We wanted to leave early to have a day in NYC. But by the time we got laundry done, went out to dinner, and started re-packing for the week ahead it was ten pm Christmas Eve. We had gotten back to DC from Portland at six pm and we were tired from starting at 4 am as written in the previous blog, ‘Oregon – oh so legal now’.
While planning for this trip in Adelaide we thought it would be nice to spend Christmas day in NYC. It would be nice and quiet, everyone would be indoors with family having presents and dinner. And we thought, let’s book a hotel in the Wall St area, there will be no one there, everything is closed, plenty of parking on a public holiday. HOW WRONG WERE WE! Every ‘man and his dog’ was there. Millions of tourists had swarmed the city. We, also tourists, joined them like sheep. First Time Square. When we lived there we NEVER went to Time Square. “That is just for tourists”. Ha! Here we are, shoulder to shoulder with citizens from all over. Actually, after a short time, it got a bit tiresome, struggling for your spot on the pavement. We found us a nice little Indian joint at 160 E 44th St, called Minar. It looked empty, cheap, scruffy, our kind of place. We ate a delicious Indian meal, topped up with the inevitable mango lassis. Yum. We sat in front, facing the street, and watched the peering tourists reading the menu, then we gave them thumbs up and brought them inside……I recon about 8 people. We’re going back next week to collect our free meal. Just kidding. We have a soft spot for all things Indian as we plan a future trip there..soonish, hopefully.
Then on to the Rockefeller Centre and as you can see the crowd followed us. Taking the subway back downtown we checked out the new World Trade Centre, interesting. There is a tree which survived the whole tragedy, standing still, only metres away from the South Tower. Amazing.
A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth. https://www.911memorial.org
There is even a free children’s poem eBook: http://tinyurl.com/hkldtgj
The new WTC subway stop is a strange, spectacular cross between a super modern cathedral and a high-end shopping mall. Locals complain that there are not enough escalators. We noticed that too. Back in the day when we used this stop there was a bundle of about 8 escalators, side by side taking one down to the PATH stop; now it’s just individual ones. Weird.
Our hotel was fine, Holiday Inn Express on Water St, though the heater was bloody noisy, and so I turned it off, and shivered all night.
26/12/2016 Monday ~ DAY 31 of trip
Next morning we negotiated a somewhat mild Holland Tunnel and went to visit Nancy and Larry in Jersey Heights. Nancy, an artist, has a house that looks like a gallery, full of beautiful, funky and interesting stuff. It was a great visit.
So far in our wanders we have yet to meet a Trump supporter. People are still in shock and concerned about the future. Our flight to Europe leaves five days before the inauguration – but we want to see the streets of DC though our airline won’t change our flight. We will have to watch the shenanigans from The Netherlands.
Oneonta, Monday 26th Dec, day 31
The next day we started driving upstate and gradually the whole world changed from rust brown to white. There was no actual snow falling, but as we got closer to Oneonta, there was ice. This would have been fine on the highways. They are generously salted, and ploughed, but our GPS, actually both of them, decided to take short cuts, which we, like good little citizens, followed. Several times we had to turn back because the roads were closed., or completely covered with ice. We found out that you really can’t drive uphill on ice.
We finally arrived two hours later than we had promised at the home of Terrell’s sister, Susan.
Fortunately for me I had made a large batch of my special cookies (no, not special cookies like they make in Oregon) and that became a large part of my diet on this week’s trip. Narda found other things to eat but I am finding less all the time in shops that I will put into my body. It is not because my body is some spiritual vessel, or that I am opposed to the unpronounceable ingredients on packages under the term ‘nutritional content’, with their funny terms for sweeteners, salts, artificial flavours, factory-created fats, colourings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives and just some made up chemical terms that have no specific purpose.
My cookies are in some random amounts made up of: coconut flour, baking powder, flax seed, almond flour/meal, coconut flakes (pea protein powder in Australia – I have not found that here), almonds, walnuts, any other nuts I have, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut oil, butter, stevia, almond milk (I prefer to make my own by soaking almonds overnight then taking their skins off – adding four cups of water and beating the hell out of them), though today I bought some organic processed milk – a rarity, but there was no time to soak) and if I have vanilla I add that and a half-dozen eggs more or less. My recipe changes at times dependent on what I can grab from the shop. I make about two-dozen rather large cookies at a time and freeze them. They lasted on this week’s trip until the last day when the last two tasted a bit funky. Narda is not opposed to them and says I should save them for me as I am a bit picky when it comes to food. Maybe she hates them and says to save them for my diet to be nice. (N:Truth is he puts peanut butter in them……eewww)
I forgot to bring our bottle of apple-cider vinegar (“with the mother’”) so my diet was already suffering and we did not have Chris’ Vitamix to make smoothies to pour over my cereal which is basically similar to the cookies except for the eggs and coconut butter and butter not included but I did have the nuts and seeds as I try not to eat oats or anything that would make my blood sugars go up or would cause Narda to think I have finally gone ‘normal’.
But that all was just a side-track to our immediate journey.
Our GPS hates us – both of them.
We had left New York City, visited Narda’s workmates from her NYC teaching days and were heading northwest to Oneonta, New York. We were already upset with both our GPS (Garmin) and the Google Maps on our phone. Both had gotten us lost going to New Jersey weeks earlier when we had to go collect my computer that I had left on a bus from NYC to DC (that pitiful, though happy ending, story was in a previous blog) and it would have gotten us lost getting to our visit in Jersey if we had not already known the way.
But now both the GPS and Google Maps were really mad at us. We were motoring happily along on interstate 86 headed toward Binghamton and yes, of course we would have to head east at some point but first one then the other got us on to some smaller road which led to a smaller road. Because it was getting to be late afternoon and the temperature was dropping to below freezing (-2 C or something below 32 F) and there was some snow or rain or drizzle falling we saw several cars that had slipped off the road and two that had just crashed. We got to another turn off and yelling at our directional devices, which by the way does no good, continued like idiots following their looney-bin directions, until we were stopped by some emergency vehicle and told that we had to turn around and go back because the road we were on was closed due to accidents. By now we were really getting lost and after finding this quaint little town, Walton, we were sent off onto even a smaller road – like one lane. We asked a man walking a dog how to get to Oneonta and he pointed to the road ahead and named a litany of strange sounding roads thereafter. He ended by saying that his mother was from England too. Not quite the right thing to say to an Australian and as Narda was driving and on an icy road she was unable to do a burnout but following the man with the dog and a mother from England and our GPS and Google Maps drove us forward until we got to a hill that we could not get up. We spent a long time turning around inch by inch and slowly headed back to the bit larger road we had been on to begin with. We got up to Franklin and instead of putting us onto the main highway (route 88) our Google Maps (by now we were so mad at our Tom Tom GPS that we locked it up in the glove-box) took us through many winding streets until we got to my sisters fifteen minutes before her son had to catch a bus back home in northern NY (Potsdam I think, on the Canadian border) but I did get to see Dustin before he left.
My sister… I was adopted in 1950 (already I was a bit old – like three) and did not locate my blood brother and sister until 1988 through a series of long and complicated adventures. See Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’ @ http://tinyurl.com/z6mzxof. My brother (in Hawaii) and my sister, Susan in Oneonta, and I shared the same mother. I have seen Susan four short times previous: 1992 with my two boys in Herkimer, New York, and in 2003 and 2010 or so with Narda in Oneonta. This was the first time Narda and I stayed with her and her daughter, Nikki. Her other daughter, Amanda and her two children came over while we were there.
Oneonta is a college town with the State University of New York College and Hartwick College flooding the city with hordes of undeveloped prefrontal cortex humans (there is an interesting article online “Understanding the College Student Brain” you can read after reading our blog). What is interesting in my world is Hartwick College. I know one of the professors there whose daughter went to school with my sister’s daughter. He is the cousin of my friend Dell (who lived in Guatemala and we visited him a few years ago. I have the blog “Dell and life in general” @ http://tinyurl.com/zj6ppfr). I have always seen life as connections and links; synchronicity in real-time. The World Wide Web, invented in 1991, illustrates this so well. We live the future in the moment by links made in the past. Of course, no one knows how far ‘the past’ is. An immediate past, or a past forged in another time, perhaps in another life time even. No one knows. We go through life never knowing why we have such connections. Perhaps it is all just random stuff with no interpretation needed. Or maybe not. Whatever the caper I found myself at my sister’s who I did not know of until I was in my forties who lives next door to the cousin of my friend from my 1972 – 1974 New Orleans days. I find these connections all the time. Even at this moment as I write about my sister and her family they are all on Messenger-group texting back and forth and they would not know I am writing about them or that I have my phone next to me with their texts going back and forth. Life is cool.
I left Terrell with Susan in Oneonta and met with Diana, Cathy, and Ann for lunch in Cobbleskill. It was a really nice restaurant with a gift shop, taking up lots of rooms, a wine tasting cellar downstairs. So great to catch up with 3 wonderful women that I used to work with more than 10 years ago. We had so much to talk about, and yet everyone was the same, despite lots of water under the bridge.
In the process of looking for fulfillment of our state of hunger Susan told me about the cult group The Twelve Tribes (http://www.twelvetribes.com/) and their restaurant, the Yellow Deli (http://yellowdeli.com). Being an escapist myself from a cult back in the 1960s-1970s I was curious how a hippie-cult still existed. The restaurant was great; a creative and natural looking place, with great food, especially vegetarian. I had soup and declined the bread due to my low-carb diet and my sister and niece had a salad and some other eatable matter. They have these Yellow Deli restaurants in many places including Australia (Katoomba, the hippie area in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney).
Liking to have some say in dinner, Narda and I made a spinach soufflé and happiness was experienced by all. I got to know more of my family, my sister and her family. The fact that it has taken me sixty-nine years to hear stories of my mum and other members of my origins was good. Susan reckons we are one-eighth Chippewa Indian but without one of those DNA tests that are floating around the world I am not sure. I thought for a few days of doing a test to discover my heritage then decided against it. The reason being is that until I was in my forties I had no idea about my blood family and never identified with any nationality. With two passports I consider myself a world-citizen and that is all I need to know. Narda is a world-citizen too; born in The Netherlands, raised in Australia, lived in the USA for nine years and married to a Yank. Though she is Dutch through and through with about five-hundred years of pure heritage until I came along. So perhaps my people sold Manhattan to her people for some shiny trinkets – it makes sense; land for sparkly jewellery. I have five planets in Leo, I do understand. Of course, being of the Twitter – Internet generation (OK a grandparent of the Twitter – Internet generation) and having observed in horror the news of 2016 that especially the Republicans spun, without fact-checking I am sure the Dutch gave the Indians $24 worth of useless glass beads for Manhattan. After all it would have been on the World Wide Web if it had existed and Trump was tweeting. Luckily, I am not political and have no opinions about politics or its aftermath.
28/12/2016 Wednesday ~ DAY 33 of trip
We had the top floor, not the attic, but the top of the house with skylights which Narda pointed out were covered with snow when we awoke. I checked my phone to see if was or had been or would be snowing and no, no chance of snow. In fact, my phone said it was a sunny day. Luckily Narda was OK with going out and shovelling and warming up the car. We used to call it ‘hero of the dawn’ when we lived in upstate New York for four years and one of us had to go out and shovel out the car and defrost the windows so we could drive to Albany for work. And yes, I had plenty of ‘hero of the dawn’ episodes.
I like texting as much as the next guy but I think we take it to a new level when we text someone in the same house. Susan texted me to see if I was awake and what were we going to do for breakfast. She was downstairs and we in the upper room. Narda has texted her son too from our home in the basement (a nice little apartment) all the way to the third floor. When I see a couple having coffee at the local hip-shop I wonder if they are texting one another.
We left Oneonta and family at ten am and visited the last of my family, Jason, my nephew, from my mother’s side, in Albany. After checking in at the Albany Hilton Garden and leaving our crap we went to visit my cousin from adoption, Joyce and her son Derrek. Knowing they no doubt had different political views than us we avoided all political talk and had a nice time. Joyce had looked after my (adopted) father for decades and we were often in contact with her and her friend, Bud, as my father aged from 97 to 102. We had a few difficult times after our protesting about the war in Iraq and they’re in favour of it, but at the end of the day family is what matters and we sort of got past our differences. Joyce being five or so years older than me remembers me as a troublesome teenager. It is intriguing to look at someone and wonder what they remember of you.
We had dinner at a nice restaurant in Albany with my friend Kathy and her husband. Kathy was my first girlfriend when I was a teen and we have corresponded with her over the years. Being a real-estate person she helped us with our houses in Round Lake and now that Narda and I are becoming grey-nomads we are asking questions of others who have been travelling around doing the same. Kathy and Jim have a new mobile home setup and had spent the better half of last year in their caravan (RV to Yanks). Again, what do people remember about us? Do we change much in fifty-nine years?
29/12/2016 Thursday ~ DAY 34 of trip
We got an early start because it was starting to snow. An early start for us now that we are flirting with retirement is ten am. We were on the way to Woodstock, New York to see Marta (http://martawaterman.com/). Marta too knows me from my teenage years as she was the girlfriend of my adopted brother, Robert. Marta has written and published a book about Robert along with the author Marc Seifer (http://www.marcseifer.com/), and me (though I am on the cover as one of the authors it was really Marta and Marc who put this together. I just offered some poems and photos and other artefacts).
Before heading south, we had to go see Liz, the real estate lady who sold our house in Round Lake, New York (http://neuage.org/house/) five years ago. She had found four boxes I had left in the shed. For years I thought they were some small boxes, perhaps of papers so I said the next time we were in New York we would collect them. Holy Cow! Four large boxes. Seventeen carousels of slides (each with 140 slides) plus lots of old books and papers. We put them in the boot (trunk) and drove off. Now we are not sure what to do with them. As we are on this little four-month world-retirement-visiting-folks-tour we have no room for anything more. I am sure there will be some discussion between the wife and me about this little matter in the sweet bye and bye.
Being in the dog-house is an expression of where one should be put. Chris texted and wanted to know if we had used the stove before leaving on our week’s adventure. They had gone to Tennessee for Christmas and we were the last in the house. Well it was me. I had eggs for brekky and somehow left the gas on and when they got home after five days away the house was full of gas. They had to wait outside in the cold with baby Liam for an hour. I would not be surprised if I get shuffled off to a nursing home soon.
By the time we got to Kingston the snow was falling at a steady thick rate. For a while there was almost a white-out, with the snow making visibility non-visible. We had Narda’s son’s car. We had managed to demolish his car several years ago in a freeway accident in Alabama, not our fault but still it happened coupled with the fact we had not driven in snow for five years made us nervous. Marta was unable to drive from her unploughed home on the back hills of Woodstock so we bunkered down at the Best Western just off exit 19 on the New York State thruway. Being hungry again, perhaps because we hadn’t eaten since morning, we found the Kingston Buffett. I usually am not too keen on Chinese all-you-can-shovel-down eateries but having had limited food choices for the week my needs for vegetarian low-carb matter was adequately fulfilled though perhaps not of organic status and we slept the night away dreaming of fulfillment. Well at least I did.
30/12/2016 Friday ~ DAY 35 of trip
We met Marta at a diner for breakfast and she brought us a set of Robert’s books. We do not get to see folks from our past that often as we all get so scattered over the place. We saw Marta about six years ago and before that in about 2005 and before that I knew her as my brother’s girlfriend in Clifton Park, New York, in the mid-1960s. I like the fact that time, friendship, spaces, have no boundaries.
So far in the first thirty-five days of our trips we have seen eighteen people from our (my) past. Four from when I was a teenager more than fifty-years ago, others since Narda and I have been in the States (2002 – 2010) and we will be seeing more from our working days in China that we will visit with here and in Thailand and Narda’s son in Cambodia and here we are living for six-weeks with Narda’s son and daughter-in-law in DC. We are getting snippets of people’s lives. We are re-entering lives. In a sense, there is little difference between going from room to room; there are these years in between but they lose all significance when we are together. Sometimes the initial moments are a bit awkward but soon we could have seen one another yesterday too, instead of years ago. Perhaps having social media connections helps us keep up with one another’s lives and it is more like we have never left.
We stopped at the Woodbury Outlet Malls at exit 16 on our way back to NYC. Crazy day to go, so many people there, it took us ages to get a car park, and even longer in a queue for a pair of trackies. But are nice trackies and I get to leave my old worn out ones, also bought in the states, here for car polishing cloths! ($20USD for nice Nike trackpants….maybe ..not sure…..if it was worth the wait).
After a way too short of a time with Marta and sharing stories of the past few years we got back onto a well salted and ploughed highway and got to Millburn, NJ in the early afternoon to see our lawyer, Marilyn, who had two stained glass pieces we had made. Narda and I had taken stained glass window classes about a decade ago in upstate New York and had made these two groovy pieces which were in the window of our house in New Jersey. When we sold it we forgot to take our pieces and realised when we were in Australia, that we wanted them. Marylin who was involved with our house because of some horrible tenants, rescued them for us and kept them for whenever we would return to the States. We have no room in our luggage for them, but we’ll see. The de-clutter course we took many years ago is just a fading memory now.
Being too tired to brave the last couple of hours to DC we stayed at the Clarion Hotel The Belle, 1612 N Dupont Hwy, New Castle, Delaware. We stayed here a couple of weeks ago. Nothing exceptional except the room was cold until we figured out the heating system so Narda rang the front desk and asked for a blanket. When Narda was told that housekeeping was closed (at 8 pm – never heard that one before) she asked Bobby, the front desk person, where she could get a blanket and he said at Walmart. I thought this was so rude that I wanted to write it up in TripAdvisor’s judgemental-thingy but Narda thought it could have been just a misunderstanding. I am not so sure. We were not going to run out at night and purchase a blanket while travelling because the motel would not provide one. My friend Randy who we stayed with in Eugene the week prior has never been in a Walmart in his life due to philosophical reasons. Where would he have gone?
31 December Saturday DAY 36 of trip
Left after breakfast about ten am drove around Wilmington – got lost thanks to our GPS from hell.
Took country roads until Baltimore then onto i-95 stopped at a Spanish supermarket with little written in English (in Washington DC) and got our sorry asses home in time to babysit Liam so Chris and Jessica could go out for New Years. First Liam then us – all asleep long before midnight. How can tomorrow be a new year? What nonsense. It is really just tomorrow. The first day after today. But many people do go bunkers about it all being a turning point. To us tomorrow is just the next new day to explore and be opened for an amazing time.
To DC about 2:30 pm
Made cookies and zucchini spaghetti had vinegar (with ‘the mother’) in my freshly squeezed organic lemon water and made a smoothie with almond and coconut milk, avocado and other nutritional stuff. Then I felt wholesome.
Day Next 6 – 14 /December/2016
After too few hours’ sleep we positioned ourselves into the morning breakfast line at the only eating place open at 7 am in JFK where we were rewarded with a couple of eggs and a slice of tomato for fifteen bucks; they tossed in a bit of fish scraps with Narda’s eggs for an extra few dollars. After blowing our food budget for the day on the first meal we joined the Qantas flight that had originated in Sydney and fortunately had a half-empty full plane to stretch out and get a bit of sleep in.
Actually the breakfast was really good, and the fish scraps where smoked salmon and capers. Nice and salty. Can’t beat that!
Our New York days. We started off with no luggage. Somehow between Hawaii and NY our luggage went awol. So after settling in our back-of Brooklyn apartment (it was a hood, but hey, welcome! brought back wonderful memories of Joisey!) we walked to our local Sears and bought some stuff…coats..much needed, undies, sox and Terrell bought some gorgeous softie pants, made of some wonderful microfibre. He will no doubt live in them as much as possible. I will steal them when I can! Our luggage turned up the next day. So now we’re not sure how much Qantas will contribute to our spending spree. Got some nice stuff though, also in H&M in NYC. Winter clearance sales. (concerned with the fact we could barely close our suitcases and here we are with bags more).
I love New York. I love America and Americans. The two days in NYC were a treat. On Saturday afternoon we spent a couple of hours drinking Blue Moon beer (my favourite…with a slice of orange) with two wonderful friends and colleagues from St Lukes. One of whom has a gorgeous historic home in the middle of West Village (Greenwich Village), one of the only remaining wooden houses, pre-dating all the brownstones in the area.
We did spend quite a lot of time with our NY friends discussing the-end-of-the- world AKA the-president-elect. Grief counselling mainly!
And then there was our lovely lunch with Kay in a nice Brooklyn café on Henry St. So much to talk about. (We taught with her in Dalian, China; visited her and Frank in Yangon, Burma; and stayed with them in Chiang Rai, Thailand earlier this year.)
We have always found New Yorkers to be helpful to strangers, the guy in the subway who was listening to our conversation, and told us that we could not get off where we wanted to as we were on an express train. Or the guy at the street cart who made us coffee (good coffee), and 2 sandwiches for $8 in record time with a friendly well-wish. Or the guy on the street who asked us “how ya doooin”, not expecting to be told how. I thought they only did that in Jersey. Then there was the guy, one of the guys who walk very fast, saying, unprompted, the shuttle is this way. New Yorkers are again in post-disaster mode, the previous one was post 911. Think about it! They are looking out for each other.
The next day we went to the school. I got so many hugs and well wishes. I also met the new music teacher. His class remembered me; it was lovely. They remembered that I had banned the word “like” in the music room. I asked them if they say the word now, and they replied “yes”. So that was my profound impact on St Lukes!!!
The Air B&B apartment was nicely decorated, posters, candles, but lacked some basics..salt, sugar, a coffee maker, a TV, even no towels when we first got there. But it was a good spot in the back of Flatbush, close to Beverly St Station on the 2 and the 5 trains.
I feel really good today; sitting on the bus to DC. Can’t wait to see our loved ones there. This bus is nice, plenty of room, smooth driving. We were told by a consular office from Spain, while waiting to board, that this beats the train by miles. She says that the train is dirty, in need of repairs, and unsafe! Blimey. And the bus saved us quite a bit.
Had a great ride, that did not end so well as we left the good computer on board. BUGGER
When we got to our stop it was raining. Seeing our suitcases unloaded onto the curb to soak up whatever was falling from the sky we grabbed our coat and whatever crap we had taken onto the bus; and alighted. Running across or dragging our sorry asses more specifically with too much stuff to the other side of Dupont Circle to huddle beneath a bus stop we waiting for Narda’s son Chris to collect us.
Our travels of the past fifteen years have changed from doing a city; sometimes a country, in a few days to weeks in the same place. We get a chance to become locals. There is also my diet which is always a project. Having a low-carb diet is difficult but add the vegetarian trip and other sides then it is a project. Staying in the same place gives me the opportunity to put together my wholesome-time-consuming world. We start mornings with my cereal which is really seeds and nuts and Narda’s is oats and stuff then comes the smoothie. Earlier this year we travelled with a small ninja smoothie bullet setup (as seen on TV) so I could make veggie drinks in Thailand and Cambodia. We could not fit it in this trip as we are carting winter gear which fills every nook and cranny. But there is a proper large mixer for our usage here. Our brekky smoothie consists of yogurt, frozen blueberries, spinach, apple, orange or a grapefruit and a banana which gets poured over our cereal. I use what is left and add my day’s drink which is an avocado, almond milk (I make my own: soaking almonds 24-hours then taking the skin off and adding four times the water to the almonds), kale (I cook up a batch then freeze it and take a healthy amount each day), chia, LSA (not LSD – that was the 1960s – 1970s) and coconut milk/water. BTW, LSA is a blend of ground linseeds (flax seeds), sunflower seeds, and almonds. I haven’t found it in the states so I make my own blend of those things. Then of course to be healthy we need a litre of water a day so I have a one and a half litre bottle I fill and squeeze a lemon in it. All this preparation does not include making meals. Bottom line, we need to stay in a place more than a few days to purchase all the stuff to make my high maintenance diet. I made cookies my first day here in D.C. My low-carb cookies using almond and coconut flour with lots of seeds and nuts and stevia for sweetener. I think I am becoming a difficult traveller. Sitting here this morning with the flu or a bad cold from trying to switch from Australian summer to east coast freeze I am not sure how effective my diet really is. I have been on it for a year now and my blood sugars are often normal giving me that ‘hey, I am normal’ euphoria.
So I realise sometime in the evening that I did not have my laptop. Holy Cow! Utter and sheer panic we ring the Best Bus company and fill out their lost property form online. We stay up half the night changing pass words and I am trying to track my computer with my phone which shows where it was last – Dupont Circle. I had left it on the seat when I put on my cumbersome winter coat dragged from Australia through a week in Hawaii to NYC. I watched all next day, Wednesday, 7th of December, but no one went online with the computer so I started thinking maybe no one pinched it and possibly it got turned in. But where? Best Bus has several depots and as of Thursday, two days since losing it no one seems to have a clue where it could be. Another night of little sleep as I worry about my laptop and whether anyone could get into my bank accounts or webpages and of course not being able to work in Photoshop or play with video creations is a bit of a letdown. But hey, we are in D.C. and what a great place to be.
We went to the police station nearby and reported it as lost/stolen for our insurance company. The police lady was really polite and a nice human being. She asked if there were any government files on it, this is D.C. so I supposed that does happen. I said no there were only some not nice comments about the president-elect which caused her to smile. Did anyone actually vote for this clown?
Friday Narda, Chris and baby Liam (see ‘Finding Liam’ in ‘Liam’s Secret’ @ https://youtu.be/Oy-g3Rpdibo) and I go to the Lincoln Memorial (which also featured in ‘Finding Liam’) then while at home, when Narda and Chris are off to the local playground with Liam I get that exciting email
Holy (organic-grass-fed) Cow! Life is good. People are honest. It was not a cheap throw-away laptop. We paid $2100 for it and the software is worth more than the computer. Usually I save stuff to three backup external drives and on cloud-servers but not for the couple of days before leaving it on a bus bound for New York City.
But wonderful to be living underneath Chris and Jess, our own little pad, we did shopping, twice, took a nice autumn walk, discovered the Ethiopian store and best of all made friends with Liam!!
What a little honey bun. He learnt his first Dutch word, Oma! And he calls Terrell “Rell”. Yesterday Chris and I went with him to the playground after picking him up from the day-care. Chris throws him up into the air, Liam laughing and then saying “more” or was it “again”? Me standing to the side hardly daring to watch!
Last night we took their little car, very nice actually, to….you guessed it Walmart. I had no problem with the right-hand driving, but there were a few challenges; lots of traffic, darkness (it gets dark around 4.30pm, blimey) 4 way stop signs on intersections, impatient drivers honking…a lot. And in the car park not being able to engage Park, until Terrell figures it out. Phew…didn’t have to ring Chris.
Terrell and I are both down with the dreaded ‘lurgy’. Sore throats, a bit achy, and no voice to speak of (haha, pun intended). On Sunday we went to Chris’ church. Wonderful sermon I say without bias. A great community of young people and some older ones. We sat next to this interesting couple, she was dressed in gorgeous colours, I wish I had taken a photo, and was writing notes with interesting illustrations. Chris later told us they come from about an hour away and have 7 kids. I would like to meet them again. Last night Chris had another church friend over, we insisted on him eating with us, had some lively conversation. A nice lad, who had come to Chris’ church because of two, separate recommendations. So that’s pretty cool. When Chris left the room, the visitor spoke very highly of him as his pastor.
So here we are, snot, tissues, cold and flu tabs, and many naps. Nice little break to rushing around. They expect “artic vortex” weather later this week. We’ll see. If this is our last blog, then you will know that it was not good. J
Saturday, the tenth, up early and out the door, packed for an overnighter, heading to Hoboken to rescue my laptop from a life of ill fortune. I had this great notion that we could save lots of money by not paying tolls. Just a short nod to Pennsylvania over there to the left then swing back and plough into Jersey with dollars still in our pockets. I mumbled something about ‘just fifteen to twenty minutes out of the way dear’, ignoring Narda’s slight groan from somewhere off in the distance with some barely perceivable hidden though clearly intended thought pattern that suggested a not fully belief I was right. ‘We’ll be there easily by one thirty’ I proclaimed; another groan in the distance. After all the distance, straight to Hoboken from DC is less than four hours on some hyper-freeway with tolls and aggressive truck drivers so how could a little detour be anything but short? I drove the first section heading out of DC up through Maryland toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was great driving again in the States. We had recently driven to Melbourne from Adelaide and the ten – twelve-hour trip is so boring with little scenery beyond the common outback stuff one wishes they could avoid. There is a town every few miles here in Maryland and all the other States in the area.
We felt in need of a map. A GPS on the phone is great but nothing beats seeing a real map with all the towns and rivers along one’s way. Seeing a sign for a visitor’s centre I got off the main road which was not really a main road to begin with and drove and drove looking for the bloody visitor’s centre. I did discover we were in Carroll County and we eventually came to some outskirts to what seemed to be a large town. Most signs pointed to a Farmers Museum which for unknown reasons we were not a bit interested in. Once in a seemingly town centre we went to the library to ask for a map and take a pee. A friendly librarian sent us off to the ‘official visitor’s centre’ though of course being the creators of their own language in this country spelt it ‘center’. We got our Maryland map and I said, ‘and more importantly – where is a Dunkin Donut shop’? Being morning tea time it made sense to go to the ultimate American morning tea icon. Granted I have lived on this strict low-carb, no sugar diet for this year and I should know better but we did get our donuts and I did feel guilty and a bit ill but the quickly passing pleasure was kind of groovy. We left this ‘historic civil war’ town with their farmer museum and headed toward Harrisburg. It was early afternoon and getting to Hoboken by one-thirty seemed a bit of a stretch considering it was past one now.
Narda took over driving and I the navigation. Harrisburg suddenly looked out of the way so we took Route 27 through Cranberry/Manchester, Maryland and in Pennsylvania took Rout 194 until we got to toll roads going into Hoboken – long story short. We got lost because our GPS did not know about all the roadwork in Jersey and we rocked up at the depot, collecting our prize after six pm.
Having dinner not far from Hoboken at a turnoff from the interstate (toll road) we decided to get to Delaware and booked Clarion Hotel The Belle in New Castle, a fairly adequate place. We got there around 10:30 pm putting to rest my thought of getting to Hoboken at 1:30 pm and to a local country motel by five or six pm. Oh well.
What we remember from our old tromping around the States days is the included breakfast. With my diet I am quite limited to an apple or some such nonsense though Narda liked the bacon and other brekky stuff. Being a lover of covered bridges; we used to search them out when living in upstate New York (2002 – 2006), and found Wooddale Bridge over Red Clay Creek at Wooddale in New Castle. From there we managed to get home by 2:30 pm Sunday taking toll roads so we could go to Narda’s son’s church thingy.
Feeling ill from colds we lay about and had lovely retired days for Monday and Tuesday. Today, Wednesday, we are headed out to Baltimore; taking country roads, looking for covered bridges, seeing some of the places I lived in 1975 – 1979.
Day 6/7 01 – 02 December: Thursday and Friday
70th Annual Kaimuki Christmas Parade
Our last night in Hawaii was as local as you can get. We took the 13 bus. The actual stop, we discovered on our last day was right outside our block of flats; you just had to go to the other end of the lobby. We chatted for a while with 3 homeless guys, talking about how expensive real estate was in Hawaii. Just before we left one of them came up to me and said, “if I were a bit younger I’d ask you to marry me!” Well there’s one to blog about. I think he was about 50. It made my night. The bus took us about 20 minutes up the side of the hill near Waikiki. We stocked up on some munchies at the supermarket and found ourselves a good seat in the gutter. It was fun. We discovered that if you had a bag, you would be given many gifts by the paraders; candy canes, tootsie rolls, even little lights. It was a fun hour.
Friday 3 December
Our last day in Hawaii. Maybe sometime to return. I have managed to find myself here six times, five from Australia and twice with Narda. We were supposed to have come here in August, 2003, but the events of Leigh stopped it. Our ticket was for a Monday and his last day was the Saturday before which changed everything for me and we went to Sydney instead of Hawaii. (http://neuage.org/leigh.html) It took us thirteen years to get back this time.
Of course I had to compete with a homeless guy that wanted to run off and marry Narda but I had the promise of an upcoming parade to go to and no woman can forego a parade. I used to be in the Shenendehowa High School band in upstate New York back in the 1960s and playing trombone I was in the front row; always a chore for me as there was just too much to keep track of: staying in step, playing the song, and watch where we were headed. I seldom could do all three and usually chose to watch where I was going. I looked forward to seeing a parade that the write up said would involve 1,500 people with lots of floats and several marching bands. Of course you would have seen our video by now and realised that the parade was a series of mottly groups of disorderly people. But this is Hawaii and there are not a lot of order and rules. When in Hawaii it is best to chill and follow your own path. Life is a parade and Hawaii is the best one.
Now is winter. By tomorrow we will know what winter really means when we get to New York City in the evening with a 4 C forecasted. Looking at my app for the weather right now at all our places we will be in before back to Adelaide (centigrade): Honolulu = 23, D. C. = 9, Saratoga = -3 (that is minus three – we will be there later in the winter when it actually gets cold), Eugene, Oregon = 3, Helsinki – 2 (minus two), Utrecht, The Netherlands = 7, Chiang Ma = 20, Phnom Penh = 26. Of course all those places will change as we get to them being colder for the east coast and northern Europe and warmer for Southeast Asia.
Observations: Observations of a selection in time is always tricky. I am 47-years older than the first time here – damn! It was the 1960s and early 1970s. The homeless dudes we saw in Waikiki could have been my lot. I had a time after leaving the occult order that I got sucked into for a couple of years in Hawaii then later in the 1970s when I had nothing. I had lost track of the girl and her baby I had come to Hawaii with and I was homeless. I went and lived on a beach in Maui for several months then on the big island. I got the money from my parents to get back to New York. Decades of some good breaks got my life from a homeless person in Hawaii to a few months from seventy-years old with a good mate and enough money to make Hawaii a stop on a round-the-world trip.
When I lived here 1980 – 1981 and Sacha was born I had another observation of Hawaii. I worked here and started the parenting thing. I lived in Honolulu and Waikiki those two stages of my life. This time I was here as a tourist. Narda and I were here as visitors in 2002; on the Big Island visiting my brother who I have only seen once in my life (half-brother, same mother – found each other at the end of the 1980s). I stopped here with my children in 1985 as a single parent when we stayed with Randy whom I have known since 1968 and who got me in the occult order here in Hawaii in 1969 and whom we are visiting in a few weeks in Oregon.
Not a lot has changed in Hawaii in those forty-seven years that I have seen during various phases of my life. It has always felt like a long way from anywhere – well it is a couple of thousand miles from the mainland of the USA. To be homeless and out of money here is really being stuck. It is not like one can hitchhike to another place. Money here is generated by the tourists so being older and not in the tourist business and not being Hawaiian is difficult. Maybe being a surfer would be good. Hawaii is very expensive, even more so than Australia. Food is mostly all imported from the mainland or Mexico. Our eggs came from Arizona our milk from Texas our tin of pineapple that said Dole Pineapple on it was from the Philippines – go figure. All that food is expensive. We had decided to be able to make it for four months we would have to have a budget of fifty-dollars a day for food until Asia then forty-dollars a day. We managed to be $78 under budget by the end of this first week so we are proud of ourselves. Our first day we ate at what appeared to be the cheapest eats around and that was $48 by the end of our scrappy little meal. Also, with my low-carb diet and vegetarian high-horse mind-set eating out is not really much of an option. We had better meals than we would have had at restaurants anyway. Then there is the tipping. Australia is free of such nonsense. They pay their servers a fair amount. Why do we have to give 20% to someone that is already being paid to bring us the food? OK so they don’t get paid much – add more to the bill and pay people properly. Here if a meal is $15 there is a service tax, city tax, and then they want a tip so it suddenly becomes $20. If someone picks up your bag they expect a tip. You can tell which are the Aussies and who are the Yanks at hotels or for airport shuttles. Australians say thank you, Yanks give cash. I like to thank people for their efforts.
As I have pointed out prior the best way to get around is by the bus for $2.50 or we just say two seniors and put two-dollars into the thingy. There are also the open-air trolleys from Ala Moana shopping centre to Waikiki for two-dollars. Watch out as they will try to sell a $25 pass for the trolley to get around for the day.
We got the afternoon flight to Los Angeles feeling a bit worse for wear arriving close to eleven pm and getting to the Crown Plaza and to bed closer to midnight than we would prefer. Sinking into the multiple soft pillows I questioned whether we would be getting ourselves up and to the 8:30 AM flight. Unfortunately for my aging body and wobbly consciousness I was awake too many times and Narda told me in the morning that she slept even less. We were finally, deeply, happily asleep when the front desk rang with an incredible loudness fifteen minute before the requested time of 5.30. There was the inevitable falling forward to the airport where we had a rather good though expensive breakfast. A couple of eggs with a bit of tomato and toast equalling our allotted allowance for the day.
With a good five-minutes of sleep under our belt on the plane’s drift into the clouds we settled in to watch films and I played around with photoshop and some photos of clouds and snowy hills covering someplace in Arizona. I had to make some adjustments because the original photo was too light to discern clouds from snow from earth from something blue so I changed some things; actually the blue was not in the original photo.
So next stop, New York City and a few days at an Air B&B in Brooklyn before settling in for a few weeks in D.C.
This has been a fantastic visit with friends, family, business people and just being in the States. However, this is because we have learned through decades of travel to get only just so crazy with the actual travel part of our travel. Getting to the destination and getting to the destination with our belongings has often put in the mindset of why did we ever walk out the door of our home to begin with. As I dribbled on about in the two previous blogs getting from Dalian to Beijing to Vancouver to Newark then to Atlanta was all as normal as travel in the electronic age can be. Getting from Atlanta to wherever it was we were headed for but finally ended up at and four days later still wondering where parts of our extended selves – e.g. our luggage are.
Those companies that are upsetting our peaceful blissful zen-like traveling selves:
Delta – who is running your show? Are you really a business that gets people and things to places they pay for? Delta you make China Southern almost look like a real airline and they just lost our luggage for good last year though it was only my Piggly Wiggly umbrella and a specialized curtain rod Narda had found in one of those southern states few tourists ever go to – she said it would be good for our window in China. We had them so well marked and you lost them somewhere between Melbourne Australia and Guangzhou China and spent weeks stringing together enough words in English before we realised they were gone forever and the compensation we received did not match the emotional attachment that I had formed with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella – but not to worry, we know China Southern struggles to act like a proper airline; we know this how? Because we have traveled for the past few years with them and are constantly amazed how we ever get anywhere, not to mention our precious luggage. And we have learned to bring our own food because no one in their right-mind could eat that crap China Southern serves.
Delta! You are the queen of shit.
So we have our flight from Atlanta. What a restful time we had in Atlanta; three days in the mountains at a large lovely house deep in a mountain forest a few days with Narda’s son and his wife and all was good until we got to the airport. We checked in our luggage and got on the plane and even to the end of the runway. After a few moments the pilot went on about some traffic delays in Newark and we would be delayed a few minutes. The next announcement was that we would be leaving in 45 minutes. An hour later we were told the plane was headed back to the terminal but not to worry it would be just a slight delay but we did need to get off of the plane and take our stuff with us. “Just stay in the waiting area and we will have you on your way soon…” another hour – “the flight has been canceled”. OK these things happen so we are told we would not get a flight out Sunday night – we were suppose to leave at 2 PM Sunday. Turns out there is no way to get to Newark but we are able to get to Albany on a ten pm flight. Albany is where we are headed anyway. We were going to Newark to collect a rental car and drive upstate stopping overnight at Marta’s house in the Catskill then going on up the next morning to do our many errands.
We were very clear that our luggage was to get sent to Albany and we were told that all along the way; at the counter where we got our tickets and at the check-in counter at the gate we were told our luggage was definitely on the flight. When we arrived at Albany our luggage was not there and after much checking we were told it would be on the next flight which would have been seven AM Monday morning if that had not been canceled but not-to-worry there was a flight arriving at 2 in the afternoon and they would deliver out stuff to our hotel. In the meantime we could purchase what we needed for the night and for clothing for the next day but keep it under $50 or they will look at it more closely.
Who knows this?
It is not what airlines will tell you but it is true. Once our luggage went for a walk-about when we got to Scotland. We told them we were off for a week and could not wait until the next day for our stuff and we were told to purchase what we needed which to keep this short and not to reveal my dim-memory we needed to purchase a suitcase to carry all our new stuff in. When we got back to Edinburgh a week later we collected our luggage and nicely added our new suitcase of clothes and ‘necessities’ and went on our way and they paid for all we purchased.
At midnight we went to the only place open, Walmart, in Clifton Park; which by the way is close to where I grew up and lived more than 50-years earlier, and bought a few things. The next morning, Monday, still without our luggage we bought some more. And we did keep our purchases below $500.
Tuesday we needed to drive on to New York City and still our stuff was in Newark. We rang three times telling them not to send our belongings to Albany as we were driving to Newark Airport to collect our things. They assured us everything would be held for us.
This is just the baggage and car-rental part of my story. The family, friends, good news, houses and what a trip really is about I will say next so I will not forget which is the only reason to write anything down because I forget stuff the next day and to remember all the good stuff is easy but to put it into context or even in some sort of chronological sequence of it-was-three-years-ago, no, actually it was last month is useful for various reasons though I can not recall why at the moment.
So rentals have been a pain this trip. This was our third rental. The first was with Advantage Car Rental and we dealt with the biggest wanker in New Jersey with our first rental of a couple of days. The final bill was more than three times what was offered on Expedia which is more than usual. We always allow for twice the quote but by the time so many various taxes and stupid stuff was added the bill was more than three times the original quote. We rented from Advantage again in Atlanta for a few days and that was OK. This time we rented from Alamos Car Rental from Albany Airport for two days to deliver to Newark Airport. Our quote from Expedia was about a hundred bucks with taking it to a different location but our final bill was $275 and that is with us bringing back a full tank of petrol. So we have a lovely time visiting upstate – which I will get to – and midway to NYC – which I will get to and we get to Newark and there is no such location to return it to that is on our paperwork. We are a bit nervous by now as our phone has almost no charge left because the charger is in our suitcase at Newark Airport. We ring Alamos to find out where to take the car as the address does not exist they gave us. A rude cranky person gives us another address and we go there but there is no Alamos Car Rental there. With but a few seconds left we pull over and get Alamos Car Rental on the phone and say it is an emergency, come get us then our phone dies. We do not like sitting alongside the runway with no Alamos Car Rental or any place of business near where we are sitting which is where we were told Alamos Car Rental was. We decide to be more pro-active and to leave it at the first car-rental place at the airport we see. As we are driving toward the airport on this side-road we see a tow truck rushing past us – no doubt to our emergency. The first car-rental we come to at the airport is National and we drive in, get out, and say to the woman checking in cars that we are leaving this car and that it is an Alamos Car Rental and she says fine and gives us a receipt and off we toddled to Delta Baggage to liberate our suitcases. So aside of the huge price change Alamos Car Rental was OK they just have terrible service and have no idea where their cars belong. Obviously this happens heaps as it was easier to abandon our rental than we thought it would be.
At Delta, to our surprise, though I am not sure why, there was Narda’s bag but not mine. Holy-cow, they sent mine to Albany a couple of hours earlier. They said it could not come back until the next day, Wednesday, and to get on the first flight it would have to go with United then if we waited for 6 – 8 hours after its arrival we probably would have it delivered to our address. As we are not staying at a hotel but renting an Air B & B place for this week and we had an appointment with our finance adviser in The City Wednesday afternoon we rang and told them we were coming to collect it. This little communication with a company that would be unable to organize a screw in a brothel took more than an hour. The first person I believe was speaking English as some of the words sounded like English but most did not seemed to convey that perhaps the plane with my luggage did leave Albany and had arrived in Newark at 5.40 this morning but as it was a United flight and my bag had a Delta number on it she could not fine it in the system. At eleven AM without our first cup of coffee we got our sorry asses to the PATH train and to Newark. Now at Newark one can take a bus to the airport which we usually do for a couple of bucks but it takes awhile and stops heaps and we were agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry so we took Amtrak, at $16.50 for the two of us, the one stop to Newark Airport. Of course it takes people to the AirTrain at Newark only before going on its merry way. Unknown to us there is another fee of $5.50 on the AirTrain to go the couple of minutes to the terminal. We had already paid too much so following Narda which one tends to do especially when she is acting taller than her five-foot eleven tallness and she is agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry I quickly went through the gate which was open due to the person in front of Narda opening it to get her bags through and walking fast so as to not hear if someone was calling back to pay some unfair fee we discovered that the AirTrain was not running and we all got herded onto a bus to the terminal.
We had tea (dinner) last night with Narda’s art teacher friend (from five years working together at St. Luke’s School in the West Village) and Nancy use to say back in those years that she was going to have a bracelet made that would say, “what would Narda do” because Narda had a reputation for doing what Narda does and she is a great role model (though at times, frightening) for getting done what needs to be done. Nancy reminded us of that last night. Of course Narda said Nancy was true blue which is a great compliment to another human. According to the Australian Urban Dictionary “true blue = The real thing, no bullshit”.
Today having lunch with a few of Narda’s ex-work mates they were saying how “Narda” is a verb at work. “I will Narda it” or “I Narda-ized it” which is doing what is needed then telling someone. Or doing something then asking permission. I know we do this, not just us but most people at our current workplace because to ask first means getting a no but doing what needs to be done or should be done or want to have done then telling about it gets far better results.
Of course my suitcase was not at Delta’s baggage when we got there at 11:30 and Narda in her scary way walked straight into the back area where baggage is stored as three people were yelling at her not to go into the back area. Eventually a woman was on the phone calling United telling them it was an emergency that my bag had to be at the Delta area within the next ten minutes. I was left at the counter as Narda headed upstairs to get a taxi voucher to get us to our appointment on Lexington Avenue – a couple of blocks from Grand Central.
Did you know this? The airlines will give you a taxi voucher to where you are staying if you go to collect luggage that was not on your flight. We got a voucher to where we are staying this week in Jersey City the night before including paying extra to have the person stop at a super market so we could get some groceries. Airlines will never tell you these things about getting supplies if your luggage does not arrive or getting taxi vouchers you have to confront and get this done.
My suitcase did arrive at the Delta Baggage Area and now it was 12:30 – almost seven hours after the plane landed and three days after it never made it on the same flight to Albany this past Sunday evening.
The Delta paid-for taxi, the driver driving like he was in China; no seat belt and going very quickly and weaving in and out of traffic got us to Lex Ave. within an hour which was really good considering the traffic. We got to our appointment on time – our Australian money advice person – and all was good.
We are quite happy that the Aussie dollar is dropping like a stone the past couple of weeks going from $1.05 to 91 cents making our Yankee dollars worth more than ten% more than a few weeks ago. Part of the reason is because of the slow down in China – go China.
Narda says I use to many words to say what I have to say. She use to tell me by mid-day that I had used up my word-count for the day. What? I suppose part of taking on a wife is dealing with their ideas, concepts, stuff-in-general. She does not say that anymore either because I use less words in a day or because she is being kind or she has given up and accepts my dribbling on. However, saying that, I doubt I could have said this all about Delta in any fewer words.
Being in upstate New York was so good. I grew up or made a bloody good attempt at it until I had a gut full of the place and at age 16 headed out on my own to become a writer and artist and 50 years later realising this did not come about but being more accepting of life’s muddy and murky path or at least the ones I have usually gotten on to I am not stressed about the fact I never became the artist-writer celebrity that as one with so many planets and points in Leo should have realised I move forward in a semi-blissful way.
We firstly checked on our houses in Round Lake, http://neuage.org/house/. Beautiful Victorians with good tenants. In our large house the couple have had four children since moving in six years ago and in our smaller house the couple had a child their first year there. These are very fertile houses. We have a great painting couple who paint a side of the house every year; this is the downside of Victorians – absolute money-pits. And we had lots of stories to swap between upstate New York where the new Global Foundry is only a ten minute drive or half an hour bike ride away. (“Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York is currently the largest commercial capital expansion project in the USA”) and our adventures in China. They are building a college there as well as some other chip company and lots of tech companies are moving in all close to our little retirement investment places.
We had lunch with my first girl-friend, Kathy, from more than fifty years ago. Kathy is now our real-estate chick and is looking after our houses if anyone wants to purchase a couple of beautiful Victorians so we can retire she is the one to speak with. My father use to be upset that I was dating her because she was a Catholic and in Clifton Park, a 99.9% WASP area then – not anymore, that was really outside the box. My father use to give me those Bible tracks that had a heading “what happens if I marry a Catholic?” well years later I did find out as my first wife (the witch) was a Catholic and true enough my life turned to shit.
Two days ago, Tuesday, we visited my sister and her family. It was the third time in my life that I had seen my sister. A long story that I will not tell now but I was adopted and spent decades trying to find my family and I did and I have a blood brother in Hilo who I have seen once and my sister Sue that I have seen twice before. In other words I have little sense of family. I was a single parent raising my two children and for the most part before meeting Narda and being adopted by her wonderful family twelve years ago I have been on my own.
This was by far my best visit with Sue and her sons and a daughter and her grandchildren. I feel like at age 65, a few weeks from 66, I may end up being a part of my original family yet. Susan’s son, Justin, is so similar to my son Sacha that one would have thought they had grown up together to have such similar traits. Maybe there is something to bloodline.
On the way to Newark – to collect our luggage – I believe I mentioned that above – we stopped in to have lunch with Marta – http://martawaterman.com . Marta is one of my role-models in life. She is a few years older than me – living life to the fullest and on her terms. She is a musician, professor, actor, author and heaps of other stuff. She was a girl-friend of my adopted brother back in the mid-1960s. Marta and Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ a professor who was a friend of my brother and writer of many books are writing a book on my brother who was an artist, writer and musician in NYC up until dying in 1992.
and that is the past couple of days
Here is a picture of my wander-lust of a suitcase – how could they miss it?
What a great day in NYC and having lunch with the Butlers was great with Narda catching up with her old – well not old as in we are old but former – workmates in their wonderful home built in the 1700’s – the only wooden house still standing in the West Village from the 1700’s.
POME = Prisoner of Mother England; our British speaking GPS
Monday, June 24 2013
Following on from yesterday’s blog; https://neuage.me/2013/06/26/lama-temple-and-beyond/ – flying Beijing to Vancouver and on to New York City, arriving at one AM and sleeping a few hours we collected our car rental and plugged in the GPS that Randy Dandurand gave us some five years ago. Great how these things keep working. It had slept in its little padded cell for a year. We used it a year earlier to get lost around in several Southern States.
Isn’t it something how humans can attach human traits to items? When we plugged it in, our British speaking male voice started right off with the directions we needed to get to where we wanted to go. Of course we should know without a GPS, having lived in Jersey City for three years, how to get to our home to see the condition our renters have kept it in but Jersey City is a very confusing place to drive about in, especially in the airport area.
We expected our GPS to be a bit more personal, like ‘how ya doin? Good to see you again. My you have lost weight’ (that was Narda’s thinking wondering why it was not more personal). I want a GPS that talks, not just give instructions in a dry humourless British voice. How about some jokes? Even some sarcasm like ‘I cannot believe you two will not follow what I say and even with my step-by-step instructions you stuff up’. Maybe some jokes or a little bit of a tour guide of wherever we are. A GPS that sings and hums and whistles, one in which we can put in your name; ‘my my Terrell aren’t we a bit precious today, not enough sleep? You are sounding so cranky if only you would have turned right instead of left – this is not Australia surely you know which side of the ride you should be on….’
I have often wondered why humans personalize stuff. When I lived with Lynn back in the late 1970’s in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland she had a Volvo named ‘Harvey’. “i am going to take Harvey out for a wash”, “I need to fill up Harvey”, “it looks as if will snow tonight so I will put Harvey inside”. She named lots of things but I only remember the car. I would ask her about her life with inanimate objects but she committed suicide in 1982.
Narda has exchanges with objects too. I have heard her talk to her computer and tell it she is sorry but it will be replaced, maybe it was a practice line for me. “Sorry you are a bit fragile and slow I will have to put you down…” I bought a new computer yesterday; a Lenovo, 16 gig RAM, 1 terabyte HD – lots of great features – top of the gaming computers reviews say. Great red back-light under the keys and I have a year’s Adobe Creative Cloud membership – every product they have now on my desktop so I can edit more of my boring YouTube clips and my thousands of webpages and soon too many apps that no-one will want. I am hoping I can continue with my subscription in China using my VPN but I am concerned I will not be able to as Adobe just gives the finger to China. But to get back to speaking to objects. When I get back to China I am just going to flat-out tell my three-year-old laptop that it has been replaced by something younger, faster and better looking and that I am in love with my new computer and it is going off to an orphanage where some kid will change the English keyboard to Chinese then probably drop it. Why beat around the bush? Of course some people would apologize to the bush before beating around it.
To change the objects topic for a moment – our first stop was the outlet malls and no amount of jet lag can stop such meaningful events. When my son Sacha and his girlfriend, Georgia, visited us a few years ago I collected them from JFK – they had flown Melbourne – Bangkok – NYC with no sleep and lots of free alcohol but before we went to our home in Jersey City we went to this outlet mall just like Narda and I did last night. We have the rest of our life to sleep but a sale only lasts for so long.
Our rental car was great and fancier than our previous old Honda we had three-years ago when we lived in the States. No we did not talk to it; well I didn’t – Narda a bit of a conversation with it. The car did not start with a key but with a button which was fine and even though we were jet lagged we decided to go out past the Newark Airport to the docks so I could get some photos and video as the sun set. I drove the first long ways where we stopped to take photos:
Narda had the second shot at driving and the car would not start. She kept pushing the button and nothing happened. Of course we got into some kind of laughing fit that two old people naturally would when they discovered the car they were driving would not start and there was no one anywhere near as it was Sunday evening on the Jersey City docks. Narda pleaded with the car to start – I am not so polite when it comes to objects not working and I would just well have dropped a match into the petrol tank and proclaimed that the bloody car was a piece of junk and no longer worked. After many long moments of discussion with the car – Narda in her best elementary-teacher voice trying to get the stupid thing to function – she realized that when she put her foot on the brake then pushed the button it started. I am only telling this story so that we can look it up on my blog the next time we get a car without a key that will not work. Then Narda got us hopelessly lost in some dangerous-looking hood in Newark which recently was labeled the murder capital of the States. For some reason the GPS got left back at our hotel – probably for acting so prissy in telling us how to get to places; and no it was not me that took it out of the car and put it back in a suitcase – but as I am not one to lay blame I will not.
What I love about Jersey City is its competitive manner she takes to out-pollute the world more than Beijing. Here is one of their picturesque evening sketches:
There are so many smells in this area from sicking sulphate odors to various food smells – a lot of imitation foods and flavours are created in Jersey City – really, we looked it up on the Internet. If you want your pork to taste like apples or your perfume to smell like muskrats this is the place to find it.
We were excited about eating at ihop where breakfast is a lot more than rice and more rice covered with MSG and other stuff, maybe even from Jersey City, that is served for breakfast in restaurants in China.
We visited our tenant who has been renting for the past year our three story row house in Jersey City, who happily is taking another year, saving us the realtor fee of finding someone new. Nothing ironic about it but our tenant is from China; he and his wife and two year old have made quite the messy house for us. Their kid has taken over the house and the place was an absolute pig stye. It wasn’t just the wall-to-wall toys but just the general mess. And that was just the lounge, he was not keen on showing us upstairs or downstairs though as the landlords we should have asked to see. There is no escaping China for us. We even had a couple from China looking at purchasing our house in Australia but we have taken it off the market so there was no further dealings. Maybe it is my tofu diet of the past 40 years that links me with Asia; see http://tofu.neuage.us but whatever it is there is no escape. I am sure our large Victorian in upstate New York will be just as messy; the couple there have three children, all three born since they have been renting. Our little Victorian next to it is rented by a couple who just had a child so whatever it is about us renters like to pump out the children in our homes. http://neuage.org/house
When we left NYC two years ago the new World-Centre building was about half of what it is now. In China they would have built the whole thing in six months. We will stomp around NYC for a few days next week before continuing with jet-lag games in Australia. I love NYC having done my hippie internship there between 1964 – 1969 before going west: California, Oregon, Hawaii then Australia for 22 years and back to New York 2002 – 2011 and now China 2011 – 2014. We have not been in the States for Fourth-of-July as we went to Australia every summer for our ten years in New York and with the 4th a week away we will try to be like other east-coast folks and train it to a beach on the Jersey Shore.
Next stop, Atlanta, Georgia
We left a few hours late from JFK. At one point they said the airport was closed due to rain and lightening. By the time we got to Shanghai at 10 pm 14 hours later we were pretty stuffed. Fortunately the airport has storage lockers and we were able to leave behind three large suitcases and with our remaining two we got an hour taxi ride into town. Grand Mercure hotel is listed as a five star place. The beds were so soft and it would have been a long night sleep if we hadn’t slept for a few hours on the flight over. We were in bed by one am and wide awake @ 4.30, starving. We are clock watching for when the buffet opens at 6.30.
Just returned from such an excellent breakfast, one of the best we have seen in years anywhere in the world. With a little bit of energy left and too much food inside we are headed out for a couple of hours walk and will take a nap before flying on to Melbourne tonight.
A short clip of flying over the poles;
Youtube is not playing in China along with Facebook and Twitter and heaps of other sites so I will post on my own.
It is one of those moments when one realizes the suitcase is still ten-pounds overweight, the last-minute list has few things crossed off of it: ‘Go to Hoboken and change the insurance policy from home-owner to four young computer guys from India are renting our house’, ‘redirect mail to Australia’ which would be fine if the post office actually redirected mail. Since having redirected to our apartment in Harlem from our home in Jersey City 15 days ago we have not received one redirected piece of mail and I am now off to meet up with one of the Indian dudes who is bringing all our non-redirected mail into Manhattan to save a trip to Jersey City – though it does not save us a trip to Hoboken because our insurance company said they will not send our policy or any correspondence to Australia or to China, then that pesky ‘last-minute-list’ of Narda’s (she has been hanging last-minute-lists on doors and walls for the past 11 years, as we always seem to be packing and headed to an airport somewhere): close T-Mobile – we hate that company, return scales to school – probably because we are always over weight, not us, just the baggage – and to think the shipment to China which was like 800 pounds over weight is waiting for a ship that won’t sink to drag it over to Dalian, mail packages – that is because we are overweight so we are posting stuff at $58 per 12X12X5 inch box, book town-car for Friday, good golly that is two days away then we are off to JFK, cancel New York Sports Club – which I can’t get to today because of this damn last minute list, something about changing something with the airlines, order my vegetarian meals for China Eastern – oh no – they take out the meat and give me an extra serve of sticky yucky white rice, purchase excess luggage from Melbourne to Adelaide… and I just do not want to read on. I just wanted to go to the gym and work on my six-pack-not and biceps and those other saggy 63-year-old bits.
So what does one do when they get overwhelmed by ‘yes we are leaving the USA after nine-years, hoping renters in three-houses will behave and pay rent and not party too hard, and all those things we were going to do in NYC and the rest of the USofA and never did and all the people I was going to look up and say hi-bye to and all I did was get nine-years older with yet another to-do-list in front of me? Well what I do in these situations is work on my webpages and blogs and think OK I will give the gym a miss and this list will just get done through some cosmic virtual abstraction.
Just looked in the mirror – something I usually avoid – and saw two grey hairs – oh no! I had planned to wait until after 65 for that… This is what leaving the USofA has done to me.
Narda and I left at the same time, 7.15. She got to St. Luke’s School at 8 I got there at 11.30. She took the train I walked which proves the subway is faster than walking 145 blocks.
this is a youtube clip which of course does not work in China – where we are at the moment so if below is blank with no video you are in China
And just the day before we wandered over to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, an easier twenty-minute walk from home.
I started keeping track with 19 weeks to go.
We were hired via Skype whilst in Shanghai on our return from Christmas in Australia; 31 December 2010, we left New Year’s Day 2011 for NYC. When we heard those last words ‘we would like to hire you both’ we jumped up and down on our bed like children learning their parents had run away with the circus. What a way to end one year and start another one.
Being a teacher in New York City is good. Watching the City delete teachers is not good. Of course the last school I was at, Ross Global Academy was closed by the city’s education department for being about the worst school in NYC. It was not me, I only was the computer guy, it was those running the school; like with seven principals it its six year history, and the love of hiring teachers straight out of college (a cost saving) who had no experience dealing with an inner city public school or any school for that matter.
From their homepage “RGA is committed to providing a holistic education to enable students to develop a global worldview and the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. RGA prepares students to think critically and creatively, understand and respect different cultures, become leaders, use technology, live healthy lives and develop a passion for learning.”
Aside from using technology I did not see the rest of their ideals happening. RGA was a battlefield. But I am not knocking RGA, I enjoyed my working there and I set up some innovative projects such as our live musical interactions between RGA and the overly talented music teacher at St. Luke’s School (oh wait that is other one off to Dalian with me to teach, who was jumping on the bed at the end of December with me in Shanghai).
Seven days from now we get the local limo out of Harlem and head to JFK for a meal or two on the way to Shanghai for a couple of days then to Melbourne to see one son for a few days and off to Adelaide for six weeks to see more of the family. Narda is excited about her grandchild which is incubating in the Adelaide Hills. We will miss that birth, November, but we will be back for Christmas with an armful of strange baby things from China.
In the past 19 weeks we have managed to reduce our belongings to one seven by five by six foot container, collected a few weeks ago and sitting near some wharf to be tossed aboard some float-able device headed for Dalian. And two overweight suitcases and a few bags disguised as carry-on camera bags for our flights. We have gotten a painter for our houses in Round Lake and a new tenant for one of our houses up there and four Indian lads in their 20s renting our house in Jersey City. I think we are almost ready to go.
Of course we still have a few stray bags and boxes which we have to either wear or discard as they just won’t fit on the plane.
After nine years in New York we are out of here.
We came for a year or two in 2002 to look after my then 97 year-old-father, who shuffled about until a few months shy of 102. Now we are headed to China. We have one week left to explore and do all those things in New York City that we may never get to do again.
like all moves, it was not easy, until it was over, then it seemed easy… by comparison. It was the lead up to moving that was the long process ~ a mere six months. A lot longer than eleven years ago when Narda helped me move out of my home in Christies Beach, South Australia on a 41 C (that is over one-hundred Fahrenheit) day and it seemed I had no concept of de-cluttering @ the time.
Eleven years later I know the concept but the reality has failed to integrate. Back in 2000 we just shoved it all in her father’s van and trailer and headed to Adelaide. Now after nine years in the States, the last three in Jersey City it was time to move on. We packed our main collectables and had a freight company pick them up a couple of weeks ago to ship to Dalian, China. I just received an e-mail that said we went over our 2500 pound agreement and now we need to pay $600 more. What??? our precious little collectables weigh more than 2500 pounds? “But dear they were just a few souvenirs I picked up along the way on our travels of the past decade”
This particular move, once the 2500 pounds + memorabilia was ready to sail the ocean blue across the great Atlantic (as we wish to avoid the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) Was OK. We have rented our house in Jersey City to four chaps from India who say they will take good care of our home. They are in their 20s and computer people. Of course they will keep our home tidy. They may even have some mates come visit from India time to time – I suppose if 0001% of the 1,155,347,700 population over there are coming to visit that would be 11553 friends … oh dear!
We shoved every thing in the car including Brendan and me, dropped off the Comcast cable stuff and drove to our new apartment (for 17 days) in Harlem – a really nice place I might add. Once Narda met us we dragged our meager belongings (minus the 2500 pounds waiting its turn for hijacking off the coast of somewhere). Same day we sold the car, well we sold it two days before but the buyer needed to wait to get insurance, nerve (he has never owned a car before) and the what-nots so I was there for him later. OK he did not get all his bits and pieces on Tuesday so on Wednesday he fronted up with insurance papers, license plates and the what-nots of a proud first-owner-car owner. Of course he had not realised it was a stick shift (our almost new 1995 Honda Civic with some rust as proof we lived in the snowy northern parts of New York for years) and he had not really driven a whole lot, but he did have his driver’s license. SO I drove the first leg of the journey of one of life’s great explorations (teaching someone to drive on a crowded Harlem street). “Be sure the clutch is in (this is the clutch) when you shift gears and slowly let out…” – I think that is what I said. I explained the speeds one should be at whilst in first, second and all those other gears. I showed reverse, the blinkers and said that Narda favours having the emergency brake on when stopping on a hill. Of course I never do, I mean what is that bloody clutch there for anyway? But knowing how horrified she gets with my hill stops and she is always right (she tells me that so it must be true) so I passed on some form, howbeit probably a bit abbreviated, of the etiquette of hill stops.
Then it was his turn, Tommy, the new car owner. Blimey! We lurched and ground and stopped suddenly and took off quickly and made darting turns down one-way streets (the other directional one-way) and I told him to ignore the cars beeping in their out-of-tune fashion (now there is a job for Narda; tune up the horns of NYC drivers so that they sound…. well, in-tune, I suppose) and just get comfortable with the driving experience.
Somehow we managed to get back to our new address in Harlem. I was so in shock that I muttered something about he was doing well and it is really a practice thing until driving becomes intuitive and I thanked someone I was still alive (I was so in shock it was probably god as there was no one else around) and collapsed on the bed of our new abode. Of course then I realised I had left our New Jersey license plates on the back seat and I would have to see Tommy again. I texted him and he wrote back that he loved the car (which dispelled any lingering doubt whether there is some higher protective good force looking after the Tommys of the world) and of course it meant he got back home to his wife (she has never driven before) and their child (oh dear is the baby going to drive this car?) and that he would get the plates back. This is Thursday afternoon and I suppose I should ring and find out when these plates will arrive, but I am afraid he may have missed a turn or forgot my handbrake lesson and is at the bottom of the Hudson.
And that is this week’s move.
We get to explore this really groovy looking area of Harlem – 145th street and Saint Nicholas (the gift giving dude). I got to the local gym and of course everyone looks so much more fit than me and they play hip hop (well this is that kind of area) but I will look good by the time we leave in 16 more days, flying over to Australia with way too much stuff then on to China where hopefully some of our boxes float to shore.
Half-moon Voyage New York City Harbour Quadricentennial
400th anniversary celebrations of the founding of New York
Half-moon Annual Voyage of Discovery with the Halfmoon Replica Ship -Hudson River Valley The original Halfmoon (Halve Maen) was commissioned in 1609 for the Dutch East India Company in hopes to find a passage trade route to the East. The replica Halfmoon was built to honor the Netherlands’ contributions to America.
New Island Festival