“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.

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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.

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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.

 

Hyde Park Hudson

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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Lost In The Mountains of NY

When Bright Hill Press invited me to read in Treadwell, NY, the invitation sent me reeling to days of slippery uphill walks to class, fuzzy wool socks, wearing coats upon coats, frozen snot (it’s a real thing), and gray skies for days. SUNY Oneonta, fifteen minutes from Treadwell, was my home for a few years during my undergrad days. I knew the drive there would come as second nature, as much as second nature could be for a gal who gets lost in parking lots. Not even a slight hesitation. I said yes yes yes, packed up some books and some outfits, and off I went towards the mountains of upstate New York.

Upstate New Yorkers, would probably frown upon my description of the Oswego area as upstate. For me, a life-long Long Islander, anything above the Bronx is upstate. However, those on the Canadian-US border are kind of more upstate than where I was headed. I was really going to Central New York. Unless this territory-debate has changed over the years. You can see it’s kind of ingrained in me.

Anyway, at three and a half to four hours depending on traffic, I set out for a day or two of hilly mountain driving. I stopped in Sloatsberg for a quick bite. I stopped in Roscoe because you have to stop in Roscoe. The Roscoe Diner is there. It’s like a law or something. I didn’t eat at the diner. I visited the parking lot and moved on.

Then came the part of the trip where I veered away from the Oneonta route and headed to Treadwell instead. There were huge trucks that sometimes drove behind me on one-lane roads. My car was doing really well on the vertical roads, but I still panicked every time one appeared because I didn’t want them to think I was going too slow. I didn’t feel like I  was going slow until cars passed me. I kept telling myself that slow and steady wins the race. Then I would counter my own self with we’re not in a race.

Then I passed a milkery and knew that I was very much in the country.  What’s a milkery? It’s a very large factory where milk is made that appears out of nowhere on the side of a mountain. Many of the large trucks were coming and going from here. I figured this is where a lot of the cows I saw were sending their milk. That’s how it works, right? Right.

Rounding a bend after hours of clutching the wheel, I came upon a sign at the end of a major road that had four arrows at the top. This was not a street sign. Instead, the arrows indicated: Franklin, Oneonta, Delhi, and Walton (I think these were the four). Ahh, I was in the area. Then I followed my GPS turn by turn and then the last turn came and I missed it.

No big deal. This is the reason I have a GPS. It’s not so much for directions to get to places. It’s for directions for when I screw up. So I waited for the recalculation, and it didn’t come. I took a quick glance. There was a wide blank space on the map and a blue dot hovering in the center. I’d lost GPS. I’d lost all phone signal. There would be no phone calls. There would be no artificial intelligence. There would be only me and my brains.

No big deal. I’d pull over and turn around. Ummmm, nope. When you’re on a mountain, there’s nowhere to do that. If you miss a turn and have no GPS, you really have no idea how long you have to keep driving  until you can turn around. It could be a few minutes. It could be an hour.

And that’s when I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I started drive-crying. Crying at the GPS. Crying that I was lost. Crying that I just wanted to get out of the friggin car. This is me and my brains working it out.

I found a road, finally, and turned around. I found the turn on the way back. Then I found that I was too early. What’s a gal to do? No cell service to call or message. No nothing. No one around. No place to ask anyone in person. So I headed back over to that four-arrow sign and decided to drive in the direction of Oneonta.

The road. To Oneonta. Was closed. I shit you not.

So I did some more drive-crying, only this time, it was more of sit-in-the-motionless-car-crying. Then I chose the next best arrow. Delhi. I had no idea how long it would take me to get there. I just drove and drove, passing cows, passing farms. Drove and drove until I heard a bunch of dinging, which mean I had emails arriving, which meant my service was back on. I kept driving until I saw the sign for Delhi and then cried because I’d found Delhi. I parked on the main street in Delhi and walked around a bit. Then I saw the time and decided I needed to eat and change and get ready for my reading. From Delhi, the road to Oneonta was open, so I headed towards the Southside Mall.

Up and down and twisting around, the GPS stayed on the whole way. I rounded a mountain bend and saw a sign and started drive-crying again, this time because I was all nostalgic because this was the turn to Oneonta. Oneonta has a Panera. Oneonta has wi-fi. Oneonta is technologically advanced, at least more than Treadwell.

I ate. I changed. I messaged. I called. I charted out my way back. I realized that the way back from Oneonta was the street where I’d turned around when I missed my turn, which means that only one road to Oneonta was closed.

The reading was fabulous. I read with Tom Clausen,  a poet who writes what he calls “little poems.” They are haiku and haiku-adjacent. The poems are very lovely; a lot of them read like tiny meditations. I read about space and sci-fi and vacations. I gave away astronaut ice cream and stickers because that’s my schtick. I crashed at Bright Hill because they have a room for crashing. Tom drove back home which would take about an hour, which is not long when you live up there. I perused their library. I wrote and read. I hooked up to their wi-fi. Life was good.

For breakfast, they left for me a bagel and a banana and some other breakfasty stuff, which was such a nice gesture. I wasn’t a bagel snob. I ate the bagel, and it was good. I headed out shortly after breakfast. The morning was sunny but chilly–probably not chilly for up there but it was for me.

I. Did not. Get lost. In the mountains!

Instead, I got lost in the Bronx.

But then I found my way home. Which is always my favorite part of traveling.

 

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.

NYC Anniversary 2017 Day 2 (17)

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.

HotelPhoto

Daytripping With Tesla

My brother and I are both teachers, so we have summers “off.” Those quotation marks mean we are not working in the normal sense; however, if writing syllabi and reading for the Fall are not working, then syllabi-writing is somehow a hobby that I can’t stop doing, not for the fun of it but for the mandatory necessity of it. (Full disclosure: the Virgo in me loves writing syllabi because I get to plan things. Planning!)

The “off” also refers to the ability to gallivant across the tri-state area to see things we live near yet have never seen before. On the list for the first jaunt (bum leg and all) were a memorial, a bull, and a tiny village of shops and artsy things within Stonybrook. Some of these things were demapped. My brother must have said this word maybe 52 times. Also, we found Tesla. Like, the guy, not the car. But also, the car.

First stop: an apparently demapped Vietnam memorial in Bald Hill. Or, if not demapped, then not easy to find on a map. The GPS took us to in and around the area of the memorial. We could see it rise above the trees along the road. However, we were on the opposite side of the road near the Pennysaver Amphitheatre, which was closed but had an open gate. We rolled in and rolled out. Then I suggested parking in the tiny park next to it and walking back over.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (3)

My brother taking pictures of the top of the memorial from all the way across the road and the trees.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (13)

And this is how much of it we could see.

As we walked uphill towards the open gate that said they were closed, a tiny car with a large cigar-smoking, 7-11 coffee-drinking man rolled up behind us and shout-asked: You lookin for somebody?

We were like, no, something–the memorial.

After starting to say it was way deep into beyond the gates, it dawned on him what we were talking about and he was like, Oh you guys gotta go back to how you came in and then take the next exit off ’cause this whole area is Bald Hill.

I was like, Yeah, the map said we should go here.

He was like, Yeah, it’s a good thing I found you because you woulda got lost back there and you have no water. He chuckled. We thanked him.

We made our way back to find the next exit and my brother was like, That guy needs a name. At the same time we automatically said, Vinnie. He was totally a Vinnie.

Thanks to Vinnie, we found the memorial. It was a weird exit because the memorial is located in a park in the middle of a highway. It’s quite breath-taking, literally and figuratively. It’s on a hill [hence, Bald Hill], and it’s simply stark in its simplicity and tribute.

 

Side note: several times, my brother asked me if I could keep walking and if I’d be able to get up the hill. Boys sometimes notice things. I made it up the hill all right and back down, much more slowly than usual, of course.

Second stop: The bull statue in Smithtown is in the middle of a very busy road. At first, we couldn’t find it, so my brother kept asking, When do we give up? I was like, Never. So on we drove until he was like, There it is! It’s hard to miss. First we turned before it and realized we couldn’t pull over. Then we backtracked and I told him to turn into the bike path that also indicated parking. He was like, No because we can’t get out then. I was like, but the big gardening truck is there and it has to get out somehow, pointing at the gardening truck that we would be parking behind. We drove under the overpass and I was like, Pull into the urgent care. He was like, it’s private parking. I was like, there are enough spaces in there so other people can park so we won’t be blocking any urgency. He parked.

We walked over to the bull. It’s pretty large and anatomically correct.

 

The Bull (1)

He was like, I’m not sure I got its head in. Thanks, bro. Then again, I did accidentally photobomb his picture (see above).

Third stop: Stonybrook to see a bunch of things that are all in one spot. The neat thing about his wanting to see things is that they crossed over with a bunch of lists I have about the best tea and coffee and oddities across the land. We found a very fancy post office, Hercules, an old boat, pretty water, and the Grist Mill which was closed. I walked around it to see if we could get better photos of the water wheel but my brother was like, this is a private road, and I was like, It’s not like I have a car. Then we couldn’t get around the mill anyway so we headed back.

 

Hercules (1)

In honor of Hercules, we look Herculean here.

Two girls arrived behind us and were taking pictures so I offered to take one of them together. They declined just as me and one of them at the same time noticed that we both had Gatsby bags. They’d dropped off books at the little library near the tea shop and I was like, I wished I had books with me to leave. Apparently, it was their second time there, so they knew to bring the books. I know for next time, but I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon because it’s quite a drive and I’ve got other places to see. (Also, we didn’t ask them to take our picture and they didn’t offer, so the only one I have is the one I took by leaning my phone against a tiny tree stump).

Starved, we ate at Crazy Beans. They have a Crazy Ruben and a Crazy Cuban. We debated about which would win in a fight. The ambience and the deliciousness of the food make me forget the outcome.

 

The biggest part of our outing, however, was a very unplanned excursion into the world of one Nikolai Tesla, inventor of many electric things and patenter of very few. Also, fun fact, lover of pigeons. That fact didn’t actually appear in this exhibit, but it’s something I know because I once wrote a poem called “Tesla And Marconi Throw Down For Patent Rights, Royalties, And, Most Importantly, Fame” that was published in Spilt Milk, a now defunct British online poetry mag. It’s one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written because not only does it discuss science, patents, and what a douche Marconi was, but it also refers to the band Tesla, a very underrated band concerning nostalgia and the 90s (but who also played Jones Beach last year and seemed to be very happy and very much still underrated).

we found the educational and Cultural Center at the back of the large parking lot where all the other shops stand. There was a Tesla exhibit that cost $5 to see (marked down from $7 because of change issue–score!). The first thing I noticed was that everything was written in both English and Russian. Then I noticed it was not Russian. Tesla was not Russian. It was a different language. Now if you think I’m going to remember or look it up at this point, you don’t know me at all, do you. At least I know about his pigeon-love.

Anyway, the exhibit had trivia and lots of things to read and some things that we weren’t allowed to touch because they obviously generated electricity. There was a neon Tesla. There was also the Tesla car that Tesla did not make. We waited around for the presentation that we were told would happen in 15 minutes. It didn’t happen in 15 minutes even after we took a bathroom break, so we decided to bow out of the demonstration, knowing that there would be some sort of electricity happening. We did partake in the Look At How White The Paper Is Under The Tesla-Inspired Light Bulb, however, which was good enough for us.

 

The misfortune of Tesla stems from his failure to patent his most precious inventions. He did patent some inventions, but not enough. Maybe he trusted people too much or maybe he thought gifting it all to the world was the way to go. However, he died poor. There’s a movie you can watch about it on Amazon, and the exhibit featured a suit and fancy hat worn in the movie.

Since then, Tesla has been following me. Popping up on the television, a documentary about Tesla. Driving down the city street, a street named after Tesla. Tesla cars everywhere I go. Pigeons. Lots of pigeons flying around. Tesla may be trying to tell me something.

Then we saw an old house. Demapped, we first found the address given near the house. Then we drove back and forth through the backroads of Stonybrook and Stonybrook-adjacent, trying to find another old house. Back and forth until, oh, there it is, next to the historical society. The houses were really old. My brother is a history teacher. It made sense to see old things up close. These houses look the same in these photos. They are different.

Tesla-ed out and in a food coma, we found our daytripping coming to a close. I arrived home with a half a sandwich and a bit of a limp, worth every moment.