We’re Spies! Or Are We? If We Are, This Title Makes Us Terrible Spies!

Spyscape!

Being a spy takes risk, critical assessment, composure, agility, and martinis. This is what I learned.

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ONE
I do not like martinis. I kind of knew this already, but I tried again. S wanted a dirty martini, so I got one, too. I took one sip and was like, oh look you now have two dirty martinis. She declined because she wanted to get through the spy thing without careening about. They served good food, too. Butternut squash skewers are my jam, man.

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TWO
I love room-sized elevators. Getting to the exhibit proved invigorating as we watched our mission on the walls of the elevator. I didn’t jump with glee, but I definitely bounced with glee. S pointed out that the glee is not exactly spy-like. True, but still. It’s fun to have a mission!

THREE
I’m riskier than I thought but it’s still not a whole lot. Throughout the exhibit there are games to play and one is risk assessment at blowing up a balloon. Quite honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was doing the first time around. Apparently, when you don’t know that there’s risk involved, you have no problems with risk. Later on when I understood it, I was more careful, and so it averaged out. S’s risk? Same as mine.

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FOUR
I am a good liar. I know when people lie. I can lie to people. However, I could not find my way into the booths to take the lying test. S was like, where are you going? I was like, I’m following the velvet rope. She was like, You’re following the rope backwards–the doors are right here. Oh. Okay. Good liar. Bad at directional logic. As someone who has no qualms in telling people I don’t know my right from my left, this is not shocking.

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FIVE
S and I see movies that we don’t remember. And although S has an incredible memory that’s always been better than mine, I remembered a movie that she didn’t. Ryan Phillippe is in it. Let me back up for a minute. Spyscape is also a spy museum, so there were exhibits and some were about movies that were also about real spies. So there was a thing about Ryan Phillippe that at first sounded interesting to me, and then I realized that I’d seen it, and then I remembered that we’d seen it together. I was like, Yeah, we had to sit in the first row and his head was really large and you made yourself fall asleep because you weren’t enjoying it. S’s response? Oh, yeah, now I remember.

SIX
I’m loud. Even with headphones on, S heard me shouting out answers when we were in a 360 degree spy headquarters, searching for screens that fit the description the lady on the headphones was listing. I had to be loud. The one time I didn’t shout my answer was the one time she told me I was wrong when I was clearly right. While most spying is quiet, sometimes you need to shout. Or maybe get better spy equipment.

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SEVEN
Agility! How agile are we? Only lasers can tell us! My hair kept hitting the laser beams, so my time took a few hits. Both of us were really good at hopping over and crawling under beams. Also, night vision! Actually, according to my spy profile, agility is not one of my top three strong traits, but it sure was fun.

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S taking on the laser beams

EIGHT
Let’s not talk about the logic puzzles. I will say I was able to do the word codes and decoding pretty easily because, you know, letters. As soon as shapes and sequences popped up, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m looking at.

In the end, I found I am an Agent Handler, a manager of agents who provides secret intelligence or operational support. This means I recruit, cultivate, and manage agents with extreme care. Enter Mission: Impossible music here.

All this leads up to how we began the evening: Neither S nor I could get our locker to work. We chose a locker, put our stuff in, and then closed it. However, it wouldn’t close. We couldn’t reset the lock. We also had a hard time opening other lockers. Was this a challenge? Was this the test? Nope, we simply could not use the lockers.

Or could we?

Spies!

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Warhol Ukrainian Style

In keeping with the theory that there’s never enough Warhol, I stayed at work late one night to hear a lecture by the author of The Factory. There were slides and a good amount of Warhol history. Then there were YouTube videos of interviews. I kept texting my brother with excitement: Now he’s talking about this! Now he’s talking about that!

Then on a sunny yet rather chilly Saturday, I made my way from Penn to Cooper Square, wandered around looking at the map on my phone and street signs in a rather circular path, and then found 6th Street mostly by accident. There stood The Ukrainian Museum. Inside was Warhol, awaiting our presence.

Once my brother arrived, we headed straight to the second floor where the rather small but really neat exhibit stood. There were some ink and paper drawings, one of which is a collaboration between Warhol and his mom who did calligraphy. There were pieces that copy his soup cans. There was his mom’s prayer book that had a cover make out of a Chivas bottle’s box. The main show were several prints of endangered species that looked pretty psychedelic.

Side Note: We didn’t find this on our own. S’s mom tipped us off. How she knew about this tiny exhibit in this tiny museum is a mystery. I mean, I could ask, but what fun would that be?

We couldn’t take pictures, so I took some pictures, and all the while my brother was like, The guard is right there…the guard is right there….the guard is right there. I’m not a jerk. I’m not sharing the photos. I did take a picture of his signature on the wall which was before the sign that said no pictures, so I’m assuming that’s not copyrighted.

On the first floor was an exhibit of Ukrainian garb. Lots of intricately woven shirts stood in several displays. Interspersed throughout were also skirts and table cloths, and we realized that telling the difference between them was difficult unless we read the labels on the displays. Both kinds of textiles have very pretty intricate patterns.

When we were about to leave the museum, the guy at the front desk told us to take the elevator to the basement because there was one more exhibit. Enter Christina Saj’s Re:Create–the best exhibit around. Each painting uses a steel canvas so that you can add your own magnetic pieces. My brother became a bit focused on finding birds to add to each piece. I added some abstracts to several pieces. Then we found these magnetic sticks and collaborated on a piece together. We could have added letters to make words, but then a group of children came in, which cued our departure.

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Portrait: Bird

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I added the flowery things.

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Another bird! The light hits this one perfectly.

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We added the straight lines. 

Now that we were artists, we stopped by one final small gallery on the first floor and headed out. I was fortunate enough to get an impromptu tour of former music venues that my brother pointed out as we looked for a place to eat. (You, too, can soak in this NYC knowledge by booking a tour with my brother who can’t help but give tours whenever we’re walking around NYC. Greenwich Village, East Village, Brooklyn Bridge, he’s got the skillz: http://newyorkbroadwaytours.com/private-nyc-walking-tours/).

We found a BBQ place that I tried to reserve on OpenTable to get points, but this location didn’t offer points. (BTW: If you’re on OpenTable, make sure you toggle on. There was an app update that made earning points a choice–why else use the app other than to get points? Whatever. Toggle on, people.)

When we went inside, we saw it was an order-at-the-counter place, which is why I couldn’t reserve. What I lost in points, I was made whole by the decadence of sweet potato casserole. We feasted. Thank you, Mighty Quinn’s, you do good BBQ.

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After following my brother to get to a subway (he’s a tour guide! he knows how to get to the subway!), we took a train back to Penn where I left him to get home. I found a train waiting for me–this keeps happening, perfect timing!, no jinxing–so I settled in. Then I saw this little guy hanging out on the ride home.

Train Fun

Never Enough Warhol

You know how far the Whitney is, right? In case you don’t remember, here ya go. This time, I walked in what I thought would be chilly weather. Whenever I walk in Manhattan Chilly Weather, I wind up overheating. Not to be proven wrong, I met my brother outside the museum and when we got inside, it was a balmy 1437 degrees.

Being so close to another Warhol exhibit, I let myself die a little from the heat as we made our way upstairs, like all the way up, to start our adventure. I found a cow hallway to step to the side and peel off every layer except my t-shirt. That’s how we layer. Lots of layers ending in a t-shirt. If I could have taken off my boots, I would have.

This is not the first time we’ve Warhol’ed together. We saw an exhibit a few years back at the Morgan Library. This was one we could not take pictures of, so I kept sneaking pictures, and he kept walking away from me in case I got caught. It’s a fun game.

There was another time even years before that. I kept reminding him: Don’t you remember we saw that Basquiat/Warhol exhibit? And he was like, No. I was like, I was at the Met or something. And he was like, No. And I was like, Yeah your reaction to one of the paintings was something like, There’s a duck another duck and a chicken. And he was like, No definitely not.

So after I came home, I looked it up and found that we’d been to the Brooklyn Museum and I texted him to inform him he’d said: there’s an envelope, the envelope again, and a glass of milk.

He was like, How did you remember that? And I was like, It’s years of blogging paying off. (a now defunct blog in the archives of Blogger that I can get into only when I remember my old password).

Anyway, so this exhibit at the Whitney explored more facets of Warhol from A to B and Back Again. Because that’s what the exhibit is called. There were screen tests and a time capsule. The aforementioned cow wallpaper. One of the floors offered a film of his mother sleeping. The Brillo boxes and Campbell’s Soup cans. The collaborations. The bottom gallery was all portraits so we tried to guess who the portraits were and we knew maybe three. That’s a testament to how much work Warhol actually put out. It was privately commissioned. The guy worked worked worked. He silkscreened like no one’s business. It’s so impressive. Here, my brother is mooooved by the cow wallpaper (I hate myself for that). I am doing my best Mona Lisa impression (one of my artist friends tells me I look like her). And then there’s Elvis, a nod to dad, of course.

Because we were already there and the Whitney is so far, I was like, let’s look at the other exhibits. We took in Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies. The idea was art that makes itself based on programs and technology. There was a room with light bulbs that he was like, That looks cool .But then we went inside and he was like, This was better from the outside. So he left while I sat under some flickering light bulbs for a while. I very much enjoyed the geekery, while he walked through perplexed.

After that, we stopped by the permanent exhibits. Couldn’t help ourselves when we saw this. (This makes no sense unless you’ve seen Weekend At Bernie’s).

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Good God! It’s a Lichtenstein! 

We talked about The Factory and documentaries that we each saw that the other might like as we made our way down the stairs one last time and out into the not cold night and into the diner down the street. PS: there are not a lot of casual eateries near there because it’s so far from everything, so this diner was everything two casual diners would want.

The payoff of being so far are the views from the rooftops. This is free art.

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“Lanterns”

When I hear lanterns, I think of nighttime in the Old West and a barn fire from a horse kicking over a kerosene lantern and then an old man in a nightgown grabbing his own lantern and running onto the porch and his eyes going wide at the blaze and then cowboys and lanterns and fire.

Also, I think of Chinese lanterns. Those are pretty!

Winter Lantern Festival sounds like the pretty kind. Over in Snug Harbor on Staten Island, lanterns were ablaze! Except that they weren’t kerosene fueled and weren’t really lanterns. S and I headed out on a not-too-cold winter night to see the lanterns which turned out to be lights, and the lights were pretty, so it all worked out.

Snug Harbor is pretty small compared to the number of people who were swarming to see the pretty lanterns. That meant a lot of driving in circles. When I was about to make a fifth loop, the security guy beckoned my car over and asked why we were there. S was like, To see the lights. He was like, Okay there’s no parking inside but you can park right in front of my car. He indicated a very tight spot for which I would need to parallel park. And it took me under five minutes, which is highly impressive. I also sweat out maybe a pint of parking sweats, which is expected. (If y’all thought there would be no sweating, y’all have forgotten key elements of my soul).

Not pretty was the soft mud beneath our feet as we walked through. We wore boots. We were smart. I’m including this link here– https://gothamtogo.com/winter-lantern-festival-2018-on-staten-island/ — to show how the photo envisions the ground as magic unmuddy tiles, which is the opposite of what we were walking on. There were paths made of some sort of outdoor pathway building materials, but to get closer to some of the displays, there was lots of mud in the dark. But it was lit by these pretty non-lantern lights, so, in turn, it was kind of pretty, too!

The lights were LED sculptures and Eastern themed. There were large flowers, a panda, and a dragon at the beginning. The Chinese zodiac lit up another pathway. There was a shimmery peacock, which I suppose is not necessarily Chinese, but more worldly. Other worldly things were the Christmas tree and some butterflies. And we walked through a shark. It’s hard to explain, but it was also pretty.

A small section of candy appeared, and we saw it from across the way. I was like, That was made for you. S was like, for sure. When we got to it, she kept turning towards me as I was taking pictures of her from behind, and finally I was like, Hey you’re ruining it! And she was like, Ohhh, yes, good idea.

A few years back, we went to a Will Cotton exhibit and I snapped a quick photo of her from behind looking at the painting, and it was pretty amazing. Since then, whenever we come across a candy-themed exhibit, I usually recreate the magic of S In Awe Of Sweets. Here in the dark backlit by candy, it does the trick.

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#SouthpawSweets

Then there was another panda. Like a person in a costume panda. I stopped short and then told S we had to walk quickly. When she saw what I was avoiding, she cackled and then tried to get me to go back twice to take a picture. No, no thank you. I am not going near adults in costumes that don’t speak. It’s weird and awkward and I stand by my choice.

She also found some lanterns for me! Lantern success!

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Look At All Of These LANTERNS!!!

After we were lanterned out, we headed to the car. Only we couldn’t find the car because once we were out of the exit, I was like, We’ve never been on this street before. S asked a security guy about exits, and he was like, Did you park on Blah De Blah? And I was like, I have no idea. So he was like, That means you did. He gave us directions back into the park and then out again. I had to parallel out of the space halfway because by the time I’d maneuvered back and forth a bunch of times, the other security guy pulled his car away. More success! Very little sweating!

And all by the light of the pretty lanterns.

Miss Chocolate Bar

Candytopia is exactly what it sounds like, so let’s jump right in.

I get to the city and need to walk only across the street and I’m where I need to be. How often does that happen? So, I’m walking my one block to Candytopia, and a guy and I pass each other, and right as he’s almost past, he says, How you doin, Miss Chocolate Bar?

Took a second to realize, oh, that’s me. I’m Miss Chocolate Bar. [Flashback to when I was Eskimo Boots. ] It was too late to correct him, but for the record, it was a Larabar. Larabars look like chocolate bars because their main ingredient is dates. So they’re brown. Seeing one for the first time jarred me a bit because I was expecting more nutty looking than brown looking but I eat them for health reasons, not for what they look like reasons. If they look like a chocolate bar, so be it. So now I’m Miss Chocolate Bar.

I met S outside and we stood in line until it was our time to enter what seemed to be a little town with a taxi out front. Then the gates opened and into the tiny town we went. It felt like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley (Fun Fact: usually I’m a lazy writer, but I just looked up the spelling for Diagon Alley because HP fans scare me). Here, I ate a piece of taffy.

We then gained entry into a room of clocks. Hello Alice In Wonderland inspiration. I loved this room. There was a man in a hat who was telling us all about what time it was across the world. It was hard to hear, though, so I walked around taking in the clocks and the things made out of candy. This is the really cool part–there are a lot of things made out of candy and signs that explain how much candy is involved. Like thousands of jelly beans to make a fox or millions of Gummy Bears to make a real bear.

The other really cool part was the clock coming down from the ceiling to reveal Lindt chocolate truffles. I ate one of those, too.

There’s a graffiti room where we found Jackie Sorkin, the Candy Queen and the reason Candytopia is a thing. S gave her some Southpaw Sweets cookies that the Candy Queen immediately posed with for pics. She has such magnetic energy and is so so sweet. The room had a wall that you could write and draw on. And there was a dragon.

Oh, did I mention the big purple blow up thingie that I almost had a panic attack in? Yeah, so, there’s a big purple thing that you have to walk through between rooms and I thought I was going to die in it because it just kept going. Think of a hallway made of a bouncy house that inflates towards the center while you have to push through it. Then imagine it goes on for what seems like a mile. When I finally kind of fell out of the end of it, I looked at the Candytopia worker standing there to direct us, and told her, That? Was not fun.

Everything else? Tons of fun. Here are the highlights.

A room I’ll call a Candy Land. There’s a Katy Perry Madame Taussaud’s-esque statue there along with gumdrops to sit on and trees made of lollipops.

There’s an art gallery where portraits of famous people hang. These are made of jelly beans.

One room has an Under the Sea theme. Some sharks. Some seahorses. All blue hued.

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Then there’s a room dedicated to unicorns and confetti. Here’s what happens. You pose for a picture and a Candytopia worker shoots confetti at you. And it’s awesome. I spent the rest of the day with unicorn confetti all up in my hair. And in my pockets. And falling out of my clothing. And then I found it in my bra. [P.S. It’s been a while and I’m still finding it around my house, falling out of drawers even after I’ve washed my clothes]. I grabbed a bag of gummy worms to nibble on.

Another room is a playground. We climbed up on the swing set because we’re clearly 100%. And then I became the proud owner of two pixie sticks.

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At some point, I also had some Airheads. It’s a sugary blur.

One of my most favorite sweet treats in all the land is marshmallows. I don’t eat them often because I usually want only one and no one sells singular marshmallows. I didn’t get to eat marshmallows at Candytopia but I did get to jump into a whole pit of them! They weren’t real so it wasn’t sticky. They looked very real, which is what counts.

And then? We got stuck in the pit. I did a pretty good job of staying above the surface, which I considered the day’s workout because my legs were on fire. But then I sunk in. And then I couldn’t exactly get out. Wanna see how the struggle is real? Click the link below.

S was drowning almost the whole time. She was in up to her shoulders for the long haul.

We were by a wall luckily so I pulled myself up. And then I sunk back in. And then I pulled myself up. And this went on until I got to the edge and very lady-like hoisted my ass up in to the air and flung myself out in a shower of fake marshmallowy goodness! How sweet! A bit later on, I found myself in the lobby of a building where a gentleman came in, exclaiming to the doormen, Fellas I brought you some cookies! He handed them cookies. Then I hear, Can’t leave you out! I look up and a variety of cookies appears in my face. How sweet! Again! PS: The next day I had to go to responsible adult stuff, but in the lobby, there was another sweet surprise!

Catacombs, Pudding, and Holland Taylor

Maybe rats and other creepy crawlies come to mind when thinking of the underground world of New York City. You take the subway? You’ve probably seen a rat. In fact, you take the subway, you’ve probably seen some things. Lots of things. Anyway, this is not about subways. This is about what’s underground in NYC, and if you go to the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ll find catacombs. You can tour them by candlelight, and you can keep the candle and keep lighting it as long as the battery has juice because it’s not a real candle because there was already a fire there once, so the non-fire candle is a safer way to take a tour.

Tommy of Tommy’s New York came into the air conditioned holding room across from the church to say hello and explain that the tour is so popular that he splits up the groups and has two guides go in opposite directions. It seems that everyone wants to see a catacomb by candlelight. What you may not be expecting is that in addition to catacombs, the tour goes through a church and through the cemetery grounds and you get a tour guide who has a tiny projector to show you neat pictures of people who were buried. You learn gossipy history. You learn stuff while underground holding a candle!

Things we learned (oh! “we” refers to my officemates and me):

  1. People used to bury their loved ones in the catacombs and then go into the catacombs to pray because the catacombs were kept open.
  2. People learned that open catacombs could start to smell, so the catacombs were sealed and reopened and sealed and reopened.
  3. Exit signs glow in the eeriest way underground.
  4. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians protected old St. Patrick’s so no one could set fire to it, and the wall surrounding the cemetery is a fortified wall.
  5. I cannot spell cemetery correctly on the first try. I keep writing cemetary. I’m a teacher.
  6. The Italian family that started Italian restaurants in NYC is buried there.
  7. There’s a crypt that was left unlocked which means it’s accessible and no one has come back to lock it and it’s got Edison light bulbs in it along with some very expensive marble and tile because, although you can’t take it with you, you can for dang sure come close.
  8. Boss Tweed came up, and it was super interesting, and I can’t remember any of it (grief fog!), but I do remember that two guys who didn’t like each other very much are buried next to each other.
  9. Getting buried there is way expensive.
  10. I would not want the job of cranking the wheel to make the Erben Organ make sound.
  11. Sheep need a vacation.

After the grand tour, we got coupons to places to eat nearby! Though we didn’t use the coupons, we did head over to Rice to Riches for rice pudding. The signage alone overwhelmed me. I had to order at a counter–one of my top non-favorite things to do in life–and there were vats of pudding to choose from and then more signs. Worth it. I finished almost all of my pudding before realizing that my insides might try to climb out from the effects of eating so far out of the  norm. However, a bowl of Be My Banana Coconut is simply irresistible and worth anything that could possibly happen as aftermath–and nothing happened so I clearly make good choices.

Rice

Like I joined Entertainment Weekly’s panel and got invited to the Crosby Hotel for a preview of the second season pilot of Mr. Mercedes. It’s a show on the Audience Network through AT&T Direct Now. That means I cannot watch the show at home, but it sure was thrilling. After the viewing, there was a Q&A with three main cast members and a producer: Brendon Gleeson, Holly Gibney, Holland Taylor, and Jack Bender. Thrilling again! I was especially gleeful to see Holland Taylor. Don’t ask me why. I simply got giddy. She’s so elegant!

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Let’s add this all up, okay? Three things in one day. This might go down in history as the day I did the most things ever. And also a day when I learned I can eat a vat of rice pudding, watch one episode of a show I’ll likely not see again, AND tour the underground of NYC without bumping into a rat. A good day, right there.

 

Seinclones

Seinclones 2018 (23)My brother took me to my first Brooklyn Cyclones game and it was Seinfeld night, so my brother wins Best Sibling Of The Year.

Also, we drove from Long Island to Coney Island on the Belt Parkway in 40-something minutes. I know, guys, I know. We won the Traveling The Belt Parkway Award, too.

Also, we got there so early that the gates weren’t open yet and there were lines. We got a Keith Hernandez Cyclones alarm clock. Across the face is Keith Hernandez’s face with Nice Game Pretty Boy written under it. They were already selling on Ebay before the game started.

When we got to our seats, we listened to the episodes of Seinfeld they were playing over the loud speakers. We laughed out loud a lot. Also laughable–the team was called the Seinclones for the evening.

The festivities included some of the usual games like the hot dog race (Relish won) and throwing a bean bag through the hole in a cardboard sign that said Dime. These I know are usual games because this is the kind of thing that happens at a lot of minor league games. I wish all baseball games were like this.

In addition, we witnessed some of the greatest Seinfeld-themed games like The .5K Inagural Mr. Bellavaqua Run. The games had the greatest names and I can’t remember them all, but the rest included: Mr. Pitt’s eating Snickers with a knife and fork contest; eating eclairs out of garbage pails; throwing golf balls into an inflatable whale’s blow hole; flip cup with Ovaltine; running the bases on a toy horse while scarfing down beefarino.

Before each contest, they showed a clip that inspired them. Also, Bania and Jean Paul Jean Paul were there. They threw out ceremonial pitches. Jean Paul Jean Paul set off the .5K run. Bania set off the Ovaltine contest. They both sang during the 7th Inning Stretch.

After the game was over, one more contest unfolded. It’s the one I would  have been in had I known how to enter and now I know for next year so I have to go again. It’s the Elaine Dancing Contest. About 8 women walked out onto the field and let their little kicks go.

Three of them were wearing the early-Elaine attire of long flowery frocks and glasses. One of those women also had the Elaine-bag and Elaine-hair. Her get up was impressive. I did make a comment to my brother, though, that Elaine wore a black outfit when she danced. Sure enough, she came on the screen in the outfit I described as they played the clip. Still, the flowery frocks were amusing.

The woman who went from head to toe Elaine also danced the Elaine dance with sheer abandon. Several of them did, throwing their heads back and kicking and flicking around. The woman with the Elaine-everything won. When the emcee handed her the trophy, she didn’t take it. Instead, she shoved him–Get Out!

As far as baseball games go, I’d say this is surely my top experience by far. Next year, I wear black and offer some little kicks of my own.

Forts!

My brother the history teacher/photographer and I the poet/all around geek set out on another tour of almost-edge-of-central New York. This time, it was all about artillery. The plan didn’t specify “see as many cannons as possible in one day,” but our touring led us to do just that. In addition to cannons, we also saw creepy things, maps, sweeping landscapes, and torrential downpours followed by walls of humidity that we felt and breathed in as well. Basically, it was your typical summer day of I Love NY frolicking.

We first stopped at Knox something or other. It’s not very memorable because we couldn’t go inside. It was a building. There was a sign covered in bugs I’d  never seen before. There was a guy with a parks shirt on who disappeared. So then we left. Fun times.

We made our way to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor which is on the grounds of Washington’s final cantonment. Here is a word I cannot pronounce no matter how many times I hear it. It’s like a fancy word for camp. The Hall of Honor is one of the saddest places I’ve ever visited–and I’ve visited Dachau. The museum shows the history of the Purple Heart and houses the only known original patch from when Washington first created the honor. The entire history of its development is on display.  Many veterans were quoted as saying it’s the honor you don’t want to get (because you have to be injured in battle to earn it) but it’s the one that makes them most proud. We watched a film that documents veterans sharing stories of how they earned their Purple Heart, and some of them earned more than one. I sat there feeling pretty pathetic and sad. Anything I can do for a veteran, Purple Heart or not, I’m always up for because I know I couldn’t possibly be in the military ever.

We checked for our uncle in the roll call. He’s not listed so we got the information on how to get him on there. If you know someone who’s earned a Purple Heart, have them fill out this information and get listed. They deserve it.

The cantonment was a whole other kind of place but in the same place. I think it’s set up for kids because there were things to touch and lift and poke at. There was a whole lower level of artillery. Quite a few cannons. You think you’ve seen one and you’ve seen em all, but nope! The French decorated their cannons like dolphins!

The grounds sprawl more than they seem from the entrance. We found all kinds of structures, some that had original pieces like doors and battens. There was a hole in the floor in one building and we found out it was because of groundhogs. We didn’t see any animals, but after that, I was on high alert.

Keeping with the theme of Washington, we headed towards his headquarters. Which was under construction with a new roof and some other things happening across the grounds. It didn’t exactly scream authentic from the outside with all the pick up trucks and equipment, but the inside was preserved as if Washington were still there. We got a personal tour because no one else was taking the tour at the time we arrived. We learned that people from that time period slept sitting up or grown men had to share beds that seemed to be children’s sized. All these beds folded for travel.

Also, at that time, if you wore glasses, you were thought to be disabled and weak and shunned. Washington wrote in really big handwriting, and only once did he put on his glasses in front of his men. They saw it as a sign that the war was taking its toll even on the great Washington. This is why I wear contacts.

Onto Fort Montgomery! Where the skies opened and rain basically plopped down all at once. This kind of rain was the kind that didn’t cool anything off and made the outdoors seem like invisible soup. From fog comes cool photos, though. Plus, my brother and I found the Appalachian trail, a trail we once tried to hike together several years ago but wound up on different mountains and never met up. We finally made it together at Fort Montgomery. We didn’t go very far, though, because mud.

After overhearing a very confusing conversation between my brother and me about geography and my lack of spatial understanding, a woman behind the counter offered to show a film to us. We watched and  learned a bit more about the attacks during the war. Out in the lobby, there were more firearms plus mannequin-like men in positions of being in battle that was off-putting for my tastes. See? This is why I can’t be in the military. I can’t even hack it with fake soldiers.

After that, we arrived at Stony Point State Park. We had an animal encounter but it was okay because we were in the car and it was in the woods. They have a lighthouse and a small museum. They also have an outdoor set up of what a military camp might look like. Plus, all the way at the top of the hill, there’s a lookout point. Plus plus, another cannon.

 

We traced many wins and losses that day. Spoiler alert: We won the war.

To celebrate, we found a diner and ate while the second round of torrential downpour spouted out of the skies. By the time we were done, the sun was shining again and we walked out into a wall of thick heat that made my brother’s glasses fog up. And that’s why I wear contacts.

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The Roosevelt clan has an intricate history that can get convoluted in many branches of their family tree across New York. Teddy Roosevelt was all the rage two years ago when my brother and I visited Sagamore Hill. This year, we turned our sights to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife but also his distant-some-number-removed cousin. Don’t ask me to explain it. The tree is confusing. Ask a park ranger. They know everything.

Incidentally, I’d just seen that sprawling tribute to FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt in DC, so I was primed for this occasion.

We got up to the Roosevelt headquarters in time for a tour of the home. Because we were a small group, we fit on the little tram that took us from the park building to the house. A distance of maybe a three minute walk, so we felt kind of silly taking a ride. But what were we gonna do? Be jerks and say, Nope! We’re better than all of you and prefer to walk! Jerk move, no thank you.

The views from the back of the house sparkle and gleam. The inside of the house is mostly roped off (and we couldn’t go upstairs because it was hot and there was  no A/C, and again, we wouldn’t have minded, but again, we’re not going to be the jerks). The most interesting thing about the house is the glass walkway installed over the stairs and ramp from the foyer into the office. It preserves not only the physical materials but also the fact that a President of the United States who was nominated and then elected for four terms did all that while needing the assistance of 10-pound braces and a wheelchair. We need more of that can-do attitude these days. And maybe a bit more of a return to class. At least, like, civility. At least, like, in public.

We moved onto the library. Fact: The FDR Presidential Library was the first presidential library and he used it while in office. This is the point of a library. This library has his car in the basement, too. Letters to the president hang on the wall, and not all of them are complimentary. One guy wrote a letter to say how he was disappointed in his vote for FDR. Someone else sent him a recipe.

The exhibit showed posters from the world wars, complete with an alert at the beginning to warn that there would be insensitive references to Japanese Americans. There was not warning that it would also have completely sexist materials, but I guess that’s just, like, everything, so no warning needed. I kept thinking, oh that might be racist, and, hmm, that’s got a bit of the racism. Then I turned a corner and saw a poster that started out Jappy Jappy, and was like, ahhh, there’s the racism. Which means that racism appears on lots of levels from subtle to in-yo-face. The sexism I simply stopped taking note of. Because I’m a girl. Thinking is hard.

These posters really made me realize how much World War II was the main focus of life in the United States at that time. One war played part in the country taking a turn for the worse. Then another war made the country start to thrive. Everyone had a part. Don’t travel because traveling is for the troops! Rationing means the troops get to eat! Gossip gets troops killed! Hey, Ladies, write a letter to a fella!

Another Fact: The iconic Rosie The Riveter campaign did not catch on until much later as part of widespread nostalgia and a move towards feminism.

It would be nice if one day we could have peace unite us and thrive on that. The military’s goal would be to help in times of natural disaster and need. It would be really, really nice.

The rest of the library houses: the war-room complete with maps and rotary phones; FDR’s office that includes a copy of Ferdinand the Bull; a statue made out of pieces from the Berlin Wall; drawers and drawers and drawers of archived files.

The grounds also have a rose garden that grows roses and other pretty things. There lies the Roosevelts and their dog, too.

Onto Val-Kill, the side of Val-Kill Industries and the home that Eleanor owned. There’s another long story about all that, which I cannot even begin to retell. Again, ask a park ranger. The tid-bit I remember clearly is that Mrs. Robinson, that song from The Graduate that really has nothing to do with The Graduate, was originally entitled Mrs. Roosevelt. Mind. Blown. Right?

Upon arrival, a park ranger in a tram asked if we would like a ride up to the the Vistor’s Center. Because when we pulled in I’d literally said out loud, I wonder where we go now, I said to the guy, Sure thing! We took a very quick ride up a small hill on a dirt road and over a one-lane bridge that’s smaller than my driveway. Again, we felt a little silly, but really, this help us figure out where to go. (Later on when we were leaving, the tram ranger pulled up next to us and asked if we wanted a ride back. We politely declined.)

We stood in the room where Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to JFK when he came to ask for her support. She agreed to support him only if civil rights were a major part of his platform. We stood in a room where much of the furniture had been made on-sight. We stood in rooms that were only a percentage of the original because the grounds had not originally been declared a landmark and everything was sold at auction.

Hey, if you bought something from that auction, return it. It’s history. And don’t be a jerk and ask for lots of money for it. Eleanor Roosevelt did lots of good things, so do a good thing, back.

Also, at some point in wandering through rooms of files and historical content, I realized that Herbert Hoover and J. Edgar Hoover weren’t related. Okay, to be completely honest, I knew that there was a Herbert Hoover and I knew that there was a J. Edgar Hoover, but in my mind, somehow, they were the same person. So when I posed the question, When was Hoover in charge of the FBI, before or after his presidency?, my brother literally palm-slapped his forehead. And I was like, Oh, yeah, two names, two people, were they related, though? Another palm-to-forehead. So that’s a no.  I’m a teacher!

Then it was time to walk over the Hudson. Walk Over The Hudson is a pedestrian/cyclist span across the Hudson. It gets you really close to the sun in 90 degree heat, but the wind from the elevation is a nice trade-off.

Because we were in the direct sun, I put on my hat. My head shape and hats do not play nicely. Because we were in the direct sun, I was sweating buckets, which should surprise no one. Additionally, I had on my free sunglasses that I got at Summer Solstice. What I’m getting at here is that I clearly was the most attractive gal out and about in the Hudson Valley. Back it down, gents! Back. It. Down.

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Even nicer are the views. Stunning. Truly stunning.

Also stunning, quite literally, are lightening strikes, as this sign hints towards.

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Capping off the day, we ate at a diner. My favorite type of restaurant! Eveready Diner appeared on Season 1 of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, so my brother was excited about that. I’ve eaten at two other DDD places, and they both were bleh. This experience turned that bleh into a yum! The food was so friggin good. Since my brother is a history teacher who loves DDD, this entire day was my birthday present to him. Happy Birthday, big brother!

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Sugar Iron Anniversary

Eddie gave me a box of those snap things that you throw on the ground that pop and party poppers, the plastic things you pull to make noise, for our anniversary. In turn, I gave him a candy-filled plastic tube with a monkey on top that plays the cymbals if you press down on a banana. Sugar and iron aren’t the best gift ideas for six years.

A great idea, however, is to take advantage of a Hilton Grand Vacations offer to stay in Manhattan for the weekend half price if we agree to sit through their tour about buying a vacation for life. No biggie. I can sit there and say no a lot. Done and done.

As soon as we got into the city, I saw Tesla, who also appeared on tv later that evening. He’s everywhere.

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We arrived and stood on the Hilton Honors check in line which is supposed to be a perk but always winds up taking longer than the regular line. Plus, on a Friday afternoon, there were three people behind the counter in total. On a Friday. When people arrive for vacation. And then I realized I wasn’t going to get a cookie because it wasn’t a Double Tree. Dammit. Still, the wait wasn’t too bad and the guy kindly directed us to the counter across the lobby to ask about where to go to see the tour.

Across the lobby, the Hilton Grand guy told me that it’s a presentation. Every email I have and every person I spoke to called it a tour, and now it’s a presentation. Fine. Then he said that the email should have told me where it is. I received five emails, none of which told me. I told him I was asking because the email didn’t say. He said, it’s on the 45th floor, no worries. Okay, no worries then. Clearly, it’s easy to find the top floor for the not-tour presentation.

Because we did the package thing, we were given a room instead of my choosing a room. The room was nice, of course, but there was no fridge and no coffee maker. This seems like a very nitpicky thing, but I’m a snack person and a tea person and I like to keep cold water and fruit in the fridge and make tea in the coffee maker and then sometimes make coffee too.

We headed out to eat at a place called Burger Heaven. It was an oddly shaped diner. The food was fine. We found some sugar and some iron. Then we headed out to see the world.

Public art is free! We found a large concrete living room complete with pigeon pets. We found LOVE. We found HOPE. We found 6 1/2 Ave, which is not public art but is kitschy, which is for me.

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Best Photobomb

Then we went to Madison Square Park to see an art installation that included dancing. We didn’t realize it included dancing until we saw slow-moving people in the middle of the park. It was slow motion movement but also dance and it was kind of fascinating. (The performers are in the solid colored shirts beyond the red arch.)

We saw basically everything I’d planned to see in the first few hours of our weekend. Because I’m a maniac. Eddie started pointing out all the free art we could see from simply walking down the street.

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We’re not sure if this man was copying the statue on purpose.

Because we’d walked pretty far downtown from the hotel, and because I found that the Morgan Library had exhibits we could see for free that would be of some interest, we decided to hang around outside of the library until we were let in. In the lobby, they corralled us until it was exactly the second free entry opened up. We walked to the special exhibit hall first, taking a look at portraits of Henry James and notebooks of Thoreau. Eddie preferred Thoreau. I did, too. You see one portrait of James, you pretty much have seen them all.

Then on the way back, we met friends.

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I know it’s summer. However, I couldn’t warm up once we were back in our room, so this happened.

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Eddie asked me more than several times if I was sick, if I was okay, and what was wrong with me. This is love.

The next day, as soon as Eddie opened his eyes, I dragged him to the window. I’d somehow missed seeing our grand view when I’d first looked out the window.

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We could see the LOVE statue! Fridge and coffee maker be damned. This was the best room ever!

Soon after, we went to breakfast at Astro Diner down the street. They have a whole menu devoted to Greek Yogurt. I got eggs instead, but the yogurt creations were quite tempting. Then it was onto experience Summer Streets, when the city closes down Park Ave so that riders, runners, skaters, scooterers, and walkers can do those things in the street without being hit by a car, and vendors can vend things. But first, we found Lever House, which is a building I’ve wanted to see for a really long time. It’s an office building, but the first floor always has an art exhibit. This exhibit wasn’t one I’d particularly wanted to see, but I was happy I’d finally found the building itself. The guard was like, You can sit on those if you want. We were like, thanks, but then moved further away. They seemed germy.

Now, onto Summer Streets! Being that we had walked a lot the day before, I was moving much more slowly, which isn’t the best situation to be in when you want to cross Park Ave amid hundreds of cyclists. We stuck with one side first, opting to go to the tents where they were giving away free stuff. My first free thing was an I Love NY sticker. We waited on line to spin a wheel and win something from a booth about the Greenbelt, but there were two kids there hogging the thing so we gave up. (Kids. Seriously. As if they’re the only ones allowed to have the fun). We made our way to the I Love NY booth where we got more stickers and a bag and a map and even more stickers. I was in free stuff heaven. I also got a bike map and glow in the dark don’t run me over tag for my brother for riding.

We crossed the street and found a Botanical Gardens booth where they gave me a rosemary plant seedling. (It lasted a week in my care. This is a triumph, a sad sad triumph). Then we found drummers. They danced and drummed non-stop. Just when we thought it would be over, it kept going. We were mesmerized. A woman was grabbing people to dance. I wanted to dance but was not walking right at that point so dancing seemed to be not the thing to do. Instead, we found some steps to sit on next to a fountain. Fact: children love fountains. Fact: parents are dumb because they let their children run towards the fountain by themselves and let them stay there by themselves as if the water in the fountain cannot cause drowning and children can’t be injured by falling into the concrete basin because it’s a damn pretty fountain and children are so darn cute. Moved by this rush of fountain-love, we took photos of ourselves as well.

Then it was time for the not-tour-presentation somewhere in the large hotel. We asked again at the Hilton Grand counter. The person behind the counter had to pause what she was doing with the people in front of us because it seemed very confusing to give us directions for how to get to the 45th floor, which by the way was not a simple task. When we found the mini elevator to take us there (after several housekeepers directed us without our having to ask) the people who had been at the counter piled into the elevator with us. The elevator was maybe the size of a dumb waiter, so we were crammed and uncomfortable. Thankfully, it was only one floor and then we could see the entire city through the huge windows. There was free food, too. I got cheese and grapes and tea. Eddie got a Coke.

After maybe ten minutes and us thinking we could skip out, one of the sales guys came over to us and so it began. We’d seen other sales people being really aggressive, and I told Eddie that if anyone started talking in my face like one guy was doing to another couple, I was going to walk away without saying anything. Thankfully, this guy was a self-proclaimed non-aggressive type. He was a pretty good salesperson but kept saying that if the product wasn’t for us, he’d tell us. Turns out, the product was for us.

What’s the product? It’s hard to describe. You’re buying a deed to property, but not an actual place, though it is in a building. You’re buying points for a lifetime. You’re also buying a maintenance fee for a lifetime. You’re buying a vacation forever. It’s like buying a house without seeing it first and on a whim.

Because we travel once a year, this was for us. Because we are already Hilton Honors members, this was for us. Because we have no children and don’t see any reason to stop taking one trip a year in the future, this was for us.

The cost never came up until we were deep in the not-tour-presentation on the secret 45th floor after seeing slideshows and talking about Long Island and the stock market and mortgages and some more Long Island (the sales guy was from Long Island and we chatted more about not the product than the actual product and it was like hanging out with some guy we’d met once before and happened to run into again–it was bizarre). We also talked about sports, yoga, his back problems, my hip problems, Eddie’s job, and a lot of very not relevant things all the way up to the time of the price sheet. The guy who I guess was in charge came over and gave us a number and then more numbers and then deals and more deals. We would be buying like so many points they could last a lifetime plus the life time points we were getting for buying anyway. It got so convoluted and I got so deep into it and it was like teetering on the edge of buying into the not-tour-presentation until they both walked away and I was like, Hold. The F. Up.

They kept saying how our vacations were practically paid for by buying into the program. You know what we were buying? Abstract property. So that would be a place to stay, but what about getting there and back? What about eating? What about fun things to do? I’m sure there were some perks, but this was not a full vacation they were selling. Plus, there’s a monthly fee for the rest of your life. I get that we would be saving some money in the long run on hotels, but that’s the perk? A 5 star hotel that I would be sleeping in during my vacation when I’m mostly out? Okay, okay, if we stayed at a resort, we’d be in, not out, but still. This was crazytown. Plus, when you have to keep asking each other, What exactly are we buying, it’s totally not a good deal.

Three hours later.

Yes, three hours later, we were able to leave with the guy in charge being very disappointed in us. Seriously, he dead in the eye told me, You’re making the wrong decision. I dead in the eye told him, Back off, bucko, and nudged him in the shoulder.

Well, that’s what I did in my mind. Out loud, I ignored the comment and said, Thank you soooo much for your time!

Wiped out, we decided to take the $100 restaurant voucher we’d gotten for sitting through the not-tour-presentation to sit down to a nice meal at the NYY Steakhouse. Score! (oh, jeez, that pun was not on purpose). We got enough food to equal up to the voucher, including a brownie dessert that came with long spoons that we didn’t understand until the dessert came out not on a plate but in a long glass. They also gave me a giant spoon for my coffee, the server actually saying as he put it down, Apologies for this incredibly large spoon but apparently all the smaller ones are being cleaned. Ha! He was a great server.

We walked over to the AMC to see Spider-Man afterwards. As we were buying our tickets, it was sold out. Literally, the seats disappeared as we were choosing seats on the screen. We grabbed a cab to take back to the hotel to avoid any impending storm.

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New York bagels for breakfast was the plan. The Sunday morning streets were pretty empty so walking to the deli was delightful, especially since I could move without dragging my leg. Improvement! We got back to the room with our toasty bagels, and the door wouldn’t open. The lock wouldn’t light up. I figured since it was check out day, maybe the keys weren’t working. I used the phone near the elevator to call down to the front desk, and they sent up security.

The guard asked for my ID first–thank you for being good at your job, sir–and then tried to open the door. He said he had to call for the master metal key because the batteries were dead, and the locksmith wouldn’t get there until 10 AM. While we waited, we heard about his time in the military. He was a pretty cool guy. He called to check up on the guy with the key who was somewhere in the hotel doing another job until he understood that the key was needed immediately since we were in the hallway. He appeared in a minute to let us in, and they left promising us vouchers for breakfast.

We ate our bagels we’d already bought and packed up to go. I found the vouchers for breakfast under our door. They were worth $30 each. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste, so when we got down to the lobby, I asked the person at the buffet if I could simply get coffee and a Coke, explaining to her why I had the vouchers. She offered to re-date them for the next day, and I said we were checking out. She then took me over to one of the servers and told him to get me a decaf and a Coke to go. And he did. A $30 decaf and a $30 soda. Boom.

It was time to go home, ice my old lady joints, and to nap away the Hilton Grand experience. Sugar and iron and pretty city things, that’s what anniversaries are made of.

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