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The roast pork buns are excellent

Another recommendation on the sweet side is their Custard Buns ($1.00) and their Egg Tarts ($1.00), both of which are on the savory/sweet side. The custard buns are…

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Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill 104 State Park Road Chester, NJ 07930

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill, Bakery & Farm Store

104 State Park Road

Chester, NJ  07930

(908) 879-6593

http://www.njcidermill.com

Open: Thursday-Sunday-10:00am-5:00pm/Closed Tuesday-Wednesday

Review on TripAdvisor and link to their site:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46355-d3512231-Reviews-Hacklebarney_Farm_Cider_Mill-Chester_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Don’t miss this New Jersey institution tucked in the corner near the entrance of Hacklebarney State Park, one of the most beautiful and underrated parks in New Jersey. Just driving down State Park Road brings me back in time to the mid-1970’s when we used to stop at the farm for apple cider. My mom always liked to have it in the house to serve with dinner when we were growing up. The best part is that they still press their own.

Coming to Hacklebarney Cider Mill Farm is a step back into the rural era of New Jersey and the family that runs the farm respects its history and does not treat it like a theme park like the…

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Day One Hundred and Fifty Two: Reading the Prologue to “Love Triangles”, Book Two in my New York Trilogy at ‘The Author’s Spotlight’ at the Hasbrouck Heights Library October 7th, 2019

On the evening of October 7th, 2019, I did my second book reading of my up coming novel, Book Two in my New York Trilogy (the first being “Firehouse 101” published in 2005), “Love Triangles”. This is the story of Wharton Business Senior and Retailer Alan Balantine-Garfinckel adventure into New York City for the Christmas Holiday season working at Steinman’s Department Store.

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Justin Watral, Author and Blogger

(Author Justin Watral at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2012 promoting Book One “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005).

Alan who finds love while working in New York City gets more than he bargained for when while choosing between falling in love with his girlfriend, his best friend and a fantasy Champion figure skater his world is turned upside down when a mysteries rodeo cowboy enters the picture. How will true love conquer all?

Steinman's Department Store

Steinman’s Department Store’s first floor that mesmerized Alan Ballantine-Garfinckel

I read the beginning of my novel to a room full of hopeful authors and their friends at the Hasbrouck Heights Library in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.

Steinman's Department Store II

Steinman’s Department Store at Christmas: Their first floor chandeliers

 

Here is the Prologue to my upcoming novel, “Love Triangles”.  I hope you all enjoy it and will buy the book:

 

Prologue

She came back to campus and now I have to flee, Alan thought. It was never easy confronting an old girlfriend and Alan didn’t want to start now. He took the coward approach and decided to leave campus. Not a good move in this bad economy but he decided it was time to leave Philly.  Alan and his best friend, Jerry were winding their way through the career fair on the University of Pennsylvania campus for most of the morning without much luck.  After over a decade of knowing one another, Jerry still acted like the whiny undergraduate Alan had known his freshman year.

“I can’t believe that they’re going through with it,” Jerry exclaimed as they passed the tables of recruiters. “They must be kidding themselves. They have known each other for almost forty years. God, my mother is such a shit. She is always pulling things like this! Why does she have to divorce the guy now?”

Alan did not want to discuss this any further having problems of his own to deal with at the moment. He had known Jerry’s parents for years and they never seemed happy. Jerry’s mother was a self-centered bitch, who always wanted things her own way regardless of everyone else’s feelings. Jerry’s father had gone along with it for years, her demeaning his every move. While vacationing in Europe, he caught her cheating with another man. It was the last straw in their marriage and Jerry knew it.

Jerry’s parents were now trying to get a quickie divorce while still in Europe. Jerry was flying abroad at the end of the semester to try to talk some sense into the two of them. Alan was grasping with his own issues. After losing his long term job at Sears when they closed his store as part of the downsizing, he had decided to go back to Penn and study at Wharton. His father wanted him to come into the family consulting business and Alan wanted to delay that as long as possible. His mother provided the excuse by recommending that he apply to Penn, where she had been a professor since their move to Philly years earlier. He knew he needed to get off campus. His ex-girlfriend was returning.

Christine and he had started dating as underclassmen. She had played center and had been the co-captain of Penn’s Women’s Basketball team and had been Alan’s girlfriend throughout most of his junior and senior years. There were a lot of things that Alan had been attracted by, her blond hair, her green eyes and a winning smile that lit up a room. After they clobbered Harvard for a share of the Ivy League title their junior year, with Christine leading the way, Alan had met her by approaching her afterwards to congratulate her on the winning basket.

Alan had always tried to put Christine on some sort of pedestal that even she could not understand. Their relationship had been strained from the beginning. By their senior year, as he watched her defend the Ivy League Women’s Basketball title, he knew that the relationship had cooled. Christine had told teammates she didn’t know if she was winning the championship for the team or to keep the relationship going. It struck anyone who knew them as odd as they always seemed like the happy couple.

Now over a decade later, she was returning to coach the team she lead to two championships and a second berth to the NCAA’s. In that time, she had also played professional basketball for New York and had been on the Olympic team, winning a gold medal in the Summer Games. Even with all that, none of it impressed Alan enough to rekindle the relationship. He just wanted a fresh start.

Too many people were entering the business school without any concept of what they wanted to do with the degree once they got it. The economy was a wreck but Alan knew there might be something out there that would give him a break from school. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to do when he graduated the next year and didn’t want to have other younger students around to remind him of it.

“I know why you are leaving and it has nothing to do with Christine,” Jerry said as they rounded the corner looking for the Ritz-Carlton booth. “You can’t blame her for not being champion skater. Alan, that was a decade ago. You think you would have gotten over all that years ago. You built Christine up to be something she wasn’t and then you fucked the whole thing up. Ironically, here she is a decade later an Olympic champion herself and you still don’t care.”

“Shut up Jerry,” Alan said, not believing what he was hearing.

This was from a person who was a virgin until he was 38 and never had a serious girlfriend his whole life. The only reason why he even lost his virginity was that he saw the movie, “40 Year Old Virgin” on cable and did not want to have himself labeled the same.

Jerry knew the truth behind the breakup and couldn’t believe that after all these years Alan still harbored the same crush. Years earlier, when everyone else was glued to the TV for the controversy in figure skating scoring and medals that were shuttled to appease different countries and fighting skaters, Alan fell in love. When the skater had taken the ice, Alan wondered who she was and why everyone applauded her so much. When she finished her short program, the whole arena went wild.

It was what happened when she looked up and smiled. Alan’s heart raced and he knew that was the woman for him. It was her spunk, her determination and the look in her eyes of great accomplishment. The commentators were going wild with her performance and you could hear the boos in the background with her marks, which later everyone commented were too low for her performance.

The sports announcer said that she had done it to prove to herself that she could accomplish her goal of returning to skating and coming back to land the jump that made her famous a decade earlier. She showed such grace and dignity that even Alan felt it did not deserve the third place finish. She really deserved the gold!

It was later on in a documentary that Alan realized that she had not wanted to go to the Olympics. ‘I had already been there’, she commented and she wanted to give someone else a shot at competing there. Magazines hailed her as a great sportswoman and represented finally what was good in competition. She may not have won the event that night but she won the hearts of everyone who liked a comeback kid. It was the moment that Alan developed a major crush on skater, Darlene Durbin, the ‘Queen of the Quadruple’.

“That has been your problem for years, Alan,” Jerry explained as they walked. “You have held every woman you have ever met to that peak. In your eyes, no one is good enough, including Christine, who herself won a gold medal.”

“But no one ever applauded her like that,” Alan explained. “Alan, you were at the basketball championship. They applauded the team and all the players. They even gave the team a standing ovation,” Jerry exclaimed. “You saw it on TV. Even both of your parents could not believe you broke up.”

That spark wasn’t there, Alan said to himself, that heart and that great sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t in Christine’s eyes that night. She had done it for the team, but that sense of self-accomplishment wasn’t there.

“I just can’t explain it to you, Jerry. You wouldn’t understand the whole relationship,” Alan said, searching for the Ritz-Carlton booth and a chance to get off the subject.

Making the wrong turn down the isle, instead of being at the Ritz-Carlton booth, Alan was standing in front of the recruiting desk of M. Steinman & Company of New York City. While Alan looked at his map for a minute, the bored recruiter was happy to finally talk to someone. The recruiter was getting annoyed with having to direct undergraduates to the banking and financial booths (as if they would get jobs in this economy, he thought). He looked at Alan and saw something in him and then started his pitch.

“There are a lot of changes happening at Steinman’s,” the recruiter, George stated. “We have a whole new management team, new advertising and have reintroduced our old logo from 1896 as new. We even brought back our original slogan, ‘Steinman’s, it’s always a pleasure’.

Alan was not sure what he wanted to do with his time and thought that going to New York might be a nice change, plus it was far enough from Philly where he could avoid the college but close enough by where he could come home as needed.

“Do you have any retail experience?” George asked, trying to get Alan interested. George would later tell the interviewers in New York what a catch Alan was for the company.

“I was born to do it George,” Alan said. “I had been working at Sears as an Assistant General Manager until the company closed my store due to the downsizing.  That’s when I decided to go back to graduate school. There has been too much instability in the field and it has not gotten any better with this economy.”

George explained that Steinman’s was holding its own in New York and the recent renovation of the old store on Fifth Avenue brought curious shoppers into Steinman’s, who as Millennial’s had pretty much left it to their grandparents to shop. There were so many positive changes in the company and they were looking for people who understood the business to work along with them.

“Alan, please look over the material and call to schedule an interview. We would like to meet with you. I think that you will be a good match. There will be a second round of interviews in New York and you will be able to see the workings of the store. I would like to see you soon,” George said as he shoved his business card in Alan’s hand and scheduled the on-campus interview.

Even though Alan was much older then the usual candidate, he could be placed in a higher position then the typical college graduate. Alan agreed to the interview and said he would see him tomorrow.

Alan felt a sense of déjà vu. Had this happened before? Something seemed so familiar about all this but he could not put his finger on it. He said goodbye to George and set off to look for Jerry. Jerry was probably boring some recruiter with all his parents’ marriage woes. For God sake, the guy was almost 40 and he was worried about his parents?

Jerry saw Alan and waved down to him. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was down this aisle, he pointed out. Alan could see the hotel display from a distance.

“Where were you all this time,” Jerry asked. “Ritz-Carlton was down this side of the aisle. We went the wrong way. You must have read the map upside down.”

Alan explained that he was talking to Steinman’s Department Store out of New York and had arranged for an interview for tomorrow. Jerry asked him if he was crazy.

“You always told me that your father nearly went crazy after losing the family store decades ago and that you never wanted to enter the field again after that whole thing at Sear’s. You have the rest of your life to go into that business, especially if you join your father in his consulting and buying business.”

“It’s not that Jerry,” Alan explained. “Something seemed so right about it. It was like I was going home. Steinman’s reminds me so much of what I grew up with in DC. The stores were always considered very similar. Hell, I remember my grandfather complaining that old man Steinman used to come to DC just to steal his ideas. Besides it would be nice to spend the holidays in New York. Let’s face facts; I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.”

“You are just avoiding Christine, Alan,” Jerry said. “You just want to avoid the issues of your breakup and not see her around campus. You built her up to be something she wasn’t and then you screwed it all up. You had no one to blame but yourself.”

“Shut up, Jerry,” Alan growled as he walked towards the Ritz-Carlton booth. “Don’t let your parent’s problems cloud your judgment about mine. I am getting tired about talking about it and let’s change the subject. Did I tell you I had the elevator dream again?”

Jerry shook his head but knew of the dream. It seemed that Alan had been having this dream ever since he hit puberty. Alan had always reached a certain point in the dream and then always woke up before it was over.

As Alan got older, the dream would progress but would never reach a conclusion. He always woke up. Jerry asked what had happened this time. Alan told him this time the elevator had reached the top floor and the door had opened. He stepped out into an open plain. He saw a figure in the distance. As the figure approached him, he woke up.

“You have gotten further then before,” Jerry said as they waited in line to talk to the recruiter from Ritz-Carlton. “What do you think it means?”

“It means I am closer to finding a solution to a problem,” Alan explained. “I don’t know what it is supposed to mean, Jerry. I just don’t understand why I keep waking up before it’s finished.”

When Alan was younger, it always ended up being a wet dream. Now as an adult, he woke up hard. When he and Christine were sleeping together, she had no idea of the dream. He was always hard and she enjoyed love making in the morning. Alan never told her the reasons. Jerry asked him what he thought he was going to find in New York. Was it the answer to this riddle?

“I don’t know, but I need a change. I need to get out of Philly and away from my parents. I have been cooped up in Philly too long. I knew I should have gone to graduate school elsewhere. While it is great that I am saving so much, I don’t like the fact that I am Professor Garfinckel’s son,” Alan stated with some disgust.

Alan did not like the fact that his mother, a Senior Professor at Wharton, pushed him so hard to attend the school. He had liked working but she worried about him being lost in his career.

“Maybe what I am looking for is in New York, you never know,” Alan stated as his turn with the Ritz-Carlton recruiter came up.

The night before his interview with Steinman’s, Alan had the elevator dream again. This time the dream was longer and more vivid. The dream had always started the same. Alan was walking down a long hallway of office doors and then an elevator at the end of the hallway would open up on its own. He would press the button to go up and the elevator door would close with a thud. As the elevator rose, it went faster and seemed to want to get to its destination as quickly as possible. The elevator light panel criss-crossed quickly and twinkled like a Christmas tree. Alan began to worry that the elevator might crash through the roof.

Then as suddenly as the elevator rose, it began to slow down. It stopped with a small jolt and the red flashing light flashed “17th Floor”. The door slid open quietly. Alan stepped out of the elevator onto an open plain, as far as the eye could see. No noise, no cars and no people. Just open plain with cactus, brush and mountain in the distance.

Alan took a few steps out of the elevator, contemplating on what to do next. He was startled as the doors slammed behind him. He turned to see that the elevator had disappeared, as if it never existed in the first place. “Where am I?” he thought to himself. Alan stood all alone in the blazing sun, dressed in a blue suit, Gucci red tie and loafers and briefcase, looking totally out of place in the environment.

He wondered how he was going to get out of there, when he heard the faint beat of hooves in the distance. Alan turned to look in the direction the sound was coming from and it grew louder as the figure came closer. Alan made out the faint figure of a man on a white house riding in his direction. This is strange, Alan thought, this is where the dream had always ended.

Alan stared as the man on horseback rose toward him. Suddenly, he was about twenty feet from Alan. He dropped his briefcase and walked toward the man. Alan could not see his face very well. Climbing down from his horse, the cowboy walked toward Alan. His white Stetson covered part of his face, but Alan could see the rest of him. He was wearing a duster, blue jeans and cowboy boots.

Alan was amused by his slightly bow-legged walk. Now directly in front of him, Alan still could not make out his face.

“So I finally found yawl,” the cowboy said with a slight Southern drawl.

“It was not that difficult, I have been here many times before,” Alan stated. “Why has it taken you so long to appear?”

The cowboy kicked the dirt in front of him and shrugged. “I was not sure that yawl wanted to see me, but I see the time has come,” the cowboy said. “I feel that the time is right. Yawl wished for me and now I’m here.”

“I did?” Alan asked.

“Yawl always wanted to meet me and here I am,” the cowboy added.

The cowboy stepped in front of Alan and rubbed his right shoulder gently and then walked closer. Alan could see the dazzling smile appear as his thick mustache crinkled slightly. Even though the face was fuzzy, he could make out the cowboy’s green eyes. Not just any green, but a deep emerald green that sparkled in the mid-day sun.

Alan moved himself closer to the cowboy and with that, the cowboy reached over and gently hugged Alan. Alan had a warm feeling all over his body that did not come from the heat of the sun. Alan moved closer as his hand reached for the zipper of the cowboy’s jacket and slowly unzipped it. It revealed the cowboy’s leather vest, printed cowboy shirt and his gun.

Alan put his arm around the cowboy’s waist and drew him in closer, reached over and started to rub his back. The cowboy put his arms around Alan and hugged him gently.

“If yawl wants me to stop, just let me know,” the cowboy whispered into Alan’s ear, as he slowly rubbed his head on Alan’s shoulder.

“No,” Alan answered, “Come closer.” His arms encircled the cowboy’s shoulders.

Though Alan still did not have a clear view of his face, his mustached lips moved closer to Alan’s and he kissed him. Alan giggled slightly.

“What’s so funny?” the cowboy asked as he pulled away.

“Your mustache tickles,” Alan replied.

It did not just tickle; it felt wonderful, Alan thought, soft and bushy. It was thick and neatly trimmed and brushed up against Alan’s clean-shaven face. Alan moved the Stetson over slightly and they kissed again. The kissed gently at first and then harder and more passionate.

Alan hugged the cowboy tightly and could feel pressing against him the erection in the cowboy’s tight jeans. As the cowboy’s head rested on Alan’s shoulder, Alan could feel his warm breath on his neck and the faint smell of cinnamon. The cowboy’s hand then made its way to Alan’s groin and caressed his growing erection. He gave it a slight grab.

“I think you are ready,” the cowboy said. Alan looked into the cowboy’s eyes and asked (he could still not make out the face).

“What do you mean?” Alan asked.

The cowboy flashed that mustached smile as he pulled away from Alan.

“I think it’s time for yawls wish to come true,” the cowboy answered as he slowly moved away and walked back to his horse. Alan stared as the cowboy mounted his horse, slid his duster back to reveal his holster. He pulled the gun out, spun it rapidly on his index finger before returning it to his holster. He turned the horse towards Alan.

“What wish do you mean?” Alan asked as he looked up.

The cowboy smiled again and said, “The one that yawl have locked deep in yawls heart and wished to come true. The one yawl fantasizes about coming true even though yawl don’t understand the feeling. It has always been in front of yawl, Alan. Yawl are just beginning to understand it.” The cowboy tipped his Stetson, so that Alan could see the bright emerald of his green eyes again.

“Will I see you again?” Alan called to him.

“Yawl will know when it’s time,” the cowboy shouted back, as he slowly rode away.

“When will that be?” Alan asked.

“When it’s time,” the cowboy replied.

“Why can’t I see your face clearly,” Alan yelled.

The cowboy turned back and flashed his smile again and rode off shouting, “When it’s time, yawl will know.” Alan could hear the echo and fade as the cowboy rode off in the sunset, “when it’s time, when it’s time….”

Alan took a few steps backward to see the cowboy riding in the distance and then tripped over his own briefcase. He fell back into the now opened elevator door. The doors closed shut on the western scene. The elevator raced down as rapidly as it had ascended. Floor numbers lit up quickly as the elevator reached the bottom floor.

The door opened at the ground floor of a department store crowded with hundreds of holiday shoppers who were busy doing their Christmas shopping on one of the busiest days of the year in a store decorated for the holidays. Alan walked down the main aisle toward the front of the store as the words, “when it’s time…” rang in his ear. As the crowd parted for him without him asking (this must be a dream, he thought, no one does this in New York City), he walked through the glass revolving door to exit the store and the bolt of cold air woke him up. He finished the dream!

Alan jumped out of bed. ‘Holy shit’ he thought, I am going to be late. He was starting his first day at Steinman’s and wanted to make a good impression by getting there early. He showered, shaved, dressed and ate quickly. He grabbed his briefcase and his papers and ran past Gramercy Park on the way to the subway in Union Square. He took one look back to look at the trees, which were still green. ‘That will change’, he thought to himself. The holiday season was right around the corner. As he got to the subway, he said quietly to himself. “Maybe it is time.” He then added, “Nothing like being late on your first day of work!” He then disappeared down the subway stairs.

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The Former Garfinckel’s Department Store on F Street in Washington DC

 

Special Author’s note: “Firehouse 101” can be ordered on the IUniverse.com website, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel.com, Walmart.com or any other book platform. The book can be found for sale at the FDNY Museum in Lower Manhattan if still in stock.

Be on the look out for Book Three of the Trilogy “Dinner at Midnight”.