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the Ken Bausert Chronicles

A repository for my literary output including articles on writing, photography, travel, collecting, and anything else that suits my fancy. Please check out my other blogs: Ken Bausert's Nostalgic Museum (for a look into the past at: http://kenbausertsnost

Updated: 2017-12-17T22:18:28.427-05:00


The Birds of Homosassa Springs


Sorry it's taken so long to add to this particular blog but I seldom (never?) get any comments on it so I often wonder if anyone is actually looking at it.Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park was formally privately-owned and operated before the state of Florida took it over in 1984. It's located 75 miles north of Tampa on U.S. 19, and about 90 miles northwest of Orlando. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)While it has on display many animals native to Florida like deer, bear, and fox, wild and free manatees regularly can be found in the waters surrounding the park; the overabundance of birds found here makes it a bird-watchers' paradise. Some of the residents in the park have been injured and/or rescued, like a hawk with only one wing. Many inhabitants, however, are not in cages but roam, swim, fly or nest freely within the park's confines. Visitors may start off their tour with a boat ride from the visitors' center to the entrance of the park itself.During the short boat ride, some local wildlife like crocodiles and turtles can be seen in the water before you even get into the park.The following are some of my photos that I shot during the winter months within the past two years; the camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 (super-telephoto "point & shoot"). Many birds nest in the trees and can be seen bringing building supplies or food to their nest.There's a wide variety of waterfowl in their natural habitat for you to enjoy.[...]

Poughkeepsie Walking Bridge Across the Hudson


The Poughkeepsie railroad bridge originally carried trains full of people and freight high across the Hudson River. It's now become a part of the New York State Parks system and invites folks to walk across the river at a height of 212 feet. At 1.28 miles long, it is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Walkway State Park officially opened to the public on Saturday, October 3, 2009.(Click on any photo to enlarge it.) (Above): This public domain photo shows theWisconsin Varsity Rowing Teamposing beneath the structure in 1914.Ro and I visited it on in July, 2014, andaccessed it from the Poughkeepsie sidevia a staircase off Washington Street.The Poughkeepsie end of the bridge disappears into a densely wooded area.(Above) Looking west, toward the river.A tall chain link fence protects cars on Route 9(and people on the ground) belowfrom objects that might fall or be thrownoff the east end of the bridge. (Above) Looking south down the Hudson Riverat the Mid-Hudson Bridge connecting Poughkeepsieand Highland (on the west shore of the river).A barge makes its way south along the riverunder the Mid-Hudson Bridge.Ro finds it's pretty windy high up in the centerof the walking bridge.(Above): Looking east toward Poughkeepsie.From the vantage point high above, you'reactually at the height of tall trees in thecommunity below.We only walked halfway across the bridgebefore returning to our starting pointbut we plan on going back.If you're in the area of Poughkeepsie,take the time to walk across the bridgeand appreciate the unique experience it affords you.[...]

New York Rising


I imagine anyone having serious damage from Superstorm Sandy must be very used to having their patience tried. Government red tape and delays in getting any kind of assistance to those in need have got to be maddening for those affected.We know some people who live in a two-story house in Massapequa, here on Long Island; it was originally built in 1947 but had been renovated and expanded over the years. They are about a block and a half away from the bay to their south, another block away from a canal to the east, and two blocks from a canal to the west. Their first floor was wiped out during Hurricane Irene, a few years ago, so they had to rebuilt it. When Sandy hit Long Island, it completely destroyed their first floor again.Early photos by Ken Bausert; later photos by Tim (the homeowner).Click on any photo to enlarge.Now, I’m sure there are people saying, “Well, they shouldn’t build homes so close to the water,” and, of course, in a perfect world, that’s correct. But, as in many other areas, homes have long been built in locations that never suffered such catastrophic damage over the course of decades – or even hundreds of years – and it only takes one superstorm to show how vulnerable they can be.In any case, after fourteen months, this family was finally approved for assistance and they are in the process of raising their house ten feet off the ground. Since we had been in contact with Pat, she informed us of when the work was being done so I spent two days watching – and photographing – the event.Because the house originally sat on a slab (no basement) there were no first floor joists to lift it from. That required hefty wooden beams to be secured to all the inside wall studs of the first floor so that huge steel girders could be placed (through holes in the walls) under them before being lifted by powerful hydraulic jacks. And, because there were few load-bearing walls in the center of the first floor, massive supports had to be placed under the second floor during the lift to maintain integrity with the first floor walls.A tricky undertaking!The new ground level can not be used for “living space” and, of course, the old first floor (now the second floor) must have all new floor joists installed. The oil burner remains on the ground level but must be raised over a yard off the slab so that it will not be damaged unless the water level rises above that height in the event of another storm.The hydraulic pumping station which distributes pressure tonine strategically-placed jacks that raise the house.Each time the house is raised about 12-15 inches, the house must be re-supportedso the jacks can be lowered and repositioned for the next stage of the lift.Once the house reaches about ten feet,a new footing must be prepared for a new foundationbefore the house can be lowered to its new final position..Spiral pilings are screwed into the groundto a depth of ten-feet before the concrete footing can be poured. The tops of the pilings can be seen in the photo belowafter they have been driven into the ground.The new footing forms receive rebar to reinforcethe new concrete.Vertical rebar is added to reinforce the concretethat will be poured into the foundation forms.After the foundation is complete, it must set up beforethe house can be lowered and attached to it.With the house finally reattached to the new foundation,the interior and exterior can be rebuilt.[...]

Long Beach (1-10-13) Sandy Clean-Up


Superstorm Sandy damaged Long Beach,on Long Island's south shore, very badly.Many homes, apartments and condos are still without electric or heatand need serious structural repairs.a 13 to 17-foot storm surge depositedbeach sand over a foot deep throughoutthe streets. The boardwalk, originallybuilt in 1914, has withstood manyhurricanes but Sandy was too muchfor it to bear. It was so badly damagedthat it's being demolished and anew one will be built in its place.(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)The extreme west end of the boardwalk(New York Avenue),where I used to go with my parentsmost summer weekends, when I was a child.The demolition has progressed about aquarter-mile east from the extreme west end.The concrete supports seem to be ingood shape and will probably be reused.A workman salvages some of the benchesthat were bolted to the old boards.The concrete roof (part of the boardwalk)on the men's & women's rest roomscollapsed.Many benches were donated by local orpast residents in honor of their loved ones.A 4 x 12 support beam was twisted &split like kindling by the force of the water.Sand being cleaned of debris.Clean sand being put back on the beach.Trucks distribute the clean sand toall areas of the beach. [...]

The High Line, New York City, 2011


Once upon a time, there existed an elevated rail line that served the lower-to-mid Manhattan west side, and the meat packing industries that flourished there. At certain locations, the rail line actually went through buildings to make loading and unloading the rail cars easier. Completed in 1934, the freight line eventually became obsolete and the southernmost section of elevated track was torn down in 1960. The final train, carrying frozen turkeys, made its run on the remaining track in 1980.All photos © 2011 by Ken Bausertunless otherwise noted.Considered a useless relic and eyesore by many, there were lots of people who wanted to tear the rest of the structure – from just below 14th to 34th Streets – down in the 1990s. Fortunately, city government red tape and lack of funding delayed any demolition and today, the remaining portion of the elevated railway has morphed into New York City’s newest tourist attraction and neighborhood park: The High Line Park. Some unique views of New York City are now enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.Recently, National Geographic Magazine published a great article on the park in its April, 2011, issue (some of the facts mentioned here are gleaned from that text). The first section of The High Line, running south to north, just west of 10th Avenue, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, was opened to the public in June, 2009 (the remaining section, up to 30th Street, opened this past summer of 2011). After reading the Nat Geo piece, Ro and I decided to pay a visit to the park and enlisted some friends to join us; the photos displayed here are from two separate visits.(As always, click on any photo to enlarge it;click on it a second time to further enlarge it.)Above: the northern terminus, at 30th Street.Above: looking down at 30th Street from thenorthern terminus.What follows are assorted photos fromalong the High Line Walk;I don't think any descriptions are needed.A concrete paved surface winds its way among wild flowers, trees, and shrubs, just a stone’s throw from old and new buildings housing families and businesses on either side. I understand that some local residents are less than pleased with this new lack of privacy, however.First visit on May 29, 2011 with (left to right):Ken, Eileen, Doris, Ro, Jim, and Bob.Second visit on July 2, 2011 with (left to right):Ken, Dottie, Bill, Fran, and Fred(Ro took the photo).After exiting the High Line at its southern terminus,it's a short walk west to the Hudson River andRiverside Park, from where you can see the airvents for the Holland Tunnel risingabove the river near Canal Street.[...]

February Getaway to St. Maarten


I've finally gotten around to posting some photos from our February, 2011 trip to the French/Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten. I won't bore you with lots of historical facts and everything we did on a day-to-day basis but simply annotate each photo, to let you know what & where everything is. If you really want to know more about St. Maarten, you can easily check it out on the internet. However, if anyone has any questions (or wants tips) on visiting the island, I'd be glad to answer/provide them.As always, comments are welcome and click on any image to enlarge it.Click on it a second time to further enlarge it.View of (mostly) the Dutch (southern) side of the island from my window on the plane.Close-up of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side.The port on Great Bay, Philipsburg, where the cruise ships dock.Our villa (first building on left, second floor,overlooking Great Bay)at the Divi Little Bay Resort.View looking over our villa (building in center of photo).View from the balcony of our villa.View from our balcony.Looking toward the cruise ship docks on the other side of Great Bay,from our balcony, with a ship approaching (on the right).Telephoto shot from our balcony.Small infinity pool at east end of Divi property,overlooking Little Bay in background.View from old Fort Amsterdam, at the tip of the Divi property,overlooking Little Bay.Looking toward the east end of the property from Gizmo's Beachside Café.Gizmo (the mascot of the beachside café).Looking west along the Divi beach on Little Bay.Looking east along the Divi beach.A poolside café toward the east end of the property.Happy Hour at Gizmo's café with Ken & Ro.Villas at the east end of the property, photographedwhile standing chest-high in the water, late in the day.Sunset, viewed from Gizmo's Café.Same sunset, a little later.Three people watch another sunset, while sitting on the edge of a pool.Front Street, the old main street in Philipsburg.Brightly-colored restaurant, typical of theCaribbean island style, in Philipsburg.Old courthouse in Philipsburg.Visitors take a Segway tour of "boardwalk"along side the beach in Philipsburg.Historic old church in Philipsburg.Public beach area on the northeast (French) side of the island,with fog and rain clouds threatening.Le Gallion Beach, on the north (French) coast of the island.Looking back at the beach seen in the previous shotfrom the other side of the lagoon.Looking across the lagoon at Le Gallion Beachas rain clouds threaten.Heavily pock-marked volcanic rockon the extreme north coast of the island,just past Le Gallion Beach.Breakfast at Zee Best on the way to the airportbefore heading home. (GREAT pastries!)[...]

Jeanne Dippel - Gallery Show


Jeanne Dippel, a family friend and former neighbor,
has been pursuing her dream of becoming an artist,
using charcoal on paper.
She recently had a show of her work in a gallery
at C.W. Post College, in Brookville, New York.
The theme of her collection was,
"Women of Distinction, Portraits in Charcoal,"
and included beautiful renditions of people like
Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, and Marilyn Monroe (below).
(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Jeanne stands by one of her personal favorites,
a drawing of Annie Oakley (below).

Jeanne's works are available for sale;
if interested, please leave a message in
the comments section of this blog
and I will forward all inquiries to Jeanne.


Louis' Lunch, New Haven, CT


While staying at our daughter's place in Wallingford, Connecticut, we drove about a half-hour to New Haven to visit a place I had seen on one of those Diners, Dives, & Drive-ins shows on tv. It was Louis’ Lunch, a tiny brick building at 261-263 Crown Street, amidst the tall office buildings and condos of downtown New Haven.In existence since 1898, it is supposedly the birthplace of the hamburger. The current owner is Jeff Lassen, grandson of the founder, Louis Lassen; he operates the place much as it’s been run for over a hundred years.The menu is quite limited: a five-dollar burger, which is still cooked–vertically–in the same cast-iron gas grilles that date to the nineteenth century; potato salad, $4; a bag of chips, $2; piece of pie, $4; and soda, Snapple or water for $2 or 3. The only things available to put on your burger are cheese, tomato, and onion (no ketchup or mustard); the opinion being that if it’s a freshly made burger, using prime meat, you don’t need catchup or mustard to make it taste better. As a matter of fact, there’s a sign on the wall that says, “This isn’t Burger King. You can’t have it your way. You have it my way or you can’t have the damn thing.” In spite of this attitude, the place has a huge following (plus crazy people like me who come from all over to check it out) and, in the 1970s–when the place was threatened with demolition–a new location was found and the building moved to preserve it. People from all over donated bricks to help rebuild what was lost in the move. So, what’s my take on the place? Well, the burgers were very good, but overpriced considering the size. Your choices are limited, it’s extremely small inside with very little seating area, and very noisy with customers calling out their orders and Jeff shouting to the grille man. So, it’s not the best dining experience in the world. But Louis’ Lunch is a landmark; it’s a part of New Haven folklore. And it’s certainly a unique experience.[...]

Todd Rundgren at Morristown, NJ 9-15-2010


This year (2010), veteran rock & roll icon Todd Rundgren went out on tour and performed two of his classic albums-in their entirety-for his fans, some of whom travel around the country to see as many shows as they can. The TODD album, from 1974, was originally released on two LPs while HEALING came out in 1981 (and included a bonus 45 rpm record in the package with the LP).Rundgren and his touring band appeared at the Community Theater at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, NJ, on the evening of Wednesday, September 15th. Some attendees traveled from as far away as Boston and Georgia to catch this show, confirming Todd's cult fan following.The following photos were shot with a Fujifilm S8000, using its zoom/telephoto lens to fill the frame from a seat five rows back in the front balcony. As always, click on any photo to enlarge it.[...]

Paul's "Da Burger Joint"


The next time you're in New York City and are in the mood for a really great burger, head on over to the Lower East Side and stop in at Paul's "Da Burger Joint." Located at 131 2nd Avenue (between 7th & 8th Streets) you'll find some of the biggest and tastiest burgers in the city.

(Click on any image to enlarge it.)

(image) One day this past February, Ro & I took our grandkids into Manhattan for the day. While we were walking about the East Village, I spotted Paul's place around lunchtime, so we decided to give it a try.

(image) Some of the unexpected extras inside were the old-time photos and posters. In addition, the owner must be a big Yankees fan 'cause each table is named for a member of the team (or, in Joe Torre's case, an ex-member).

(image) Somewhere beneath the lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions & cheese is a very large and very tasty burger, surrounded by steak fries. They also serve other fine diner-type fare like sandwiches, soups & salads.

(image) For more information and additional photos, click on the link below:

Runaway Toyotas & Audis


A few months ago, I read a story about Toyota owners who claim they experienced "unintended acceleration," otherwise known as a "runaway" condition. In simple terms, the car took off without the driver stepping on the gas or, it kept going after the driver took his/her foot off the accelerator pedal. Obviously, a very scary and dangerous situation.Apparently, there were enough drivers reporting this scenario to force Toyota to issue a recall that affected 4.2 million vehicles. It required dealers to remove the floor mats from the affected vehicles and alter the gas pedals, the theory being that the gas pedal was getting caught on the floor mat and causing the engine to race.This "fix" was found to be suspect; as ABC News reported on Jan. 21, 2010, "on the day after Christmas, four people died in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when a 2008 Toyota sped off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond. The car's floor mats were found in the trunk of the car, where owners had been advised to put them as part of the recall."As some of my regular readers know, I was an auto mechanic (they're now called technicians) for twenty-eight years. During the late 1970s, the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE, later shortened to just ASE) began offering tests to certify technicians in eight different categories; I voluntarily took and passed 16 hours of tests to become certified in all categories. When my back began to give me trouble, I became a service manager and service advisor with several car dealers for another sixteen years until my retirement in 2006. The only reason I mention all of that here is to give you some idea of my background and experience.The problem Toyota (and their customers) are currently having could be caused by any one of a number of things. There are mechanical components (pedal, hinges or pivots, cables, links, etc.) and electrical components (sensors, switches, wiring, etc.) that could be at fault. Eventually, the problem will either be fixed by finding the faulty part and replacing it with something new or by changing parts until the condition no longer occurs.All of this seems eerily familiar to me and to anyone who owned an Audi 5000 back in the 1980s; sometime during those years, a similar condition was reportedly happening to those cars. I worked for a Porsche/Audi dealer from 1979 to 1990 and was a certified Porsche and Audi technician during that time when the problem first came to light. And, though I don't know too much about Toyotas, I DO know quite a bit about those Audis.I had never read anything in the newspapers about the "runaway" Audis that drivers claimed to have experienced until we received the first recall addressing the problem. We were told to remove the "Coco floor mats" (as they were called) and replace them with something new. The original floor mats, it seemed, were a kind of heavy woven substance resembling twine. When they got worn, from drivers' heels digging into them and pivoting between the accelerator and brake pedal, the strands became torn and very loose. The thought was that the gas pedal (which had a cylindrical metal knob on the underside) was getting caught in the worn floor mats.Around the time of the first recall, we were also instructed to check the accelerator cable and linkage for binding and insure that necessary points were lubricated properly to prevent sticking. It was also about that time when I first began hearing reports of people having serious "runaway" Audi problems. One owner supposedly ran through the back wall of her garage and seriously injured her own child on the other side. On another day, an Audi was brought in on a tow truck; the back of the car was smashed in so that the rear bumper was nearly even with the rear window. We were told[...]

Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Ride


During our recent trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ro and I ventured up in a hot air balloon with our friends, Bob & Doris. We lifted off shortly after sunrise on a parcel of desert south of Albuquerque, near the town of Belen. It was a first time experience for everyone but me and we had a very smooth flight, affording us some great views.A gas generator powers a fan to blow air into the balloon and inflate it.Soon, the propane burners are turned on to throwsuper-heated air into the balloon and cause it to rise.After everyone climbs on board, more hot air is added to the balloon and we're lifted up toward the sky.The photos of us in the air were taken by one of the crewand emailed to us after we returned home.Ro took a couple of great shots of our shadow, using the new Canon A1000.I had originally gone up in a balloon a few years ago,upstate New York, but was disappointedwe only went up about 1,500-2,000 feet;this time, I was happy we made it to about 3,500 feet.I was hoping we'd fly over the Rio Grande (visible in the distance,on the other side of the town), but the wind did not take us there.Telephoto shot of someone's desert compound.This is an industrial park and school complex which is to be the start of another planned community like Rio Rancho.As we were descending toward our landing, a truckand the billowing dust behind it were captured with the telephoto lens.A coyote was seen running across thelandscape shortly afterward.And we're eventually spilled out onto the groundas the basket tips over... lots of fun, really!(Note: no lizards or geckos were harmed in the making of this photo.)After the landing, we were treated to a breakfast ofbagels, cookies, and Champagne/orange juice Mimosaswhile the crew packed up the balloon into its trailer.[...]

The REST of the Cabo Story


Please see my first post on this blog (from November, 2008) for the first part of this story and photos from the resort.For those geographically-challenged amongst us, Cabo San Lucas is located on the southernmost tip of Baja California Sur. From San Diego, you would continue driving south until you couldn’t go any further; then, you’d be in Cabo. It’s also the place where the Pacific Ocean–to the west–sweeps around the tip of Baja California and meets the slightly warmer waters of the Gulf Of California to the east, otherwise known as The Sea Of Cortez.Arriving at Los Cabos International Airport is a bit daunting; when our friends, Bob and Doris, first started visiting, there wasn’t even a permanent building on the site. Now, they’ve erected a modern air-conditioned terminal but you still exit the plane down a ramp of steps that they roll over to the door of the plane, and must walk across the tarmac to get to the terminal and customs.The Los Cabos International Airport... no, really!(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)I decided to rent a car so we would be able to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted; otherwise, there are car services and cabs to take you around. I got a great low rate through for a car from National. But the car rental companies in Mexico are privately owned, so you’ve got to be very careful about what they try to sell you in the way of insurance or other extras. Your U.S. auto insurance does NOT cover you for more than a few miles inside Mexico and it is illegal to drive without insurance. I purchased collision insurance online for $83 before leaving. The woman at the rental car desk told me I still needed some other mandatory insurance and wouldn’t rent me the car without it; all together, it somehow totaled $247, for seven days. Then, she said, “I will give you the car for free if you all agree to take a tour of a timeshare property.”Well, this seemed too good to be true. In addition, she was giving us a voucher for $300 if all four of us took the ninety-minute tour; of course, we knew that someone was going to try to pressure us into buying a timeshare which we knew we didn’t want. However, even if we didn’t buy a timeshare, as long as we got our papers signed that we took the tour, she said she would get a commission for sending us and we would get the car for free and the $300 voucher. Bob and I decided it was worth the time invested and agreed.(As mentioned in my first post, we eventually took a time share tour at the property where we stayed instead and received a voucher from them to pay for the rental car.)The first car they offered us was an older Nissan that looked like it had been painted with a spray can; we couldn’t even fit three pieces of luggage in the trunk. After complaining to the manager, we got a new Dodge Attitude (made by Hyundai) which was also quite small, but at least we were able to put most of our stuff in the trunk; one large suitcase stood upright between Doris and Ro in the back seat.It turned out our resort was located right on The Sea Of Cortez, about fifteen miles north of the actual “old town” of Cabo San Lucas. The Fiesta American is described in detail in my first post of this blog so I’ll dispense with those details here. After checking in, the first order of business was stocking our “apartment” with food and drink that we’d be using while there; we figured on making breakfast and lunch for ourselves a few days to help save money. Of course, we needed to stock up on wine and snacks. We got our car back from the valet and drove into the town of Cabo San Lucas where Bob and Doris knew of some stores from previous visits.We stopped in a grocery store where we picke[...]

Take Me Out To The Ball Game


I’ve always enjoyed baseball and it remains one of my favorite sports to watch in spite of the fact that it can be a bit slow moving at times. I recently attended the opening game of the season for the Chicago Cubs minor league team in Daytona Beach while Ro and I were visiting my cousin Warren and wife Joan in Port Orange. And while Ro and Joan agreed to go with us to the game, it was clear that they’d rather be somewhere else.When one of the teams got a few hits in a row, Joan called out, “DELAY OF GAME!”I said, “What do you mean, ‘delay of game’?”She replied, “It’s supposed to be three up and three down. That’s my idea of a good game... fast moving.”Well, soccer and basketball move at a much faster pace but I find there’s just a lot of repetitious running back and forth in each of those sports. I also think there’s too much scoring in basketball and not enough scoring in soccer. If you eliminated the goalie in soccer and created one in basketball, you have two better games as far as I'm concerned.Hockey is certainly a fast game with a reasonable amount of scoring. But, similar to soccer and basketball, each game kind of follows the same pattern of repetition. I think football and baseball are more unpredictable; I mean, you never know what’s going to happen next and there’s a bit more strategy involved as well.Anyway, I like the game–the tradition–of baseball more than the business of baseball... which seems to be what all sports have become these days. Long ago, you rooted for a team and certain players that usually stayed with a team for a long time. These days, players change teams like underwear and vice-versa. And, considering the prices stadiums charge for seats nowadays, I’ve pretty much given up the desire to attend a game in person any more... except a minor-league game, anyway.But my old friend, Joe, called recently to ask if I wanted to go to a Yankees game at their new stadium. It seems Joe’s wife, Esther, had to attend a funeral for one of her aunts who just passed away and couldn’t use her ticket.I thought, “Sure, I’d love to go,” but I declined at first.You see, Ro and I were scheduled to visit our daughter in Connecticut and take care of the grandkids who had a few days off from school. But, since the game was on a Sunday and we didn’t actually need to watch the kids until Monday morning, we decided that Ro would drive up early Sunday morning and spend the day with Joanne’s family; then after the game, I’d take Metro North to New Haven where Ro or Joanne could pick me up.So, Joe and I caught the Long Island Rail Road train out of Hicksville to Penn Station in Manhattan. From there, Joe suggested we walk over to Sixth Avenue to catch the subway up to Yankee Stadium as it’s easier to get a seat on that line. We arrived at the stadium in plenty of time to walk around and check out the exterior before going inside. I also took the time to buy a Philly Cheese-Steak sandwich from one of the food vendors across the street from the stadium to save some money; you know what they charge for food in any sports stadium!View of the new Yankee Stadium as seen from across the streeton what began as an overcast day.(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)Entering through Gate 6 enables you to seethe large tribute posters to Yankee players.Once inside, we walked around and checked out the various views from different parts of the new ball park. One of the biggest differences between the old and new stadiums is that the new one is not as high as the old one. But I think, in an effort to keep people lower, and possibly closer to the field, they sacrificed sightlines.There are a lot more seats in the outfield fair territor[...]

A Visit to the Bronx Botanical Gardens


This past fall, Ro and I joined our friends Bob & Doris on a visit to the Bronx Botanical Gardens, right across Fordham Road from the world-famous Bronx Zoo. While I was wandering around, I grabbed a bunch of photos with my Fuji S8000, all under natural light, positioning myself to get the best background for each. The frog was about 10 or 12 feet away and captured using the telephoto while the others utilized macro mode.

(Click on the images to enlarge.)

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Me & My Garmin


I’m generally pretty good with directions and finding my way on the highways. I love maps and often study them; I usually have no problem figuring out the best route, no matter where I am. But there are times when traffic is backed up, due to an accident or just excessive volume, and it would be an advantage to be able to get off a particular road and find another way. If this occurs in familiar territory, it’s not a big deal; if you’re in a strange land, it’s quite another story. It is for that reason I bought a GPS receiver–a Garmin Nuvi 350.This particular model has a couple of features I don’t really need–like a built-in MP3 player–but it was cheaper at the time I bought it than a lesser model, so I figured, “why not?”I should have known there would be impending problems upon my first use of the unit; I was going from East Meadow to Amityville, where I worked a part-time job since retiring, so I decided to see how the GPS would suggest I go. I entered the address of the place where I worked and left my home, driving east on Hempstead Turnpike, in the general direction of work. The first weird thing it did was suggest I go south on Loring Road , which runs along side the Wantagh Parkway, instead of directing me onto the Parkway–an obviously quicker route.If I had taken Loring Road, I would have had to drive a couple of miles, turning onto two other roads, before getting on the Southern State Parkway, going east, which anyone would tell you is the best route to Amityville. As it is, I disregarded the GPS directive and used the Wantagh Parkway, evoking a now-familiar response from the Garmin’s digital female voice: “RECALCULATING!Since that day, I’ve blessed the GPS on several occasions, for getting me out of trouble or back onto the correct route after missing a turn. It’s extricated me from areas in which I had no clue where I was going, and I’ve been amazed by its ability to direct me through very tight and quick turns within the streets of Manhattan. While there is no doubt it is a very useful tool for anyone doing frequent driving, it’s also disappointed me by displaying its many faults.When our grandkids were spending a week with us last summer, we took them to the Vanderbilt Planetarium and Museum, in Centerport, Long Island. Upon leaving the Vanderbilt, we asked the kids where they might want to go for lunch; “Taco Bell” seemed to be their choice. In an effort to find the closest Taco Bell, I plugged in the Garmin, brought up “restaurants”, and typed in “Taco Bell.” The GPS immediately found one on Larkfield Road, in Northport, about three miles away.I followed the on-screen directions until the GPS told me to turn left down a residential street; “odd,” I thought, but I figured it was a shortcut. Upon making the turn, however, I saw a “dead end” sign on the side of the street. It seems the street originally cut through to Larkfield Road but, for some time anyway, it no longer did. After detouring south to the next street parallel to the previous one, I eventually did reach Larkfield Road and the Taco Bell restaurant. It was boarded up and closed!Last December, we were up at our daughter’s place in Connecticut, on a Saturday, and had to go to Rutherford, New Jersey, on Sunday for my cousin John’s annual Christmas Party. Of course, I know how to get to John’s place from our home on Long Island, but since we were driving from Wallingford, Connecticut, I was going to take some different roads.I would surely encounter less traffic by crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge, in Westchester, and then driving south to Rutherford once I was on the west side of the Hud[...]

Stupid Buildings


In the course of any given day, I’ll bet each and every one of us meets a person, sees something, or hears a story to which we respond, “Now, that’s stupid!”There’s a building in Copiague, on Long Island, near Amityville, that I used to pass all the time while I was working a recent part time job. There was probably another building–or maybe an old gas station–on the corner where they built this building; at any rate, the land was cleared specifically for this building to be erected. That’s the important point I’m making here.Now, I would imagine that some architect designed this building for the man or company who was paying for its construction. Do you think that the plans for a building are drawn up without consideration for the land it’s going to occupy? I mean, does someone design a building and then show it to the guy who’s paying for it, and then they look for a piece of land to put it on? I don’t think so.I assume that someone bought the land, went to an architect, and told him what he wanted. The architect then designed a building with doors and windows, electric lines and plumbing, parking and... well, you know! Don’t you think they actually visited the site it was going to be built on?The building in the following photos was designed with space for stores or offices on the ground floor, and additional office space on the upper floors. But one ground floor space, the one on the east end of the building, has its doorway at the far end of its wall facing the street. Directly in front of that doorway, standing tall where it’s been for many years, is a large utility pole near the curb. Because this pole has many heavy lines leading across the street, it needs a support cable and pole to keep it standing upright. The pole and cable are smack dab in front of the doorway of that new storefront.Granted, there’s enough room for someone to open the door all the way, but if they walk more than two or three steps straight out the door they’re going to have quite a headache after they hit that support wire pole.Do you think the architect visited the site before he planned that doorway there? I mean, it could have been positioned down at the left end of that storefront. It could even have been placed on the right side of the building–the storefront’s other outside wall–which would have made access from the parking lot easier.Do you think the builder noticed this mistake and suggested that they move the door before completing construction? Even one of the construction workers should have said something. I doubt very much that the Long Island Power Authority is going to move the utility pole or the support cable and pole.Well, it is what it is, but I’m thinking of going back with my camera after that store opens so I can photograph people using that door. Because that’s what I call stupid!UPDATE: April, 2009I recently drove by the above building and found that a wine & liquor store rented the space with that poorly placed door; they also rented the space on either side of that corner one. There is a sign on the "stupid" door advising patrons to use one of the other doors since the inside spaces are all linked together.Smart move![...]

Stupid Road Signs


The latest examples of stupidity being forced upon the public-at-large are the signs recently erected on the parkways of Long Island. There are actually sensors all along the roads which measure the speed–or lack thereof–of traffic on these state highways, which relay data to these signs telling motorists how long it will take to get to one of the listed junctions.

Now, I have nothing against signs which warn of accidents or traffic problems (and there are signs like that on most major highways) although they usually just tell you there’s a problem without suggesting an alternate route; but, at least they’re useful.
These new signs are totally useless and a waste of my tax dollars.

First of all, the speed limit on most of the roads in question is 55 m.p.h. Of course, most people are doing at least 60 while some are doing 65 or better and a few may be going 50. Grade school arithmetic tells us that a car going 60 m.p.h. is driving a mile a minute. So, it’s pretty easy to figure that it’s going to take you 15 minutes to go 15 miles if you’re driving at 60, and it will take a little less if you’re going faster–or a little longer if you’re going slower. Besides, most people who drive these roads are “regulars” and already know how long it’s going to take them to go from point “A” to point “B.”

So, why do we need signs that tell us this information? Probably because some politician has a brother (or cousin, or friend) who’s in the sign making business.

I Went To Staten Island, Sharon


As a long time Joni Mitchell fan–and active participant on the Joni Mitchell Discussion List website (JMDL)–I was fascinated by a recent post from Chuck Eisenhardt, addressing Joni's "Song For Sharon" and the line, "I went to Staten Island, Sharon, to buy myself a mandolin," off her 1976 Hejira album. In his post, Chuck wrote about “an excerptfrom Tim Brookes' most excellent book, 'Guitar, an American Life':While [George] Gruhn was getting started in Nashville, Stan Jay–an immensely likable, irrepressibly cheerful guy looking exactly like an elf supervisor in Santa's workshop–was selling instruments out of his apartment on the waterfront in Staten Island. ‘You had to walk up a narrow stairway papered in that deep textured wine red that one generally associates with certain houses in New Orleans. One stepped from the landing into our showroom, that anybody else would call their living room. On the left was the dining room, with the 1920's round oak lion's-claw table. About 50 guitars, banjos, and mandolins hung from three walls. On the outside wall, they were positioned over a circa 1900 rococo upholstered couch, on which Joni Mitchell fell in love with the 1915 Gibson K-4 mandocello that inspired her to write that legendary song to her friend, about going to Staten Island 'to buy myself a mandolin.”’I was excited to find this true story behind one of my favorite songs. Being an explorer at heart, and always up for a road trip, I decided to retrace Joni’s steps on her visit–and the experience that influenced the song–by visiting the shop on Staten Island myself.After exchanging a few emails with Stan Jay, President of Mandolin Bros., and talking with him on the phone, I learned some interesting facts:“Yes, the building that Joni and her photographer, Joel, visited in 1976 is still standing. One room at the old shop address, 580 Bay St.., 2nd Fl., was where my original partner, Hap Kuffner, lived. We had rented a four-room space, a one story walk-up. It had a kitchen, a living room–which was the main showroom–a workshop room and, in the fourth room, Hap’s digs. It was a good place to start a new business. We were there for only 4 years, 5 months. Joni visited at around the 4 years, 2 months point. The entrance was the first door on the side of the building on Union Place. It overlooked Bay Street from the front windows, Union Place from the kitchen. When one walked upstairs from the street, the wallpaper had those large velour flowers with the flat spaces between the petals. For all I know it might still have that wallpaper. Some customers used to whistle “The House of the Rising Sun” as they came up. Stephen Stills and Graham Nash came up that stairway, so did Dave Van Ronk. It is across the street from a freestanding Citibank branch and when we occupied that space, we were upstairs from a Household Finance office. Our customers used to kid us that they could visit, walk downstairs to either institution, get a loan and then come back upstairs to make their purchase. I don’t think, though, that this actually ever happened.”The lower floor of that building is currently being used by a sign company.The location is about a third of a mile south of the Staten Island ferry terminal, where Joni apparently landed after boarding in lower Manhattan.There is also a train station a block away that people could takefrom the ferry terminal, if they didn't feel like walking. Since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the destruction of the Trade Center, the ferry no longer takes cars on board (as it did[...]

Fiesta Americana at Cabo San Lucas


When a couple of good friends of ours told us they would use their points to book a two-bedroom suite in Cabo, and that all we would need to do is purchase our airfare, well... that’s an offer we couldn’t refuse!Bob couldn’t book us into a particular hotel that he had originally planned on but he managed to get us into the FiestAmericana Resort; he had never been there before so he wasn’t sure what to expect. It was about a twenty-five minute drive down the main highway from the airport, through several old, tiny, dusty towns along the way, until we reached our resort. At this point on the peninsula, the area is known as the “tourist corridor”, and numerous new resorts have recently been built.When we arrived at the main entrance, the valets met us, unloaded the car, then took it away to a parking garage. A young woman named Regina greeted us and escorted us into the main lobby where a tray of hot, moist towels were offered to us. I took one, unrolled it and used it to wipe my face; it felt really soothing and was a welcome treat after getting up at 5:30 AM, and traveling for twelve hours by that time.After checking in, Regina introduced us to the resort. Among other things, she asked if we’d like to take a timeshare tour while we were there. Bob said that he’d like to take the tour since he might be able to buy additional points for his current account.Regina told us that if we all took the tour, she’d give us a $220 voucher toward paying for our rental car plus $220 to use anyway we wanted at our resort (drinks at the pool, lunch, dinner at the restaurant) and, she’d throw in discounts at their Italian restaurant, the spa for a message, and free all-you-can-eat gourmet breakfasts worth $27 for each of us. We decided to go on the tour the next morning.It turned out our resort was located right on The Sea Of Cortez, about fifteen miles north of the actual “old town” of Cabo San Lucas. There’s a beautiful long beach but a lot of rocks make it difficult to swim there. On the other hand, there are five large swimming pools throughout the grounds (one has a swim-up bar) and about seven hot tubs scattered about; almost every place you go has a view of the sea. The grounds are well-appointed with palm trees and flowers through picturesque pathways. All about are plenty of tables and chairs, recliners, and palapas–those open-sided umbrella-shaped huts–providing shade; there are also countless service people around to help you with anything you need. It’s relatively new and they’re adding more accommodations to an already large expanse of buildings. We were offered a ride to the building our rooms were in via a golf cart.Our suite was located on the third floor of a building built on a hillside; each building and each floor is higher than the ones to the east so everyone has a view of the sea and sunrise from their rooms. Our place had a large central living/dining room and kitchen, flanked by Doris and Bob’s master bedroom and bath on one side, and our “studio” on the other. Our room had two double beds, our own full marble bathroom, and a small kitchenette (microwave, refrigerator, and sink) suitable for someone to rent separately from the rooms next door, if necessary.Opening the sliding doors at the end of our room afforded us a grand view of the property, beach and the sea, over a wrought-iron railing, but no balcony. The main room next door, however, featured a balcony large enough for the four of us to sit out on, sipping our wine and indulging in various snacks. We soon re[...]