Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 21

By Al

Today we started by going to an early service at Christ Church.  This is a United Methodist Church in mid-town.  It is a beautiful church.  Sally had visited here once before and enjoyed the early service.  However, this time the homily was given by the senior pastor who had just been honored for his years of service at the church.  He talked about the honor and his history at the church, but it was more a personal story than a homily.  I am sure for people who knew him, it was interesting.  However, it was not so much for us.  But, it is a beautiful church to see, as a most mid-town churches.  With the cost of land, I am sure that churches in this area are either rich or sold.


The sanctuary.

After church we went to see the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.  The main part of this museum is the World War II aircraft carrier.  It is at a pier on the Hudson River.  It has several different planes on its flight deck and on the inside.  It also has several exhibits about life on an aircraft carrier and navel warfare.  It also has a submarine docked next to it, the USS Growler.  This was a sub that had missiles, but which had to be on the surface to launch the missiles.  It has a Concorde Supersonic Transport that you can go on.  It also has the Space Shuttle Enterprise in a special structure on the flight deck.  It is more than a half day trip, but we thought we would give as much of it a try as we could.  It was very interesting.  We went on the submarine but did not go on the Concorde or go to see the Enterprise.  We will do that another day.



The Intrepid.  The pier is on the other side.



This is the pier.  The Intrepid is to the left.  The bump at the end of the Intrepid is the housing for the Enterprise Space Shuttle.  You can see the Concorde at the end of the pier.





A closer look at the Concorde.



Planes on the flight deck.  Manhattan in the background.



More flight deck.



A MiG-17 as flown by the North Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam war.




The Growler submarine alongside the pier.




One of the missiles on deck in the launch position.



Looking south from the flight deck.  The buildings in the far distance are New Jersey.


That evening we ventured to the Bronx to the Lehman Center at Lehman College to see the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi.  This was a new part of the Bronx for us.  It was an easy train ride and about a half mile walk to the college.  The campus is kid of set aside from the neighborhood and is quite nice.  The performance was very interesting, although it got a bit repetitive after a while.  But, the drummers danced and drummed.  Sometimes, they danced with drums on their heads.  It is an art form that has been passed down from father to son for centuries.  It is also considered a sacred art form.  It was impressive and fun.



The drummers enter drumming.



And they dance and drum.  At a point they put the drums in a semi-circle and then take turns dancing while the rest of the drummer drum.



Day 138- September 28

By Al

We met  a good friend, Keiko Doi, who lives in Minneapolis but who happened to be in Kyoto visiting a friend. She went to Kinkakuji with us, also known as the Golden Temple.  The temple itself is  more spectacular than Ginkakuji. It was also extremely crowded with school children. They just kept arriving in bus loads.  We were again asked by school children if they could ask us questions. They had the same questions and it was obviously an exercise to practice their English. It was fun.    



Kinkaku-ji


Closer

 
School children with yellow hats.  Each class was wearing the same color hat.  It made it easy to keep the class together.

 



A red hat class.

We next went to Iwatayama Monkey Park. This is a large hill, almost a mountain, just west of Kyoto which has wild monkeys on it. You pay to go in and then walk up a long path to the top. I was reminded that Japan, like most of the world, doesn't have a lot of personal injury lawyers. There were no guard rails on the path and it wasn't paved. There were  not warning signs all over. Except, you had frequent warnings about not starting the monkeys in the eye, not feeding them, and not approaching them. That might have been more for the monkeys than the people.

It was really interesting. The monkeys seemed not afraid of the people and if you stood still they would walk right by you. But, if you approached to close, they would move away or let their hair bristle as a warning.


 
Monkey on a slide.
 

Amy on a slide.

 
 
 
Kyoyo from Iwatayama Monkey Park.
 
 

Monkey

video





At the base of Iwatayama Monkey Park.


 
River at the base of Iwatayama Monkey Park.
 
There is a nice little town at the base of the park by this river.  While we were waiting for a friend to pick us up(see later) we listened to three young sisters perform music.  They were very good.
 
 
 
video
 
The younger of the three sisters.
 
video
 
The three sisters.
 


Statue near a Bamboo Forest West of Kyoto.

We also met Jay Klaphake and his wife, Miyuki. We first met Jay over 20 years ago when we were both working on a campaign for Bob Long. Since then we have run into them a few times and knew they were in Japan. However, I didn't know where for sure. A couple of weeks before we left for Japan, I got an email from Jay announcing that he was a sponsor of a Ted event at Kyoto University. The event was a few days before we got to Kyoto, so we wouldn't be able to attend. But, since he was in Kyoto, I emailed him that we would be there.

Our families got together for dinner. It was a lot of fun to see them again and learn more about Kyoto. They have a daughter and son, and it was fun to meet them also.

October 4

By Al

Today was our last full day in Osaka.  We decided that since the typhoon had robbed us of our chance to experience wild Japan, we at least wanted to get away from the city to the countryside.  We weren't sure where to go.  We thought of going to Koyosan, but when we got to the station we found that it would cost about $100 per person to go there.  That seemed a little steep for a day trip.  We had unlimited JR passes, so we asked the people at the station if they had a suggestion.  They were extremely helpful.  They consulted with each other, looked at map and schedules and came to the recommendation that we should take the JR train up the west coast of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.  It is north east of Osaka.

We decided to take the train to the end of the line, since this would be less populated than some of the towns on the south end of the lake.  That was a correct assumption.  The train ended at Adogawa, a small town.  We were the only gaijin around.  We had a very nice dinner and walked about three blocks to the lake.  It was very pleasant. 


Lunch.



Drew looking at Lake Biwa.



Houses along Lake Biwa.

On the way up to Adogawa, we noticed a town with a very picturesque temple near the tracks.  The town was Kitakamatsu. We decided to stop there on the way back.  We say that when we travel the best things that happen are serendipity.  This is one of those times.  We walked about a block from the train station to the temple.  There was an older man and woman working in a garden near the temple.  We said hello to them as we walked by.  It was our intention only look at the temple from the road and the go further up the hill to where there were supposed to be some waterfalls. 

However, as we were looking at the temple, the older man approached us and invited us into the temple.  He was the former priest.  His son was the current priest. But, the old priest and his wife still lived at the temple and take care of it.  He invited us into the temple, gave us a brochure about it, gave us something to drink, gave us prayer bracelets and then showed us around the temple grounds. As we were preparing to leave, he went into the house, and got a bag of sweets to give us.  His wife came and joined us and also showed us some things. The two of them exchanged some conversation.  (Sally's comment- I think that she was telling him that he should have given us more things- whereupon she went back into the house.) She returned with a bag full of many crackers and snacks.  It made us realize that we really need to carry gifts with us wherever we go so that if something like this happens, we can reciprocate.


The temple from the train track.



The main temple building is with the grass roof to the right.


Lake Biwa from the temple.  The train track is in the middle of the picture.


Amy and the former priest.  Statue of Hotei in the background.  We all rubbed his tummy for good luck.



Jizo, a Bodhisattva,  is the protector of children, expectant mothers, firemen, and travelers.  He is reported to have refused to become a Buddha until everybody is saved and hell is emptied.




A bicycle junkyard near the station. It is nothing but bicycles and bicycle parts.


The waiting area on the train platform.  These are knit pads supplied by the local people. (Sally's comment- the waiting area is a non-smoking area- the opposite of what we find in the U.S.)

It was night when we got back to Osaka, so we rested and packed for the next day and our trip to Nagasaki.


June 2, 2012

Yesterday I attended the New York Modern Quilt Guild.  It met at a loft in the fashion district where the president lives.  About 45 women and 3 men.  An intimindating experience for me- to walk into a room of strangers and need to mingle.  I met lots of lovely people- including several women from Minnesota (the president grew up in Melrose). Plus there was a table of  free fabric (having left 95% of my fabric in MN, it was a treat to get scraps to play with).  We also received 6 fat quarters of a new fabric line to make a baby quilt.

Lots of wonderful show and tell- pictures below.

Unfortunately, the quilt groups here don't meet in the summer, so I will get to attend one more meeting in October before we leave.

As to living here- my comments today are on the trash.  With 27,000 people per square mile (I also read a figure of 8 people per 5,000 sq feet of living space- which means that someone else has about 400 square feet of our space), there are huge amounts of trash.  We have a trash chute right outside our door, and recycling bins at the bottom of our stairs in the basement- so trash disposal is very easy (it will seem a burden to have to walk to the alley with trash, and collect our recycling for the week, and put it on the curb on Friday). 

Everyday, I see trash bags piled on the sidewalk. It appears that trash is collected from each building about three times a week.  If the trash collectors ever go on strike, I think it will immobilize the city.  It appears that those living on 5th Avenue may actually ship their trash to Florida (see picture below).

The other thing about the trash is all the stuff that people that people throw out is amazing.  I am confident I would furnish an apartment by simply picking up stuff on the street.  I have retrieved a plastic basket to store things under the sink and a bread basket.  We also got a chair for the living room (thoroughly checked for critters and bugs before bringing it in). I have left behind three book cases, a headboard, three more chairs, and lots of other stuff. 

Al has obtained tickets for us to see the Daily Show on the 28th-  I am very excited!! We are on the ticket pool for Late Show tickets.  They collect names at certain times, and then call you if/when you get tickets.

Sally

Saturday, September 7, 2013

October 30

By Sally


Sandy has come and gone, leaving the Upper East Side largely unaffected.  Unfortunately, that is not the case elsewhere.  The devastation in New Jersey and Staten Island is extensive.  We have only minor inconveniences- no subways and buses, many of the businesses are closed.

Water we did not need.


By Al


It was strange walking around the city today.  There was no public transit and much of the city was without electricity, so many people did not have to go to work.  Without public transit, many people could not get to work.  So, even in parts of the city with electricity, like our area, most businesses were closed.  The restaurants that were open, were pretty crowded.  Roosevelt Drive was closed to traffic, so people were walking on it.  It was like walking on a freeway.  Kind of spooky, like do I have to watch for cars or not.
There were some trees down in our area and a lot of branches.  City crews were already out trying to clear them away.  However, we were very lucky.  The news reports of massive flooding on Staten Island and the Rockaways.  Also, there was a major fire on the Rockaways.  Over 40 homes were burnt as the high wind spread the fire.  The fire department could not put the fires out because of the high winds.  Contrary to what people might think, there was not a lot of rain associated with this hurricane.  There were terrible winds and a major storm surge that caused most of the damage.  Areas near the ocean were the most affected.  Electricity south of 39th street is out and the tunnels for subway and cars are flooded.  The city is at a standstill, yet the streets are full of people walking around and taking it in.




The East River is still riled up.

This is a crane that was not properly prepared for the storm.  Normally, they are allowed to swing with the wind, so that they point with the least resistance to the wind.  However, this one was locked in place which caused the arm of the crane to fold back over the top of the crane and hang by only cables from the opposite side.  It cause several blocks of the city to be closed until it could be removed because of the danger of it falling.


video

This was one way that they tried to remove the trees.  Two guys with a chain saw and a pickup could have done this in 5 minutes.  I watched them get this far on one tree in about 10 minutes.  It just goes to show the importance of having the correct tool. 

October 29, 2012

Sally's Day 




A walk over to Central Park- which is closed.  A few people out walking dogs, and a few joggers.

 Jennifer and I dressed up for the rain which continues.

A day to read and find one of the few open restaurants.  The Duane Reed Drug Stores continue to be open throughout.




By Al

This was our first hurricane.  It was interesting that to see the preparations.  It was predicted to be bad.  We hoped that we would be far enough inland and high enough to escape the worst of it.  But, we still filled everything we had with water and had them standing in our living room.  All of the stores were sold out of candles, but we had a lot of batteries and flashlights.




It is raining and the hurricane is coming, but not here yet.  So, we decide to walk over to Central Park.  The entrances to the park are closed.  I guess they didn't want to worry about people in there either getting hit by flying trees or breaking into any of the park buildings and businesses.  This picture is taken along 5th Avenue next to the park.

We got home about 5 PM and went down to the East River to see what was happening.  Roosevelt East River Drive, really a freeway, was closed.  You can see water covering the road ahead of the car.  The water is up over the sidewalk, but people are still walking.  The wind is about 20 miles per hour.  Kind of like a mild blizzard in Minnesota, just a lot warmer.




We go back about 7 PM.  The wind is now about 50 miles per hours.  Water is up over Roosevelt.  It is like a real blizzard in Minnesota, except warmer.


This is our pedestrian overpass to the East River.  The corner of our building is in the dark to the left, this side of the do not enter sign.  During the night, the water came up to where you see the parked cars.  This is about 50 feet from our apartment building, but it is also 10 feet below it because of the hill.  So, the surge would have had to be 10 feet higher to get to our building.  Our apartment is on the second floor, so we were in no danger.  The first floor apartments in this picture closer to the river were flooded.



 The water is up over Roosevelt.


At about 11 PM the storm was at its height.  I was going to go outside, but the news said the wind was about 90 to 100 miles per hour.  Okay, this is worse than a blizzard in Minnesota.  Anyway, you cannot stand in that wind.  Also, the mayor warned that they were so many things flying around that it was extra dangerous to be outside.  I decided that I didn't need a picture that much.






October 28, 2012

Waiting for the hurricane

Water rising on the East River.


The greengrocer on the corner sells out of produce, and starts breaking down boxes.  He says he will be closed for 3 days.

The restaurant on the corner put tape on its windows.  The little water trough on the corner is for dogs.

We had word that the hurricane is coming.  Time to buy some supplies (cans of tuna, trail mix, etc.) and fill pots with water.  Businesses also prepared.


October 27, 2012

By Sally
The highlight of Jennifer's visit today was going to see The Heiress.  The play is based on a Henry James novel, Washington Square, set at that location in about 1850.  A  wealthy, widowed doctor (David Straihthorn) lives in a mansion on Washington Square with his daughter (Jessica Chastain).  His sister, a widowed minister's wife (Judith Ivey) also lives with him.  The doctor loathes his daughter. Her mother died at her birth.  The doctor wants the daughter to be just like her beautiful, talented mother.  The daughter is good-hearted, plain, and shy. 

A suitor (Dan Stevens) arrives.  He is poor, but charms the daughter. He asks her to marry him  The dad believes that he is after her money (she has an income equal to $275,000/year in 2012 dollars from her mother, and will receive another $550,000/year when her father dies). The dad and daughter go to Europe for 6 months. Upon their return, the daughter still loves the suitor.  He wants her to elope.  She says they will be fine, but also reveals that her dad is likely to disinherit her. 

He leaves, but does not return to elope.  She is heartbroken. Dad dies. Two years passes. Suitor returns, and daughter asks him to come back in 2 hours to go away with her to marry.  When he returns, she does not answer the door. End of play.

I was excited to see all 4 actors in a live performance.  I have seen them all in movies or on TV, and been impressed with their skills. Unfortunately, with the exception of Judith Ivey, they all seemed "flat."  Perhaps they were trying to be very Victorian in not showing their emotions in the play. 

I'm glad we saw the play, but it was a bit of a disappointment.




By Al

That evening we went to see DUMBO and the Brooklyn Bridge.  DUMBO stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge.  It is the area on the east side of the East River under the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.  It has become the new hot area to live.  It is especially favored by artists who have been priced out of the rents in Manhattan.  This was our first time there and it was a bit disappointing.  We were there at night and much of what might have been interesting is only open during the day.  However, it is always interesting to look at Manhattan at night from Brooklyn.  I didn't take many pictures because I have so many already.

October 26

Sally's Day

Our friend, Jennifer, arrived for a visit today.   Our highlight of the day was a book reading with Alexander McCall Smith- best known for his Number 1 Detective Agency series.  He also write 4 other series.  His new book is about a woman philosopher in Edinburgh. 



He was quite entertaining, and gracious in signing books. He writes one series for a newspaper in Edinborough where he produces a chapter each day. 

By Al

After retrieving Jennifer from the airport, we went on a bit of a walk around town.  We showed her the Mayor's mansion, Gracie Mansion.  Mayor Blumberg doesn't live there.  He has several houses already in New York.  But, it is still used for ceremonial purposes.  We also checked out our local Goodwill store.  As we have said before, they have some pretty nice things since they get a lot of their stuff from the local area.  We live in the tenth riches zip code in the nation, and we are next to the richest zip code in the nation; so much of the cast off clothes are still pretty good.  Needless to say, we substantially bring down the average income.


Jennifer and Sally walking up the driveway to Gracie Mansion.


Another view of Gracie Mansion.



Sally talking with  Alexander McCall Smith.



A posed photo.  The book reading was at the Barnes and Noble by Union Square.  This is a four story building and it quite large.  However, two blocks away is the original Barnes and Noble.  So we walked over to see it.



We walked back to Union Square to get the subway.  In the corner of Union Square they have a statue of Gandhi.