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.