Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 93- August 13

By Al

Today, we went to the 911 memorial.  It was well done and bigger than we had expected.  It is free but you have to have a ticket to get in.  So, our advice is to reserve a time at least the day before.  Otherwise, you have to get in line to get a ticket.  They are timed to prevent too many people at the site.  Also, plan on about a half hour of standing in line and going through security.  But, once you are in, there is plenty of room to see all you want to see and nobody moves you out.

One of the two pools that are on the footprint of the two towers.

Jesse and Naomi in front of one of the pools.  World Trade Center One is in the background.

After that, Naomi and Jessie wanted to take the ship to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, so we walked down to Battery Park. Directly across from Battery Park, is the entrance to the Battery-Brooklyn Tunnel. The building that covers this entrance is the building you see in Men In Black for the headquarters. Of course, they take most of the signage and trees out of the picture when they use it in the film. 

The Men in Black building.

After Naomi and Jesse left on their cruse, Sally and I went home.

That evening, Sally was scheduled to help serve dinners to the homeless.  Naomi, Jesse and I went to see "Fried Chicken and Latkes" at the Actor's Temple Theater.  This was a one woman play by Rain Pryor.  She is the daughter of Richard Pryor.  It was a monologue about growing up black and Jewish.  He mother was Jewish.  The best parts were when she played the part of her two grandmothers.  It was pretty funny and very entertaining. 

The theater is a Jewish temple.  They move the worship materials to the back of the room and put up chairs for the theater.  There is a stage at the front of the theater.  I seats about 100 people. 

They had a pretty good jazz trio playing before Ms. Pryor started.  It was frustrating that many people in the audience kept talking while the trio was performing.  I have noticed this at other performances where there is a headliner and warm up acts.  Because it is not the headliner or the main play, people seem to feel that the show has not started and they can keep talking.  We had this same problem when we went to see "One Man and Two Guvnors"  It would be nice if people had some courtesy and shut up.  It is not required that you keep talking once you take your seat.

Anyway, the performance was enjoyable.  Naomi particularly like the Jewish grandmother.

The outside of the theater.

After the play, we went to the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the bridge to Manhattan. I recommend this to anybody coming to New York. It is a wonderful view of Manhattan. It is good during the day, but spectacular at night.

Naomi and Jesse on the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Empire State Building is in the background.

On the way home, we stopped at the Apple store. This store is open 24-7, so it was okay that we didn't get there until 11 PM. The store was very busy anyway. Naomi is going to Kuwait in a couple of weeks to teach at an American school. She had questions about the use of her computer and of Facetime and Skype in Kuwait. By chance, the clerk who helped her was from Egypt and her parents lived in Kuwait. She was able to answer all of her questions. Naomi had talked to the people at the Mall of America Apple store, and they could not help her. So, it was good that we stopped.

This is the entrance to the Apple Store.  The store itself is below ground, down the steps that you can see to the left of Jesse.

Sally's Day

Al has given you a good overview of our day.  Many people have asked if we have visited the 911 Memorial.  Therefore, I will add a few more pictures.  The Memorial is in the middle of the construction site of the new Towers.  Once they are completed, the Memorial will be an open park, and no tickets will be required.  There will also be an underground museum.  The Memorial includes both the 1993 bombing and the 9/11/01 attack.

Another view of the pool built on the site of the South Tower.

They call this the Survivor Tree. I believe it is a pear tree.  A small branch of the tree was the only living thing remaining from the towers.  The branch has been carefully nurtured back to health.  I hope they adjust the rubber supports regularly.

Each of the pools is surrounded by inscriptions of names of the people who died.  The names are grouped by the location of their deaths.  This section is for Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
Todd Beamer, who was on flight 93, is remembered as the man who spoke with a phone operator after the terrorists took control of the plane.  The last words heard from him were "Let's roll."  The passengers were then heard  rushing forward to the cockpit.

Renee May was also on Flight 93.  Her inscription  states " and her unborn child." 

The Memorial is a very quiet place.


Day 92- August 12

By Al

Today we went to the New York Botanical Garden. This is in the Bronx and it a good place to go on a nice day.  It is mainly trees, but it does have a conservatory much like the conservatory at the Como Zoo. 

The conservatory has a display about Monet's garden.  We have blogged about this before, so I won't say much now.  However, we did walk about the other areas of the garden.  Jessie has a B.A. in , I think, Horticulture.  I am not sure on the exact title.  What is important is that he can identify and tell you about just about any plant you see.  He currently works with a tree business in the Twin Cities, so he really knows trees.  Walking around was like having a professional guide.  He would tell us about the trees we were seeing, where they were native, and other facts about their life cycle.  It was pretty interesting.

Jesse, Naomi, Sally, and I in front of the lily pond that is part of the Monet exhibit.

Jesse and Naomi.

Sally and I

After the Botanical Garden, we went about a mile to where Naomi's mother grew up.  This was Naomi's first visit to the area.  The population has really changed.  When Naomi's mother was growing up, the population was primarily Jewish.  Now it is primarily Dominican.  The Synagogue across the street from her apartment is now a Baptist church.  The buildings were still there; but it was, I am sure, a totally different vibe to the neighborhood.

Naomi in front of the apartment building where her mother spent her childhood.

More of the building.

The street.  The apaartment building is on the left.  The street is the Grand Concourse.

The former temple that is now a Baptist church.  You can see the Star of David at the top.

That evening we went to our favorite Indian restaurant.  Naomi and Jessie bought us a great dinner.  Thank you Naomi and Jessie.

Sally's Day

Al gave you a pretty thorough description of our day- so I will add only a few more pictures of flowers and trees.

Also, the restaurant we went to is called Chennai.  It is on 1st Avenue, between 86th and 87th.  There is a wonderful pickle and olive store next door.  That's all they sell- about 12 kinds of pickles in wooden barrels, and about 20 kinds of olives. 
Most of the roses in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden were past their prime.  These were some of the only fresh ones.

The Monet exhibit included two large pools of water lilies- of course.

There is a large area devoted solely to miniature conifers.  Amazing variety of colors and shapes.

I saw several people taking photos of these water lilies, so concluded they must be photo worthy.  I didn't notice the shadow of the upper flower until I posted it.  I guess they were right.


Day 91- August 11; Half-way point in our adventures

A Prison Visit, More Art, and Cheese Steak 
Sally's Day
I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art while Al went to prison.  Since I had limited  time,  I chose to look at a room of Scottish samplers, and then joined a tour of museum highlights.  The PMA is the third largest art museum in the country.  In addition to the main museum, there is a separate museum of Rodin's pieces.

This sampler was made by a girl 11 years old.  All of the samplers were made by girls between 8 and 14. 

This detail is from the sampler above it.  I wonder if the girl in the window is a self-portrait. Amazing work.

I love this painting by Charles Peale, American,  who lived in the 18-19th centuries.  There is a real step in front of the painting, and the frame is a door frame. It has the illusion of his sons actually climbing the stairs.  George Washington supposedly said "hi" to the boys when he walked by the painting.  A good story, even if not true.

The museum has LOTS of silver.  This teapot was made by Paul Revere, who was a silversmith when he was not warning people that the British were coming. 

This statue of Aphrodite is in the main entry hall. She was made by Saint Gaudins (remember the statute of William Tecumseh Sherman I posted?- it's the same fellow). 

No visit to the PMA would be complete without a stop by the Rocky statue.  It took a while to get a picture because so many people were posing for pictures by the statue- many of them flexing their muscles.  The statue is at  the bottom of the stairs going up to the museum (the stairs he runs up in the movie), and to the right.  I assume that the supporters of the museum felt that  statue at the top of the stairs, where Rocky dances around, would not be appropriate.

The famous Philly cheese steak.  It was super.  The cheese is melted into the meat- so there is a hint of cheese, but it does not overpower the meat.  There are also onions in the mixture. It is HUGE.  One sandwich would have been ample/

According to the Foder's travel guide, Cosmi's deli has the best cheese steak in Philadelphia.  It is clear that it was chosen for the quality of its sandwich- and not the ambiance.  Which actually made it seem much more "authentic."

We did not need to eat supper when we got home.


By Al

Our last day in Philadelphia.

Sally wanted to spend the morning at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  I thought it would be interesting to see the Eastern State Penitentiary.  We drove downtown, where they are both located, and ran into a massive union demonstration.  There must have been a couple of thousand union members, from several unions.  The demonstration was in the area in front of the Art Museum.  It would have been interesting to attend, but everything was so parked up, it would have been a major deal to park and go there.  So, I dropped Sally off at the Museum and drove to the Penitentiary. 

Here is the description from the website.

"Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers.
Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.
Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone."

It was the first penitentiary in the United States.  Originally, the prisoners were kept in a cell with an attached exercise area.  Each prisoner had his own exercise area.  On his way to or from his cell, he had a hood over his head.  He never had any contact with other prisoners.  Food was given to him through a small opening.  The idea was that he would have time to think about his wrongs and become penitent.  "Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent." (Wikepedia)  Prior to this system, jails were simply a place to hold people until they could be punished.  All levels of prisoners were kept together, from murders to juvenile runways.  Punishments consisted of hanging, pillorying, stocks, whipping, etc.  So, from this standpoint the Pennsylvania system, as it became know, was more humane.  However, as Charles Dickens described it it was designed to drive men crazy.  This system is in contrast to the New York system where the inmates were kept in separate cells but ate and worked with other inmates.

The Pennsylvania system proved unworkable economically, with too much room required for each prisoner to be kept separate. Each prisoner had to be fed separately in their cell three times a day.  Each prisoner did small work projects in their cell. The prison suffered from sever overcrowding and the system was abandoned in 1913.

It was closed as a prison in 1971.  Several plans were put forward for its use including tearing it down, putting a shopping mall inside, and others.  During this time a forest grew in between the buildings and through holes in the roofs.  It also became a home to several hundred cats.  In 1988, plans were made to fix it up as a museum.  It opened in 1994. 

The outside.  The front entrance is between the two towers.  They are decorative.  There are other real guard towers.

These are the folks that started the organization that eventually built the penitentiary.  Ben Franklin is on the left.

This what the cells were originally like.  A prisoner would spend his entire term in this cell.

A two level cell block. 

The football and baseball field.

After inmates were allowed to mix, solitary confinement was used for punishment.  This is the entrance to the "hole."  Yes the people do have to bend over to get into the hallway to the "hole".

This is the hallway.  The 4 solitary cell doors open onto this hallway.  The celling is about 4 feet high.

Al Capone's cell.  He was here for a while.  He evidently had some money to pay off the prison administration.

This is a work done by an artist named Ryan Legassicke showing the outline of famous fences.  From left to right they are

The fence used at the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto.
The Berlin Wall
The USA/Mexico boarder fence
The Peace Line Wall in Northern Ireland
The Israeli West Band Separation Wall

Around one, I picked up Sally near the Art Museum.  We decided that we should have a Philly Cheese steak before we left town.  The guide book said the best cheese steak was at a place called Cosimi's.  It was well on the other side of downtown, but we decided to try anyway.

The streets in Philadelphia are really narrow.  I mean really narrow. So, it took us about a hour to go 4 or 5 miles.  The place was a very small corner deli.  About an eighth the size of a typical SuperAmerica.  It had some shelves for chips, a couple of coolers for pop and a counter to order.  In the middle were two tables with six chairs.  People who were ordering stood in line wrapped around the table and chairs. 

It took us about 10 minutes to be able to order, and the order came up on about another 10 minutes.  I am not a fan of cheese steak.  But, I have to say I did like these sandwiches.  They were very good.  They also were very large.  We had leftovers.  You all know how much we like leftovers.

After lunch we headed home.  It was an uneventful drive until I took the wrong exit from the freeway in Newark.  This resulted in an unplanned drive through Newark.  It is a very industrial town.  It was old and a little run down.  But, it was not the out of control image that one would get from news reports. 

We got back to the Mall and the Avis counter.  Again, they were very helpful and friendly.  By the time we got back home, we were pretty tired.  Naomi and Jessie were out on the town, so we rested until they came home.  It was good to see them. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 90 -August 10



A Day for Patriotism

By Al

Today we went to Independence National Historical Park, AKA Independence Hall. Of course, the street we should have taken was blocked off, so we had to try a different way. Fortunately, we did get to downtown Philadelphia, but  with no help from the traffic signage.  At one point the freeway split.  One way got you to downtown Philly, the other way to someplace else.  The sign telling you which way to go was in the middle of the split between the roadways.  So, if you were in the wrong lane, you really had no chance to get over to the correct side of the freeway.  Fortunately, we were on the correct side so we made it.

They do have ample parking, which is good.  We first got our ticket for Independence Hall.  The tickets are free, but they ticket people to time them.  You can reserve on line, which we recommend, or you can show up and see what times are available.

The tour of Independence Hall was very impressive. The guide was very knowledgeable and really brought it to life.  In the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed, he  moved among the desks and told us what state's delegation was seated at the desk and what they were doing for the vote.  The most dramatic story was about Caesar Rodney.  He was from Delaware, but not at the Continental Congress on July 1, the day before the vote on the Declaration.  He was one of three members from Delaware to the Congress.  One was going to vote for independence and one against.  Thus, Delaware would have no vote and there would not be enough states in favor of independence to pass the Declaration.   An express messenger was sent to him.  He rode most of the night over the 80 miles of swamp and mud to get to Philadelphia in time for the vote.  He made it in time and Delaware voted for independence.  Without him, the Declaration of Independence would not have passed. 

Many people don't know that the Declaration was actually passed on July 2, not July 4.  However,the delegates wanted to clarify and clean up some of the language, so it was not made public until July 4.

We then looked around Independence Square at many other historic buildings.  A full day is about enough, although you could do part of a second day.  We only did the one day.

Independence Hall

The room where the Second Continental Congress met and passed the Delaration of Independance.  The guide is up by the front desk.  He was very good.

An original printed copy of the Declaration.  Immedicatly on July 4 when they had settled on the language, they sent the original to a printer to print up copies.  He printed a 20 copies immediately. However, the full declaration was not officially released until August when sufficient copies had been printed.

The National Capital was in New York at the time the Constitution was adopted.  It stayed the capital for 17 months.  That is when the law was passed to make Washington, DC the capital.  However, at the time Washington was pretty much swamp and low land.  So the capital was moved to Philadelphia for 10 years while Washington was being built.  The House and Senate met in Congress Hall which is just to the west of Independence Hall. This is the room where the House of Representatives met for those 10 years.  

This is where the Senate met. It is on the second floor.

More Senate.

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background.

This is the house where Thomas Jefferson rented rooms while he was writing the draft of the Declaration of Independence.

The little building as it looks now.

This is the room where Thomas Jefferson worked.

This is a type of tree that is pretty widespread in Philadelphia.  It was blossoming in August.  We wondered what it was, but nobody knew.

This is the blossom.  Do you know what it is?

The interior of Christ Church.  A very old church that many of the founding fathers and their families attended while in Philadelphia.

George Washington's pew.

Good by to Independence Hall.

That evening, Sally had tickets to the Barnes Museum.  She will tell you more about it.  I did not care to go.  I have come to realize that I am not particularly attracted to flat art, e. g. paintings.  So, it not an efficient use of money to pay for admission to a museum where I will likely see everything I want to see in half an hour.  I walked around the near north side of Philalephia for a while, and then sat and read.  It was quite relaxing.

The front of the Barnes Museum

The back of Barnes Museum, where the entrance actually is.

An interesting building near the Barnes Museum. 

Sally's Day

Al has said all that needs to be said about Independence Park.  I am always amazed that all of those intelligent and courageous people found their way to our country at that moment in our history.  I also wonder if we would have the same protections in our Bill of Rights if the Constitutional Convention had occurred today.  I find it unlikely that the States would approve those amendments in the present political climate. 

The museum limits the number of people who can enter each day because some of the galleries are very small (probably 20 feet square).  So if you decide to go, order tickets on line several weeks ahead of time.  The building is rather ugly, but according to the information on the museum, they have done a good job of replicating the 24 galleries Mr. Barnes had built for his paintings on his property.  He was also very particular about the placement of the paintings on the walls, and his will also required that the arrangements never be changed.  Fortunately, he had a good eye for arranging them, and are pleasing to the eye.

 It is the most amazing private collection of art I have ever seen.  He owned over 1,000 paintings.  There are over 160 Renoirs, about 90 Cezanne's, about 70 Matisse's, about 10 VanGogh's, etc.  I felt like I had been given a 5-pound box of chocolates with instructions that I had 3 hours to eat the whole box.  It quickly became apparent that I needed to limit myself to the ones with the cream centers.  It was entirely too much art to absorb in one visit. 

Unfortunately, this museum does not permit photos, so I purchased post  cards of a few of my favorites.
This painting reminded me of having lunch with two of my friends.

Monet painted this self-portrait of a small boat he had built for himself so that he could go out on the ponds on his property and paint his surroundings.  I think it would be a wonderful place to sit and spend the afternoon.

This is one of his VanGogh paintings, done in the last year of his life.  This looks to me like a happy village.  Is that VanGogh walking along feeling separated from the people in the town?

This painting was on the wall of one of Dr. Barnes galleries, above some windows.  It is a good example of measure twice, cut once.  Matisse measured the wall, and then returned to his studio to design the painting.  He made paper cut outs of the design and took them to the gallery to begin painting.  After painting part of the walls, he discovered that he had incorrectly measured the spaces between the three arches- so he had to start over.
I would love to re-visit this place.  Sally