Tag Archives: Justin Watral

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 & Twenty Three: Halloween Again October 31, 2018

I can’t believe that the year went by so fast. I blinked my eye and the leaves changed colors and it was the end of the summer. The weather has been so unpredictable  since the beginning of 2018, it is hard to judge the seasons. It was a cold Winter, was cool and rainy most of the Spring, and the Summer was either humid or rainy. We never had normal seasonable days the way we have had in the past. We had two rather nice days around Labor Day Weekend and that was about it.

The Fall became cool very quickly. Where as last year, the leaves did not change colors until November 12th, this year it got really cool early in October and the leaves changed quickly and were off the trees because of constant rain storms. So much for the seasons!

Halloween was the exception to the rule. We had a sudden burst of an “Indian Summer” and the weather to 59 degrees on October 30 and the night of Halloween it was 64 degrees, a perfect night for the Halloween Parade. It was nice to have three days of above 60 degree weather and then by November 2nd back down to 40 degrees. Still it made Halloween more fun and engaging.

Halloween activities ranged from watching films to museum events to the best part of all, the New York Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. Its more of a lower Manhattan parade now but still keeps it heart in the community. I even designed our shirts for Engine One HHFD with a Jack-o-Lantern logo.

Engine One Tee-shirt 2018

The Engine One Hasbrouck Heights tee-shirt logo.

My first activity of Halloween was visiting the Meadowlands Museum for the Annual Scarecrow Festival. The tough part was it was a gloomy day and there were not many participants. Still the people who came were really artistic and very enthusiastic. There were only a dozen or so scarecrows on the sticks but there were some interesting designs. The sad part was there were only about twenty or so people at the event. This could be a very interesting event if they advertised it more.

Scarecrow Day

Scarecrow Day at the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, NJ

The second event I attended was the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum Historical Society’s Annual Cemetery Walk through both the Old Dutch Cemetery and the Valleau Cemetery across the street. This is an interesting tour that I did last year by with different actors at the grave sites.

What the Schoolhouse Museum located at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood does is they wait until nightfall and they take you on a lantern tour of the grave sites of prominent members of the Ridgewood community and an actor plays that person and describes their life and their role in the community.

Ridgewood Cemetery tour I

Joe Suplicki from the Ridgewood Historical Society

Under the direction of Ridgewood historian, Joe Suplicki, who leads the tour into the graveyard with lantern in hand, you will walk a lighted path of luminaries into the heart of the cemetery to the different sites. The most interesting one I found on this tour was the mausoleum of J. J. Newberry, the founder of the discount department store. This company went out of business years ago but I had not realized the family had lived in Ridgewood.

Ridgewood Cemetery Tour II

The Cemetery Walk in Ridgewood, NJ.

The tour really does take you to the spooky parts of the cemetery and it is best to stay with the group. Although no one is popping out at you, you still have a creepy feeling from walking around all the tombstones. It is almost a relief to get back to the museum. The best part is that Demerest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ donates their apple cider and cider doughnuts to the museum for the end of the tour and that is a real treat.

You get to munch on doughnuts and listen to ghost stories from the head of the museum around ‘a campfire’. The best part is watching the kids scared from stories that are told and by kids I mean the forty year olds. Their children are too busy on their cell phones. The museum does a wonderful job every year and for the $10.00 donation it a nice tour.

My next venture on the Halloween list takes me to Croton-on-Hudson to the Van Cortlandt Manor to the annual ‘Pumpkin Blaze’. That is a site to see every year. Even though I have visited it over the last five years, I never get tired of looking at it. The estate is illuminated with hundreds of pumpkins. The pumpkins take all sorts of shapes, sizes, carved faces and even in the structures.

When you enter the estate, you are greeted with a form of mortuary, Halloweenish music that sets the tone for the walk. The Pumpkin Blaze has gotten even more popular in the four years that I have been going and I had to get the tickets way in advance. The weather was nice but it had cooled by this point and was in the low 40’s when I got there.

I was part of the last group that arrived at 8:30pm so the place was starting to clear out when I arrived. It is a lot easier coming towards the end of the night as it gives you more time to walk around.

The display was just as spectacular as in years past. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by the river with carved lit pumpkins of all expressions until you reach the pumpkin bridge, ‘The Pumpkin Zee Bridge’ and travel over it to the rest of the displays which include pumpkin jack in the boxes, a pumpkin ferris wheel and a pumpkin tunnel.

pumpkin blaze

The Pumpkin Zee Bridge and Spider Web at the Pumpkin Blaze.

Through out the display, I walked the path by myself to see pumpkin skeletons, the pumpkin version of the headless horseman, spiders, dinosaurs and a pumpkin circus train. This lead to the main house, the Van Cortlandt Manor, where there were pumpkin scarecrows, a pumpkin cemetery and a light show at the manor that was ablaze with lit pumpkins. The whole effect was engaging.

I doubled back around the cemetery and walked through the sea of pumpkins smiling and grinning at me. The music continued to play as I doubled back through the display but by this time the crowds started to thin and it got colder. When I reached the gift shop it was about 38 degrees I heard someone say. I looked back at the dark lawn with the music still moaning and thought about the amount of work to make this spectacular display every year.

My last event of the holiday was work as a marshal for the Halloween Parade in New York City. I have been working as a marshal for five years now starting in 2014. My job is the least glamorous part of the parade. I work the performance gate where all the performers enter the parade route to their floats. It is also one of the tougher jobs of the parade as I have to make sure all the people who don’t belong in the parade stay out.

It has gotten easier since the passes are now on cell phones or the performers print them out. They know that they have to bring it to the parade. What I love are all the people who try to wheedle  their way in to see the parade at its starting point. I have watched people say that they lived there, were staying at the hotel near by, they have dinner plans across the street, they are meeting someone there or try to sneak in with the groups of performers, After five years, I have gotten wise to everyone. The only problem I have is that I work with people who just let people in because they don’t want to confront people. I just tell them “and the cow jumped over the moon!” when they give me a lame answer.

This year I had a pretty good track record of keeping people out with new volunteers who followed the rules.  It is fun watching the parade come to life. I have watched hundreds of volunteers come through the parade entrance in costume and with instruments in hand who volunteer to make the magic of the parade.

After we got everyone in the parade route, we closed the gate for the night and the NYPD protected it. I got to go into the parade route and by Broome Street got to watch the parade come together with a combination of floats, performing acts and costumed participants progress up the Avenue. By the time I got to the parade starting point most of the parade was already over and had proceeded uptown. I got to see the last of the floats and bands head uptown.

Halloween Parade 2018 IV

The robot themed puppets in the parade.

By 9:00pm, the last float headed uptown with a group of Mardi Gras drag queens yelling and screaming over disco music. The rest of the people in the parade were the costumed participants from all over the world who were thrilled to be in the parade. We left yelling and cheering as they entered the parade route.

There were many creative costumes in the parade. You had your usual cartoon characters, police, fire fighters, superheros and witches and devils. There was not much politics as I had seen in the last two years though there were a few Donald Trump masks. Maybe because I was seeing the end of the parade head up town, it looked to me like people were there to have fun and march in the parade less the politics. I did see some unusual and creative costumes such as geometric angels, elaborate dress costumes and show outfits. There still is a lot of creativity left in the population and they like to show it off one night of the year.

To end Halloween, we all met at Tipsy Parson on 156 9th Avenue for a parade rap up party. It was a nice way to end the evening meeting with all the parade marshals and volunteers. They had a nice meal for us as they did the year before with pulled pork sliders, spiced chicken wings, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and assorted desserts. Everyone was starved by the time we got there at 9:30pm and made multiple trips to the buffet.

It was nice to sit back and laugh with everyone. My distant cousin, Mark Schuyler and I got to kid around through the evening about some of the stories we heard about people trying to sneak into the parade lineup. We have been swapping these stories now for five years ( I can’t believe it was that long) and still through the back of my mind I thought “We are here again? A year has gone by this quickly? Where did it all go?”

Through the laughing I realized that time has gone by pretty quickly and Christmas was right around the corner. As another Halloween drew to a close, I look back on this Halloween and realize that you can have fun without dressing up and Trick or Treating. You just have  to see where life takes you and the experiences in front of you.

Halloween is not so bad after all!

The Halloween Parade 2018:

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

 

Places to Visit:

Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum & Historical Society

650 East Glen Avenue

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

(201) 447-3242

https://ridgewoodhistoricalsociety.org/

Open: Thursday 1:30pm-3:00pm/ Saturday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Sunday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Closed Monday-Wednesday & Friday

Admission:  By Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46772-d10353516-Reviews-Schoolhouse_Museum-Ridgewood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1528

Van Cortlandt Manor

525 South Riverside Avenue

Croton-on-Hudson, NY  10520

(914) 366-6900

Open: Friday-Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm/Closed Monday-Thursday

Admission: By Donation-Tickets to the Blaze vary by membership and by year.

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47560-d116391-Reviews-Van_Cortlandt_Manor-Croton_on_Hudson_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

 

Meadowlands Museum

91 Crane Avenue

Rutherford, NJ  07020

(201) 935-1175

https://www.meadowlandsmuseum.com/

Hours: Wednesday & Saturday-10:00am-4:00pm/The Rest of the week is closed

Admission: Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46796-d2403380-Reviews-Meadowlands_Museum-Rutherford_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1861

 

The Halloween Parade NYC

Along Sixth Avenue from Canal Street to 23rd Street every Halloween Night October 31st.

 

Places to eat:

Tipsy Parson

156 9th Avenue

New York, NY  10011

(212) 620-4545

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Hours: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-11:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-11:00pm/Sunday-10:00am-10:00pm

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1986889-Reviews-Tipsy_Parson-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Day One Hundred & Twenty Four: Thanksgiving with Lillian in Kings Park, NY November 22, 2018

(This blog is in memory of my close friend, Lillian, who passed away on January 4th, 2019. My heart goes out to her family in losing such a wonderful person. I lost a good friend of twenty-three years. She was 100 years young and will always be Lillian to me!)

I went out to celebrate Thanksgiving again with my friend, Lillian. She is my friend that just turned 100 years old in June of 2018. I can’t believe that she is still sharp after all this time but then that is Lillian.

I had to drive out the day before so that I could let her know that I was coming for dinner. Trying to call her now is next to impossible as the nurses in her ward put the phone next to her and she can’t hold it. It gets to be trying with that.

Anyway, I had a nice night on Thanksgiving eve at the local Hampton Inn, which I had stayed at before and just relaxed. I was exhausted from all the activities that have been going on in my life and the fact that working four different jobs can take a toll on you. The hotel was decorated for the Christmas holidays and the tree in the lobby was fully lit with a tray of cookies right next to it for guests.

Traveling out to Kings Park, NY seems to have gotten a little easier since I now know the route much better. I also make it easier for myself by driving on the 495 the whole way. I saved myself so much time.

There are sometimes I don’t think Lillian knows who I am at first. She just kind of looks at me but the then the more we talk, the more she comes around. It must be tough because everytime I visit the facility that she lives in all the residents are asleep which is not good for them. There is not much stimulation in watching old movies all day long.

I woke her up and gave her a big greeting and told her we had the whole day to spend together. We first started out by getting her cleaned up a bit. I hate it when they leave clothes on her that have food from breakfast.

Then it was a off to a tour of the facility before lunch. It was nice seeing the facility she lives in all decorated for Christmas. We had a nice time looking over the decorations and the tree in the lobby. Many family members were gathering their loved ones for trips home while others would be joining up in the family dining room for dinner. It was so much more personable. The facility has a private dining room they use for special meals for residents and it makes it more of a formal occasion.

Lillian and I had a nice time. Unfortunately that had just changed her diet to a ground up diet (bummer) and she had to drink thick turkey and cream soups but she managed that very well. For a little thing, she can eat! I gave her three glasses of apple cider, a glass of water, both soups and a few bites of pumpkin puree with whipped cream and she ate it with gusto. She drank half of both soups with no problems. After the meal, I swear she was a different person. She was so much more alive. She went back to being Lillian.

I wheeled Lillian’s roommate, Marie down to the dining room to join us for entertainment. With the power of  song and music, there was a keyboardist who sang all sorts of Christmas songs and music from the 70’s and 80’s that got the crowd going. It really woke them up. The transformation of went from people in wheelchairs half asleep to a loud sing a long. When the keyboardist sang “Take me out to the ballgame”, the whole room woke up. I swear it was like the movie “The Awakenings” where everyone comes back to life from ‘comatose land’.  People started to sing with such happiness as if they were remembering a better time in their lives. Lillian was so happy and was singing and clapping along. I was glad to be able to give her this.

The musician also have me a chance to relax and digest. It was a long ride home. After the entertainment was done for the afternoon, I wheeled both Marie and Lillian back to their room so that they could relax. It was a lot for both of them I could tell but they were different people when I left from who they were when I arrived and both much happier. I never saw two women more alive after a short afternoon of a good dinner and music. That’s what keeping people active and a little love does. It gives a person purpose and a sense of self. I even felt much better as well. It is nice when you can make a difference in someones life.

My ride home was the quickest ever. I got home in 55 minutes and got over the George Washington Bridge in seven minutes! How’s that for a new world record! Maybe God was watching over me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Day One Hundred & Twenty-Six: Here come the Christmas Trees in Hasbrouck Heights (HHMA) November 24th, 2018

I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again!

The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving for me means Christmas Tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association, which I have been a member of for nineteen years. I can’t believe that time has gone that fast. It seems like ten life times ago.

The organization has been building on the success of the sale over the past five years and this year we extended the amount of trees we bought to 340 over the 315 last year. I thought we ordered an even 350 but we must have readjusted it. Still that is the most amount of trees we have sold since I have been in the organization.

Last year we were sold out by the second week of December and had our annual party at the lot with three trees left. I had never seen so many trees sell out so fast. Our word of mouth has been very good. I have also tried to get the Upper West Side customer from Manhattan to cross the bridge to buy their trees here. I swear that I was pricing trees while I was finishing my walk of the Upper West Side for my ‘MywalkinManhattan’ project and trees that we were selling for $45-$55 vendors were selling for $100. It was just nuts.

We also bulked up on the fraizers this year. They are the pine trees that look the most typical ‘Christmasy’. They as of this weekend have almost all sold out. People tend to decorate early because of work schedules and I swear, we had not even emptied the truck on Saturday and we sold two trees. We sold eight by the end of my shift at 6:00pm that night.

For all of you readers and bloggers who need a Christmas tree, we are located on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and our prices go from $45.00 for a small Frazier to $100.00 for a ten foot tall Balsam. We are open as long as the supply lasts.

Hurry up as I was on the lot last night and there were forty-one trees left! By the night of our annual tree stand party we sold out! 340 trees in less than three weeks! A new Men’s Association record!

Men's Association Dinner 2016

The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association in 2017

Watch my successful commercial for YouTube below and watch the trailers for my two favorite contemporary Christmas movies. They really show a different side of the holidays.

Hasbrouck Heights Men's Association Xmas Tree Sales

Me selling Christmas trees on the lot with member John Horem.

Merry Christmas!

 

My Christmas tree sales video on YouTube.

Update: All in all 339 trees were sold and one was stolen from the lot. We raised over $8000 for student scholarships and want to thank all of customers for their support!

 

My two new favorite contemporary Christmas movies, “Christmas Again” and “White Reindeer” sad but optimistic views on the holiday. Try to get your hands on these two great indie films.

‘Christmas Again’

 

‘White Reindeer’

Day One Hundred & Twenty One: Walking the Borders of the lower part of the Upper West Side, from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street from Central Park West to Riverside Boulevard/12th Avenue September 29, 2018

I finally was able to get back into New York City to resume my walk of the Upper West Side. It is amazing how fast the summer went. I haven’t been on this side of the island for months. Walking the lower part of the Upper East Side took many days and there was so much to return to in way of galleries, parks and restaurants that I had wanted to take my time. I hope to see the same on the lower part of the Upper West Side.

I really lucked out and it was a spectacular day, sunny and warm with blue skies. It had been a very difficult summer with the rain and the humidity and it was nice to see a pleasant fall day.

I started my day taking a seminar of the changes that will be going on with the editing system at WordPress.com (where this is printed through). It seems that they will be introducing a new editing system to our blogs that will help make them better and I look forward to improving my sites.

After class was over I visited the Museum at FIT (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) which is located at the corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street on the main campus to see some of the new exhibitions. Don’t miss their “History of Pink” exhibition on the use of the color in fashion with some clothing items dating back to the 1700’s and their “Reconstruction” exhibition of the components of fashion.

From FIT, I took the number 1 subway up to West 79th Street to continue my walk of the lower part of the Upper West Side. My first stop in the neighborhood was to join other Alumni from Michigan State University at Blondie’s Sports Bar at 212 West 79th Street to watch the Michigan State versus Western Michigan football game (we won 31-20). Even though the score was not that high I have to admit our coach does have class and does not run up the score like other coaches do when playing a smaller school. Over a plate of chicken tenders ($8.99 for six), which were delicious (see review on TripAdvisor) I got to hear all the noisy Alumni in the back go nuts at every play. I had gotten there after half time so I had to sit through all the play by plays of the game.

After the game it was the late afternoon but sunny, gorgeous and warm, the perfect day for a walk around the City. My starting point was West 72nd Street and Central Park West  corner near The Dakota Apartments where tourists were all snapping pictures. They had just finished the outside renovation on the building and the apartment complex looks elegant and you can see all the architecture elements of the building shine. The iron work around the Dakota is interesting with all its twists and faces looking out at you.

I walked down West 72nd Street like I was visiting an old friend. I had not been on this side of the island since the beginning of the summer and there have been quite a few changes on the road. A few more of the businesses have closed and more of the buildings on the street are under scaffolding. So much is being renovated in the neighborhood.

As I rounded West 72nd Street onto Riverside Drive, I came across the very busy Little Engine Playground at West 67th and Riverside Drive. This whimsical playground is part of the NYC Parks Department and the main feature of the park that the small children enjoy the is the small train that they can climb inside and on top of in the middle of the park. This popular park is on the corner of West 67th Street and Riverside Boulevard and it one of the popular parks for kids in the Riverside Park Conservatory. The afternoon I was there the kids  running all over the park while the parents talked amongst themselves.

Riverside Drive and Riverside Park end at West 72nd Street but the park continues with the new Hudson River Park that currently lines the river below the Henry Hudson Parkway which itself ends at West 57th Street. This stretch of riverside is the newly landscaped park with benches, running and biking paths and a cafe, Cafe Pier One. The park is a new addition to the City that stretches down to Battery Park City.

It is a pleasure to walk along the newly reclaimed waterfront which I think was what Robert Moses wanted in the first place. This highway was needed at the time to open up the whole area to cars and now is being reclaimed as parkland. The park was conceived in the mid-90’s but construction started on parts of the park starting in the Bloomberg Administration in 2003 and still continues today to reclaim river side land and rotting piers for parkland and it the largest riverfront park in New York City and one of the largest in the country.

As I walked down Riverside Boulevard, you can see all the new sidewalks, plantings and small pocket parks that line the Boulevard from West 72nd Street to West 57th Street and the Boulevard is now lined across the street from the park with series of luxury office and apartment buildings. Everything is so new that you can see the deep green of the new sod in the park from parts of the Boulevard above.

To get a full view of the park, I walked along both the Boulevard and the inside the parks paths to see what the vision of the Hudson River Park Trust is trying to achieve. What the park does so well it that it combines the river with the park and it blends the natural beauty of both. It also protects the park goers with large boulders so that people don’t fall into the river from the side of the park. It’s a sloped effect where the river shines on a sunny day.

Both from the street and from the paths, you get beautiful views of the cliffs on the New Jersey side of the river but still engage it via the various piers that you can walk on that jut out into the river. When you reach West 59th Street, Pier 96 and the Hudson River Pier and the boat basin giver great views of the Hudson River.

I walked around the park and saw an unusual sculpture in the shape of a bottle. The public art piece ‘Private Passage’ by artist Malcolm Cochran is a unique sculpture in that what appears to be a ship in a bottle is actually a replica of a stateroom in the Queen Mary all done in metals.  At night and in bad weather I read that the piece is illuminated.

Malcolm Cochran is an American artist and former Art Professor at Ohio State University. A graduate of Wesleyan College, Mr. Cochran has had many solo and group shows since the 70’s and has created numerous works all over the world. ‘Private Passage’ was created for Hudson River Park in 2005 and is an engaging piece of art where the visitors have to look inside the port holes to see the art inside the bottle. It is very clever.

Another piece of art that stands out in the park is actually part of the original park when the train tracks dominated the area. At the West 63rd Street section of the park is a section of the New York Central Transfer Station elevated above the side of the park. This is all that is left of the celebrated rail line that had been built in the 1800’s. It sits majestically above the park on what is left of a rotting pier.

As part of the Hudson River Park is ‘Linda’s Lawn’, a piece of the newly landscaped park named after Linda Stone Davidoff, a champion of the City and one of the city planners and a member of the Parks Council who fought to have this 27 acre park as part of the West Side landscape (NYParks.org). Now this patch of green is enjoyed by all New Yorker’s due to efforts to protect the river front of over-development.

Linda's Lawn

As I walked the park up and down from West 72nd Street back to West 59th Street, I crossed the rather difficult street path  and walked down West 59th Street. Near the local school is Gertrude Ederle Playground which sits next to the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center. This park stretches from West 59th to West 60th Street and is a very popular park with the areas families offering many whimsical playground jungle gyms and swings and a very nice field for soccer and baseball. It also offers a very nice public bathroom that is nice to have when walking around the area.

Gertrude Ederle was a champion Olympic and distance swimmer, who was a member of the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. She set over twenty world records in swimming in the early 1920’s and won a gold medal for the 400 meter freestyle relay. She swam the 22 mile harbor swim from Battery Park to Sandy Hook, NJ in a record that stood for 81 years. She also set the record for crossing the English Channel as the first American woman and received a ticker tape parade when she returned. She also appeared as herself in the 1927 romantic comedy ‘Swim, Girl Swim’. She continued to swim by teaching deaf children to swim (she had lost her hearing at this point) and lived to ripe age of 98 passing in 2003 (NYCParks.org).

Across the street from the park is the former IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) Powerhouse. This ornate building was built in 1904 and takes up the entire area from West 59th to West 58th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Designed by architect Stamford White, the building is used by Con Ed of New York to supply the New York Steam system. It is designed in the ‘Renaissance Revival’ and really walk around the building you can see the beautiful details of the building especially around the building . It was recently declared a Landmark Building in New York (Wiki).

IRT Powerhouse II

IRT Powerhouse

I walked both sides of West 59th Street past John Jay College which stretches from 11th to 10th Avenue and then past a branch of Mt. Sinai Hospital which stretches from 10th to 9th Avenues. These buildings take up the entire city blocks between West 58th and 59th Streets and stop at the intersection of West 59th Street where Columbus Avenue turns in 9th Avenue. This leads to the back section of Columbus Circle and the new building that houses the headquarters of TimeWarner and the Mandarin Hotel. This complex stretches from 9th Avenue to Columbus Circle from West 58th to 60th Streets so there is a lot of crossing streets in this area that is loaded with tourists.

I stopped in Columbus Circle Park roundabout and sat watching skateboarders who took over the southern part of the park filming their antics of flying over benches. Tourists stopped here to take pictures and film movies of the guys skateboarding.

The Statue of Christopher Columbus has been part of a recent controversy that has since calmed down. There were some New Yorker’s that said that the statue should be taken down for the way Columbus exploited the Native Americans. Honestly, I don’t think they thought that way in 1492 and it shouldn’t be related to in 2018.

The statue was designed in 1892 as part of the 400 hundred anniversary of Columbus discovering America by Italian artist Gaetano Russo.  Russo was an artist from Messina, Sicily who studied at the Academia de Belle Arti in Rome. In the inscription it says “To the world he gave a world”. The statue and the circle had recently been renovated in 1992 for the 500th Anniversary of the crossing and again in 2005 adding the new fountains and benches which everyone relaxes on (Wiki).

Columbus Circle

Columbus Circle

The traffic circle had been part of the original plan by Frederick Olmstead design for the park in 1857 for a ‘Grand Circle at the Merchants Gate’ and the entrance to the park and 8th Avenue (NYCParks.org).

The roundabout is where traffic enters the Upper West Side from Midtown Manhattan and is the half way point of the island of Manhattan. I still can’t believe that I have gotten here.

From Columbus Circle, I doubled back around the TimeWarner Building and made my way back down West 60th Street crossing Columbus Avenue to West 59th with a second pit stop at the bathroom at Gertrude Ederle Park, which at this point was loaded with families climbing the jungle gyms and playing softball.

I made my way back up through Hudson River Park to enjoy the sunshine and walked from West 59th to 72nd Street passing familiar businesses that I had seen the last time I was in the neighborhood.

This took me to my last leg of rounding the neighborhood by crossing the West 72nd Street border to Central Park West and making my way down past the still green trees of Central Park. There was a free concert going on in the park at the time so there was security all over the place.

I walked past the many families walking around the park at twilight and thinking to myself how it had all changed in thirty years when you would not be caught dead in the park after sunset. Now there are free concerts and walking tours after dark.

I relaxed in Columbus Circle for the remainder of the evening and watched the skate boarders do their routine and this lady dressed as a ballet dancer or could have been a ballet dancer in a tutu with Christmas lights in her dress dancing around the circle. Half way through her routine she bumped into a guy walking around the park and then they danced together.

 

What was amusing was when the skate boarder collided into her as she danced and the two of them bumped one another. Both of their reactions were priceless but they both got a laugh out of it. Funny for a park that could have torn a city apart that people can still laugh at their differences and find a common ground. They both talked and she continued to do her ballet around the park and the group of skate boarders continued to do their flip routines on the benches.

That’s true New Yorker’s for you!

 

Places to Eat:

Blondie’s Sport Bar

212 West 97th Street

New York, NY 10024

(212) 362-3311

Open: Sunday-Tuesday-11:30am-12:00pm/Wednesday- until 1:00am, Tuesday-until 2:00am and Friday and Saturday-until 3:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d522509-Reviews-Blondies_Sports_Bar-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pier One Cafe

Hudson River Park

500 West 70th Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 362-4450

http://www.pierone.com

Open: Sunday-Saturday-11:30am-10:30pm

 

Places to Visit:

The Museum at FIT

227 West 27th Street

New York, NY  10001

(212) 217-4558

http://www.fit/nyc/museum/

Open: Sunday-Friday-12:00pm-8:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548861-Reviews-The_Museum_at_FIT-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/483

 

Little Engine Playground

Riverside Park at West 67th Street

https://riversideparknyc.org/places/little-engine-playground/

 

Hudson River Park

From West 72nd Street to Battery Park City

https://hudsonriverpark.org/

 

Gertrude Ederle Playground

232 West 60th Street (through 59th Street)

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M063

 

Linda’s Lawn

Hudson River Park at 66th Street

https://riversideparknyc.org/places/lindas-lawn/

 

 

Day One Hundred and Twenty: Visiting Cape May and the Chalfonte Hotel again for the NJ Firemen’s Convention September 6th, 13th-14th, 2018

After such a wonderful Christmas holiday in Cape May,  I decided to change my plans around and stay in Cape May this time for the Annual Firemen’s Convention which is in mid-September. This is the best time to visit the beach as most of the tourists are away, the kids are back in school and the water is still warm. Hurricane Florence was coming up the coast so it was not the greatest weather but I always find things to do.

While attending the convention, I was booked at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, which is considering the Southern Grande Dame of hotels. I had stayed at the hotel’s Southern Quarters, the smaller B & B setting next door during Christmas and it had been a nice stay. The room had been decorated with holiday ornaments and decorations. I had a slept like ‘a log’ during the holidays. It had been so quiet at that time of the year.

When I had originally booked the reservation for the weekend, I was told that the restaurant, The Magnolia Room, would be open. Later I found out it would be closing for the end of the season on September 7th and I would not be able to try it for dinner when I was visiting Cape May. This meant a special trip ahead of time. So after work on September 6th on a whim I made a special trip to Cape May to check out the culinary delights of the Chalfonte Hotel.

I called the hotel at the last minute, booked a room with a shared bathroom ($100.00) and off I went down the Garden State Parkway from Bergen County to Cape May which is one side of the state to another. With one break stop, I was there in two hours and forty five minutes.

I got to the hotel by 4:30pm and it was still nice out. Hurricane Florence was just starting to make landfall in Florida and it was supposed to be gloomy all day long but we lucked out the tentacles of the storm had not hit New Jersey (that would come later the next day when I left) and it was still sunny, clear, warm and still a little humid.

I was  happy because I got my room immediately and was able to get to the beach for a swim before dinner. One thing about the Chalfonte Hotel (see review on TripAdvisor) is that it is old and I mean old. The rooms themselves have been updated and painted and the beds and furnishings are new and comfortable but the room I got with the shared bath could have used a scraping and repainting of the whole room.

chalfonte hotel

The window sill was beginning to rot and I could see in the ginger bread decoration on the roof was rotting as well. The hallway carpets were clean but could have used a good shampooing to bring out the color. Even though the hotel is clean and maintained, it still needs a good gut renovation to bring it up to current standards. It is nice it could be a showplace.

The beach is only three blocks away and since it was off season already and later in the afternoon, the beach was quiet. The water was perfectly warm and the waves were low and no current from the storm (we really lucked out with that) so swimming was nice. I could ride the waves with not much worries. Still I kept close to shore and did not venture out too far.

It was nice to just lie on the beach and just relax. I had not been to the beach all summer and it was nice to just put my feet in the ocean, hear the sound of the waves and just relax on a towel and get some sun. I had not done this in over a year. The salt air is so soothing. The nice part was the beach at this point was practically empty and was filled with mostly locals.

After the beach, I went back to take a shower and relax. I took a quick nap on the bed which I have to say are soft and firm at the same time and I completely relaxed. I didn’t even want to go down for dinner but there was a fried chicken dinner with my name on it downstairs.

The Magnolia Room (see review on TripAdvisor), the hotel’s main dining room, is off the main lobby and located towards the back of the hotel. You really do feel like you are in a Southern hotel in Charleston or Savannah with the long narrow dining room, the pink table clothes and the over-head chandeliers. It is like stepping into a Southern Plantation. It is elegant and homey at the same time.

Cape May like most shore towns in the Northeast have to depend on foreign help as the college students have to go back to school and there are only so many people living in town to fill the jobs. My server, Michaela, told me she was from Albania and could not have been friendlier. She was the one that told me that the Fried Chicken Dinner was the most popular. The nice part is that the three course meal is $39.00 which includes an appetizer or soup, the main entrée and a dish from the set menu. Another nice aspect of the dining room is that they give hotel guests a 15% discount for eating there and I thought that was very nice.

I traveled three hours to try the Fried Chicken so off the order went to the kitchen. I started with the Chicken Soup with Garden vegetables. Hunks of chicken in a fresh broth with a rough cut of fresh vegetables made the soup almost a complete meal. A good  appetizer to off set the Fried Chicken. The nice part was the vegetables were really fresh and it had a well rounded flavor to it.

The Fried Chicken was a bit of a disappointment. Even though it was a nice sized piece of chicken (almost half the bird) and the meat was juicy and moist and perfectly cooked, the coating had no flavor to it. It really needed some spices and I had to end up loading it with salt and pepper. Every bite was crispy and crunchy but not much flavor to it. The fresh Parker House rolls the same thing. They tasted good but were not moist (I found out later that they had been made in advance and had been defrosted).

For dessert, I had the Chocolate pie that was created by one of the owners of the hotel. It was pretty incredible with its dense filling and fresh whipped cream topping. I devoured that in a couple of bites.

The specialty cocktail was strong and on top of all the driving I did in the afternoon, it made me even more tired. Still I had enough energy to go to the Kings Bar, which is a small bar off the main lobby for an after dinner drink and listen to one of the local groups that play there.

The King Edward Bar is a small room that is off the wrap around porch and next to the history room that is part of the main lobby. There are about a half dozen tables around the small room which were always full and a small bar in the back. The service there is extremely friendly and the bartenders can mix a drink. Be prepared!

king edward bar cape may

King Edward Bar

It was nice to just sit back and drink a Cosmo and listen to the Jazz band. Every night during the season that have a different group there perform every night. It is nice because you don’t have to just sit in the bar. You can sit on the wrap around porch in one of the many rocking chairs, feel the breeze and listen to the music. I sat in one of the chairs and just relaxed. I started to fall asleep.

I went back to the room in the main building just for a quick rest and then I would go back to hear the music group. I fell asleep the second I hit the comfortable bed  and did not wake up until much later that evening and then went to bed. I had one of the best night’s sleep I had in a long time.

I woke up completely refreshed and ready to start the day. Since the hotel was not full, I had the shared bathroom all to myself with no one banging on the door. I took a quick shower, dressed and went downstairs to try the second part of the culinary trip, the Magnolia Room Breakfast Buffet.

Magnolia Room.jpg

Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel

Now I am big breakfast fan (as many of you must know from my dining blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and when there is a buffet I am in high heaven. The food at breakfast just had more zing to it then at dinner. I just could not put my finger on why. I found out when I met Tina Bowser, one of the Magnolia Room’s two well know cooks. Her mother was Dot Burton, one of the two main cooks at the hotel and as we talked we discovered that we lost our parents at the same time.

I never had such a heart to heart with a complete stranger and we both talked about our losses and how much we both missed our parents. Funny how you can bond with a complete stranger who was going through exactly what I was going through. It was interesting when Tina said that she still felt like her mother looked over her shoulder when she cooked and could still feel the nudge when she did something wrong.

After our long conversation, she mentioned that she now worked side by side with her Aunt Lucille Thompson, her mother’s sister who was just as well known. Now I had heard so much about her mother and aunt that I asked for a favor, I wanted to meet her Aunt Lucille. She said no problem and I was able to go back in the kitchen to introduce myself.

Lucille Thompson.jpg

Lucille Thompson at the Chalfonte Hotel

It is amazing to meet an 80 year old woman who still gets up every morning to cook for the hotel guests, make all the biscuits and rolls from scratch and prepare all the crab cakes, chicken coatings and then prepare breakfast. She was sitting down making her homemade rolls when I met here. It is always such a thrill when you meet a famous cook and Lucille and her family are so well known in the industry.

Lucille seemed thrilled when I made such a fuss. She told me of all her time at the hotel and the countless hours in the kitchen. I could tell there was pride in her voice on her cooking like it was her baby. She put a lot of effort into the food to make it special.

It was then she told me she had not been in the kitchen the night before and the she had made the dinner rolls in advance. That was the reason why there had been such a difference in flavor of the food. It’s not that it was not good it was but it just didn’t have that touch that was missing. There was such that sense that the person who gave it that extra care was not there to oversee it.

I complimented her on the soup and on the chocolate pie I had for dessert but she gave the credit to that to the owners wife, who made the delicious chocolate pie and the chicken vegetable soup. It was she though who made the Southern Breakfast I enjoyed so much. She seemed thrilled that I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I then left her alone to do her magic in the kitchen while I got back to the buffet.

Now this buffet is really nice. On the buffet we had fresh scrambled eggs, thick bacon, Amish sausage, fried hash brown potatoes, fried red tomatoes, spoon bread, fresh rolls and Danishes that were made by the kitchen as well as fresh fruits, juices and a complete waffle bar. This was all you could eat and they have never seen me at a breakfast buffet. Unlike other people who just fill up their plates and then to waste food, I circle the buffet, try a small portion of things and then go back for more so that I don’t waste.

My advice is that you have to go to the Chalfonte Hotel just for the breakfast buffet if not for anything else. Those fried red tomatoes are so sweet and crisp and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I had never eaten anything like this before. The home made rolls when they are still hot are addictive and the Danishes are delicious and burst with fruits and cinnamon. The sausage are those fat Amish sausage that crack when you bite into them and you can taste the freshly ground pork and sage. It was wonderful breakfast full of good food, great service and a beautiful room to eat in on a sunny morning.

By the time I finished it gave me a chance to get a quick walk into downtown Cape May, the Washington Mall, to look at the shops before I left. I needed to work off the breakfast. It was a bright sunny day and I could not believe what the weatherman had said. I walked around the beach and the other half empty hotels that proved that the season was over. After a quick rest in the room, I checked out of the Grande Dame of Cape May for a trip to the zoo. It had been a great stay, truly relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. I had needed this rest.

By the time I left the hotel for the Cape May Zoo (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) up on Route 9, it started to get cloudy and by the time I was walking into the zoo, it poured! Going to a zoo in the rain is not much fun as the animals took shelter too and I didn’t get to see many of them unless they were in a protected environment. As there was a break in the weather, some of the peeked out and greeted the visitors. I enjoyed visiting the zoo but have to say it is another Eighties type of zoo that is need of an update. I think there must be more interesting  ways to have animals live then in some of the smaller exhibitions.

I decided I wanted to explore the state and drove up Route 9 which would take me directly to Newark. Big Mistake! It took five hours to get home going through all those smalls towns. I really did see the middle of the State of New Jersey but it took over five hours to get home with traffic instead of the two and half by the Garden State Parkway. I am glad I did it once.

The next week I returned to Cape May for the annual NJ Firemen’s Convention when about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey convene for the Annual Convention. I can’t take the crowds of Wildwood and I stayed at the Chalfonte Hotel for a second time.

This time when I checked into the hotel, I was ‘upgraded’ which I find a dirty word in the hotel industry. It means that you are not getting the room that you were promised. In my case, I was moved out of the main hotel to the ‘Southern Quarters’ annex next door. It was no problem for me. I figured the wedding party that checked in that day all wanted to be together and it meant that I got a better room with my own bathroom (no more sharing). The weird part was that I got the same exact room that I had at Christmas when I spent one night here on December 26th, 2017 (See Day One Hundred December 2017). Still I enjoyed the piece and quiet of the annex and it was nicer then the main hotel.

The only part about the room at the annex was that it was a top floor room of an old Victorian house and at one time must have been the attic. I am so tall that I had to lean down to brush my teeth and take a shower. Still it offered a lot of privacy when I finished my meetings.

The first day of the convention was really gloomy. The storm had finally hit land down South and it was misty and cloudy our first day of the convention. Since we did not have to be at the meeting until 1:00pm, I got up early and went to Uncle Bill’s Restaurant at 261 Beach Avenue in Cape May (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast since the Magnolia Room was closed. Uncle Bill’s is a institution in the South Jersey Shore area. It was founding in 1962 in Stone Harbor and has expanded to five other locations on the Southern New Jersey shore. I could tell by the food and service it is the typical Jersey Shore restaurant which caters to family who like nice size portions at a good price.

I love the breakfasts here. They cook the eggs in clarified butter so they have that creamy taste to them and the pancakes I ordered in the platter were as light as air. When the Pancake and Egg Platter was served ($12.95), it could have fed two people. It was a great shore breakfast.

uncle bills pancake house

Uncle Bill’s

After breakfast I had some time on my hands before the meeting and had planned to visit the Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com). The Society is only open from 9:00am-2:00pm so the only time I could have gone was that morning due to all the meetings.

The Wildwood Historical Society is an interesting little museum filled with photos and memorabilia from all eras of Wildwood’s history. Rooms were dedicated to the fire department, police department, the military, the schools, the amusement areas and the government. Each room had all sorts of artifacts and loaded with pictures in albums and on the wall.

wildwood historical museum

Wildwood Historical Society

In the hallways was old artifacts from the amusement areas that had been part of the fun of the parks over the many seasons.  Many were pieces of the old parts or old rides and signs. Towards the back of the amusement area display were old restaurant menus and hotel displays.

The museum can be a little overwhelming because there is so much crammed into the rooms that there is a lot to see at one time and the only problem with the museum is its limited hours. Surprisingly when I was there, the morning was so gloomy that there were many people from the convention there as well. A group of us were watching a video of the history of Wildwood, NJ before I left for the convention.

The Annual NJ Firemen’s Convention is interesting. There were about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey in the convention hall all ready to vote on issues. We had the usual welcome speeches, flag salute and color guard and then it was business as usual. We wrapped by 2:30pm so we had time to walk around and see the fire equipment displays.

Since it was so cloudy most people packed up and went back to their hotels. I walked the Boardwalk to my favorite pizzeria, Joe’s Italian Pizzeria at 2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for one of their giant slices of pizza.

joe's pizzeria wildwood

Joe’s Pizza in Wildwood, NJ

The slices at Joe’s are double the size of a normal slice of pizza and they even put a little swirl of sauce on top to finish it off. Their pizza is consistent and delicious and it is fun trying to eat that giant 28 inch slice. There are two problems with the place though. One is that it is cash only in the 21st Century and second is that try to load their glasses up with ice and give you very little soda so you have to ask for just a little ice. Otherwise it is a nice place for a slice.

As I left the Boardwalk it got darker outside and there were very few people walking around the Boardwalk. I left to visit the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com). The Hereford Lighthouse is a Victorian Lighthouse that was built in 1874 and was operational until no longer deemed functional after the early 1960’s and a more modern structure was built leaving this building to rot away. Preservationists saved the building and restored it in 1983.

I was surprised on how busy the museum was that afternoon. I guess people just did not want to walk on the beach on such a gloomy day. Each floor of the lighthouse shows it use and progress over almost one hundred years, with period furniture, family heirlooms and pictures, sea-going maps and nautical items. Floor by floor you see family living arrangements and the life the families had when they lived here.

The most beautiful view is from the top of the lighthouse on the third floor which had a spectacular view on the ocean and the surrounding area. What fascinated me the most was the history of the families who lived here and how they adopted to life here. The pictures of the holidays in the lighthouse were interesting. They even had a family reunion of the children who lived here a few years ago and to see these kids as children then as senior citizens was pretty remarkable.

What I liked about the museum was the gardens that surrounded the property. Even though it was not a nice afternoon out it was nice to walk through the flowered paths and shrubs and then take the back path to the bay area behind the property and see the bay and ocean. On a nice day in the middle of the summer it must be something.

After my trip to the Hereford Lighthouse, I drove through the neighborhood to see the changes in the town. Even though Hurricane Sandy did not affect the Wildwood’s the way it did other shore towns there has been a lot of building in both North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest with the edges of Wildwood proper going through the change.

hereford lighthouse museum

Hereford Lighthouse

All these towns are being knocked down and rebuilt with newer homes and businesses. Here and there are traces of the old Wildwood but slowly the towns are coming into the modern age with new condos and homes being built replacing the small shore houses of the 50’s and 60’s. Even the old motels that catered to the tourists are slowly disappearing which is going to affect all of us at the convention as these places vanish. I could see that the towns are becoming year round communities.

For dinner I went to my favorite restaurant in Wildwood, The Ravioli House and Bakery at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor).  I love their bakery which is located in the back of the restaurant which has a separate entrance. The bakery has cases of Italian pastries that are all beautifully displayed and you just want to try one after another. I settled on a chocolate eclair ($3.00) just in time to spoil my dinner but what is wrong with eating dessert first? This delicious pastry was loaded with vanilla custard and topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing. There is nothing better but making a choice was hard. The custard doughnut that looked like a peach would have to be tried as well.

I managed to walk around a little before dinner and then went in for dinner at The Ravioli House for the second year in a row. It was loaded with fire fighting families and groups of people from the convention. The restaurant was busy that whole evening and I could tell that they were short on help.

It some time for dinner but I was in no rush. Dinner here is well worth the wait. I started with one of their garden salads ($3.95) which was loaded with fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. No hot house vegetables here. The salad was crisp and nicely accented by the oil and vinegar dressing. For dinner, I had the Trio of Ravioli ($19.95) which ended up being a duo since they ran out of spinach ravioli. So I just had the meat and cheese ravioli which are freshly made in the restaurant and were as light as air. The meat ravioli were some of the best I have eaten. For dessert, I had the Peach Custard Doughnut ($3.95), which was a doughnut, split in half, filled with cream rolled in sugar and liqueur to give it that peach color exterior. It was well worth the second dessert but was a little sweet to end the meal. I ended up talking to the owners daughter again who works the register. I swear it was like ‘Some Time Next Year’ visiting places I had last year.

I got to bed early that night when I started to get tired after listening to the band at the King Edward Bar for a bit. I said ‘I’ll just lie down for a second’. I woke up at Midnight and then went back to bed.

My last morning in Wildwood was nice. I woke up early, checked out of the hotel and headed to the boardwalk for breakfast. I had walked around the Boardwalk the day before and passed Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ (See review on TripAdvisor). The owners were outside shoving menus into everyone’s hands and one of the items on the menu was a breakfast special for firefighters for $5.99. I thought I have to try this.

I have never had breakfast at a pizzeria on a boardwalk before but this is the standard that all should be set. The food was delicious! For $5.99, I got two pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, a mound of potatoes and two slices of toast. The juice was separate. It was meal that could have fed two people and everything was delicious. All the food was cooked in clarified butter and you could taste it in the scrambled eggs which were fluffy and in the pancakes which you could taste in the carmelization of the outside of the pancakes. I was so stuffed that I rolled out of the restaurant. It was one of the best breakfast’s I ever had out and I highly recommend it when walking the Boardwalk in Wildwood in the morning.

It had cleared and was sunny and blue outside. It was a spectacular day to walk around the Boardwalk. The morning meeting went by quickly as I could see that everyone wanted to get out of there and go outside to enjoy the sunny morning. We started our meeting at 9:00am, voted for our new officers for the Association and were out by 10:30am. Most people were outside walking around the fire equipment or walking with their families on the Boardwalk by the time I got outside. I took one last walk on the Boardwalk to stretch my legs before I left for Newark, DE for the Cornell versus University of Delaware football game (we lost 27-10 but not the blood bath of last year). So there was a distance to drive.

I left Wildwood until ‘Same Time Next Year’ for the next convention. There are a lot more places to explore and restaurants to try. You never know what you will come across in a shore town.

Places to Eat:

Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar@ The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

Open : 8:30am-10:00pm/6:00pm-9:00pm

(609) 884-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

Closes for the season October 1st.

 

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

261 Beal Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com

Open: 7:00am-2:00pm (when in season)

 

Joe’s Italian Pizzeria

2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-7010

Open: Sunday-Saturday-10:30am-12:00am

 

Ravioli House & Bakery

102 Bennett Avenue

Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 552-7894

http://www.raviolohousewildwood.com

Hours: Sunday-Saturday-4:00pm-9:00pm/Bakery-10:00am-9:00pm (In season)-Please check with the restaurant as it closes as the season winds down. Both close down on October 14th.

Franconi’s Pizza

3318 Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ  08620

(609) 552-2800

Open: Sunday-Saturday-8:00am-12:00am (check hours with them after the season is over)

wildwood.orderfranconispizzeria.com

 

Place to Visit:

George F. Boyer Wildwood Historical Museum

3907 Pacific Avenue

Wildwood, New Jersey 08206

(609-523-0277

http://www.wildwoodhistoricalmuseum.com

Open: Monday-Saturday-9:00am-2:00pm/Closed Sunday

Fee: Free; donation asked

 

The Heveford Lighthouse

111 North Central Avenue

North Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 522-4520

http://www.herefordlighthouse.org

Open: Sunday-Saturday-9:00am-5:00pm

Fee: Free; donation suggested

Cape May County Park and Zoo

707 US Route 9

Cape May Courthouse, NJ  08210

(609) 465-5271

Open: 10:30am-4:30pm (when in season)

http://www.capemaycountynj.gov/1008/Park-Zoo

Fee: Free but they ask for a donation

History of the Chalfonte Hotel:

(Provided by the Chalfonte Hotel History Website)

Chalfonte Beginnings:

Built in the nineteenth century, the Chalfonte offers ‘the view from yesterday, genteel Southern-style hospitality, ornate gingerbread verandas line with comfortable rocking chairs and a constant sea breeze to rejuvenate and refresh. The Chalfonte’s distinctive ship-like profile, crowned by her Italianate cupola, now occupies nearly an entire city block. The hotel was built in 1876 by Civil War Colonel Henry Sawyer and was originally planned as a boarding house. Sawyer’s Chalfonte underwent most of its expansion between 1876 and 1909 and the present footprint is much as it was in 1909. This venerable grande dame by the sea still retains its Victorian Charm-louvered door to let the breeze through, Southern cuisine in The Magnolia Room and original antiques and fixtures throughout.

President Lincoln and the Chalfonte:

The history of the Chalfonte Hotel begins with a story that rivals “Gone with the Wind”. Sawyer arrived in Cape May in 1848 at the age of eighteen, a supporter of the Union side in the Civil War. He enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment since a New Jersey one had not been formed. After three months service and rising to the rank of Captain, he returned home only to re-enlist in a New Jersey regiment. In June 1863, after being captured during a bloody exchange at the Battle of Brandy in Virginia, Sawyer was incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond.

In retaliation for shooting two Confederate Cavalry prisoners of war, the Confederacy proposed to execute two Union prisoners, drawn by lottery. Sawyer was on of the two selected in the lottery of death. When Sawyer’s wife heard new of her husband’s execution, she did not go into a state of morning, instead rushing cross country to Washington to meet with President Lincoln and beg for his intervention. As a result, Secretary of War Stanton warned the South they would execute two Confederates if they executed the two Union prisoners. Upping the stakes, one of the Confederate prisoners selected was the son of General Robert E. Lee. The situation ended with Sawyer being released in a swap with Robert E. Lee’s son. He resumed active duty and returned to Cape May in 1875 as a recognized war hero.

Sawyer’s Chalfonte:

Having bought a parcel of land in 1872 at the corner of Howard Street and Sewell Avenue in 1875, Sawyer began construction of “Sawyer’s Chalfonte” (Chalfonte means ‘cool fountain’ in French; Sawyer’s reason for using the name is unknown). In 1876, Colonel Sawyer bought all the rest of the square bounded by Columbia, Franklin, Sewell and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard.

Cape May’s inclination away from resort hotels in favor of the intimacy of cottages had already begun. This trend was sealed in the fall of 1878 when the city suffered yet another disastrous fire. Previous fires had seen the total destruction of the Mt. Vernon Hotel in 1858 and of more properties in 1869. While the fire of 1878 reduced Cape May’s count of hotel rooms from 2200 to 200 in a single night and marked the demise of large hotel construction in the rest of Cape May, the Chalfonte, standing unscathed beyond the fire’s reach was about to experience an unprecedented expansion.

The same year Henry Sawyer extended his then two year old boarding house down Sewell Avenue, adding nineteen rooms to his existing eighteen. The original residence and addition were significant improvement in architectural refinement over the pre-Civil War hotels. While in no way extravagant, the building had a simple dignified Italian form (some times known as ‘Cube Italian’ in Cape May) with a balanced plan and facade.

In spite of suffering the ravages of time and storm, with minimal foundations, the first three phases of the building are soundly built with an eye to graceful resolution of any geometrical anomalies. Sawyer owned the hotel for another ten years, selling it in 1888 after just thirteen years of ownership.  He died in 1893.

Chalfonte Today:

Between 1888 and 1911 the Chalfonte was extended to its current size, adding another twenty three rooms along Sewell Avenue, enlarging the dining room  and providing delightful architectural riddles for future preservationist to solve.

 

 

Day One Hundred and Nineteen: Walking the Dutchess County Fair Friday, August 24th, 2018

I took some time off from walking in the City to walking around Upstate. I read that the Dutchess County Fair was the last week of August and I had not visited it since my first summer when I was attending the Culinary Institute of America in 1996.  I wanted to see if it changed much in twenty years and it hasn’t.

From parking in the lot at the Dutchess County to the buildings that housed the animals and displays it looked to me that nothing changed in over twenty years with the exception of people taking pictures with their phones. Even then, I did not see that many phones out. The Fair was in its 173rd year and people were just having a good time with their families.

From walking to the admission booths (it was $10.00 to get into the fairgrounds) to walking the paths not much had changed. When visiting the fairgrounds means almost a step back into time when things seemed so much slower. Being just outside Rhinebeck with its galleries and high-end restaurants it seemed a world away.

My day started late as I had so many errands to run and work in the morning that I got off to a late start. I got to the Dutchess County Fair Grounds at 3:00pm and spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the Fair. It is so interesting to see how much has changed in the world but how little it really changes. A cow is a cow at the end of the day. How to take care of it and milk it have changed over the time and the philosophy of animals and their care have advanced but the cow is still in the pen, fed hay and goes Moo!

Walking the Fair is interesting in that it is broken down into many different areas to explore but when you first walk in what is there but all the food carts and booths. I have never seen so much deep-fried food in my life and I have been through the Feast of San Genaro dozens of times. There were food trucks selling fried dough, funnel cakes, Twinkies, brownies and zeppoli’s. It is hardly for the Vegan customer.

My first stop in the Fair was the Amusement section where all the kiddie rides, Ferris wheels, games of chance and thrill rides were located. In the early part of the day, the area was mildly busy but by the time I left and the lights came on the true ‘Wonderland’ came to life. The lights, the noise and all the screaming coming from the thrill rides brought the area to life. During the day though, it was little kids on the carousels, mini-rides and small track rides. To be a kid again at this Fair.

Dutchess County Fair II.jpg

Dutchess County Fair Midway

Leaving the Amusement area, I ventured next to the historical area of the Fair where the Cider Mill, Sugar Home, the One Room Schoolhouse and the Historic Train Station were located. These recreations of old Dutch farming villages showed a way of life from the turn of the last century and beyond. It is amazing to see how we have progressed in education since then but I think the times were different.

When I walked all these buildings that were created before electricity, computers and even modern light, I think there were less distractions and you had no choice but to work. Those were the days of back-breaking work loads and things were done totally by hand. Still it is interesting to see how these things were made.

The school room I have seen in many historic museums and have not much changed from their modern version except the furniture has gotten nicer and there is more light. The philosophy of learning the ‘ABC’s’ is still there and the black boards are still part of the routine. I still think it is the best way to learn.

The pathway lead me to the Animal Barns and this is where the Fair had not changed. The families stood guard at their at the different pens washing and taking care of the pets. I never saw such pampering to pigs, cows, chickens and goats. They were so well-groomed and well taken care of and their pens were so clean and if they weren’t the kids were right there to take care of it.

I saw the cow grooming show when I was visiting the Cow Barn and I have never seen such clean cows before. They were washed, brushed and combed by their owners and it reminded me of similar judging at the Dog Shows that I see on TV. When they walked their cows along the path in the ring, there was such pride in the owners faces especially to the winners. I have to say that the ribbons were very impressive.

The Llama Barn was interesting in that I usually find Llama to be friendlier but these animals really kept to themselves and stood in the corners of their pens. They seemed to want to socialize with one another and avoid the humans.

The Goat Barn was the exact opposite. I could not have met a friendlier animal with good social graces. They looked like they were so happy to see me. They all came running up to me as I stood by their pens. They are really are an observant animal. They just stare you down when you are looking at them and then they walk away.

The surprising part of the Pig Barn was that it wasn’t a pig pen. It was one of the cleanest parts of the Fair. Each of the stalls were really clean with only the smell of the pigs which probably surprised people coming up from the City. The only thing was some of these over-sized pigs didn’t fit into the pens and there was not much moving room for them. They really do oink a lot.

My favorite part of the animal barns was the Commerford’s Petting Zoo that they had between the amusement areas and the barns. I never got into petting zoos even when I was a kid but got some feed from what looked like bubble gum machines and then the goats and sheep were putty in my hands. They were so friendly and let me pet their warm fur. I have never seen so many happy faces chasing after me. The sheep had such a nice feel to them with their soft furry backs and the goats which I thought might be aggressive could not have been friendlier.

When you pet them they seem so grateful that you are scratching their backs. I ended up spending more time here than I planned feeding the animals and petting them. They seemed so happy that they got extra attention.

The Horticultural Building reminded me of my many trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, large self-contained displays of flowers, lawn decorations and furniture each with their own them. There was a lot of creativity to their displays with water sources, planted flowers and shrubs all over the place all colorfully designed. They also used some statuary to accent the plantings. It was a nice size building made even bigger with these creative gardens.

After visiting all the barns and historic recreations, it was off for a late lunch. I headed back to the food trucks to decide between the cheese steaks, meatball sandwiches and fried desserts. I decided on a pulled pork sandwich with pickles and a Coke for lunch that was more than enough. The sweetness of the barbecue sauce with the roasted meat on a soft roll made a wonderful meal. The nice part was sitting under a tree on a picnic table to enjoy my lunch. On a nice day, there is nothing like it.

I avoided all the fried desserts and got a traditional pretzel with mustard from a vendor from Pennsylvania. The was an expensive pretzel at $8.00 but it was well worth it. The thing was huge, freshly rolled and made and was still hot. With a little mustard there is nothing like it. The softness and butteriness of the outside made every bite enjoyable.

After lunch, walked through the rest of the barns looking at rabbits, chickens and taking another peek at the Goat Barn. They are really are a beautiful animal. After leaving the barns area, I walked down to watch the Equestrians perform. There is such a grace to jumping and the ladies did a great job. Some of them are so poised on their horses.

As the afternoon wore on, my last stop was the Gift tents where they were selling handmade arts and crafts. You should see the work of these knitters, quilters and wood carvers. Some of the baby blankets and clothes were so beautifully made and colorful that I wished I had someone to give it to as a gift. The wood carvers were getting ready for the holidays with Santa’s and snowmen. It never ceases to amaze me that we are in a perpetual state of Christmas no matter what time of year it is. The surrealist look of many of these Santa’s  were done by the cut of wood that the artist had to work with when carving the piece. These men and women are very creative in their work and they will be back in October for the Craft’s Show.

Before I left for the evening, a saw a long line forming by the 4 H Exhibit Building and I found out they were selling giant homemade milkshakes with the milk and cream from the Dairy Barns. The sold these large Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry shakes for only $5.00! That was one line I did not mind being in. I ordered this Vanilla shake where you really could taste the fresh ice cream which was was loaded with several scoops. There is nothing like a fresh milkshake with real ice cream. It was the perfect way to cap off the evening.

Walking the Fair at twilight you really see it come to life with all the lights, screaming kids by the rides and hungry patrons at the food trucks. It is so funny to see these small kids gobble down cheese steaks and fried dough. They had some appetites! When you work on a farm and take care of the animals as I saw the fairgoers did they must burn off all the calories.

It was a great day and I learned a few things about Animal Husbandry and landscaping. I just wondered why on the way home it took me twenty-two years to come back.

The Dutchess County Fair is the last week of August and is well worth the trip up to Rhinebeck.

Dutchess County Fair

http://dutchessfair.com/dutchess-fair/

 

Day One Hundred & Seventeen Walking Governors Island in New York Harbor July 3rd and August 30th, 2018

My aunt called me out of the blue and said that she had an extra spot on a trip to Governors Island with her Retired Teachers Association group and I jumped at the chance. I had never been to the island before only having seen it from a distance so it was a chance to visit the island with a tour group. The nice part of the tour was that we could walk independently around the island, which my cousin, Bruce and I decided to do.

When going to Governor’s Island during the week, there is a $3.00 round trip fee to travel to the island, which is now open seven days a week. On the weekends, the ferry is free so it is a treat to go to the island as a type of ‘Staycation’. For people living in New York City, it is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the island of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs.

Governor’s Island has been a public space since 1996 when the US Coast Guard left the island and  part of the island reverted to the National Park system.  Since then, twenty-two acres of the park where the forts are located have been part of the National Park system and the remaining one hundred and fifty acres of the landfill area are part of the Trust of Governor’s Island, which is an entity of the City of New York.  Governor’s Island is now part of Manhattan. Since 2001, the island has reinvented itself and in 2012, Mayor Bloomberg broke ground on the master plan for the island. In the next six years, the island has developed into the park is has now become with more developments in the future (Wiki).

Governors Island II.jpg

Governor’s Island

On a nice day, there is nothing like a boat ride out to the island. It only takes about ten minutes to leave from the Battery to the dock of the island. It’s a nice ride over to the island with the most spectacular views of Lower Manhattan, Jersey City, NJ, Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These are all ‘must sees’ when you are visiting New York. The views of Lower Manhattan are most breathtaking when you reach the area around Castle Williams, one of the two forts on the island.

Once you arrive on the island, the gift shop and information booth is to your left up the hill and the public bathrooms are to your right. Make sure to make pit stops at both before venturing further on the island. At the gift shop you can get a map of the island to know where to walk and the public bathrooms at the dock is the best place to go on the island.

We started our walk of Governor’s Island on the path to Castle William, one of the two forts of the island and one of the last relics of ‘Old’ New York. Castle William is fort that protected New York Harbor for the War of 1812 and after that was used during the Civil War as a jail for prisoners of war and then during World Wars for training base.

The fort is made of red sand stone quarried in New York area and was designed by Lt. Colonial Jonathan Williams, who was the Chief Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was designed in a innovative circular pattern, which protected the fort from all sides and was considered a prototype for a new form of coastal fortification (US National Park System).

The tour was very interesting as we started in the court yard, which had once been a training ground for the troops. They took us on a tour of the jail cells on the first floor, solitary confinement on the second floor and then took us to the roof to see where the cannons were located that protected the harbor during the War of 1812. The views were breathtaking of Lower Manhattan and Jersey City, NJ. One a clear day, the view is amazing with all the soaring towers, pleasure boats and helicopters above.

The tour took us all over the building and the guide told the story of how the fort supported the City during The War of 1812 and its use in later years for other military service. Since the City was surrounding by forts on the various islands protecting New York Harbor, the British did not venture to New York during the war.

As we left the Castle William, we walked the path toward Fort Jay, which is located in the middle of the island. The fort is currently being renovated and some of the walls were crumbling around us. The interior of the fort is open and there are rocking chairs around the porches that line the insides of the fort while the outside walls of the fort are being renovated and repaired.

Castle William

Castle William

Fort Jay has been altered and rebuilt since its inception around 1775, when defenses were made on the island by the Continental troops during the Revolutionary War. This fort and Governor’s Island was held by the British during the war and surrendered  after the war in 1783. With renewed tensions abroad, the New York Legislature and United States Congress reconstructed the fort in 1794 as part of the First American System of Coastal Fortifications. The fort was called Fort Jay in 1798 for New York Governor John Jay (US National Park Services).

The fort went through extensive renovations between 1855-1921 with the brick barracks being replaced, interior remodeling and the addition of officer’s apartments and a golf course. Fort Jay has sat vacant with minimal upkeep since closure of the Coast Guard base in 1997 and you can see the current renovation going on now (US National Parks Services). There is also an art installation in this fort that is on view.

Fort Jay.jpg

Fort Jay

Both forts do close early for tours and viewing. Make sure you get to the island early so that you can take the tours or visit on your own to admire the architecture. They are interesting examples of early harbor defenses not just in New York but of the coastal cities that were established before the Revolutionary War.

Exiting the old fort, look up to see the statuary going through a renovation. The soft stone of the fort have been damaged by the sea air over the years and the eagle statues need extensive repairs.  The pathway then leads to Nolan Park, home of the Officers Homes when they lived on the island. These are currently being renovated for non-profit organizations. I had a nice walk through of one of the homes on a second trip to the island and it is now part of the NY Audubon Society. There are a lot of interesting displays that the Society shows on both floors/

Most of the homes are still going through a renovation and are not open to the public but it is interesting to see the Victorian architecture and how the officers and their families must have lived when they were stationed here. Even when walking through the homes you can see that a lot of work is needed in these buildings with the sagging porches and peeling paint.

Leaving Nolan Park you head to the South Battery, where their is an active school and it leads to one of the three piers on the island. To the north of this is the Parade Ground where they were setting up for one of the summer movies that was going to be shown on the lawn with the last one being in mid-September.

We walked along the Yankee Pier on the southern part of the island and looked over the views from Brooklyn, which are not that exciting and then walked to Liggett Terrace to cool down and grab some lunch.

On the weekends in the warmer weather is there are a lot of food trucks on this side of the island and we stopped at Fauzia Jamaican Food truck stand right near the building for some Jerk Chicken sandwiches. This was an experience. I felt like I was sitting in a little restaurant in Kingston. They had the tables set up just so with colorful chairs and decorations and they were playing music by Luciano, a well known singer from Jamaica.

fauzia's food truck.jpg

Fauzia’s Jamaican Food Truck

The food at Fauzia’s is really good. Their Jerk Chicken sandwich($8.00) has some kick to it and when you add their hot sauce,  it ‘sets fire’ in your stomach. The sandwiches are a rather large so be prepared to have an appetite. The ladies are really nice and engaging to talk to and bring a warm island hospitality to the dining experience.

After lunch, we sat by the fountains near the building and I amused a bunch of ten year olds by taking off my shoes and socks and walking around the shooting fountains. The temperature had hit 98 degrees and was really humid and I could not take the heat. So I splashed around the fountain. The jumping and shooting of the fountains felt really good on my legs and feet and my cousin could not stop laughing.

The rest of the afternoon we explored the southern part of the island which is all landfill (from building the first subway system in the City and the island grew an additional 150  acres). Once you leave Liggett Terrance, you follow the paths to the southern (or western) part of the island which is all divided up park land by a series of paths.

We walked through the Hammock Grove and relaxed in the hammocks that are always in demand. It is a nice place to relax on a hot day but do spray yourself as the bugs can bite here. All along the paths there are local wild flowers and trees so that paths can be very colorful in season. The hammocks are a nice place to just lie back and relax. On a hot, humid day they were not as much fun but nice for a break. My second time to the island was after a rain storm and the bugs were biting me so I did not venture long.

The Play Lawn area around the south part of the island was booked for an event called “Pinknic”, a picnic where everyone wore pink and drank rose wines. On a 94 degree day with the humidity hitting almost 100 degrees drinking rose wine in that heat was the last thing I would want to do but my cousin and I watched as each wave of ferry riders became pinker in color in their dress and the place filled up.

We walked up The Hills section just below the Play Lawn and that is some exercise. Climbing up the rocks on the ‘Outlook Hill’, can be trying but the views are well work it. When the two of use reached the top neither of us took the time to notice that there was a path leading up the hill that was paved. When you reach the top of the hill, there are the most interesting and beauty views of the island and of the harbor region. Since Governor’s Island is in the heart of the harbor, you can see everything around the surrounding islands and Lower Manhattan.

Picnic Point was closed for private events on both trips I made to the island and the area surrounding The Hills is being developed for a future hotel or inn on the island from what one of the tour guides I over-heard talking to a group of tourists.

We traveled up the northern part of the island and noticed a tent village. The Collective Governor’s Island was having a soft opening the day we were there and just starting to receive guests. The Collective is an eco-friendly resort concept and the tents are hardly ‘roughing it’ with gourmet treats and meals, 1000 thread sheets and plush Turkish towels and some of the tents have private baths. The day were there was no one on the property yet and the second time I visited the island, it was not yet check in time and the place looked like a ghost town with no one there. I will have to revisit before it closes for the season.

On my second trip to explore the island, I attempted to slide down the two slides found in the ‘Slide Hill’ section of The Hills. Good luck on that. At 6:4, I had to push myself down the slides while the little kids slide down with no problems. The slides are hidden by trees on this part of the hill but just look for the little and big ‘kids’, who are laughing hard at each other.

Slide Hill.jpg

Slide Hill

As we traced out steps back to the Manhattan Ferry landing, we passed various restaurants that were open for the season. The Oyster House has a nice menu and the bar area was packed that afternoon and Taco Beach, a slightly more casual place was full of guests enjoying Mexican food. Those I will have to try on future trips.

I would like to point out the various public arts works on the island by in the Chapel of St. Cornelius, which is an old church on the island near the South Battery and the Liggett Archway in the middle of the Liggett Terrace. These sculptures are by artist Jacob Hasimoto, who currently lives in Queens, NY.

Mr. Hasimoto was born in 1973 in Greeley, CO and is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Having shown in museums and galleries all over the world, this is the first major installation by the artist (Artist Bio)

Using sculpture and installation, the artist creates worlds from a range of modular components: bamboo and paper kites, model boats and even AstroTurf-covered blocks. His accretive, layered compositions reference video games, virtual environments and cosmology, while also remaining deeply rooted in art-historical traditions notably, landscaped-based abstraction, modernism and handcraft (Artist Bio).

In the historic Chapel of St. Cornelius which closed in 2013, the artist reopened it with a sculpture of 15,000 bamboo and paper kites done in white and black named ‘The Eclipse’. To me it looked more like a sunrise/sunset pattern in the sky than a full eclipse but the artist really captured the progressiveness of the color and light of the movement of the sun and moon. It blew me away of the intricate detail work the artist had to figure to get the placement just so to get this effect. It takes over the whole church and you have to see it from all sides to fully appreciate it.

In the Liggett Hall archway, his sculpture ‘Never comes Tomorrow’ contains hundreds of wooden cubes and two massive steel funnels which showcases the artists interest in architecture. To me I found it whimsical and fun showing a combination of a work straight out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’. It looked like a series of trumpets with the communication devise in the middle of the structure.  Hurry though, these sculptures I read online will only be up until Halloween.

After a hot and sticky day on the island both times, it is a pleasurable trip back to Lower Manhattan. The breezes are really nice and the view unbelievably beautiful. When you hear the words “New York” this is what you would imagine it to be.

Governor’s Island is from May 1st until October 31st during the season from 10:00am-6:00pm Monday-Thursday and on Friday’s and Saturday’s there are late hours until 10:00pm but only until September 14th. The island is open on Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. The ferries run on the hour except extended on the weekends. The last ferry departs the island 6:00pm Monday-Thursday and 7:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The island closes after Halloween night.

Depending on the part of the season you visit, there is loads to do on the island from just walking around, biking, skate boarding, touring or just relaxing.

All restaurants and historical sites are located on Governor’s Island and you can see it all by accessing their website at http://www.govisland.com.

https://govisland.com/

Day One Hundred and Thirteen: Tour of Historic Pubs and Bars in Lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club-May 9th, 2018

I took some time out of my regular touring and took a historic tour of the pubs and bars of lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club. The club had arranged this tour through one of the local historical tour companies in the City in which we would be touring sections of local historic watering holes. This included the Frances Tavern, Delmonico’s and India House.

We met on the stairs of the National Museum of the American Indian which once upon a time was the U.S. Customs House. Here we met our tour guide and we started our discussion on historic bars and restaurants and their place in lower Manhattan.

The tour started with a talk on the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building located at 1 Bowling Green. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Woolworth Building  with construction beginning in 1902 and was finished in 1907 and considered a masterpiece in Beaux-Arts style (Wiki).

The interesting part of the building is when you look up to the roof to see the statuary of ‘The Continents’, also called the ‘Four Continents’ of Asia, America, Europe and Africa. Located on the main cornice are standing sculptures representing the great seafaring nations, representing American seagoing commerce (Wiki and tour guide).

U.S. Custom House.jpg

U.S. Custom House

The interesting part of the discussion was that the U.S. Custom House sits on the site of Fort Amsterdam, the fortification constructed by the Dutch West Indian Company to defend their operations in the Hudson Valley. It was the center of the settlement (Wiki and tour guide).

Our next stop on the tour was walking around Bowling Green Park across the street from the U.S. Custom House. The park is the oldest public park in New York City and is one of the two rumored places that Peter Minuit ‘bought’ the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans in 1626 (the other being in Inwood Park) and had once served as the Council grounds for the local Native American tribes (NYC Parks.org).

Bowling Green Park.jpg

Bowling Green Park

The park was first designated a park in 1733 when it was offered for rent at the cost of one peppercorn per year. There had been a gilded statue of King George III erected there in 1770 and an iron fence (still there and a New York landmark) installed in 1771. On July 9, 1776 at the first public hearing of the Declaration of Independence, the statue was toppled by angry citizens and melted down for ammunition (NYC Parks & Tour Guide). The crowns that used to line the fence had been sawed off and you can still see traces of it on the fences.

The area surrounding the park became a fashionable residence in the lat 18th century and mid-19th century, the area gave way to business and manufacturing. The park has since gone through many renovations, including the most recent 2004 which re-landscaped the park and added new bluestone sidewalks, plantings, gas lamps and hoof benches (NYC Parks & Tour guide).

Just north of the Bowling Green Park is the 7,100 pound statue of the ‘Charging Bull’ by artist Arturo DiModica. DiModica states that “Bronze figure of the bull represents the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future.” This was dealing after the Crash of the Market in 1987. Considered ‘guerrilla’ art when it was illegally installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange during the Christmas holiday season in 1989, the statue was moved to its current location in the Spring of 1989 and been there since.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl

Next to the statute, another statue has been cast and placed near the bull. “Fearless Girl” was installed in 2017 the night before International Women’s Day and was created by artist Kristen Visbal and was commissioner by State Street Global Advisers as a marketing campaign for their index fund. The artist says that the statue of the young girl shows her as being “brave, proud and strong.” There has been criticism between the two artists on the meaning of the statutes (Wiki).

Charging Bull.jpg

Charging Bull

The first historic bar we visited was the Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street (See review on TripAdvisor). The restaurant has played a prominent role in history before, during and after the American Revolution,  serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. It is owned by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. and claim it is Manhattan’s oldest surviving buildings with the current being built by Stephen DeLancey, the son in law of New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt in 1719 (Wiki).

Francus Tavern.jpg

Fraunces Tavern

We only stayed at the bar for a short time, looking at the period furniture and some of the museum quality artifacts before some of the members of our group ordered a drink. I have to tell you one thing, they get very testy if you sit a table and don’t order anything. Check out their website at http://www.francestavern.com for the menu’s and full history.

Our next stop on the tour was historic Stone Street, a cluster of historic buildings along Stone, South William and Pearl Streets and Coenties Alley. The street’s stores and lofts were built for dry-goods merchants and importers shortly after the Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed many remnants of New Amsterdam (Wiki).

stone street II

Stone Street

The street had been neglected for years but a partnership between the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission and other city agencies, the Alliance for Downtown New York and Stone Street business owners transformed the area into the lively entertainment area that contains several restaurants and bars (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The middle of Stone Street now is lined with tables used by all the restaurants for seating and is a very active area during lunch and Happy Hour time. We walked among the busy tables and looked at the menus but didn’t stop here. I had stopped earlier at Justino’s Pizzeria at 77 Pearl Street for a snack (See review on TripAdvisor). Their pizza is quite good although I think that Pranzo at 34 Water Street is better. They give you a better slice and the sauce is much spicier.

After we left the Stone Street Historic area, we walked up Broad Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Hall District. This is the seat of the financial center and the capital of the financial world.

The New York Stock Exchange at 8-18 Broad Street was built in 1903 replacing the original Victorian structure which had been built in 1865. The building was designed by architect George Browne Post, who was a native New Yorker who studied architecture and civil engineering at NYU. He designed it in Second Empire design (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

Standing on Wall Street, you can see the 1903 building rise ten stories above the sidewalk. Six Corinthian columns steadily rise from a seven-bay-wide podium set between two rectangular pilasters. He complimented the six columns with symmetry of seven with a center flat arched doorway with three more on either side. The podium symmetry continues to the second store, where directly above each street-level doorway is a contrasting round-arched opening. Balustraded balconies between floors provide the classic ornamentation as do lintels with carved fruit and flowers (Architecture of New York Stock Exchange Building & Tour Guide).

new york stock exchange.jpg

New York Stock Exchange

We passed the now closed Stock Exchange building and continued on to Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street. We discovered that this is not the original building but its replacement that was built in 1842.

The original Federal Hall was a Greek Revival structure completed in 1703 and served as New York’s first City Hall. It was where the Stamp Act Congress met to draft a letter to King George on opposition to the Stamp Act and after the Revolution for the Congress of the Confederation held under the Articles of Confederation. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capital of the Newly created United States in 1789 and hosted the first United States Congress. On its steps, George Washington was sworn in as the first President. That building was demolished in 1812 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

Federal Hall.jpg

Federal Hall

The current structure, completed in 1842 and one of the best surviving examples of neoclassical architecture in New York, was built as the U.S. Custom House for the Port of New York. Later it served as a sub-Treasury building. It is operated today by the National Park Service as a national memorial and designated the Federal Hall National Memorial (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

The statue of George Washington was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1882 and was erected on the front steps of the building, marking the approximate site where he was inaugurated as President of the United States. Part of the original railing and balcony floor where Washington was inaugurated are on display in the memorial (Wiki).

We also looked at the original J.P. Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street or known as ‘The Corner’. The building was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston and built in 1913. It was known as the ‘House of Morgan’ so there were no signs with the Morgan name. The building was designed in the classical architecture and Morgan made sure that it was designed only four feet high (Wiki). When I asked the tour guide why, he basically said everyone knew who J. P. Morgan was and he didn’t have to prove it.

jp morgan building

JP Morgan Building Wall Street

The foundation of the building is constructed deep and strong enough in order to support a forty foot tower if it needed to be built. The company moved its operations to 60 Wall Street and the company sold the building and it has had several owners. Our tour guide said that the building was rumored to be turned into condos (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

We moved down Beaver Street towards Wall Street and our second stop of the tour at Delmonico’s restaurant at 56 Beaver Street. The restaurant has moved and changed since it was founded in 1827. The restaurant has always been since it’s founding a place of society and influence. The restaurant was first operated by the Delmonico family as a small cafe and pastry shop at 23 William Street. Later it would be considered one of the nation’s top fine dining restaurants and the birthplace of such dishes as Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg and famous Delmonico steak. It was the first restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu a la carte as opposed to table d’hote. It also claimed to be the first to employ a separate wine list (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The current location of Delmonico’s was opened in 1926 by restaurateur Oscar Tucci as a speakeasy and this restaurant would continue on until 1986. It has operated in this location at different times as Delmonico’s since and has currently been open since 1998 (Wiki, Delmonico’s History and the Tour Guide).

Delmonico's.jpg

Delmonico’s

I found the restaurant to be very formal and a little stuffy for a tour group to visit since we were not all dressed for the occasion. The restaurant patrons were all dressed up and I had to parade through the dining room in shorts, which are not allowed in the formal dining room. We had a drink at the bar and I found it to be excellent. The service at the busy bar was friendly and very inviting and I was ready to stay for some dinner.  The bar atmosphere was very engaging and we had a nice time there. It is expensive but well worth it once (See review on TripAdvisor).

We walked down the street to The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden located across the street from Hanover Square. The land around this part has been in public used since 1637 and in 1730 became known as Hanover Square in tribute to the House of Hanover. It had been the center for commerce and printing in the beginnings of New York and was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1835. The small triangled parcel was not developed into a park until 1952 and was rededicated with new landscaping until the 1970’s. It has since been redesigned again with new plantings, benches and decorations (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

It was rededicated July 6, 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II as The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden in memory of the 67 British citizens that lost their lives in the September 11th attacks. Originally named the ‘British Gardens’ it was again rededicated and renamed on May 2, 2012 and the ceremony led by the Dean of Westminster Abbey which included other members of the Commonwealth nations (Wiki). It is such a nice place to just relax and the plantings are beautiful. I told the tour guide that it is a very touching place to visit.

Queen Elizabeth II Park.jpg

Queen Elizabeth II Park

Our last part of the tour was a visit to India House now called 1 Hanover Square, which is located at the very end of the Stone Street Historic district. Located at the southern end of Hanover Square and facing the Queen Elizabeth II September 11th garden across the street, the building was built in 1851 and was the site of the nation’s first commodity futures exchange, the New York Cotton Exchange and was designated a National Landmark in 1977 and a New York City Landmark in 1965 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

India House

India House

The structure was built out of brownstone and designed in the Italian Renaissance style by builder, developer and merchant, Richard F. Carman. It had been the headquarters of Hanover Bank and then the Cotton Exchange. Since then it has operated as a private club since 1913 and now houses restaurants (Wiki).

The main facade of the building has eight bays wide, with the main entrance occupying two bays at the center. Windows on the ground floor are tall and set in openings flanked by paneled pilasters and topped by pediment segmental arches Second floor windows are smaller, set beneath gabled pediments and their floor windows are smaller still with simpler surrounds. The building is crowned by a modillioned cornice (Wiki).

We ended the tour at the restaurant on the bottom level where some of the group stayed for dinner. I headed off to the Wonton Noodle Garden on Mott Street for dinner. After a long tour outdoors and the night getting cooler, a steaming bowl of Cantonese Wonton Soup ($8.95) with a side of pan-fried dumplings ($5.00). This restaurant in the middle of the heart of Chinatown is my main standby when eating in the neighborhood. Like the rest of the Manhattan, I see the traces of gentrification creeping into the area. All you have to do is look at the buildings above.

Wonton Noodle Garden.jpg

Wonton Noodle Garden’s Cantonese Wonton Soup’s (Cure All)

My message to readers, please, get off the cell phones and look around you. You are missing a lot! I have walked this neighborhood dozens of times over the years and my eyes were open by all the changes and by the beauty of the surroundings. I will print more of my travels with the Cornell Club in future blogs. They are very interesting.

 

Places to Visit:

New York Stock Exchange Building

8-18 Broad Street

New York, NY  10004

https://www.nyse.com/

Federal Hall

26 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

https://www.nps.gov/feha/index.htm

23 Wall Street

23 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

 

India House/1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

http://www.indiahouseclub.org/

 

Bowling Green Park/Charging Bull Statue/Fearless Girl Statue

Broadway & Whitehall Street

New York, NY 10004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charging_Bull

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d1605557-Reviews-Charging_Bull_Wall_Street_Bull-New_York_City_New_York.html

Stone Street

New York, NY  10004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Street_(Manhattan)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105043-Reviews-Stone_Street_Historic_District-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden

Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

https://queenelizabethgarden.org/

 

Places to Eat:

Justino’s Pizza

77 Pearl Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 797-9692

http://www.justinospizzeria.com

Open: Monday-Saturday-10:00am-11:59pm/Sunday-11:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8743404-Reviews-Justino_s_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pranzo Pizza & Italian Specialties

34 Water Street

New York, NY  10014

http://www.pranzopizzapasta.com

Phone: (212) 344-8068

Fax: (212) 344-0191

Open: Monday-Thursday-8:00am-8:00pm/Friday-8:00am-7:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426152-Reviews-Pranzo-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

 

Delmonico’s

56 Beaver Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 519-1144

http://www.delmonicos.com

https://delmonicos.com/

Open: Monday-Friday: 11:30am-10:00pm

Saturday:  5:00pm-10:00pm

Sunday: Closed

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d459628-Reviews-Delmonico_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Fraunces Tavern

54 Pearl Street

New York, NY 10004

(212) 425-1778

Open: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday-11:00am-5:00pm

http://www.francestavern.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426153-Reviews-Fraunces_Tavern_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

India House/1 Hanover Square

1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

(212) 269-2323

Open: Monday-Friday-9:00am-10:00pm/Saturday & Sunday-Closed

http://www.indiahouseclub.org

 

Wonton Noodle Garden

56 Mott Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 966-4033

http://www.wontonnoodlegarden.com

Open: Sunday-Thursday-10:00am-2:00am/Friday-9:00am-4:00am/Saturday-9:00am-4:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d2370537-Reviews-Wonton_Noodle_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day One Hundred & Eighteen: Freaky Friday the 13th-The Sixth Anniversary of author Mary Rodgers visit for the 40th Anniversary of her book “Freaky Friday” July 13th, 2018

This blog is dedicated to the great and wonderful author, Mary Rodgers, in honor of her visit six years ago to the Hasbrouck Heights Library in honor of the 40th Anniversary of her best-selling book, “Freaky Friday” on July 13th, 2012. This was one of the best Special Events programs that I ever ran outside “Parent’s Weekend” my senior year at Michigan State University. It was a big thrill for me to meet an author whom not only I had grown up with but whose books and movies I enjoyed not just then but even now. The original ‘Freaky Friday’ I saw as a kid when it first came out in 1977 and I still enjoy it today.

I had founded the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 on the premise that there should be more for kids to enjoy at the library other than “Mommie & Me” classes, teen book clubs and arts and crafts for kids. As a child I hated all that ‘baby stuff’ preferring ‘Nanny & the Professor’, ‘The Lucy Show’ and ‘That Girl’ over shows like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood’. I thought the shows were for ‘little kids’ as early as six. When it came time for movies, I enjoyed ‘On a Clear Day you can see Forever’ and ‘What’s Up Doc?’ to any of the kiddie fare they make kids watch at that age.

When Disney films like ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’, ‘Freaky Friday’ and ‘The Bad News Bears’ came out it really showed how kids behaved back then and the independence our parent’s generation gave us as children. They expected not ‘little adults’ but kids to be mature, have responsibility and respect for the people around them as well as be our own person. We were the generation to mature at our own pace and probably the last.

I wanted to share this experience with kids who were like minded, who wanted more than just the run of the mill activities. Plus I was patterning the organization on some of the groups catering to kids in the city at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Forum, bringing the city to the kids of Hasbrouck Heights with sophisticated programming that including classic and independent films, celebrity visits and contemporary activities. The year 2012 was the leap year for the organization with goal of innovative programming and special guests.

I put my game plan of ideas together and came up with a “Freaky Friday” night at the library on Friday the 13th and because of the way Friday the 13th landed that year, July 13th that year was around the opening of the library’s Summer Reading Program. So the Junior Friends would tie their event around that. I never thought in a million years Mary Rodgers would come. I knew nothing about her whereabouts or her life. This is why I love Google.

One late night I was Googling her and did not realize that she had been the President of the Richard Rodgers Foundation and at the bottom of the screen there was a comments section. I went to it and wrote that the library was having a 40th Anniversary of her book, “Freaky Friday” and we wanted her to be our guest. Would she consider coming to the library to read the book? I could not believe it when she said yes the next day!

Thus started the plans for her visit. We bought copies of the novel, organized a small reception and had an area set up in the early afternoon for the reading. We would show the original 1977 film first in the private meeting room across the hall to be followed by the 2003 remake. We had planned something a little more elaborate but I could not get anyone to agree to it.

I had long emails for the next three weeks back and forth with her assistant, Ruschika, getting everything organized. It was like planning D-Day with all the conversations on a two hour visit. The way I was understanding it was that I was dealing with a very frail woman but when I met her she could have been nothing further from the truth. She was a spunky big kid who could not have been more engaging to both the adults and the kids. I knew that when I first introduced myself.

I kept saying Mrs. Rodgers this and Mrs. Rodgers that and she finally said to me “Justin, after all this just call me ‘Mary'”. I knew she was cool even at 83. She could not have been more engaging and openly friendly with everyone there and the kids loved her. Most of these kids were two generations ahead of her, she being the R.K. Rowling of her time. You could not have asked for a bigger author of kids books with comparison to Maurice Sendak, Norton Juster and Judy Bloom. For my generation, she was huge! (It would be years later that I would discover that she had been suffering from terminal cancer at the time of the visit and she died just a few months before my dad in 2014).

Freaky Friday 2012

Author Mary Rodgers reading her book “Freaky Friday”

It could not have been a better afternoon as the weather cooperated and because it was early traffic, she arrived over an hour early so she was able to settle in and talk with all the patrons on a personal basis. It really was a magical afternoon.

Mary talked to the audience of about 40 patrons about growing up as Richard Rodgers daughter and living in the shadow of fame while carving her own career out of it. She talked about growing up in a musical family, writing stories with her sister and time creating such shows as “Once Upon a Mattress” and “A to Z”. I even remembered when she worked on “Free to be you and Me” that Marlo Thomas had created in the 70’s for kids.

The best part of the program is when she talked about growing up and said, “Annebelle is me! I was a tough kid when I was growing up and had my own opinions.” She and her mother had obviously butted heads when she was growing up and based the book on her early childhood growing up in New York.

She then talked about working with Disney Studios to adapt the book into a movie and writing the screenplay. She told us of having to write a sexy secretary into the script to please one of the studio heads. She talked about the rewrites and finally how proud she was when the movie came out. She admitted though when asked whether she liked the original film or the 2003 remake, she admitted to us “I thought the remake was more true to the theme of the book.”

After a long discussion, we made our presentations to her. I made her the first ‘Honorary Member of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library and the Mayor of Hasbrouck Heights at the time, Mrs. Rose Heck, read a proclamation declaring it ‘Mary Rodgers Day’ in Hasbrouck Heights. We even had the electric board out front of the Municipal Building read “Welcome Mary Rodgers”. We then had the book signing and she continued the discussion with many of the patrons and kids.

Mary Rodgers

Mayor Rose Heck presents Mary Rodgers with our version of the ‘Key’ to Hasbrouck Heights

After that she joined for a bit for the reception and then headed back into the City before rush hour began. We did keep in touch for bit writing to one another and me sending out press clippings and pictures from the event. (Years later after she passed away, Mayor Heck had told me she had just sent her a birthday card. Even the two of them had kept in touch long after the event).

After she left, we watched the original 1977 film with Jody Foster and Barbara Harris, then we stopped for intermission and had a pizza and brownie dinner and then showed the 2003 film with Lindsey Lohan and Jamie Lee-Curtis. The original film was a big hit with the kids many of whom had never seen it before. We ended up being at the library for over four hours and the last of the patrons walked out at 9:15pm with everyone raving about the event.

All these years later when older members of the organization get together, we still talk about the wonderful afternoon we had when Mary Rodgers visited us.

So on this Friday the 13th, six years to the date of the original event on July 13th, 2012, I dedicate this blog to a true New Yorker, Mary Rodgers-Guettel and the wonderful afternoon we had sharing stories, reading the book and watching her films. The kids may not known who she was when they came but they sure knew who she was when she left.

In Memory to the very first ‘Honorary Member of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library and one of my literary idols, Mary Rodgers-Guettel January 1931-June 2014.

The Opening of the Original “Freaky Friday”

 

Closing Song from Freaky Friday remake 2003

 

Special Note: I was very proud to discover in 2014 that BCCLS, the governing body  Bergen County Cooperative Library System for all libraries in Bergen County, New Jersey, honored the Junior Friends of the Library for our 2013 programming and the organization itself. It was nice to see that someone noticed!

Some articles that were posted online of the event:

Patch.com October 2012:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/mary-rodgers-visits-heights

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/freaky-friday-author-mary-rodgers-to-visit-heights

Proclamation from the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:

http://www.hasbrouck-heights.com/mc-min/2012/7-24-12.pdf

The Gazette Newspaper:

http://www.the-gazette-newspaper.com/images/gazette/jul12.pdf