All posts by jwatrel

About jwatrel

I am a free-lance writer and Blogger. I am the author of the book "Firehouse 101" (IUniverse.com 2005) part of trilogy of books centered in New York City. My next book "Love Triangles" is finished being edited and should be ready for release in the Fall. My latest book, "Dinner at Midnight", a thriller is on its last chapter. My long awaited book explains the loss of the 2004 Yankee game to Boston. I work as a Consultant, Adjunct College Professor, Volunteer Fireman and Ambulance member and Blogger. I have a blog site for caregivers called 'bergencountycaregiver', a step by step survival guide to all you wonderful folks taking care of your loved ones, a walking project to walk every block, both sides, of the island of Manhattan "MywalkinManhattan" and discuss what I see and find on the streets of New York and three sites to accompany it. One is an arts site called "Visiting a Museum", where I showcase small museums, historical sites and parks that are off the beaten track both in Manhattan and outside the city to cross reference with "MywalkinManhattan" blog site. Another is "DiningonaShoeStringNYC", featuring small restaurants I have found on my travels in this project, that offer wonderful meals for $10.00 and under. So be on the lookout for updates on all three sites and enjoy 'MywalkinManhattan'. The third is my latest site, "LittleShoponMainStreet", which showcases all the unique and independent shops that I have found on my travels throughout and around Manhattan. I have started two new blog sites for the fire department, one "EngineOneHasbrouck HeightsFireDepartmentnj" for the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to discuss what our Engine Company is doing and the other is "BergenCountyFireman'sHomeAssociation" for the Bergen County Fireman's Association, which fire fighters from Bergen County, NJ, go to the Fireman's Home in Boonton, NJ to bring entertainment and cheer to our fellow brother fire fighters quarterly.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: Here comes Christmas: Part Two December 16th, 2018-January 10th, 2019

I swear it was full steam ahead for the rest of the holiday season. December for me just keeps getting busier. From the time we finished the Victorian Walking Tour to after the Epiphany my feet never touched the ground. Christmas tree sales kept me busy on the weekends, class finished up with my final exam night on the second week of December (I am very proud to say that I gave out 28 A’s, 2 Bt’s and 2 B’s) and then I really got busy with my volunteer work.

After the weekend with the Victorian Walking Tour and the Washington’s Crossing event, it was off to visit Lillian again. I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and here it was three weeks later, I was out on Long Island for another family event. The facility she lived in really does a lot of nice things for the families.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I with her Christmas present, Petula the Pup from FAO Schwarz

I had given Lillian a choice, would she like me to come out for the Family Dinner or the the Family Concert the next week? I unfortunately could not do both. Work was getting busy and I had two Christmas parties to plan. So we decided on the Family dinner. We really had a nice time.

We joined her roommate, Marie and her two daughters for dinner that night. The facility had a nice dinner for us with roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli that was surprising well cooked and seasoned for a nursing facility and they gave you plenty of it. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know one another when Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and greeted all the residents and their families. The two staff members who played the roles did a marvelous job with it and made it extra festive.

After dinner and a tour around the building greeting other residents and their families I said my goodbyes to Lillian and her roommate and her family. I had a long trip ahead of me as well. I could tell that Lillian was a little sad by it but I said that I would see her at Valentine’s Day and we would see each other after the craziness of the holidays was over. That is when I surprised her with the small Petula the Pup that we both used to sell in both of our time in the Pre-School Department at FAO Schwarz. She was very surprised and touched by it. It must have triggered something because I saw her cry a little. It made her happy that someone remembered (Please see the blog on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Lillian passed away three weeks after our dinner together).

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The next morning myself and the volunteers who work with me at work had our Christmas party for the residents of the Maywood facility that I work with on my job with the County of Bergen for our Post-Stroke & Disabled Support Group. We had entertainment with Van Martin Productions and we decorated the tables with garland and candy and the room for the holidays. The whole affect was very festive.

The ladies who are part of the group that comes to our events had a wonderful time. Each one of us baked a special dessert for the event and at all the place settings were chocolate Santa’s and candy canes for each resident. We served desserts and coffee to everyone, handed out gifts to all and had a wonderful afternoon of good food and wonderful entertainment.

That evening, I hosted an Italian dinner at my home for the ladies who volunteer for me. Taking everyone to a restaurant gets expensive plus at the holidays everyone rushes you out so I found it more personal to have it at my house.

I cooked the entire meal and served it. We started the meal with homemade mini-meatballs that I made a few days before, sauted shrimp and cheeses for the appetizer and for dinner I made chicken cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread and a nice salad all with the accompanying wines. We had a wonderful time and did a lot of laughing that night.

As I was serving dessert which I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, the noise got louder. Other guests joined us later and there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a enjoyable way to spend our last day together before the holidays.

The next day I joined a friend that I had not seen for almost two years for lunch in Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor). It was just nice to finally catch up as it had been a long time since we talked. We both agreed that our lives had us running in different directions. We spent our afternoon laughing at things from years ago and in our current lives. It is nice to spend time with friends at the holidays. I had not realized that Nancy and I had not seen one another in two years!

After lunch, I had to prepare another dinner as we held our annual Men’s Association Christmas Party at the tree-stand to end our season of selling. That Friday night, we had four trees on the lot and by the time the party was over we sold them out. We sold 338 trees (one was stolen and one was donated) during the holiday season and that was a new record for us.

I made a batch of stuffed shells for dinner and a batch of chocolate brownies for dessert. I never know what to make as it is a pot luck and all the guys bring something different but two years earlier three of us brought baked ziti. So I know shy away from that. That and I wanted something quick because I was still tired from cooking the night before.

It a fun evening of great food and conversation mostly dwelling on the success of this year’s sale. God, can some of these guys cook! Our former President, Mike, makes a venison chili that is always the highlight of the dinner especially on a cold night. The stuffed shells were put under the warmers and were a big hit. I never have to sell brownies to anyone. I was sure they were gone by the end of the evening.

The weather started to drop that night and after an hour at the party it went down to 35 degrees. Even sitting by the barrel fire, I could not take it anymore. I said my goodbyes by 9:00pm. I was exhausted  from a week of cooking and had still more to do over the weekend. I had to plan two menus for that Sunday and had to have back to back meals. One of the guys later on told me that a group of them were there until 2:00am. Not a night I would have been out.

I had to sleep in that Saturday morning because I was worn out from the running around that week but there was food to prepare, a house to clean and a table to set. I needed a break from it all to put me back into the spirit of the holiday so before I started all the prep work, I went to Ringwood Manor for  their celebration and to see the decorated house.

Ringwood Manor every year is beautifully decorated by a group of volunteers. The house was open for tours of life in the Victorian Age. Each of the rooms was decorated to the hilt with garland and plants and all sorts of decorations.

Ringwood Manor Christmas III

The Ringwood Manor Dining Room

Ringwood Manor has an interesting history. The area around Ringwood, NJ was the center for iron ore manufacturing and was a big player in munitions during the Revolutionary War because of both the amount of ore in the hills and the strategic location near New York City.

In 1807, the land was bought by Martin J. Ryerson who built the first home of the property which was a 10 room Federalist style home. In 1853, Peter Cooper bought the mines and the home and it became one of the biggest suppliers iron ore to the Civil War effort. Peter Cooper’s partners were his son, Edward and his future son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. The home became the summer estate for Mr. & Mrs. Hewitt and added on to the house in 1864, 1875, 1900 and 1910. The home then had 51 rooms and was designed in the Classic Victorian style with furnishings from all over the world. In 1938, the home, it contents and grounds of the estate was donated to the State of New Jersey (Ringwood Manor Park History).

The tour was self-guided and you could take as much time as you wanted seeing each room. There was a docent on hand to explain all the decorations and furnishings as well as the purpose of the room. One of the points that was made when I was visiting the decorated homes during the holiday season was that Victorians never decorated every room in the house like on the tours.

They decorated maybe the living room and dining room with a tree and garland. Only the wealthiest families would decorate more than that because they had servants to maintain it. Trees and garland were used after the Civil War because Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert was from Germany and brought the Pagan tradition of putting a tree inside the house with him to England (Victorian Christmas History).

After my visit to the manor, it was off to Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY (see my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for some baked goods and a tour of the farm. I roamed through the farm stand who just like us were wiped out of Christmas trees. I bought cake truffles ($5.00 each) and a Caramel Apple Cake ($10.95) for my Christmas dinner and munched on Apple Turnovers ($3.50) and Cider Doughnuts ($1.00) while I was there looking around the bakery. In the farm stand area, they have to most delicious jellies and jams to choose from and other gourmet products.

AUntie El's II

Auntie El’s desserts!

When I got home, I spent the rest of the time cooking for our Engine One Brunch for Company members and families on Sunday morning and then for my Christmas dinner with my family on Sunday night. I never left the kitchen.

That Sunday was a busy day for me as I had to pull off two back to back meals. In the morning from 10:00am-1:00pm was the Engine One Brunch and after clean up and saying goodbye to everyone was the early Christmas dinner with my family from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. I had never done back to back meals before and don’t plan on doing it again. Way too much work!

I got to the firehouse at 8:30am that morning and had to deal with a major mess. The Department Christmas Party had been the night before and they did not clean it properly. So the first thing I had to do was clean all the tables, throw out the garbage and mop the floors. That took almost an hour.

Then I had to clean and set up the kitchen for Brunch. Once I got that done, I set the buffet table for the food and then put all the table clothes on the tables in the main room. Then I set up and started to cook and set the tables for breakfast. By the time I was done with all of that, the first guys started to arrived to help me.

Engine One Brunch 2018 III

Me setting up breakfast

I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.

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Me in front of the Brunch Buffet Table

It really was great meal. I prepared two egg casseroles, one with bacon and the other with Italian sausage, a French Toast Souffle, homemade waffles (I drag that waffle iron all over), fresh fruit salad and then I baked a cinnamon crunch coffee cake, blueberry muffins, a chocolate chip pound cake and brought in assorted bagels from Panera and doughnuts from Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge. There was something for everyone.

We had a wonderful time. About 54 people showed up for breakfast and did people come hungry. We did not have much left. Our Lieutenant, Bernie Valente, gave the welcoming speech and greeted everyone for brunch and wished everyone a happy and safe holiday season. It was a nice morning of good food and conversation.

Engine One Brunch 2018 IV

The Engine One Members at the Brunch

After the Brunch was over, I said my goodbyes to everyone and had to clean and mop the room again. That took some time but the place was spotless when I left.

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I ran home and thank God, I had already cleaned the house, set the dining room table and prepared the house for guests. I was able to take a 45 minute break before my family showed up for a pre-Christmas dinner. I relaxed on the couch for about twenty minutes before my family showed up. I was so grateful they showed up late.

What a great time we had that night! My Aunt Dee and my cousins, Wayne and Bruce came to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Since I was joining my brothers at my Mom’s house for Christmas Eve and Day, I would not be seeing my aunts and cousins this year.

I cooked a four course meal that was my pride and joy. We started with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sauteed shrimp on toasts and mozzarella sticks with a bottle of bubbly to toast the holidays. We had a nice time just catching up with work and family events.

About an hour later, I served dinner. I kept it simple this year making chicken cutlets, a potato puff and string beans with butter. It was the perfect evening of good food and conversation. My cousins told me about work and what was going on in their lives and my aunt was telling me stories about her upcoming holiday events. We always have a nice time.

For dessert, I had the desserts from Aunt El’s. I served the caramel apple pie and the cake truffles. I have to admit that they were all a little sweet but still good. There was a layer of caramel and chocolate on the top of the apple pie. It was a nice way to end the evening.

After a week of cooking for five parties and dinners, I took a break from the kitchen and planned a couple of Christmas events. The first was I attended the Hasbrouck Heights High School Holiday concert. I had a nice time listening to the choir and jazz band. The school was packed with people filming the whole thing. I have never seen so many cells phones out.

The one event I had gone to last year was the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall and looked forward to seeing it again. The ‘Home Alone Concert’ with the New York Philharmonic had been sold out as was the ‘Holidays with Brass Concert’. So I scoured the internet to see if there were tickets left to the concert and I was in luck. It looked like someone had given up their two tickets and grabbed the second to last ticket for the concert and it was on the isle! What a concert!

First, I love going to Carnegie Hall during the holidays. It is so beautifully decorated for the holidays and everyone from the staff to the concert goers are in the festive spirit.  The concert was called “Under the Mistletoe” with the New York Pops with singer, Ashley Brown who had originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Here is Ms. Brown preparing for the concert I saw on December 22nd.

 

What a wonderful concert! Ms. Brown was accompanied by Essential Voices USA which was a choir that sang during the concert. They opened with much excitement the songs “Deck the Halls” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and then introducing Ms. Brown singing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. The rest of the concert was filled with traditional Christmas songs and a lot of holiday cheer.

In the middle of the second act, Santa came down the aisle near me and greeted the crowds. I swear I was having a somewhat rough holiday season missing my father and all and when I saw Santa, I really believed it was him. I was so happy to see him as was everyone else in the room. I could see how emotional people were and knew they felt the same way. It looked like everyone just wanted to believe that night and we are talking of a crowd of concert goers who were in their fifties, sixties and seventies. I guest you are never too old to believe in Santa. It has been a rough year for everyone.

The concert ended with a big sing-a-long with Santa, the Essential Voices USA and Ashley Brown leading the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along” with the songs, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ending with “Jingle Bells”. Even Santa joined us singing! I swear, that whole concert hall rocked with people singing all the classics and it brought the house down. People were on the feet applauding at the end of the concert. I had never seen so many smiling faces in one spot in a long time.

Carnegie Hall Christmas

The Sing a Long with Santa

The next morning, was still singing the concert in the back of my mind as I was preparing breakfast at the firehouse for the Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town”. A group of us got to the firehouse early to wash the truck, so I cooked the traditional Engine One breakfast before we started the wash and decorating. I made a pancake and sausage breakfast for the guys. We had a ball eating, laughing and talking about upcoming holiday plans.

Santa Around Town 18

The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights before ‘Santa Around Town’

We then got to work washing the whole truck and preparing it for the long trip around Hasbrouck Heights greeting residents with holiday cheer and assisting Santa handing out candy canes to all the kids. It is a long evening but we really lucked out with the weather. It was warmer than usual around 45 degrees and people really came out to see Santa. We had large families of kids and dogs taking group shots with Santa. It is nice to see that people still do believe (See my Blog: The Brothers of Engine One participate in “Santa Around Town” December 23rd, 2018). We had a great time that night.

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The next morning it was off to visit my immediate family for Christmas. I know I have visited Woodstock, NY and Cape May, NJ in the past for the holidays (as you have seen in this blog) but it was time to join the family again on Christmas Day. I had not spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother and brothers since 1981 and the last time I had spent Christmas with my Mom was in 2010 so it was something I was looking forward to this year.

I spent my morning visiting cemeteries, paying my respect to my aunts, uncles, cousin. grand parents and finally my father, dropping off flowers and arrangements to all locations. I say a small prayer and send my wishes. I think this important at the holidays.

Then it was off for the four hour trip down to my mother’s in Delaware. It really was a wonderful Christmas with my family. We all had not been together for the holidays for such a long time. The last several years I would go down after the holidays and we would spend time together then. Since my father’s passing this is the first time the rest of us have been together as a family.

Christmas Eve was always a lot of fun in my family growing up. We would go over to my parents long time friend’s house from 1969-1981 until my parents divorce. Christmas Day was with my Aunt Elaine and my cousins from 1969-1990 right before my aunt passed away. Those were very special Christmas’s and I will always remember them. Since then it changed from year to year as was Christmas Day. All of us kids moved around the country and with school and jobs everything kept changing.

Somehow the stars aligned this year and we were all available. It really was a nice four days and it was fun connecting with everyone again. My younger brother came up with my niece and my older brother with his husband, so the extended family was all there.

We went to Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Road in Rehoboth Beach for Christmas Eve dinner (see review on TripAdvisor) and it was packed that night as if everyone in town had the same idea we did. We spent most of the evening either yelling over the table or saying hello to the dozens of people my mom knew in the community. The town was hopping for Christmas Eve and there were cars all over the place with people eating at restaurants up and down the downtown area.

When we got home after a wonderful dinner and tour of the downtown Christmas tree, we just relaxed in the living room and talked. It was nice to finally catch up with everyone in a peaceful environment. In the back of my mind, I still could not believe how Christmas creeped up on us this year or that it was actually Christmas Eve. I slept like a rock that night.

The next morning it was all hands on deck as I was helping my mother in the kitchen after breakfast. After a quick bowl of cereal and a shower, it was off to chopping, cutting and rolling in the kitchen. My mom said she would need my help in the kitchen helping with dinner which was a surprise as she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking.

I helped her make the breaded broccoli, the pigs in a blanket, making sure that she tied the crown roast the right way (it took some time) and stuff it and then arrange cookie trays for the dessert. Four of my mother’s friends joined us for dinner so there would be ten of us and did we eat that afternoon. My mother is an amazing cook and host and knows how to entertain at the holidays.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach

Cooking in the kitchen with my family

We had a nice afternoon of reminiscing about family Christmases of the past, what my mother’s friends were up to and how all of our lives were going. It was a nice evening of good eating and wonderful conversation. My brothers and I even cleaned the whole kitchen for my mother so she could relax and enjoy her guests.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach IIII

Christmas with my family

The next two days we spent at my mom’s house just catching up and relaxing and my brothers and I each hosted a meal for the other members of the family so that we could give my mom a break from cooking for a large group of house guests.

In the afternoons, pretty much everyone did their thing and then we would meet up for meals. My brother and my niece brought their little French Pug named “Boogie” up to my Mom’s so she would not be lonely. God, did we spoil that dog with attention and treats. She was the cutest most well behaved dog and what was funny was when I was lying on the floor watching a movie with my family, she plopped down next to me on the pillow and slept.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach II

Boogie sleeping next to me

Our first afternoon after Christmas, our family met at “A Touch of Italy” restaurant at my mother’s recommendation. The food was excellent. The most delicious thin crusted pizzas I have had in a long time. The pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are delicious here. For dinner the next night, we went to ‘Big Fish’, a local seafood restaurant my mother wanted to try.

It was now two days after Christmas and people looked like they were having family dinners before everyone had to go back to work. The place was mobbed! Our waiter, Scott, really handled the table well with our ten people. “Big Fish” (see my review on TripAdvisor), is a local seafood restaurant whose most popular dishes is everything fried. A friend of my mother’s said that she always has the fried shrimp when she is dining there. So that is what I had for dinner.

They were like heaven in every bite, sweet and briny and the breading was cooked perfectly. The potatoes and vegetables were also perfectly cooked. Between the entree and appetizers, there was no room for dessert to the shock of my family. Me miss dessert?

Our last morning was tough. My brothers were leaving for home and I was heading up to Cape May that evening to go to the theater to see “The Actors Carol” at the Cape May Theater and spend the night at the Chalfonte Hotel. It was baby steps back into the family Christmas and I still wanted some time alone for the holidays.

My mother made a big family breakfast and then we said our goodbyes over a fritata and sweet rolls. It was nice being able to spend some time with my brothers who live in other parts of the country and my niece who was off from school. We chatted on about the holiday and what we were doing for New Years and then it was off to travelling for all of us.

For the first time, I took the Lewes-Cape May Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (see review on TripAdvisor). It was about an hour and a half and had it been a warmer sunny day it would have been a beautiful trip. When I got there, I sat outside and watched dolphins swim by us. Of course, it had to be a cloudy day and then started to get cloudier and sprinkled so I spent the rest of the voyage inside watching a tourist film. I was able to watch the bay go by and it is quite a site. There is a beauty to the Delaware Bay.

I got into Cape May within the hour and settled at my hotel. I had just been at the Chalfonte in September for the Firemen’s Convention and the town was still hopping with tourists. It really has become a big destination for the holidays. It is funny though to see the main hotel closed for the season. It really does look haunted at night when only the spotlight is on it. The place was buzzing when I left nine weeks earlier.

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I settled into the Southern Annex (see review on TripAdvisor) and took a nap before the show. It had been a long but fun four days. It was nice to just relax and be by myself now. It was funny what a year can bring to you and how different you can become. I guess I was no longer that person that needed Cape May or Woodstock anymore. They were perfect for their time in my life but even I felt it was time to step out in the world again.

The show was funny that night. “The Actor’s Carol” was a take on the classic “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The star of the show within a show was a Prima Donna whose best acting days were behind him and made everyone miserable in this small town production. He was in turn visited by three ghosts from his past to show him how he got to where he was in life. It was not the most original show but very clever in premise.

After the production was over, I looked for a place to eat but a lot of the popular places were either closed for the holidays or closing for the evening. Just wanting a snack after the show and before going to bed, I stopped at Dellas 5 & 10 at 501-503 Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Cape May for dinner. This small drugstore has a soda fountain and restaurant in the back like Woolworth’s did years ago. The food is very good and the burger I had was well prepared. I had fun as the only customer talking with the waiters.

I walked all over downtown Cape May that night as I had the year before. It just seemed different this year as the experience was surreal. It was still Christmas to me but I just felt changed by the last four days. Still downtown was beautiful with all the lights on the trees, the creative window displays and the bells from the church sounding in the back. The gazebo in the main square still had the Christmas lit up and that put me back into the Christmas mood.

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The Gazebo in downtown Cape May

I got back to the hotel and slept like a log. All this driving and running around got to be too much on me. The hotel annex was really quiet even though it was full of guests. I did not hear or see anyone in my time at the hotel.

The next morning as I checked out, I was surprised to see Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonashoestringinNYC@Wordpress.com) open this year. It was locked shut last Christmas. I guess they figured the town was busy for the holidays and trust me, a smart choice as the restaurant was busy. They have the best breakfasts and their pancakes and scrambled eggs are cooked in butter so there is some extra caramelization to them. The service there is always so friendly and welcoming.

After breakfast, I walked the downtown again, walked all through the Congress Hall Hotel, where I stayed last year for Christmas (See Day One Hundred-This is Christmas) and then visited the Physick Mansion for another Christmas tour of the house (See TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com). It is always a nice tour and the mansion is so nicely decorated for the holidays. The tour like everything else in Cape May was busy. It was sunny and around 48 degrees that morning.

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After the tour, I left Cape May, probably to see it later again in the Spring and then headed up the Jersey Shore line to visit Margate and the Lucy Elephant statue (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had not climbed the top of the elephant yet and since it was a nice day wanted to take the tour before the statue closed for the day. I drove up the shoreline to Margate, NJ and got there by 2:00pm.

Lucy the Elephant

The famous Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

I got on the tour which was just about to leave and we climbed the whole statue and got to the top of the ‘howdah’, the transport on top of the elephant. That was the reason why I went the statue.  I had not been able to go to the top in 2015. It is the most beautiful view of the ocean and the best part is that it got warmer toward the afternoon. I was able to walk around the statue and by the beach and it must have gone up to 50 degrees.

I decided since it was early to double back to Ocean City, NJ and have some lunch before I drove home. What a spectacular afternoon walking in the Boardwalk. It was crowded because of the weather and surprisingly this late into the holiday week, a lot of the businesses were open.

I was able to go to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk (see review on TripAdvisor), which had a line ten deep, for caramel corn. They were making it in small batches and when I started eating it was still hot from the machine. There is nothing like warm caramelized corn on a cool day.

After that, I went to Manco & Manco Pizza at 8, 9 & 12th on the Boardwalk (see reviews on TripAdvisor) for lunch. Their slices were the best. They make a good sauce and it was so busy that the pies are coming constantly so it was fresh. This is a real Jersey Shore pizzeria and the attitude of the guys working there showed it. You have to visit the Jersey shore Boardwalks to know what I am talking about. As the sun started to go down, it was time to leave. It was getting cooler. I got home later that evening in good time because there was no traffic.

New Year’s Eve was just sitting at home relaxing and calling friends. It looked like everyone was bunking in this year and the fact it went down to 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve night I could not believe all those crazy tourists were sitting in Times Square. I went to bed right after Midnight.

Later that week, I did make a trip up to Woodstock, NY to see their Christmas tree before they took it down but it was down already.  The town just seemed depressed when I arrived. I had not been up here since Christmas of 2016 so it had been over a two years since I celebrated a holiday up in the mountains. First, it had a cool damp feel to the town but since you are in the mountains it can be that way. Also, since the holidays were over, a lot of decorations were already down and usually you would keep these up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

The worst was several of the restaurants and clothing businesses that I had remembered from a few years back had gone out of business so there were empty storefronts. It just did not seem like the magical place that I had enjoyed three separate, wonderful holiday season’s. I really wanted to see the tree in the square but you can’t have it all. Still I had lunch at Shindig  located at 1 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and they have the best burgers and mac & cheese around. It was nice to sit by the window on this cold but sunny day and watch the world go by. I just walked around the town on this quiet afternoon.

The Epiphany brought my only church visit to Corpus Christi Church and the service was nice. The church was still decorated for Christmas so it was the last thing to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. We had our Installation Dinner at the fire department a week later but that is another story Check it out on my blog, The Brothers of Engine One HHFD below.

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Overall, it was a nice Christmas. Different from the last five years since my father’s passing but it was time to move on and enjoy the new family traditions we are creating. I was ready for the change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Places to Stay:

The Chalfonte Hotel Annex

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Ringwood Manor

1304 Sloatsburg Road

Ringwood, NJ  07456

(973) 962-2240

http://www.ringwoodmanor.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46774-d9564482-Reviews-Ringwood_Manor-Ringwood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845) 753- 2122

https://auntieelsfarmmarket.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34048-d268895-Reviews-Rehoboth_Beach_Boardwalk-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Ocean City Boardwalk:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46696-d583375-Reviews-Ocean_City_Boardwalk-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Lucy the Elephant

1900 Atlantic Avenue at Decater Avenue

Margate City, New Jersey 08402

(609) 823-6473

http://www.lucytheelephant.org/

Open: Hours are seasonal/only open on the weekends during the winter months 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46600-d518065-Reviews-Lucy_the_Elephant-Margate_City_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/333

 

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 11:15am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:45am-4:00pm

Fee: Check with website/seasonal

https://www.capemaymac.org/emlen-physick-estate

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

Places to Eat:

Sanducci’s Trattoria

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

Open: Sunday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 4:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Road

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3848

http://www.confuciusrb.com/

Open: Check the website for hours because of the seasonality of the beach

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Big Fish Grill

20298 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3474

https://bigfishgrill.com/rehoboth-beach-dining-menus/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00pm & 5:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396017-Reviews-Big_Fish_Grill-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Touch of Italy

19724 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(302) 703-3090

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

http://www.touchofitaly.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d4606866-Reviews-Touch_of_Italy-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bills Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/cape-may.html

Open: Monday- Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Dellas 5 & 10

501-503 Washington Mall

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-4568

https://www.capemay.com/shops/dellas-5-10/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1067917-Reviews-Dellas_5_10-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Manco & Manco Pizza

8, 9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-0720

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d459222-Reviews-Manco_Manco_Pizza-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Johnson’s Popcorn

8,9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-5404

Open: Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.johnsonspopcorn.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d4762196-Reviews-Johnson_s_Popcorn-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Shindig

1 Tinker Street

Woodstock, NY  12498

(845) 684-7901

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

Open: Sunday 9:00am-9:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-9:00pm/Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm/Friday & Saturday 9:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48915-d7376319-Reviews-Shindig-Woodstock_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach VI.jpg

My mother relaxing with the Boogie

 

 

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Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven: Here Comes Christmas! Part One- November 30th-December 14th, 2018

I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.

I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.

Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.

The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.

The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.

I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).

It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association.  I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program.  I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.

This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming.  The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.

Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.

My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.

This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.

Rhinebeck at Christmas.jpg

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.

The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.

I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.

I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).

By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.

The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.

I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.

My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.

After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.

As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float

People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’,  ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.

At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.

Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right

I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.

I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).

As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.

The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.

The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).

https://wordpress.com/post/tbcfha.wordpress.com/156

The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018

After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).

With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.

See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.

The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.

On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.

We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.

The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.

The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.

Washington Crossing Reenactment II.jpg

The Military Parade by the Delaware River

We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.

See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018

By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.

Washington Crossing Reenactment.jpg

The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.

The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).

As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).

It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.

Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.

 

Places to stay:

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjjlt6N7OvgAhWGhLMKHbcJBsgYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASE-RooTIxmc5SMBldM5FH_lmQddE&sig=AOD64_2mmL-hiEz3ZSdcMhSE1Dot8L-jQw&q=&ved=2ahUKEwiQnteN7OvgAhWkct8KHa-EB7wQ0Qx6BAgNEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60801-d590312-Reviews-Quality_Inn_Hyde_Park-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

Hours: Sunday 1:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 2:30pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46639-d639843-Reviews-Columbia_Inn_Restaurant-Montville_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

Hours: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d6684399-Reviews-Smoky_Rock_BBQ-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46869-d3440313-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_State_Historic_Park-Titusville_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53924-d2522457-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_Historic_Park-Washington_Crossing_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Have a great holiday season!!

Here’s the whole reenactment event on YouTube of the Washington Crossing Event 2018

 

 

Day One Hundred and Thirty: I dedicate this to my friends, Lillian Heckler and Helen Chao. I will miss you both!

It is never easy saying Goodbye to a close friend especially ones that you have known for thirty years. I know that the holidays are never easy but when you had to attend as many wakes, Memorial services and funerals as I did this year, it puts the holiday season into perspective.

The toughest is when you lose a friend who has seen you from everything from the beginnings of your career, to the loss of a family member and all your successes and failures in life and at the same time never judges you for it but still offers sound advice. That is what a real friend does.

I just lost two friends I have long mentioned in my blogs, Helen Chao and Lillian Heckler, who have know for thirty and twenty-five years respectively.

Helen I had met on my second day of work at R. H. Macy when our Executive Training Program class took our tour of the Herald Square store. We started at the bottom the store and worked our way up the eight floors of selling space. One of the stops was in the Visitors Center on the Mezzanine of the store. We were introduced to the people who worked there and took some time to look around.

One of my best friends was living in Singapore at the time and I wanted to get him a store directory in Chinese as a gift to show him where I was working. So on lunch hour I doubled back to the Visitors Center to find one. This is how I met Helen. I asked her where I could find one and at the time there was none in Chinese only Japanese. Since he spoke both French and English on top of Chinese, I got him the directories in English, French and Japanese as a gift.

We just got to talking and we ended up talking the whole lunch hour. Later on that week I stopped by again to say hello and that started the friendship between myself, Helen and another woman, Linda, who also worked in the Department. We just got along so well that I would stop by every once in while when I was in Training Squad classes.

That blossomed into a long friendship between the three of us that lasted until Linda left the company three years later. When I returned from a two year job experience in our New Haven store (now closed) as a manager and then was promoted back to the Herald Square store as an Assistant Buyer, Helen and I resumed our friendship. We would go out to lunch when the two of us had time and would visit the store for the Flower Show and for Christmas when we were both off from work.

Over the years, we exchanged laughs and lots of stories. Helen told me how her family had come to America after the Cultural Revolution and her father had been an educator and had to leave the county. Her mother was Japanese and I am sure that did not make it easier for the two of them in those difficult times. I always found the stories about her life fascinating. She would also give me the latest stories of her children and grandchildren and their doings.

After her retirement from Macy’s and her family’s move from Valley Stream, NY to Flushing, NY admittingly like a lot of friends the connection that bound us, Macy’s, was gone and she was not in the City as much. Still over the years we kept in touch and would meet to see the Macy’s Flower Show in the Spring and in Chinatown for Dim Sum when she was at a doctor’s appointment. As time went on though, these became less and less as work  and commitments took away our free time.

In the later years, we saw one another at least once a year and I always called her on her birthday (we were ten days apart), Chinese New Year and Christmas and I always sent cards out to her. I had seen her for the last time in 2015 when I read about a Dim Sum Palace in Flushing that was noted as the best in the City and we decided to meet there. It was nice to see her again but even I had to admit things had changed. We ended up talking about the past and she wasn’t as chatty as she used to be. We had a nice time but it did not seem the same. The sad part was one month after our lunch, Helen suffered a stroke. I found that out about four months later when I was finally able to reach her husband.

Having taken care of my own father after his stroke and being the primary caregiver (Visit my blog, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’ on WordPress.com), I was Helen’s biggest cheerleader. I would call at the holidays and her birthday to encourage her, send her cards to cheer her up and just be a friend. I always got the impression she did not want me to visit her so I respected that.

The last time I talked to her was on her birthday on October 1st, 2018 and we had a nice conversation. I could tell she was tired but she was happy I called and told me she had gotten my birthday card. She thanked me for always remembering after all these years. I did not realize that she had turned 90.

My last phone to Helen was on December 22, 2018 right before Christmas. I would be visiting my mother and our family at the holidays and would not have time to make my traditional phone calls Christmas morning as I had done the previous four years. This is when her husband had told me that she had passed away the night before. We had a very heartfelt conversation that lasted almost an hour and I gave him my condolences. He said that she always appreciated all those years of phone calls and cards and how much it meant that I never forgot her at the holidays and her birthday.

As we said our goodbyes and I wished him and his family a happy holiday season in these difficult times, it was surreal to know that I would not be talking to her again after thirty years of friendship. The one impression I got was that in some small way I was cheering her up and encouraging her all those years and maybe that made a small difference in her life that a friend did not forget her. I was glad she was part of the my life.

My friendship with Lillian happened many years later when I was an Manager at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue, the upscale toy store on Fifth Avenue. I had worked at the store as a manager from July of 1995 to February of 1996 right before I left to attend the Culinary Institute of America. I had casually met her and talked to her when I ran the Boy’s Action Department which was right next to the Pre-School Department where she worked.

How I got to know Lillian better is when I had to leave school in 1997 to earn money for my last semester and went back to FAO for seven months to work the holiday season as a full time manager. Management placed me in the Pre-School Department as a Manager as some of the other managers in the store said it was ‘difficult to work there’ because of all the long service employees that dominated the department. I ended up blossoming in the department and it was one of the best managerial experiences I had had in years.

Lillian greeted me in the Pre-School Department with “Hi Justin, I’m Lillian but you can just call me ‘Grandma’ if you like.” I told her I preferred to keep it professional and I would just call her ‘Lillian’. I loved her energy and the fact that she was 77 at the time and she could ring circles around most of the staff in the store. She and the other long service employees in the department Barbara, Clover and Shirley I found to be a real asset to the department in that they never called in sick, knew their merchandise, knew how to merchandise and could sell up a storm. We did a lot of laughing as well.

After I finished my holiday stint at FAO, I continued to stop in the store on my weekends home when I was in the City and would visit the ladies. We would still continue our conversations and I would regale my stores of what was happening in cooking school. Later on after graduation, I would work in the store again for another four months for the holiday season and would cover the department again. It was nice to work with that staff for the holidays.

After that, I moved on to Hawaii and California after graduation but I still kept in touch with Lillian and Barbara until they both retired from the company and eventually FAO would close the Fifth Avenue store after bankruptcy. Lillian, Barbara and I would continue to meet up in the City about four times a year for lunch and dinner and I would visit Lillian in Astoria, Queens when she got into her late 80’s and early 90’s. She lived by herself until she was 95.

A broken hip that year and some time in rehab led Lillian to an assisted living facility out in North Shore of Long Island near the fork of the North and South Shore of the Hamptons. I started to visit her again to catch up with her. After my own father passed (who this blog is dedicated to), I started to visit her more often especially close to her birthday and the holidays.

The last two years I had spent Easter, her birthday in June, Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas events and at least one day during the summer to visit her. I always brought out lunch for us (she liked to have Italian and Chinese because the facility did not serve the types she liked) and baked goods from the local bakery. In the warmer months, I would take her to the courtyard or patio and we would talk and converse with other caregivers and their families. We continued to have our long talks, our heart to hearts and laugh at old stories.

People at the facility that she was living at I could sometimes see could not understand why we were friends. This was considering the fact that I had known the woman for twenty four years and we had seen each other through the ups and downs of life. I never saw Lillian as being her age, I just saw her as being Lillian. I spent her 100th birthday with her on June 6th, 2018 (See Day One Hundred and Fourteen of “MywalkinManhattan.com”)and she had just as much pep that day as she always did. I drove her around the facility with balloons on her wheelchair and the staff and residents alike wish her a Happy Birthday. I could see the lives she touched there as well.

The last time I saw her was in December for the “Family Dinner” we had on her floor at the facility. I gave Lillian a choice when I came out to visit for Christmas, I could come to the dinner or to the concert the next week. It would be hard to do both with my work schedule and we chose the dinner. We had such a nice time (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Four of “MywalkinManhattan.com”) and did a lot of laughing and talking. My visits always cheered her up.

Something struck me though on my way to the facility. As I got closer and pulled off the highway, I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be the last time I would be visiting. It had really struck me hard.

I shook it off and decided to just have a good time. After the dinner was over, I headed home because I had to work the next day. Before I left, I talked with Lillian’s roommate’s daughters who joined us for dinner and gave them my number and my email address and asked them to contact me if anything were to happen to Lillian. It was them who told me that Lillian had passed.

I went to Northport for the wake and funeral and met Lillian’s grandchild and great grandchildren. We spent the night of the wake just sitting around talking. There were no other visitors besides myself and her family. We told our ‘Lillian’ stories. After the wake and her family left, I took a ride around Northport, NY and did not realize that such a pretty shore town existed.

Since Lillian had passed during the Epiphany, the town’s Christmas tree was still up at the harbor and I could not believe how beautiful and picturesque it was that night. I though “Lillian would have loved this”. I think that was the last gift she gave to me. They had a beautiful service for her and I said my goodbyes.

It was a tough time before and after Christmas but I am the one who was blessed with two wonderful friends who saw me through the beginnings of my career, my years in school and develop into the person I am now and was glad went through all the steps along the way.

So with much love, I dedicate this blog, One Hundred and Thirty and my midpoint of the island of Manhattan of my walk at 59th Street, to two very special “Ladies” in my life, Mrs. Helen Chao and Mrs. Lillian Heckler. Ladies, thank you for your love and friendship both for over twenty-five years. You are the best and I will not forget you!

With all my love, your friend, Justin!

 

 

Day One Hundred & Twenty Five: Walking the Streets of the lower part of the Upper West Side West 72nd Street to West 59th Street October 15th-December 3rd, 2018

It took a long time to finish the Upper West Side with classes and work going on and the beginning of the holiday season. I started walking the streets between West 59th Street in early October when the weather was still warm and the trees were still green then somehow along the way the leaves turned a golden brown and I started to see cobwebs and pumpkins all over the place. By the time I was finished, these would be replaced by garland, holly, wreathes and pine trees. I had never seen a neighborhood transform so fast or was it just me revisiting so many times over the period of three months. The holidays just creeped up on me and then overwhelmed me.

The lower part of the Upper West Side is much different from the rest of this side of town. As noted in earlier blogs of the neighborhood, pretty much everything below West 69th Street was leveled to make way for the Lincoln Center complex and only buildings around Central Park West, historic churches and some pre-war ‘gems’ survived the wrecking ball. Everything east of Broadway seemed to survive the wrecking ball but that has continued to change.

This ‘clearance’ made way for the performing arts center, many branches of college campuses, a hospital, new residential housing and new schools. There are very few traces of the old neighborhood once you cross West 70th Street until you get to about West 58th Street where some of the older buildings survived. If it did not have historic value or a certain charm, it got knocked down in the way of progress.

The charm of the neighborhood continued from West 72nd Street to West 70th Street. These was the edges of the old Upper West Side that had survived the 60’s wrecking ball.  West 72nd Street to me still represents the old New York with stores catering to the neighborhood residents and not to tourists. They are stores and restaurants for New Yorkers not New York places for tourists looking for a New York experience like walking around Times Square.

I started walking the streets of the Upper West Side from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street in early October and finishing a section here and a section there finishing closer to Thanksgiving. It was so weird to start this part of the walk when the trees still had green leaves on them to seeing Christmas decorations on the brownstone homes. Between work and the beginnings of the holidays and my hectic schedule it took a long time to see all the streets in the detail I wanted.

In the few months that I had been walking around, West 72nd Street has really started to change. I starting seeing a lot more scaffolding on the street and more restaurants opening and closing. I could not keep up the pace of the changes. Many older businesses started to close up shop due to the rent increases. All over the City rents that must have been negotiated in the mid to late 90’s were now coming due and business owners just can’t pay some of these rents. I am seeing more and more empty store fronts or restaurants replacing them with $20.00 hamburgers and $25.00 pasta dishes which are over-priced to the average person.

West 72nd Street is still worth the visit as they are many shops and restaurants that reasonably priced and are patronized by the neighborhood residents. There are many places that I like to revisit whenever I am in the neighborhood. As you round the corner onto West 72nd Street from Central Park West, you are greeted by the anchor of the neighborhood, the Dakota Apartments at 1 West 72nd Street, the famous home of John Lennon. During my time on the walk, there had been a memorial in the park on the date of his passing and many people were trying to take pictures there but the doorman are shooing people away. This is the private home to many people.

Walking down West 72nd is an array of well maintained apartment buildings and Coops but here and there on the street, there are still some pockets where you will find a brownstone here or there tucked into some corner of the street or look at the stone work on a apartment building.

Walking down West 72nd Street is a treasure trove of wonderful restaurants, interesting shops and historical architecture. It’s not just the Dakota and Olcott Apartments that are interesting. When looking up you notice so much. As you walk past the famous apartment buildings of Central Park West past Columbus Avenue, you pass an avenue of ever changing bars, restaurants and shops that continue to surprise residents and tourists alike.

One restaurant/bar I enjoy visiting is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and Diningonashoestringinnyc@wordpress.com) just past Columbus Avenue. The bar has been there for years and a neighborhood staple for locals in the neighborhood. I had eaten here many times and I always felt like I was being watched, like people at the bar were trying to figure out whether I lived there or not. The food is really good. Their burgers, chicken fingers and hot turkey sandwiches ($8.95 each) are generous in size and their prices for food and drinks is very reasonable.It is a great place to sit back and talk to strangers about just about anything.

Malachy's.jpg

Just past Malachy’s is an unassuming store, Stationary & Toy World at 125 West 72nd Street (See my blog ‘LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com) for a great selection of office supplies and toys for all ages.

stationary and toy world.jpg

Stationary & Toy World

The aisles are stacked top to bottom with popular games, crafts and building blocks while others with hard to find office supplies. Why order on Amazon when you can walk out your door and talk to people in the store who know their merchandise? It’s a throwback to a store in the 70’s that had it all. The people who work there are really nice and will help you find anything.

Verdi Square, part of the once infamous ‘Needle Park’ of the 70’s when this area got very run down has become a cornerstone of the this part of the neighborhood. There is no ‘Needle Park’ here anymore with fancy coffee vendors and musicians playing the park on a warm day. The park has been landscaped with flowers blooming each season and is a nice place to just relax and talk before taking the busy subway up or downtown.

What the neighborhood used to look like in the early 70’s

Just to tell you how much the neighborhood has changed there is a very popular Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store at 2085 Broadway with loads of merchandise from the popular chain and a 40 Carrots yogurt shop upstairs. You can get lost in the racks of clothing.

Just past Bloomingdale’s at 233 West 72nd Street is Westsider Records, another 70’s looking store for vinyl records and used books. If you are looking for the hard to find classics or for book or record that your mother threw out years ago, this is the store to start in. There is a wide variety of records here including original cast albums from musicals that I have not seen in years.

As you head down West 72nd Street, take a stop before arriving at West End Avenue and admire what is left of the old mansions that still peak out here and there on the street especially towards the very bottom of Riverside Park, when the neighborhood was an exclusive address. At the end of the block is Riverside Drive and the bottom of Riverside Park.

Across the street under all that scaffolding is The Chadsworth Apartment House that was designed in the late 1800’s (See Day One Hundred & Eight of MywalkinManhattan for full history of the apartment houses on West 72nd Street). Under all that piping if you look close, you can see the beauty and the detail work of the stone carvers. It will be something when the renovation is finished.

The Chadworth

The beauty of The Chadsworth with the lower part of Riverside Park

Before crossing back, take a look at the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument at the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street. The statue is dedicated to the former First Lady and is a nice place to sit and relax on a warm day. I have seen this part of the park in all seasons since starting to walk this part of the neighborhood and the Spring is best when the first set of flowers starts to peek out.

Walking back down West 72nd Street on the other side of the road is West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street, my go to place in the neighborhood for reasonable meals and snacks (See my TripAdvisor reviews and review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). How I found this restaurant/deli was the sign that they had on the street with the prices of their meals and went in immediately for their pizza lunch special ($5.00). The pizza there is amazing as is all of their food and seems to be the place all the cabbies and doormen eat at as well. Large portions of well made food at a reasonable price.

If you are still hungry from all the walking, another place I like to stop for a snack is Gray’s Papaya at 2090 Broadway right across from the subway station. Their hot dogs are the best and since they are grilled, they snap when you bit into them (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).

The one thing I like about West 72nd Street on the West Side is that there is something for everyone from the fancy dining establishments heading toward Central Park West to the more reasonable hole in the wall restaurants that dot the street and those hidden stores stacked high with merchandise, this street was created for the New York customer and has not given into the tourists yet.

Rounding the corner of Central Park West, this trip around the neighborhood took so much time that I saw the four seasons occur in the park. Fall is most distinct with the colorful leaves with a touch of still warm weather. Morning or night, the park is always busy.

West 71st Street has a more residential feel to it and between the park and Broadway is lined with impressive brownstones and apartment buildings. Facing Central Park is the Majestic Apartments, which opened right before the stock market crash of 1929. The apartment building is an interesting example of Modern American Art Deco architecture and was considered quite innovative when it opened. The building was built by the firm of Chanin Construction Company by Irwin Chanin (StreetEasy 2019).

Take time to look at the buildings design from the other side of Central Park West. Its elegant design is in contrast to the more Victorian look of the Dakota right across the street. Just don’t stare too long or the building doormen will give you a funny look.

dakota.jpg

The Dakota Apartments

The beautiful row of brownstones and small apartment buildings on West 71st Street were decorated at all times of the holiday season. When I started the walk in early October with the leaves still green on the trees, people were preparing for the Halloween and the coming of the Fall. As I finished the walk, many people were putting up trees, garland and lights. With the care of these brownstones and their decorations, especially at night, made it look like a true neighborhood.

Further down West 71st Street is the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at 152 West 71st Street which was built in 1917. The first church was built in 1887 near West 72nd Street and the second church was built in 1900 on the site of the current church. This church was built by architect Gustav Steinbach, a Columbia graduate, who modeled it after a much smaller 14th century French Gothic Sainte Chapelle in Parish (Church History).

The church has a very engaging sermon and mass and if you are in the area during that time, take the time out to stay and enjoy it. It was a small crowd that afternoon that I was there but I only stayed for a short period of time. It would be nice to hear the whole mass sometime.

Once you reach Sherman Square, you will see the artist Kathy Ruttenberg’s statue, ‘In Sync’ which is part of her open air exhibition with the NYC Arts, ‘In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway exhibition (one of her other statues, ‘All the World’s a Stage’ is located in the neighborhood on West 64th near Lincoln Center). Take time to look at this interesting twist of nature by the Woodstock, NY based artist. She has four other statues up and down Broadway which means revisited the Upper West Side above West 84th Street.

In Sync

‘In Sync’ By Kathy Ruttenberg

kathy ruttenberg II

“All the World’s a Stage” by Kathy Ruttenberg

I have to say one thing is that she is very creative and looks at nature and art in an extremely unusual fashion. Her work takes on a different meaning showing nature in human form. The funny part is that the whole time I was looking over the statue everyone else just bumped into me passing it. No one stopped to look at the deer-man and tree walking in tandem like it was something you saw every day in New York City.

Two of my favorite and reasonable places to eat in this part of the Upper West Side are located right across the street on Broadway. The McDonald’s at 2049 Broadway and Little Italy Pizza at 2047 Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@wordpress.com).

The McDonald’s is one of the better ones in the City for food quality and cleanliness. I have many lunches and dinners here and it is fun to order a Sausage McMuffin and Egg and a cheeseburger at 9:00pm. When the weather was really hot at the beginning walk of this neighborhood I came here for one of their frozen lemonades.

Little Italy Pizza is one of the best places for slices in the City as their pizza actually has some flavor to it. When you have a slice ($2.95) here it is a decent sized piece of pizza and the sauce is nicely spiced. Their calzones are excellent ($6.50). They are almost the size of a small pizza and are loaded with ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Their marinara sauce is delicious and well spiced. If you have one for lunch, you will need no dinner. The service here is quick and the pizza makers are in a rush all the time so take your order and wait to be called.

As you continue down West 71st Street towards West End Avenue, there is a little slice of oasis in Septuagesimo Uno Park between Broadway and West End Avenue. The park was created in 1969 as part of Mayor Wagner’s ‘Vest Park Program’ to take vacant lots in neighborhoods at the time and turn them into a ‘small oasis’ for the neighborhood. The park was part of an effort between the Mayor, the NYC Parks and neighborhood groups who wanted to beautify the neighborhood. It is beautifully landscaped and in season you can see the flowers and scrubs in  full bloom. The only problem that I found with visiting the park is that the gate is always locked. Every time I wanted to visit, there was no one there.

As you walk to the end of the block, you will see the transition in the street from where it used to stop at the back of the Chadsworth Apartments and the new Heritage at Trump Place Apartment Building. This leads back to the extension of West 72nd Street and the new Riverside Boulevard. This is where you see old and new mix in both architecture and parks. When you reach Riverside Boulevard you will see all the new buildings that I described when walking the Avenues. It shows the ingenuity of the city planners of reclaiming land and redesigning the City into the 21st Century.

As you head back down West 71st Street, really look up and admire some of the architecture and details on the buildings along the street. Once you pass West End Avenue, look at the details of 260-266 West 71st Street with their large staircases and the elegance of the clean lines on these brownstones. These brownstones were built in 1899 and were to have a look ‘different from one another’ (NY Times Real Estate). 269 West 71st Street

269 West 71st Street

Lots of care has been taken to restore them to their glory and when the weather was warmer, were decorated outside with potted plants.

Move on to the brownstones from 248-250 West 71st Street that are across the street to see their details. These were build in 1892 and look up to see the weird faces staring back at you. Further down the street, sitting like a Grand Dame of the neighborhood and not part of the Moses chopping block is The Dorilton Apartments at 171 West 71st Street that were built in 1902. These were built at a time architects were trying to lure people off Fifth Avenue and onto Broadway which was modeled after a French Boulevard.

Dorlitan Apartment

The Dorilton Apartments

Heading back to Central Park West is the brownstones of 35-39 West 71st Street with their elegant staircases, curved windows and their lion keystones staring back at you. These brownstones were built in 1900 and show a grace and elegance  of ‘Old New York’.

35 West 71st Street

35-39 West 71st Street

I found West 71st Street  offers a lot in beautiful small parks, gorgeous architecture, wonderful restaurants and interesting shops. The people here must really love it.

I rounded Central Park West again looking at the Central Park as it transitioned seasons during the walk and walked onto West 70th Street.  This is where the neighborhood starts to change. Up to Columbus Avenue, you see the older part of the neighborhood that survived the wrecking ball and past Broadway is all new construction.

I traveled down West 70th Street to Riverside Boulevard and it is amazing how in just one block a neighborhood can change. You see how ‘urban renewal’ can change the character of a neighborhood.

Still there is a beauty to many buildings on the block. It may not have all the charismatic brownstones as West 71st Street but still here and there are buildings that stand out and you take notice of when walking around. At 135 West 70th Street there is a building that has an Egyptian style motif that decorates the entire frontage.

The Pythian was designed by architect Thomas Lamb and was built in 1926 for the Knights of the Pythians, who were a fraternal order founded in 1864. The building was constructed of buff brick and terra cotta. The outside decorations of the building are designed in ‘Egyptian Revival Art Deco’ and are some of the best examples of the use of polycrome terra cotta in the City. The building was converted to condos in 1983. Really look up and admire the details of ancient Gods and Goddesses, mythical animals and artwork that looks like the outside of an ancient temple. Admire the orb that sits atop the entrance with the Goddess Isis stand guard (StreetScapes & Wiki).

The Pythian

The Pythian at 135 West 70th Street

I stopped by P.S. 199 as they were letting out of school and it was sea of children and parents for the next hour. Next to the school is Matthew P. Sapolin Park, which is a great place to visit on a hot day. There are really nice public bathrooms that come in handy after a long walk and benches under shade trees to relax on. The parents are so busy watching their kids and the other parents no one noticed me walk in the many times I visited here. This was my go to place for the bathroom and to relax when walking this section of the neighborhood and they keep the park up really nicely.

The former Playground 70 was renamed in 2011 to Matthew P. Sapolin Park after the former Commission of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, who died of cancer in 2011. The park is fitted for children with disabilities with a children’s garden, a basketball court with backstops for children in wheel chairs and picnic table seating low enough to allow for disability access (NYCParks.com).

Matthew P. Sapolin has a very interesting life before dying at age 41. He had been mainstreamed in school on Long Island, was a drummer in a band he formed and the Co-Captain of his wrestling team at NYU. Many people had commented that he was an inspiration for many people who never let a disability define them and it is fitting that such a park available to so many be named after him (NY Obituary).

Walking back from a relaxing break at the park, I walked back to towards Central Park West. Tucked away near Columbus Avenue is an interesting little antique jewelry store called Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh at 104 West 70th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). Do not miss this interesting little shop refitted in a turn of the last century pharmacy, if you like vintage and antique fine and costume jewelry.

It has some of the most unusual pieces in the shapes of animals and sunburst. I got to meet the owner, artist Lara Kornbluh, whose work had been shown in galleries in the 90’s. She had gotten interested in jewelry as a side business while working as an artist to make extra money. Her creativity as an artist shows in the one of kind selections she has bought for the store. No two pieces look alike. For jewelry lovers, it should not be missed.

Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh

Icon by Lara Kronbluh

After a long day in Soup Kitchen and walking all of West 72nd to West 70th Streets and rounding onto West 69th Street, I had had it. I wanted to relax and decided to end this part of the evening at the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West. I had not visited the museum in a long time and wanted to look around some of the exhibitions. What is nice about the museum is that on a Friday night it is ‘pay what you want’ and since I was broke, I just paid $5.00.

It was an busy evening for the museum with the ‘Harry Potter’ exhibition going on. I bypassed that and went upstairs to see the ‘Billy Jean King’ exhibition on her career as a tennis player, philanthropist and activist. I also got to see the permanent collection of objects in the collection. What was nice about that was I had the galleries pretty much to myself. I stayed until the museum closed at 8:00pm. I stopped for a quick snack on Broadway and then headed home. There would be more to see for another day.

My next trip to the neighborhood started at the Soup Kitchen again. Why I exhaust myself and walk the rest of the afternoon amazes even me. I have no idea where I get my energy from. I worked the busy bread station and after my four hour shift was over, I walked from 28th and Ninth Avenue to Harriet’s Kitchen (see review on TripAdvisor) at 502 Amsterdam Avenue, a small southern hole in the wall restaurant for lunch.

I had visited Harriet’s before and wanted to try more entrees on their menu.  I had a chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes for lunch ($12.95 plus $4.95 for the potatoes and gravy) which was the perfect lunch on a cool day and the calories would support an afternoon of walking around the neighborhood. Don’t miss this rich gravy loaded pie loaded with fresh white chicken.

After a full lunch, I walked down Central Park West tracing the park side. I really looked at the park as the joggers and walkers entered and wondered when I missed the leaves changing colors. It was the middle of October and the pumpkin decorations and mums started to appear on steps and porches of the brownstone blocks of the Upper West Side.

As I walked onto West 69th Street, I was greeted by a juxtaposed of brownstone and small apartment  house styles between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The shopping area around Columbus Avenue has not changed much over the years but the stores are constantly in transition. In the three months that I visited and walked the neighborhood I had never seen so many restaurants change hands and even watched a few open and close while I was there. The rents must be skyrocketing in the neighborhood as the twenty and ten year leases that were negotiated after the last recession have given way to market rates. Again, I don’t think the Upper West Side needs another restaurant that serves a $20.00 hamburger.

One of the most beautiful and quintessential blocks of the neighborhood is West 69th Street from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenues. This row of brownstones on both sides is met in the middle by Christ & St. Stephens Church at 120 West 69th Street. This cute little church has a garden just a few steps up from the side walk with benches to relax on. When I was visited earlier in the month, I just saw the last of the flowers in bloom and the leaves change colors. The brownstones across the street were decorated with colorful pumpkins and potted plants and the whole effect was out of a movie. It is what you would think all of New York City should look like or probably did at one time.

129-135 W69th

129-135 West 69th Street

Take time to admire the brownstones from at 129-135 West 69th Street with the unique carvings, beautiful details and their curving stairs. Decorated for both Halloween and Christmas when I walked the neighborhood, this is truly picturesque.

Once you cross Broadway, you see where the changes of the 60’s come in and the neighborhood has given way to modern construction. Between Amsterdam and Broadway you will begin to see the final buildings as part of the Lincoln Center complex of buildings of schools, theaters and offices which leads to the modern apartment complex of Lincoln Towers that continues from West 69th Street to West 66th Street. They are not so keen about letting people walk around the grounds so I snuck in carefully and did not walk around where I wasn’t supposed.

Along West End Avenue to Freedom Place is the same. Lincoln Towers, a modern apartment complex stretches from West 70th Street to West 66th and there are guards all over the place at each entrance to the complex. It is mostly paths leading the the apartments. Between Freedom Place and Riverside Boulevard are all the sparkling new apartment buildings that line the extension of Riverside Park. This new modern look to the city stretches on the West Side from West 70th Street to West 59th where some new buildings are behind fencing waiting to appear this Summer.

Riverside Park South

The is the Riverside Park skyline

So to complete this part of the walk and it was such a nice day when I did it, I made a right turn up Amsterdam Avenue from West 69th Street and walked up to West 70th Street and walked the entire length around the Lincoln Towers Complex to West 66th Street and then back to see some of the garden and paths of the complex that I could see with the guards looking me over and then back around.

When I finished that, I made the turn once I returned to West 66th Street and West End Avenue and walked to Riverside Boulevard and re-walked all the side streets between West 66th to West 70th Streets between the park and Freedom Place and looked at all the new construction again. This part of the neighborhood is dissected from the rest of the Upper West Side and is almost its own self-contained neighborhood similar to Battery Park City. It has its own shops, stores and schools. It faces a beautiful sparkling new park where the sod had just been laid that Summer and it was in full use when I was there (See Days One Hundred and Twenty One and Two).

I crossed back over the street at West 70th and continued to walk down past this extensive neighborhood and in the corner of Freedom Place and West 70th Street saw the Freedom Place marker from the Freedom Summer of June 21, 1964 when volunteers went to Mississippi to register Black voters. The plaque was dedicated to the three volunteers who were killed, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. They had been ambushed and killed that evening. A very somber plaque for such an interesting block of luxury housing.

I made the turn again and back down the other side of West 69th I went. Once you past Broadway, you pass from new to old again and it is the other side of the brownstone row until you get to Central Park West. When you turn the corner again at West 68th Street, you are pretty much looking at what is left of the old Upper West Side between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. After that the rest of the neighborhood is new construction especially around the boundaries of Broadway which is loaded with chain businesses.

West 67th Street is almost the same as the area contains many new buildings between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Here you start to see more of the buildings that are part of Lincoln Center just to the south or are part of the commercial district that has developed over the last twenty five years. When you turn the corner again from Central Park West to West 66th Street, you see the neighborhood streetscape change again with differences in the buildings from Central Park to Riverside Park.

West 66th Street takes you right back over to Riverside Park and then back to Central Park as I stopped in the park to relax. It has a wonderful view of New Jersey of the cliffs facing the Hudson River. On a warm Summer day you have a choice of things to do in the park, admiring the artwork, walking, jogging or just lying by the grass.

A tiny triangle of grass greets you right across the street from Lincoln Center in the former Empire North Park now dubbed “Richard Tucker Park”.  This little park like its counterpart Verdi Square further uptown not only serves as a subway entrance but in the warmer months has a very popular Farmers Market, waffle stand and bookseller. Its a pleasant park to sit in the Summer and watch the world go by.

Richard Tucker had started off as a Cantor who in 1945 made his operatic debut with the Metropolitan Opera, where he stayed on with the company until his passing in 1975. The bust of him by artist Milton Hebald that graces the park was donated to the park system by his wife, Sarah, in 1975.

West 65th Street brings you to the heart of Lincoln Center. This is also where the neighborhood has its extremes. On one side of Amsterdam Avenue is Lincoln Center and on the other is the Amsterdam Houses. Still the neighborhood houses some of the best schools in the country. Julliard is housed between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue as well as the Fiorella H. La Guardia School of the Performing Arts, two of the nation’s finest performing arts schools in the US.

Making the rounds back to Central Park and back in to the heart of the neighborhood, you will walk through Lincoln Center with all it’s beauty and glory. It really is a stellar site with its fountains and walkways and art. In the evening after a performance, I have always enjoyed just sitting by the fountain in the middle of the theaters and just watched people walk by either afternoons or evenings. It brings back many memories of performances past.

The Lincoln Center complex stretches from West 65th to West 62nd Streets from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenue so it takes some time to walk the whole complex and admire the gardens and statuary.

I had an interesting walk behind Lincoln Center once I crossed Amsterdam Avenue into the Amsterdam Houses, which are currently under scaffolding and being renovated. The Amsterdam Houses stretch from West 64th to West 61st from Amsterdam to West End Avenues. It is an interesting set of paths to walk through all the scaffolding. With my progressive glasses and dark jacket,  I made most of the construction guys and residents a little nervous. I had a glass thrown from a third floor window at me, security guards look the other direction when I walked by and watched a few construction guys get nervous. It just seems out of the place with the rest of the neighborhood.

One bright spot of the complex is the Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd Playground located toward the back of the complex which has recently been renovated. It has new swings and a plastic climbing complex. The few afternoons that I entered the park, the kids seemed well-behaved  but there were a lot of adults there talking.

Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd was a local resident and activist, who was a third generation member of the ‘San Juan Hill’ community who served as a mentor to children in the neighborhood and a sports coach.

I continued by walk down West 64th Street and walk all around the Amsterdam Housing Complex which made me very popular with the construction crew who seemed to step of the pace everytime they saw me walking through taking notes. I walked down and around West 61st Street and covered all the area from West 59th Street to West 64th Street from Riverside Boulevard to Amsterdam Avenue. Amsterdam Houses are really an island on to themselves with the Lincoln Center complex to the east and the luxury apartments by Riverside Park South to the west.

As you head around West 59th and 60th Streets past Amsterdam Avenue you will see the John Jay College and Fordham College campuses just south of Lincoln Center. These and Mt. Sinai Hospital pretty dominate the very bottom of the Upper West Side.

There are two stand out buildings that you should not miss admiring on West 59th Street, the IRT Powerhouse between West End Avenue and the Henry Hudson Parkway and West 59th and 58th Streets. This historic building was built in 1904 by architect Stanford White for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and is designed in ‘Renaissance Revival’ and was part of the City Beautiful Movement (Wiki). Note all the beautiful carvings and decor at the sides of the building.

irt building

IRT Building on West 59th Street

The other building not to miss is the Williams J. Syms Operating Theater at 338 West 59th Street right behind the Time-Warner Complex. It was built in 1892 as a medical hospital and is the last remaining piece of the old Roosevelt Hospital. Made with marble and mosaic floors as not to harbor bacteria, it was considered state of the art when it opened. It is now being renovated for a school.

William Syms Theater

William J. Syms Medical Theater

From West 59th Street, I walked around the back of the Columbus Circle complex and walked up Columbus Avenue back to West 64th Street and continued the walk back to Central Park West. Here you see the sparkling new Time-Warner complex with its luxury stores, hotels and restaurants. This has set the tone for the transformation of the Upper West Side.

Making the walk back onto West 63rd Street, I walked again through the Lincoln Center Complex again and then through the Amsterdam Houses again just to rile the builders who by this point just ignored me.  Towards the end of the block between West 63rd and 64th Streets and West End Avenue and Freedom Place there is another really nice park to relax in that does not have a formal name by the Parks system. It has a nice playground in the front and paths with benches to the back which is the perfect place to relax on a hot day. This park is always busy with kids.

Walking back to the commercial district of Columbus Avenue and right across from Lincoln Center is Dante Park, which in the summer is busy with vendors and book sellers and at the holidays has the most beautiful Christmas tree with an even nicer holiday event. Dante Park was originally part of Empire Park to the north but was renamed in 1921 for the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. There is a statue of him facing the park by artist Ettore Ximemes (Wiki).

Dante Park Christmas tree

Dante Park at Christmas

When walking back to West 63rd to Central Park and then back to Columbus Avenue the areas between West 62nd, 61st and 60th Streets are lined with commercial buildings, hotels and apartment buildings. The Empire Hotel which faces Dante Park and is always busy on theater night in its restaurants was built in 1923 by owner Herbert DePuy.

The last part of my walk that evening was exploring the artwork at Lincoln Center. As I looked over the signs for upcoming shows and watched the holiday decorations being placed on the inside of the opera house, I admired pieces of art tucked here and there in the complex. There was artist Henry Moore’s ‘Working Model for Reclining Figure’ in one part and Alexander Caulder’s “Le Guichet” that stand out. In all my times at the theater, I never noticed these two pieces of outdoor art. Taking time to walk around and needing to sit down you do notice them.

Henry Moore Art

Henry Moore’s “Working Model for Reclining Figure” at Lincoln Center

Henry Moore was a English artist who had graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and Leeds School of Art. He was known for his semi-abstract figures and his work in bronze. This work, “Working for Reclining Figure” was installed in 1965 and has been thought to be human figure in a reclining state.  One piece represents that head and the torso and the other the figures legs. You really have to walk around the piece to figure it out (Wiki).

Le Guichet II

 

Alexander Calder’s “Le Guichet”

Alexander Calder is an American artist who graduated from the Stephens Institute of Technology. He was known for his abstract mobiles with some known of the themes of the cosmos and nature (Wiki). The work, “Le Guichet” (the ticket window) was installed in Lincoln Center in 1963. Some say it represents a irregularly shaped hand reaching through a window.

My last night walking the streets of the Upper West Side was also the beginning of the holiday season. It had been a long day at the Soup Kitchen working the Social Services area and I just wanted to get out of there.

I walked back up Columbus Avenue to look at the store windows and took a short cut through West 69th Street between Columbus and Broadway again to look at all the lights along the brownstones again. People really decorated their homes with lights, garlands and trees. At nightfall, this is what New York is all about. The simple decorations that make the City so special.

I ended my evening with dinner at the West Side Cafe again at 218 West 72nd Street. I just needed a couple of slices of pizza and remembered how much I enjoyed it. I am beginning to feel like a regular here.

So here on the Upper West Side is a wonderful mixture of architecture, unusual art by interesting artists, great hole in the wall restaurants and a great mix of retail. Here and there a real ‘gem’ pops out but at the end of the day it is a great neighborhood to take a long walk in.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Places to Visit:

The Dakota Apartments

1 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

Church of the Blessed Sacrament

152 West 71st Street

New York, NY 10023

Places to Eat:

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-4268

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d527768-Reviews-Malachy_s_Donegal_Inn-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@worpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/683

McDonald’s

2049 Broadway

New York, NY  10023

(212) 724-0435

Open: 24 hours

http://www.mcdonalds.com

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5101346-Reviews-McDonald_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Review Diningonashoestringinnyc@wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/541

Little Italy Pizza

2047 Broadway

New York, NY 10023

http://www.lipizzany.com/

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3609300-Reviews-Little_Italy_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com review:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/898

Gray’s Papaya

2090 Broadway

New York, NY  10023

(212) 799-0243

https://grayspapayanyc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d423624-Reviews-Gray_s_Papaya-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/603

West Side Cafe

218 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4959470-Reviews-West_Side_Cafe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/599

Harriet’s Kitchen

502 Amsterdam Avenue

(212) 721-0045

http://www.harrietskitchen.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4657943-Reviews-Harriet_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Shop:

Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store

2085 Broadway

New York, NY 10023

(212) 634-3190

http://www.bloomingdales.com

Stationary & Toy World

125 West 72nd Street

(212) 580-3922

http://stationeryandtoy.com/shop/

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/200

Westsider Records

233 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-1588

http://westsiderbooks.com/recordstore.html

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm.

Day One Hundred and Thirty One: Meeting Staten Island Chuck at the Staten Island Zoo on Groundhog’s Day, February 2, 2019

I had planned to go out to Punxsutawney, PA again for Groundhog’s Day but the weather really turned this year. There was an Arctic Vortex (or whatever they are calling it this week) and the weather plunged in Pennsylvania. It was going to be 20 degrees on Groundhog’s Day (that meant 0 degrees that night) and raining when I would drive home on Sunday and I thought that would be over doing it for me.

I later saw that it did go up to 38 degrees that day in Punxsutawney, higher than expected but the overnight Friday night into Saturday was 4 degrees and sorry but the thought of standing in Gobbler’s Knob for five and a half hours in that weather was too much. I did that in 2016 in 30 degrees and that was bad enough. I will wait until next year.

I then remembered that we have our own Groundhog Festival here in the New York City area at the Staten Island Zoo with ‘Groundhog Chuck’, an event I had heard of in the past. So when I knew that driving to PA was out (I was assisting with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Marcel Paper Factory fire on Wednesday night January 30th, 2019-See The Brothers of Engine One Blog site on WordPress.com that I write), I went online and looked at the festival that they had at the Staten Island Zoo.

So on a cold morning, I got up at 3:30am in the morning to get ready to go to Staten Island. It was not too much better on an early Saturday morning here as well. It was 19 degrees (versus 4 in PA) in Staten Island but off I drove into the darkness. The trip to the Staten Island Zoo was not that bad. I got to the zoo in forty minutes and there was plenty of parking. I guess not as many people had the same idea that I had. There were only about six other cars in the lot when I arrived.

A group of about ten of us were waiting outside the back gate when someone finally came to the gate and told us we were at the wrong gate. It would have been nice if some zoo personal was directing people to the parking lot (which was dark with not a lot of signage to see) and had a sign to go to the front gate.

When the ten of us got to the front gate we were lucky in that the TV crews had already set up and there were only about ten other people there at the time so we got great views of the stage.

Trust me this is WAY smaller than the festival in Punxsutawney, PA. There were about a hundred and fifty people there that I could see and that included the staff, the politicians, the choir from P.S. 29 and their parents and the crowd of us but that made it more intimate. You were not elbow to elbow with people and did not have to camp out for the night. The Staten Island Zoo did a nice job. I still think they should move it to a bigger area of the zoo so that the kids could see it. Also, it would have been nice to put the choir and the dancing Groundhog (a staff member dressed in a Groundhog costume) on the stage so that more people could have seen them.

The Zoo staff introduced some of the local politicians to the event. Some of them kept it short and sweet and a few others had to make it about themselves and bring up things in Washington DC, which I think at an event like this has no place for it. It is a family event.

Still one of the local politicians made a good MC for the event and then introduced a student from P.S. 29,  who played the “Star-Spangled Banner” for us on her violin and that was followed by the P.S. 29 choir, who sang a song about Groundhog’s Day. It was really cute and the kids did a nice job entertaining the crowd (See the video below).

 

The Groundhog Ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo 2019 (that’s me in the Spartan knit hat)

Then the band, “Rock a Silly” played their song for Staten Chuck and it was quite clever. (See the band’s video on YouTube below).

 

The Rock-A-Silly Band with their original song for “Staten Island Chuck” (I give the band full credit for this video-very clever guys!)

The band got the crowd really moving on this cold morning.

After all the entertainment, it was time to hear the report from Chuck and the handlers took him out. There was a little of a commotion and then the report came. In the middle of this ‘deep freeze vortex’ Chuck’s prediction was SPRING IS COMING! Everyone cheered loudly at that. With that, there was a little more entertainment, then I was off to tour the zoo.

Staten Island Chuck 2019 II

The Staten Island Zoo is very nice even in the cold weather. I was able to go into the main building and see the monkey, the reptile and the aquarium exhibits, which were nicely displayed and labeled so that you knew what animals were what. The only problem with the zoo is the space is very limited and surrounded by houses so there is no room to expand, so the living space for the animals is small. Still they look happy and content.

I stopped at the Zoo Cafe for a doughnut ($1.00) and to look at the gift shop. They had an interesting ‘Staten Island Chuck’ stuffed groundhog ($12.00) that I had to keep myself from buying. The zoo gift shop is stocked with all sorts of ‘Chuck’ coloring books, tee shirts and little do-dads as well as plush animals, pencils, shirts and hats.  The zoo cafe has the usual hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries on the menu that will appeal to any child.

I walked around the zoo as it started to warm up (now 25 degrees) and went to the outside pens to see the pigs, donkey’s, kangaroos, emus, geese and ducks. The poor emus looked so cold that they were chasing after me with a look in their eyes like either I had food or was going to take them inside. I really felt for the animals in this cold.

By the time I left the zoo, it was 9:45am and the zoo still had not opened. There was myself and two other families left in the early hours zoo and by the time I got back to the parking lot, there were only six cars left.

Even though it was not the crowds of the event in Punxsutawney, PA, it was still a cute event that you should not miss on future Groundhog’s Day when you are visiting New York City. The Staten Island Zoo puts on a good show!

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

 

Places to Visit:

The Staten Island Zoo

614 Broadway

Staten Island, NY  10310

(718) 442-3100

http://www.statenislandzoo.org/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:45pm

Admission:  Adults (15 and over) $10.00/Seniors (60 and over) $7.00/Children (3-16) $6.00/Wednesdays after 2:00pm is free to everyone. Free with membership. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

The Cafe and the Gift shop are open when the zoo is open.

Places to eat:

Zoo Cafe (Inside the Zoo-hours are when the zoo is open)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48682-d110278-Reviews-Staten_Island_Zoo-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2732

 

McDonalds

803 Forest Avenue

Staten Island, NY  10310

(718) 876-6088

Open: 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48682-d13807873-Reviews-McDonald_s-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Day One Hundred & Twenty Two: Walking the Avenues of the Lower part of the Upper West Side from Riverside Boulevard to Central Park West October 5th-November 15th, 2018

It has been nice being on this side of town again. It has been a few months since my last visit to the Upper West Side. I had a long day in the Soup Kitchen working on the Bread Station and of course, they put me on the dessert section handing out cookies and pies. They kept me going until we ran out of desserts half way through service. How I walked all the Avenues from West 72nd to West 58th Streets in some parts, I don’t know.

After Soup Kitchen,  I revisited Lions, Tigers and Squares at 238 West 23rd Street for a sausage and onion pizza square  ($10.89-See Reviews on TripAdvisor and Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com), which is a deep dish  Detroit pizza with the cheese baked into the crust and loaded with chopped sweet onions  and spicy sausage. I took the pizza and relaxed on the High-line. I just watched everyone walk by and get jealous watching me enjoy my pizza.

After lunch, I walked up 9th Avenue which leads to Columbus Avenue by West 59th Street. The lower part of the Upper West Side is a neighborhood of extremes. This part of the Upper West Side is rather unusual in that once you pass West 70th Street everything is large block long buildings, new architecture and one of the most impressive cultural arts centers in the world.

In 1967, New York City planner, Robert Moses, had most of the neighborhood, over 67 acres demolished to make way for the new Lincoln Center complex.You can see the difference in the neighborhood as you pass West 71st Street and the change in each block. Some of the more historical buildings made the cut to survive and the rest were demolished. The City pretty much cleared the area of all buildings and housing and redeveloped everything south of West 70th Street from Columbus Avenue to Riverside Drive and the Hudson River to just past West 59th Street. You can see a distinct change in the architecture south of the low 70’s.

The area was once known as ‘San Juan Hill’ and ‘Lincoln Square’ and was the center of the Puerto Rican and Black community more so than Harlem and East Harlem was at the time. The whites were concentrated to the east from Amsterdam Avenue to Central Park West and the Blacks and the growing Puerto Rican population to the west to West End Avenue. The area was slated for demolition and renewal by the city planners.

I watched the neighborhood change from getting ready for Halloween to getting ready for Christmas (it tells you how long I spent on this side of the City), so I got to see how people decorated their homes during the duration of the holiday season.

halloween upper west side

Brownstones decorated for the holidays.

With the exception of some of the historical buildings and the Brownstone area between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, they pretty much looked like they leveled the neighborhood from about West 71st Street all the way down to West 58th Street. Everything here now is relatively new in comparison to the rest of the Upper West Side. It is now filled with large apartment complexes, colleges, schools and office buildings though here and there some of the historic buildings were saved from the wrecking ball. With the exception of a small amount of brownstones and the apartment houses facing Central Park West, most of the buildings below West 71st are only about thirty to forty years old.

My first part of walking the neighborhood was walking down the new extension of Riverside Boulevard which is being built on claimed land that was once part of the railroad tracks. This area of the city has been added to on the shoreline of the Hudson River and the the City is just finishing the extension of Riverside Park with Hudson River Park.

This section of green space hugs the Hudson River from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street with new plantings, paths and playgrounds along the way. During my entire trip in the neighborhood no matter the weather, there were joggers, strollers and residents of the neighborhood sitting on the benches talking. This park has created a new neighborhood on the edge of this part of the Upper West Side.

All along Riverside Boulevard from West 71st Street to the extension by the walls of West 59th Street is lined with innovative luxury resident buildings that have a beautiful views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. On a sunny day by the park, the views must be amazing from the windows facing the windows.

Turning the corner at West 70th to Freedom Place which dissects the riverfront from West End Avenue, you begin to see the changes that Robert Moses and the City of New York made when they leveled the neighborhood for Lincoln Center and the universities. The architecture changes from from prewar apartments and brownstones to modern buildings of the sixties, seventies up to current construction. These are much bigger more modern structures that change the complexity of the neighborhood.

Freedom Place and Freedom Place South are separated by resident structures between West  66th and West 64th Streets. This area is morphing again as buildings are being sandblasted back to life or being rebuilt. Freedom Place is an Avenue in transition as the neighborhood is changing again and bringing in a whole new set of residents.

Unfortunately though these buildings don’t have the personality of those above West 71st Street. The detail to the architecture is more ‘big box’ then the stonework with carved details. What is does show though is a new modern neighborhood in Manhattan. These is one detail that stands out. On the corner of West 62 Street is Collegiate Garden, a small rose garden with benches to relax. When it was in bloom during the end of the Summer and beginning of Fall it was in full bloom. It was a nice place to just relax and watch people walking their dogs.

West End Avenue in this part of the Upper West Side does not have that pre-war classic look to it. In this section of the neighborhood it is modern apartment buildings dominated by 150 West End Avenue. This complex of modern apartment buildings covers from West 70th Street to West 66th Street. From West 63rd to West 61st Streets from West End Avenue to Amsterdam Avenue is the Amsterdam Houses which were built in the late 50’s when the neighborhood was being leveled.

They are currently going under a renovation. Still it was creepy walking through the complex. Someone threw something out the window when I walked by. Also most of the construction workers stared at me as I walked through the complex as I had to criss cross it several times to walk this part of the Avenues. I still get that debated look on everyone’s face of whether I am a cop or DEA.

Like West End Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue is very similar to West End Avenue dominated by new construction, the Fordham University campus, two high schools one being the famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts where many famous actors, singers and performers have graduated from.

This part of Amsterdam Avenue is a place of extremes right across the street from one another. You have the Amsterdam Houses right which were built in the 1950’s right across the street from Lincoln Center which was built in the 1960’s. Literally a huge change in walking across the street.

I walked all through the Amsterdam Houses and got a lot of looks from the construction guys who were working on the renovation of the complex. Like most of the neighborhood, even the complex is going through changes. The whole complex was under scaffolding or under wraps as all the buildings were being fumigated. It is so strange that the City would have built this complex in this area considering what Robert Moses thought of the poor and being across from the new ‘jewel’ of the neighborhood, Lincoln Center.

If you thought you were in some upscale part of the area trust me I was reminded when a bottle was lodged from one of the top floors at me when I was walking around. It is amazing what people will do when someone was just walking around. That was the wake up call to what gentrification is doing to change the neighborhood.  It will be interesting to see what the results of the renovation will look like. The weird part about this complex is that it sits like an island in the middle of a neighborhood that is getting richer and richer.

As you pass the Amsterdam Houses though, you are reminded that this is now a neighborhood of culture. Right across the street from the projects is Lincoln Center, one of the most influential and prestigious entertainment complexes in the world.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a 16.3 acre complex of buildings that house the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera. Built as part of the “Lincoln Square Renewal Project” during the Robert Moses program of urban renewal in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the complex spans from  West 60th to West 66th Streets between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

Under the direction of city planners and civic leaders that included John D. Rockefeller III, almost the entire neighborhood from West 59th Street to West 69th Street from Amsterdam to West End Avenue was leveled of its tenements and the has become home to two college campus, two high schools, the sprawling Lincoln Center campus and many new apartment buildings that now line the streets from the Hudson River to Columbus Avenue.

Over the past fifty years, the entire neighborhood has changed with new buildings for schools and housing on the spot where black and Irish gangs used to do battle. This once area of immense black culture has given way to an upper middle class enclave that now includes the Time Warner Building with the Mandarin Hotel and upscale shops.

As you continue the walk up Amsterdam Avenue, you will pass Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts whose Alumni reads like a Who’s Who in the entertainment world. On the next block up from that is the Martin Luther King High School, which specializes in Law, the Arts and Technology. At lunch hour and after school the neighborhood is teeming with teenagers gossiping and yelling at one another. Nothing has changed in the 35 years since I graduated. The conversations are still the same.

As you cross over the West 70th Street border of the neighborhood, you start to see the older section of the neighborhood and this is the tail end of the neighborhood before everything below was leveled. You will see a distinct change in the architecture and how the city planners must have saved the more historic buildings of the neighborhood bounded east of Broadway.

Passing Sherman Square, a small pocket park on the corners of Amsterdam, Broadway and West 70th Street that is dedicated to Civil War General William T. Sherman once had a past all of its own as the notorious “Needle Park” of the 60’s and 70’s, where drug dealers and pushers used to habit. I had to watch “The Panic in Needle Park” again to see how this stretch of the neighborhood has changed. Between Verdi Square and Sherman Square with the new plantings, trees and freshly painted benches and a branch of Bloomingdale’s around the corner, it is amazing how a city transformed itself in 35 years. The area is now loaded with new housing, restaurants and stores (and its still morphing!).

sherman square

In the lower part of Verdi Square, you can continue to admire what the Art in the Parks is doing with the statue “In Sync” by artist Kathy Ruttenberg. This unusual sculpture looks like a deer mashed with people and the strangest expression on its face. It is part of the project “Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway, a series of sculptures by the artist. It is a cross between some surrealist beast in “Alice in Wonderland” or you would see “Over the Rainbow”. What I loved about her work in this outside show was how depicted nature in such an unusual fashion.

in sync

In Sync by Kathy Ruttenberg

“Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: in dreams awake”: features six large-scale, figural sculptures artist on the Broadway malls between 64th and 157th Street. In her first major outdoor installation, Ruttenberg created narrative works, combining human, animal and plant forms that bring alive a wonder world in which different species merge and figures serve as landscapes. The artist employs a variety of sculptural media including paginated bronze, glass mosaic, transparent cast resin and carefully orchestrated LED lighting. The interaction among color and form, opacity and transparency and even light itself used as a medium highlights the inherently theatrical nature of the visual storyteller’s art (Broadway Mall Association 2018).

 

Kathy Ruttenberg’s video on the exhibition

Ms. Ruttenberg was born in Chicago but her family moved to New York City. She received her BFA with Honors from the School of Visual Arts in 1981. It was noted that her work expresses a distinctly feminine perspective with mostly women as main characters and masculine characters depicted in complex but usually secondary roles. The natural world  and our relationship to it underpin her work and feature broadly in her narratives (Wiki). Try to see the works before they disappear in February of 2019.

Sitting at the corner at 171 West 71st Street and Broadway near the intersection with Amsterdam Avenue is The Dorilton Apartments which looks like a Victorian wedding cake. The apartment building is a reminder when apartment buildings were not glass boxes but graced with elegance and loaded with carved marble and statuary.

dorlitan apartment

The Dorilton Apartments

The apartment building was designed by Janes & Leo, the New York based architectural firm of Elisha Harris Janes and Richard Leopold Leo for real estate developer Hamilton Weed. The building is noted for its opulent Beaux-Arts style limestone and brick exterior, featuring monumental sculptures, richly balustraded balconies and a three story copper and slate mansard roof. The building was finished in 1902 (Wiki).

You can see through the gateway in front to the courtyard of the building, something similar to The Dakota and The Ansonia a few blocks away. Residents enter their building through a narrow entrance that leads into a recessed courtyard and the masonry archway over this entrance rises to the 9th floor. The doorway to this courtyard is comprised of a stone doorway topped with globes, all of which is sandwiched in between detailed wrought iron fencing (Wiki). You can see from the building that it sits as a grand dame amongst the new buildings in the area and was spared the wreaking ball by being on the right side of the neighborhood.

As you cross into West 72nd Street, you are greeted by the upscale coffee stands that are now in Verdi Square which lies above Sherman Square. It just goes to show how thirty years has changed this once downtrodden section of the Upper West Side. There is still grit along this side of the Avenue but slowly, like the rest of Manhattan, is covered up by scaffolding and will either be sandblasted or torn down to make way for the next high-rise. Still as written in various other walks, West 72nd Street still holds onto its charms with older shops in its business district that are geared to the locals and not the tourists.

On the way back down Amsterdam Avenue by the corner of West 63rd Street is the firehouse FDNY Engine 40/Ladder 35 made famous by the David Halberstam novel “Firehouse” based on the events of 9/11 which was published in 2002. Mr. Halberstam discusses in his book the tragedy of that day and the companies loosing their members (eleven) in the collapse of the towers.

firehouse

 

The memorial outside the firehouse shows the members who were lost that day. Take time to look over the memorial and say a prayer for these members who gave up their lives to make us safe.

fdny

Engine 40/Ladder 35

After meeting Mr. Halberstam at a book signing, it inspired me to write my novel, “Firehouse 101” a fictional tale taking it from the standpoint of the people were survived and were left behind to pick up the pieces of their own lives. My novel took it from the standpoint of the neighbors and friends where Mr. Halberstam took it from the stand point of the non-fictional lives of the fire fighters lost. I swear for the couple of weeks that I criss crossed the neighborhood and passed this firehouse, I just kept thinking of the sacrifice these men made and how that inspired books to be written.

firehouse 101 picture iii

As you pass the firehouse, you are walking in the back section of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Towards the bottom of the Avenue heading to West 59th Street is Fordham University and Mt. Sinai Hospital campus which run from Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue as you cross West 59th Street. As you walk from Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue down West 59th Street, you pass these active campuses.

At the corner of West 59th Street and Columbus Avenue is the William J. Syms Operating Theater that was built in 1891. This is the last part of the old Roosevelt Hospital that was part of the neighborhood. William Syms was a gun merchant, who had had surgery at the hospital. After a successful surgery at the hospital, he wanted to give more than his bill which the hospital would not accept (Wiki).

william syms theater

William Syms Operating Hospital

What he did is upon his death, he left Roosevelt Hospital $350,000 of which $250,000 was to be used for an ‘operating theater’ and at the time used the most innovative materials to keep out bacteria. It had been used for this purpose until the 1950’s and left to ruin. The structure today was gutted and it now going to be used as a private school. The building is now part of modern structure that has been expanded. Look to the details of the building and the signage that is carved in.

As you walk further up Columbus Avenue, you pass the front part of the college and hospital campus and the new construction that happened in the 1960’s to the 1980’s. By the time you get to West 62nd Street to West 66th Street you get to the Lincoln Center complex and its grandeur especially at night with the lights of all the buildings ablaze. It is even more beautiful as we got closer to the holidays when everything was being decorated for Christmas.

Across the street from Lincoln Center is Dante Park which is located at the corner of Columbus Avenue,  Broadway and West 66th Street. This little triangle  of green across the street from the Empire Hotel and Lincoln Center, was originally called Empire park. The park, which was established in 1921 by Americans of Italian decadency and named it after Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet.  At Christmas time, there was one of the most beautiful Christmas trees in the City lit in the park which was part of neighborhoods Annual Winter’s Eve festival, which takes place in the last week of November.

dante park christmas tree

Across the street from Dante Park is the Empire Hotel, a small boutique hotel that has been part of the neighborhood since 1923. The hotel was built by Herbert DuPuy, who had knocked down the original structure in the park and opened this unique hotel on December 5, 1923 (Wiki). It has been part of the neighborhood dining experience since with a series of restaurants over the years that has graced the ground floor. Between the park and the hotel it sits in contrast to the rest of the neighborhood that has been rebuilt over the years.

Columbus Avenue gets interesting once you cross over West 68th Street as the modern structures of lower Columbus Avenue give way to the smaller brick buildings that house a series of homegrown restaurants and stores with an every growing number of national chain stores. Back in 1984, just as the economy was booming due to the rise in Wall Street and junk bonds, Columbus Avenue from West 70th Street to West 84th Street was the new ‘happening neighborhood’ with papers touting it as the next Madison Avenue.

Through several booms and busts in gentrification and the rise of rents, there is not much left of that era except the American Museum of Natural History. On my walk through the Upper West Side in the few months that I have explored the streets of the area, I have started to watch stores and restaurants change hands and open and close with lighting speed. Some have moved further up the Avenue and others have transplanted to other parts of the City.

Broadway has seen the most changes from West 59th Street to West 72nd Street with loads of new apartment buildings and stores built along the street since the 1980’s. I remember all the construction along Broadway in those years and I have never seen this section of the City change so much. Many modern apartment buildings are popping up along the street and this is going all the way up into the 90’s and 100’s now. Still it is interesting to see the old and new structures mix in various parts of the neighborhood.

I ended the walk in the neighborhood by walking across West 72nd Street, looking at the street come to life after work hours. The restaurants started to fill up and people were walking up and down the street heading into stores for dinner. I saw the guys lighting the lights around The Dakota at the corner of West 72nd and Central Park West. It is such a beautiful building.

I walked down to the Museum of Modern Art on West 52nd to see a movie and I just relaxed for the rest of the evening. It had been a long afternoon and my feet were killing me.

Places to Eat:

Lions & Tigers & Squares

238 West 23rd Street

New York, NY  10011

(917) 261-6772

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d14124878-Reviews-Lions_Tigers_Squares_Detroit_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My blog on Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/766

Places to See:

The Dorilton Apartments

171 West 71st Street

 

Dante Park

West 65th Street & Broadway and Columbus Avenue

Sherman Square & Verdi Square

West 70th-72nd Streets

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/dante-park

Day One Hundred & Twenty Seven The creation of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. and the project “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College” May 2018

I  put “MywalkinManhattan” on hold for work the Fall months. I taught Business Communications 105 again this semester at Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ and this was the final presentation of the group project I had my students create. I have my Communication students do this to get them to actually talk to one another and get to know all the other students in class. This has become harder since the advent of cellphones and texting. The art of conversation seems to have gone out of vogue. I worry that they losing the act of getting to know other people and even having a ‘college experience’.

I established the company, “Bergecco-Parc Consultants Inc.” an acronym for Bergen Community College, Paramus Campus and established an Executive Team. From there, I put together a Talent/Security team, Marketing Team and a Special Events team each lead by a Vice-President and Directors and Team Leaders. Since all the departments had to talk to one another to do the project, I made sure that each team would need the other to create each section of the project.

The theme of the project was “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road Back to Bergen Community College”. The premise was that MGM/Turner Classics had found the famous “Jitterbug” number from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” and had restored it back in the film. Now the film was being shown at its ‘World Premiere” at Bergen Community College during Welcome Week (we were chosen over Rutgers and Princeton).

The college had then hired us as a consulting firm to come in and do a series of activities in honor of the event as well as promote the Bergen Room, the on-campus student run dining room, Gallery Bergen, our student run Art Gallery and the Ciccone Theater (see reviews on TripAdvisor), where student run plays were shown to the public by the campus Theater Department. The company was also to promote the Athletic Department with a Pep Rally and Bonfire.

This was an extensive project that required all the students to do research and ask questions all over campus. Many students would later comment in their papers that this was the first time they were exposed to what the Bergen Community College campus had to offer and had been to different parts of campus. They also discovered our Athletic programs and our cultural activities and realized that we were very similar to a major campus with a lot of the same things to get involved with as a student.

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.

bergecco-parc logo

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Logo:

Six trees representing the six original creators of the company. The meaning: Trees continue to grow and make an impact on the nature of the world.

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. was founded by six Rutgers students who had been a competing in a contest against other well-known marketing firms. over creating a Welcome Week concept for the Rutgers’s  New Brunswick campus. They won the contest and upon graduation, started a small company concentrating on helping colleges promote activities on their campuses.

When you have thirty two students (unlike my last semester when I had eighteen students creating Buscomonzefi.com) there is a lot to manage. This time I added a layer of management and a few extras to make sure that everyone worked.

Here’s our logo, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”

bcc bergecco parc welcome week logo

My Talent Team created the Human Resources department from scratch putting a budget together for the entire Paramus department as well as the executives who were part of the New Brunswick branch of the company. They research the benefits, perks of working there and some extras that Google and Facebook hadn’t even thought of like a Dog Walking service and an English as a Second language classes for our international employees. In real life, I don’t know how a small company could have paid for some of the things they suggested but I let them make that decision.

The Marketing Department was in charge of promoting The Bergen Room, the student run dining room, The Gallery Bergen, the student art gallery and The Ciccone Theater, where our theater department puts on shows.

Here is their commercial promoting the campus to incoming students in many languages that the student body of the class spoke. We had students speak twelve  languages and most participated in the commercial.

Welcome to Bergen Community College:

 

The next part of the project that were marketing was “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College” a Wizard of Oz themed event with the showing of the film, the play version of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ , a special theme dinner with a Wizard of Oz concept and a Pep Rally and Bonfire for our Athletic teams on campus. One of my students even wrote a new school song and another a fight song that were performed that night.

The commercial promoting the events:

 

One of my students was legally deaf and I wanted to make sure that every activity that we promoted was ADA compliant with the laws of New Jersey and the campus regulations. Here he created a commercial for the hearing impaired. I will tell you that as an educator I have never been prouder of a student and watched him shine as this one did for this part of the project.

Their commercial for the hearing impaired students:

 

The Special Event’s Team created the Pep-Rally and Bonfire, which was an interesting concept as the Director and his team created a program where the students athletes would burn the witch in effigy with our rivals name followed by a fire works display and snacks for the students.

Another team in the Special Events division created a theme dinner starting with a cocktail party in Gallery Bergen, with the show theme ‘Over the Rainbow Surrealism’ with surrealist art based on the movie by the art department students and clothing from the Retailing program.

Since we had so many students that spoke different languages, they created the menus in about seven different languages. The students also added trivia from the movie as well as fun facts about the actors. They even looked into food trucks for those who could not get into the Special dinner. The event would be finished off with the stage version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

This version was performed by the Ann Arbor Student Theater group and I give them full credit  for this performance:

 

Needless to say as a company, you always have those who chose not to take it seriously but those things were addressed. I had a student hierarchy that we followed and as the CEO and one of the Co-Founder’s  of the company, I made sure that we followed protocol by CCing everyone on emails and letting them fight their own battles. We did have some battles along the way right up to the night of the presentation.

The presentation was done not just in front of their classmates but the heads of the Theater, Alumni, Art Gallery, Special Services and Alumni Foundation. They all seemed blown away by a project that had a five week lead time. The comments I got from fellow professors and administrators was wonderful and the students seemed very proud. They all could not understood how I got them all to dress up with the ladies in skirts and dresses and pantsuits and the men in suits and jacket and tie. They looked really sharp as a class!

Even to keep the real life simulation project going, I even created a small reception for everyone by baking desserts and providing non-alcoholic beverages. A lot of the people that participated got a kick out of that. I even entered the project in the campus’s Innovation Award but it did not win ( I was bummed for all these students that worked so hard on it).

The funny part of being an educator is the reviews and reactions we get as professors. When I read some of the reviews, some of the students did not understand why we did such a project and what did dressing up for a project have anything to do with business communications?

I think the true reality everyone who is reading this  is that everything we do in the business world is communication. From the texts and emails we send, to the activities we plan for fellow employees, to the way we present ourselves to others by the way dress and speak and the way we stand. Everything in life we do conveys a message.

I know that most of the students learned something new and were excited about the project and coming to class. This is what getting an education is all about and I could not have been prouder of a class!

Check out their student blog!

Welcome Week

My reviews on TripAdvisor:

The Bergen Room:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46712-d12308869-Reviews-The_Bergen_Room-Paramus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

(check out my blog, Diningonashoestringinnyc@wordpress.com for a review)

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

The Ciccone Theater:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46712-d15599602-Reviews-The_Ciccone_Theatre-Paramus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The Gallery Bergen:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46712-d15515383-Reviews-Gallery_Bergen_West_Hall-Paramus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

(Check out my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com for a review)

Visiting a Museum is a blog site featuring unique, unusual and obscure small museums, historical sites & homes and community gardens and parks.

 

Day One Hundred & Twenty Three: Halloween Again October 31, 2018

I can’t believe that the year went by so fast. I blinked my eye and the leaves changed colors and it was the end of the summer. The weather has been so unpredictable  since the beginning of 2018, it is hard to judge the seasons. It was a cold Winter, was cool and rainy most of the Spring, and the Summer was either humid or rainy. We never had normal seasonable days the way we have had in the past. We had two rather nice days around Labor Day Weekend and that was about it.

The Fall became cool very quickly. Where as last year, the leaves did not change colors until November 12th, this year it got really cool early in October and the leaves changed quickly and were off the trees because of constant rain storms. So much for the seasons!

Halloween was the exception to the rule. We had a sudden burst of an “Indian Summer” and the weather to 59 degrees on October 30 and the night of Halloween it was 64 degrees, a perfect night for the Halloween Parade. It was nice to have three days of above 60 degree weather and then by November 2nd back down to 40 degrees. Still it made Halloween more fun and engaging.

Halloween activities ranged from watching films to museum events to the best part of all, the New York Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. Its more of a lower Manhattan parade now but still keeps it heart in the community. I even designed our shirts for Engine One HHFD with a Jack-o-Lantern logo.

Engine One Tee-shirt 2018

The Engine One Hasbrouck Heights tee-shirt logo.

My first activity of Halloween was visiting the Meadowlands Museum for the Annual Scarecrow Festival. The tough part was it was a gloomy day and there were not many participants. Still the people who came were really artistic and very enthusiastic. There were only a dozen or so scarecrows on the sticks but there were some interesting designs. The sad part was there were only about twenty or so people at the event. This could be a very interesting event if they advertised it more.

Scarecrow Day

Scarecrow Day at the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, NJ

The second event I attended was the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum Historical Society’s Annual Cemetery Walk through both the Old Dutch Cemetery and the Valleau Cemetery across the street. This is an interesting tour that I did last year by with different actors at the grave sites.

What the Schoolhouse Museum located at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood does is they wait until nightfall and they take you on a lantern tour of the grave sites of prominent members of the Ridgewood community and an actor plays that person and describes their life and their role in the community.

Ridgewood Cemetery tour I

Joe Suplicki from the Ridgewood Historical Society

Under the direction of Ridgewood historian, Joe Suplicki, who leads the tour into the graveyard with lantern in hand, you will walk a lighted path of luminaries into the heart of the cemetery to the different sites. The most interesting one I found on this tour was the mausoleum of J. J. Newberry, the founder of the discount department store. This company went out of business years ago but I had not realized the family had lived in Ridgewood.

Ridgewood Cemetery Tour II

The Cemetery Walk in Ridgewood, NJ.

The tour really does take you to the spooky parts of the cemetery and it is best to stay with the group. Although no one is popping out at you, you still have a creepy feeling from walking around all the tombstones. It is almost a relief to get back to the museum. The best part is that Demerest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ donates their apple cider and cider doughnuts to the museum for the end of the tour and that is a real treat.

You get to munch on doughnuts and listen to ghost stories from the head of the museum around ‘a campfire’. The best part is watching the kids scared from stories that are told and by kids I mean the forty year olds. Their children are too busy on their cell phones. The museum does a wonderful job every year and for the $10.00 donation it a nice tour.

My next venture on the Halloween list takes me to Croton-on-Hudson to the Van Cortlandt Manor to the annual ‘Pumpkin Blaze’. That is a site to see every year. Even though I have visited it over the last five years, I never get tired of looking at it. The estate is illuminated with hundreds of pumpkins. The pumpkins take all sorts of shapes, sizes, carved faces and even in the structures.

When you enter the estate, you are greeted with a form of mortuary, Halloweenish music that sets the tone for the walk. The Pumpkin Blaze has gotten even more popular in the four years that I have been going and I had to get the tickets way in advance. The weather was nice but it had cooled by this point and was in the low 40’s when I got there.

I was part of the last group that arrived at 8:30pm so the place was starting to clear out when I arrived. It is a lot easier coming towards the end of the night as it gives you more time to walk around.

The display was just as spectacular as in years past. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by the river with carved lit pumpkins of all expressions until you reach the pumpkin bridge, ‘The Pumpkin Zee Bridge’ and travel over it to the rest of the displays which include pumpkin jack in the boxes, a pumpkin ferris wheel and a pumpkin tunnel.

pumpkin blaze

The Pumpkin Zee Bridge and Spider Web at the Pumpkin Blaze.

Through out the display, I walked the path by myself to see pumpkin skeletons, the pumpkin version of the headless horseman, spiders, dinosaurs and a pumpkin circus train. This lead to the main house, the Van Cortlandt Manor, where there were pumpkin scarecrows, a pumpkin cemetery and a light show at the manor that was ablaze with lit pumpkins. The whole effect was engaging.

I doubled back around the cemetery and walked through the sea of pumpkins smiling and grinning at me. The music continued to play as I doubled back through the display but by this time the crowds started to thin and it got colder. When I reached the gift shop it was about 38 degrees I heard someone say. I looked back at the dark lawn with the music still moaning and thought about the amount of work to make this spectacular display every year.

My last event of the holiday was work as a marshal for the Halloween Parade in New York City. I have been working as a marshal for five years now starting in 2014. My job is the least glamorous part of the parade. I work the performance gate where all the performers enter the parade route to their floats. It is also one of the tougher jobs of the parade as I have to make sure all the people who don’t belong in the parade stay out.

It has gotten easier since the passes are now on cell phones or the performers print them out. They know that they have to bring it to the parade. What I love are all the people who try to wheedle  their way in to see the parade at its starting point. I have watched people say that they lived there, were staying at the hotel near by, they have dinner plans across the street, they are meeting someone there or try to sneak in with the groups of performers, After five years, I have gotten wise to everyone. The only problem I have is that I work with people who just let people in because they don’t want to confront people. I just tell them “and the cow jumped over the moon!” when they give me a lame answer.

This year I had a pretty good track record of keeping people out with new volunteers who followed the rules.  It is fun watching the parade come to life. I have watched hundreds of volunteers come through the parade entrance in costume and with instruments in hand who volunteer to make the magic of the parade.

After we got everyone in the parade route, we closed the gate for the night and the NYPD protected it. I got to go into the parade route and by Broome Street got to watch the parade come together with a combination of floats, performing acts and costumed participants progress up the Avenue. By the time I got to the parade starting point most of the parade was already over and had proceeded uptown. I got to see the last of the floats and bands head uptown.

Halloween Parade 2018 IV

The robot themed puppets in the parade.

By 9:00pm, the last float headed uptown with a group of Mardi Gras drag queens yelling and screaming over disco music. The rest of the people in the parade were the costumed participants from all over the world who were thrilled to be in the parade. We left yelling and cheering as they entered the parade route.

There were many creative costumes in the parade. You had your usual cartoon characters, police, fire fighters, superheros and witches and devils. There was not much politics as I had seen in the last two years though there were a few Donald Trump masks. Maybe because I was seeing the end of the parade head up town, it looked to me like people were there to have fun and march in the parade less the politics. I did see some unusual and creative costumes such as geometric angels, elaborate dress costumes and show outfits. There still is a lot of creativity left in the population and they like to show it off one night of the year.

To end Halloween, we all met at Tipsy Parson on 156 9th Avenue for a parade rap up party. It was a nice way to end the evening meeting with all the parade marshals and volunteers. They had a nice meal for us as they did the year before with pulled pork sliders, spiced chicken wings, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and assorted desserts. Everyone was starved by the time we got there at 9:30pm and made multiple trips to the buffet.

It was nice to sit back and laugh with everyone. My distant cousin, Mark Schuyler and I got to kid around through the evening about some of the stories we heard about people trying to sneak into the parade lineup. We have been swapping these stories now for five years ( I can’t believe it was that long) and still through the back of my mind I thought “We are here again? A year has gone by this quickly? Where did it all go?”

Through the laughing I realized that time has gone by pretty quickly and Christmas was right around the corner. As another Halloween drew to a close, I look back on this Halloween and realize that you can have fun without dressing up and Trick or Treating. You just have  to see where life takes you and the experiences in front of you.

Halloween is not so bad after all!

The Halloween Parade 2018:

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

 

Places to Visit:

Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum & Historical Society

650 East Glen Avenue

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

(201) 447-3242

https://ridgewoodhistoricalsociety.org/

Open: Thursday 1:30pm-3:00pm/ Saturday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Sunday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Closed Monday-Wednesday & Friday

Admission:  By Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46772-d10353516-Reviews-Schoolhouse_Museum-Ridgewood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1528

Van Cortlandt Manor

525 South Riverside Avenue

Croton-on-Hudson, NY  10520

(914) 366-6900

Open: Friday-Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm/Closed Monday-Thursday

Admission: By Donation-Tickets to the Blaze vary by membership and by year.

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47560-d116391-Reviews-Van_Cortlandt_Manor-Croton_on_Hudson_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

 

Meadowlands Museum

91 Crane Avenue

Rutherford, NJ  07020

(201) 935-1175

https://www.meadowlandsmuseum.com/

Hours: Wednesday & Saturday-10:00am-4:00pm/The Rest of the week is closed

Admission: Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46796-d2403380-Reviews-Meadowlands_Museum-Rutherford_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1861

 

The Halloween Parade NYC

Along Sixth Avenue from Canal Street to 23rd Street every Halloween Night October 31st.

 

Places to eat:

Tipsy Parson

156 9th Avenue

New York, NY  10011

(212) 620-4545

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Hours: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-11:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-11:00pm/Sunday-10:00am-10:00pm

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1986889-Reviews-Tipsy_Parson-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Day One Hundred & Twenty Four: Thanksgiving with Lillian in Kings Park, NY November 22, 2018

(This blog is in memory of my close friend, Lillian, who passed away on January 4th, 2019. My heart goes out to her family in losing such a wonderful person. I lost a good friend of twenty-three years. She was 100 years young and will always be Lillian to me!)

I went out to celebrate Thanksgiving again with my friend, Lillian. She is my friend that just turned 100 years old in June of 2018. I can’t believe that she is still sharp after all this time but then that is Lillian.

I had to drive out the day before so that I could let her know that I was coming for dinner. Trying to call her now is next to impossible as the nurses in her ward put the phone next to her and she can’t hold it. It gets to be trying with that.

Anyway, I had a nice night on Thanksgiving eve at the local Hampton Inn, which I had stayed at before and just relaxed. I was exhausted from all the activities that have been going on in my life and the fact that working four different jobs can take a toll on you. The hotel was decorated for the Christmas holidays and the tree in the lobby was fully lit with a tray of cookies right next to it for guests.

Traveling out to Kings Park, NY seems to have gotten a little easier since I now know the route much better. I also make it easier for myself by driving on the 495 the whole way. I saved myself so much time.

There are sometimes I don’t think Lillian knows who I am at first. She just kind of looks at me but the then the more we talk, the more she comes around. It must be tough because everytime I visit the facility that she lives in all the residents are asleep which is not good for them. There is not much stimulation in watching old movies all day long.

I woke her up and gave her a big greeting and told her we had the whole day to spend together. We first started out by getting her cleaned up a bit. I hate it when they leave clothes on her that have food from breakfast.

Then it was a off to a tour of the facility before lunch. It was nice seeing the facility she lives in all decorated for Christmas. We had a nice time looking over the decorations and the tree in the lobby. Many family members were gathering their loved ones for trips home while others would be joining up in the family dining room for dinner. It was so much more personable. The facility has a private dining room they use for special meals for residents and it makes it more of a formal occasion.

Lillian and I had a nice time. Unfortunately that had just changed her diet to a ground up diet (bummer) and she had to drink thick turkey and cream soups but she managed that very well. For a little thing, she can eat! I gave her three glasses of apple cider, a glass of water, both soups and a few bites of pumpkin puree with whipped cream and she ate it with gusto. She drank half of both soups with no problems. After the meal, I swear she was a different person. She was so much more alive. She went back to being Lillian.

I wheeled Lillian’s roommate, Marie down to the dining room to join us for entertainment. With the power of  song and music, there was a keyboardist who sang all sorts of Christmas songs and music from the 70’s and 80’s that got the crowd going. It really woke them up. The transformation of went from people in wheelchairs half asleep to a loud sing a long. When the keyboardist sang “Take me out to the ballgame”, the whole room woke up. I swear it was like the movie “The Awakenings” where everyone comes back to life from ‘comatose land’.  People started to sing with such happiness as if they were remembering a better time in their lives. Lillian was so happy and was singing and clapping along. I was glad to be able to give her this.

The musician also have me a chance to relax and digest. It was a long ride home. After the entertainment was done for the afternoon, I wheeled both Marie and Lillian back to their room so that they could relax. It was a lot for both of them I could tell but they were different people when I left from who they were when I arrived and both much happier. I never saw two women more alive after a short afternoon of a good dinner and music. That’s what keeping people active and a little love does. It gives a person purpose and a sense of self. I even felt much better as well. It is nice when you can make a difference in someones life.

My ride home was the quickest ever. I got home in 55 minutes and got over the George Washington Bridge in seven minutes! How’s that for a new world record! Maybe God was watching over me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Day One Hundred & Twenty-Six: Here come the Christmas Trees in Hasbrouck Heights (HHMA) November 24th, 2018

I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again!

The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving for me means Christmas Tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association, which I have been a member of for nineteen years. I can’t believe that time has gone that fast. It seems like ten life times ago.

The organization has been building on the success of the sale over the past five years and this year we extended the amount of trees we bought to 340 over the 315 last year. I thought we ordered an even 350 but we must have readjusted it. Still that is the most amount of trees we have sold since I have been in the organization.

Last year we were sold out by the second week of December and had our annual party at the lot with three trees left. I had never seen so many trees sell out so fast. Our word of mouth has been very good. I have also tried to get the Upper West Side customer from Manhattan to cross the bridge to buy their trees here. I swear that I was pricing trees while I was finishing my walk of the Upper West Side for my ‘MywalkinManhattan’ project and trees that we were selling for $45-$55 vendors were selling for $100. It was just nuts.

We also bulked up on the fraizers this year. They are the pine trees that look the most typical ‘Christmasy’. They as of this weekend have almost all sold out. People tend to decorate early because of work schedules and I swear, we had not even emptied the truck on Saturday and we sold two trees. We sold eight by the end of my shift at 6:00pm that night.

For all of you readers and bloggers who need a Christmas tree, we are located on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and our prices go from $45.00 for a small Frazier to $100.00 for a ten foot tall Balsam. We are open as long as the supply lasts.

Hurry up as I was on the lot last night and there were forty-one trees left! By the night of our annual tree stand party we sold out! 340 trees in less than three weeks! A new Men’s Association record!

Men's Association Dinner 2016

The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association in 2017

Watch my successful commercial for YouTube below and watch the trailers for my two favorite contemporary Christmas movies. They really show a different side of the holidays.

Hasbrouck Heights Men's Association Xmas Tree Sales

Me selling Christmas trees on the lot with member John Horem.

Merry Christmas!

 

My Christmas tree sales video on YouTube.

Update: All in all 339 trees were sold and one was stolen from the lot. We raised over $8000 for student scholarships and want to thank all of customers for their support!

 

My two new favorite contemporary Christmas movies, “Christmas Again” and “White Reindeer” sad but optimistic views on the holiday. Try to get your hands on these two great indie films.

‘Christmas Again’

 

‘White Reindeer’