The outside of Rosecran’s Florist Shop and Cafe in late October 2022
Ever since I started Graduate School at New York University, I walk to school every day from Port Authority to the Greenwich Village to get exercise and clear my head before classes start. This gives me a chance to walk around the Village and explore the shops and all the wonderful concepts that people are developing in their stores with creative merchandising and wonderful window displays. What lured me into Rosecran’s was all the beautiful floral displays in the window and the beautiful little cafe that was outside that seemed to be popular with the locals in the neighborhood.
The entire outside of the store was surrounded by flowers and plants and on a warm September or…
Abracadabra right before Halloween is an experience into itself
Ghosts and Ghouls greet you when you enter the store
Abracadabra is one of those stores that just stands out when you walk in. Every day is Halloween when you walk in the door and everything is there to shock and amaze you. It is a interesting blend of theater, imagination and creativity that makes the store come to life. Even the staff walk around in masks and costumes showing off the merchandise. Many I am sure are actors and artists using their own sense of style to show the costumes off.
Abracadabra is no ordinary store
There is no lack of interesting costumes to try on or accessories to match them…
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association members at the Christmas Tree set up November 25th, 2022
Christmas is here!
At 8:00am (actually 7:45am), the truck from Canada arrived in Hasbrouck Heights to deliver the 400 Christmas trees we ordered for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale starting the day after Thanksgiving.
The truck arrived early
I was in the middle of eating breakfast when I got the text that the truck arrived a half hour early (after being over an hour late the previous year) and gobbled down my meal and rushed over to help onload trees. Most of the other guys must have done the same as we all trickled in as a small group of us started the take the trees off one by one.
Our President, Steve Palladino, helping onload the trees
One by one we unloaded all 400 trees
The previous weekend (when I was at the Cornell vs Columbia game), the members of the Men’s Association set the Christmas Tree Stand up so that it was ready for delivery this weekend. On top of set up, the guys also had to rebuild part of the shed that we do business in. I think we can another year out of it.
The stands we have been using for years
Keeping every section organized
Each tree as it was unloaded had to be counted, sorted, organized by pile, and then placed on the racks by size, type (Balsam or Frazier), price point and then had to be tagged for sale. We have had the same routine for over twenty years so we are pretty organized. We work in teams with our more seasoned members keeping things organized.
Our Treasurer, Lou Verdi, keeping the piles and racks organized
Tagging and sorting the trees takes time. Thank God it was 55 degrees today
All the Christmas unloaded, organized and ready for selling
We got the racks filled with some of the beautiful and nicely smelling trees. Each tree had to tagged according to its tree type and size and then double checked again. We managed to empty the truck by 9:00am and tagged most of the trees by 10:00am. We had our first two customers by 10:30am and sold two trees before we were even finished unloading and tagging. This broke last year’s record of 11:00am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree stand ready for business
The truck left by 9:15am for its next stop with us having taken the trees off the truck in an hour. Talk about team work!
The truck left on time
After we got the lot organized, sorted, tagged and priced, most of the guys left for the morning ready to arrive on their next shift while a group of us stayed back to make sure that everything was done. There are always a lot of last minute things to do. The press arrived to take pictures of the lot and then we took our annual group shot for the organization.
The men of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association proudly opening the sale in November of 2022
We are at the lot on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ until the last tree sells. Last year, we finished the sale in eleven days. We are hoping for just as good of a sale this year as well.
Last year, we gave over $16,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association open for business on November 25th, 2022 at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The commercial that I shot for the Christmas Tree Sale in 2015. It must be working as we are getting more people from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
These clips are from the brillant independent film on Christmas Tree selling and relationships from 2015 “Christmas, Again”:
The trailer for the film “Christmas Again”:
The Director talking about the film “Christmas, Again”
Listening to Taylor Swift when selling Christmas Trees:
I don’t know what made me walk into Ooh Baby by Artist Anika Ignozzi at 21 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village but I was curious because of the colors and designs I could see from the window. I met the artist who was hard at work that afternoon and introduced myself as a student at NYU. She looked up and said that she was thinking of taking some business classes at the school.
I looked at her and said that she looked like she already found her calling and made a successful business of it. She was already doing what most business students want to be doing, creating a business, finding their passion in it and making money at it. I told her she was already…
Do you know how horrible it is to lose to Columbia University in football? It’s when you lose to them by over twenty points. Both of our teams were 5-4 and the team that won not only won the Empire State Award (big deal) but had a winning record. I knew that we were in trouble when we fell behind 21-0.
Getting ready for the game
It was finally jubilant when we scored a touchdown and then it was 21-7. It was just meant to be as we fell behind again and again. The worst was toward the end of the game when we were at 38-22 and we kicked an onside kick. That is always a big mistake because it always ends with the other team getting a touchdown. Columbia got a touchdown immediately and the final score was 45-22. That was embarrassing.
The end of the game Columbia 45-Cornell 22 not our best game
It had been a nice afternoon in the stadium with clear blue skies and the weather was cool and crisp at between 48 to 50 degrees. I could not believe the crowd of alumni at the game. Even though Columbia is considered our rival I never took it much as a rivalry.
Cornell Alumni filling the stands at Columbia; we always outnumber them
Both of our teams in all the years that I have been coming to the game have not been that good. It’s just nice to go to a game and cheer someone on. It amazes me how every year no matter who wins we have more people in the stands than Columbia does.
It was beautiful in the stadium as long as the sun was out (then we got cold as darkness came)
Preparing to enter the stadium with great hopes of a blowout against Columbia
We came out so enthusiastic and ready to play ball, but it just did not look good when we could not score on the first play. We just did not look like we have a game plan. Then Columbia just kept scoring on us.
The start of the game
Even at half time, our band could not play on the field because one of the alumni said that they had a hazing problem at the Columbia band (which is so small I do not know what type of problems that they could have) and they banned them from campus. Then they banned other Ivy League teams from playing on their field as well. Let me put it this way, it was not the most exciting game. If it had not been for the group of alumni behind me cracking jokes and having fun, I would have been bored. The game became subdued when they left at the beginning of fourth quarter.
Going in for our first touchdown Columbia 21-Cornell 7
What also got to me was that it got dark in the stadium early. By the end of third quarter, the sun really moved across the sky, and it not only got dark, but it started to get cold in the stadium as well. For most of the game, it was clear, sunny and crisp and was pleasant in the stadium.
Going in for our third touchdown Columbia 38-Cornell 22
Then I noticed how fast the sun was moving in the sky and you could feel the evening chill. It must have dropped fifteen degrees by the time we left the stadium at the end of the game.
The last play of the game
After the game was over, I headed down to the Cornell Club on West 44th Street for the Annual Sy Katz Parade. In previous years, I had seen complete subway cars filled with alumni leaving the game. This time around there were only a handful of us on the Number One downtown. I thought that was strange.
Our teams are civil even after a loss
When I got to Rockefeller Center where the parade traditionally begins there was no one there. The two couples I came downtown with were there but then they disappeared. After waiting for about a half hour, I headed down to the Cornell Club on East 44th Street to see what was going on.
The end of the game
When I got to the club, I found out that they had to change the route of the parade due to permit problems and we started in front of One Vanderbilt Avenue between Grand Central Terminal and the office building in the plaza. It was funny to hear that somehow the two busses of band members and alumni heading back to campus got lost somewhere in New Jersey and had to head back into Manhattan. So, the rest of the alumni had to wait in Vanderbilt Plaza in the cold until they arrived about a half hour later. Then the fun began.
Preparing for the Sy Katz Parade in Vanderbilt plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue outside Grand Central Terminal
The Cornell Marching Band really got everyone revved up and the Cornell Cheerleaders and Dance Team really got everyone in the spirit (even though we got our asses kicked earlier in the day) and we had a good time as we made our way up Vanderbilt Avenue. We ended at the entrance of the Cornell Club on East 44th Street.
The Cornell Marching Band preparing for the parade from Vanderbilt Avenue
Cornell Alumni marching in the parade
Alumni marching to the Cornell Club where the pep rally is held every other year
The Band played all the school fight songs, the Alumna Mater and then traditional fight songs from the games. Since I was not an undergraduate at Cornell (I went for the PDP Graduate Program), I never learned the songs. I have to watch the YouTube videos on “On the Shores of Lake Cayuga” to learn the words. It has taken years to perfect it. Not like the Spartan songs from Michigan State (we were also having a bad football year) and I will do not know all the words to “MSU Shadows”.
Cornell School Song
‘Give my Regards to Davey’ (I never got this song)
The alumni were all excited and joined in the singing of the songs, watching the band hold their own traditions with marches and songs and then Sy Katz’s daughter, Alice, gave a speech in front of the club to wish everyone well. Her and her family were so happy that so many people came out to the parade. She and her family greeted the crowd so warmly that the alumni cheered her on as well. It was a nice crowd of enthusiastic people who sang and cheered.
Alice Katz welcoming the crowds at the Cornell Club on East 44th Street
Someone shot this at the parade in 2022
The Parade in 2018 pre-COVID
Our mascot also sang and danced at the parade
After the parade was over and most of the Alumni left for the evening, I joined everyone else in the Cayuga Room for a post-Alumni Tailgate dinner. It was really nice but I have to admit that the food tasted like it had been sitting for a bit.
The Hot Chicken Wings and the fresh salads were the best part of the tailgate
The Hamburger Sliders were hard and the buns crunched when you bit into them. The Chicken Fingers were good but tepid. The rest of the food was wonderful. They had two green salads, a Chili Bar with sides, a Meatball dish with a sweet sauce, a vegetarian sandwich and the best were the Hot Chicken Wings which were the best I have tasted in a while. We ended up going through two trays of those while I was in the room eating.
The sliders had been under the heat lamp or the warmer too long
For dessert, they had assorted cookies and brownies with tea, coffee and hot chocolate which was perfect when I was trying to warm up after it being so cool outside.
The desserts at the club are always wonderful
As I talked with other Alumni, I was amazed that I was the only one at my side of the table who went to the game. Everyone else had come in for the parade and tailgate. The one thing everyone said to me at the table when I discussed us getting our asses kicked was “You went to the Game?” I then replied, “Didn’t you?” and it was the same answer, “No, I do not go to that.” I took it as the alumni that went to the game were not the same ones that went to the parade. Oh well!
I had a wonderful time and it was so nice to have this event since the last time in 2018. So it will be until 2024 the next time I go again. I could not believe that I have been coming to this for over a decade.
I have been coming to J’s Pizza for many years and had eaten here in the past after viewing the Halloween Parade in October. I just rediscovered it again when I started grad school in the neighborhood and forgot how good the food was when I dined here. The pizza slices are generous in size and their marinara and pizza sauces you can tell are freshly made and not from a can.
The sauces for all the meals here from the pizza, to the spaghetti and meatballs to the sauce that is the side to the many rolls and calzones is well spiced and has so much flavor to it. It really makes the dishes.
J’s Pizza counter is lined with pizzas and calzones
I am taking a class in Trends in Tourism for my graduation program in Global Hospitality Management and this included a recent trip to the Fotografiska Museum at 281 Park Avenue South. We had a meeting with a member of the Marketing Team at the museum and he explained how the museum functioned and the direction that they want to go to promote the museum.
After the talk, we were able to tour the museum. The exhibition that we saw as a class at NYU for my graduate program was the David LaChapelle exhibition. This was a unique blend of art with works in many different forms and ideas. The artist was…
My last night of freedom. Maricel took me to the Sheraton Canal Street as a present
I found out the night of the “Rocking it in Rutherford-Be a Tourist in your own Town” event back in April that I had gotten accepted to New York University for my Masters Degree. I had applied months earlier for the college after the initial get together in October of 2019 (pre-Pandemic). I never thought I would get in but there was the email the night of the presentation as almost a gift from God that I had done good work with the students.
My ID card picture
It has been exciting journey so far and this leads to the next stage of my life. For the next two years I will be playing “college student” for the fifth time (Michigan State University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University proceeded it).
I will be graduating in the Spring of 2024 with my Masters in Science in Global Hospitality Management and from there, who knows? I like the idea that there is a new future with a new job and new adventures coming soon. It will be a long ride with a lot of hard work but I look forward to my future.
The blogs may come slower than before but I will be doing a lot more exploring of the City in between classes.
Wish me luck!
Maricel and I the weekend before I started Graduate School
This was the first time I had been to City Island since 2008 when I visited the island for research for my third book “Dinner at Midnight” in which one of the main characters is a witch that moves to City Island. I had walked every street on the island trying to get a feel for what it might be like to live on the island and what the character may experience. There is a very important scene in the book where her boss comes to the island to search for her and notes to close proximity to Hart Island, New York City’s ‘Potters Field’.
He comes searching for the truth about his unusual employee and finds out too much. I will just leave this as a spoiler as I have not finished the last chapter of the book yet. You can read the first book in my New York City trilogy, “Firehouse 101” that is available at IUniverse.com and Google Books.
My first book in the New York Trilogy “Firehouse 101”
On top of research for my book, “Dinner at Midnight”, I wanted to visit the City Island Nautical Museum for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” as I had not been to the museum since I visited the island again in 2008. That was when I stayed at La Refuge, an inn that is now a private home. To add to the creepiness of the storyline, is that when I stayed at the inn for two nights, the first night in the first room there was no problem.
The former “La Refuge Inn” is now a private home and I think is haunted
When for some reason the second night they made me move to a back room, I could not sleep all night. I kept thinking that someone was in the room with me, and I finally had to sleep with the lights on. I never stayed or came back to the inn before it closed a few years later. I never felt that way before staying in an inn or B & B, and I have stayed in a lot of old houses.
Before I visited the museum, I had to stop for something to eat. I had a very early breakfast wanting to get to City Island early so I got hungry again. I was surprised that the pizzeria around the corner from the museum was closed and the diner near the museum was closing soon as well. I found the Sea Breeze Deli at 325 City Island Avenue just down the road from the museum and stopped there.
The Sea Breeze Deli at 325 City Island Avenue
I felt like I had walked into time warp as the place looked like it was from the 1970’s. Even thought it was a bit dated inside, I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a roll ($4.00) and it was terrific (See review on TripAdvisor) and hit the spot where I was ready for a long day of exploring.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a roll is terrific at Sea Breeze Deli
The City Island Nautical Museum located at 190 Fordham Street, had not changed much from that visit. The museum is located on a quiet, residential street just off the main strip of City Island Avenue. It is located in what was the old PS 17, the island’s elementary school. Loaded with information but a bit jumbled with historic artifacts all over the place. Still, it is a great little museum.
The City Island Nautical Museum at 190 Fordham Street
Each room in the museum has a different theme to it with more information lining the hallways (See my review on VisitingaMuseum.com). The Community Room toward the back of the museum shows the history of the City Island starting with the Native Americans and the Dutch and how the settlement grew. Lining the walls were signs and memorabilia from businesses that once dotted the island and a little about their history. There are all sorts of ads and items once carried by the merchants.
The Schoolroom had the history of PS 75 and PS 175 which were the public schools located on the island as well as St. Mary’s, the recently closed Catholic school. It had old class photos, pictures of the school at various times and a complete schoolroom set up. The rooms that dealt with Ship Building and the Nautical past were the most interesting.
City Island has a rich history in ship building, sail making and fishing it is reflected in the collection of materials in the museum and its archives. The museum really details the growth and history of the boating industry on the island and its importance in the local economy. What I found interesting was the rich history of the creation of the sailing ships for the America’s Cup tournament and how all the winning boats up until the 1980’s were built on the island and the one that lost the cup for us against Australia was the first one not built on the island.
The Nautical Room at the City Island Maritime Museum
Even Ted Turner’s boat “Courageous” was built on the island. There was a picture of the reunion of the boat winning twice at the museum with the crew’s signatures (The tour guide even said how he ‘freaked out’ members of the New York Yacht Club who did not consider him one of their own). All the sailing vessels lined the walls of the hallway of the museum.
Each room of the museum was dedicated to a different theme. When I toured the Community Room in the back of the museum, it held the records of a lot of old businesses of City Island with pictures and items that were once part of the businesses. There was a small FDNY display, a small WWII display about local residents who fought in the war, wedding garments, maps of the island and a small display of arrowheads.
In the School Room, the concentration was on PS 17, which the museum is now housed in and its history with all the classroom group shot pictures, graduation pictures and a small classroom set up. There were more records and event items of the current PS 175, which is the K-8 school that the residents attend. There were also records and pictures of St. Mary, Star of the Sea School, the former Catholic school that used to be on the island as well.
The Nautical Room needed an overall as there was too much going on in the room with pictures all over the walls, equipment for navigation and for fishing and records of the ship building companies that used to dot the island. There were boats in various shapes and sizes on display and the companies that built them like Wood Yacht, Nevins Yacht and Minneford Yacht. There was also the history of shipbuilding and sail making on the island. The tour guide told me there were no more ship builders on the island, but one sail maker left.
The Library where all the research is done on the island and on the families and businesses that were once here was dominated by yachting pictures and nautical photography. It held all the City Island records and even the ship building plans.
The museum has a lot to see but it needs to be a bit more organized to really showcase the collections properly. Still, it is one of the best museums I have seen with a nautical history theme. The best part is that you can see the whole museum in about an hour and this leaves you time to tour the island and see how the museum better explains why the island is the way it is right now.
After I left the museum, I decided to tour the whole island and started with a tour down Fordham Street which lead me to the new apartment complex and their little walled park. It went in a spiral pattern and then I turned myself around back to the street and stood and admired the views. You get the most spectacular views on the Long Island Sound and the mysterious Hart Island from here.
I then took a tour of King Street and passed the beautiful but eerie Pelham Cemetery. It just sat in front of the beautiful backdrop of the bay still giving you a look of longing. I wanted to walk through it but the cemetery was locked and there was no trespassing signs all over the place. I just admired it from the gate looking for family names.
As I walked up both King and Minnieford Streets, I admired the hodge-podge of architecture of the homes on the island. There are rows of bungalows and elegant Victorians with their large porches and shade trees again with the bay in the background in some cases.
As I rounded up Terrace Street and got to the northern tip of the island, I saw the house that I used in the book as the home of the mysterious and sinister Serena Platt, the spell bounder in my novel. I set her apartment in this house and thought it had the right mood as a place that would be here home. I saw a couple of kids playing basketball on the property and did not want to stay too long to stare at it.
As I walked back down King and Minnieford Streets, I saw another Victorian home with a dark colored paint job that might fit the mood of her home as well. I had not noticed this house when I was walking around the island years earlier on a scouting trip. With its dark tones and wrap around porch, it looked like something you would find in New England or Salem, MA.
As I made my way down Cross Street back to City Island Avenue, I wanted to walk the whole street to see what stores and restaurants were there from I visited last. Most of the seafood restaurants were still there but the smaller antique and clothing stores were now gone. Many of the little unique stores had long since closed someone told me at a store I visited. Between the economy and the pandemic, they had taken their toll on business owners.
That may have been with the traditional businesses but not with the restaurants. As I walked down City Island Avenue from north to south, it seemed that every restaurant was getting a crowd especially as I walked further down the road.
Sammy’s Fish Box at 41 City Island Avenue seemed to dominate the street with its various outlets. They have really grown even more since I on the island the last time. They must have had four different buildings. I could not remember if I had eaten there the last time I visited. At the tip of the island are Johnny’s Reef and Tony’s Pier, two extremely popular seafood restaurants that I do remember eating at then I visited years ago.
When I walked into Tony’s Pier at 1 City Island Avenue, the parking lot was jammed with cars and the line was about 50 deep with customers. I was like ‘no way’ with this wait. It was too long, and everyone was getting antsy in the line. It was going by really slow.
Then I walked over to Johnny’s Reef at 2 City Island Avenue which I had dinner at the first night I visited the last time I came to City Island and the prices had gone up, but the portion sizes were still huge. The fried shrimp platters had not changed one bit. The only problem was the place was just as busy as across the street. It was really mobbed on this sunny warm night.
The sight of people eating all that fried food really turned me off, so I decided to try a restaurant that had been reviewed on my Dining Around club. They said the Fella’s Bar and Grill was where locals ate and socialized, so I decided to try it. It was closer to the middle point of the island near Bridge Park closer to the northern tip of the island. I was very impressed.
The bartender greeted me very warmly and gave me a lot of recommendations for dinner. She mentioned the Chicken Quesadilla and how terrific of it and that the burgers were really good. Then she mentioned how good the pulled pork was and that she had just tasted it. She sold me on that.
The Pulled Pork sandwich with a side of French Fries was excellent. The pork was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was a combination of honey, chilis and tomato for a rich barbecue taste. It was served on a chewy bun with a side of fries that were just out of the fryer (I needed some fried foods), and they were hot and crisp that snapped when you bit into them. I ordered an icy Coke, and it was the perfect meal after a long walk around the island (See my review on TripAdvisor).
While I was eating, I got to talk with the bartender about what was going on the island and about the over-whelming crowds of the restaurants on the southern part of the island. She just laughed and told me that they were really popular with people who lived off the island. I told her I could not understand this as the food was so good here. Then I just watched the game on TV.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich and Fries was fantastic
After I finished my meal, I was walking up City Island Avenue and noticed the large number of cars entering the island over the bridge probably coming for dinner. I walked past the busy Sea Shore Restaurant at 591 City Island Avenue and saw the cars pile into their parking lot and people coming and going. Just past that was the calm of Bridge Park-Catherine Scott Promenade at 549 City Island Avenue. Talk about views of the bay!
The sun was just starting to set so there was a beautiful glow to the Long Island Sound, and you could see all the boats sailing by and people waterskiing around the harbor. In the distance, you could see the skyline of lower Manhattan. It has the most dazzling effect of seeing New York from this standpoint. It was like visiting Cape May and crossing the bridge to a small New England fishing village. City Island is the same way escaping to a beach community with a rich shipping and fishing history and showcasing its nautical past.
Bridge Park at 549 City Island Avenue on the northern tip of City Island
I had come to the island to search for a witch and why she chose to live here and found my answers in the beautiful homes, wonderful parks and spectacular views of the bay. City Island is unique New York neighborhood where you do not realize that you are still in New York City.
*Be on the lookout for “Dinner at Midnight” when it gets published in the future.