Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Today Show, Katie Couric & Sting

Those of you who know me probably don't know that around the time we went to New York City I liked to wake up to "The Today Show," which filled me in on a little news of the world, with interesting stories about people who inspired me, and airing great ideas of how to stay healthy. It's also sprinkled with humor, which is always a good thing and I even find out who some of the new centenarians in our great country are from Willard Scott. Although Katie Couric is now with another network, in 2003 I enjoyed listening to Katie and her view of the world and encouraged about how she has handled the loss of both her husband and sister to cancer. Out of her own personal tragedy she has been proactive in spreading the word about diagnostic testing in honor of her husband. (for more information, please see So when we traveled to New York City in 2003, I searched the internet for the schedule of the Today Show for the week we would be there and found out that the entertainer of the week would be Sting and it was free! Aha, this is how I would get my husband to wake up at the crack of dawn to head toward Rockefeller Center to join the live audience outside the NBC studio. Well it worked, since my husband likes some of Sting's music, so we donned our umbrellas and coats and got as close as we could. We could only see Sting when we stood on tiptoes as we heard him sing "Desert Rose," but then again it was a free concert. Katie Couric came outside to greet the crowd and I stood quietly watching her report on some subject with microphone in hand, while a very loud woman next to me kept yelling, "Katie, Katie, look over here," and I was thinking, I hope she doesn't look our way and think I'm the one yelling at her! In the mean time my husband found a group of people all dressed alike with peace signs, who we found out were headed for a meeting at the United Nations and tried to talk us into joining them, which we politely declined, but we did have our photo taken with them. As the sets were being disassembled, we peered into one of the studio windows and saw Clint Eastwood being interviewed, but couldn't hear a word through the thick plate glass. Oh, well, the day had just begun and there's was so much more to see in New York!
Labels: Katie Couric, Sting, The Today Show

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Staten Island Ferry

How many things are truly free in this life? Well at least one remains, The Staten Island Ferry and we took advantage once during the day and again one evening, so we could view the lights of Manhattan. Interestingly enough, we rode on it just a few days before that fateful accident on October 15, 2003, when ten people were killed and seventy one were injured as one of the ferries ran into a dock. It may have been a mere coincidence, but we almost toppled over the edge of the bow when our ferry hit the dock quite hard the day we went. The only thing that kept us from going overboard was a thigh high chain across the bow. It was pretty frightening and we were stunned to hear about the October 15th accident after our return home to California and felt compassion for those touched by this new tragedy in NYC. (As I write this blog, the newest tragedy in Manhattan happened yesterday, Saturday, March 15, 2008, when a large crane fell 19 stories from the top of a high rise under construction to the streets below, crushing a brownstone and damaging other buildings with the loss of life still unnumbered.
Well back to the subject at hand, The Staten Island Ferry. This free ride gave us our first glimpse of the Statue of Libery and Ellis Island in the distance, which gave me a thrill to see an icon of history in person and not just in a book. When we reached Staten Island, we walked about a block and I'm sure there's more to the island, but we headed back to our temporary home, Manhattan!

The Brooklyn Bridge

We had seen the Brooklyn Bridge countless times in movies and documentaries, so we were determined to invest some time and energy in crossing the one mile span by foot. We had recently enjoyed the movie, "Kate and Leopold," (one more of Meg Ryan's movies on my favorites list). It was a beautiful afternoon as we headed over and our destination was the restaurant on the Brooklyn side, under the bridge called "The River Cafe." The walkway is thankfully on a boardwalk above the traffic, so there's no stress about being run over by anyone! The views of Manhattan, the East River and Brooklyn surrounded us as we imagined being there when it was new in 1883, which at that time was the largest suspension bridge in the world! We learned that it took six-hundred workmen 16 years to build this magnificent bridge designed by John A. Roebling and was the first to be built of steel and so far had lasted 120 years! We enjoyed the views and people who passed us and arrived winded, tired and hungry at the front door of the cafe only to be told they had just finished serving lunch and dinner wouldn't be served for another couple of hours. So we enjoyed the gorgeous flowers that filled the foyer, soaking up the ambience. Still hungry, we headed next door to a quaint old house that serves homestyle ice cream and filled our ache with sweets! We strolled through a nearby neighborhood of vintage homes and then decided to take a water taxi back to Manhattan and give our weary feet a rest, which also ended up being a fun way to travel. We departed the taxi near Pier 17, giving us a chance to explore the pier and the South Street Seaport area, showcasing the wide contrast between cobblestoned streets and skyscrapers looming in the background. Oh, how I love New York!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Place We Almost Missed

The Fall of 2003 still left us feeling shaken to the core when we thought about the events on September 11, 2001. We weren't sure we wanted to include "Ground Zero" in our plans to visit NYC. (I think we were afraid we would feel like just one of the curious that chases the fire engine or ambulance when there's a fire or accident). Would it be disrespectful to peer into the gouge in the earth where so many Americans and human beings lost their very lives? We decided not to include it in our itinerary. But, while on our way to see Battery Park, we noticed a large crowd of people a block or two to our right and wondered what the gathering was, so curiousity tempted us after all, as we imagined a special event or movie-making in progress. As we drew closer, we wondered why the crowd was unusually quiet and seemed to be walking around a cyclone fence with the noise of construction equipment coming from the background. We began to see T-shirt vendors with "I Love NYC," and "FDNY," and then it dawned on us that we had stumbled onto "Ground Zero." Two rusty girders formed a cross just over the cyclone fence, and a wave of sorrow swept over me as the enormity of the hole and flashbacks of the newsreels skipped across my brain and heart. It's hard to imagine how many lives were lost or changed in the blink of an eye as two planes hit the buildings that were no longer there. We made our way around the huge block of cyclone fencing and entered a high rise in the World Financial Center, which was an abrupt contrast in all of its shine and glory. We followed our way to a raised walkway, from which we could get a wide view of the massive hole left in the wake of the unthinkable attack. As we looked to our right, there was a building draped in a huge banner with a heart, that read: "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but the size of the heart." I realized that this site also represented all of the outpouring of love and compassion that took place here in the wake of the tragedy. As we came back to the "Cross" girder and looked across the street, we saw a historical looking cemetery with the backside of a St. Paul's Chapel just beyond, a survivor and sign of hope in a sea of destruction. As we rounded the block, we found another banner of hope on the front of the church, which read "Out of the Dust." I have since read that this church was part of the volunteer relief effort in the months following 9/11. Hope remains.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Got Mail?"

One morning before leaving our brownstone, I googled the movie "You've Got Mail," on our laptop and found a map of some of the places that were featured in the film. Thus, one of our destinations for the day was Cafe Lalo, where the character Kathleen Kelly, played by Meg Ryan, impatiently awaited her mystery email friend, whose online name was "NY152" and to her dismay, her rival in the bookstore business, better known as Joe Fox played by Tom Hanks showed up and plopped himself down in the chair opposite her. As we walked closer to the front of the cafe, there was that famous wrought iron fence that Tom Hanks gave a shake as he recited his lines and a poster in the front window of the scene when Kathleen and Joe sat across from one another at a table for two. Most of the people in the line, which spilled down the stairs and onto the sidewalk were women, and my husband humored me as we joined the line for brunch. The inside of the cafe was decorated in warm inviting wood tones and the glass case displayed mouthwatering pastries that called my name, but I settled on a salad. I began snapping photos with my new camera and I'm sure totally annoyed the group sitting at the next table, as I tried to get a good shot of the wall behind them. From Cafe Lalo, we walked back out to the streets of the Upper West Side and found our way to the 91st Street Garden and found the location of the last scene of the movie, when Kathleen finally finds out who her email buddy truly is. If you haven't seen this movie and love romantic comedies with Meg Ryan, I highly recommend this one!

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Oh, The Met"

High on our list of places to visit in NYC was the Metropolitan Art Museum and we were definitely not disappointed and were wishing we had the time to spend the week there, but alas only a day. My first memory after entering this grand building was walking through the Greek and Roman Art gallery. I meandered among the statues and sculptures which transported me to another time and place, and in the blink of an eye I was admiring the precision of the artists as they chiseled humanity into a piece of stone.

As I think back, the other exhibits that amazed me were the "Arms and Armor" with more armor than I've ever seen, except possibly in an epic movie. I didn't realize that so much armor remained in existence! Other highlights for me were the Egyptian exhibit with one of the largest structures I've ever seen in a museum, the Old Kingdom mastaba (offering chapel) of Perneb, (ca. 2450 B.C.) that you can actually walk through. The room in which it was displayed looked very familiar to me and then I thought back to some famous movies of the past, like "When Harry Met Sally," that have scenes with the large wall of windows in the background.

The one spot I had to return to several times before we departed was "The Great Hall," full of an interesting eclectic collection of different statues from various time periods and cultures. From there we entered the "American Paintings and Sculpture" building, and I had my first glimpse of the famous painting of George Washington, and I was stunned by it's vibrancy and the fact it was displayed there! The painting that stands out in my memory from the European collection was Claude Monet's "Parc Monceau," which I would love a copy of someday to display in my home. So as I entered the museum, I came in with "Oh, the Met," but as we left the building, it changed to "Aah, the Met!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New York, New York...Third Bite

As difficult as it was to leave our adventures in Central Park, the maze of the subway system lay ahead. Being somewhat familiar with our own B.A.R.T. (Bay Area Rapid Transit) back at home combined with my husband's subway experiences from his earlier stay in NYC, the subway map still looked daunting. We gathered our courage and took the plunge down one of the dark stairways to a blast of warm pungent air from below along with the sounds of clattering and squealing of metal against metal. As our eyes grew accustomed to the dark we found ourselves confronted with an array of signs directing us to various trains and people rushing all around us. What if we got on the wrong train and ended up lost forever under the streets of New York? In reality we found our way to Grand Central Station, which was even grander than I had imagined and I stood in the middle of the opulent palace of a station in awe. I didn't want to leave, but we did return many times during our stay whenever we found ourselves without a restroom; we knew we could always find a multitude there, so I jokingly began calling it "Grand Central Bathroom." (Sorry New York!)
As we made our way back to our abode, we found our way to Macy's and had a steaming bowl of soup in their cafe, just to say we walked by the spot that we see every Thanksgiving during the great Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We were just six weeks early. We headed to the B&B for a good night's sleep as we ended our first full day in the "Big Apple."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New York, New York... Second Bite

It was still dark outside as I awoke to sounds of garbage trucks humming their tunes and other rather loud noises wafting their way up to our second story window. As my brain began to thaw from the night's sleep, I suddenly remembered that I was in New York City, not my ranch style home in California. My mind wandered to the first thing on our list of things to do which was to walk half a block to Central Park and wind our way toward downtown Manhattan.
After hearing many tales of how scary Central Park can be with muggers around every curve, I was pleasantly surprised to see mothers pushing their babies in strollers and the elderly out for a leisurely walk, along with joggers of all ages. It was a peaceful, quiet place and after more study, later discovered that much care had been taken in the last decade to restore Central Park to it's earlier purpose of a haven for the weary city dweller, a place of respite. With our travel guide in hand, we found several spots of interest in the park, including Bethesda Terrace and fountain with the benevolent angel casting her shadow on the plaza, Belvedere Castle protecting the pond below and Strawberry Fields with "Imagine," the memorial to John Lennon and someone standing nearby looking like a John Lennon imposter, just hoping we might think John Lennon is still alive. Along the way were picturesque sidewalks with an occasional arbor that begged us to walk through it. I had fallen in love with New York on our first venture out.

New York, New York...My Bite of the "Big Apple"

The summer of 2003, we found ourselves the grateful recipients of two comp airline tickets to anywhere in the continental USA. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, what would be one of the furthest destinations we could travel on these tickets, to a place we had always talked about visiting someday.....aha....of course, New York City! After searching far and wide on the internet highway, I found a bed and breakfast on the upper east side of Manhattan for a reasonable $85.00 a night for nine nights and only a half a block from Central Park! With all of our plans in place to step on the plane near the end of September, we found out my husband's job position was being eliminated around the same time. With the emotional support from family and friends we decided to follow our dream, so on a dark, chilly autumn evening we flew into La Guardia and flagged down a taxi. As the taxi driver peered back at us through the window that separates the driver from his customers, my first glimpse of a local resident was a man with a deep scar and a gruff voice asking for our destination. As we sped across the Triborough Bridge at break-neck speed, I wondered why we were trusting our very existence with this driver in serious need of a speeding ticket! We screeched to a halt in front of a long row of brownstones that looked like artwork and photos I had seen in books and movies. We climbed the stairs, and rang the bell several times and my knees were weak as I thought possibly we were the victims of an internet scam and now we would have to sleep on the sidewalk with our luggage. With a sigh of relief, I could see someone coming down the stairs to open the door and now our vacation could officially begin! First day accomplished.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pismo Beach-Unexpected Jewel

Have you ever heard how great something is, and just when your anticipation rises to a crescendo, it is dashed when you're faced with the real thing? I had heard a multitude of comments on how beautiful, wonderful and spectacular Pismo Beach is, so I decided this time I would allow myself a little skepticism to protect myself.

On a clear, blue-sky, windy day in January, I decided to take a spin down Hwy 101 to pass the time while my husband was taking a workshop nearby. As I came around a long curve, an amazing vista opened before me with a wide-open view of the ocean and and the long arching bay beyond. From the road it was easy to see the long pier extending out into the wind whipped, frothy ocean, so getting there proved simple. Stunned by the perfect view of the ocean, I ventured out of my car, despite the ache in my recently sprained ankle. It is then I realized I had never been on such a pier that breakers were crashing beneath the boardwalk. The roar and vibration of the boards beneath my feet was almost as exciting as a ride at Disneyland. Returning there with my husband a few days later to show off my new best beach, we discovered the Splash Cafe with the creamiest clam chowder and crispy fish and chips. Mmmm, good! We also had the pleasure of meeting a very determined pelican sitting on a railing, waiting for a handout from a fisherman. I had to take a photo!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Experience

I have been thinking about blogging ever since I began reading my cousin's blogs and wondered if I'd ever have enough to write about. One of the highlights of this past week was seeing nine white pelicans (I never knew they even existed until this year) at our local reservoir, while kayaking with my husband. I love quietly drawing closer to one or more in my tangerine colored kayak, paddling softly, hoping not to cause them to fly away, although watching them in flight is exhilirating. After pursuing them across the southwestern corner of the span of water and sadly watching them disappear around a bend in the shore, I noticed a little black coot approaching my boat, making that loud "kuk" sound that reminds me of a cross between a bark and a cough. It was the friendliest bird of the day and I suspect it was looking for a hand-out. With no results from me, it headed toward my husband's boat, imploring loudly and insistently. With no success, it made its way back to me and continued the dance until giving up and wandering away, disappearing in the reeds.