NYC ’15 – Farewells

My time comes to end here and I’m sad to leave, but happy to return home to my kids, Evan and our pets.

I love this place, not the glitz, not the tourist traps, but the history. Here is where much of our nation has been  shaped and continues to effect, not only our nation, but also the world.

What I love about this place is that there is a vibe of grit, passion and fragrances (in some cases odors). I can have people all around me, and yet I’m isolated and alone. It’s quieter here for me than almost anywhere. I think a lot better, and I can write better.

Nobody knows me, and no one cares who I am nor who I’m not.

Farewell, until another day.

NYC ’15 – Jackie O’s Grand

Today we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where I lit a candle in honor of my daughter Faith. I don’t know if that’s appropriate or how you do that sort of thing, but I did it nonetheless. 

The cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated on May 25, 1879.

We did the hop on hop off tour. I recommend these because you really get a feel for the city and usually get some good information. I wasn’t as impressed with the tour guide this time, but it was still a nice ride.

We hopped off around Soho and tried out a place I had seen in the Travel channel called the Black Seed Bagel. I had the egg, cheese, avocoda and tomato bagel. With Jim Croce playing and the vibe of the city outside the window, I was in my element.


NYC ’15 – God’s Day

The weather was supposed to be in the 40s, but we had gusts in addition to temps plummeting into the teens. None of us dressed warm enough, but it didn’t keep us from enjoying a day in Harlem (Harlem and Morningside Heights are a couple of my favorite places to see when I am in NYC).

We started out the day going to church services at Mother AME Zion church. Once called the Freedom Church, it was one of the first black churches in New York and was also a part of the Underground Railroad. Slaves were hidden behind the pulpit and a black newspaper operated out of the basement.

I always find the music exhilarating. A portion of the service was about racism and promoted blacks taking a stand. At the risk of being called a racist, I was more than frustrated with this message that took on a tone of hate. It doesn’t seem to me that what is being advocated is equality; rather it is vindication. And tolerance is only applicable if you believe exactly the way you are told to believe.

Tolerance – in my book – is two people with known different philosophies being able to share a connection with each other, void of judgment and hate.

But I digress. It was exceptional music and once the sermon returned to worshipping God, it was a very moving message indeed.

After church, we had some amazing soul food at Jacobs (an amazing place that pays by the weight of your plate). We went to the Apollo Theatre, and also saw some pretty brownstones. We then went to see the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb – all were breathtaking!

We finished the night by going to Ground Zero and eating at Katz (AMAZING!). Also while in that area don’t miss out on eating at the Clinton Street Bakery!

NYC ’15 – Family Ties

I had one of my best New York moments today. The rest of my group went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island today while I went to meet with family. Since I’ve been to Ellis Island a few times, I didn’t mind missing it, but I must stress that visiting Ellis Island is a must at least once.

Merv (cousin) made the very best waffles I’ve ever had in my life. He and his family were so very kind and welcoming. With us coming from very different backgrounds and having never met nor even known about each other, I worried that it might be awkward. To me, it seemed quite the opposite. I felt like we all connected well. Merv knew who my grandmother was and even spoke about being at her home. That meant a great deal to me. I was ashamed when I realized that all I really knew about his family was that his dad was my grandma’s brother.

I was fascinated with a story his wife told about choosing her career in jewelry designing. It basically follows the adage “follow your dream.” Few get to do that and I feel she is one who was fortunate to have done just that.

After waffles, Merv, his daughter and I did some shopping then he showed me where he works at Spotify. The thought put into designing the office space is most impressive. We then went to Union Square and went to a comic book store. I bought the Walking Dead comics for my son Jake.

I then walked around some before heading back to the room to meet up with the group.

We completed our evening with the Jersey boys and some Mac and cheese at the Cafeteria. The food was great, however, the noise level was terrible (but that is often the case in NYC restaurants). I should also mention that the place is quite trendy with diverse personalities so it might not be for everyone. I enjoyed the experience and loved the food.

NYC ’15 – The Arrival

I suppose I feel like I’m reliving my first time here by sharing the experience with others who are seeing it for the first time; and to know I have a small part in a moment that someone else will cherish forever is gratifying, to say the least.

We flew out of Dallas on a direct flight and checked into our room around 11:30 pm. Everyone was pretty hungry. I hadn’t eaten all day, except for some pecans. I researched places and found a food truck with high reviews. We walked a couple of blocks to find the location. By this time, it was about 12:30 am and there was a line that was about 40 people deep. There were about three other vendors close by who had no customers. Could this place really be that good or was this some kind of “special brownie” place?

There was absolutely no good reason why 40 people (and counting) would be lining up and waiting at midnight and in the cold unless…

YES, It was really that good! So please, if you do nothing else go try some food at the Halal Guys food truck on W 53rd (I’ve seen them all over the city, but I have eaten at this one twice and can vouch for it).

I’m signing off tonight. It’s been a good day, and tomorrow promises more good fortune. I get to meet a cousin I  didn’t even know existed until a month or so ago. I will be having brunch with him, his wife, their children and his niece. I am very excited about this.

My traveling partners are going to visit Ellis Island while I acquaint myself with family. I love Ellis Island, but don’t mind missing it since I’ve already been a time or two.

Red Sox Game (Boston)

We slept in this morning. Something I find quite fascinating in Gloucester is that most places do not have AC. They open their windows and use a box fan if needed. The place where we are staying is on stilts over the water. We get to experience the tide activity. During some parts of the day, the tide is out and there is no water beneath us, and boats are setting on the ground. Then during other parts of the day, the boats are floating and there is lots of water underneath our place.

Today, we caught the train into Boston for the Red Sox game. We could have driven, but it takes longer; I didn’t want to drive in Boston, and I thought it would be an amazing experience for the boys (Trey slept, Jake listened to his iTunes).

We made it to Fenway Park. I had researched our seats online and they looked like good ones, so the time was finally here to find out. And Yes! They were good. Plus the game was good. We sat close to the first base line, near the dugout. It did get a little hot, but unlike Oklahoma, there was a cool breeze to help with a nice cooldown.

After the game, we took a duck tour of Boston. We learned a lot about the layout of the city and how the city controlled the Charles River to reshape what is now Boston and Cambridge. We drove a bit on Boylston street, where much of the Boston Marathon is ran, and we crossed the finish line – where the bombings took place.

We saw the place where JFK maintained his residency while he was in office, the Cheers bar and the stadium where the Celtics and the Bruins play.

Since the duck tours are a land and water tour, we did drive right into the Charles River and toured it for a while. Jake even got to drive the boat.

The driver showed us a section of land where for thousands of years the Native Americans migrated for fishing.

We saw the place where Paul Revere came to borrow the horse he rode to warn the Militia that the British were coming.

I would recommend the Duck Tours if you have children, but otherwise, I would have skipped it.

When we got off the boat, we were starving, so we headed to the North End. Italian immigrants dominate that area, so there are some phenomenal restaurants in that area.

We headed back to the North Station to catch the commuter train back to Gloucester. We got into bed around 1 am.

I didn’t get a lot of pictures because my phone died and I ran out of room on my camera.


Hawthorne’s Famous House

Another early start this morning. We were out and fishing by 6:30.

We had a blue fish and a bass on but lost them. We ventured into a place called “The Corner,” but our luck didn’t change there, so we called it a day.

I highly recommend taking a fishing charter with the Sandy B. Captain Ira worked his tail off for us. As suspected, he didn’t care for his crew member yesterday and had a new one today.

After getting off the boat, we took our fish back to the apartment. Then we had dinner at Cape Inn Brewery. I had fish and chips. Jake had a BBQ sandwich. Trey had the chicken wings and Evan ate a cod sandwich. He also tried a couple of their microbrews.

We took a scenic route to Salem. All the guys crashed, but I enjoyed the view.

We arrived in Salem at the House of Seven Gables. The mansion was built for Captain John Turner in 1668. Three generations of Turners owned the house, but John Turner III lost the family fortune and the house. At that time the Ingersolls took possession of the mansion.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, a relative of the Ingersolls, spent a lot of time in the home as a child. The house had gone through several changes over the years, and during Hawthorne’s time, the house only had three gables. But his cousin Susannah Ingersoll told him about the history of the house and its original seven gables, which inspired his novel “The House of the Seven Gables.”

Speaking of Hawthorne, his great-grandfather was John Hathorne “The Hanging Judge.” He was the only judge during the Salem witch trials who never showed remorse for the hangings. Out of shame and to disassociate himself, Nathaniel added a “w” to the spelling of his last name.

After visiting the house, we took a walking tour of a Salem to learn more about the history of the witch trials. At first, I don’t think the guys were thrilled about this, but when it was over, we all had a good time and enjoyed it.

If you ever have a chance to study the witch trials, please do. I never realized how much the travesty of those events played a role in our current judicial system. What’s more, I truly understand now what the expression “witch hunt” means. The women and men accused were innocent, yet killed because a group of young girls got into some trouble and were coerced into blaming their actions on witchcraft and were then forced to name names. So to save their own hyde, they just started pointing out people in the community who were not very well liked.

From that, the entire situation spiraled out of control as neighbors who wanted the land adjoining theirs would accuse their neighbor of being a witch. The accused were tried, convicted, all their belongings stripped from them; they were killed, and the accuser acquired their possessions.

As the frenzy continued and people started having doubts about the girls’ stories, the girls would accuse those who started questioning them of being a witch.

We saw the courthouse where the accused were held. We visited the second oldest cemetery in the U.S and saw the Witches Memorial. We learned that Salem was the birthplace of the National Guard. We saw the most haunted place in Salem, the Joshua Ward house. George Washington stayed here and left after one night, saying – never again.

We also learned that it was in Salem that the Parker Brothers created most of their board games. And we saw the actual house where the murder took place that inspired the board game Clue.

I enjoyed the day spent in Salem, but it is a very different culture than that of Gloucester.

My recommendation is to stay in Gloucester if you like the fishing village atmosphere and Salem if you like the witch/wizard environment.