Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A roundabout route to DC

Currently, I'm sitting on my first (& probably last for some time) Amtrak train returning to Philadelphia after my small trip over the last week. The trip to San Diego was really just an exercise in medium distance travel – almost two hours of train travelling to PHL & eight hours of flying & stopovers & I arrived in San Diego & back to the heat (thankfully not the 106 that it was in Phoenix when I changed planes). Kindly, Beverley picked me up from the airport & it was back to La Jolla. Nice to catch up with the Turners that were home – Anna-Marie had returned from a month or so in Europe the previous day. As the Turners had a foreign student staying for a while & both girls home, I was relegated to sleeping on the couch in the lounge – just as I was going to bed Andrea wandered in from opening day at the races, so that necissated a catch up & talk about tomorrow's testimony. After all that travelling, I thought I would sleep, but it wasn't really the case; I must have had two or three hours of sleep. Up at six, as it was light & Beverley was up, & ready for our date in court at eight o'clock.

After Andrea handing & me studying my summons, the three of us (Anna-Marie was persuaded that she should get up & come too) were off to court. It was of course a big anti-climax – we sat in a waiting room while our case was assigned a courtroom & judge; it was quite annoying that I had my iPod in my pocket, but no earphones – so I had to settle for staring at the walls & reading year old magazines for the best part of two hours. Eventually we had a courtroom & we walked a very long way through the building & then through the next one to find it & the DA & detective met us there. After all that, the three defendants saw the writing on the wall (as the DA had managed to get five witnesses & countless police testimonies together) and they all pleaded guilty. It took a bit more waiting in a corridor for this to be confirmed & the paper work done. So in some ways I had travelled all the way across the States to sit & wait for three hours, just to go home. On the other hand, it was a good to get a result & it's one less thing for us to think about & hopefully Andrea will be able to go back to plan one & go to Costa Rica to live. After leaving the courthouse, the girls took me down to the SDPC HQ & I got my stolen money back (finally) – the lost/recovered property & evidence room in the basement of the headquarters was massive (I think it covered an entire city block). It's a short drive from downtown to SAN, so the girls dropped me off at the airport & I was off again cross-country.

The trip was uneventful, but from Vegas to DC I was stuck between the window of a 737 & one of those wonderful people who are intent on sharing your seat with you & spill over the armrest – just as well I have no discernible upper body presence. Due to a change of planes in Vegas, we were well late getting in to Dulles – but Adam & Jen (the friends I stayed with in DC – Adam is a Te Puke friend from way back) faithfully met me & they only live ten or fifteen minutes from Dulles – so in bed by two in the morning, fantastic (at least I was back in the same time zone as I had been thirty-six hours before).

Wonderfully, I didn't get up until 10.30 & proceeded to do not a lot the rest of the morning. After lunch, Adam & I decided to go back to Dulles as the National Air & Space Museum (a Smithsonian museum) has another site out there (the main one is on The Mall in DC). This site consisted of a huge hangar filled with all sorts of aircraft & a sizeable tower that you could go up to get a great view of the airport & the surrounding area. Also there was a air traffic control exhibit on the floor below the observation deck – as well as the display, an interesting part was the live audio & radar feed from Newark airport. Of course there were all sorts of planes & other aircraft – the highlights were a Air France concorde (it fitted across the width of the hangar), Enterprise space shuttle, SR-71 Blackbird (it once flew from LA to DC in sixty-four minutes & then promptly was transferred to the museum) & the Enola Gay (the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima). We managed to cover most of the hangar in detail, before having to leave to meet Jen & some of her workmates for Friday happy hour. It was at some Italian restaurant that had great pizza & twenty buck carafes of sangria – I rated the pizza, but the sangria went down pretty well (at least judging by how quickly some of the glasses were emptied) too. It was a great group of people & conversation & the couple of hours passed quickly. Afterwards we had a few options when some of the group dissipated – five of use went around to Dave's & tried our hands & voices at Guitar Hero World Tour. On the way, I had my first ride in an American muscle car in America – Dave's Corvette, of course we had to put the top down. I had never played Guitar Hero before & it showed – as well as my complete lack of timing & musical ability. I was able to play the guitar to some level eventually & sing a little bit – but the drums completely evaded me. That may have been something to do with the red I was drinking – I found later in the night, that it wasn't just me that though it tasted bad (beef jerky apparently) – but after two, who can tell & who cares? Somehow it was two o'clock before we got home & I went to bed – nevermind, a great evening & I learnt some new songs.

Another big sleep in on Saturday – I don't recall doing too much for most of the day or perhaps I recall doing not much for most of the day. The last few days' travelling & late nights had caught up with me & it was nice to sit around on the couch watching TV or Blackadder & napping. Plus it was very hot & humid outside so the chilled townhouse was a pleasant alternative to that. Did get my first visit to Trader Joe's – a great variety of food there, a pity all the NZ wines were big names & for some reason the only NZ cheese on offer was some no name cheddar (it's the single most popular cheese in the world!) - if you are going to import NZ cheese, why would you choose cheddar?! A big thunderstorm came from somewhere late in the afternoon – but that didn't change our plans of heading to see the monuments after dinner (I'm told that they are better by night). When we got in to town it was still raining, but jackets & umbrellas were more than enough to ward off the moisture – the rain had the added bonus of scaring some of the tourists away. Saw most of the monuments – Lincoln, Vietnam, WWII, Washington (the two red navigation lights on top remind me of The Blackadder - Witchsmeller Pursuivant) , Korean & Jefferson. It seems a bit strange picking favourites, but the WWII & Korean were mine.

Sunday was another good sleep in – we just had to get up in time for brunch in Reston town centre with another couple of Adam & Jen's friends – Eric & Amy. Eric & Amy being long time locals, they know all the best places. For thirty five bucks we got a huge buffet & were supposed to fit a entre off the menu in somewhere. Of course we ate too much of buffet (the desserts were fantastic; I managed to get kiwifruit, boysenberries & blueberries to make the full Willingale Orchard complement), so by the time we tactfully ordered our entrees, we were too full to fit them in & just took them home for dinner. Another nice nap & we were off to check out the Marines Corps/Iwo Jima monument – another pretty good one & then a nice walk to burn some of the brunch through Arlington Cemetery. Saw JFK & family's graves & the Tomb of the Unknowns. The changing of the guard (that we managed to stumble on at the correct time) was pretty good – quite simple & with lot of clicking/banging of heels. Back home for my paella & then it was Transformers on DVD – a favourite of Adam & Jen's but I hadn't seen it. Was pleasantly surprised by the humour & action (I'm easily pleased). Also balanced the bearded lizard on my shoulder.

Six-thirty was a bit of a shock to get up on Monday morning to head in to DC to check out a few of the other sights. I think I was in town before nine & wandered from the Metro to check out the White House. Good to finally see it in the flesh, but funnily enough no real surprises – I knew it would be small. It appeared a lot smaller than it would have if the turf in front was managed properly. We had hardly had any rain over the weekend & the park infront was sodden – very poor drainage. I was not much more impressed by The Mall – the grass & patches of dirt were a mess. After walking around the Washington Monument (flags at half mast everywhere – apparently the anniversary of the end of the Korean War), it was off to the Holocaust Museum. Much as I expected – well done & quite sobering, plenty of artefacts from Germany & Poland & Czechoslovakia to help illustrate the awful story.

By now it was noon & after another disappointing hotdog from a street vendor conveniently placed to sucker tourists like me I checked out the science & transport parts of the Museum of American History. Some good parts, but mostly didn't really do much for me. Then off to the Air & Space Museum – ultra popular & crowded. The place was in desperate need of the exhibits, more the explanations, having a makeover. The crowds were too much for me – but a very good exhibit on the Wilbur & Orville Wright and all the experiments they went through with gliders & windtunnels & aeronautical engineering; also got to go in a 747 cockpit (it was really old). As there was not as much space in this facility as at Dulles, there were not nearly as cool exhibits. I was quite impressed by the Capitol building, walked around it to see the Supreme Court & then was amazed by the Library of Congress (Jefferson Building) – had to go in the largest library in the world of course. A tiring day on the feet, but very cool over the last few days to see so many places that I have read about in thrillers, seen on TV & in movies. Back home on the Metro (which is very clean & well signposted – pity about the crash on the Red Line a few weeks ago) & Adam & I decided to go & see Transformers 2. The movie was better than I was expecting (but who takes infants to a movie at 8pm? In a small, almost empty cinema they were so annoying & the parents next to useless) & I was quite pleased to see sights in NYC that I just been to the top of or walked across, then shots across the The Mall & low & behold a whole scene in the Air & Space Museum at Dulles. It was – “I saw that plane, & that plane, & that plane too, walked along there, walked up those stairs, saw that plane & that one too” - very fun; a shame our schedule (or is that sked-ule?) did not fit seeing the film at the Imax at the museum – that would have been quite a coincidence.

Tuesday morning was pack up, say goodbye & thanks a bunch to Adam & Jen, on the Metro & in to DC. Had a few hours to kill before my train, so went around the International Spy Museum & enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Realising how exhausted & lethargic I was from my time in NYC, it was great to be going away for a long weekend up in the Poconos to do be doing very little. So Thursday morning we managed to get organised & packed up & left for the hour an a half of driving approximately north. Driving around Pennsylvania is a lot different to out west – there aren't as many of the big 8-10 lanes on each side freeways, but rather a lot of smaller dual carriageways that connect all sorts of places to each other. Stopped for gas (it seems to be coming down – less than $2.40 for a gallon) & made it to Stoddardsville for a late lunch. Unfortunately the kids weren't too appreciative of the change in routinue – as we were continually reminded over the next two days. Stoddardsville is quite the has-been town. It is on the Lehigh River & back at the start of the nineteenth century it was expanded by a guy called Stoddard & was quite the little boomtown – awaiting a canal that was to have been built up to the town. Of course, the canal never quite made it & the so the town never made it & Stoddard went bankrupt. All the infrastructure was pretty much left & there are a few ruins of the mill & other buildings lying around. Now there are ten or so houses on either side of the river which are mostly just used in the summer. Our tie to the place is that Jessica's grandparents used to live in the old mill house & Jessica spent a fair bit of time during her childhood here. After her grandmother's death the house ended up in the hands of a local guy who has worked hard at preserving the local history.

Pulling up to the house it was obviously quite old (never did find out exactly how old – greater than a hundred years) & it had sprawling grounds down to the river with some great big trees around. Apparently it was built before studs were common practice & so the walls are solid walls of up to eighteen boards of wood – it would explain why the lighting in the house was so poor – retro-fitted wiring must have been a nightmare. The floors were wonderfully unlevel; the basement was what I have come to expect from Bill Bryson's stories – dark, damp, low-ceilinged, with an ominous looking furnace & fuel oil tanks; the furniture was old; a warren of rooms upstairs; a large attic further up. Adding to the old setting, the place had been turned in to a mini-museum by John Butler (the only guy I've ever been introduced to as “Commander” [ret.]) - the guy who is preserving Stoddardsville, with old photos & captions, newspaper clippings, models of ships & submarines, letters (some from George Washington) to do with the settling of the area, the Wyoming Massacre, the Revolutionary War, WW2 & all sorts. It was like staying my own Night at the Museum. As we had climbed a bit from home, the temperature was about ten degrees cooler & pleasantly, the humidity had dropped right off from home. Apart from the kids, it was very peaceful & I found a Partricia Cornwall paperback lying around & probably spent the rest of the afternoon napping & reading. Popped down to river that evening for Doug to see if he could hook a fish & Katarina to throw stones in.After a nice lie in Friday, Doug & I loaded up our bikes & drove twenty minutes to a state forest to see if we could find somewhere to ride. We had some luck in finding a place to park & then we followed a gravel road up & into the woods. It was quite nice to be out riding in the woods & not really caring where we were going. On the way back we wandered down an emergency access road in between high-fenced deer exclusion zones & suddently came out in a clearing & found a hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere – not really what we were expecting. After returning for lunch, it was out again for another ride – this time with Jessica in to the nearest town (a few miles uphill) to post mail, check voicemail & most importantly, get some donuts. By dinner that night, the kids still hadn't settled at all, so we had to open another bottle of wine to help us through. It quietened down a bit when everyone else went on a nice settling drive & I stayed behind to do the dishes & read.

Saturday morning, we all loaded up to go to a couple of markets in town – the first mostly run by Amish. They had a lot of home grown fruit, vegetable, meat, cakes & so on. Their wooden furniture was very solid & well constructed - & very comfortable. I didn't think any of it would fit in my luggage, so wasn't really tempted to haul a very fancy gazebo to London. The second market was just plain strange – it was mostly just a whole heap of junk. Similar really to the exhibit at the MOMA, except these people seemed to expect people to pay money for their rubbish. At least I know where to go if I ever want scores of cassette tapes, VHS tapes, Master System II, Nintendo 64 or Atari games. Back for lunch & put the kids down for naps.

That afternoon, family friends of the Lindes turned up to stay for the night. Scott grew up with Doug & now works on the golf course Doug grew up on – Scott's family is his wife Lisa, & two boys Noah & Deacon (older than Katarina) & daughter Gracie (two in October). Katarina seemed to quite like Deacon & followed him around a fair bit & generally settled down a lot. It was quite different having noisy, active & adventureous boys around. A lot more time down at the river throwing stones, fishing, climbing rocks, swinging, letting off fireworks & making & devouring Smores (roasting marshmellows, & sandwiching them between biscuits & Hersheys). Also treated to perhaps the loosest intrepretation of a haka I have ever seen & an amusing attempt at charades by the boys. And somewhere in all of that, I finished my book – it was OK, but a pretty weak ending – I hate it when someone gets the main character out of a bind with the psychopath & the author doesn't have the decency to explain why they were even there. Still it was nice to be reading a book again.

Sunday was pack up & clean morning, with a bit of time down at the waterfall & river. I don't remember much else of Sunday – except I had my first Philly cheesesteak – it was good & Doug & I went for a good workout ride around Doylestown after dinner. Monday Jessica & the kids & I brought home a big pile of books from the library – I've already finished a good Harry Bosch one. In the afternoon Doug & I went out to the golf course he grew up on (Scott is the greenskeeper there now) & did some measurements on a couple of the greens, before we were off to Limeport Stadium to watch a ballgame. Doug used to play for these Dodgers & it was neat to be at a local level game & try & understand baseball a bit more (there's not too much to it & I've seen a few major league games on TV). There was a good sized crowd in & the game started with a hiss & a roar after the Star-spangled Banner played & our pitcher had a shocking first innings. The vistors were up by four runs straight away & I thought it was going to be quite exciting – alas, there was only one more run in the next thirteen innings & our team was held to love (to borrow a tennis term). A cool night watching the game, even if it wasn't the most interesting, & trying to explain cricket to a few people – they seemed to get some idea.It's raining today, so I've mostly been reading & trying not to think about packing to go back to San Diego tomorrow for one night & appearing in front of a judge. From San Diego I'm off to DC for five nights.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The rest of NYC

Sunday morning it was off downtown to catch a tour of Brooklyn – still didn't get to go over the Brooklyn Bridge as it is so old it can only take cars, pedestrians & bikes. Another gorgeous day, with temperatures in the mid-seventies & none of the humidity I had been warned about. Brooklyn (would be the third largest city in the States if it was a city in its own right) was OK – but as it wasn't a hop-on, hop-off bus it was hard to see much behind the main streets. Back over the East River & walked a bit around downtown with the aim of getting up to Chinatown to find the three regular Flight of the Conchords outdoor locations. On the way wandered past Bodies: The Exhibition, that the tour guide had recommended – decided I might as well go in. The exhibit was really well done – basically it was quite a lot of (dozens) of cadavers dissected & preserved in numerous different ways (& quite a few posed in different actions – as opposed to just standing) to exhibit all the different systems in the human body (muscular, nervous, digestive, bones, circulatory, all organs & so on). The placards were really good at explaining how it all worked & while about half-way through it got a little stomach churning, it was well done & it was staggering just how complex our bodies are (I always knew they were, but this hit it home). Fortunately or unfortunately, there was no photography allowed (probably fortunately) – the weirdest thing was none of the bodies had skin, but they all still had finger & toenails. So quite the different thing for me to do – can't say I've ever held a human brain or liver before – but well worthwhile.

It was a bit more a walk up to Chinatown & as I wandered off the main streets looking for Bret & Jermaine's apartment building, I quickly realised I was the only white face around – it definitely did feel like the biggest Chinatown in America. Just had to wander in to one of the supermarkets & marvel at all the live fish & seafood & all sorts of other strange & exotic fruits & vegetable (& some quite normal ones). Found the apartment building & also the pawnshop – but being Sunday it wasn't open. The Consulate building on East Broadway was deserted & quite a dump – but at least there was no one pulling the fingers outside our consulate, alas I couldn't say hi to tech support girl.From here it was a short walk to Little Italy, which as been crowded out & shrunk by Chinatown – it's just a touristy street or two full of Italian restaurants & souvenir shops & tourists. Being one of the said tourists, I couldn't really resist a bowl of cheesy pasta (not nearly as cheesy as the four-cheeses in Devonport – oh, you of little Faith). Hopped on a bus to take me back to midtown (after buying a couple of t-shirts from a young artists' market – I think that's as close to a souvenir I have come to buying so far). Next it was off to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre), at about eight-something floors up, for some stunning views of Manhattan & over to New Jersey & the other four boroughs. There must have been a bit of time left in the day so I thought I'd pop in to Madame Tussaud's as it was one of the things close to the hostel that was still open & covered by my New York pass. At $35 admission, it was the most expensive entry of all the things I'd been to & by far the most overpriced – I would have been severely peeved if I had forked out to get in there & look at models of celebrities & some people with accomplishments to their names. Still it wasn't all bad, just not worth that amount of money. The long days of sightseeing were starting to take their toll, so it was back to the hostel for an earlier night & catch up on world happenings & sorting photos.

Monday morning started out at the NBC Studio tour (Rockefeller Center) – it was quite interesting to see the some of the studios, but as I wasn't familiar with the news & sports programs that the ones we went in were dedicated to, it wasn't spectacular – the Saturday Night Live set was marginally more enjoyable; it was however amusing to watch a couple of kids in our group volunteer to be a newsreader & weather presenter. From there I went to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Some neat sculptures outside, & I had my height, name & the date recorded on a whitewalled room along with thousands of other visitors – it had a neat effect (the whole artwork, not just my name). Naturally there was a lot of other works – some I was quite impressed by, but most were just plain weird in that it didn't really look deserving of being in such a museum. A whole room was filled with items that an artist's mother (in China somewhere, possibly Hong Kong) had hoarded over many years, so as to be able to keep something just in case it could be refashioned or reused. It was astonishing just how many used everyday items were there dating back twenty or thirty years. After too many more unfulfilled architectural hopes & dreams, I was out of there for some lunch before wandering down to the Empire State Building to go up to have a look at NYC from the observation deck. While the ESB is taller than the Top of the Rock, the latter was much more preferable – I'm not sure if this was due to the view being slightly different or the much larger crowds as the ESB or something else (don't pay for the Skyride simulator at the ESB – ok, but not worth it in a similar way to Madame Tussaud's).

From the ESB I decided I would walk all the way down to the Hudson (near to where that plane ditched after birdstrike earlier in the year) & see if I get myself on a evening river cruise. On the way, I found a replacement pair of Merrels for the ones I've been wearing for close to three years (I'm not that hard on shoes) & not wanting to carry the old ones back to Philly or have the spare luggage capacity, I went all Jack Reacher & threw them in the first trash bin I could find. Managed to get a ticket on a 6.30 cruise that would go down the Hudson, across to the Statue of Liberty & up the East River before returning past downtown. Had a delightful Thai meal while wandering & waiting for the boat to board. The cruise was a very pleasant way to take a load off my feet & see Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn & Queens from the water & the commentary was informative, but light.For my last day in NYC I decided to visit spend a little more time in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. So it was on the subway uptown early in the morning to walk around the Bronx. From the train I wandered the streets & then found myself walking up Bronx Park & went in to the NY Botanical Gardens. Such a peaceful retreat from the city (although there is little escaping overhead planes) & I happily strolled around the rambling grounds - I think I preferred this area to Central Park as it was less groomed, more wild & you could walk for quarter of an hour & not see another soul. The rose garden was a bit of a disappointment (I have vivid memories of the one in the Esplanade in Palmy for some reason to compare it to), but I was still enjoying the quiet. From the gardens I wandered down the edge of Bronx Park & found myself at having to get across the park to the subway line – with this in mind I used my NY Pass to get in to the Bronx Zoo amongst a lot of kids on summer camps (one of the hazards of being a tourist in the States during summer holidays). After being spoilt rotten in San Diego, the zoo didn't do much for me – although the polar bear was in a rather playful mood, so that was interesting. Beating a hasty escape & walking a few more blocks I found the subway line overhead & wandered around the town centre for a while, grabbed some white pizza (I'm still unsure what was actually on it – creamed cheese perhaps) for lunch & then road the train down to Brooklyn.

The main reason for going back to Brooklyn was to walk back over its bridge, but there was also the transit museum to check out. This was housed in a disused subway station, consequently it had a lot of historic subway cars on the lower levels. I found the place pretty interesting – especially the train & subway part – the bit about building roads & bridges was pretty ho-hum. Useless fact – the MTA (they run the public transport in NYC) is the biggest user of dollar coins. Another quick rush around what I had left of the museum, as it closed at four & it was out in to daylight again to join all the other tourists walking across the Brooklyn bridge taking pictures like these. Ducking off the bridge earlier than most, I was off downtown via any route I could find (not difficult) to catch the free ferry to Staten Island. I had planned, once on Staten Island, to take the train half way down the line & get off & have a look around at whatever was there. But after five days of pounding sidewalks, my feet were starting to protest so I walked a little around the waterfront & then settled down for a great dinner that was probably two or three days' worth of food spending – but the NZ lamb was great & it was almost still alive – mmmmm. Nice setting sun on the trip back to Manhattan.So that was pretty much my time in NYC – fantastic place with so much going on & so much to see & do

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NYC catch-up

Happy Birthday Dave (it's still the fifteenth here) – maybe the card arrived. Now that I'm sitting on a bus driving through New Jersey, I have a chance to catch up with the previous four days in NYC. As I got progressively more tired after each >12 hour day, I slept better & better at the hostel. It was nice to get in to a little routine – out the door by about half past eight, up 9th a couple of blocks for my standard bowl of hot cereal (porridge) with raisins & three pieces of cinnamon toast (I only realsied on about the third or fourth morning just how much sugar was on there – no wonder it tasted so good) & then off sightseeing.

Saturday I hopped on the uptown hop-on, hop-off bus to take a look at Harlem & Central Park. It was also a day of museums – first was the Natural History one. It was OK, but since I'd been to the fantastic San Diego Zoo & Sea World, all the stuffed animals didn't really do a whole lot for me. Mind you, these bears were a little bigger than the one we saw when we were camping at Big Meadow. The highlight of the museum was the mineral & gem display – I'm not much of a rock person, but colours were so brilliant & the structures so intricate it was hard not to be amazed.

After hopping on & off a couple of times, the Museum of New York was quite interesting, as it of course explained the history of New York. Following that I avoided the bus & strolled down Central Park admiring all the green & space & avoiding all those out riding, jogging or pushing strollers – I managed to not walk past the Guggenheim. I think the building was the most spectacular part of the complex – there was a large architectural exhibit & while it started out interesting, there are only so many unrealised ideas, plans & models one can look at. The art was pretty good, but as you couldn't take photos, it can't have been fantastic as I can't remember anything specifically (or I am a Luddite).

Escaping the Guggenheim it was getting late in the afternoon, but riding past the Metropolitan Museum of Art I saw that it was open to nine o'clock that night. Why not? Backtracking through the park I snuck in for what I expected would be another hour or two. How wrong was I? The place was huge & full of heaps of really cool stuff. I started out spending quite a bit of time looking at a lot of the Greek, Roman & Etruscan statues & artefacts. Then there was a lot of Eygptian exhibits, included reconstructed tombs that had somehow made their way from Eygpt to NYC. The old American furniture & art display was good, as was all the weaponary & suits of armour. I was trying to make my way around the maze in some sort of orderly fashion, but the way it worked out I had to semi-rush around what was my favourite part of the museum – the European sculptures, portraits & paintings. I have seen enough “Portrait of a man” & “Portrait of a woman” signs to last me a little while. There was plenty of religious works displayed, as well as all the portraits – but I think my favourites were the landscapes that had people doing things, as opposed to sitting, posing for a painting. One such painting of a village fair in France had me staring at it for ages – the detail was great.

After the Met closed, it was time for the long walk back to the hostel. As it was Saturday night, there were plenty of people about (but that really goes for almost any time of the day in NYC). I spied a big Apple sign above a stairwell, so I crossed the road & headed in to the basement – my first Apple store. Say what you will about Apple & their products (personally I quite like my MacBook), their marketing sure is something. It was ten o'clock on a Saturday night & the place was teeming with people. There is of course all the products & accessories shelved in a normal store, but there were benches & benches of every Apple product with scores, if not a couple of hundred, people trying them out. I had a brief play on a MacBook Pro, but as I already know what they are about, mostly contented myself with wandering, looking at the store that never closes & all the people packed inside it.

This was about an eighth of the store

Back home eventually to rest my weary legs.

The bus pulled in a few hours ago – it's nice to be back in Doylestown & have a nice big afternoon nap (when in Rome...). We (the four Lindes & I) are off upstate for a nice long weekend in the Poconos – which promises to be a lot less hectic than NYC & a lot cooler, should be great. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on the rest of the NYC stories & add some Poconos stories.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First NYC day

A quick email blog (is it ironic that the spell-check on doesn't recognise "blog" as a word?) from New York City - I'm exhausted - pictures may follow some time next week. NYC is fantastic - I arrived late this morning on a bus from Doylestown (still can't believe how green & wooded Pennsylvania & New Jersey are). Quickly found my hostel (only a couple of blocks from bus terminal) & stowing my gear, it was a short walk to Times Square. As it was my first day in NYC, I had to do the traditional foreigner thing & see the Statue of Liberty & the Ellis Island Immigration Center - pretty good, thankfully the long queues moved quickly. Before leaving Doylestown I forked out for a New York City pass - it pretty much lets me in to more attractions than I can get to in six days for one flat fee. I think I've already recovered half the value of it in twelve hours. The rest of the day was spent on the open-topped double-deckers being camera happy tourist. I have been most impressed by the architecture & design (& size) of many of the buildings. Apart from all the normal NYC things, I've already seen a live film set on the sidewalk of 6th Avenue, a mugger getting seized by a cop in a mufti-car (don't worry, I was safely on the top of the bus) & a SWAT team just generally hanging on the sidewalk. Anywho, I'm a bit tired, so will see if I can get some sleep before another all go day tomorrow.

Actually the internet is working a bit better so I could put some photos up - but looking at the hundred or so I took today - they are all pretty standard. So I'll put a couple up of me ruining the foreground.

Oh, I just got an email from a paralegal - they're talking about booking flights for me to go back & testify in San Diego; so that cross country jaunt is looking more likely. Unless the date changes...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Golf anyone?

A lazy start to the day yesterday – for some reason, I'm sleeping a lot, which is quite nice in some ways, but a slight waste in others. Jessica & the kids & I ran a couple of errands in town (the smallest Post Office I've ever seen at the college Doug teaches at & bought my bus tickets to NYC – less than forty dollars return, bargain) & then headed out to Lake Galena. Galena is a small lake not from town & there were plenty of kids out learning to sail very small yachts with varying degrees of success, many people making use of the path that goes all around the lake – we took a short stroll down to a rather rickety pier & looked at the ducks (not my normal sightseeing, but Katarina seemed to enjoy it & I got my fingers almost pulled off – a small price to pay for not having to rescue a two year old from the lake). Current favourite sayings are “watchoo doin?” and “huh?” repeated frequently; this is an improvement over the first day or two's shyness.

Mid-afternoon, Doug & I headed off half an hour north to the 2009 US Women's Open. Doug is a professor in turf management (from what I can work out, mostly on golf courses) & as a result he & a lot of his students & graduates have volunteered for the week working on the grounds (mowing, rolling, watering, replacing divots, grooming & so on). It was the last practice day before the four day tournament starts on Thursday. While Doug went off to a meeting I wandered around a few holes on the front nine, checked out the practice green & driving range. There was plenty to look at & it was intriguing to see all the things that go on behind the scenes at a major that are not seen on the television. I'm pretty sure I have never seen so many golf carts (at least a few hundred) in one day. I met up with Doug on the back nine – our (his, really) job was to follow the last players around & remove the tee markers & flags. It was a pretty easy job – we cruised around in a cart pulling markers & flags occasionally & spent the rest of the time taking photos, chatting to groundsmen & climbing camera towers (not sure if that was allowed – one was particularly tall & seemed rather rickety). A good afternoon doing something quite different to what I usually do on holiday. Doug has just headed out for the first day's play.
Arriving home from the golf, my package of bike goodies had arrived. My bike is now usuable with a new chain on it & new grips & my new shoes fit well. Still need to get my brakes sorted (probably bled) & I'd like to clean & grease the freewheel. I think I might just roll in to town & have a little explore.