Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Cicada Love

I am here today to defend the poor cicada. I believe I am the only one on the planet who appreciates their dogged determination to live 17 years underground, emerge to have sex, and then lay eggs for the next generation. I find them fascinating and don’t think they are “gross,” the adjective I’ve been hearing a lot to describe them. They aren’t gross at all. They are harmless. Did you know they have five eyes? That right there makes them quite special, I would think.

But, no. My facebook friends, in general, do not share my love of these winged monkeys. I don’t know why. You can pick them up and pet them. This little guy in the photo below hopped onto my leg, wanting to be picked up. You can’t have too many friends, even if they only live about 6 weeks.

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When I was young, everyone called them “locusts.” I believe they were even called locust the last time they emerged in 1999. “The year of the locust.”  But, just to be straight, cicada is a member of the cricket family, where locust is a member of the grasshopper family.  Regardless, people aren’t afraid of crickets, so why should they be afraid of cicadas?  Could it be their red eyes?  One facebook friend said they were creepy looking.

Brood V made their appearance last week and I couldn’t wait to find one. Finally, one morning, I watched their arrival. They crawled out of the little lair and climbed up the tree from whence they fell 17 years before. They then struggled to get out of their bug shell, and once they did, clung to the tree bark for a few days to get ready to test their wings.

I had to laugh at a poster who took a picture of a cicada that just emerged and wrote, “omg, an albino cicada.” You have a lot to learn, Grasshopper. Cicadas all look like the photo below after emerging from their shell.

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Today was the first day I heard their chorus. It was loud, and sounded as if there was a spaceship hovering above the ground a la the movie “Day the Earth Stood Still.” It made me smile. I like the sound. It’s like the sound of spring peepers, but not really.

So, imagine my surprise (not really) when friends began posting on my facebook page  links to sites where people are making cookies out of the little fellows to sell at local Memorial Day festivals. What the hell, bakery guy?

Cicada abuse.

 

In the end, I hope all of you will step out of your comfort zone and approach a cicada and wish him well. He is only here for 5-6 weeks. He won’t bite you . All he wants to do is fly around, sing, and have sex.

And what’s wrong with that?

West Virginia Day Tripper

I’ve started a new blog about my jaunts around the mountain state for those who enjoy armchair traveling. I thought I would keep it separate from my blogs here.  I have a lot of  photos of my travels and plan on doing more, so I thought it would be good to house them all in one place. I hope you will visit  West Virginia Day Tripper. Thanks!

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Blackwater Falls

I am ready to move to a warmer climate. I am tired of snow, spinning tires, and 2 hour school delays. But, despite this long snap of frigid weather and mounting snow drifts, I still find inspiration to get in my car and snap some photos. It would be much easier to snap pictures during the other three seasons, when I actually want to get out of my car for different angles, but right now I am basically a “shoot from the car window”  kind of pretend photographer.

When my son was in for Christmas, we decided to drive to Blackwater Falls right after a frigid couple of days. We wanted to see if the falls were frozen. What was I thinking?

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We stopped to take photos of this lovely old house.

Blackwater State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, West Virginia near the town of Davis. The park is about 1 1/2 hours away from my home.  It is named for the cascading falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge 62 feet and then tumble through the Blackwater Canyon, which is roughly an eight mile long gorge. The so-called “black” water is from tannic acid from the nearby fallen hemlock along with red spruce needles.

According to wvencyclopedia.org

“The river enters Blackwater Falls State Park at an elevation of 3,040 feet. For the next 2.2 miles it is a wild river, dropping 57 feet at the main falls and then descending another 560 feet, before leaving the park. The river, geologically young, has carved the spectacular, deep, and almost vertical walls of Blackwater Canyon, which cuts through the surrounding plateau. Blackwater Lodge opened in 1956 on the south rim of the canyon, and a 65-site campground was opened in 1961. The state park, consisting of 1,688 acres, was established in 1937.”

I have never been to the falls in the winter. Summer is a beautiful time to visit the whole area, but we wanted to see what it looked like after a few days of frigid temperatures. I was not too smart and wore tennis shoes and my gloves might as well have been made of thin cotton. But, I had my camera and it was great having my son along with me.

We arrived at the falls parking lot and were surprised to see so many cars. I thought we would be all alone, seeing that it was so cold. I noticed license plates from Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Ohio among the many from West Virginia.

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Did I mention there were 214 steps to get down to the falls? I hadn’t been there in years and hoped the slipping and sliding would be worth it.

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It was a beautiful walk and I was so happy the wind was calm. I am not a fan of cold, but I trudged on, hoping the falls would not disappoint.

They didn’t There were parts that were frozen, but a majority of the falls were plunging, business as usual. I was taken back by the surrounding beauty. This was a winter wonderland, no doubt about it.

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Trees in the canyon below showed the beauty of winter.

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My son is a great photographer. His photos look a lot better than mine.

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Blackwater Falls, one of the most photographed areas in the state.

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So, if you go down, you must go back up. In all honesty, the stairs that snaked their way down to the falls had many platforms along the wall. There were benches and different viewing areas for those who did not want to take the whole journey. It was not bad, and I am a complainer.

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My son was able to make this snowman while he waited for me at the top of the stairs..just kidding. I did fine. But, we felt we deserved a break, so we stopped at the Mountain State Brewing Co. for a beer.

 

IMG_3945All in all, I was glad we ventured into the mountains to visit Blackwater Falls. The best part, though, was spending the day with my son.

 

Driving Through Manhattan

My daughter usually takes the Megabus or Greyhound from New York City when she comes home to West Virginia for a visit. I don’t know what got into me this last visit, but I offered to drive her back to her upper East Side apartment so she wouldn’t have to take the bus back. Why did I do that?

I never wanted to drive in New York City. I have been there now about seven times to visit my daughter, and the traffic is a nightmare. I have either taken a plane or Amtrak, but knew I would never drive into Manhattan. Oh, I don’t mind sitting in traffic. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me about New York City traffic is how other drivers don’t seem to mind cutting people off.  It should be called Sideswipe City.

But, I prepared myself. I had my trusting  GPS system, which I named Maggie, and I marked the route I wanted to take to avoid most of downtown Manhattan. She lives in Yorkville, which is in the upper east side. I was ready.

It was a nice drive for the most part. I really enjoy driving on Route 68 through Maryland. I have driven that route many times. But, I then had to turn north and head on Interstate 81 and then Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania and immediately noticed the heavy volume of long haul trucks. I mean, it was like being in the middle of a truck parade, minus truckers throwing candy out of their windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind driving in the least. I love taking road trips, but I had to wonder if this interstate is a main thoroughfare for truckers. Not only where there many many trucks, but there was a huge debris field of rubber tire pieces lying in the road and off to the side. It was a tire graveyard in some respects. Oh, sure, I see tire pieces along our Interstate 79 all the time, but this was different.  And then we got to see one in the making.

A truck had blown a tire and as we passed him we could see the tire shred right before our eyes. He managed to get off to the right side of the road, but not until he left a wake of rubbery debris in the middle of the road. It’s a wonder it didn’t fly up and hit another car.

Well, as I thought about this, a car in front of us ran over another tire shred and it flew up in the air and came right at us. And there was nothing we could do. It hit my front passenger headlight and then went under my car. Thank goodness it didn’t hit the windshield. I looked in my rear view mirror to make sure nothing was punctured and we continued on our semi-merry way.

As we approached New York City, after about 7 hours on the road, my GPS told me to take the next right. I looked up at the road sign that clearly said to stay on this road, as I needed to take the George Washington Bridge, but my daughter told me to follow what Maggie is saying.

Where are you , bridge?

Well, Maggie was banned to the glove compartment after she took us down by some loading docks along the river in New Jersey. This is after she made me go through a toll. I immediately turned around  as I  knew something was very wrong.  Maggie then took me the wrong way on the toll road.

“Dammit, Maggie, I don’t want to go West.”

After paying a toll three different times, I  found myself in front of the Holland Tunnel……..the $13 entrance fee Holland Tunnel. Seriously? It costs that much money to drive through a damn tunnel?  I was mad at Maggie, who made me backtrack three times and pay a toll three times only to drive me to the $13 Holland Tunnel. This is where she went into the glove compartment.

The Holland Tunnel is considered to be one of the most high-risk terrorist target sites in the United States. Is that why I had to pay $13 to travel through it? I didn’t understand.

Did not want to go this way…sigh

This was not good. The George Washington Bridge would have taken me along New Jersey and I would have been able to drop down from north Manhattan right onto the FDR Parkway, avoiding those mean Manhattan streets. But, now, with traveling through the Holland Tunnel, I would be deposited onto South Manhattan, where the street names don’t start with a number yet…..and I had to travel all the way to 95th Street. Great.

My daughter didn’t recognize any of the streets at first, but quickly got her bearings. I began seeing NYU flags on some of the downtown buildings, so I knew she would be able to pin our location. We were on the west side of town and we needed to get over to 1st Avenue, which would take us to her apartment. We passed through Greenwich Village via my daughter’s directions. I hoped she was going to do a better job than Maggie. After all, the glove compartment was too small for my daughter. I put my trust in the fact that this was her city and she was taking me on the right roads.

The traffic wasn’t so bad on the side streets. Oh, it was congested with a mix of cars and people on bikes with no bike lane, but it was manageable. You have to understand that I did not want to do this.  I was adamant in the fact that I was never going to drive through Manhattan. If there was a bucket list for things not to do before one dies, this would be #1 on my list. But, I now had no choice. I was in Manhattan…..in a car.  I’m not Catholic, but felt like doing the sign of the cross as we approached 1st Avenue.

Once we turned left on 1st Avenue, I gripped the steering wheel and charged on.

Drivers in this city are crazy. The best advice I can give is to never hesitate. Once you hesitate, a double decker sight-seeing bus will pull into your lane, even if you are there. I had to honk my horn, which is illegal in many places in Manhattan. We were almost side-swiped  more times than I can count on my fingers. Taxi drivers must have their own laws, bikers zipped in and out of traffic, and buses think they are the only ones on the road.

I found out quickly not to drive in the far left lane as delivery trucks will just stop there to unload and then you are stuck. People won’t let you back into traffic. Motorists in New York City aren’t courteous. They have places to go and people to see. My license plate clearly stated I was from West Virginia. And I was being eaten alive. I think other drivers smelled my weakness, as they were changing lanes right on top of me. I hope that some day they had to drive through West Virginia and were stuck on the top of Mt. Storm after a heavy snowfall. Yeah, city drivers, take that.

My daughter was nervous, as she was the passenger and on the side where most of the potential side-swiping was taking place. After driving about 45 blocks, with about 50 more long blocks to go, my daughter, who was holding on to something on her side of the car, looked over at me when we stopped at a red light and said:

“You’re sitting there, smiling, you weird-o.”

I was smiling. I couldn’t help it. I was driving in New York City! I guess I was having fun with the realization that I was doing something so brave, so daring, as to actually drive 95+ blocks through Manhattan. I deserved a prize or something. I was not scared at all. In fact, I was kind of enjoying the drive. I have been a guest in a taxi numerous times on these streets, sometimes wondering if I was going to arrive alive, but this time I was in charge of my own fate in my naive West Virginia Subaru.

I arrived on her street with no new dents or scratches. I was just going to drop her off and get the hell out of the city before rush hour.  But, she talked me into staying and I found a place to park on the street just one street over. We had a nice afternoon in Central Park north and we headed to a great Thai restaurant that is a requirement each time I visit.

I left the next morning at 4:15, hoping to beat morning traffic. This city never sleeps.  I followed the FDR right over the George Washington Bridge and back the way I was supposed to travel on my way in. It was so much easier.

But, I would never have had this experience. I can honestly say I drove through New York City.

Thanks Maggie. I may let you out of the glove compartment next trip.

Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 2: Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain

I woke up early this morning as I wanted to make a full day of my short time in Vancouver.  I jumped out of bed to look out of the window to make sure it wasn’t raining. If it was raining, I was going to go to the Vancouver Aquarium.

Well, the first thing on my agenda was to eat breakfast and then hop on the trolley and hop off somewhere in Stanley Park.  I walked downstairs to figure out where I wanted to eat, and decided to waltz  in to the Sutton Place’s  restaurant,  Fleuri. I got the breakfast buffet and it was very good. I really like Sutton Place. It’s a very classy place.

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After breakfast I looked at the Vancouver Hop on Hop off  trolley tour  schedule and decided since it didn’t make its first run until 9:20, I would get an early start and I just had the doorman wave a taxi up to the door. I really am feeling the love. I didn’t even have to stand on the curb and hail one. This is high class, people.

I had him drop me off at the  First Nations totem poles. (For those of you who don’t know your canadian history, First Nations people are the same people we call Native Americans). Same thing, only different.

No trip to Stanley Park is complete without visiting its famous landmarks: Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock, the Hollow Tree, Beaver Lake and Prospect Point. I didn’t see Lost Lagoon up close and personal and I didn’t get to Beaver Lake because beavers bite and I didn’t want one sneaking up on me and taking my leg for a tree stump or something. No, actually, I just didn’t get around to it today.

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Ouch

Ouch

The nine totem poles at Brockton Point are British Columbia’s  most visited tourist attraction. I had to see these totem poles. My fourth grade class makes totem poles out of paper towel tubes every fall when we study the Pacific Northwest Indians. It would be great to have some photos of them to use in their designs.  So, I took a lot of pictures. I don’t think I will be using the photo right above, though.

After I took  totem pole pictures,  I could see the seawall and decided to take a little stroll. A little stroll in my world means walking about 50 feet and then leaving. But, today I was feeling it. The breeze from the water and the Brocton Point Lighthouse in the distance made me want to walk as much as I could on a stupid ankle partially messed up because of arthritis.  I guess the ankle wanted me to walk, too, because it wasn’t hurting  much and I just kept walking. (I sound like Forrest Gump, but at least he ran.)  I ended up walking around a majority of the park, more than 4 miles. That’s 4 miles more than I usually walk. I took a lot of great pictures, because I’m a great pretend photographer.

Brocton Point Lighthouse

Brocton Point Lighthouse

 

A closer look

A closer look

 

I just kept walking because the sights were just unbelievable.

 

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Lions Gate Bridge up aheadIMG_1221

 

I came across a park bench with a bouquet of flowers lying on the ground. Uh oh…I imagine something didn’t go as expected, perhaps.

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The Vancouver Canadian geese seem much happier than the ones permanently visiting West Virginia. Well, that’s what I think.

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Lions Gate Bridge and what's on that rock?

Lions Gate Bridge and what’s on that rock?

Why, it’s a girl in a wet suit

Close up of the girl on a rock

Close up of the girl on a rock

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The girl on a rock represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea and the necessity to use the sea for the benefit of all.

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There was an orange hazard cone on the seawall, so I cropped the whole sea wall out of this photo and like this much better.

 

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I was excited to take this picture of a great blue heron until I realized they were all over the place…which was still exciting for me.

 

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It wasn’t until I was under the Lions Gate Bridge and there was no way out but to continue walking did I realize I was not very smart because I didn’t bring any water. I’m not the brightest star in the sky, that’s for sure. But, I decided I had to see one more landmark: Siwash Rock. When I came around the fifteenth bend or so, there it was, smiling at me. (Well, you know.)

 

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Yay…there it is!

 

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Such a relaxing place, this seawall

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and now with a kayaker. He was all over the place.

 

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After I took a gazillion pictures,  it started raining. So, I hopped on the hop on hop off  bus and went to the Aquarium. It was expensive, I thought, for $30, but it was a nice place to hang out while it was raining.

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After I left the aquarium, and went and stood in the line for the Hop on Hop off shuttle. I’m thinking they should re-name it the Hop Off Shuttle, because once you are off,  good luck getting back on. I waited an hour to catch a trolley. After I finally caught one, we stopped at the next stop, and there were at least 15 angry people. One lady had waited for 2 hours.

Well, I had to hurry home and get ready for my big evening on top of Grouse Mountain.  I was picked up at 6:45, and climbed into a van with 6 other people. We were supposed to go on a trolley, but since it was RAINING,  people must have canceled. We got to the top of Grouse Mountain, only to find that many of the activities were closed down for the night. And since it was raining, my thoughts of getting a picture of  Vancouver and the supermoon was all but gone. But, I did see two grizzly bears and managed to get a picture of one before it attacked our bus driver. Ok, kidding.

Nice climb to the top

Nice climb to the top

We did get to see orphaned grizzly cubs, Grinder and Coola as they hung out right in front of us, separated by an electrified fence. It was eery being so close to the bears.  One looked at me as I told him the same thing I always say to animals, “Look how pretty you are.”

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Grouse Mountain Bear Cam http://www.grousemountain.com/wildlife-refuge/bear-cam

I got home around 10:30 and am packing everything up as tomorrow I head on my Rocky Mountaineer adventure. Good-bye Vancouver. I hope to see you again!

Smokey and the Car Wash

I was sitting at our local lazer wash the other day thinking back to the first time I ever went to an automatic car wash. I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia, and the new “automatic” car wash had just opened “up on the hill” near our home. I can’t remember what kind of car we had back then, but the whole family jumped in when my dad told us a car wash opened where you sit in the car while it is being washed. What??? No taking a bucket of water, soap, and a garden hose out into the driveway anymore? Well, not that I really helped wash our cars in the first place. I was and still am, a “non-finisher.” I just really can’t finish anything all the way through. Same for washing the car. I would get one side done and then spray the other side with the hose to knock some dust off and call it a day. You could never see that side from our picture window, so it looked like I did a great job.

When we pulled up to the new car wash, we had to wait in a line because, as all things new, people wanted to experience this new-fangled way to wash a car. It was the 60’s, after all, and inventions were just waiting to be invented. When it was our turn, a guy motioned for us to move up a bit. We then had to put the car in neutral. They guy then took some gigantic hook and put it somewhere in the front of the car.

“Will that pull off the bumper?” I thought that was a pertinent question.

The guy told my dad to make sure all of the windows were rolled up. We were ready. There was a little jerk and our car was on some track through a little building with these scrubber things on the sides. The noise was loud and the water was really hitting the windshield and roof of the car. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit scary. Those brushes were right up against our windows and then one roll up over the car and down the windshield.  Hey, this was fun….but not really.

After we were done, there were two teen-age boys who wiped our car with dry cloths. My mom had to interject her authority of being Queen of Weirton.

“Make sure you dry the car good….and there better not be any spots of dirt anywhere.”

Oh, but there was. When we pulled into the driveway, she had my dad not park the car in the garage. She wanted to inspect the job the new automatic car wash did on our family vehicle.

“Well, we won’t be going there again.”  I remember there were seven places that were missed. I smile at this because I can’t remember what I did fifteen minutes ago, but I can remember my mom ranting about SEVEN missed places on the car after visiting the new automatic car wash “up on the hill.” She loved to find something to bitch about. My dad was probably relieved that he wasn’t at the end of this particular rant. I remember thinking he was going to like this new car wash. Anything she disagreed about, my dad was then quietly all about.

So, one day I was sitting, watching tv, with our dog Smokey, on our lap. It was a hot summer day and my dad must not have wanted to wash the car by hand. I mean, who would want to, now that we basically had a robot to do it for us?  He asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him to the car wash.

Since Smokey was already sitting on my lap, I just picked her up and carried her a la Paris Hilton with her prized chihuahua to the car. Smokey often rode in the car. As all chihuahuas, Smokey was a yapper. Yap, yap, yap. But, who knew what was about to transpire.

Well, Smokey went ape shit. The noise first scared her and she buried herself beside my hip. We were yanked ahead on the conveyor belt. When the brushes hit against the car, that’s when Smokey defended her territory and her family. She ran over to the window and bared her teeth and growled and barked like she was ready to take on the brushes. She ran back and forth, over my dad and over me to each window. She was going to save us from this barrage of red and yellow bristles attacking us.

I should have counted how many times she ran back and forth. My dad also found it amusing. Smokey the chihuahua was fighting with the brushes at the automatic car wash.

When we got home, Smokey was exhausted and fell fast asleep on my dad’s lap.

The next few times we went to the car wash, we took Smokey along for our pleasure. It seems so cruel now to put the little yapper through this sort of animal abuse, but you have to understand I never once thought I was being abusive. I just thought it was really really funny.

And each time we got home, my mom would disappear downstairs for a few minutes. We knew she was heading for the garage.

Four missed places this time.”

Everyone Watch The Rose Parade, Ok?

I used to watch the Rose Parade every New Year’s Day for years before I was told all the floats were made of flowers. Maybe I just didn’t listen much to the commentator:

“And here’s a float from McDonalds…blah blah blah blah..roses.”

I was hyper when I was little, so maybe I just couldn’t watch and listen at the same time. The floats were beautiful. And it was named after a flower. Hence, the name, Rose Parade. I thought maybe it was named after a woman…….Rose McGillicuddy of Pasadena…..Ok, I made that name up. But why roses, I asked? Why not the Purple Cone Flower Parade or The Natural Material Parade?” I didn’t ask that when I was little. I’m asking that now when I am older and still challenged in so many ways. But, since I love to learn about insignificant things, I headed to google, king of all kings.

So, it looks like The Rose Parade started way back in Pasadena, California on January 1, 1890. The Rose Bowl football game was added in 1902 to help fund the parade. I thought that was pretty interesting.

The whole reason the parade started was to showcase the mild California winters. Many members of the Valley Hunt Club, the organizers of the very first Rose parade, were former residents of states in the east and midwest. One member announced at a meeting, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”  I would think the man should have said the oranges were ready to be picked, but I guess that’s how the hell they talked back then.

And so they did organize a little parade to show off how wonderful Pasadena is in the winter and how putting flowers on moving things made the freezing New Yorkers jealous enough to withdraw all of their money and move to their sunny community. What confuses me is the fact there was no television in 1902. People elsewhere would have to read about it in a newspaper. So, in the end, I am thinking the Valley Hunt Club wanted to ride down the street on their horses.

They had horse drawn carriages adorned with flowers. After the parade, there was a chariot race, tug-of war and other games which drew about 2,000 people. After a few years, the parade got too big for the Valley Hunt Club, so the Tournament of Roses was formed and later a football game replaced a chariot race, which was a big deal of the whole celebration.

The floats of today take about a year to construct. According to Wikipedia, “It is a rule of the parade that all surfaces of the float framework must be covered in natural materials (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts, for example); furthermore, no artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored.”And this is what bothers me.  I mean, it bothers me just a little, but enough to gripe about it. Isn’t this a waste of nature?

I’m beginning to think somebody in the Valley Hunt Club was a florist.

Think about it. I bet you there are more florists in the Pasadena area than anywhere else. Ok, maybe flowers are shipped in from other flowery places. Tulips from Holland, perhaps. Acorns from a forest in the Applachians. I don’t know. But, this has got to be a boon for florist owners and growers. I guess that is a good thing for the economy. But, what happens to the flowers and natural materials after the parade. Do they go into the biggest compost pile in the world?

So, being that my mind is still a bit hyperactive and all over the place, I wondered about other wastes…..like Christmas trees. I have a bit of a problem with cutting down beautiful pine trees, dragging them home on top of a car, sticking them in the corner of a room and putting things on it….only to throw it away come New Years Day. Poor pine tree.

But then again, everything is like that, isn’t it? Chickens are raised only to have their heads cut off so they can be served on our dinner plates. Corn is grown on farms just so we can eat popcorn and cornbread stuffing. I guess I could go on and on. So, in the end, flowers are grown for the Rose Parade. I guess I have to live with that.

That being said, I think it is our responisibility to watch the Rose Parade to see the beauty of Pasadena’s mild winter and of course, the magnificent floats. They are beautiful. Band members nation-wide fund raise their little asses off to be able to be part of the parade. Our very own East Fairmont High School was able to participate in the Rose Parade several years ago. That was a big deal. And it was exciting to watch on tv.  I didn’t notice the sunny environment of California, however.

Is this still the objective? Regardless, watch the parade tomorrow. Kudos to the Valley Hunt Club of 1890. They came up with a great idea. Look how many people are now living in California.

 

 

 

Let’s Drop Something

It all started with Groundhog Day, you know. There was a famous groundhog prognosticator in Pennsylvania, and soon after cities came up with their own weather fortune teller whistle pig. Such is the case with the big New Years Eve ball drop.

When you think of New Years Eve, all those who don’t live under a rock know about the ball drop at midnight in Times Square in fantastic New York City. I took a picture of it from the top of the Rockefeller Center when I was there this summer. It’s just not the same, I guess, as being there smooshed up against thousands of people on a cold, drunken New Year’s Eve.

IMG_0670

 The first ball drop in Times Square took place on December 31, 1907. According to Wikipedia:

“The first New Year’s Eve celebration in what is now known as Times Square was held on New Year’s Eve 1904. The New York Times newspaper had opened their new headquarters at One Times Square (at the time, the city’s second tallest building)  and persuaded the city to rename the triangular “square” surrounding it for their newspaper (which the city later did on April 8, 1904). The newspaper’s owner decided to celebrate the opening of the company’s new headquarters with a midnight fireworks show on the roof of the building on December 31, 1903. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church. After four years of New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations, the newspaper’s chief electrician Walter F. Palmer constructed an electrically lit time ball that would be lowered from the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. It was constructed with iron and wood, lit with one hundred 25-watt bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. It was first lowered on New Year’s Eve 1908 (December 31, 1907).”

The Times Square ball drop is one of the best-known New Year’s celebrations, attended by at least one million spectators yearly.  The Times Square ball drop has also inspired other drops across our great nation. So, if you can’t be there in New York City for the ball drop, and don’t really care to watch it on tv, you can always check to see if your city has a creative drop of their very own. Not all cities drop balls. Some cities use their famous icon to ring in the new year. It  is obvious the state of Pennsylvania loves to share their symbols on New Years Eve.

*  Eastport, Maine- a maple leaf is dropped. There is also a sardine drop in the city also. The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop

*  Saint George’s, Bermuda- a Bermuda onion wrapped in Christmas lights is dropped.

*  Key West, Florida- A gigantic conch shell is dropped.  There is also a gay bar that drops a giant ruby slipper with a drag queen inside. Fun times.

*  Miami, Florida- The Big Orange Drop. Well, Florida is the orange capital of the world. “Mr. Neon” was recently renamed, “La Gran Naranja,” which I am thinking means the big orange. I really know my spanish.

*  Atlanta,Georgia- The Peach Drop. Georgia loves their peaches.

* Gainesville, Georgia- Chuck the chicken drop in honor of the humane society.

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- strawberry drop.

* Tallapoosa, Georgia- they drop an oppossum. It started out as a joke and has now grown as their biggest yearly event. I hope it isn’t alive. The Possum Drop

*  Winder, Georgia- A jug drop.

* Easton, Maryland- a crab drop.

* Havre de Grace, Maryland- a duck.

* Princesss Anne, Maryland- a muscrat.

* Niagara Falls, New York- A Gibson guitar is dropped from the Hard Rock Cafe.

*  Black Creek, North Carolina: A large red heart drop represents “A Small Town with a Big Heart.”

* Eastover, North Carolina- a flea is dropped….. A flea.

* Charlotte, North Carolina- a crown is dropped.

* Mount Olive, North Carolina- The New Years Eve Pickle Drop.

*Raleigh, North Carolina- Acorn drop

* Elmore, Ohio- a sausage is dropped.

* Marion, Ohio- a popcorn ball is dropped. Marion is the popcorn capital of the world.

*Port Clinton, Ohio- a walleye fish named “Captain Wylie Walleye” is dropped. Walleye Madness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qPNV-88Aok&feature=player_embedded

* Cincinnati, Ohio- A flying pig is not dropped, but flown, maybe to show there is at least one time “when pigs fly”.

* Allentown, Pennsylvania- a replica of the liberty bell is dropped.

* Akron, Pennsylvania- a gold and purple shoe is dropped.

* Beavertown, Pennsylvania- a beaver is dropped. I hope to God it isn’t real. PETA would be all over them.

*Bethlehem, Pennsylvania- a Peep is dropped. Yes, one of those yellow Easter peeps. The company that produces Peeps is based there. I was happy to see they aren’t dropping baby Jesus in Bethlehem that night.

*Blain, Pennsylvania- a wooden cow is dropped from a silo. Moo.

*Cleona, Pennsylvania- a pretzel is not dropped, but raised. Why, Cleona, are you raising the pretzel? Not cool.

*Carlisle, Pennsylvania- an Indy car is dropped.

*Cornwall, Pennsylvania- a Cannonball Drop.

*Dillsburg, Pennsylvania- two pickles are dropped. I guess one should drop a pickle in Dillsburg.

*Duncannon, Pennsylvania- a sled is dropped….without any kids holding on I presume.

*Easton, Pennsylvania- a crayola crayon is dropped early in the night to accommodate little kiddie’s bedtimes.

*Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania- a giant M& M is dropped.

*Falmouth, Pennsylvania- a stuffed goat is dropped.

*Frogtown, Pennsylvania- a frog is dropped. This is getting sort of redundant, no?

*Gratz, Pennsylvania- a wildcat is dropped.

*Halifax, Pennsylvania- a hemlock tree. Oh, come on, now!

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- a strawberry is dropped. My son has been to this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvjwtM37CmY

*Hershey, Pennsylvania- a Hershey Kiss is dropped. Well, this makes sense.

*Hummelstown, Pennsylvania- a lollipop is dropped.

*Ickesburg, Pennsylvania- a french fry is dropped. These people are just bored.

* Lebanon, Pennsylvania- a giant stick of bologna is dropped.

*Lisburn, Pennsylvania- a pair of yellow pants is dropped. Can’t wait to read the history on this one.

*Liverpool, Pennsylvania- a canal boat is dropped.

*McClure, Pennsylvania- a kettle is dropped in honor of their Bean Soup Festival.

*Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania- a wrench is dropped. The Wrench Drop

*New Oxford, Pennsylvania- an antique trunk is dropped.

*Palmyra, Pennsylvania- The Giant Shoe is dropped.

*Pottsville, Pennsylvania- a bottle of Yuengling beer is raised. I bet those attendees are having fun that evening.

*Red Lion, Pennsylvania- a cigar is dropped.

*Shippensburg, Pennsylvania- an anchor is dropped.

*Strasburg, Pennsylvania- ping pong balls are dropped.

*Shamokin, Pennsylvania- a chunk of coal is dropped, turning into a diamond when it hits the bottom….like magic…oooh

*Hilton Head Island, South Carolina- a giant golf ball.

*Fredericksburg, Virginia- a pear is dropped.

*Mobile, Alabama- a moon pie is dropped. Yes, a moon pie and then the manufacturers of the moon pie hand out about 5,000 of them to revelers.

*Wetumpka, Alabama- a meteorite is dropped in honor of the meterorite that hit the city. Um, ok.

*Fayetteville, Arkansas- a hog is dropped.

*Panama City, Florida- a beach ball is dropped.

*Pensacola, Florida- a pelican is dropped.

*Des Plaines, Illinois- a diamond is dropped.

*Manhattan, Kansas- “The Little Apple” is dropped. I get it. Cute.

*New Orleans, Louisiana- a gumbo pot was dropped for a while. The new drop is Fleur-de-lis. Like I’m supposed to know what that is.

*Bartlesville, Oklahoma- an olive is dropped.

*Memphis and Nashville- a guitar and a music note.

* Plymouth, Wisconsin- a cheese wedge is dropped.

*Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin- a dead carp caught by locals is lowered.

* Show Low, Arizona- a deuce of clubs cards is dropped.

*Flagstaff, Arizona- a pine cone is dropped.

*Tempe, Arizona- a giant tortilla chip.

*Honolulu, Hawaii- a pineapple is dropped.

*Vincennes, Indiana- watermelon drop. Many engineering students across the nation drop watermelons and pumpkins throughout the year.

So, there you have it. There are New Year’s Eve celebrations all across the world. Many more cities just drop a ball,  but some places use their representative symbol to usher in a brand new year. Happy New Year to all!

I have decided to have my own celebration….. I am going to drop a few pounds.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook  that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free.  Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.

Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper, Big Fat Liar

NYC Trip Report: Scoring tickets to the Colbert Report

I’ve been to New York City to visit my daughter several times, and let me tell you, it is exhausting. Every time I come home I am pissed at myself for being out of shape. And people, if you plan to visit New York City, you will walk. Oh, sure, there will be some of you who taxi from one place to the next. That is the smart thing to do. I am one of the stupid tourists.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had a great time in New York. I love New York. But, my daughter walked me all over the damn place. And I will admit that I need to lose weight. I was able to lose 22 pounds last year and did pretty well hoofing it around NYC last summer when we went apartment hunting. Oh, hell, that’s a lie. I was ready to have a stroke. Like I said, I’m not very smart. I picked 90+ degree weather to walk around the city. I’m beyond stupid. This year was the same.

My journey to NYC is not quick. First I have to drive two hours to Pittsburgh International Airport. I have to park in the extended long term parking lot, which is not close to the terminal. By the time I make it to the building, I really want to just stand on that people mover thingy. When I hear someone coming up behind me, I will start walking, but I don’t wanna.

After my nice flight with Jet Blue, I arrived at JFK airport. I like airports. Just thought I would mention that. I don’t know why taxi cab men scare me, but I feel like I am imposing on them. So, I head outside to the ground transportation area and buy a $15.50 ticket to ride the NYC Airporter bus. It takes a while to exit the airport, as the bus driver stops at each terminal.  I didn’t mind. As long as I didn’t have to drive through New York, I don’t care if I was on the back of a donkey. Again, quite a lie. I would care.

The bus dropped me off at Grand Central Station, where I have to find the 6 Local Uptown train. Again, it’s easy. Well, except that I found out while I was on the subway that the Local 6 was not working this particular day. What? I’m on the local 6. Well, apparently it is allowed to change to be called the Express 6 which bypasses my stop. Someone sitting next to me tells me that I can get off at 125 and then take the local 6 downtown to my stop. What?

So, I get off the stop and walk across to the train going in the other direction and hop on, hoping it is the right one. It was. I then walked a couple of blocks to where my daughter was meeting me for lunch. I could see her smiling at me. I know that smile. I am doing somethig stupid.

“Mom, you are such a tourist. You don’t need to look both ways when it is a one way street.”

We had a nice lunch and walked back to her apartment so I could drop off my carry-on. Our plan for the day was to head to the Brooklyn Bridge and then head over to High Line. We walked the several blocks up the hill to the subway. I had to stop several times on the way up. I am weak. We got off the subway on Chambers Street. I had never been this far south before. So, there was the Brooklyn Bridge. And it was all boarded up on the sides of the bridge for construction. I had no idea we were going to actually walk over to the other side. What?

My daughter on the Brooklyn Bridge

Well, we had to walk over to the other side. I don’t know why. Because everyone else was doing it? There was nothing to see for quite a while. We stopped and wrote our names on some plywood…because everyone else was doing it.

It took us forever to get to the other side. And it was 90 degrees and 2:00 in the afternoon. Where the hell are the clouds? I was complaining a lot. My daughter told me to stop. I stopped.

It’s a 1.3 mile walk, but it takes a long time to walk due to the amount of foot traffic….and baby strollers…..and people like me who take pictures along the way and complain about the heat and stop alot. But, I was glad I did it. Because when we got to the other side, there was a park. And that park had a water taxi. Oh, hell yeah, I was on that thing.

The water taxi cost $25 and takes people around the statue of Liberty, past Ellis Island and Battery Park and up the Hudson. It makes stops along the way for those who want to get off in a different stop. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was pretty cool. The taxi was huge and besides those who just wanted to look from inside the air conditioned lounge area, there was an upper berth and lower outside viewing areas. It was nice. We opted to get off at one of the piers on the Hudson, Christopher St., Pier 45 on West 10th Street.

This is also Grenwich Village, which was pretty darn cool. We walked past a Bareburger, where we had an early dinner. After that, my daughter wanted to take me to High Line Park. We had to walk again.  I thought she was taking me to a normal park. Boy, was I surprised when I saw High Line. High Line is a park built on an elevated freight line railway. The freight line wasn’t in use since the early 1980’s. It was slated for demolition as it became an eyesore for those who lived in the neighborhood. One man’s crusade led to the development by the city of New York to create this elevated park. It is magnificient. We walked along the park until a storm hit us. That’s not the best place to be when a thunderstorm approaches you. Luckily, there were places for all of us to hide. We then hailed a taxi and headed back to the apartment. We had great aspirations for the next day. We were going to wake up early and head to the local bagel shop for breakfast and then rent bikes in Central Park. However, we ate a huge breakfast and opted to go back to bed for a little bit. We then showered and headed via subway down to visit the Top of the Rock.  I’ve always wanted to visit Rockefeller Center and see the ice skating rink and the NBC Studios. It didn’t disappoint. Several blocks are pedestrian only, and it is just a really neat area. We finally found the place where we were to buy tickets to the Top of the Rock. I wanted to see Central Park from the top of this building. It was great.

After we left Rockefeller Center, I looked at my watch. We were late. My daughter wanted to go to the Colbert Report Studios to see if we could get standby tickets to that night’s show. We were supposed to be there by 2:30. So, we started walking. We had to go to 54th Street. We were on 50th Street. The Colbert Report was filmed on 54th Street. We had to hurry. Oh, but wait. We got to 54th Street. Alex asked a doorman and he told her it was about four blocks to the west. What? Four long ass blocks. We walked some more. And walked some more. We passed by where The Letterman Show was filmed. Nope. We kept walking. I was ready to give up. We had to be there in ten minutes. Not going to happen. I really thought she got the address wrong. We were headed into a less commerical area, one that had auto repairs and……nothing else. My daughter was laughing at me. Finally, we found it.

It was 2:40. We didn’t make it. Alex walked up the steps and a guy stepped out of the office. He told her that we needed to go stand by that garbage can. He pointed to….a garbage can. Someone would be out at 4:00 and hand out stand- by tickets if there were any to give out. It was a slight chance that we would get tickets and we had to discuss this.

Well, right by the garbage can was a narrow covered alley and there was a guy sitting there eating lunch. He told us he was in line for tickets. Except he had tickets. Oh. So, we were screwed. We stood there talking to another couple who came to stand in line. They too had tickets, but came to stand in line, because if wasn’t a certainty even with tickets that you could get in. I was ready to give up when the couple told us they had 2 extra tickets that we could have. What? Omg.

So, we sat and stood in line from 2:40 until they came out at 4:00 and took our information from our driver’s license and then left. Now there were two lines…one for ticket holders and one who were stand-by’s.

We were now full fledged ticket holders. They let us go into the studio at 5:50. We had to go through a metal detector and hang out in the lobby for a long time. We took pictures.

So, we got to watch the Colbert Report being filmed. Since, we got there so early, and they took us in after the VIP people, Alex and I were #7 and 8 to be seated. It was great. By the time we got out, it was time to hail a taxi and head to a Thai restaurant in Upper East Side. We then walked to her apartment. I was one tired tourist/mom.

 I left early the next morning. I hope to return in the fall sometime when the weather is a bit cooler. I’d like to see the 911 Memorial this time…and Central Park again. I missed it this visit.

I just love visiting my daughter.

Eavesdropping 101

 It’s a given that kids like to play with their toys. They will drag them out, play until their little hearts content, and then put them away at the end of the day. Well, some children put their toys away. My son, Adam, didn’t.

 I was a stay-at-home mom, so we played all day. It was like a little day care center. We would make crafts and paint, build with blocks and Lego’s, and color the day away.   Adam liked taking his books and making a road with them. All of the downstairs rooms were open, so he could ride his little Hot wheels car from the kitchen through the living room, the dining room and back into the kitchen. It was at the end of the day, that Adam just didn’t want to pick up all of those books.

 Every time I would ask Adam to pick up his toys, he would ignore me and go about his business. So, I would ask him again. “It’s tooooo much.” he would always reply.

His next line was, “My back hurts.”  He would hold his back like he was in pain, and just couldn’t possibly pick up all of those books. The bending over was just killing him.

 I thought I was being a nice mom by helping him pick up his toys, but I soon realized that he had to learn to do this all by himself. New mothers need to learn a lot too. Trial and error.  So, I told him he had a choice, pick up his toys, or I would put them in a bag for a day and he would not be able to play with them the next day. I don’t think he believed me and off he went.

 So, I got out a black trash bag and started picking up his toys. I walked into the living room and held the bag up. “You can have this back on Tuesday.” Well, that didn’t go well. But, I stuck to my guns and I thought that that would work. It didn’t.

 The next day, Adam decided to place his books on the floor as a road. He and Alex jumped on his little car and away they went. So, when it was time for him to pick up his books, he told me that his back was hurting. Oh, he thought he was a good little actor. But, I was better. He had no idea who he was dealing with.

“You know, Adam, your back has been hurting a lot lately. Almost every day. I think that I am going to have to make an appointment with Dr. Dev. to take a look at your back. I’m really worried about you.”  I stuck a Pee Wee’s Playhouse tape in the tape player, and said on my way to the kitchen, ” Now, you guys please sit and watch this while I make a private phone call to the doctor’s office. I will be back in a few minutes.”

 Well, I knew that Adam was going to eavesdrop. He’s my son. I picked up the phone, with its long cord, and went around the corner, peeking back around like I was going to make a private phone call. He watched my every move. I knew that in a minute, he would be at the corner, eavesdropping on my conversation with the doctor’s office. This was going to be good.

 I dialed the phone. ” Hello, yes. I need to make an appointment for my son to get his back checked.” I went on to tell the receptionist about how his back hurt when he bent over to pick up his toys and how it seemed to be getting worse. They put the doctor on the phone for me. I was whispering, in a loud sort of way.

“Hi, yes, Dr. Dev…………why can’t he just have an x-ray?………………Oh, are you serious?………………….He’ll have to have an operation?……………………..I had no idea…………..I mean, how long will he have to stay in the hospital?………….Oh my gosh, he will not be able to get out of bed for how long?………………..Summer will almost be over by then?…………………Why can’t he go swimming after the operation?……………..Well, is there any way at all I can just watch him for the next week or so to see if his back feels any better. I would hate for him to have a back operation. He’s so young………We are going on vacation in a few weeks.He would have to stay with his Grandma Georgie…….. I hope it is just a muscle hurting or something. I will watch and see, Doctor.”

 I finished my fake conversation, hung up the phone. I could hear Adam run back to his place in front of the tv. I walked in the room, wiping a pretend tear from my eye, and said nothing. His eyes were wide, but he knew he couldn’t tell me he heard the rest of the conversation. “What’s wrong, Mommy? he asked.  “Nothing, sweetie. I just have a piece of dust or something in my eye.”

 That evening Adam came up to me as I was picking up his toys and said “Mommy, I think my back is feeling better. Look.” He bent over 3 or 4 times. “I’m going to try to pick up my toys.”

 “Well, ok, Adam.”  I hugged him like I was never going to see him again. “Thanks, Adam. Mommy loves you.”

 Adam always picked up his toys after that. 

 And he thought HE was a good actor.

CSI: West Virginia

If you are a mom, you have to wear many hats. You are (in one long breath), a doctor, a nurse, a vet, a teacher, a psychic, a story teller, a cop, a beautician and barber, a chef, an EMT, a genealogist, a bodyguard, a maid, a professional organizer, a seamstress/costume designer, a personal shopper, a referee, a fashion coordinator and a chauffer. I would like to add another to the long list of  jobs that mothers perform daily :  crime scene investigator.

You may not think that mothers should put crime scene investigator on their resume, but I beg to differ. Case in point: The Case of the Smeared Ladybugs. It was a new case that I was working on for a few weeks. I had just finished solving,  The Case of the Baby Powder all Over the Carpet with an arrest in that one.

I had two suspects in that case: Big Boy Adam Jay, a curly red-haired punk, age 6.  He’s been downtown at the station several times.  We had his mug shot hanging up all over the place.  He knew the ropes.  The kid  knew how to use his noodle.  I soon found out  he had an accomplice, Baby Face Alex. Alex was Big Boy’s sister. She was 5 years old. Soon, she was singing like a canary.  Big Boy called her a Stool pigeon. I told him to shut his yap. She didn’t want to go to the big house.

During interrogations under the lights, Alex spilled her guts. She fingered Big Boy as the culprit. He was the brains of the operation. In a nutshell, Baby Face told me that they didn’t want to move. It was explained that the new house was almost complete and that she and her brother were to box up their possessions for the move to the country. They talked and decided to sabatoge the house-selling process. Big Boy figured that if they made the house “ugly and smelly”, no one would want to buy it. So, one night, they took a large container of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder, and sprinkled it all over  their bedroom carpet, beds, and dressers. It looked like snow on Christmas morning.

During the investigation, I also found smashed jelly beans in the carpet throughout the house. They also put Match box cars on the steps leading to the second floor  for the prospective buyers to trip on and tumble down the stairs to their death.  The cars appeared their daily, but the two denied any involvement. I had to interrogate the only other occupant in the house that could have been responsible, their father, Clueless Jay. He wasn’t aware there was a second floor.

After I shut the books on that case, and we made our move to the country, so our children could lead a normal life away from the big crime city of Monongah, population 345 1/2 (Don’t ask) , I noticed a smashed lady bug on my kitchen nook window. Somehow lady bugs entered our new home and enjoyed crawling on my nice, clean windows. Someone had murdered the lipstick-red insect. It appeared upon further investigation, that the perpetrator put his or her finger directly on the lady bug, crushing it to the window,

and then smearing its remains down the window for approximately 4 inches. Someone in the new house was a cold-blooded killer.

a line-up, several years and 4 cases later

This did not sit well with me. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer started off by taking wings off of butterflies. Soon, he was eating people. I had to nip this in the bud. First, lady bugs, and then the killer would move on to ant hills or earthworms. I was an animal lover. A lady bug has worth, and perhaps some bug children somewhere else in the house.

I immediately ruled out Baby Face Alex. I knew she had it in her heart not to hurt anything. Her stuffed animal dog buddy, Fluffy, recently fell off of her bed and Baby Face cried  because, “Fluffy is paralyzed.”  I was impressed by the kid’s vocabulary. So, I eliminated her as a suspect. I interrogated Clueless Jay, who had no idea what a nook was. My only other suspect was Big Boy, and he didn’t squeal. He denied any involvement, especially after my “all animals have feelings” talk. I saw him crying outside , while playing with his Tonka trucks. Good. That meant there was still time before we had to start calling him Jeffrey.

But, he still wouldn’t budge. So, I  brought out the big guns. I had Scotch tape and powdered sugar. And a big ole lie. I brought them into the kitchen nook.

“Big Boy, Baby Face, this is how I am going to find out who killed the lady bug and smeared it down the window.  I am going to take some of this powder I got from a police officer and lightly put it in the smear.”  I took some powder and brushed it with one of those little plastic watercolor brushes onto the lady bug guts. “Now, I will take a piece of tape and press it against the window. I will leave it on their for exactly one minute. This will then give me a fingerprint.”  I looked at my watch for a minute. ” Ok, now I will carefully peel the tape off of the window and hang it in the air for 30 seconds.”  Some more watch looking. “Ok, now, I have fingerprints of the person who smeared the lady bug.  The police officer told me that after I do this, it will only take about 10 seconds for the white powder to appear on the finger of the person who did this.”

As soon as I said that, Big Boy Adam brought his hands up and looked at his fingers. “Gotcha!” I said to him. The procedure made absolutely no sense, and that’s what made it brilliant. Score one for the mom.

And that’s how I solved The Case of the Smashed Ladybug.  Big Boy and Baby Face grew up to be upstanding citizens and although there were a few more cases I will delve into at a later time, they never spent any time in the big house. And that’s because of yet another hat I wore.

So, yeah, mom’s should add crime scene investigator to their portfolio. And we should all get to look like Marg Helgenberger.

Hello, Circadian Dysrhythmia

Benjamin Franklin was a very wise man, but I still curse him twice a year, nontheless. He was credited for coming up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time.  Ben thought that we should go to bed early and rise early so we could be healthy, wealthy and intelligent. I don’t think it works that way.  He thought that more daylight meant saving wax for all the candles. Maybe he was tired of reading his almanac by candlelight.

All I know is that I physically change all the clocks in my house, but my  biological, circadian clock won’t budge. We SPRING forward and FALL behind.  Sure, I gain an hour in the fall, but the time change messes with me for a good week. I am not looking forward to this at all. Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time and the beginning of my moaning and complaining.

If you have ever suffered from jet lag, then perhaps you can understand what a shift in time can do to a person. I am tired. Circadian dyshrythmia. I have lost my rhythm. I become awkward in oh, so many ways.

So, who else can I blame for this? Surely not Arizona, the only state that will not buckle to the pressure to lose and gain time. Arizona has more sunshine than Florida, the Sunny Sunshine state. They don’t need a time shift.

In 1918, the United States adopted  Daylight Saving Time for the duration of  World War I. This allowed  people to spend more time hanging out in daylight, thus saving costs on fuel for lighting. It was abolished, brought back, abolished and then in 2005, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act, which changed Daylight Saving Time dates again. As of March 2007, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November. It just sucks. Daylight Saving Time stays around now  past Halloween, where some little trick-or-treaters were getting hit by cars at night. Well, that is what reflective tape is for, my little munchkins. Trick or treating during daylight is just wrong. But, no one listens to me.
I would really like to know what the hell is saved? I know that it is a reminder to change the batteries in your smoked detector and Arm &Hammer let’s us know that it is time to change the box of baking soda in your refrigerator, but hey, that is just to strum up some business. The energizer bunny doesn’t suffer from the time shift. I bet more batteries are purchased around this time than at Christmas. Well, maybe not, but it’s a gimmick to change your smoke detector. But, as most of you know, the smoke detector will let you know when it is time. It will freakin beep at 3 minute intervals until you change the damn thing.
  The only thing that was fun about the time change was accidentally sleeping through church when we were small. Oops, Mom and Dad, you forgot to spring forward. Aw, shucks, we missed church. Looks like we can think about God from our warm beds.  I did convince a college roommate that it was against the law to change the clocks before 2a.m. I told her that it was a law enforcement thing. If the police were called to a residence for anything after 11pm and they wrote down the wrong time, it might be a critical mistake, so a law was enacted in West Virginia that stated that all clocks could not be turned back before 2a.m. or a $500 fine would be imposed on anyone who turned their clocks back earlier. She believed me and set her alarm for 2am to set her clock back. She was so easy.
  In the end, I still haven’t found anything that is saved.  All the deer in the United States live in West Virginia and cross the road on my way to work.  Do they suffer from circadian dysrhythmia? I bet they do.  Daylight Deer Time. Will they now operate an hour earlier or hour later?   School children will be standing at the bus stop in the dark, wrapped in reflective tape. Or wait. Won’t it be daylight if we turn back our clocks? That means they are wrapped in reflective tape just because. See, now I am confused about when it will be dark and when it will be light. This just sucks. I don’t need to be anymore confused than I already am.
I guess there is some good to Daylight Saving Time. Raccoons will have more time to pillage through garbage cans.  Robbers can eat breakfast at the home they are robbing.
I really can’t stress how much I hate the time change.
Damn you, Ben Franklin.

I Believe in Mary Worth…I Believe in Mary Worth

When I was young, we held seances whenever we had the chance. It didn’t have to be on or near Halloween. We usually went to Lori’s house, our friend who lived right across the street. She had a small fruit cellar in her basement that was jus the perfect place to light a candle, shut the door, and burn to death. But, we never dropped the candle and we never stopped chanting.

We really had no idea who the hell Mary Worth was, but we believed in her.

Tweens have no brains, they really don’t.  There were usually four of us who held these seances. We would stand in a circle, shut the fruit cellar door, and slowly begin to chant into a mirror,  I can’t remember for sure, but I think Lori put a mirror on one of the shelves, leaning it against the wall.  You had to have a mirror, because Mary Worth was supposed to appear in it.

We would start the chant, always serious, because we knew this would work.

We would start with a whisper. “I believe in Mary Worth……I believe in Mary Worth….” I think that’s  all we said. But, we said it over and over and over again, because that’s what you had to do if you wanted to bring her back.  Those were the rules.  I think that anywhere between the third and thirteenth chant, Mary Worth was supposed to appear in the mirror, looking all vengeful and malicious.

So, who was Mary Worth, you ask?  Well, hell, I don’t know. So, I looked her up for your reading enjoyment. There  are many different stories about Mary Worth. Some call her Bloody Mary.  One account is that Mary was wrongly accused of killing her children. She went mad and commited suicide.

I honestly can not remember if we even knew the circumstances of  “our” Mary. We just enjoyed scaring each other and occasionally  getting locked in the fruit cellar. Lori’s mom would also at times don a  mask and slowly open the door to scare us.

So, this Halloween, whatever you do, don’t repeat that phrase while standing in front of a mirror.

Unless of course, you want Mary Worth to appear, wondering who the hell  you are.

MonkeyShines

Most, if not all of my adventures when I was growing up in Weirton, West Virginia, were with my best friend, Ramaine. She lived down the street from me, and we were attached at the hip.  We were in Camp Fire Girls together.  We rode the school bus together. We had a cabin in the woods together.  It seemed like we were laughing all day long.  My childhood was great because I had a best friend who was just like me. We lived outside the box, and had some very creative days.  And, boy, were we stylish… We even  bought white pants with pictures of the Monkees faces all over the pants.  We were weird, but knew how to laugh at ourselves.  We did that quite well. Sang the definition of “lima bean” into a tape recorder.  The word, “bored”, was not in our vocabulary. The only difference we had was that she was a gerbil person, and I was a hamster person.  Which lead us to the pet shop.

We used to visit the pet shop often.It was at the Weirton plaza, a little strip of stores near our homes. The guy had a lot of different animals at the pet shop.  One particular visit to the pet shop concluded in uncontrollable laughter, one that I can say  was the hardest I ever laughed in my whole life. Ramaine reminded me that we were in 8th grade when this happened. Dear God, she even remembers what she was wearing that day. Well, it was a day for the record books, that’s for sure.

The pet store was small, with a long counter with rows of animals in their little cages beneath it. The place was jammed with critters. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the snakes, though. There was even a mynah bird that cussed like you wouldn’t believe. It always amused me. But, on this particular day,  I was on my knees, looking at a mother hamster and newborns on the bottom row. Ramaine was standing, bent over a little, looking at something else, when all of a sudden she asked, “What’s on my head?”  I stood up, and my mouth dropped open.  I didn’t or couldn’t say a word. A spider monkey  had stepped off the top of the counter right onto her head. I really think I could have put my fist in my mouth.  “What’s on my head?” she repeated. Well, hell, I couldn’t answer. I mean, there was a monkey on her head. Just sitting there. Ramaine reached up to feel what was on her head, and the monkey swatted her hand away. “What’s on my head?”  She was expecting her bestest friend to give her an answer. She was panicking a little, starting to pace, and I  was not answering, but standing there with a big smile on my face. Ramaine tried to bend over, and that’s when the little fellow grabbed her hair with both little hands to hang on. That’s when I first started laughing.

“What’s on my head????”  Everytime her hand went up to feel what kind of creature was sitting there, he would release one hand from grasping onto her hair and slap it away. I couldn’t speak. I was laughing so hard. It was one of those silent, belly laughs, where you shake, but no sound comes out of your mouth. Now, Ramaine was pacing faster and moving her head, and bringing up her one leg for some reason, and that monkey was hanging on for dear life and I just couldn’t tell her that there was a monkey on her head.  It reminded me of  a little monkey jockey, riding something. I was in awe.  I had never seen a live monkey.  I did look around to see if a little old man with an organ grinder was standing nearby.

“VICKiE,  GET IT OFF!!  WHAT IS IT?  GET IT OFF!”  That monkey must have liked the view, because he had no intention of leaving Ramaine’s head.  She looked like she was having a seizure. Her arms and legs were flailing all about,  and the monkey was leaning to the left and then to the right, and would only take his hand off of the death grip on the her hair to swat at Ramaine.

I had to sit down on the floor. I started laughing so hard, I peed my pants. This is a recurring theme for me. Laugh. Pee. Repeat. “It’s a monkey….”  I finally was able to speak. “I peed my pants.”  Ramaine didn’t care. She had a monkey on her head.   The owner finally came over and had to pry the little monkeys fingers from her hair. It wasn’t working too well..  Finally, a banana (I think I am making this part up) was waved in front of  the monkey’s face and he left her head and went to sit on the owner’s shoulder. I found out later that the monkey’s name was Ginger. Ginger, I wish I had my camera that day.

I’m glad Ramaine was able to laugh about the whole thing on the way home. But, it was a nervous laugh, I could tell. I was sitting on a towel my mom brought for me and had to explain why, once again, I peed my pants. “I’m going to have to make an appointment for you to see Dr. Harper. There must be something wrong with your kidneys.”  No, did you not hear me?  There was a MONKEY on her head. I mean, come on.  Urination justification.

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