Tag Archives: BergenCountyCaregiver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.

bergecco-parc logo

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Logo:

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

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

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

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

bcc bergecco parc welcome week logo

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

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

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

Welcome to Bergen Community College:

 

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

The commercial promoting the events:

 

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

Their commercial for the hearing impaired students:

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out their student blog!

Welcome Week

My reviews on TripAdvisor:

The Bergen Room:

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

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

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

The Ciccone Theater:

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

The Gallery Bergen:

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

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

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

 

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Day One Hundred and Seven: The Creation of the extension of my blog, “MywalkinManhattan” with my newest blog, “LittleShoponMainStreet @WordPress. com.

As I have been walking all over the Upper East & West Sides of Manhattan plus in all the up and coming neighborhoods all over the City and out in the suburbs, I am discovering so many trendy and unique little stores, whose merchants are proving that you don’t have to flock to Amazon to find the latest fashion forward and eclectic merchandise. These tiny stores all over the metropolitan area are bucking the trend of online shopping and proving that the original ‘store keeper’ is a thing of the present.

I was inspired by stores such as Tiny Doll House (314 East 78th Street) and La Librairie des Enfants (163 East 92nd Street) on the Upper East Side and John Koch Antiques (201 West 84th Street) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their unique and inspiring merchandise that screams “buy me” when you walk in the door.

Even in my own town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, I visit Young Fashions (208 Boulevard) and The Religious Shoppe (220 Boulevard) for merchandise that you will no longer find in the department stores. These establishments stand out for their personalized service where you will work with the owners to merchandise you will find for that extra special gift.

Even some of the food stores and gourmet shops (that don’t fit into my DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com site) I have come across show that restaurants and gourmet food can display their goods in a beautiful way and still taste good but not be expensive. These stores get a local gathering of residents and tourists lucky enough to find them.

So as I do “MywalkinManhattan.com”, let’s go shopping and eat something as I guide you past the department stores and the expensive boutiques to show how Merchandising Management is not dead and how the experience of personal service and friendly shop owners is alive and well in all parts of New York City and beyond.

Happy Shopping!

*Author’s Note: “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com is an extension of my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com” along with “VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com” and “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com”  to complete your touring experience around the Metropolitan area and beyond.

Day Ninety One: New Blog Sites: ‘VisitingaMuseum@WordPress.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@WordPress.com’ by Blogger Justin Watrel.

To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.

I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.

There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.

‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com is my latest site. I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size. These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.

For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it.

So I hope you enjoy ‘VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com when coming to Manhattan. Please check all of this places out online for a change of hours and exhibits and menus.

Check out the newest site, “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” for small boutiques and specialty shops that are unique and quirky.

Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.

The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of  Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.

The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.

I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.

Happy Reading!

My Blogs:

MywalkinManhattan.com

BergenCountyCaregiver.com

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com

EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartment@Wordpress.com

TBCFMA@Wordpress.com

Also visit my past blog on Patch.com: The Merchant Series

I did this for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library from 2009-2014

 

Day Fifty-Five: The Fifteenth Anniversary of the Attacks of 9/11 and the Tenth Anniversary of my novel, “Firehouse 101” September 11th, 2016

I can’t believe that it has been fifteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. It seems like a lifetime ago. As the site has been almost rebuilt with the new One World Trade Center (visited earlier in my walk last Thanksgiving) and two visits to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and numerous visits to the site, I think back on my eleven years on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and the path I have lead to this point.

I think that the department has really grounded me in many ways and made me more disciplined. I have been able to help my community in ways that baking items for bake sales and selling Christmas trees never did even though these raised a lot of money for their respective causes. I think I have become a better person and a more aware person since joining the department. I really do think you are born a fireman. It just comes out a time when you recognize it. It was like a calling for me and I found what I was looking for in my life and I would never change it for the world.

Am I the best fire fighter or the most dedicated? That is up for debate after every call. I do know one thing, I have been able to help the people in my community in so many ways and when I hear from perfect strangers in my town or surrounding towns “I remember you. You came to my house and helped so-in-so in my family. Thank you so much for that.”, it makes me feel like a better person.

When I wrote “Firehouse 101” (part of a trilogy of books that take place in New York City, the other two being “Love Triangles” and “Dinner at Midnight”), I was at a different stage of my life and honestly if I had to write the book today, I could not do it. The book helped me grapple with what I saw and heard from other guys on the department when I got home to New Jersey from the island of Guam where I was living at the time.

Firehouse 101 Picture III

How did a ‘preppie’ like me join the fire department? I was writing several articles on 9/11 for the local paper when I got home (basically because would write for free and I volunteered) and I interviewed so many fire fighters in my town on their role on 9/11 that I got sucked in. After a three hour interview with our now former chief and a long service fire fighter that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time with the stories they told me of that horrible day, the chief turned to me and said, “Have you ever considered becoming a fire fighter?”

I really thought about it when I got home and said to myself “Why would anyone think ‘Preppie Me’ would make a good fireman?” Then it really got me thinking of a lot of times I had met firemen along the way in my life and how impressed I was by them. It stayed with me for a long time and then I was helping out with the town’s tree lighting ceremony about a year later and the fireman I interviewed was standing in line behind me for a hot chocolate and I asked how he like the article I wrote. Then out of the blue I asked “Are you still looking for more firemen to join the department?” He then took me over to meet the chief I had interviewed and I asked about joining the department. Two months later I interviewed with my company and five months after that on June 12, 2005, I became a member of Engine One of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and eleven years later I am still going strong as an Exempt fire fighter, member of the Bergen County Fireman’s Home Association, Department Secretary, Company Secretary, Head of our company’s annual barbecue and chicken parm dinner and still writing articles on the department. I  really do think they saw something in me that day that I did not see in myself.

As much as my brothers can drive me crazy at times, there is no other place I would rather be and when push comes to shove, they are there for me. The one true time I saw the ‘Brotherhood’ shine was when my father died and on the night of the wake, they came out for me. The fireman, who I wrote the article about, Fire Fighter Tom Rubino, who will be retiring from the department this year and is our acting Fire Chaplin, read a beautiful speech about my father, whom everyone on the department had known for years at that point and had admired his bravery and hard work after his stroke to get better. It made it even more touching that it was him that read the speech after that night so many years ago. The members of not just my company but other companies as well came out to support me and my father at a very tough time in my life and I will never forget that kindness. It is really a feeling that someone who is not a fire fighter will ever experience. There really is something to being a fire fighter and being part of a community in the fire service.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, I leave you with a section of the book when Alex Livingston, a scion of the famous Livingston family of the Hudson Valley, interviews the fire chief from Firehouse 101 in Brooklyn, New York and his tale of the 9/11 attacks. It tells the story of fire fighter Ryan Callahan, who survived that attacks that day and watched his best friend die next to him.

To all the families and friends who lost loved ones that day, my heart goes out to you. It still is not easy for any of us on the fire service no matter when we joined. I hope one day you can read my novel “Firehouse 101”. It might help you grapple with your pain. If you want to read a funny but touching article on me, read The Gazette newspaper article in 2006 on my life a year later in the fire service “So, yous want to be a Fireman?”

Excerpt from the interview with Carmen Giovanni (who I wanted it to be played in the movie version by musician and actor Huey Lewis)

What exactly happened to Ryan that day?” Alex asked. “At the school or on September 11th?” Carmen replied. “Both,” Alex said now fascinated by it all. He wanted to get the story straight once and for all. “I can only tell you what the men told me. When they got the call on September 11th, this house was the second one to respond from Brooklyn. They were going over the bridge when they saw the second plane hit the towers. The house sent seven men down plus two others who were off duty. Some stayed to man the house, while the others went down to the site. We were going through a shift change, not unlike my own house at the time, so there were lots of men milling around that morning. They got the call early and being so close to lower Manhattan they went. Hilly was never one to wait. One of the men told me that on the ride down, Hilly had said, “When we put this one out, I personally want to catch those rat bastards that did this to our city.”

“What about Ryan that day?” Alex said wanting to get back on the subject. “From what I heard he barely said a word. He was in another world by that point. Others were chatting on and on about what type of plane must have hit when the second plane hit the other tower. Then they were all quiet. Those men saw too much that day,” Carmen added. He paused for a second, looked at Alex and gave him a sorrowful look like he was waiting for a reaction. Alex sat wide eyed and continued to write.

“From what the men told me, Hilly went into the Tower Two to see what they could do and where they should go first. Since there was so much chaos, Hilly took control and helped escorting people out of the building and away from danger. They say he was pretty calm. From what I knew of the guy, he would have had everyone double step and yell at them if they didn’t do it. So he and the rest of the men helped there. From what I heard, they then got a call to help on the upper floors, so Hilly took four of the men with him and told Ryan and Patrick to stay behind to help get the infirmed or injured out of the building. That’s why Ryan and Patrick were alive that day.

The picture of Ryan and Patrick was taken ten minutes before the first tower came down. It had literally knocked their helmets off. All Ryan could remember when he came out of the coma in the hospital was that he and Patrick had gone back to the lobby to help get more people out of he building. They had been helping an older man and the next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital a few weeks later. Carmen was calm as he explained the story to Alex.

Alex could not believe what he was hearing. It was like a TV movie. So that was the story, that’s what really happened that day. No wonder Ryan wanted to forget it, what a horrifying experience. “So what happened at the hospital when he woke up?” Alex asked.

Carmen thought about this for a minute. Should he continue on? Who was this for anyway? Carmen decided to continue thinking that Alex was a concerned friend. In actuality, Alex was trying to get an idea of the magnitude of what happened that day to one person. He wanted to know what Leslie, Ryan, and Roger were not telling him. Alex felt that he had never been that nice to Ryan the whole time he lived in New York. He began to realize that he felt sorry for himself as Ryan had for himself and what concerned Ryan was much worse.

“One of the men told me that they could not believe that Ryan made it out with just a sprained ankle and a few minor cuts. It was the way he fell. The base of a fountain protected him. Even I couldn’t believe it but that’s where they found him. He and Patrick were still alive. The man they were helping was literally crushed by the beam they found on top of him,” Carmen added. “How did they find them?” Alex asked. Some firemen from a downtown house found them and got them the hell out of there,” Carmen continued, “no one could believe that they survived the first collapse. There was no help for Patrick though; he died after they got to the hospital. The impact was more severe that it appeared, he was suffering from internal bleeding. He died before his parents even knew that he had made it to the hospital. Mr. And Mrs. Callahan had to help the two of them home.” Alex had known that the two families were very close and Patrick and Ryan knew each other since they were practically born. Carmen was not sure how much Alex knew of Ryan.

“His old girlfriend told me about that,” Alex said, “it must be horrible for any parent to bury a child under any conditions but after what had happened on September 11th, it must have been even more traumatizing, especially when it seemed like there was a chance he survived. No one should have had to die such a terrible death.”

Alex had not noticed that during the interview. Carmen’s face turned red them almost to almost purple, like he was holding his breath. Alex was worried and said, “Carmen are you okay? Do you need some water or something?” Carmen looked away then looked back at Alex. He looked him straight in the eye and started a speech that Alex would not ever dream of interrupting.

“You’re right, Alex. No one should have had to die such a horrible way because no one should have had to die that day!” Carmen shouted. “We had so many good men die that day that should not have and why? I’ll tell you why. No one was watching the signs, no one shared information. Everyone letting their egos get in the way. No one had a back up plan, no one understood the big picture. We all went in blind because no one knew. And the city, Jesus Christ, I still can’t believe it. You’d think we would have learned from the bombings in ’93, but we didn’t. We got smug. We thought they couldn’t possibly do it again. They wouldn’t even try. And we warned the city government! We said we needed new equipment but did they listen, NO!!! It was too expensive, we have no money, we have to cut the budget and wait until next year. Jesus Christ, here it is nine years later and we still don’t have it! What the fuck are they waiting for to get hit next? The Brooklyn Bridge? The Empire State Building? I would like to know what the hell they are waiting for. My own brother and I can’t even talk to each other on radio. The police can’t talk to the firemen in this city and that is so fuckin’ ridiculous!” Carmen said now screaming at the top of his lungs. Carmen took a book off his desk and threw it at the wall. He was really pissed!

Then he continued, “Nothing in this god-damned city will ever change. They will spend money on parades and on memorials and then turn around and not want to buy new radios for us because it is too expensive! Well tell me this; would the person who said it would be too expensive to buy us new radios like to explain to over two thousand family members and to over a hundred and fifty widows of fire fighters that there was no money for them? I would like to meet them myself and explain it to them!” Carmen was in a near frenzy.

“I even yelled at that stupid brother of mine to knock some sense into some of his friends in the police department to get the ball rolling. This is such a load of bullshit! When did we let out egos get in the way such that departments won’t even help each other? Do you know how many firemen are former policemen? This is our wake up call to talk to one another and be better organized. If we don’t, I won’t blame the federal government because it won’t be the government’s fault but our own pride and stupidity! We don’t need anymore god damn parades praising us. We need good working conditions. Our firehouses can’t be falling apart and rat infested, we need new equipment to do our jobs and we need better salaries so our men and women can live closer to the city they serve. Do you know that some of our men have to live at home because they can’t make it on the starting salary? Christ, that’s pathetic! Our men aren’t being subsidized by Mommy and Daddy to live on the Upper East Side!” Carmen gave Alex the conclusion to his speech when he swept everything off his desk and yelled at the top of his lungs, “NO ONE HAD TO DIE THAT DAY!!!!”

 

Day Thirty-Five: Happy Birthday Dad! January 5th, 2016

When I started this project so many months ago, I dedicated this blog to my father, Warren George Watrel, who was more than just ‘Dad’ to me. My father encouraged me at every turn, never let me give up and pushed me and wanted me to accomplish my dreams without putting limitations on them. Since I was a child, he never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do because he knew if I hated something, I was just going to leave it knowing it wasn’t the right match of what I wanted to do in life. The two things standing out was wrestling in junior high and working at certain restaurant chain as an adult, two things I really hated but did because I thought it was what I should have done.

When I got frustrated, he asked me what I really wanted and then encouraged me to find it and I always did in the end. This went with jobs, friends and life in general. My father never judged but wanted my brothers and I to be happy. That is pretty rare in a parent where everyone is competitive and thinks their child should be in the Olympics or go to Harvard. Speaking as a swimmer who won two medals at the Junior Olympics and as a Cornell Alumnus, I never had an interest in going to the Olympics as an adult and love it when Cornell beats Harvard at ice hockey and basketball (one day football) and was happy in the decisions I made because at the end of the day, they were my decisions not his and his support in what I wanted was very enlightening. When I take my lumps, they are my lumps.

When my dad’s health was affected by a serious stroke in 2011, I never gave it a thought that I would help him, it was a given to me. His battle to get healthy was our battle and for three and a half years I watched my dad defy every doctor who said he would never walk, speak or have a life again. Some of them even wrote him off as he might be a vegetable.

What I saw was a person stuck in a body that he wanted to get out of and was willing to try anything to get there. I never saw a man work as hard as he did to get well. Between he inpatient, out-patient and work outs with personal trainers and water aerobics, I saw the old him start to emerge with a stronger attitude, a more open view on life and a much more social person who was ready to open up to people. One of his therapist even encouraged him to go on speaking tours to encourage others not to give up and set an example of what can be accomplished with diet and exercise.

Sometimes in the end, due to circumstances beyond our control, things happen. My father passed away on October 13, 2014 and it broke my heart. The one thing he left me with a will to continue on and not give up. He set an example of what can be accomplished through hard work and dedication and believing in ones self as well as being encouraged by the outside forces of life to succeed.

He set an example that just because you have a disability, that your life is not over. It just becomes a different kind of the life. I was lucky to be with him every step of the way and was proud of his accomplishments and being able to live the life he wanted to on his terms. In essence, we still looked out for one another. As his son, I was proud to help him achieve what he wanted to in his life.

So to my remarkable father who set the example of never giving up, foraging ahead and not setting limits on himself or anyone else, I wanted to say with great love, Happy 81st Birthday Dad! I love you, respect you and miss you every day. Thank you for giving me the gift of letting me help you and making me a better person for it. The greatest present I get now, sometimes from complete strangers who saw us in everyday life, say to me “Oh, I used to see you and your dad together at such and such. You were such a good son to take such good care of your father” and I have so many seniors say to me “I wish my child would do for me what you did for your father”.

Well, to all of you who helped us along the way and encouraged him to never give up and just live life, a very big thank you! Your kind words every day made his life complete and also thank you for noticing. It makes my memories so much better that someone saw all this and was encouraged on their own. I don’t know how many people he inspired but I look around now and I see so many people who themselves have gotten better because he set an example of never letting a stroke dictate how his life would be and continued to live it.

See my dedication to my dad in all my sites,  “MywalkinManhattan.com”, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, “LittleShoponMainStreet.com”, DiningonaShoestringinnyc.com” and in “BergenCountyCaregiver.com” all under WordPress.com that have been created in honor of my father.

Happy Birthday Dad with much love from me! I miss you so much but am inspired by your example as a person. We should all learn from it. My walk continues soon and as I explore a place we loved to visit so much, I will continue to be inspired by you and respect you in every way.

I love you!

My Walk in Manhattan: my walking experience around the whole island.

Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan’, an extensive  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between. ‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.

For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.

“My Walk in Manhattan” is a  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles.  Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.

I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists.

This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).

My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels  and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.

Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990? I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.

Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.

The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.

I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every  block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk.

My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.

I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs.  ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people). “LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.

So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!

This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.