Tag Archives: Author Justin Watral

Day One Hundred and Thirty Eight: A Five Year Well Wishing to my father, Warren George Watrel October 13th, 2019

There are times when a well-wishing is for something wonderful and there are times where it is for something sad.

This well wishing on the five year anniversary of my father’s passing is a celebration of life and an honorum to the man who inspired this blog for his sense of adventure and a will to never give up the fight. This is where my father inspired me to succeed in all the things that I do and the goals I want to still accomplish in life.

I always quoted to my students from the song “Happy Talk” from the movie “South Pacific” when Bloody Mary sings “You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have your dreams come true?” If we don’t have the goals, dreams and desires in life, how can we  inspire to them?

Dad's Reunion IV

My father defied odds and attended his 60th High School Reunion in 2013

This very special blog comes when I have visited more than half the Island of Manhattan and look forward to walking the rest. My hope to all you readers who follow and enjoy this blog of joining me on “MywalkinManhattan”, that you are inspired to follow the dreams and goals that you have in life as well.

Dad's Reunion III

My dad with his granddaughter at the Reunion weekend in 2013

As I said on my first day of starting this project, walking the streets of Manhattan is not terribly original and three people I had read about had already finished walking or were in the process of finishing it when I started but I’d  like to think I am showing the Island of Manhattan in a new light.

From pointing out all the wonderful things to do, see and eat, from indulging in pastries in bakeries in Washington Heights to finding the most interesting street art in Spanish Harlem to seeing New York Harbor at night with the Statue of Library lit behind it to having you join me on all the walking tours I have been on in different parts of the City when things I had not noticed were pointed out to me that you are looking at New York City in a different light.

So to my father, whom I miss everyday, I love you and miss you!

Dad & I.png

Dad and I at the ‘Grandparent’s Day Brunch’ fundraiser for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library 2013.

 

‘Happy Talk’ from ‘South Pacific’

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Day One Hundred and Forty-Two: The Private Members Night at the Bronx Zoo July 18th, 2019

 

After just finishing Turtle Bay and my next start of the walk in East Midtown, I took the night off and had been invited to a private members night at the Bronx Zoo. Having been occupied by my responsibilities on the fire department for the last six years and always being the night of our department meeting I always had to miss the event. Since I am no longer Secretary of the Department, I decided to attend this year. On a rather gloomy, cloudy Thursday night I took the subway up to the Bronx for the event (I was smart in calling first to be sure it was still happening and Membership said it was).

I had not taken the subway this far up to the Bronx in years and was amazed at all the changes. The South Bronx has been on a building spree for the last twenty years and it shows with all the new apartment buildings springing up all over the place. I have not seen this much new construction since walking around West End Avenue in Manhattan.

I was not sure where to get off on the subway and forgot to ask when asking the best way to get to the zoo. I just took the Number 2 train up to the Bronx and got off at the Bronx Park stop. That was interesting. I thought that the subway would drop me off closer to the entrance but this took me to the other side of the park and I had to walk around. Did I feel like a fish out of water.

I was in the middle of an Arabic neighborhood where everyone totally ignored me. I guess that was the interesting part of it was feeling invisible. It was mostly made up of small businesses with lots of restaurants and bakeries in the area. Walking down 180th Street from the subway finally got me to the entrance to the zoo.

I had not been to the Bronx Zoo in about twenty years, not since the Congo Exhibit opened so it was a treat for me. The only problem with Member’s Night was the threat of rain as it had been cloudy all day but that did not damper the crowds that came into the zoo. For the most part, there have been many changes to the zoo over the years and the philosophy of raising animals in captivity has changed so the exhibits have changed with it.

The only problem I saw was that many of the animals looked bored or contained. Almost like a nursing home for the wild. The zoo does need to look at the displays more to see how the animals are reacting to it. I have to say though, the zoo really has done a nice job with the new displays and done a good job with keeping them well-feed and happy.

Bronx Zoo Map

The Bronx Zoo Map

I started my night in  the Jungle World exhibition. This glassed in exhibit is home to birds, insects and monkeys all of which are a tad bit small for the animals. There was a lot packed into a small space. It was an interesting to see the animals in a somewhat realistic  environment but still I saw the looks on the monkeys faces and they looked bored. I think they should pair this exhibit down with less mammals and give the animals left more space. It is fascinating how they expect something to live in such small quarters.

It was more fun when I got to the monorail and got to see animals in a larger more realistic habitat. Here they had room to move around. Even so they way the animals looked at us passing by I don’t know who was looking at who. The ride was interesting as each animal  lived in its own place to live and roam.

We had a guide who took us past herds of deer, a lion den, two rhinos who were playing amongst each other and bison who were going about their business. I liked this exhibition because it gives these animals a realistic home with room to move around. We got to make stops at each of the habitats and the speaker gave us a little talk about each animal, how it has adapted to New York weather and you get to see how each animal interact with each other.

Bronx Zoo II

The Treetop Adventure climb

Once I was off the monorail, I took the path down to the Treetop Adventure exhibition where you get to climb all through the obstacles of rope bridges and ladders. That was a lot of fun keeping up with the teenagers who were racing through the maze. I climbed up rope ladders, crossed rope bridges and climbed through barrels to the top of every stop. It was fun to see how the age groups handled each section of it. The toughest part was climbing through the last circular tube because it is meant for little kids and I had to crawl on all four to get through but I went through the whole thing like a pro. It seemed to impress the little kids.

Bronx Zoo IV

The Treetop Maze

From the Treetop Adventure I traveled east down the path to the World of Birds exhibition and got to see many different species of birds. There was a nice assortment of exotic birds from all over the world in their jungle habitat. Each section of the exhibit was dedicated to a different species from all corners of the globe.

Bronx Zoo World of Birds.jpg

The World of Birds

After the World of Birds, I passed Tiger Mountain and looked at the tiger that looked at all of us and the poor thing looked bored. I think the humidity was getting to him but unlike the other visitors I did not want to arouse him because by the end of the day he looked tired.

The next part of the pathway took me to the Bear exhibition in which all the bears looked very playful and they looked like they were ignoring us and were have a good time amongst themselves. What I liked about this exhibit was that there was plenty of  room for the bears to move around and engage with nature. The mother bear looked like she was having fun with the cubs.

I then walked through Samba Village which I guess was the zoo’s take on an African village. Everything was closed that evening maybe because of the crowd or because the weather was not that nice and the zoo figured that the weather might keep people away. As I passed the buildings I did not realize that it was a gift shop and a snack shop.

Bronx Zoo Gorilla Forest II

Congo Gorilla Forest

I next visited the Congo Gorilla Forest for the first time since it opened over twenty years earlier. The exhibit has several different species of gorilla and monkey each in their own encampments. The area is large and is furnished with all sorts of trees, rocks and water placements that make the habitat more real for the mammals. For the most part I saw the gorillas just go about their day walking with each other and taking care of each other. It was nice that the zoo created an environment where the mammals felt right at home. There was lots of room to move around.

Bronx Zoo Gorilla Forest.jpg

Congo Gorilla Forest

After visiting the Congo Gorilla Forest, I went to see what was open for dinner. The Dancing Crane Cafe that was located in the older section of the zoo. The restaurant was packed with families that I did not want to bother eating then and since it was getting late wanted to see the Dinosaur Walk and the Sea Lion Tank before the end of the evening.

When I got to the Sea Lion Tank at the Astor Court, the sea lions were in the pool splashing around showing off to all the patrons who were watching them swim. They are so used to people watching them they just swam and dove around us. I thought they waved to us.

Bronx Zoo Sea Lion.jpg

The Bronx Zoo posted this and I thought he looked cute

The main entrance of the zoo facing the Fordham Road entrance is the original zoo that was built in 1907. This is where the original animal buildings were located that are now used for administration purposes. These buildings are some of the original buildings when the park opened after 1899. These graceful stone buildings were built by the firm of Heins & Lafarge and the Rockefeller Fountain was donated by William Rockefeller.  It had been built by Biagio Catella in 1872 and moved to the park in 1903.

 

The Rockefeller Fountain built by Biagio Catella

Bronx Zoo Rockefeller Fountain.jpg

This is the Monkey House

Bronx Zoo Monkey House

The Reptile House

Bronx Zoo Reptile House.jpg

The Lion House

Bronx Zoo Lion House II

The Elephant House

Bronx Zoo Elephant House.jpg

Don’t miss walking around Astor Court after visiting the sea lions. These buildings are a real treat  if you love architecture and detailed stone work. Each building has its own unique look to it and the animals grace the buildings where they used to live at a time when animals were just an amusement instead of living breathing animals who needed living space. Still the Victorians knew how to design a building.

I walked along the gardens near the fountain and by Astor Court while the band set up for a family concert for the families. As the sky threatened, the families got ready for the concert. I decided to visit the Dinosaur Safari Walk before the park closed.

This was very interesting as they movable Dinosaurs in the natural habitat placed  here and there along the walk by species. The dinosaurs winked, moved and roared around us giving me the creepy feeling that I was in the movie ‘Jurassic Park’. As I walked through the exhibit, I watched as they moved around and lifted their heads up to look at us. I thought it was very clever and in our case Thank God they were not real.

Bronx Zoo Dinosaur Safari.jpg

Don’t miss the ‘Dinosaur Safari’ before it closes

On the way back from the walk, I stopped to admire all the buildings once again that surrounded Astor Court. Really look up and see the detail work of the stone animals. The artisans did a wonderful job with the craftsmanship and the intricate details.

While everyone else was enjoying the concert, I made the trip back to The Dancing Crane Cafe  (See Review on TripAdvisor) for dinner. It was around 7:00 pm when I got to the restaurant and that and the gift shop were still busy. I have to say for a zoo restaurant I was pretty impressed by the food. It is standard children’s menu with hamburgers, chicken fingers and individual pizza.

I had the Chicken Fingers and French Fries combination dinner with a Coke ($11.99 with a 10% membership discount). They were delicious. Perfectly cooked with just the right amount of breading and perfectly deep fried where they crisp on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. Usually these things are sitting under a heat lamp dried out but here the restaurant was so busy that every thing was freshly cooked and delicious. It was fun to sit by the window and watch the flamingos in the pool next to the restaurant or just watch the other members trying to calm their kids down before the zoo closed for the evening.

As the last of members and their families came into the restaurant for dinner, the Bug Carousel was going in full force and packed with kids and their parents trying to get one last ride in before the park closed. I could not believe the prices of everything and how much was extra when you visit the zoo but that is the nice part of being a member of the Wildlife Conservatory. Everyone once in a while there is a nice member perk.

Even though it was a somewhat gloomy night, I had a ball walking around the zoo and enjoying the company of other members who were also having a good time with their familes. It is nice to see that my membership is making a difference.

I took the Number 2 subway at the 180th Street stop this time back to Manhattan.

 

Places to Visit:

The Bronx Zoo

2300 Southern Boulevard

Bronx, NY 10460

(718) 220-5100

https://bronxzoo.com/

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

Fee: Members Free/Adults-Full Experience $39.95/Senior Full Experience $34.99/Child (3-12) $29.99/Child (under 3) Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47369-d136079-Reviews-Bronx_Zoo-Bronx_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

 

Places to Eat:

The Dancing Crane Cafe

Inside the Zoo

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5585261-Reviews-Dancing_Crane_Cafe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day Seventy-Two: Michigan State University New York Chapter and New York Cares clean up Claremont Park in the South Bronx April 22nd, 2017

I took time out of the walk to visit another section of the city. I am a member of the New York City Chapter of the Michigan State University Alumni Association and as part of the New York Cares Day in which organizations all over the city do volunteer work to better the city, I joined the Big Ten Coalition to help clean up and repair a park in New York City.

I swear it was the gloomiest day when we met at the park and getting to Claremont Park is not the easiest place to go. It is located just off the Grand Concourse off Clay Avenue between Mount Eden Parkway and East 170th Street. I took the D subway train up to the Bronx and because I could not hear the announcements, so I got off at 163rd Street by Yankee Stadium. Because I was already late and wanted to get to the park, I walked the rest of the way. Trust me, it was not the most glamorous walk I have ever taken. I felt safer in Harlem and Bushwick before walking above Yankee Stadium.

We were supposed to paint the benches and gazebo, pick up garbage and weed and rake up leaves but because the weather was so bad and we did not have all the volunteers we were supposed to have show up, we ended up raking up the leaves in one section of the park and picking up the garbage. The garbage I could understand but the leaves in the woods could have stayed. After all it was compost. No one listened to me and we ended up cleaning up the whole woods.

The results were good and it looked very professional when we were finished. We filled up 99 bags of trash, leaves and compost. We also picked up all the dead branches in the area so that section of the park looked really nice. The northern section of the park had already been seeded and was fenced off so there was not much to do there. There was a lot of painting to do in the park but that was for another day. It started to pour down rain when we finished and our leader of the group (I know this kid must have been in a sorority at MSU) tried to pep us up to finish. Everyone just went to the bathroom or back to the gazebo and relaxed.

Both the park manager from the NYC Parks System and a local resident thanked me personally for helping out and that made it well worth it. I was glad I was able to give back to the city and that the residents of this area have a better, cleaner park for it. It made the project well worth it. The only problem I had was the massive case of poison ivy I got a few days later.  This would last for three months. Not fun!

Anyway this is my dedication to the Green and White!

Go Spartans!!!