I visited the King Canal Store Museum and the King Homestead during the Morris County “Pathways to History” tour in May of 2022. This interesting store was still intact with its merchandise lining the shelves with a pot belly stove in the center of the store which was the center of action when the store was open to the community. All sorts of grocery items and notion items still line the walls.
The guide explained that upon the death of the owner wanted to store closed and sealed. His daughter only opened it in the 1930’s…
I have been teaching “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College for several years now and in the era of COVID, it has been especially difficult. With businesses shutting down never to reopen getting students to understand that business must go on and pivot is a difficult thing to do. You have to learn to adapt and survive or else everything fails.
This is happening in small downtowns all over the country. You have to learn to adapt, or you will fail. Things have gotten better though with the dropping of the mask mandates and businesses opening up.
In my live classes, I open my consulting company, “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.”, for business and the whole class bands together and we have one big project. In the era of COVID and online learning, I was lucky that I was able to teach one of the live classes on the Bergen Community College, Paramus Campus. It was such a pleasure welcoming students back to campus with live lectures and conversing with them.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. corporate logo of the six trees
In the past, I have created these projects under the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. banner, the main consulting company, the Orion Malls banner, a Mall design company and the Buscomonzefi.com banner, my Tech Division. Each business does its best to be creative, forward thinking and have a thought producing presentations. I also challenge the students to top on another in their presentations and build on what they have seen others do in the past.
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
This semester’s project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town” was inspired by the success of the “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” project in 2019. I loved how the students really had to learn about the history of the City of Paterson and about New Jersey history in general. This is something not being taught in schools today.
The blog on Day One Hundred and Fifty-Five: “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” in 2019:
I chose Rutherford because it was the next town over from the Lyndhurst campus where I was teaching and the fact that Lyndhurst did not have a cohesive downtown area to promote. When I walked it, their downtown was in sections instead of one long stretch. Also, Downtown Rutherford had more of a history to it and was picturesque with its old buildings, classic look of an old church dominating the downtown and a park with a band shell at the top of the shopping district. There was more you could do with it.
The town is on two major bus routes one into New York City and one into Newark as well as being a railroad head for New York City. The town has become more desirable for people moving out of New York City for more open space, better schools and the amenities that come with living in the suburbs. They still want a ‘citified’ atmosphere though with good restaurants, clean safe parks to relax in and a strollable downtown with lots to offer for both shopping and eating. Rutherford has all of these.
I assembled the project together in two days after walking the downtown several times getting inspiration of how to market it and ideas that I had seen in the past in other towns of what they run at various times of the year drawing ideas from towns in the Hudson River Valley.
I entitled the project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a tourist in your own Town”, a creative approach to market the downtown for tourists to come visit from all over New Jersey and New York especially the City, the way Rhinebeck and Beacon do for dining, shopping and special events like “First Monday’s” and “Sinterklaas”.
The second week back from the Spring Break I presented the project and handed out the positions of the company and then explained the project. I go the usual ‘Yeahs’ and ‘groans’ from the students. I also got those panicked looks from the students who looked at me like they could never handle their position in the company. I would like to think as a CEO, I know them better than they know myself. After that, I had the Teams break up into their groups, met with my Executive Team and then met with the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations before they left for the night. It is always an interesting experience when meeting your Executive Team for the first time. They look nervous about being in charge.
The Project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town”:
This all changes over the next few weeks as the students start up group chats and meet with one another after class. Then it was time to take the students out “into the field”. Right before COVID hit, I was going to take my class who were creating the project “From Revolution to Revelation-Visiting Historic Bergen County, NJ” out to visit historical sites, museums and farms all over the county. Then the virus hit, and we could not do any of that. I had seen how successful these field trips had been just by visiting our own campus or our trip to Downtown Paterson, NJ. I had to help the students overcome their fear of that city and see it gems and benefits.
I arranged for the students to take a field trip to Downtown Rutherford, NJ one night of class three weeks after the Spring Break. Of course, it has been raining the whole week and I asked the students in advance if they wanted to take the field trip even if there was a chance of rain. My Senior VP of Operations emailed me and said that people did not have a problem with it. It was the most rainy, miserable night to walk around a town!
We all met in class where I gave my speech about behaving themselves on a field trip and how they are representing Bergen Community College. That always helps. Then the heavens opened up on our way to the first stop, the First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford, an elegant church at the top of the downtown that was going to serve as the location for the “Snowflake Festival”.
The First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford at 1 East Passaic Avenue
The church was an example of Victorian architecture not seen today
I could not believe how beautiful this church was with it wooden carved benches, Tiffany windows and elegant pews. The whole church was done in carved wood and since it had an endowment to keep it up, the church was immaculate. It was one of those churches that you want to attend during the holidays to enjoy the pipe music and flowers. It also had lots of meeting spaces that were perfect for the project. I could tell that the students were impressed.
The inside the First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford is so elegant
After we left the tour of the church, we had to endure the elements and walk to Lincoln Park across the street to view the band shell for the “Big Band” concerts that we would be holding there in the month of August. I could not believe that most of the students were not carrying umbrellas (this is after I told them all to bring an umbrella with them twice). The rain was really coming down at that point.
We walked the park and I showed them how we could set the whole thing up and how operations could work. We could even use the meeting rooms at the church and their kitchen to cook the refreshments for the concerts. While we were finishing, one of the students snapped a group shot of us at the band shell.
My class at the Band Shell in Lincoln Park in Rutherford, NJ on that rainy night
After the tour of the band shell, we walked the entire side of the downtown going south with me pointing out historical points like the WWII Memorial at the circle and historic businesses like Varrelman’s Bake Shop at 60 Park Avenue (it was closed at this point of the evening). We then stopped at the railroad station and talked for a bit where there was a covering from the rain.
I explained how people could come into town by both rail and by bus where they did not need a car. This way people from other parts of New Jersey could join in the fun without having to look for parking.
Then we walked north up the other side of Park Avenue to our final destination, dinner at Da Mario Pizza at 25 Park Avenue for dinner. I had planned a pizza dinner for my class (which I pay for) which is a Team building event and also gives the students a chance to bond as a group. Plus, I feed them and on this gloomy night, they deserved it.
I ordered five large cheese pizzas and then let the students pick their beverages. I gave a little speech about the town and then about the project. We would be having another series of field trips to other places in town over the next few weeks while they worked on their project. They would also have to take trips to the town on their own. After that, I let the groups get together and work on their game plans for the project.
It was nice to just get out of the rain. I was hoping by the time we got out of the restaurant that the rain would stop. It poured more! After dinner, the Teams walked to the Williams Center to see the complex and I explained what would be happening in the future to the site with a new condo building and parking garage. It would bring more people to the downtown creating a new base of customers to the businesses downtown. Then I let them go home. It was a wet evening.
“Welcome to Rutherford” video promoting the attributes of the town
Over the next two weeks, there were two extra credit trips, one to the Meadowlands Museum on a Saturday so that the students could see the museum with time to visit all the exhibitions. The other trip was to City Hall for a Council Meeting to meet the Mayor and the Borough Council. Those were eye openers for not just the students but myself as well. These were the trips that I was to take with my students two years earlier to promote their projects before COVID shut us down. I could imagine the extra work that could have been done on those projects if the virus had not come.
I was able to arrange with the Meadowlands Museum, a small historical museum in Rutherford that concentrates on both the town and the County’s history from the Native Americans to the rise of the agriculture industry in Bergen County. I lead my class on a tour before class one Thursday evening and it was an eye-opener to students who lived nearby and never knew the museum existed.
We toured the first floor with its local art exhibition, communications display and section dedicated to a local doctor. Then to the second floor where children’s toys were located, the mining exhibition and a display of glowing minerals to show off New Jersey’s Mining past. Then it was to the basement level where spinning wheels, farm equipment and a turn of the last century kitchen was displayed. Some of the students had never seen displays like this before. After the tour, it was back to class for their quiz and lecture.
My class touring the Meadowlands Museum during class time
For the next three weeks, I gave the students class time to work with their Teams on the project and then on their own they revisited the town, created their commercials and put together their presentations.
The Historical tour of Rutherford, NJ brought to YouTube
On the night of April 28th, 2022, the students dressed in professional dress and presented their project to the Honorable Mayor Frank Nunziato and the Rutherford Borough Council. This is when I present a group of Generation Z students as Generation X consultants, and they are the executives of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
Each group presented their part of the presentation to our invited guests and creatively introduced their section of the project. I could not have been prouder.
The PowerPoint Presentation of “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town”:
These videos of the presentation are available on YouTube:
The Introduction and the Talent Team:
My Introduction of the Project and the Talent Team Presentation
The Historical Team Presentation:
The Historical Team describes their ideas for the Historical Tour and updates at the Meadowland Museum
The Marketing Team Presentation:
The Marketing Team presented their ideas for Special Events and Advertising plus the new town song “Rutherford 07070”.
When the presentation was over, I could see that the Mayor and the Council as well as the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce were blown away by the whole presentation. They were so impressed by the work that the student consultants did on the project.
Everyone had such great questions for the student consultants, and they were up for the challenge. I even had our Team Leader sing “Rutherford 07070” live to the Mayor and his Team and everyone enjoyed that.
The song “Rutherford 07070”
Each of the Council men and women got up and talked with each Team on their ideas and were very impressed by the thoroughness of the budgets and the realistic numbers that they presented. They even noted the student’s followed things like budgeting for the police and DPW for the Special Events. They also liked that everyone from locating our offices in the Rutherford area to using downtown restaurants for catering and for our company “Wrap Up” party. Everyone got a chance to give the student consultants their input on the project.
After the presentation, the Mayor and the Council along with the Vice-President of the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce took a group shot with my class and that meant a lot to me. It showed both myself and the students that they took the presentation seriously.
My Business 101 student consultants with the Mayor and Council and Chamber of Commerce of Rutherford, NJ
After the presentation was over, I had a light reception for the students, their families and our invited guests. It was a nice evening, and I was so proud of my students. It was another group that has now entered to the Alumni of “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.” (Acronym for Bergen Community College-Paramus Campus).
I went to Heights Bar & Grill that evening to celebrate their success. It had been a long semester in the post-COVID era. We overcame the difficulties with masks and stress and achieved the goal! This is when a pizza and a cocktail taste even better.
Don’t miss the “Pathways to History” event each May in Morris County, NJ. You can see a lot of the county’s historical sites in a two-day period.
The Florham Park Historical Society’s “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum is full of artifacts of the town’s rural past. There is even a small classroom set up to show children that times have not changed that much.
The classroom set up is still similar modern classrooms
I visited the “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum in Florham Park as part of the Morris County’s “Pathways to History” event that is held every May. This interesting little museum showcases the town’s historical collection of items from the 1800’s and 1900’s dealing with all aspects of town life.
In the back there is a small classroom set up keeping with the theme of the building. This lets students who are visiting the building of their counterpart’s early education with desks, ink wells and chalk boards that have not changed that much over the years.
Not much has changed in the modern classroom over the years
The Chester Historical Society/Chester Rockefeller Center has just been moved to Downtown Chester and is currently being renovated. Their collection is in storage right now while the building is being renovated. When I went to visit the museum, they were displaying their plans for the museum in the future outside the building.
The Chester Historical Society is currently open only at certain times and the collection is in storage while renovating. They are telling the town’s story on both a story board outside and on tables outside the building while it is being set up. Please check out their website for upcoming events and openings.
This was the first year that “The Great Saunter Walk”, the 32-mile perimeter walk around the entire island took place since 2019. Since I had done the walk twice on my own, actually doing more of the walk than was required. This year I wanted to make it official.
I officially finished “The Great Saunter Walk” in May of 2022
The problem was by the time I wanted to sign up for the walk, it was completely sold out. So, I was put on a waiting list. With a prediction of rain all day (and it did rain all day!), many people dropped out before the event occurred, so I got to sign up. On a very gloomy Saturday morning, I got to the Frances Tavern at 7:30am to register and start the walk by the entrance of the Staten Island ferry.
Rather than rewrite the whole day, I updated the blog that I have written over the last two years and added to it. I hope you all enjoy my journey around the most famous island on earth on the gloomiest and rainy day ever. I hope you enjoy the journey!
Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.
The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.
The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)
It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).
The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.
Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.
Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.
The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE
I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.
F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.
Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”
Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.
There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):
The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC.
What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.
The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.
Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.
The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup. The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time. The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.
After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again.
This is what it was supposed to look like but didn’t (Wiki)
All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!
Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.
The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.
I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.
The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007
I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.
As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.
I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.
As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.
I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.
When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.
I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.
I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.
They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.
I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.
It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.
The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.
Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE
The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.
The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.
I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.
As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Chedder cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.
What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.
I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)
This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!
Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.
Video on Ms. Kusama’s work
I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.
I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.
The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum
I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.
The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’
After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.
The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’
The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.
After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.
Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).
The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey
After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.
I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.
For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.
I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.
Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007
I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.
The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC
I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)
The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.
It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.
It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.
After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary. When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.
Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.
I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.
I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.
Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.
You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!
I had been shopping in the Boscov’s Department Store in Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, NJ recently and I walked into their Candy Department on the second floor to admire all their candy selections.
The shelves were ladened with products from Hershey’s Easter candies which rang true for a department store company based in Pennsylvania. So many wonderful food companies are based in the Lancaster and surrounding communities.
On one table I eyed one of my favorite holiday treats on the display table near the register, a decorated butter cream Easter Egg by the Lerro’s Candy Company. The beautifully decorated egg came in two sizes, and I preferred the larger one that would last until Easter morning.
This sweet Easter Egg was nicely decorated with all sorts of flowers and edible embellishments. The center of…
Barbara Gurtov, myself and our friend, Lillian Heckler at the Bryant Park Grill on Lillian’s 90th birthday, June 5th, 2008.
Myself with Lillian Heckler and Barbara Gurtov in Bryant Park June 5th, 2008
I just said goodbye to a dear friend who have known since 1995 when I started working at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue. Barbara had worked in adjoining departments when I ran the Boy’s Action Department and then I got to really know her when I ran the Pre-School Department when I returned to the store in the Summer of 1996 to work the Christmas holiday season.
I had gotten to know her and our friend, the late Lillian Heckler (See Day One Hundred and Thirty: I dedicate this blog to my friends, Lillian Heckler and Helen Chao):
when I became Pre-School Manager on the second floor of the old FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue store in the General Motors building. When I took the job, the store manager had told me that the department had problems with managers in the past and that it was tough to manage as it had many old-time employees, and they were hard to get along with in the area.
Barbara Gurtov, myself and Lillian Heckler at Lillian’s 90th Birthday at the Bryant Park Grill in Bryant Park June 5th, 2008.
I don’t know what it was, maybe my personality or my respect for women who were talented and smart and were no-nonsense about work, but these employees knew their stuff and taught me a lot and we got along wonderfully. The whole department gelled so well and not only did I give them a department Christmas present, but I remember that I took the department as well as my bosses out to dinner at the holidays. I hated to leave in the end, but I needed to finish my studies and back to school I went after the holidays.
Still, we kept in touch every time I visited the store when I went into Manhattan, and they became more than ex-employees. They both became good friends who stayed friends with for over 25 years.
Barbara, Lillian and I at Christmas dinner 2007
The last time I had seen Barbara was on a trip I made to Florida in 2019 to visit some friends who were experiencing a lot in their lives and a younger brother who was going through a divorce. I figured over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I would visit everyone.
Barbara and I and her caregiver, Sharon had a wonderful two days exploring the complex she lived in, meeting her friends, having a wonderful breakfast at IHOP and then a delicious buffet Chinese lunch at a local restaurant. I remember commenting to Barbara that I was amazed how good the food was for a buffet.
It was a quick overnight trip but seemed to do wonders for her. Later a friend of hers commented how much she appreciated it and how much it meant to her. I had planned on returning the next year, but COVID disrupted those plans for two years.
By 2022, her illness really started to affect her. I was able to talk to her once more before she passed but her caregiver said to me that she always appreciated my calls and cards. That meant a lot to me.
I went to say my final goodbye to her today and mentioned to her family who were there how much she meant to me. Barbara was unique in her own way, but I was lucky to be her friend and was able to pay my respects to her.
Barbara, Lillian and me at Christmas Dinner 2007
So, I dedicate this blog to a very special friend of over 25 years, Barbara Gurtov. I will miss you so much. To a true Manhattanite!
I have visited Branch Brook Park many times over the past thirty years and during the Annual Cherry Blossom the park is especially nice. The City of Newark still has the reputation as a rough place and parts of the City I still would not like to walk around in after dark (as are all cities). Branch Book is separated from the rest of the City and sits on the border of Newark sharing the park with the town of Belleville.
The Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place every Spring with the coming of the blooming of all of the Cherry Trees which cover the whole length of the park, is always anticipated by people all over the State of New Jersey. They…
I first discovered the ravioli from Pede Brothers in the frozen food section of Dollar Tree and for $1.00 a package I thought I might as well give them a try. I was surprised by how delicious they were when I made them at home.
First, these raviolis cook in about three minutes in boiling water and are perfect coming out of the pot. They are so tender on the outside and creamy from the ricotta cheese on the inside that they ooze when they are cut. They blend so well when they mix with the sauce.
What is nice about a package of their ravioli is that there is just enough for two people with a nice salad and garlic bread or nice sized meal for one person who is really hungry.