12 November 2014

THINGS I NOTICED IN D.C.

In my family, I am not The Traveler, that is the one family member who travels all over the world, to all the fun or interesting places, for leisure.  However, with my current job, I did get to travel to a few places to work.  Work is, well, work, with the 9-to-5 or something along that line, but usually in the evening I get to enjoy the city/town a little bit.  On occasions, I stay over the weekend and get to appreciate local culture in a more leisurely way.  I started to work-travel back in August and meant to blog about the experience but life got in the way.  Without much further ado, here are the Things I Noticed in Washington D.C., with no research whatsoever on the topics:

  • There are road-runners in all times of day, I love it!  I do work about 9 hours during the day, but on those occasions I went out for lunch, or walk back to or from the hotel, or early in the morning when I myself go for a run, I would see runners.  Good for ya, D.C.!
  • Bike-share is alive in D.C.  $7 gets you a day pass that include free 30-minute rides.  I haven't tried it yet but I worry that it's like NYC, where at certain time it's impossible to find an empty dock to return the bike, or every bike taken out.  During an evening rush, I did notice a few stations with available bikes, so maybe it's not as bad.
  • Cycling is popular!  In the Metro Center area that I frequent, I don't see that many bike lanes, definitely no protected lanes, where the lane is between sidewalk and a parking lane, so cycling is not as well supported as in New York City, but it sure is popular.  I noticed bike racks outside many building, people riding bikes home during evening rush hour.
  • The bike-share map shows certain areas in Downtown as off-limit to sidewalk-riding.  What?  Does that mean riding on the sidewalk is allowed elsewhere?  That seems to be the case, as I saw many people riding on the sidewalk.  Most sidewalks are wide so it's not a problem, but it's something I shudder, as I'm a law-abiding cyclist when it comes to sidewalk-riding, as prohibited in NYC.
  • Like many big cities, there are homeless people on the street in many places.  I arrived in D.C. at night, during the taxi ride to the hotel I couldn't help seeing people sleeping in bus shelter and in public parks.  Sad.
  •  It's a given that there are museums everywhere in D.C., but I also noticed that associations and groups are all over too.  I suppose chances are your groups need to convince the politicians to support your cause by passing laws so might well be in physical proximity to the legislators.
  • I didn't like the non-rectangular streets of Boston and incorrectly thought D.C. would be worse.  While there are those diagonal avenues, there is some kind of a grid with the numbered streets and the lettered streets, at least in the northwest area that I stay at.
  • The motorists I crossed paths the past few days are pretty nice compared to others I know.  They yield to pedestrians!  I haven't heard any angry honking either.  Maybe I just need to walk in rush-hour traffic more?  I do obey traffic signals for pedestrians, so maybe that helped.
I have a few more days, maybe all this will change, maybe I will share more observations, definitely some photos is in order.


01 September 2014

SCENES FROM A RUN: THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD OF BATH BEACH ETC

With my current work hours of 8 AM to 5 PM, I have a very small window to run early in the morning.  As such the runs are shorter and limited to the streets closer to home.  In recent weeks, I was away in Boston for work then just had a week in the Lincoln, New Hampshire area for leisure.  While I had a few runs in both places, I should have resumed running once I got back but I got lazy, until today.  I got up late, past 9 AM, the weather was already hot, but it had to be done.  I got to re-visit some old places in my neighborhood of Bath Beach to see what's up with them.

Contrary to what a neighbor and Facebook friend told me, the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park is not open to the public yet.  At one time the fence's gate was knocked down, supposedly large enough for pedestrians but unwelcome to vehicles.  The fence is up again and the sign reminds the reader that soil contamination is in progress, enter only if authorized.
If you really have to get into the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park, there is another breach in the fence.  There is a beaten path right inside the fence so others have trespassed.  I'll stick to iTrespassing, not the physical type.
More welcoming is the Brookyn Bay Center, that area around the upcoming B.J.'s Wholesale Club on Shore Road.  No one was around and there was no gate whatsoever so I took a stroll to the new waterfront area behind BJ.
Not much of a running route but it adds maybe a kilometer to the waterfront area.  I am sure the place will be packed once the wholesale club opens in a few weeks.
Front behind BJ, one can see the Verrazano Bridge in the distance, Staten Island on the left and Brooklyn on the right.  The tall buildings near the bridge on the Brooklyn side is the Veteran Administration Building near Fort Hamilton.  The white building on the right, close to the foreground, is the side of Kohl's in Caesar's Bay.
I thought of running to the foot-bridge near 17th Avenue but it got hot so I turned at Bay Parkway.  I noticed that Vitamin Shoppe will take place of the old HSBC building.  Somehow HSBC never made it back after Hurricane Sandy.
This gyro place used to be called Olive Garden when it first open.  The real Olive Garden probably had some lawyers visited them and now the name is different.  Note the different patches of green on the awning.

03 August 2014

THINGS MOST PEOPLE DO NOT THINK ABOUT BEFORE STAYING A FEW WEEKS AT A NEW TOWN

What do most people think about before a trip to somewhere that they would be at for a few weeks, whether on business or for leisure?  What to do, things to see, right?  Well, in the case of business, I suppose they'll think of places to unwind.  I have a slightly different set of things to think about, such as


  1. Hope I will have time to keep up with my exercise routine, mostly running and walking.  Will there be a nice waterfront place safe enough to run early in the morning or late in the evening?  The only down side is I'll have to bring a extra pair of shoes (running shoes, that is) and some running clothes.  Work will be hectic, hope I'll have the time to do some walking after lunch as usual.  I might even sign up for a 5K foot race!
  2. Make sure to bring along my stainless steel coffee container.  Where I work the cafeteria gives a discount to encourage customers to bring their own drink containers, to reduce the use of paper or plastic cups.  Where I am going I am not sure if the incentive exists, but I'm sure there will be a water cooler.  I'll have my reusable cup with me on trips from now on.
  3. Will there be an event I can volunteer at?  Whether it's a foot race or a soup kitchen, I think volunteering is a nice way to see the local neighborhoods in a  different angle.  Maybe I'll find an animal shelter and help walk some dogs!
  4. Will there be a public library where I'm going?  I don't plan to pay the fee to use as a visitor, but it'll be nice to just sit down and relax with a book or a magazine.
Do you have any unusual thoughts before visiting a new place for an extensive stay? 

26 June 2014

THROWBACK THURSDAY: BYE BYE BAY ACADEMY

Today is the last day of school for my son at the Bay Academy, a Middle School, which covers grades six through eight.  When I was in grades six through eight, the school type was Junior High School.  I first learned about the term "Middle School" when I read some Junie B Jones books while volunteering for Everybody Wins!  Power Lunch.  It seems like yesterday that Son started Middle School, but it's been three years.  I am sure Son has many memories of his own of the Bay Academy experience, but here are some my aging brain can recall.

Starting with Middle School, my son for the first time had to take school bus to get to school.  Before that, I mostly walked him to school and dropped him off at the school door.  Near the beginning, through some bad calculation, he was directed to go to a bus stop further away.  It was the first stop of the bus route.  Luckily, I found out the same week and found the second stop, mere blocks from our home.  The bus was mostly reliable but a few times it never showed up, or came really late.  I had to rush home and come back with the minivan and fill up the car with whichever kids wanted to come along.

The bus route used to be serpentine, turning here and there to pick up kids in different areas.  Once or twice I "raced" the bus and won.  It was an unfair race since I took the most direct route whereas the bus had to go all over to all the dispersed stops.  In later years, the school had enough funding for more buses and my son's bus went straight to school from his stop, so no more racing.

I really wanted my son to know the subway system better and embrace it.  I love public transportation, warts and all.  The perfect chance came along when there was a strike of school bus drivers.  In the beginning, I rode the subway with son then ran back home.  Next step was to ride in a different subway car from his.  Lastly, he rode by himself altogether and just called home after he got to school.  He still hated the subway, for all the waiting and standing etc but at least he knew how to get to school and back.

With the school not within walking distance, I only attended a few PTA meetings and such.  I don't remember what the occasion but one time I parked on the street parallel to Emmons Avenue by the Belt Parkway and got a freaking ticket!  Emmons Avenue is the commercial strip in the area so the next street over had parking meters that stay in effect until 10 PM or whatever.  What a robbery!

Maybe thanks to my period of unemployment, I was able to help chaperone two trips, first one to the Discovery Center in Times Square for the Bodies exhibit and one more recently to the New York Stock Exchange.  I also helped the PTA with its monthly bake sale.  The kids bought snacks as if there was no tomorrow!

I do run to the area of Bay Academy every now and then.  The foot-bridge over Sheepshead Bay is one of my favorites.  I probably continue to visit the area every now and then and let my son know about any changes.

07 April 2014

VANITY PLATES: HOC11KEY !!!

Here's something for Top-Of-The-Arch!!!  At first I thought the number eleven in the middle of the word is unnecessary, but then I realized it does belong there.  Seriously, wouldn't HOC77KEY be better?  Or maybe even HOCLJKEY ?  Do you know what I'm driving at?


30 March 2014

RED HOOK CRIT 7

I love exploring different parts of New York City, especially places that are not too well known, places that are out of the way, in the middle of nowhere.  Some time ago I heard about the Red Hook Crit, a bike race in the Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook.  It was advertised as an unsanctioned race.  I misinterpreted "unsanctioned" as meaning it was an illegal race, like drag-racing on the street or squatting in an abandoned building.  It may have started that way, but nowadays "unsanctioned" really means the bike race is not recognized by some authority group of the cycling world.  I am not much of a competitive cyclist so I don't have too much interest in the event, other than that it's out of the way and is held at night, which is in stark contrast to the NYRR foot races of Central Park.  The Crit these days also have 5K races, one for men and one for women.  Now that's something I can get excited about!

Last year when I finally made some trips to Red Hook, to visit Fairway and Steve's Key Lime Pie, I drove past the Cruise Ship Terminal but there doesn't seem to be a way to get inside, at least not without raising suspicion from the authority.  I want to see what it's like inside, but it seems I would have to book a cruise trip to do so.  Money is tight, so the next best thing was to volunteer for the event.  I signed up to be course marshal for the 5K races, which was scheduled from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

The day of the event it rained all day, at times heavily.  The foot races were re-scheduled to happen after the bike race.  I saw the notice but didn't interpret it correctly and arrived too early, with some time to kill.  I got to see more of the area and part of the bike race.  I took some photos of the track before the race started then recorded a short clip of the men's bikes as they zoomed by.  I was a bit lost as to where on the course I would be but was eventually given a vest and a flag and stationed near the Terminal Building.  My job was to keep people off the course and, if needed, guide the runners, but it was a looped course so the runners quickly knew where to go.  Most stayed closed to the curb on their left, to hug the curve when they had to turn 180° around.  There was only one guy who ran onto the course with a bottle to cheer his girl, perhaps.  As I approached him, a security guard already shouted to him to get off the course.

I can now cross the Cruise Ship Terminal off my exploration map. I plan to re-visit the area during the day another day to see the place without all the track hardware.

Welcome To Brooklyn.

The Women's Crit.

It is natural for Fairway to be a sponsor of the event.

Ass Savers!  For $5, you could have these Ass Savers "raincoat", just a rectangular sheet with a hole cut-out for the face to stick out, it looked kinda ridiculous.






28 March 2014

MEET MR. ALDA

I first found out about the actor Alan Alda from playing TV Guide crossword puzzles.  "ALDA" makes a perfect entry for crossword puzzle.  It was back in the 80s so eventually, even without regularly watching the TV show M*A*S*H, I found out a little more about Mr. Alda.  Not much really, just that he played the character Hawkeye on the TV show.  Years later I also learned that the TV show lasted many years longer than the war that it portrayed, namely the Korean War.  But that's it, I didn't know anything else about Mr. Alda.

One day at the public library I came across Mr. Alda's book, "Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself".  It sounded like a funny thing, as someone I know often joked that talking to oneself is great, all the questions are appropriate and all the answers are correct.  Unfortunately for the Alda book, I just finished a bio by Carol Burnett.  The Burnett book was full of short humorous chapters whereas the Alda book had many long chapters.  Lots of background stories, mostly having to do with Mr. Alda's initial troubles coming up with the proper commencement speech.  It took me a long time to finish the Alda book and I didn't enjoy it.  Months later, I took another shot at Mr. Alda's books, this time it was "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed And Other Things I've Learned", in audiobook format.  Having the CD player doing the reading helped, not that the stories are not interesting.  I cannot recall much about the "Overheard" book, but I think it's mostly about Mr. Alda's adult life, with many speeches delivered to students etc after he was already famous.  "Stuffed", on the other hand, chronicles his childhood, then his early days going into show business on his own, M*A*S*H, Scientific American show, even his near-death experience in South America.  Early in the book we learned that when his first pet died, a taxidermist sorta brought it back to life, but it looked so different, even menacing, that it was worse to see the dead dog.  Near the end, Mr. Alda used that story in a commencement speech to illustrate things that cannot be replaced.  In-between there were many stories related to his mother's battle with mental illness and his days in the military, betting in horse-races, and my favorite, his pre-fame days of scraping together a living.

I am a frugal person so I easily identify with Mr. Alda's stories about his early days as a newly-wed, with a child or two, trying to make a living in New York City.  My father drove the taxi for many years, and so did Mr. Alda, many years earlier.  He quickly learned how dangerous it was, never know who would be a real passenger or a robber.  My late father occasionally fell victim to the grab-and-run types, or the farebeaters, and it always ruined his day.  At audition, Mr. Alda supposedly can do anything, have any skills required.  When it comes to height, he even asked what was the requirements, as if he can adjust his height to fit the role.  My favorite story of all is about his need to buy a new pair of pants, after he had a comfortable income.  He told his wife that he would go buy one, as if the cost of the pants would affect the family's meal plan for the week.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.

Mr. Alda had a chapter devoted to celebrity-worshipping.  He correctly stated that the whole thing makes no sense.  Just because someone is famous for one thing doesn't mean much in other aspects of life.  But people are crazy about celebrity and want to take advice from them.  Taking Mr. Alda's words, I suppose if we ever meet in real life, I should just say hi and move on.