Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Memory ....

 Yes.  I put off writing this last post on my trip to New York City. It isn't because I didn't know what to say but because what I saw there hit me so profoundly.
Coming back from the Statue of Liberty, which is much smaller than I expected, I saw this piece of art. I was mesmerized by it because it looked so damaged. I couldn't imagine why someone would make something so massive and deliberately try to destroy it. Then I saw the plaque which explained what it was exactly. I'll share those pictures here with you.
While Brenda spent time getting a character portrait done I walked around the statue inspecting every piece of it. This piece had stood outside the World Trade Center for years. The damage that you see came from the attack where thousands lost their lives, including the children in the daycare center. The magnitude of it hit me as I looked it over. Tears started coming from my eyes as I felt for the families that must look at this and know how horrendous and forceful the attack against their loved ones had been. It also serves as a reminder to those that survived at the miracle of being able to withstand something that was able to bend and blast steel. Yet this piece remains as a constant reminder in the city. An eternal flame has been ignited to serve as a light for those who were lost.

 The fact that it still stands spoke volumes to me. Even after an attack the statue stands proud. It was not torn apart for scrap or crippled enough where it could not sit upright. It speaks to us about being able to continue after adversity and remember who and what we are. We may have been attacked but we were able to continue and prosper. We lost many but we stood together in sorrow and faced our fears as a whole. We did not forget or hide it under the rug but allow it to remain in our hearts. We may be scarred but we are not damaged beyond repair.

Near here you will find the other statue that is supposed to represent those people that came to this country to seek refuge. As they entered they were able to see the lady holding the light that led them to a land of opportunity. To me it looks as if it is a group of people suffering and I do not see any type of joy in the work. As it faces toward "The Sphere," for me, it was as if they were crying and lamenting for those that were lost as well.

The one thing I know for certain is that I shall never forget. I hope no one else does either, because if they do they open themselves up to more heart ache and may begin to forget what this country has stood for since our independence.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Day In NYC - Part II China Town and Little Italy

The awesome thing about NYC and going to Chinatown is that when you walk up from the subway onto Canal Street and you're there. It's so easy.
The first thing that happened when we entered the street was a very nice old Chinese lady that I thought had to be confused. She was talking to me in Chinese and I was saying to her, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." Evidently in her dialect of Chinese this means, "Please repeat what you said louder." To which I replied again, as politely as possible, "I'm sorry, I still have no idea what you are saying." Which again, must mean, "Just say that one more time to make sure I get it right." The last time she was just disgusted with me and walked away as two other young Chinese women looked on in great amusement. Later I discovered that "Gucci" is not a coincidental word in Chinese. In an aha moment, and about three other very nice Chinese women later, I realized that they were walking the street trying to sell us purses or perfume, or whatever else they may have had hidden in an unknown location. This brought to mind the words of wisdom from the hotel clerk who said, as we left the hotel, "Remember, don't pay more than $30 for a purse."

The stores were narrow and very crowded, even though it was the middle of the week. The standard phrase of every single clerk was, "I'm going to make the best deal for you." However, you soon learn that they are all mostly the same price with the same deal. A silk scarf is $5 on either side of the street. Yet when you walk around the corner onto Mulberry Street toward Little Italy, which connects with Chinatown, the prices increase. Chinese motive is interchanged with signs for pizza, tiramisu,  and the Italian flag. Italian men are on the street in front of the restaurant offering you a seat and a glass of wine. They are quite charming. But most interesting was the monk I saw walking down the street in a brown robe heading to an unknown location. It was like something out of a movie watching this heavy set bald topped man in brown wool with a rope belt moving through the city streets. Leaving the restaurant we found nestled in between two buildings was a Catholic Church down what could have been an alley lined with statues of saints that were hoarding offerings of food and coins to answer the prayers of the believers.
Besides finding excellent pizza, the best tiramisu on the planet, and a place where I could buy fresh cannoli's I was most intrigued by a man that did Chinese calligraphy on the street. He held a small cartoon book with yellowing pages in one hand and a pen in the other where he carefully stroked images onto a white piece of paper. For $5 you can get a picture with your name. For $10 he will frame it. The trick on this one is, however, the name pictures are put on pre-printed factory pictures and not on his beautiful artwork. It is worth $5 to just stand there for a bit and watch him work, however. Not even the people that sold the same name drawings on Staten Island offered the same talent as this man. When I return to NYC I will look for him again.
Although I did not buy a painting we did buy enough in our little trip to have to buy not one but four burlap bags from Nepal to fit our goodies into. Two of these can be seen in the photo from the previous post as Brenda has them wrapped around her neck on the subway as we travel toward our adventure to the Statue of Liberty.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Day in NYC - Part 1- The Subway

My best friend, Brenda, and I decided to fly and spend a day in NYC. I hadn't been there since I was a child and Brenda had never been there. So, on my blog I am going to break up our trip into different blog posts because even in one day there is just too much to share.
One thing I had never done was travel for a day via public transportation - color me spoiled. Honestly there isn't much need to travel via public transportation in Neenah, WI. For one thing the buses stop running at 5 p.m. and for another I have a perfectly good car.
When we first got to the hotel a woman on the elevator told us, "NYC is the friendliest place in the world with the friendliest people in the world. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." I don't think that what she said is untrue, but I do think that she forgot to spread the word regarding that fact to the rest of the population. We found that New Yorkers are indeed helpful and friendly, but only if approached first.
The subway and buses were not nearly as dirty as you would think. There are thousands of people traveling every single day. Most everyone has ipods or mp3 players stuck in their ears and many of them take advantage of the ride for much needed sleep. I found a lot of people that were working full time and also attending school. The subway ride was their only nap time.
No one speaks until you speak with them first. I greeted everyone with a cheery "hello" and received a lot of smiles from other people. I said a word of kindness to others I saw such as "that's such a pretty dress," or "you have beautiful eyes." Everyone I spoke with was polite, smiled, and seemed genuinely pleased. One young man who is finishing school this year said, "I sure hope your enthusiasm is contagious. We need that here. I think we've forgotten how to be courteous."
I don't know if that is necessarily true. People were more than happy to help us find the right train and point us in the right direction. Even two of NYC's finest at the Staten Island Ferry area were joking with us and were very helpful. When I asked, "Are all NYC police officers as cute as the two of you?" they responded with, "No. Not at all. We're the only ones."
I met people from all over on the subway. Most were from NY and had lived here all their lives. Interestingly enough not many of them knew where Liberty Island and the ferry were located. They had never been there. It is safe to say that 98% of the New Yorkers we asked had no idea how to get to the Statue of Liberty nor had they ever visited. The 2% that did were working on Liberty Island, which I'm not sure counts. "We just assume it will always be there," said one young man.
Reading material on the bus was intriguing. One young man from Guyana was reading Tartuffe by Moliere. He was genuinely interested in my impressions on the play. He was rereading it for amusement and not for a class. Another was reading Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegot. This handsome young native New Yorker had read previous Vonnegot novels and found he liked the writing styles. A young girl, no more than 12, had just been to see a production of The Miracle Worker by herself. She was very careful not to bring to anyone's attention that she was travelling alone.
There were all kinds of people from all over the world riding with us in the subways. It was almost like being in a foreign country at times. But even people who eaves dropped on my conversations and happy wishes to others seemed genuinely pleased with a kind word to others. They wished me a good visit and smiled at me as they exited on their stops. So it is possible that NYC has a bad reputation for nothing because I have to say that the people we met were not unfriendly at all. They are just busy and hardworking.
The only person that we can say was Mr. Grumpy Grump was the bus driver on the Q43 when we were exhausted and returning to the hotel. Brenda was rather amused by his sully attitude and suggested he get a new job. But even he was kind enough to make a stop that was not on his schedule to drop us directly in front of the hotel.
I believe my next post will be on Liberty Island and the ferry to get there.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Ready to Travel

A girlfriend and I are going on a trip to NYC for a couple of days.

I'm packing my suitcase and my 10 year old says, "Wow, Mom. You are taking a lot of stuff for 2 days. You are coming home, right?"

My fifteen year old, obviously wise beyond his years, answers, "She's a woman. You should see what they pack when they go for a week."

I feel so loved!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Charlie the Escape Artist

Charlie, our cockatoo, is very very smart. He always manages to think things through and escape. He is very proud of himself when he does this as well. My 15 year old, Aidan, decided to catch him in the act and put a small recorder down as Charlie doesn't want anyone to know his escape tactics. Charlie was caught on video this time.