When in Cleveland….

It was like the baseball gods were showing off just for him, in honor of his first day of big league baseball. And surely the baseball gods were smiling that day, because the next batter was Larry Brown, and he was a scrawny, scrappy 23-year-old kid who’d never hit a big league home run. And yet he stepped to the plate and became just the second player in baseball history to connect and give his team four consecutive home runs.
 ― Tucker Elliot, writer

Last week, I attended a content marketing conference in Cleveland, Ohio. It was my third trip to the Midwestern city, which is in the eastern time zone – and not in the central time zone as I had mistakenly thought the first time I visited. In September 2013, I flew to Cleveland to cover a panel on mobility at a Cleveland Clinic facility on the outskirts of the city. Cleveland Clinic, by the way, is the largest employer in the city, and being a world-class healthcare system, the region is not quite the rust belt that people outside of the state still make it out to be. Last year, I attended the same content marketing conference, but with colleagues. This time, I was by myself.

Who knew? This source of truth at the Cleveland airport.

Who knew? This source of truth at the Cleveland airport.

My room with a view at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel at the public square.

My room with a view at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel at the public square.

On the way to Progressive Field, I came upon this mural....

On the way to Progressive Field, I came upon this mural….

Cheering on the Tribe
On the way to my hotel last Tuesday evening, my taxi passed by Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. I’d whizzed past the stadium all three visits. As I figuratively pressed my nose against the window, I exclaimed to my driver that clearly the Indians were playing at home tonight. I didn’t have an opportunity to see them last year because they weren’t in town and the previous year I flew out the night they were playing. As I grilled my hapless taxi driver, who decidedly was not a baseball fan, about whether the game was sold out and how long of a walk it was, I seriously contemplated attending the game – even if by myself. The clerk at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel assured me it was only a 10-minute walk to the stadium and weeknight games often afforded plenty of seats. Carpe diem!

Yes, Progressive as in the car insurance company.

Yes, Progressive as in the car insurance company.

If I wanted to save my money, I would have stood outside the left field gate and peered in.

If I wanted to save my money, I would have stood outside the left field gate and peered in.

So off I went! Quicken Arena, which is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, sits adjacent to Progressive Field, which opened the 1994 season and is apparently undergoing phase two of a renovation – more food concepts, modernizations, and heritage and branding elements. Apparently, the impressive (read: large) scoreboard is new this year. The gates that lead you to the bleacher section and the left-field and third-base side of the field offer a view, albeit obstructed by iron gates, but I decided I wanted the experience of being at the game. I got the $14 bleacher ticket because I was told that I could stand in the designated areas to watch the game as well as sit in the bleachers. My long-sleeved shirt and the 84-degree temp, which never dipped until after 10pm, motivated me to buy a Cleveland Indians t-shirt with a 1901 imprint. It was perfect weather for a night game. I got to see former Oakland A’s outfielder Coco Crisp in action, he who was unceremoniously traded back to his former team. It just wasn’t the same seeing him in an Indians’ uniform, though I cheered him on loudly with the crowd.

Say it ain't so, Coco Crisp!

Say it ain’t so, Coco Crisp!

Pano view of Progressive Field.

Pano view of Progressive Field.

The Indians played the Houston Astros, who put up a three-spot after a Marwin Gonzalez home run early in the game. Designated hitter Carlos Santana hit one out for the Tribe, which was celebrated with a quick burst of fireworks behind the big scoreboard. The Tribe put up a fight and added a third run in the bottom of the ninth, but a weak grounder to first ended the game with a 4-3 loss. Unfortunately, I didn’t go to Heritage Park, in the center field area, which houses the Indians’ Hall of Fame. The most famous Indians player, in my opinion, is Bob Feller, but I’d forgotten other more recent greats including Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Mike Hargrove, and Carlos Baerga. Perhaps that means I’ll have to come back and check out the Hall of Fame. As I walked back to the hotel, I patted myself on the back because while I wanted to go, I didn’t want to go by myself. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, to say, hey, you guys have our guy Coco, but I really enjoyed the fact that I went. And saw a game at another MLB stadium.

The new scoreboard behind the outfield bleachers.

The new scoreboard behind the outfield bleachers.

A nice view of the stadium from the left-field side of the stadium.

A nice view of the stadium from the left-field side of the stadium.

CMI World 2016: What I learned from Michael Jr.
The next two days kept me inside the Cleveland Convention Center (300 W. Lakeside Avenue) with educational sessions on content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) Content Marketing World 2016 hosted more than 4,000 attendees this year, which is a manageable size compared to my parent company’s behemoth Annual Conference, which brings in more than 45,000 attendees and exhibitors. I learned about personas, the funnel, being counter-intuitive, and driving ROI with content. I attended morning keynotes and five sessions each of the two days. I got a Bluetooth speaker for sitting in on a vendor demo. I got another stress ball and two blue rubber men iPhone holders (yes!), even as I had sworn that I was done with exhibit hall freebies.

Michael Jr. at CMI World 2016.

Michael Jr. at CMI World 2016.

I enjoyed the Thursday morning keynote by Michael Jr. and the Thursday afternoon closing keynote by Mark Hamill. Full disclosure: I didn’t know who Michael Jr. was – he’s a comedian who has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central, and many other coveted venues. Although seemingly an aberration for a keynote speaker for a content marketing audience, he was ideal; his heartfelt underlying theme spoke to our professional work, but more importantly, to our lives. He takes his comedy show to prisons and schools. He met a grandmother who told Michael Jr. that her grandson, whom she accompanied to his show, had been abused by his mother. That experience made him so fearful he always wore a Spiderman outfit as protection. Michael Jr. reached out to him and the little boy warmed up and as they played together he took off his mask. I checked myself at this point so as not to openly cry.

On the lakeside of the conference center, you'll find a hog farm and honey bee colonies. FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Cleveland Browns play, sits in the background close to the shores of Lake Erie.

On the lakeside of the conference center, you’ll find a hog farm and honey bee colonies. FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Cleveland Browns play, sits in the background close to the shores of Lake Erie.

Hog watching on the farm.

Hog watching on the farm.

The more Michael Jr. spoke – in between his jokes – the more he commanded respect from me and the rest of the audience. He explained that as a comedian, you operate with a “what” and a “why.” The what is the story or set-up and the why is the punchline, which is something unpredictable from the set-up. He turned that around to be applicable to our profession but also to life in general. Joe Polizzi, founder of CMI, had seen a YouTube of Michael Jr., which inspired him to reach out and ask Michael Jr. to be a keynote speaker this year. Here is the transcript of the video below:

“The key isn’t to know ‘what’. The key is to know ‘why’. Because when you know your ‘why’, you have options on what your ‘what’ can be. For instance, my ‘why’ is to inspire people to walk in purpose. My ‘what’ is stand-up comedy. My ‘what’ is writing books. My ‘what’ can be going out with friends to eat. In fact, another ‘what’ that has moved me towards my ‘why’ is a web series that we have now called Break Time. So every Wednesday at 3 o’clock – you should subscribe to the channel – we do a series called Break Time on YouTube. At 3 o’clock we drop a new episode. One episode in particular – I’m about to show you a clip to – we were in Winston-Salem. Break Time – this is how it works. I travel the country, doing stand-up comedy, probably an hour, hour-and-a-half. And in the middle of my show, I’ll just sit down and start talking to the audience. And funny just happens. Or I’ll just meet somebody who’s really interesting. I met this one guy and he said that he teaches music at a school. All right, you teach music. Can you sing?” He then showed the clip, and the man, E. Daryl Duff, sang a wonderful rendition of Amazing Grace, which Michael Jr. had requested.

Then Michael Jr. requested a version of him singing the same song, but now he has learned that his uncle just got out of jail and he had gotten shot as a kid. He wanted to see a “‘hood” version, so to speak, to see if it exists. “Let me see what you got,” he entreated. So Duff sang an elevated, deeply soulful version of “Amazing Grace,” which resulted in a standing ovation from the audience and a man coming up to give him a hug.

“Here’s the thing,” Michael Jr. told the other audience in the YouTube video. “The first time when I asked him to sing, he knew what he was doing. The second time I asked him to sing, he knew why he was doing it. When you know your ‘why’, your ‘what’ has more impact – because you’re walking in, or toward, your purpose.” Wow, powerful stuff. You can see the YouTube video here.

I sat right beneath one of the big screens, which shows you how far away I was from the stage.

I sat right beneath one of the big screens, which shows you how far away I was from the stage.

CMI World 2016: What I learned from Mark Hamill
Okay, well who can top that keynote? Mark Hamill, the closing keynote Thursday late afternoon, tried. Another full disclosure: I never saw any of the Star Wars movies. I never saw the first one when it first came out in 1977 – and it was the most anticipated movie that year. I even remember my friend Joanie Stadtherr excitedly talking about its release. Never saw any of the subsequent series or episodes. Just never got into it at all. Now the love in the audience was palpable. These were Star Wars fans. They may be content marketers by day, but they probably attended the premier wielding light sabers.

This is how far away I was.

This is how far away I was.

But despite my deficiency, I found Hamill entertaining. He wasn’t as profound or funny as Michael Jr., but I came away with a couple of thoughtful gems. Hamill talked about the movie industry and how difficult it is – how the rejections come often and they never stop. Years ago, he said he knew an actress who was incredibly talented, not unlike Meryl Streep. But she couldn’t handle the rejections. And so she left Hollywood, got married, and lived a happy life. “Tenacity is more important than talent,” Hamill revealed. You really have to want to do it, that nothing else will do. And you have to go in with the stark but real possibility that you will either break even or lose money. That advice applies not just to our careers or our professional aspirations, but to life. I also felt it was applicable for me as a writer.

Up close and personal with Mark Hamill.

Up close and personal with Mark Hamill.

When asked to give us advice, Hamill entreated us to follow our own inspiration: “Find what inspires you. Then re-purpose it through your own prism. Everything old is new again.” He added that he wasn’t implying that we steal ideas or works, but that we should follow our instincts. Finally, when asked if he was happy with his life in retrospect, he responded, “I’m never satisfied, but I aim to be less dissatisfied.” I liked that. Contentedness can lead to complacency, if one allows it to. So stay on your toes and seek greater fulfillment, greater good, greater things to accomplish for the good of humanity and our planet. I came away from the day’s keynotes feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Now when was the last time anyone who has attended a work-related conference can say that?

Sculptor Marshall Fredericks' bronze man rising from the flames and reaching for eternal peace.

Sculptor Marshall Fredericks’ bronze man rising from the flames and reaching for eternal peace.

Iron ornamentation on the Society National Bank's building, which was established in 1849.

Iron ornamentation on the Society National Bank’s building, which was established in 1849.

Old Stone Church, an 1855 Presbyterian Church, is the oldest church in the Public Square.

Old Stone Church, an 1855 Presbyterian Church, is the oldest church in the Public Square.

Architecture and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
When I left the conference, I took a detour back to my hotel and snapped some photos of Memorial Square and nearby buildings. Downtown Cleveland has some architecturally stunning buildings that make one nostalgic for what it used to look like at the turn of the 20th century and in the 1930s. A woman whose languid voice reminded me of Edie Brickell of the New Bohemians sang with her guitar on a stage set up on the Square.

The Color Guard bronze statue.

The Color Guard bronze statue.

At Short Range bronze statue.

At Short Range bronze statue.

The Advance Guard bronze statue. I didn't take a good Mortar Practice bronze statue, so I didn't include it here.

The Advance Guard bronze statue. I didn’t take a good Mortar Practice bronze statue, so I didn’t include it here.

I stopped to take photos and learned about the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (3 Public Square, 216.621.3710, open daily 10am to 6pm), which houses a small museum at the base of the memorial. The monument, which comprises a 125-foot column of black Quincy stone atop and the Memorial Room and esplanade at the base, commemorates the American Civil War. Atop the column rises the statue of the Goddess of Freedom, defended by the Shield of Liberty, which “signifies the essence of the Nation for which Cuyahoga County veterans were willing to and did give their lives.” The column has six foliated bronze bands listing the names of 30 battles in which the soldiers fought. Four bronze statues depicting battle scenes grace each side of the esplanade to honor the Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry.

Bronze relief panel with Abraham Lincoln inside the museum.

Bronze relief panel with Abraham Lincoln inside the museum.

Union state Ohio honors Lincoln.

Union state Ohio honors Lincoln.

Lincoln story continued.

Lincoln story continued.

The interior of the monument was built in 1894 but was recently renovated. Four bronze relief sculptures grace the museum – the Women’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Aid Society, Beginning of the War in Ohio, Emancipation of the Slaves, and End of the War at City Point, Va. Busts of Gen. James Barnett and Architect/ Sculptor Levi T. Scofield, together with six officers, are also displayed in the museum. I appreciated seeing this little piece of Cleveland, Ohio, history, and it made me realize how deeply impacted this region was by the Civil War.

Nine thousand Civil War Veterans' names are carved on the interior walls of the museum.

Nine thousand Civil War Veterans’ names are carved on the interior walls of the museum.

A close-up of the names of veterans.

A close-up of the names of veterans.

A call to action to free African American men.

A call to action to free African American men.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum: ‘Louder than Words’
My last day in Cleveland, I was able to pack in a quick trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, a hop, skip, and a jump away from the convention center. Whereas the special exhibit on my first visit was about the Rolling Stones, the current special exhibit was called “Louder than Words: Rock. Power. Politics.” A great subject that lured me in.

The iconic double-pyramid building was designed by internationally recognized architect I.M. Pei.

The iconic double-pyramid building was designed by internationally recognized architect I.M. Pei.

Me on the electric guitar.

Me on the electric guitar.

2016 inductees Cheap Trick.

2016 inductees Cheap Trick.

Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson's outfit and guitars on display.

Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielson’s outfit and guitars on display.

I didn’t have much time, though I re-acquainted myself with some sections of the permanent exhibit and new installations, particularly the outfits of icons such as Beyonce and Taylor Swift, which weren’t there when I came in 2012. I imagine they will have to add more rooms to accommodate future rock and roll bands. At any rate, Cheap Trick was one of the 2016 inductees, which made my missing their concert – hosted by the CMI conference the night before – a regretted decision. Chicago and Steve Miller also were inducted this past April. One of my all-time favorite songs that still brings back vivid memories of summer in 1972 – retrieving guppies from Success Lake, bike rides in the hot afternoons, going to town to buy 45’s at Smith’s Drugstore – is “Saturday In the Park.” So, I had to take a picture of a display of one of my favorite songs.

"Saturday in the Park" display for Chicago.

“Saturday in the Park” display for Chicago.

Louder than Words exhibit: Rock, Power and Politics.

Louder than Words exhibit: Rock, Power and Politics.

Panel on differing viewpoints of musicians after 9/11.

Panel on differing viewpoints of musicians after 9/11.

The impact of Black Lives Matter on rock and roll.

The impact of Black Lives Matter on rock and roll.

Will I return to Cleveland ever again? I’m not sure if I’ll be granted permission to return to the conference next year or ever, so I’m glad I got to see the Tribe play in Progressive Field and that I made it to the museum again.

Colorful birds on the grass in the public square. You can see the old white May Company building in the background.

Colorful birds on the grass in the public square. You can see the old white May Company building in the background.

A shallow pool of snails and fish in the middle of the square.

A shallow pool of snails and fish in the middle of the square.

Another view....

Another view….

The last sight - just to get motivated for next season!

The last sight – just to get motivated for next season!

The fading garden

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.
 – Henry Rollins, American musician, actor, comedian, and television and radio host

We head into autumn with school having begun and thoughts of cutting back the straw-like stalks of dahlias. But wait! The dahlias dried up back in July, and I begged and coaxed the remaining ones that were fighting the perennial powdery mildew to please allow their buds to bloom and not turn black and wither on the stem.

Ginger plant, hydrangea, alstroemeria, dianthus, and dahlia bouquet.

A mid-June bouquet of ginger plant, hydrangea, alstroemeria, dianthus, and dahlias.

New dahlia on the left reminds me of sherbet. Unfortunately, only two blooms came from this dahlia plant.

New dahlia on the left reminds me of sherbet. Unfortunately, only two blooms came from this dahlia plant. And the white dahlia petered out early, too.

One of my favorite dahlias - dark red cherry in color - only gave a few blooms before drying out.

One of my favorite dahlias – dark red cherry in color – only gave a few blooms before drying out.

Each week, as I cut the meager flowers, I didn’t think that I would make it to my tenth week of delivering the middle school auction bouquets. But I did, and I believe my last bouquet of the season turned out to be the last bouquet of the auction.

A 4th of July bouquet with a rare gladiola. Our gladiola patch produced maybe five blooms at the most this season, which is unheard of all the years we've been in our home.

A 4th of July bouquet with a rare gladiola. Our gladiola patch produced maybe five blooms at the most this season, which is unheard of all the years we’ve been in our home.

The light yellow dahlia, which is the first ones to come up, hung tough this season. And another dark magenta bloom!

The light yellow dahlia, which is the first ones to come up, hung tough this season. And another dark magenta bloom!

Another sherbet dahlia. That's two this season!

Another sherbet dahlia. That’s two this season!

And each week, I saw the blooms shrink in size. As I was compiling the last six bouquets of the season, I saw photographs of previous seasons. Many of those dahlias never came up. Many of the ones that did come up never bloomed, or gave a few blooms and then went barren. Even the new dahlias that I planted withered within weeks.

Alstroemeria is still going strong for this mid-July bouquet.

Alstroemeria is still going strong for this mid-July bouquet.

First blooms from my dark red and white dahlia on the left and a small dark magenta bloom at the top.

First blooms from my dark red and white dahlia on the left and a small dark magenta bloom at the top.

Deep purple dahlia from Costco came up strong, but only gave a few blooms this season. At least this was dinner-plate size.

Deep purple dahlia from Costco came up strong, but only gave a few blooms this season. At least this was dinner-plate size. Flanked by scabiosa anthemifolia and alstroemeria.

The third sherbet bloom of the season peeking out in this bouquet.

The third sherbet bloom of the season peeking out in this bouquet.

We battled a gopher in our backyard. Could the varmint be eating the roots of my beloved dahlias? Or could the squirrels who are chewing off branches from our ginkgo and magnolia trees – something we’ve never seen happen before – be messing with my flowers?

Thank goodness for the large hydrangea blooms, which filled the vase when the dahlias began petering out for this third-week July bouquet. But even the hydrangeas started turning brown.

Thank goodness for the large hydrangea blooms, which filled the vase when the dahlias began petering out for this third-week July bouquet. But even the hydrangeas started turning brown.

Or could the dahlia tubers have drowned in the clay soil during our El Nino winter, which was quite wet in November through January? I won’t know until I dig them up and see if they are shriveled up.

End of July bouquet: the height of the vase gets shorter. This bouquet is helped with a new hydrangea plant in a beautiful blue hue and my neighbor's purple succulent blooms.

End of July bouquet: the height of the vase gets shorter. This bouquet is helped with a new hydrangea plant in a beautiful blue hue, centaurea cyanus, and my neighbor’s purple succulent blooms.

Two different hydrangea blooms.

Two different hydrangea blooms.

This bouquet is helped with our smaller dahlias, which are planted in pots that flank our courtyard. They remained healthy and produced nice blooms until powdery mildew crept in by late July.

This bouquet is helped with our smaller dahlias, which are planted in pots that flank our courtyard. They remained healthy and produced nice blooms until powdery mildew crept in by late July. The centaurea cynamus at the top left are growing nicely with the peach tree providing nice shade.

Another close-up with the perfect orange dahlia bloom.

Another close-up with the perfect orange dahlia bloom.

Wide swathes of dirt made the side yard look like a desert. Perhaps some blight swept through the side yard. I’ll have to take a sample to a local nursery and find out what I’m doing wrong. I mourn my garden of years past.

A volunteer gladiola sprouted in our front yard. I took it before the deer could!

A volunteer gladiola sprouted in our front yard. I took it before the deer could!

The first bouquet of August.

The first bouquet of August with an abundance of scabiosa anthemifolia and centaurea cyanus complementing the peach-colored gladiola.

Close-up of this early August bouquet.

Close-up of this early August bouquet.

A rare pink dahlia with a rare dianthus.

A rare pink dahlia with a rare dianthus and nice-sized scabiosa anthemifolia.

Next season I vow to bring the garden back. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the bouquets that I managed to create.

The final bouquet of the season is helped tremendously by our friend's fragrant rose!

The final bouquet of the season is helped tremendously by our friend’s fragrant rose!

The modest backside of this bouquet. Note the much-smaller blooms.

The modest backside of this bouquet. Note the much-smaller blooms.

Close-up at an angle.

Close-up at an angle.

Final bouquet of the season. Last close-up.

Final bouquet of the season. Last close-up.

Love, Portland and Stonington, Maine

In the life of each of us there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness.
– Sarah Orne Jewett, an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, from The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

Outside of Scales Restaurant, 68 Commercial Street, Portland.

Outside of Scales Restaurant, 68 Commercial Street, Portland.

Happily and luckily, I’ve been coming to Maine for a week in the summer for the last 10 years. The company that I work for – HIMSS Media – was originally MedTech Publishing, which was co-founded by my good friend, Jack Beaudoin in 2003. He and his business partner, Neil Rouda, lived and still live in Maine, which is why the Summer Summits were based there. Every first week of August, the remote workers – I was a freelance writer until I became an FTE in 2010 – would descend upon the company headquarters in New Gloucester and have editorial and sales and marketing meetings. While the out-of-towners stayed at the beautiful Merrill Farmhouse on Pineland Farms, I stayed with Jack’s family. We had wonderful employee-bonding activities such as geocaching (the non-technology kind) and cheese and wine tasting on the Pineland grounds and having a lobster bake on Peak’s Island, a ferry ride away from Portland.

After a cross-country red-eye flight, nothing better than to have Sunday brunch with old coworker Eric Wickland at Sonny's Restaurant, 83 Exchange Street, Portland. Eggs, potatoes, and grilled cornbread.

After a cross-country red-eye flight, nothing better than to have Sunday brunch with old coworker Eric Wickland at Sonny’s Restaurant (83 Exchange Street, Portland). Eggs, potatoes, and grilled cornbread.

The whole company took the ferry to Peak's Island to enjoy the sunset, play deck games, and drink and eat.

The whole company took the ferry to Peak’s Island to enjoy the sunset, play deck games, and drink and eat.

In time, the company was renamed MedTech Media and then sold to minority owner HIMSS and later became HIMSS Media. Jack moved on, and the Summer Summits ceased in 2013. Thankfully, I still return to Maine, but as part of the Summer Sales Meetings, which are now held in July. Every time I return, I am reminded of my initial wonderment when my plane first descended into Portland and I saw these quaint cottages and summer mansions perched on the banks of the many islands off of Casco Bay. And how I fell in love with the land and the lifestyle. It gets me every time.

My sixth-floor room with a view at the Hyatt Place, overlooking Casco Bay.

My sixth-floor room with a view at the Hyatt Place, overlooking Casco Bay.

Sunday evening dinner with the sales team: What's for dinner at Scales Restaurant? Lobster, of course.

Sunday evening dinner with the sales team: What’s for dinner at Scales Restaurant? Lobster, of course.

I’m told that Portland boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. I will take it. There are wonderful restaurants around every corner. And there are great little shops all clustered together, which makes for a great Sunday afternoon of wandering around and checking out local and state artisan goods. Love, Portland.

Looks like I found someone at HIMSS Media, my coworker Claretha, who also loves statement earrings, at Tica's on Commercial Street.

Looks like I found someone at HIMSS Media, my coworker Claretha, who also loves statement earrings, at Tica’s on Commercial Street.

Penthouse deck views from The Press Hotel at 119 Exchange Street. Formerly headquarters of The Press Herald newspaper, it's now a boutique hotel with a very distinct journalism aesthetic. No, the seagull did not photo bomb me; he just wouldn't get out of the way.

Penthouse deck views from The Press Hotel (119 Exchange Street). Formerly headquarters of The Press Herald newspaper, it’s now a boutique hotel with a very distinct journalist aesthetic. No, the seagull did not photo bomb me; he just wouldn’t get out of the way.

Last meal in Portland at Solo Italiano, 100 Commercial Street - very good pasta.

Last meal in Portland at Solo Italiano (100 Commercial Street) – very good pasta.

After a very packed Summer Sales Meeting week, I met up with Jack and family dog, Holly, and we set out for a three-hour drive northeast to their second home in Stonington, a quaint and beautiful town on a bridged island in Penobscot Bay. The road to Stonington, once we got off the highway, is not really winding as it is up and down, which didn’t sit well with my stomach. Let’s just say that Jack drove much more slowly and cautiously than he’d normally drive, and taking Dramamine on the return trip to Portland eliminated my motion sickness.

Jack and Fay's lovely home in Stonington, complete with a white-picket fence.

Jack and Fay’s lovely home in Stonington, complete with a white-picket fence.

The attic, which has been converted to Jack's writing room, which was a perfect place for me to "work" on a Friday.

The attic, which has been converted to Jack’s writing room and was a perfect place for me to “work” on a Friday.

Jack tells the story of how he and Fay would rent a house in Stonington for vacation early in their marriage. They fell in love with the town and a few years ago bought the home of the former town librarian, who is still alive at the young age of 104 years. They have been slowly and lovingly remodeling the house, which is a stone’s throw from the popular Friday farmer’s market, the downtown area, and the coast. Fay did a beautiful job with the landscaping – everything looks lush and healthy. She has a great eye and is an avid gardener.

Five minutes away to the Friday Farmer's Market, where local crafts and artisan goods, wildflower bouquets, and artisan foods are on display.

Five minutes away to the Friday Farmer’s Market, where local crafts and artisan goods, wildflower bouquets, and artisan foods are on display.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Stonington is that it is a destination for true rest and relaxation. Like my hometown and our visits with my cousin Janet and her husband, Tim, when I am there, I forget about yesterday and tomorrow. I am in the moment, and I take deep breaths and immerse myself in enjoy mode. So it was with Stonington. What I very much appreciated was staying up late Friday evening and Saturday afternoon talking about novels and writing with Jack. Talking shop, as he called it. I don’t have a writing group back home. Most people I trust are the ones with whom I spent two years in Syracuse, who know me and my writing, and who have my best interest at heart. But they are all dispersed. When I was at Syracuse, I was, really, just learning how to write, so I looked up to my more worldly, wiser classmates. But there were only a few writers whose class discussions about craft I listened to with rapt attention and took plenty of notes. Jack was one of them. I valued his commentary on my short stories because he cared and wanted you to do right by your stories and characters. And that’s because Jack is a wonderful writer whose prose is beautiful and precise and whose human insights are startling and real. He believes in the beauty, power, and integrity of story, of fiction. One who has such a writer for a mentor and a friend is twice blessed.

At any rate, here, to have that time talking about, say, structural issues with our current work and discussing how our favorite authors have handled plot or character was magical and so very instructional. I appreciated the immediacy of talking one on one versus communicating via email. So thank you for that, Jack. It made me want to read more and get back to my novel-in-progress.

The inviting view from the kitchen door.

The inviting view from the kitchen door.

I love wraparound porches for their welcoming you to sit and enjoy the view and talk about writing and novels.

I love wraparound porches for their natural ability to welcome you to sit and enjoy the garden and view beyond, and talk about writing and novels.

Just a little bit about the town of Stonington. The lobster and fishing industry support the economy of Stonington and the nearby town of Deer Isle. Many of the fishermen revert to being carpenters or contractors in the off-season. I’m told that these two towns lead Maine in pound and dollar value of lobster landings. The two towns’ waters support some 300 lobster boats during the season. The island is also known for its granite quarries, which go back to the late 1800s and are still being mined today. The granite from John F. Kennedy’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was supplied by Stonington’s quarry.

Along the bay is a statue honoring the men who work in the granite quarries.

Along the bay is a statue honoring the men who work in the granite quarries.

In many a front yard of a home in Stonington, you will find stacks of lobster traps and buoys, which mark the lobster fisherman's territory in the bay. Colorful that.

In many of the front yards of homes in Stonington, you will find stacks of lobster traps and colorful buoys, which mark the lobster fisherman’s territory in the bay.

More lobster? Yes, please!

More lobster for dinner on a Friday evening? Yes, please!

One never gets tired of lobster while in Maine.

One never gets tired of lobster while in Maine.

One of the things I loved about our walk to the downtown was the historic homes that bore the names of their original owners. Some were weathered, giving way to their age. Others were happily restored to a gleaming white, which blazed in the July sun, and stood out against the blue sky, blue bay, and green hills. There were B&Bs, a wine shop, art houses and galleries, little shops, and the historic Stonington Opera House. But there were no touristy shops – the shop that did sell t-shirts and the like was low-key and, I dare say, dignified.

On the walk from Jack and Fay's house to the waterfront, there is a wonderful art installation of a weathered window and two Adirondack chairs positioned in front of the window. Brilliant.

On the walk from Jack and Fay’s house to the waterfront, there is a wonderful art installation of a free-standing weathered window and two Adirondack chairs positioned in front of the window. Brilliant.

The other side of the window and two chairs, with a beautiful spacious white house in the background.

The other side of the window and two chairs, with a beautiful spacious white house in the background.

A view of the bay, which, when coming around the bend, takes your breath away.

A view of the bay, which, when coming around the bend, takes your breath away.

I think this is a B&B set back from the road. Beautiful, isn't it? Imagine the bay views from the bedrooms and front porch!

I think this is a B&B set back from the road. Beautiful, isn’t it? Imagine the bay views from the front bedrooms and porch!

Colorful flowers everywhere.

Colorful flowers everywhere.

A home with an art studio.

A home with an art studio.

A “Mini Village” is nestled beneath a pine tree downtown. The sign on the tree tells of its origins: “Stonington’s Mini Village set up in this little park area was the creation of Everett Knowlton (b. April 7, 1901, d. March 17, 1978) who began building the houses in 1947 as a hobby. He continued to build them at a rate of one a year and slowly grew his ‘perfect peaceful village’ portrayed in these old pictures and portrayed in its original entirety at the Knowlton homestead. After Everett’s death, the new owner of his home donated to the town the Mini Village where each year residents take home the little houses for the winter and bring them back in spring for people to enjoy.”

Part of the "Mini Village."

Part of the “Mini Village.”

On Saturday, we timed the low tide so we could walk to one of the islands. It was a beautiful day, if a tad bit warm. We traversed a woody and ferny path of tangled roots and spongy soil, breathing in every now and then the smell of aromatic pine, before reaching the sand bar that led us to the island. The cloud formations were spectacular, especially against the blue skies and waters. This was quintessential Maine. The water was cold, the island rocky, the pines plentiful. Breathtaking. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

A woody walk to the island.

A woody walk to the island.

Rock, water, pine, sky and clouds.

Rock, water, pine, sky and clouds.

Walking across the sand bar to the island.

Walking across the sand bar to the island.

Those clouds! They are mesmerizing.

Those clouds! They are mesmerizing.

Heaven.

Heaven.

Can't get enough of these views.

Can’t get enough of these views.

On the way back, a peek at the shoreline.

On the way back, a peek at the shoreline.

On my last night, Jack, Fay, and their daughter Genny treated me to dinner at Aragosta (27 Main Street, Stonginton), the farm-to-table restaurant overlooking Stonington Harbor whose chef, Devin Finigan, is Vermont born and raised. Aragosta is cozy inside – wide-plank wooden floors, sofa seating along the walls, white-washed wooden walls – with a stunning view and a walk-down expansive outdoor deck. Stonington lobster ravioli was calling my name. As I took in the views, savored every bite, and enjoyed relaxing dinner conversation, I kept thinking how David would have loved this restaurant, to say nothing of the views. Aragosta, by the way, is the Italian word for lobster. Of course.

Twilight on the bay, on the walk to Aragosta.

Twilight on the bay, on the walk to Aragosta.

Oysters and salad.

Oysters and salad.

My very delicious lobster ravioli.

My very delicious lobster ravioli.

Fay and me after dinner - happy and sated.

Fay and me after dinner – happy and sated.

Jack and his talented daughter Genny, actress, playwright, singer, musician, songwriter. We know where she got her artistic talent! Dad is a wonderful writer whose prose is beautiful and precise and human insights are startling and real.

Jack and his talented daughter Genny, actress, playwright, singer, musician, songwriter. We know where she got her artistic talent! Is that Jack’s author pose? Methinks it is!

Okay, twist my arm. I'll order dessert - a strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream.

Okay, twist my arm. I’ll order dessert – a strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream.

I will admit that photos are a poor substitute for being there. Photos can’t let you hear the lively rain at night or the early morning shower that gently wakes you up. They can’t let you breathe in the lavender in the garden and the pine all over the island. What they can do is make you say: This is where I want to go next. And come back to again and again. Thank you, Jack and Fay, for the beauty, the shop talk, the meals, the rest and relaxation I craved and received with open arms.

Last night on the waterfront in Stonington.

Last night on the waterfront in Stonington.

Ghostly ships on a gray foggy Sunday morning.

Ghostly ships moored in the bay on a gray foggy Sunday morning.

A little fog and rain, grassy hills, and a view of the bay.

A slightly different view: a little fog and rain, grassy hills, and the bay dotted with ships.

Crossing the bridge on our way out of Stonington.

Crossing the bridge on our way out of Stonington.

Early morning Sunday: a quiet pond after the rain. Goodbye, Stonington.

Early morning Sunday: a quiet pond after the rain. Goodbye, Stonington.

New York, New York: Tenement Museum, United Nations, and Yankee Stadium

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

Our seventh full day in New York marked the end of our family vacation. David and the kids were going to leave the next morning, while Heidi and I stayed for the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) 2016 Biennial Conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Midtown Manhattan. We made our last day memorable and full. Before we left the Bay Area for vacation, David’s boss recommended going to the Tenement Museum, if we enjoyed learning about local history and immigrants. We had never heard of it, but our interest was piqued, so we added the museum to our growing list of places to see.

Talk of New York City tenements and immigrant sweatshop workers led me to recall a poem written in 1989 by poet and activist Safiya Henderson-Holmes, who grew up in the Bronx and lived in Harlem at one time. She recited it at a welcome reception for her after she had accepted a position as assistant professor in Syracuse University’s Creative Writing Program in the spring of 1990, which was my last semester there. Her poem, rituals of spring (for the 78th anniversary of the shirtwaist factory fire), introduced me to the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire, which killed 145 sweatshop workers, most of whom were immigrant teenage girls who didn’t speak English. The tragedy lies in the fact that their deaths were preventable, given that no sprinkler system was installed, the fire hose was rotted and its valve rusted shut, and the girls were denied evacuation by locked doors, a difficult-to-access fire escape, and a single elevator that eventually broke down. With the heat and flames upon them, many girls plunged down the elevator shaft to their death. Those who took the stairwell found the door locked and were burned alive. Still others jumped to their death from the windows. The fire, which occurred on the top three floors of the Asch Building on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, near Washington Square Park, galvanized advocates to successfully fight for legislation to protect workers.

This display about the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire was in our Little Italy neighborhood.

This display about the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire was in our Little Italy neighborhood.

rituals of spring is too long to include here in its entirety, but I do want to entice you to read the whole poem by sharing the first five stanzas of this heart-achingly beautiful and poem. An aside, I was greatly saddened to discover that Henderson-Holmes was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and died at the age of 50 on April 8, 2001.

rituals of spring
(for the 78th anniversary of the shirtwaist factory fire)

from bareness to fullness flowers do bloom
whenever, however spring enters a room
oh, whenever, however spring enters a room

march 25th, 1911
at the triangle shirtwaist factory
a fire claimed the lives of 146 people, mostly women,
mostly children in the plume of their lives,
in the room of their lives
begging for spring, toiling and begging for spring

and in my head
as I read the history, afraid to touch the pictures
i imagine the room, i imagine the women
dressed in pale blues and pinks,
some without heads or arms – sitting
some without legs or waist – hovering
hundreds of flowering girls tucking spring into sleeves,
tucking and tugging at spring to stay alive

and so a shirtwaist for spring
a dress with a mannish collar, blousing over breast,
blousing over sweat, tapering to fit a female waist,
tapering to fit a female breath
sheer silk, cotton, linen
hand done pleats, hands done in by pleats
hands done in by darts and lace

colors of spring
pale blues, pale pinks, yellows, magentas, lavender, peach,

David's black-and-white version of 97 Orchard Street.

David’s black-and-white version of 97 Orchard Street.

The Tenement Museum: immigrant stories come alive
With that poem in my head, I looked forward to going to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street, 212.982.8420), the destination of which was a healthy walk from our apartment. Aside from the walking tours of the immediate neighborhood, all tours are within 97 Orchard Street, a tenement apartment building erected in 1863 and home to nearly 7,000 working-class immigrants. Ruth Abram, local historian and social activist, wanted to establish a museum that honors America’s immigrants by preserving and interpreting “the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood.” Abram and co-founder Anita Jacobson discovered 97 Orchard Street, which had been shuttered for more than 50 years and subsequently abandoned in the 1960s. They deemed it to be the ideal building for their museum because its interior resembled a “little time capsule,” with many artifacts left as is, “as though people had just picked up and left,” Jacobson recalled.

Sign above the historic building (photo by David).

Sign above the historic building (photo by David).

It took years to restore the apartments and dig through archives to create an accurate depiction of tenement life. Established in 1988, the Museum, a designated National Historic Site, opened its first restored apartment – the 1878 home of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family – in 1992. Thus far, the Museum has restored six apartments, the newest being the home of the Moores, Irish immigrants who resided there in 1869. In 2007, the Museum acquired 103 Orchard Street, which serves as the flagship building for the Visitors Center, exhibitions, classrooms, and small theater that airs documentaries.

Sign for the 1870s German saloon of John and Caroline Schneider (photo by David).

Sign for the 1870s German saloon of John and Caroline Schneider (photo by David).

The Tenement Museum offers five different tours with extremely knowledgeable docents. The Sweatshop Workers tour, which we signed up for, visits the Levine family’s garment workshop and the Rogarshevskys’ Sabbath table at the turn of the 20th century. The Shop Life tour highlights the 1870s German saloon of John and Caroline Schneider, and is accompanied by interactive media to bring to life stories of turn-of-the-century kosher butchers, a 1930s auctioneer, and 1970s undergarment discounters. The Hard Times tour paints a picture of how immigrants dealt with economic depressions between 1863 and 1935 by showing the restored homes of the Gumpertz family, whose patriarch disappeared during the Panic of 1873, and the Italian-Catholic Baldizzi family, who lived through the Great Depression. The Irish Outsiders tour introduces the Moore family. An extended tour of Hard Times includes a longer visit of the Gumpertz and Baldizzi apartments and discussion on various immigrant themes.

A scene when Orchard Street was a bustling immigrant haven (photo by David).

A photograph of a bustling Orchard Street (photo by David).

I’m not sure how excited the kids were about the historical tour and the museum – we also saw an excellent documentary about the immigrants into Little Italy and surrounding neighborhoods – but David, Heidi, and I appreciated the focus on immigration, which is still relevant today and elicits strong feelings in our country and around the world. With civil wars creating a spike in mass immigration, we ought to gain a greater understanding and lessons learned from what happened more than 100 years ago in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Had we known that they would be taking down the flags at the end of the day, we would have taken exterior photos before we went in (photo by David)!

Had we known that they would be taking down the flags at the end of the day, we would have taken exterior photos before we went in (photo by David)!

The United Nations: doing good in the world
After lunch, we also took a tour of the United Nations Headquarters (46th Street and 1st Avenue, along the East River). Once you clear security, you can conduct your own exploration, but we opted for a guided tour to gain more knowledge about the UN. We were lucky in that the iconic buildings, which were designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1952, were not too crowded and our tour group was a manageable size. The buildings comprise the newly renovated General Assembly Hall, Security Council Chamber, Trusteeship Council Chamber, and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber in the renovated Conference Building.

A sphere, a gift from Italy to the UN, graces the courtyard after security clearance (photo by David).

Sphere within a Sphere by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, a gift from Italy to the UN, graces the courtyard after security clearance (photo by David).

Oh, there are the flags! From the inside looking out, a grassy field and statue.

Oh, there are the flags! From the inside looking out, a grassy field and statue.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the concept “United Nations” in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during World War II, when 26 nations pledged to band together to fight against the Axis Powers. On June 26, 1945, after representatives from 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, the United Nations Charter was signed. United Nations Day is celebrated on October 24th every year, honoring the day in 1945 that the Charter was ratified and the United Nations officially came into existence.

The mural "Mankind's Struggle for Lasting Peace" by José Vela-Zanetti of the Dominican Republic under a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (photo by David).

The mural “Mankind’s Struggle for Lasting Peace” by José Vela-Zanetti of the Dominican Republic under a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (photo by David).

A mosaic based on American artist Norman Rockwelll's Golden Rule. It was presented to the UN in 1985 as a gift by the United States by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan (photo by David).

A mosaic based on American artist Norman Rockwelll’s Golden Rule. It was presented to the UN in 1985 as a gift by the United States by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan (photo by David).

According to the UN charter, the organization is tasked with five missions: maintain international peace and security through the prevention of conflict, assistance to parties in conflict to make peace, peacekeeping, and the creation of conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish; promote sustainable development by developing and engaging in programs that offer prosperity and economic opportunity, greater social well-being, and environmental protection; protect human rights through legal instruments and activities in the field; uphold international law by establishing “conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”; and finally, deliver humanitarian aid through the coordination of humanitarian relief operations in areas of need where national governments cannot cope on their own.

One of the UN's missions.

One of the UN’s missions.

Our very own peacekeeper.

Our very own peacekeeper.

As a child I had seen pictures of the United Nations Headquarters – its row of country flags unfurling and its two more famous iconic buildings, the domino-shaped tower and low sloping building. Who knows – if I had toured the UN as a child I might have wanted to work for such an organization, given its missions, and, of course, to live in New York City – that would have been a grand dream. Some of the memorable moments of our trip included a real-time monitor and exhibit on the daily military expenditure worldwide. The exhibit’s title comes from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.” At 3pm local time, the daily total starting at midnight spent on world military expenditure had topped $2,289,586,428 billion. While the annual military expenditures sit at $1747 billion, only $30 billion is spent on official development assistance to least developed countries, $2.6 billion for the UN regular budget, which covers its five missions, and $.69 billion for international disarmament and non-proliferation organizations.

Our tour guide explaining the lopsided funding for war and peace (photo by David).

Our tour guide explaining the lopsided funding for war and peace (photo by David).

The General Assembly Hall, where many important sessions are held (photo by David).

The General Assembly Hall, where many important sessions are held (photo by David).

Heidi, Isabella, and Jacob in the General Assembly Hall.

Heidi, Isabella, and Jacob in the General Assembly Hall.

Colorful panels of art, interpreting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, graced a large portion of a wall. In Paris on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed General Assembly resolution 217(III) A as the “common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.” This groundbreaking document identified the fundamental human rights to be protected around the world.

Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We also saw artifacts retrieved after the August 9, 1945, bombing on Nagasaki, including the statue of Saint Agnes which was found amid the ruins of a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The statue’s back is charred and mottled, a result of intense heat and radiation. Our guide reminded us that although the atomic bomb dropped 71 years ago, the people of Japan are still suffering from the effects of radiation, most notably in the form of cancers.

Saint Agnes statue from Nagasaki (photo by David).

Saint Agnes statue from Nagasaki (photo by David).

The empty General Assembly Hall boasted symbolic paintings on either side.

The empty General Assembly Hall boasted symbolic paintings on either side.

We quietly walked through sessions in progress, one of which dealt with rape as a war crime. The hashtag #norapeinwar was prominently displayed in the front of the meeting chamber. While rapes have always occurred during wartime, in June 2008 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1820, which declared that “sexual violence in conflict zones is a matter of international peace and security.” One can debate the impact that the UN is making in a seemingly more dangerous world ravaged by civil wars, poverty, terrorism, and growing immigration issues, but having glimpsed what it’s trying to do, I can only appreciate its mission, accomplishments, and aspirations – all things the world clearly needs more of. Our visit left me both sobered and hopeful. We perfectly timed the end of our tour because when we exited the United Nations Headquarters we set off for our day’s last adventure.

Isabella much prefers the bus tour over a baseball game (photo by Heidi)!

Isabella much prefers the bus tour over a baseball game (photo by Heidi)!

While Jacob, David, and I headed to Yankee Stadium (photo by David).

While Jacob, David, and I headed to Yankee Stadium (photo by David).

New York Yankees: celebrating Jacob’s 16th birthday
To celebrate Jacob’s 16th birthday, David and I took him to a New York Yankees game in the heart of the Bronx (E 161st Street). Since Heidi was in town and Isabella loathes baseball games, Heidi treated Isabella to a bus tour, and afterwards they walked home and had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. So everybody had a good time our last night!

My panoramic view of Yankee Stadium from right-center field.

My panoramic view of Yankee Stadium from right-center field.

Our seats with a view (photo by David).

Our seats with a view (photo by David).

Selfie time without Isabella!

Selfie time without Isabella!

The original Yankee Stadium, dubbed “The House that Ruth Built,” was built in 1923. It suffered a period of deterioration and underwent restoration in the mid-1970s. In 2006, the Yankees began construction on their new stadium in the parking lot next to the existing structure and officially closed the old stadium after the 2008 season. Debuting in April 2009, the new Yankee Stadium, which boasts a capacity of 54,251, relocated Memorial Park, the Hall of Fame that honors prominent former Yankees, from the old stadium to a section near our bleacher seats in right-center field. The bleacher section is pretty spacious. We got front-row seats, with the bullpen below us, beyond the concrete wall topped with decorative grasses. Whereas the New York Mets’ Citi Park Field is steep and you look down into the playing field, Yankee Stadium is expansive and spread out – just like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium.

The beauty of the zoom lens on David's camera.

The beauty of the zoom lens on David’s camera.

Checking out the bullpen below and the Memorial Park to the right.

Checking out the bullpen below and the Memorial Park to the right.

Nice sunset over Yankee Stadium.

Nice sunset over Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees aren’t very good this year, and it showed in their 4-8 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Carlos Beltran made some embarrassing, lazy gaffes in right field. One good thing about the home team losing is that the stadium empties out before the game ended. We didn’t have to contend with the crowds going out as we did arriving before the game, and we had an easy return commute on the subway, which I’d say we mastered by then.

Yankee Stadium all lit up.

Yankee Stadium all lit up.

One last photo before we leave.

One last photo before we leave.

Last night in New York City
As we walked back home our last night, I realized that the bakery near our apartment was identified as the first bakery in Little Italy, according to the documentary we saw at the Tenement Museum. So I took a picture of it. I regret not taking pictures of our apartment interior, but early the next morning when David and the kids were ready to leave for the airport, Heidi had the presence of mind to take a picture of us in our 7th Floor Mulberry Street Airbnb home. We did everything I wanted to do with the kids. The only thing missing was catching a Broadway show. Next time. There is always a next time.

A historic bakery, the first, in Little Italy, right across from our apartment (photo by David).

A historic bakery, the first, in Little Italy, right across from our apartment (photo by David).

Good night, Mulberry Street! Good night, Little Italy (photo by David)!

Good night, Mulberry Street! Good night, Little Italy (photo by David)!

Our only photo of our apartment! Saying goodbye to David and the kids (photo by Heidi).

Our only photo of our apartment! Saying goodbye to David and the kids (photo by Heidi).

New York, New York: Brooklyn Bridge, Intrepid Museum, and Central Park Zoo

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.
 – Tom Wolfe, American author and journalist

Monday morning, our sixth full day in New York, we got up early and walked from our apartment to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Lower Manhattan side. This is something I wanted David and the kids to experience. I have walked the bridge twice – in September 2012 and January 2013, both times with my sister Heidi. Now it was with the family and in the summer. Here’s a bit of history on the Brooklyn Bridge, which the National Park Service and the New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission have designated a National Historic Landmark. Construction began in 1869, and when it opened in 1883 – connecting the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan – it was the longest suspension bridge in the country, spanning 1,595 feet across the East River. More than 150,000 people crossed the bridge, which cost $15 million to build, on opening day.

Turning around and seeing Manhattan through the cables (photo by David).

Turning around and seeing Manhattan through the cables (photo by David).

Bikes and pedestrians against the Maine granite towers (photo by David).

Bikes and pedestrians against the Maine granite towers (photo by David).

Like ropes suspended on a ship, the steel cables rise to the sky (photo by David).

Like ropes suspended on a ship, the steel cables rise to the sky (photo by David).

It’s actually a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge, which is 5,989 feet long, with the pedestrian walkway across the bridge slightly more than 1.1 miles long. The towers, which rise 276 feet above the water, are made of granite from Maine quarries – no doubt from Stonington, where my friend Jack Beaudoin has an island home. The open-truss design is in the Neo-Gothic style. Four huge cables comprise more than 5,000 steel wires. Only cars cross the bridge now, with the bicycle-pedestrian walkway built above the roadway. At one time, elevated trains and streetcars ran on the bridge, until 1944 and 1950, respectively.

Looking up at the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn side (photo by David).

Looking up at the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn side, with the American flag flying since 9/11 (photo by David).

The other side, with greenery (photo by David).

The other side, with greenery (photo by David).

We walked around the Brooklyn Bridge Park (334 Furman Street, Brooklyn), an 85‐acre sustainable waterfront park stretching 1.3 miles along Brooklyn’s East River shoreline. I’d never been to the park before, just along the promenade the other two times. We had a leisurely lunch before catching the subway back to Lower Manhattan. When we reached Manhattan, we gave the kids their choice of what they wanted to do for the rest of the day. They could each pick one place to visit when we went down the list of potential things to do that we hadn’t already done.

Brooklyn Bridge Park (photo by David).

Brooklyn Bridge Park (photo by David).

Enjoying the view and each other's company (photo by David).

Enjoying the view of Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge, and each other’s company (photo by David).

Skipping stones on the water's edge with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan in the distance (photo by David).

Skipping stones on the water’s edge with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan in the distance (photo by David).

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: Jacob’s pick
Not a surprise, Jacob chose the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Pier 86 at 46th Street) in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood on the West Side of Manhattan. As you walk along the waterfront heading toward the museum, the first thing you see is the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, which is a National Historic Landmark. According to the pamphlets, the museum is dedicated to “the exhibition and interpretation of history, science and service as related to its home aboard the Intrepid.” Launched in 1943, the Intrepid survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike during World War II. It went on to serve in the Cold War and the Vietnam War, with service as a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s, specifically the Mercury-Atlas 7 (1962) and the Gemini-Titan 3 (1965) space missions. Decommissioned in 1974, it is the namesake of this sea, air, and space museum.

The massive Intrepid at Pier 86(photo by David).

The massive Intrepid at Pier 86(photo by David).

One of the other major exhibits at the museum is the Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public since it was brought here in 1989. This was the first exhibit we saw upon entering the museum. We got a firsthand look at what life was like for the sailors who lived in this submarine. Can you say tight quarters? Not for anyone who is claustrophobic. We also got to see its once “top secret” missile command center.

Jacob in front of a torpedo in the Growler submarine (photo by David).

Jacob in front of a torpedo in the Growler submarine (photo by David).

When we ascended the expansive deck of the Intrepid, we were amazed at the number of aircraft on display. Temperatures were soaring, so while Isabella and I found a sliver of shade, we let David and Jacob explore the various aircraft. One such star was the British Airways Concorde Alpha Delta G-BOAD, which recorded the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing by any Concorde on February 7, 1996, at 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 59 seconds. So, one has to ask why they were retired. British Airways cited technical and safety challenges. Others, particularly from the Save the Concorde Group, say it’s all about politics. At any rate, I was disappointed that we couldn’t board the plane, as I love airplanes and what they represent – travel and adventure!

Our two space cadets in some spacecraft.

Our two space cadets in some spacecraft.

Inside Intrepid, the Space Shuttle Pavilion offered up the impressive space shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that would help shape the U.S. space shuttle program. This area features interactive exhibit zones, original artifacts, photographs, audio, and films depicting the science and history of Enterprise and the space shuttle era. This isn’t the kind of museum I would choose to visit, but the various air, sea, and space craft were astonishing to see up close, and Jacob was in heaven.

Central Park Zoo: Isabella’s choice
When we touring Central Park in our horse-drawn carriage, we caught a glimpse of Central Park Zoo (64th St and 5th Avenue, 212.439.6500), which is part of New York City’s integrated system of four zoos and the New York Aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Begun in the 1860s as a menagerie, it became the first official zoo to open in the city. The zoo was modified in 1934, with many new buildings erected, including the quadrangle around the sea lion pool. The zoo was renovated in the mid-1980s and reopened in 1988, dispensing with the old-era cages in favor of more natural environments. This is a tiny park, easily walked through with all animals seen in a few hours, although we didn’t venture into the Tisch Children’s Zoo.

Victoria crowned pigeon (photo by David).

Victoria crowned pigeon (photo by David).

A seasoned parrot (photo by David).

A seasoned parrot (photo by David).

Another beautiful bird in the rain forest (photo by David).

Another beautiful bird in the rain forest (photo by David).

David's close-up of this shimmery, colorful bird.

David’s close-up of this shimmery, colorful bird.

I caught the other side of him or her.

I caught the other side of him or her.

We all enjoyed and spent a lot of time in the Tropic zone: the rainforest, where we saw beautiful birds such as the Victoria-crowned pigeon. We did not see, however, the exotic and color frogs and snakes. The Central garden and sea lion pool anchors the park, and we caught the sea lion feeding and show. Off to the side, we watched the harbor seals cavort and the spirited penguins dive and swim past us like torpedoes. We saw snow monkeys, snow leopards, grizzly bears, and the cutest red pandas, which looked like a cartoon bear. While we appreciated seeing these wonderful and majestic animals, I came away rather sad because I felt the enclosures were too small for them. The poor red pandas kept circling the same path over and over. I suppose you could expand out into Central Park to give them more room, but that seems highly unlikely.

The snow monkey (photo by David).

The snow monkey (photo by David).

Okay, just one more photo of the red panda (photo by David).

The very adorable red panda (photo by David).

The grizzly bears Betty and Veronica, who were rescued from Montana and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming because they had become too bold with their interactions with humans, first were moved to the Bronx Zoo in 1995. They were subsequently moved to Central Park Zoo in September 2014, a year after “bi-polar” bear Gus, who lived in the Central Park Zoo for the previous 25 years, died in 2013. Apparently, Gus had “spent countless hours swimming laps in his small pool and was eventually diagnosed with depression.” Gee, I wonder why! And nobody thought that Gus ought to live in better environs? Or have a companion? I didn’t want to spoil Isabella’s time by pointing out the tight confines of the zoo, which was one of the highlights of her trip. Let’s just say that one hopes some local citizen our group of citizens decides to focus on the animals’ happiness and not the visitors’ happiness.

Betty or Veronica taking a nap (photo by David).

Betty or Veronica taking a nap (photo by David).

The awesome snow leopard (photo by David).

The awesome snow leopard (photo by David).

We had to get back to our apartment by a certain time in the evening because my sister Heidi was coming into town to join me for the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) 2016 Biennial Conference that was going to take place later in the week at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in Midtown Manhattan. Following the recommendation of our Airbnb host, we ordered pizza from a pizzeria beyond the borders of Little Italy, and had a little family reunion of sorts in our Mulberry Street abode.

Looking back at my recollection of Central Park Zoo, I leave you with this quote from Peter Matthiessen, author, co-founder of The Paris Review, explorer, naturalist, and activist, from the Snow Leopard: “And then there was the small matter of the snow leopard, whose terrible beauty is the very stuff of human longing. Its uncompromising yellow eyes, wired into the depths of its unfathomable spirit, gaze out from the cover of innumerable editions. It is, I think, the animal I would most like to be eaten by.”

New York, New York: Whitney Museum, the High Line, and Empire State Building

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.
 – Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist

We celebrated Father’s Day on our fifth day in New York. It was another great outing – except that David didn’t get the Father’s Day gift I was hoping to give him, but more on that later. In the morning, we headed to the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, 212.570.3600), in the Lower Village and Meatpacking district sections of lower Manhattan. As we walked through Chelsea Market, we passed Budakkan (75 9th Avenue, 212.989.6699), a cavernous Asian fusion restaurant where David and I had a memorable dinner back in September 2008. It was one of the best meals I ever had. We went to the Budakkan in Philadelphia a few summers back, but it was not as good as the one in New York.

View from the Whitney Museum terrace (photo by David).

View from the Whitney Museum terrace, with the World Trade Center Tower in the background (photo by David).

View from the left of the Whitney Museum terrace. You can see the southern entrance of the High Line Park (photo by David).

View from the left of the Whitney Museum terrace. You can see the southern entrance of the High Line Park (photo by David).

You can see the Empire State Building to the right (photo by David).

You can see the Empire State Building to the right (photo by David).

The Hudson River is behind the museum (photo by David).

The Hudson River is behind the museum (photo by David).

The Whitney Museum: for modern art aficionados
The Whitney Museum, which was founded in 1931 by socialite, sculptor, and art collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, moved into its fourth home in May 2015, along the Hudson River. The new main building of glass and steel, designed by Renzo Piano, comprises nine stories and spans a total of 200,000 square feet for indoor galleries, outdoor exhibition spaces, theater, research areas, dining, and other spaces. It is an impressive piece of architecture, embracing industrial, sculptural, and contemporary aesthetics. The top floor boasts an outdoor terrace with amazing views of Lower Manhattan buildings before us and the South entrance of the High Line Park below us. The next two levels below feature outdoor galleries, and all three floors are connected by exterior stairways.

Outdoor sculpture.

Outdoor sculpture.

David's architectural shot.

David’s architectural shot, looking down at one of the terraces.

My interpretation of the terrace below.

My interpretation of the terrace below.

The museum’s collection focuses on 20th and 21st century American art, with more than 3,000 artists – mostly living, which is an emphasis – represented. More than 22,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, videos, films, and other artifacts compose the museum’s permanent collection. Back in 1907, recognizing that American artists with new and innovative concepts were finding it difficult to show and sell their artwork, Whitney became their advocate by purchasing their art and building a formidable collection. In 1914, she opened up the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village to showcase these artists. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art declined Whitney’s offer to contribute more than 500 pieces of art from her personal collection and the newly opened Museum of Modern Art’s collection focused on European modernism, she decided to exhibit her art by founding a museum in 1930. The first museum, which was located in Greenwich Village, opened in 1931. The museum moved in 1954 to a building connected to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street, but moved again to Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side in 1966 when it needed more space for its growing collection. Growth was again the reason for its move to its current location, which is such a lovely, open-feeling space.

Self-portrait by Edward Hopper (photo by David).

Self-portrait (oil on canvas), 1925-1930, by Edward Hopper (photo by David).

Summer Days (oil on canvas), 1936, by Georgia O'Keefe.

Summer Days (oil on canvas), 1936, by Georgia O’Keefe.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (gelatin silver print), 1955, from the series The Americans, by Robert Frank.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (gelatin silver print), 1955, from the series The Americans, by Robert Frank.

Nine Jackies (acrylic, oil, and screenprint on linen), 1964, by Andy Warhol.

Nine Jackies (acrylic, oil, and screenprint on linen), 1964, by Andy Warhol.

Cool wire art that is reflected against the wall (photo by David).

Cool wire art that is reflected against the wall (photo by David).

This enormous statue is made of wax that continuously burning (photo by David).

This enormous statue is made of wax that is continuously burning (photo by David).

While I’ll admit that some of the artwork didn’t resonate with me – I’m thinking of the videos of this one Chinese-American artist who put together vignettes of her mother’s life in an enclosure surrounded by objects from her childhood and home – I did appreciate the opportunity to be exposed to these types of avant-garde works. When the kids and I descended one flight of exterior stairs to the lower level and were confronted by a flat-screen television exhibiting (literally) one artist’s penis-filled video, they turned around and smirked at me. Isabella wanted to know how this was art. I just shrugged. It’s in the Whitney Museum, so it must be art!

Jacob, David, and Isabella with New York skyline.

Jacob, David, and Isabella with New York skyline.

Next stop: The High Line Park, below the Whitney Museum.

Next stop: The High Line Park, below the Whitney Museum.

High Line Park: revitalization at its best
As I mentioned earlier, the southern entrance to the High Line Park is right next to the Whitney Museum, so once we were finished with the museum, we ascended the steps to the linear park, which was a great revitalization project that began in 1999. In its heyday, the early 1930s, the train line was part of the West Side Improvement Project, running from 34th Street to Spring Street’s St. John’s Park Terminal. “Designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue,” trains on this line carried goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district, according to the park’s site. The interstate trucking industry all but displaced the trains by the 1980s. When a group of property owners banded together to get the train line demolished, Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, went to court to preserve the line.

Along the walk you can see the old rails with vegetation happily filling in (photo by David).

Along the walk you can see the old rails with vegetation happily filling in (photo by David).

Interesting buildings all around. Here are three different styles side by side, with a block in black seemingly inserted into the brown building (photo by David).

Interesting buildings all around. Here are three different styles side by side, with a block in black seemingly interlocked into the brown building (photo by David).

And artwork rising up from the grasses.

And artwork rising up from the grasses.

More cool buildings (photo by David).

More cool buildings (photo by David).

In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, who lived in the High-Line neighborhood, founded Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the High Line and converting it into a public open space. Design competitions took place, the transportation agency that owned the line donated it to the City in 2005, and groundbreaking began in 2006. The entire process took 15 years, with section 1 from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street completed in 2009, section 2 from West 20th Street to West 30th Street completed in 2011, and the final section, which is the northernmost section of the park, to the Rail Yards, completed in September 2014.

All different styles of buildings along the High Line - some modern, some older (photo by David).

All different styles of buildings along the High Line – some modern, some older (photo by David).

Art on buildings in between buildings (photo by David).

Art on buildings in between buildings (photo by David).

Echinacea flowers abloom along the way.

Echinacea flowers abloom along the way.

Two twin block-long buildings of an older vintage (photo by David).

Two twin block-long buildings of an older vintage (photo by David).

Various activities are scheduled throughout the High Line, from dance parties to performances to star-gazing and arts events to horticulture tours. A covered section of the High Line features vendors peddling organic popsicle, gelato, and other tasty treats, as well as photographs, artisan goods, and High-Line swag. We walked almost to the end, getting off to make a direct beeline for our next destination of the Empire State Building. The temperatures were climbing and at some points we were walking in a line like bumper-to-bumper traffic, but we had our moments of just enjoying a walk through this elevated park and enjoying the fruits of preservationists’ labor.

While Jacob and I shopped, David played with his camera (photo by David).

While Jacob and I shopped, David played with his camera (photo by David).

More experimentation with the camera (photo by David).

More experimentation with the camera (photo by David).

Steel walkway with Jacob in the foreground and me in the background (photo by David).

Steel walkway with Jacob in the foreground and me in the background (photo by David).

Greenery everywhere.

Greenery everywhere.

I noticed when we were heading from our apartment to our friend Mason’s condo in the Queens along the Hudson River an abandoned elevated stretch of train tracks that ended abruptly. As this part of town, the Hudson, is being built up, I’m imagining another such park in the sky waiting in the wings.

Cool modern building (photo by David).

Cool modern building (photo by David).

Pedestrians beware!

Pedestrians beware!

Resting under the shade of trees.

Resting under the shade of trees.

Preservation at its best.

Railway and plants living harmoniously together.

Empire State Building: the center of Midtown Manhattan
When I think of the Empire State Building (350 5th Avenue between West 33rd and 34th streets), I am reminded of a story my father told me and my sisters when we were young. Every morning on his way to work, he used to walk by the Empire State Building as it was being built. My father was in New York around 1929, and construction began in March 1930. My father loved New York. He called it the City. When he and his cousins moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s, after WWII, he called Los Angeles the country, and when he moved to Terra Bella – between Bakersfield and Fresno in the Central Valley of California – he called it the camp. At the time of his storytelling, my initial reaction was, “Wow, Dad, you’re old!” Since then, however, I marvel at what he was witnessing – the building of this great building. Once construction began, the building rose 4 ½ stories each week. In 1931, the building, with its beautiful art-deco interior, opened, with President Herbert Hoover hitting a button in Washington, DC, that turned on the lights of the Empire State Building.

Restored art-deco interior of the Empire State Building (photo by David).

Restored art-deco interior of the Empire State Building (photo by David).

As far as the eye can see (photo by David).

As far as the eye can see (photo by David).

David singles out the Flatiron Building.

David singles out the Flatiron Building.

Close-up of the Chrysler Building (photo by David).

Close-up of the Chrysler Building (photo by David).

Thankfully, we encountered short lines and small crowds. Again, I think this is because it was mid-June and people hadn’t all gone on vacation yet. We ascended to the 86th Floor observatory. I’ll admit to being acrophobic, so I took photos with caution. The sky was clear and you could truly see forever. According to the guides, you can see five states on a clear day – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The views were amazing, and the kids were in awe of all those buildings all around us. As we descended, David and I mentally crossed off going to the Empire State Building from our list of things to do in New York.

Hudson River in the background (photo by David).

I believe that is the East River in the background (photo by David).

Coming around with the view (photo by David).

Coming around with the view (photo by David).

Moving to the left (photo by David).

Moving to the left (photo by David).

Hudson Bay (photo by David).

I believe this is the Hudson River in the background (photo by David).

Inglorious ending to Father’s Day
The only blot on our day was planning our evening around what we thought would be a Golden State Warriors Finals victory and celebration. We bypassed the recommended Katz’s Deli (205 E. Houston, 212.254.2246) on our way home. We walked in, but nobody was in the mood for foot-tall sandwiches that just seemed too much of a good thing. Instead, we grabbed Subway sandwiches – slumming it – back to our apartment. Suffice it to say, the Warriors lost the championship that was theirs to win, and there went my Father’s Day present to David. Not that Isabella cared in the least. We tried to remember that we were still on vacation. By morning, at least for me, I woke up thinking about the day’s adventure before us.

Building close-ups down there.

Building close-ups down there, looking like building blocks.

More close-ups with the Chrysler Building peeking out.

More close-ups with the Chrysler Building peeking out.

The smaller skyscrapers!

The smaller skyscrapers!

Fox on a building on our way home (photo by David).

Fox on a building on our way home (photo by David).