I want to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to my father who this blog is dedicated to and for inspiring such a walk around New York City.
I have completed more than half the Island of Manhattan and I still sometimes catch a glimpse of him in the corner of my eye walking beside me like he did on all those wonderful afternoons we spent in Manhattan for birthdays and Father’s Day’s.
Whenever I visit a place that we used to go on a regular basis like the MoMA, Little Italy or Chinatown or the Met, I still think “How much dad would have liked this”. This is why I love the complexity of New York City. Things just keep changing no matter how much you want them to stay the same and it can still surprise you.
This is my dedication to those wonderful afternoons we spent together!
Happy Birthday Day Dad!
Blogger Justin Watrel with his father, Warren Watrel, at “Tap O Mania” in 1994 outside Macy’s Herald Square. Appropriate while the blogger is exploring the Garment District.
“Tap O Mania” was a huge tap dance that used to happen outside Macy’s in the summer to break the Guiness Book of World Records every year. My father and I did this up from the time I was an executive at the store until I moved in 2000. The company stopped doing this for security reasons.
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas. I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before nightfall
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockage District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brillantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Annex and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
The students of my Business 101 class keep dazzling me.
The Creation of the Case Study Project “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”:
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.
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.
What I discovered later on is that we were the only class on campus that night and it was pretty gloomy walking the halls all by myself late on a Friday evening. The upside of all of this is that we had the whole campus to stretch out in and later in the class I changed rooms to a more formal lecture room for the presentation. I thought this was more COVID safe for the students.
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.
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Consultant Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
My welcome to Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. from the CEO of the company:
While my other class worked on their case study project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, a 100-year-old candy store concept, “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”, a project promoting Bergen Community College to the Alumni got off to the ground running.
In a class that has to stay socially distanced and met only once a week it got difficult.
Our Logo from the novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by author Ronald Dahl.
“I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College”
Every semester it is the same thing with the students. Some take the project seriously and some think it is a chore and go back to looking at their cellphones the whole semester. As usual, those are the students whose work shows it and gets the lower grades.
When I put my executive team together this semester, I found a nice combination of students who really worked well together. How I choose my executives is the same way any CEO would, I get a copy of their resume which serves as my first paper for the class. I work with the students to be sure that their resume is ready for future job interviews and internships or transfers to another four-year school. This is where I can see where the students experience lies and what skills they can perform.
The second paper I have the students write is “What would I do Better?”, a two-page paper on a situation on a job or extra-curricular activity that went terribly wrong and how they might have fixed it. The paper always shows me how the student would handle adversity under pressure. It also shows me the student’s character. This is how I pick my executives plus I use my gut instinct on how they act in class. Almost 95% of the time, I am correct.
The students I chose for my Executive Team were all Bi or Tri-Lingual, all were pretty ambitious and I thought had a sense of creativity. One of my Executives went AWOL after the second class and one of his Team Members took over the VP roll. I could not have asked for a more prepared student of the role of Vice-President. This is when students can surprise you with their flexibility and creativity under pressure.
So, every week we had Board Meetings to check progress and see how each Team was performing and getting their work done. I always have my procrastinators but for the most part everything was handled on time and towards the last two weeks I saw the students ban together to get the work done. Still, I had a few students either go AWOL or just drop the class and that was it so there was some rearranging to do along the way. This is what happens in a real corporation, so it was just like real life.
The night of the presentation, it was nice to see the students all dressed up. All the women looked so professional in suits, skirts, slacks and dresses while most of the men were in either suit and tie or jacket and tie. I few I will have to teach how to iron a shirt or tie a tie correctly.
I could not have been prouder of my student executives on their presentation. They put together a wonderful presentation in promoting Bergen Community College to Alumni and students, promoting our Athletic program with student athletic and parent events with Alumni attendance and meals that would bring Alumni together in the “Bulldog” tradition. All throughout the presentation we kept the “Willy Wonka” theme in all of our events.
What really impressed me was the touching dedication to the late Gene Wilder, the star of the original 1971 film from the Executives to both him and his widow, Susan Wilder. I think that showed the heart of the project of how much this film means to people.
Congratulations everyone on this excellent project and Happy New Year!
*Please watch and read the different parts of the project to see its progress.
“I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”
I still can’t believe that Christmas came so quickly this year. It was almost like the blink of an eye. With the start of the Christmas holidays, there are many cherished Christmas events in Hasbrouck Heights that have become tradition.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so beautifully decorated for the holidays (Heights Flower Shoppe)
Starting with the Christmas Parade the day after Thanksgiving, this annual event showcases our wonderful downtown in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and dazzles us at the end of the parade with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling. It had been so cold that night that the crowds were more subdued than usual (remember COVID is still going on) but no less spirited.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse decorated for Christmas at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Fire Department escorted Santa down the parade route to the Christmas tree and was greeted by the Hasbrouck Heights Community , who were ready for some Christmas cheer. When the switch turned on, we were dazzled by the lights of the trees and decorations that grace the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights.
The Christmas Tree at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle always dazzles at night
After the parade and carolling were over, it was back to the firehouse but not before the fire fighters got their own group shot at the Christmas tree.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Christmas Tree in 2021
By the end of the month, we were ready for our big community event, “Santa Around Town” where the fire department escorted Santa around the Hasbrouck Heights community to wish everyone Christmas cheer in a very difficult year.
We lucked out and the weather cooperated and it ended up being a sunny but cool day. Because of the COVID pandemic, we cut the number of stops and the crowds were a bit smaller but no less enthusiastic about seeing and talking to Santa.
Being socially distanced and wearing masks in some locations, residents of Hasbrouck Heights got to talk to Santa and give him their Christmas wishes. I have never seen so many families and especially children need a lot of Christmas cheer in these tough times and Santa really came through for families and even their pets, as many Christmas dogs greeted and licked Santa.
We toured all over town, greeting residents and every keeping as socially distanced and safe as we could as Santa greeted everyone who came and cheered up a community that really needed it.
Merry Christmas from the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town” 2021
Open: Sundays 1:00pm-3:00pm from June to October: Please check website for times
My review on TripAdvisor:
I recently went on a Lantern Tour of Hope, NJ’s downtown district for the Christmas holiday season visiting this once Moravian founded town. The evening was an interesting tour of the history of this small town near the Delaware Water Gap with visits to historical homes of the residents of the town and the manufacturing hub.
We toured the historic downtown district that was ablaze with lights and garland learning about the residential and commercial district and the role it played in the development of the town. We toured the former Grist Mill, Cannery, Distillery, homes and former barns and churches and given…
I put my walk of the Garment District on hold as many of the museums are having their Private Members nights before the holidays get into the full swing. It gives the members a chance to really enjoy the museums before the City gets crazy with tourists and people are beginning to return to the City.
It really was a wonderful night. First it was a warm and clear evening and you could see the stars because it gets dark at 5:00pm. We as members got to the museum before 5:00pm and waited in a long line by the Member’s Entrance on the side of the museum and had to show our COVID vaccine cards and ID. Even though we were all vaccinated, we still had to wear masks the entire time we were in the museum. It was not a problem and did not get in the way of us having a nice time.
For the evening, only the first floor was open and only certain galleries and exhibitions but there was plenty to see and do. In all the galleries, there were docents giving talks on the exhibitions and on the gallery displays that were permanent to the museum.
I started my tour of the museum at the Christmas Tree in the Medieval Galleries. It was decorated for the holidays with full detail but it had been corded off and you could not get as close to it as you once could in the past. They had a very interesting docent who went over the not just the history of the Christmas tree with its German-Pagan roots but how it was decorated by people in different countries at different times of history.
The beautiful Christmas tree is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art tradition
She talked about how the manager and the more religious aspects of the art came from Naples and then made its way to the United States with immigration. The works around the tree were collected over time.
Later that evening, they had a singing trio entertaining the crowd with festive Christmas songs. The ladies were very friendly and had wonderful voices. They really put everyone in the Christmas spirit.
I next went to the “In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at the Met” exhibition in the Robert Lehman Collection. I was viewing all the works by Rembrandt and Vermeer for most of the evening. It was nice to just take my time and look at the works one by one without rushing like you normally do when the galleries are busy. The gallery was full of portraits and still lives and being a smaller gallery, I was not over-whelmed by the exhibition.
In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met should not be missed.
I walked through the American Wing to the American Wing Cafe which was mobbed. Every table was taken and what was really annoying is that in some cases, one person took a table and threw all their things on the chairs and were eating by themselves. They should have had a limit on that type of behavior as I could see that patrons were struggling to find a place to sit down. I just decided to eat when I left the museum. A $16.00 sandwich did not interest me. I just could not believe how much the food had gone up at the museum.
I spent the last part of the evening in the Temple of Dendur Wing admiring the building. I looked over all the ancient carvings and symbols and then realizing that this temple was created during the Roman Era. I thought that was interesting. I remember reading in the book “Dancing with Mummies” on the former director of the museum discussing how New York City beat out other cities to get the temple.
Every time I enter the gallery I think of this scene in “When Harry Met Sally”
It represents what is best about the Met
I ended the evening exploring the Greek Galleries since the rest of the Egyptian Galleries were closed for the evening. I really loved looking at the Cycladic Art and the way that the galleries are displayed. Even though I have been touring these galleries since they opened, it is always fun to see something new or a piece that you noticed for the first time again.
There is something unique about Cycladic Art
After I left the Met, I walked along the Upper East Side, walking down both Third and Second Avenues and noticing all the restaurants and stores that have closed since the Pandemic and it was scary to see. I thought that Madison Avenue was bad with all the empty stores and the cops protecting them but the other avenues were just as bad. It will take a long time for this to come back.
When I reached East 72nd Street at Second Avenue, I stopped at one of my favorite Chinese Take-out places where you can sit down and eat, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant at 1388 Second Avenue right near the subway station. I am telling you this is some of the best Chinese food in the City and very reasonable for the portion size they give you (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Don’t miss Shanghai Chinese Restaurant at 1388 Second Avenue
I had the most amazing Shrimp Szechuan with Roast Pork Fried Rice with a side of Hot and Sour soup, the perfect dishes on a cool night. The soup really warmed me up and the shrimp had a nice fiery flavor to it.
I was so content from the wonderful meal that I ended up walking all the way back to the Port Authority. It was such a nice night to walk back and enjoy the cool air. It really a beautiful night to walk around Manhattan.
After I returned from visiting my mother for her 85th birthday, I had another Members Night at the Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue to attend the gallery talk of the Founders of the Talking Heads singing group, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, talking about their time with the group and their experiences. Then we watched the film documentary “Stop Making Sense”, which was filmed over a series of concerts in 1984. The talk and the film were both amazing. I never knew that much about the group, so it was an eye-opener.
The Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue
Ms. Weymouth and Mr. Frantz had gotten older but really had not changed that much. They were really engaging and such interesting stories about the band and the clubs that they played in the early 1980’s. It was fascinating to hear of the other artists that they knew like Debbie Harry and the Ramones who played the same clubs and the long-closed clubs that they enjoyed like Danceatiria and the Mudd Club.
They also talked about the work they are doing now and the revival of the music that they performed so long ago. It was a real blast from the past and most of the audience like me were either in high school or college when the group was performing so it was a real Gen X crowd that evening. After the talk, they left the stage with a rousing applause from all of us and then we watched the documentary, which really rocked the room. I could almost see people wanted to get up and dance and the applause from the songs after they were finished matched what was going on in the film (I included the link to the film we watched below).
The “Stop Making Sense” talk and showing of the film with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth
The ‘Stop Making Sense’ talk at the Museum of the City of New York: The Concert Film we saw that night.
“Stop Making Sense”
I went home that evening humming all the songs that I remembered from the film. It was such a great evening and I still could not believe that I never saw the film when it came out my freshman year of college.
Still my favorite videos from the early MTV days: “Once in a Lifetime”
The last museum Members afternoons that I attended was the “Sharks” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at 200 Central Park West. This exhibition was open to the members first before opening later in December.
The American Museum of Natural History at 200 Central Park West
I have to say it was interesting and very scientific and technical. I was floored by the number of kids that knew so much about sharks. I was listening to this kid talk to his mother on which sharks were which and he was about eight years old.
The exhibition was on the history of sharks and their habitats and the benefits that sharks bring to the ocean like being bottom dwellers and how their eating habits affect the rest of the ocean population. It was more than the movie “Jaws”.
The exhibition also discussed how sharks have evolved over the years since the era of the dinosaurs and how their population decrease is affecting the rest of the ocean population and food cycles. After about an hour in the exhibition it got a bit over-whelming with the information and I will have to go back again to see it.
‘Sharks’ at the American Museum of Natural History
The exhibition discussion:
After the visiting other parts of the museum in both the Central American Wing and the new Minerals gallery, I went outside and enjoyed the nice sunny day. I ended up walking all over the Upper West Side. Homes were decorated for the holidays and it was festive to see all the garland and trees in the windows and on the outside of the brownstone homes.
For lunch, I went to Tri Dim West, the sister restaurant to Tri Dim Shanghai on the East side at 467 Columbus Avenue for a Dim Sum lunch. The restaurant is right around the corner from the museum and was a nice alternative to the expensive fare at the museum.
I had the most wonderful (but pricy) Dim Sum lunch with freshly made Crab & Pork Soup Dumplings, Roast Pork Buns, Chicken Curry Puffs and a Peking Duck Spring Roll. Everything was made fresh to order and one dish was better than the other. The soup dumplings just slurped off the spoon and burst in my mouth with their juiciness. The roast pork buns had their usual sweetness with the combination of roast pork chopped up wrapped in a sweet dough.
The Peking Duck rolls are delicious
The service was so friendly and welcoming. The guy waiting on me kept spooning the dumplings on my plate. I thought that was taking it to the extreme but it was a quiet afternoon.
It is funny for the people who keep saying that New York City is going downhill and Manhattan is falling apart, yet I see that the museums are doing their best to engage with their members and the public in general with taking all sorts of precautions and safety measures. They are doing their best to keep the public informed while still having a good time.
Shane Confectionery at 110 Market Street in Philadelphia
What can I say about this little chocolate/candy store in the heart of Old Town Philadelphia? It is so charming and welcoming and a step back into time when buying candy was a luxury treat. The store looks like a jewelry store for candies with a wide aisle, wrought iron glass cases and overhanging lights that gas jets once lit the store (now electric). Still the store looks like something from the turn of the last century.
The interior of Shane Confectionery has not change since the turn of the last century
They were preparing for the Halloween holidays when I visited in the early Fall but I was looking at all the interesting handmade candies, made inhouse. All the trays of chocolate filled candies…
I could not believe how fast the summer went. After I threw my back out, I was out of commission for three months and I was finally able to get started again by early September. Then we started classes at the College where I work and that has me running as well. It is nice to be busy.
Halloween was not as busy as it has been in the past because we are still dealing with COVID requirements. Some programs that I attended in the past were either cut or had limited space. Also with classes going on and in the midst of Midterms and quizzes for both classes my time was limited this year with the running around. I just did not want to push it. Still I got to do some new things this year.
Halloween weekend start at Blondies on the Upper West Side at 212 West 79th Street for the much anticipated Michigan-Michigan State football game. This has been much hyped because both of our teams were 7-0 and no matter how we play or what we do, Michigan State is always ranked lower than Michigan. It is just a fact. Until we beat them, for a SECOND YEAR, like we did this year!
Blondies is such a great place to watch the game. We have the whole back room for Spartan nation and the place was packed with everyone dressed in Green and White. I had gotten up to the bar just as Michigan scored the first touchdown so it was a touch glum but things got right back to cheery as we got the ball back. By the time I settled in it was 10-0 but things livened up again when we scored our first touch down.
By the time I left at half time, we were ahead 14-13 and my best friend kept calling me while I was on a walking tour of New York City filling me in on the updates. I had to keep breaking away from the tour to take the updates and I could see that was frustrating the tour guide out of the corner of my eye.
Michigan State versus Michigan
I took the “Gotham Ghost Tour of Lower Manhattan” on the day before Halloween and we really lucked out with the weather. It kept going from gloomy to sunny for the whole afternoon, so it added a little spookiness to the tour. We started our tour of Haunted Lower Manhattan on Second Avenue and 10th Street right across the street from St. Marks Church.
We started our tour at the side of St. Mark’s Church at 131 East 10th Street. The church has an interesting history starting with being the Chapel of Peter Stuyvesant
Our first part of the ghost tour was stopping at St. Mark’s Church at 131 East 10th Street. There was a mini-carnival going on in the cemetery portion of the grounds so it took away from the spookiness of the place. That and they made us wear masks outdoors.
The tour guide told us the story of the former Sexton of the Church was in the church alone one night and heard strange sounds coming from the lower floors. When he went to investigate, he found nothing. He then said that strange sounds started again like a scrapping on the floor. It was here that he confronted the ghost of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch Director General of New Amsterdam.
He ran out of the church and then mysteriously, the bell in the tower of the church started to ring on its own. No one else was in the church at the time. When they went to investigate, they found that the rope had been cut or separated and there was no way someone could have rung the bell.
When they investigated the crypt of ‘Pegleg Peter’ as he was called, legend has it they found the piece of rope in the crypt. The Sexton never returned to the church after that. When I asked when this was, the guide told us about the early 1800’s. I asked has anyone seen the ghost since. The answer was no but people still feel things in the building. I though it strange that a ghost would only appear once in the church.
Still, we visited the tomb of Peter Stuyvesant, who is buried in the wall of the church that once served has his chapel on the Stuyvesant estate, which this area of the City was part of at that time. The grave was hidden by a table and scaffolding but we managed to see it. It did look mysterious located at the bottom of the church foundation.
Peter Stuyvesant, Dutch Director General of New Amsterdam
Peter Stuyvesant’s Tomb which was once part of his estate chapel
We walked around the grounds and saw other family crypts around the property that were not covered with tables. Some were family members of the extended Stuyvesant family (those who married into it like most Colonial families of wealth did) and other prominent families of the church like the Fish’s, Winthrop’s and the Tompkins, whose names are known throughout the City and New York State.
Our next stop was the Hamilton-Fish House at 21 Stuyvesant Street, where members of both the descendants Stuyvesant and Fish families lived.
The Hamilton Fish is a brick Federal style house was built by Peter Stuyvesant, the great-grandson of Petrus Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, in 1804. It was a wedding present to his daughter, Elizabeth and his son in law, Nicholas Fish and their future son, Hamilton Fish, the former Governor, Senator of New York State and Secretary of State under the President Grant administration. The house was built on land that had been in the family since the 17th century (Wiki). This union united two famous and influential families and the house stayed in the family until the beginning of the 20th century.
Our next stop on the tour was of Astor Place a few blocks away. We visited the outside of the Astor Building at 418 Lafayette Place, Colonnade Row.
418 Lafayette Place-Colonnade Row today
Colonnade Row was built in the 1830’s by contractor Seth Geer as nine private homes on land owned by John Jacob Astor. The architects on the job were Alexander Jackson Davis, Ithiel Town and James Dakin. The building was originally called ‘Lagrange’ or La Grange Terrace after the estate of the Marquis de Layfayette, a hero of the American Revolution (Wiki).
Some of the famous tenants of these homes were John Jacob Astor III, Julia Gardiner, the former first lady and socialite, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Washington Irving. Today they are a mixed-use building and in need of repair (Wiki).
418 Lafayette Place when it was built in the 1830’s
Its relation to haunted happenings was it was claimed that one of the construction workers who was renovating the property said that a ghostly hand came out of one the fireplaces during the renovation of the building. Since then, things have been quiet. Personally, I thought the guy must have been working too hard.
The next stop was across the street at the Astor Library at 425 Lafayette Street.
The Astor Library was a collaboration effort between John Jacob Astor and New England educator Joseph Cogswell. The library was built to be a research library where the books did not circulate. The library opened in 1854 to the public and in 1895 it was consolidated with the Lenox Library and the Tilden Foundation to become the New York Public Library (Wiki).
The library was designed by architect Alexander Saeltzer who designed it in the Rundbogenstil style. The cornerstone was laid in 1850 and the building was finished in 1853. The library opened in January of 1854 and had later extensions to it (Wiki).
The ghost story of the library comes from Joseph Cogswell himself. In April of 1860, Mr. Cogswell was working late in the library when he walked down to the Research area of the library and spotted the ghost of a local physician who had died recently. Upon approaching the ghost and confronting it, the ghost simply disappeared. This happened for three more nights and each night the ghost would disappear. On the third night, the ghost disappeared again and has not been seen since. He also claimed to see the ghosts of Washington Irving and insurance executive Austin Sands (mrsdaffodildigresses.com/thegothiclibrary.com). Needless to say, they gave Mr. Cogswell some time off.
The “Library Ghost” from the movie “Ghostbusters”
The famous “Library Ghost” scene from the film “Ghostbusters”
After we left the Astor Library, we made our way across Broadway to the New York University campus, where we visited the Brown Building at 23 Washington Place, home to the famous “Triangle Shirtwaist Fire” of 1911. The building is located between 23 Washington Place and Greene Street.
The Brown Building is now part of the New York University campus containing the Chemistry Department. When it was built between 1900-01, the iron and steel building was designed by architect John Woolley in the neo-Renaissance style. It was named at that time the Asch Building after its owner, Joseph J. Asch. The building was known for their fireproof rooms which is why many garment makers liked the building including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which occupied the top three floors of the building (Wiki).
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed many young immigrant women at the factory with terrible wages and almost slave conditions. On March 25th, 1911, the fire started from one of the clothing bins where layers of fabric were stacked and spread quickly through the factory. Between the thick smoke, non-visual rooms and the locked stairwell doors, people died from smoke inhalation, being crushed trying to leave or throwing themselves from the windows. This led to creation of the Ladies Garment Union (Wiki).
According to the tour guide, there have been no sightings of ghosts here but it was a horrific site of tragedy. The site of young women either throwing themselves from the top floors of the buildings or burning to death in the stairwells is hard enough to imagine.
We continued down the block to Washington Square Park, one of the most active parks in Manhattan.
Washington Square Park was its usual active self when we walked into the park for the tour. People were planning a protest in the park on one side, they were sunning themselves in another, some were walking their dogs and others were playing frisbee. Kids were running around and older residents of the neighborhood were sitting on the benches talking to one another.
It was pretty shocking to me to discover that right under us was a massive cemetery. From 1797 until 1825, the area was New York City’s Potter’s Field. Many of the people being indigent or died during the Yellow Fever panic that hit the City. There is an estimated 20,000 people buried below the park.
There are also several church vaults that had been found of churches that when they were repairing the water lines in the area. There are still more vaults below the park as well as tombstones and mass graves. The park became Washington Square Park in the 1850’s. Still as repairs still place around the park, remains are still found.
We then walked past the Washington Arch, one of the most iconic symbols of New York City and used in countless movies and photoshoots. Even the arch has a dark history due to its designer, Stamford White.
The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park
The Washington Square Arch was designed by architect Stamford White in 1891 for the Centennial Celebration of President George Washington’s 1789 inauguration as President of the United States of America (Wiki).
It seemed that the married Stanford White had a sexual appetite for young women, many of them being underaged. He had had an affair with actress Evelyn Nesbitt about five years prior to her marriage to Henry Thaw. Mr. Thaw killed Stanford White after a performance claiming that ‘he ruined his wife” in June 1906.
When we reached the other end of the park, we passed a very unassuming but huge Elm Tree at the edge of Washington Square Park. It was known as the “Hangman’s Elm” and is thought to be over 300 years old. The tour guide even called it “The Blood Elm”. It was used for executions by the local Newgate State Prison until the local prominent residents protested. The executions were moved to another location.
As we left the park and its sinister past (I never knew any of the this in all the times I have spent in this park), we passed the Jefferson Market Library at 425 Sixth Avenue. This beautiful turn of the century library was once the ‘Jefferson Market Courtyard” and this is where the Stanford White trail was held. The building was built in 1833 by architect Fredrick Clarke Withers of the firm of Vaux and Withers in the High Victorian Gothic style (Wiki). On Halloween night, it is used as the place where the giant spider puppet descents each Halloween Night before the Halloween Parade starts.
Some visitors claim to see the spirits of females roaming the gardens and some standing on the balcony of the clocktower. All I ever see when I pass it is nothing but the spider puppet that one time (The Gothic Library).
The Jefferson Market Library at 425 Sixth Avenue on Halloween Night
Our last stop on the tour was in Waverly Place at the home of Edgar Allen Poe. It seems that Mr. Poe lived in many sections of the City and funny enough ended up in Camden, NJ. The home was at 116 Waverly Place and was supposed to be one of the places that the author had written “The Raven”. Reading an article in the NY Post said that this is a shaky assumption.
137 Waverly Place-rumored to be one of the homes of Edgar Allen Poe
A tour of the house and the neighborhood (if you can afford it)
After we passed the house (I swear as an author he must have moved around a lot when he was writing “The Raven” because that book must have been written in at least four places), this ended the tour. It was a lot of walking but I learned much about the history of the City especially in this neighborhood.
When I finished the tour, the game was over and we WON! I could not believe that especially since we were the underdogs going in and no one ever expects to win that game anyway. It will be a fun year and now wait until the basketball season. Kris was really excited but I could tell that her son, who is a big Michigan fan, was not. Go Green Go White!!
We Won 37-34 so the bragging rights are ours for the year!
The Michigan State versus University of Michigan Game 2021 highlights:
The Celebration in East Lansing, MI begins:
The Battle of the Bands at halftime for a “Bootackular” sound:
After the long day of touring, I walked back to the East Village for dinner. I took a chance to see if I could eat at San Marzano at 117 Second Avenue. This tiny Italian restaurant in the East Village is one of the most reasonable restaurants in the City in the way of quality of food and service. There are no dishes over $9.00. This is the reason why the restaurant is always packed and try to get in for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night.
I was lucky enough to get there at a time right before the dinner rush. I was able to snag a two top table right next to the window just as the restaurant had quieted down. The food and the service are so good here.
I was so tired from all the running around that day that I kept dinner on the lighter side. I had a mixed Green Salad ($7.00), that was so fresh and crisp with a light dressing. The lettuce was so crisp and the tomatoes actually tasted like a tomato for this time of year. The portion sizes here are just right.
For dinner, I had the Paradelle with Meatballs (I eyed the Meatball appetizer on the menu but knew I could not eat both), which was also delicious. The Paradelle is made fresh in the restaurant and could tell by the quality of the pasta. The sauce was rich with the flavor of the pork and veal in the meatballs. Talk about the perfect dinner on a cool early Halloween night.
The Paradelle here is excellent with Meatballs or Bolognese Sauce
The service could have not been nicer and the guy who waited on me could see how much I enjoyed my meal. He even tried to sell me dessert but I was so tired from the walk around the City I did not want to push it.
After dinner, I walked around the East Village and took the subway back uptown. While I was taking the subway uptown, I saw two Wolverine Alumni from University of Michigan come on the subway. Boy, did they avoid me! When they tried to sneak past me at the 42nd Street exit, I just said politely “Better luck next year!”. They just walked out with their heads down.
What an interesting way to spend Halloween weekend.
Watch this! It scared the hell out of me! The short “Hello?”
I have to admit that I am a very proud Spartan of Michigan State University and am willing to travel to support my Alma Mater when they are playing locally. I feel the same support for Cornell when they are playing football games locally as well.
I recently talked about my trips to New Haven, CT and Philadelphia, PA for Cornell football games that had mixed results. I have to admit that Cornell football has not been one of the college’s strong points over the years but at least we have a good turnout from Alumni.
So, I put my walk in the Garment District on hold and attended the games both in New Brunswick and in Midtown Manhattan and supported my Alma Mater.
When I went to the Michigan State University versus Rutgers game back on October 9th in New Brunswick, NJ, it was finally nice to see what I consider ‘real football’ between Division One teams. This is usually the only game I can see when it is played every other year at home for Rutgers. Otherwise, it means going out to East Lansing, MI for the games which I have not done since 2013.
It was a rather gloomy day for the game even though it was a warm Fall weekend. Since New Jersey and New York are top recruiting states for out of state students, we have a sizeable Alumni Association in the Metropolitan New York City area. So, we formed a pretty big block at the stadium.
SHI Stadium (Hale Center) was just renovated in 2009 to expand the capacity to 52,454 seats. This makes it ready for other Big Ten games but I have to be honest. The place was a third empty and it was Homecoming Weekend for Rutgers. I kept wondering when everyone was going to come in from Tailgating.
The gentleman sitting behind me, who was a lifetime Rutgers season ticket holder, answered the question. He said the fans prefer to tailgate then come into the stadium and will hear the game on the radio or watch it on a tv near the tailgate. So much for Homecoming support.
The first half of the game was pretty exciting with the teams going back and forth. Rutgers led in the beginning 10-0 but it did not take long for us to catch up. By half time, we came back to a 21-13 lead before we left for the locker rooms. We would score 10 more points in the second half and hold Rutgers to a 31-13 win.
I have to say one thing during half time. It got very quiet with Rutgers Alumni as they left the stadium. Michigan State alumni hit the concession stands and I had a pretty amazing fried chicken sandwich with a Coke. Because of COVID, there was no place to gather and eat, so I found the edge of a closed concession stand and ate with other alumni from both schools. None of us were very impressed by the game at half time.
The game went back and forth in the second half but we pulled out ten more points and again, we won the game 31-13. After the game was over, everyone headed back the to the busses to take us back to the parking lot at the back of the campus. This was the weird part. We were all on top of one another in the stadium and again on the line for the busses and then they made us wear masks for the ten-minute trip back to the parking lot. That made no sense whatsoever.
I have to say one thing, don’t underestimate Rutgers Football. With their coach and the recruiting pool he has in the State of New Jersey and the surrounding states, this team will be a powerhouse in the future.
Before I headed home, I stopped in Bridgewater, NJ for a taste of nostalgia. I stopped at Joe’s Pizzeria in Martinsville, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for an early dinner. I swear that the pizza has not changed in 50 years since I started coming here as a kid.
The pizza is still so crisp on the bottom and at the crust and the sauce has the same fresh tomato taste that it had in 1971. I came here as a kid and all the time when I was growing up. The pizza is still amazing and the restaurant is still on only its third owner (the original Joe still owns the building). I relaxed and enjoyed my pizza and then headed home for the evening. It had been a nice afternoon in New Brunswick.
Michigan State versus Rutgers in football at New Brunswick
Highlights from the football game
About a month later, I got an email from the Alumni Association that out basketball team would be playing at Madison Square Garden for the Champions Classic. We were playing University of Kansas (who was Number 3 at the time) and Duke would be playing University of Kentucky for the second game (Duke would end up having the best record). The event would be starting with an Alumni mixer and get together at Mustang Harry’s, a bar near FIT and just south of Madison Square Garden.
I had not planned on going into the City that night but since nothing had been planned, I decided to be the good Alumni and support the team at the Alumni mixer. I thought at least the Greater New York Alumni Association might have a nice buffet.
It ended up that when I got to Mustang Harry’s at 352 Seventh Avenue, I talked with the host who said that the Alumni Association was meeting upstairs. That ended up being the Parents of the Players get together. The woman organizing it invited me to stay and have dinner with them but I double checked downstairs to see if there was a formal get together. I talked with another Alum eating at the bar and he said no. They just met here to watch the game.
Mustang Harry’s at 352 Seventh Avenue
I decided to head upstairs again and join the players parents and ended up having some very nice conversations with members of the families whose sons played for the team. I got the insights not just on the kids careers through high school but many of the fathers had played college basketball (many of whom did not have careers after college).
The inside first floor of Mustang Harry’s
Even though the food is good here I felt it was an expensive rip off. I was not that hungry and I ordered a small plate of sliders and a Coke. With tip, the bill was about $28.00! For four little sliders that could have fit into a dollhouse and a Coke with a piece of lemon? I think that the restaurant gouges people during game day. They could have offered some specials. Also, they had one waiter working our whole section. I saw what looked like the manager bring my order up which took almost a half hour.
I had a nice time talking with the parent’s and decided to stay for the game. I had not been in Madison Square Garden since the Big Ten Championship a few years before. Most of the stadium was empty because most of the Duke and University of Kentucky Alumni waited until their game started after our game was over.
I have to say for such a young team we kept up with Kansas in the first half. At the half, we were 39-32 with Kansas just slightly ahead of us. We thought we could keep up which we did for most of the second half but then Kansas started hitting the three-point shots and we kept missing the baskets. The second half we were only outscored 48-42 but the difference of the points in each half was too much to overcome.
Still, I think this is a young team with a lot of promise and I know that they will do well in the future. They all have two or three years together as a team so when it plays in the future, they will know how to depend on each other.
Michigan State versus University of Kansas game at Madison Square Garden
With the holidays now in full swing, I decided to usher out the Halloween holidays with its haunted houses and cemetery walks and usher in the Christmas holiday season with cheerful music and almost too much holiday decorating and shopping which gets more rushed earlier and earlier after midnight on Halloween. It gets to be over-whelming!
After a holiday of house decorating contests, visiting local farms to take pictures for my retail blog and the Halloween Parade in the City, the Midnight hour hit on Halloween night and I swear there was Christmas. I was even at one merchant’s store on Halloween morning and he was changing his Halloween window display to Christmas on the morning of the downtown merchants ‘Trick or Treating’ event. When I asked him why, he said, “This is the nature of the business right now.”
My weekend morning meant setting up for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree sale on Jefferson and Terrace in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This annual rite is our biggest fundraising of the year and has become part of a tradition in many families as the whole family will come to the site even with baby carriages and dogs to buy a tree so that everyone gets a choice. It is nice to see the same faces every year and now I even hear from people that I sold them a tree when they were kids and now, they are buying one for their apartment in the City (thanks for making me feel ‘old’ everyone).
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas tree set up
Day One Hundred & Twenty-Six: Christmas Tree Sales:
We got there at 8:00am in the morning, cleaning the site of leaves and branches and setting up the Christmas shed and all the tree stands. We worked until noon and then finished with a pizza lunch as a group. Christmas trees will be arriving next Friday and then it’s off to the races in selling 400 trees, a new record for us.
I went home and then it was off to the City to watch the end of the Michigan State versus Ohio State football game. What a bloodbath! They walked all over us. By the time I made it up to Blondies, the bar on the Upper West Side that the Alumni meet at everyone was gone but a small handful of people who are the hangers on to the end. The final score was 56-7 and it was a disaster with many of our players hurt. So much for the playoffs.
Since I got to the bar with only two minutes left in the game and getting there just in time to see Ohio State score again, I left after the game ended. There were not that many people left in the bar at that point and only two Ohio State alumni were in the bar singing their fight song. I was off to Brooklyn to go to the “Lightscape” show at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the “Andy Warhol” show at the Brooklyn Museum. Getting to Brooklyn was a labor in love as all the subways were rerouted for maintenance.
“Lightscape” is a new event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
I had to change subways twice before I finally got the Number 2 into Brooklyn. Then it was a quick run to the Brooklyn Museum. Once I got to the museum, it was no problem getting in once I passed the COVID protocols.
I went to see the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” which was combination of his later works, his movies and his personal life both in Pittsburgh and in New York.
I never realized first how religious he was in his personal life and how it affected his art later on. Also, I knew that he had a close relationship with his mother and she lived with him but never knew she had assisted him with his art and how talented she was as an artist.
Andy Warhol and his mother in portrait in the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” exhibition
The exhibition featured some of his paintings from his “Last Supper” collection which he painted before he passed away. These interesting large pastel paintings again showed his religious side and portrayed Di Vinci’s “Last Supper” in a more exaggerated form. He kept the context but added color.
Warhol’s “Last Supper”
I finished my tour of the exhibition by watching part of “Chelsea Girls” one of his most famous films (I still have to admit I do not understand the movie and I watch it at the Museum of Modern Art for a couple of hours) and still did not get the point of the film. I have sat through a retrospect of his films and I have to admit, you really need to think about what he is saying because it can be challenging.
A clip from “Chelsea Girls”
After I left the Warhol exhibition, I walked around the American Galleries and then went down to see the rest of the museum. Several floors either were not open or you had to pay for the ‘Dior’ exhibition. I never remember the Brooklyn Museum charging people to see special exhibitions but I suspect COVID has changed it. Still, it was nice to see the Warhol exhibition before it opened to the public.
I got to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden right on time at 7:00pm to start the “Lightscape” tour of the garden. It was amazing!
Highlights from the “Lightscape”:
This video gives just a short glimpse into what “Lightscape” showcased in the Gardens
It was an hour long walk in the gardens following a path around the perimeter of the Gardens starting at the new Washington Street entrance. What an amazing way to walk the Gardens at night. The lightshow really showcased the beauty of the gardens and its layout. Visitors were guided on a path around the gardens that was cordoned off and then lit with colorful lights and music. Here and there props were added to open spots in the gardens for an experience of lights and sounds.
When you entered the Gardens, you were greeted by light jazz museum to colorful yellow and purple lights adorning the trees. As a group of us rounded the corner into the Japanese Gardens, we were greeted by a lightshow of multiple lights and spotlights enhancing both the garden’s trees and pond. It really lit up the water.
As you exited the Japanese Gardens, more lights lit the pathway to the Greenhouses and pools where interesting water sculptures that looked like floating Locuses lined the pools and kept lighting up to appear to be a flower opening.
The restaurants and cafes in this section of the Gardens were open that night but the lines were tremendous and the menu limited plus it was so cool out that I did not want to eat a meal outside but many people did not have a problem with this. The tables at the Yellow Magnolia Restaurant were packed with people eating.
I proceeded through the Gardens past light features of what looked like surrealist flowers lit in all sorts of colors with the sounds of Christmas jazz in the background. The flowers changed colors as the music played and I took my time to watch the flowers change from vibrant color to another.
These floral sculptures sway to light Christmas Jazz music
As I rounded the edge of the southern section of the Gardens, I walked past more trees that had been lit in green, purple and yellow showcasing trees that just a few months ago had been surrounded by crocuses, daffodils and tulips in all their beauty as Spring moved into Summer.
The path led to the Cherry Tree lawn where the best part of the lightshow took place. A light show awash with colors and sounds as the entire section of the lawn was lit and twinkled of lights and Christmas music and light jazz as all the trees and lawns created a spectacular display that entertained everyone who stopped. I was so taken by the display that I stayed for three entire shows of lights and sounds.
The Cherry Blossom trees were ablaze with lights and music
We exited up the hill that overlooked the Cherry Blossom Lawn so that you could see the lightshow again from another perspective. It was even more interesting as you walked up the sidewalks that line the hill and could sit in the benches watching the show from above the lawn. Amazing!
This video of the Gardens by Caty Exterior really captures the show (I credit the blogger on this amazing video):
I exited the Gardens from the original entrance on Eastern Parkway and like everyone else who was leaving that evening, totally mesmerized by the light show we had just experienced. I was glad that I had seen the show early as the reporters and bloggers who I had probably been touring with had seen the show as well and everyone reported on it the next week. Online reviews were extremely enthusiastic.
After the show was over, I walked down Washington Avenue to find a place to have a snack. I came across Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Avenue. for a slice of pizza. The pizza was excellent with such a crisp crust and bottom and the sauce really tasted of fresh tomatoes. The only problem with the restaurant was that there was no place to eat inside and I ended up eating at one of the small tables outside and it had gotten cold as the evening progressed. It was nice to eat outside but my pizza got cold fast.
Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Place
After my snack, I took another walk around the neighborhood to see the lights of the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the distance. It really had been a wonderful evening and I was glad that I experienced the light show and the art opening before they reached the general public and tickets then became hard to get. Not even a week after I visited both shows, they had been heavily reviewed in all the New York City papers so try to get tickets now.
The next evening, I drove up to Croton-on-the-Hudson for the last night of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor. I have been to the show for many years and I even renewed my membership again to see the show one more time. This was the last night of the show before it closed for the season. Seeing a Christmas light show the night before made this visit rather strange as Halloween was over three weeks earlier. Still, it was an amazing walk through the grounds and the best part was there were no crowds!
I started the evening with dinner with my favorite restaurant right near the Van Cortlandt Manor, Dong Happy Gardens at 440 South Riverside Avenue. This wonderful Chinese restaurant is tucked into the Shoprite Mall next to the supermarket. The three times I have eaten here the food has been excellent (See review on TripAdvisor.com) and the service very friendly. The rules have been relaxed at the restaurant so you can eat in the booths now.
I had the Chicken and String beans with a side of Pork Fried Rice and an Egg Roll and everything was excellent. They served me a large portion of Chicken with freshly cooked string beans in a soy and Hunan sauce with had a nice hot and tangy flavor to it. The egg roll was filled with lots of chopped roast pork and cabbage and was perfectly fried. The combination plate was a nice sized dinner portion and warmed me up on a cool night.
The Chicken and Broccoli is excellent here
With the Christmas holidays in full swing, the festivities of Halloween are long behind us and since I chose the last night of the show at the last entry time of 8:00pm I pretty much had the walk all to myself. There must have been about fifty other people walking through the same time as myself and I could take extra time to look at the displays and enjoy the music.
The Van Cortlandt Manor is memorizing with the site of hundreds of lit pumpkins
Being so close to Thanksgiving, the newest pumpkins that had been carved were in the shape of turkeys and horns of plenty. You were still greeted by the mysterious faces of Halloween but the last week of the event was themed to the upcoming holiday.
The “Tappan Scream Bridge” leads you into the displays
The show had not changed much since I had visited in late November last year. I entered through the Tappan Scream Bridge and saw all the carved pumpkins of fish swimming. I then passed the Ferris wheel of mysteries animals as they made their way around a circle.
The Headless Horseman Bridge was another bridge of wonder at the entrance of the grounds
Walking through the tunnel of lights is a fantastic sight
I made my way through the display passing the Headless Horseman Bridge and the Museum of Modern Art display which I thought was one of the most original parts of the show three years ago.
Their version of Van Gogh’s “The Scream”
Their version of Di Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa”
Their version of Andy Warhol’s “Soup Cans”
I continued my walk through the display looking that the Ghost Circus Train that lead the way through the next part of the display showcasing all the circus animals that followed.
The Ghost Circus Train ablaze with animals
Once past the Ghost Circus Train I walked past the Ferris Wheel of Animals going round and round as it played an eerie tiny music. The animals grinned as they went through the cycle over and over again.
This ghostly Ferris Wheel shocks and memorizes
The path led past the Ferry House that once greeted guests on the Old Albany Post Road and then led to a series of Zodiac signs. I search for Libra and found it right in the middle of the display showing the balance that our sign represetns.
The Pumpkin sign of Libra
The paths lead past creatures from the deep and the past as our crowd of visitors was greeted by the Lock Ness Monster and a series of dinosaurs that guarded the path on the way to the Van Cortlandt Manor House.
The Loch Ness Monster guards the paths to the deep
The dinosaurs roared and nodded as you walked past them showing their strength of character and lore.
The dinosaurs led the path to the next part of the display
As I got closer to the main house, there was a big display of the skyline of Manhattan with a display of the New York City skyline starting with the statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline. I thought that was very creative.
The Statue of Liberty was very impressive as well was the skyline
I finally reached the Van Corlandt Manor lit to the hilt with colorful lights and a dazzling light show that was continuous. Before you entered the front of the manor, you are greeted by a mysterious clock that chimed and churned as it greeted you.
This grandfather clock chimes it way through the tour of the Van Cortlandt Manor
The manor house, which closes in September for the set up of the Blaze, was lit with a entertaining Light Show and music that greeted guests with a sinister undertone and greeting welcoming in the Halloween season. You have to wait to see the show twice not to miss anything.
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its dazzling glory for the Halloween holiday
Before leaving the last part of the Blaze, there is a well lit path of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night as you pass the Van Cortlandt cemetery and things from the past that guard them. There are all sorts of creatively carved pumpkins all over the lawn in front of the manor.
The Van Cortlandt Cemetery is on display as you exit the family home
Ghosts and Ghouls and things that go bump in the night
Paying respects to the Van Cortlandt Family patriot Steven Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Catherine Van Wyck and Pierre Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Pierre Van Cortlandt
Exiting the Blaze, you will see all sorts of craved pumpkins and the rest of the Blaze in the distance. It will be another year to until the Blaze comes again but what a way to see it on its last glorious night. This is something you should not miss when coming to the Hudson River Valley during the Halloween season.
Me on the night of the Blaze. It was rather warm for this time of the year.