Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CICADAS  (Brood II) 

or, if you wish, Magicicada

     The swarms are here; the males are singing; and if you are living in the region extending from North Carolina to Massachusetts,  for the next few weeks your eyes must be focused on the ground lest you are prepared to remove your shoes before reentering your home.  It's happening! 
     This particular group of what are commonly, but errantly, called locusts, is Brood II of approximately a dozen and a half broods and is a part of the super family Cicadidae, or, plain and simply, cicadas.  Frankly, this brood is super in its own way as the predicted population number is in the billions and some have even said it could reach a trillion.  Almost sounds like Washington spending but who is counting, either here or there.  In any event they are here.  The singing which is constant is an invitational song presented by the males for ... well, you can figure that one yourself.  The noise reaches a measured 94 decibels.  
     This brood is a patient lot as it has waited 17 years under ground (anywhere from one to nine feet although probably less in our hard clay soil) for this moment in time.  The moment will pass once the male has found his counterpart and she has deposited her eggs (hundreds in fact) in soft tree limbs (usually the thinnest part of the branches).  The adults are then done.  Once the eggs have hatched the offspring falls to the ground and burrows away to await its return in 2030.
     Damage to the trees is usually minimal and is best characterized as a nuisance.  Fruit trees are the favorite and from the pictures you will see that our plum tree has received a lot of attention.
     I teased one of my granddaughters with the suggestion that we might collect some for dinner.  Wisely, she has learned to ignore me and did so on this occasion.  The fact is they are edible.  I have seen cautions for those who might have nut or shellfish allergies but the prized "chewies" are the newly hatched cicadas.  Supposedly they need to be blanched in the sun and allowed to solidify.  They then can be cooked immediately or frozen for a future snack.  So, if your refrigerator is bare, there may be an opportunity for a meal without having to leave you home.  Fortunately, we are close enough to 24 hour grocery stores that there will be no temptation for us.
     If you're not in the Carolina to Massachusetts region, there may be other broods coming for you in future years.  Be patient.  For the time being here are a few pics from our experience, thus far, with Brood II.

A close up of a cicada making a slow climb up the tree.

Our plum tree and a climber with the exoskeletons of previous climbers.

Another climber

Exoskeletons clinging to the leaves on the plum tree.

Unaffected are the flowers including our Iris and

our roses.

Emerging locations:  our walkway...

our lawn...

and at the base of a tree.

Enjoy,  and ...til later...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


After a long hiatus here I am returning with a lead-in such as given. You might wonder.  I suspect there may be someone who immediately knows what this is.  Well, maybe not.

We spent a day in Blacksburg (VA) for a special family activity and on the way back chose to drive a portion on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The stretch we chose began at Bent Mountain and continued to the Buena Vista area.  I had made a similar drive in 1967 (on a different stretch) in either late May or early June when the Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel were showing their colors.  Much too early this time for colors with the exception of what we believed to be the "Silver Bell" trees (for those of you needing the formal name: Halesia carolina") which from a distance suggested it might be a dogwood.

Still too early for dogwood and other colors but a wonderful drive with an unimpeded view largely because we were early enough to beat the leaves and Spring growth.  There were few on the road as most facilities were closed and the side venture was much our own; save for a few hikers.

A portion of the drive is shared with the Appalachian Trail; a hiking trail that runs approximately 2200 miles along the crest of the Appalachians from Georgia to Maine traversing 14 states. The trek is one which many attempt to accomplish.  Not all make it.  A few years ago the stats were suggesting of those attempting to complete the entire walk only about 20% actually completed endeavor successfully.  It is typical for one to begin in the early Spring in Georgia and then to finish 5 to 6 months later in Maine.  This allows for cool weather at the beginning and a finish before the winter weather arrives to the north.  Few attempt the trek from north to south.

Along the way we stopped and visited a hiking family of 6, 4 children and their parents, who had started in Georgia and were already in Virginia.  The children were pre-teens and had their own packs and equipment.  They were resting by a tree where 2 of the boys were already sitting on branches and I proposed taking their picture with all either in the tree or cradled in the split base.  The picture was with their camera.  In this day and age I just didn't have the nerve to ask to use mine as well.  It would have been a nice picture and I hope they enjoy the one I took for them.  Apparently they are a hiking family having prepared themselves on a 200 mile trek in England.  A far cry from the 2200 mile trek they now faced but they looked none the worse for wear.  As is frequently the case with trail hikers, before leaving they had mailed supplies ahead to different post offices along the way for those post offices to hold the supplies until they arrived to collect them.  There are shelters along the way and they had spent the night before during the heavy overnight rains protected from the elements.  Nevertheless, we wished them well and drove off in the comfort of our car.

Oh, I guess I should return to "Cathartes aura."

The turkey vulture.  I've seen many turkey "buzzards" before, even one flying around the old courthouse in Manassas.  Never before had I seen so many in one day.  They were either soaring above  us or, as this one is doing, doing that which comes naturally.  Although I've always called them "buzzards" they are actually vultures.  I'm not sure I know the difference.  In any event they rely upon dead animals for the vast majority of their diet.  Here is one doing just that with a squirrel.  He (or she) had a couple of friends who had retreated as we approached but this one was obviously hungrier and felt no fear from our presence.  We eased forward and this one did retreat to a nearby tree but clearly with the intent to return for dessert.  The tree wasn't far away and the location allowed me to take a better pic with a clearer depiction of colors.

I was surprised to learn that these creatures have their own "interest group."  There is a "Turkey Vulture Society" which, among its purposes, is a dedication "to promote scientific study of the life habits and needs of the Turkey Vulture, to protect the vulture and its habitat, and to inform the public of the valuable and essential services this bird provides to us and the environment."  I really only know two things about this raptor.  It is obviously a good answer to cleansing our streets of road kill and it is dumb.  It doesn't know enough to shelter itself from the weather.  Very recently in a spring snow, sleet and freezing rain storm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,  a large turkey vulture dropped out of the sky onto the deck of a home.  The husband remarked "My wife was making breakfast, and she suddenly yelled, 'Adam!  A large bird just fell out of the sky.'"  The bird was iced over but still alive.  The vulture is being nursed back to health (thawed) and will probably soon again be soaring over the Sioux Falls countryside.  Doubtful the lesson has been learned so Sioux Falls residents be warned.  Also, there have been other reports of similar incidents involving these birds following this incident.  Maybe the "Society" has an answer?

As we passed our friend we encountered some beautiful vistas and a most relaxing meander home.

The Peaks of Otter were on the way...

  ...and then the flat lands to the east where home awaited.

...til next time...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

At the end of September every year, with the exception of only a few fans associated with only a few teams, the frequently heard phrase is "when is opening day" which hand in hand is paired with "wait 'til next year."  You see, in baseball October is reserved for but a few but even for them when October comes to an end the phrases become much the same for most of those fans too.  The season is over and all anticipation turns to the new beginning, the new life, which comes in April or, this year, on March 31.

The offseason is like a purgatory.  We fans sit and wait all in anticipation of the new season.  Oh, for sure, there is the hot stove league, the excitement in trades or other pick-ups that will, hopefully, make the next year better;  there is the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League to help you pass the time; but more than anything else there is the wait.  The great Hall of Fame second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, Rogers Hornsby, commented "People ask me what I do in Winter where there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do.  I stare out my window and wait for Spring."  And as that day approaches like the maple trees readying themselves for their gift of Spring syrup so also the baseball fan readies himself for the gift of of the umpire's call for "Play Ball."

It is new life.  There's a reason every stadium is full to capacity on Opening Day.  There is not a baseball fan anywhere who does not believe "this will be the year."  There's a rise in every heart that October for this year should be set aside.  The players and fans together are flush with enthusiasm and the excitement for all on Opening Day gives warmth to even the cold that may be a last gasp from Winter's hand.  The sounds from the crack of the bat and the ball hitting a leather glove are all that are necessary for the new beginning to be set in place and for a fresh breath to prime and then run the heart and soul of every baseball fan in whatever stadium or venue he may find himself.  Let it begin!

May tomorrow be an "Opening Day" for each of you in whatever stadium or venue you find yourself.  It has been a long winter and now the empty stadium will fill and as sure as anything the call of "Play Ball" will resound for all.  The long wait is over...

...til later...

Gianna's Birthday

The reason for the trip north to Michigan this past weekend was to celebrate Gianna's birthday on Saturday.  It was festive for a two year old's birthday and "big sis" Kiera gave an early toast for the occasion.  Mind you, no need to worry over the glass contents.  Kiera is the same 6 year old who favors a good steak, salmon, asparagus, broccoli - and here - it is a glass of blueberry, pomegranate juice.  Kiera would say "here's to your good health too."  

Then it was the birthday girl who was the center of attention on Saturday.  Almost buried in packages of which she made quick work she was full of smiles.

From a pillow pet, this one a bumble bee,

to a sit and spin, she was spinning all day long.  Rebbecca made the theme for the party "Crayons" and, as you see in the foregoing pic, Gianna was clutching her crayon box in one hand while opening most of her presents with the other.  Also note the wrapping paper above with candles posing as crayons to the

Crayon styled rainbow cake which was then further decorated with a generous helping of hand made ice cream  (actually custard) made by Aaron for all to eat.

A wonderful day with limitless frolicking (from a good Dutch word - vrolijk) which became lively even for the Irish among us.  A little bit too lively with the grandchildren for which a vacuum was necessary.  Is it any wonder why I choose to hide behind the camera?!

...til later...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pilgrimage to Milan

In setting out on another trip to visit with grandchildren (and, of course, their parents) in Michigan, I grabbed up some reading material for those free moments that might arise. One of the "grabs" was an insert from our local Public Works department that accompanied the monthly utility bill. We're riding along, I'm driving, and I asked Sheila to scan the insert to see if there was anything of significance.  She reached page 3 and while reading to herself began to breathe more heavily then before.  I asked and she read the following to me.

Never Put CFLs in the Trash
Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Contain Mercury

Q:  When an energy efficient light bulb breaks, is it okay to vacuum it up and throw it in the trash?
A:  NO  -  energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) contain mercury.  The amount is small, but it is still very dangerous to humans if leaked into the soil or water.  In addition, the mercury vapor leaked into the air at the time of the breakage is dangerous to anyone present in the room.


Place burned out CFLs that are NOT broken in two re-sealable zipper storage bags (bag within a bag).  Take them to Home Depot, Lowe's or any other recycling center that will accept them.  Or, take them to the Manassas Transfer Station on Household Hazardous Waste collection days (April 2, May 7, June 4, July 9, August 6, Sept. 10, 8 a.m. to noon).


   1.  Leave the room for 15 minutes or more.  Take pets with you and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.  Open a window.  Shut off the heat, air conditioning or fans.
   2.  When you return, carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using an index card.
   3.  Place fragments in a glass jar with metal lid or in two re-sealable zipper storage bags (bag within a bag).
   4.  Use sticky tape to pick up any remaining glass or powder.  Place used tape in jar or bag.
   5.  Wipe area with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place in a jar or bag.
   6.  Wash your hands.  Seal the jar or bag and place outside your home.  Take to recycling center or the Manassas Transfer Station on Household Hazardous Waste collection days.
   7.  The next few times before you vacuum, open a window and shut off circulating air.  After you vacuum, wait 15 minutes before closing the window and turning on air.

And with that the blurb ended.  It too must have been out of breath.  My 1st reaction was "gad zooks."  I then immediately thought that this must be an April Fools joke - but it was only March 24.  I then thought of those fluorescent tubes I had handled in the past and how I had surely done so in violation of someone's law and how in having done so I had probably shortened my life by years.  For those who know me, ziploc bags are a piece of cake.  The other steps are going to be a challenge.  I haven't had an index card for years.  Time to stock up knowing how clumsy I am.  Wet wipes - not a problem either.  As for jars (I opt for them over bags unless they tell me how thick the bag must be), we still have a few old Mason and Ball jars downstairs and I'll have to check on lids. We'll handle that task alright; if we get that far.  That's because opening the windows will be a problem.  We so seldom open them and when we do it is usually to wash them.  That is a project - not washing them, but opening them.  You see our windows stick - and do they stick!  Putty knives and patience are always needed.  It could take many (apparently precious ones at that) minutes to open a single window.  It will probably take two of us to handle a breakage and while Sheila is struggling with the window(s), I'll tackle the A/C or furnace.  Of course, the problem is even greater for us as the "next few times before you vacuum ..." means the window ordeal does not pass with the breakage but it continues.  Now, sealing the jar or bag and placing outside your home presents another problem.  Where to place it, in proximity to what, and for how long?   Since Home Depots, Lowe's and other transfer stations won't take the broken CFLs, we would need to wait until the next Hazardous Waste collection day.  Heaven forbid the breakage occurs after September 10.  It would be a long winter before April arrived.  What happens if we have the grandchildren visiting?  If, as the blurb states "the mercury vapor leaked into the air at the time of the breakage is dangerous to anyone present in the room," is it more so to children?  Do we chase the children out of the room - but how far away?  And will they stay away?  Of course not!  That means Sheila goes with the grandchildren and I'm "stuck" with the stuck windows and juggling all the other required tasks.  Oh well - progress always comes at a price.

Fortunately Sheila read the blurb to me early in the trip and I had plenty of time to think about how to handle plans before the first changes begin (with 100w bulbs) in 2012.  Satisfied that I'd be stuck with the windows I knew it was time for a trip, in this case a pilgrimage, to the birthplace of Thomas Alva Edison.  The home where he was born and then raised for his first 7 years is in Milan, Ohio, along the way and thus not a major deviation from our travels.  Surely our presence in his childhood environment would yield an answer to this challenge.  After all, it was Edison who put us in this predicament.  Although he did not invent the incandescent light as others had devised incandescent light systems before him, those others had failed to find a way to make it a commercial product.  Edison did and thus he is credited with inventing the first commercial incandescent light.  Well I pondered, and I pondered, while in the presence of his home, but I found no auras or signs that were of any help.  It was left to me.  The answer:  We came back from Michigan with a trunk loaded with 100w incandescent bulbs and I'm on my way out to buy more.  At the very least I will have bought more time to resolve this challenge.  The only thing I will have to worry about for the first year or two will be those strange bags and jars that show up in my yard deposited by frustrated neighbors who don't know what to do with the darned things over the winter and who are upset with me for my incandescent bulb collection.  Oh well...

Edison's Birthplace and childhood home - Milan, Ohio

SYB or save your bulbs ...
...til later...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two Sides to the Coin

This has been a week in which Spring has received it's invitation and the signs are that it has accepted.  From the worms that couldn't make it off the pavement following the rains,  to the crocuses and tulips that are trying to say it's time, and to the temperatures in the 50s and 60s which have made it all possible. One side of the coin is the Ahhhh!  The fresh air, open windows, soft breezes, smells and colors of Spring to which the early springtime flowers contribute so much...


to the other side of the coin, the uhhhh!  The uhhhh includes the attention needed for the weeds which have outpaced the flowers in their appearance, the shrubs which failed to weather the winter so well and need replacement, and, oh yes, the 75 bags of mulch that need spreading.  

The coin landed heads up meaning ahhhh prevails but the  ughhhh will no doubt for a short while follow the uhhhh after the mulch is spread.  Hope you're enjoying your spring.  ...til later...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little Saturday Fluff

It was a partly cloudy morning after a brief shower and the temperatures were to flirt with the 60s in the afternoon; rain was forecast for the nighttime hours.  The options included doing some much needed yard work (still branches about that need collecting from earlier storms and ...) or finding some fluff activity in keeping with a master procrastinators natural inclinations.  I persuaded Sheila that we needed to travel up US Highway #1 in Maryland.  I've always preferred traveling the older highways in search of the Mom and Pop diners and restaurants but time has usually dictated otherwise.  Eventually I will travel the highway, north to south, Maine to Florida, and hopefully the lengths of US 40 and US 66 but today, I insisted, only a stretch in Maryland.  In the back of my mind the planning included "The Dairy."  

Many of the universities with agricultural schools will produce dairy products.  Many of those schools will then have an outlet from which the general public can purchase (usually reasonably priced) very rich and satisfying (we won't use the word filling) ice cream.  The closest for us is the University of Maryland in College Park.  Oh sure, there are the B&Rs, Cold Stones, and whatever other choice you might have, but the best for me has been from the dairy outlets.  "The Dairy" is located directly on US Rt #1 just a few miles into Maryland from DC.  What planning!   We arrived at just the right time for a pairing with lunch.  Only "The Dairy" was closed.   It seems there are only a few Saturdays during the year when it is open.  What planning!!!  A disappointment at the very least but a wonderful day followed notwithstanding.  The U of M dairy outlet is easy to find as it's located at the Visitor's Center but the best dairy outlet (so far with more to come) was the University of Wisconsin's which is hard to find.  Put me in Madison again and I'll find it though.

Here's a pic of the Visitor Center and if you look to the left between the far left columns you'll see where to go.

Back onto Rt 1 and north to Baltimore.  "Charm City" as it is called is an easy day trip allowing for plenty of "fooling around" time.  Fooling around we did.  We left Rt 1 at US 40 and headed east eventually winding our way back into Baltimore having followed as closely as we could the train tracks upon which we rode just 2 weeks ago.   A relaxing day that permitted our return home for a late dinner.

This is a pic of Baltimore as approached from US Rt 1 on the south side.  Notice the string of billboards.

Of course we returned home to the same branches on the ground and the other chores I had evaded - all of which can be handled on another day.   ...til later...

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Weekend in New York

Our February trips (Boston, Sweden, Bath County, Ireland, Savannah, Asheville...) have all been exceptional and without any winter weather challenges of consequence.  Beginning our weekend last Friday (2/18) we left Manassas by Amtrak leaving behind an unseasonal 76f record temperature.  We knew the weather would be changing but, after all, New York was enjoying the mild weather as well with temperatures into the mid 60s.  Although not much snow this winter we have experienced strong winds from time to time.  A pic taken the afternoon of our departure of the train depot with a hint of the windy weather this winter.

Of course, it was just a year ago (2/9/10) when I took the next two pics of the depot and track area which represents quite a significant departure from our 76f.

Sheila watches as the train approaches.  Our train is the Amtrak "Cardinal" arriving from Chicago with NY (Penn Station) as the destination.  Her coat was not in keeping with the weather at the time but you can only pack so much and we knew there would be a change.

The train was only a few minutes minutes late.  Nevertheless, leaving Manassas after 5:00 pm meant only a little bit of daylight for the trip and certainly darkness by the time we'd reach DC.  This was the first train trip for me since 1968 with the exception of a steam engine excursion in the late 70s;  similarly for Sheila.  The train looked like it had labored hard over the West Virginia hills to reach us and so also did the passengers.  Many were asleep and snack boxes were prevalent throughout the car.  Those who had been on the train since Chicago had 24 hours on board with another 5 hours to go until NY.  Arrival in DC allowed for a change in engines and we set off from DC just a few minutes behind schedule.  It really was a comfortable trip and the timing was equivalent to a car drive to NY but, then again, what to do with a car in NY?

Once leaving the train in NY I soon learned that I had completely misjudged the walking distance from Penn Station to our hotel.  18 blocks later we arrived panting (well at least I was) and I was barely able to speak my name to the desk clerk.  Thank heavens for suitcases on wheels - curse my computer bag and camera bag and all the other electronics that I had to squeeze in...  Come on Apple and give us an iPad with a USB and/or SD port and thankfully the M8 with only the 28mm was my camera choice leaving the heavier "stuff" at home.  It could have been worse.

The walk was interesting.  For two of the 18 blocks we walked behind a couple obviously out for the night.  She was wearing high heels (it was Fashion Week in NY) and she walked as if she was wearing ice skates with weak ankles.  The heels were pointed outward as she walked giving the clear impression that with any step one or the other of the heels might fracture.  When we passed by she was still standing and she will always enjoy my sympathy.

The weather was also changing.  The temperature in NY had dropped to 50f from an earlier 66f but the wind was winding-up to some "no-good."  Of course, we were walking into the wind too.  Not much was flying but we did walk with our mouths tightly closed in anticipation.  Further anticipation was for what might greet us in the morning.  As we were walking up 8th Avenue it seemed that everyone had set trash out for collection, presumably for overnight or Saturday morning pick-up.  Some of the trash bags were not tied securely and I could only imagine what tomorrow would look like.  The high wind warnings called for winds approaching 60mph and with that wind some of the bags themselves would be airborne.

The last time I had been to NY was in 1983, and I had forgotten how friendly NY'ers are or how they just don't care about some things.  In the 18 blocks I bumped into more shoulders and elbows than I think I had in the past 10 years.  I must admit I tried to keep a straight line but after 12 blocks I wasn't responsible anymore.  Nevertheless, not a single wry remark, mostly no looks or comments at all, and for each bump I must have said "excuse me" a minimum of two times each.  I don't think anyone paid attention.

After reaching the room we looked out onto 8th Avenue from our 2nd floor room, saw even more trash bags, and just closed the curtains.  Sleep.

The first view in the morning was out the window.  Miraculously the trash bags were gone, whether having been collected by the sanitation department or having blown away to Long Island, they were no longer in sight.  True, there was some paper blowing around but someone had clearly done his job.  The temperatures were still falling and were now in the mid 30s in the company of what were now bitter winds.  Someone later said the windchill was 5f.  It was all of that.

Although I had charted activities for us I had not planned on bitter winds.  The refuge for us on this particular Saturday morning was to find a "hop on, hop off" bus to get our bearings and regroup.  A brutal walk a block and a half from the hotel brought us to the bus.  Once on the bus, we decided to accomplish three things:  Ground Zero, Katz's Deli, and the "Phantom" for which we had 8:00 pm tickets; anything else would be gravy.   The bus was a refuge from the wind but every once in a while a gust lapped at our backs as the bus was open in the rear.  Still we were comfortable.  In fact, comfortable enough that we decided to pass by the first opportunity to stop at Ground Zero and instead head on to Katz's for lunch.

We "hopped off' several blocks from Katz's and stayed, as best we could, on the sunny side of the street. As we passed a little market I was taken by a dried fruit display and for the first time pulled out the camera.  Both camera and fingers were cold but a shot was taken.  This was my first sense that the camera would probably spend more time in the bag than in my hands.  True, it was only for a second that I thought the fruit had shriveled from the cold.

Katz's Deli.  Pastrami sandwiches.  Root beer.  Pickles.  What more could you want for a Saturday lunch?  It was crowded on the inside...

...and on the outside.

After lunch that left us time to work back to the Ground Zero area.  Once there we struggled for a good vantage point to view the new construction of the Freedom Center which will be located on the site of the towers.  It is to be 108 stories tall and 1776' feet in height.

Within the shadows of the towers is St Paul's Chapel, remarkably unscathed in the aftermath of the 911 events.  Construction of the Chapel was completed in 1766.  The Chapel contains the pew where George Washington prayed following his inauguration as president on April 30, 1789.  After walking around the site we were tired and beastly cold.  The return to the hotel was welcome.

Saturday night was our visit to the Majestic Theater for the performance of "The Phantom of the Opera."   Neither Sheila nor I had attended a Broadway play before and neither of us had seen the "Phantom."  We dressed in dark suit and tie style only to find that the "dress-up" on Broadway is the same as I suspect most everywhere else now ...  a casual plus, at best.  Although I did not stand at the door watching everyone leave, I saw only two other ties and no other suits.  It was somewhat surprising as at the National, the Kennedy Center, Arena State and other venues in the DC area there would be more suits and ties although here too the numbers of such dress are dwindling.  Bottom line: there were more jeans and baseball caps than ties in the Majestic on Saturday night.  Somewhat disappointing as it's always been enjoyable to dress up and show respect for the performers.  In this case, I suspect the applause for the performance was really what the performers wanted to hear and it was well deserved.  The evening was most enjoyable and a wonderful performance.

Not having had dinner beforehand and having checked local restaurant listings I was struck by the fine comments given for John's Pizzeria which was conveniently located directly across the street from the Majestic.  The site is a converted church and the pizza was, dare I say, heavenly.  The guide had suggested that the "pizzas are amazing."  We agreed.  The winds had subsided and we walked back to the hotel after having arrived in a cab.  More on cabs later.

Sunday was cold but the winds were quieter.  We walked to Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral and were pleased to find the celebrant to be Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  After Mass we walked about the Cathedral and among the altars found one for St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower), a French Saint who had entered a Carmelite Covent and who had died very young at age 24.

Construction of the Cathedral began in 1858 and was completed in 1879.

After Mass it was off to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) just a few blocks north of St. Patrick's.  The museum was featuring a collection of photographs by women and it would have taken all day, and then some, to work through the entire museum and all the exhibits.  We settled on the women's photography exhibit and lunch.  Lunch consisted of wurstels, kraut, and horseradish mustard.  Oh they called it something else but this is what it was and it was good.  Of course, by now we've had pastrami sandwiches, pizza, sausages, and sauerkraut.  A vacation diet?

After leaving MoMA we set out on a walk down 5th Avenue.  Next destination was the New York Public Library.  Along the way, sure enough, we happened upon a street food vendor hawking our dietary leanings for the weekend.  Then again, we were in a bit of hurry to move on and the lady to the right with the eager hands was first in line so we took a pass.  Hope she enjoyed her wurstel.  There were vendors all along 5th Avenue and throughout the city.  Some with roasted nuts (chestnuts) and other tempting bites.  We were under control at this time.

A pic of Sheila and the New York Fashion Week poster.  Unfortunately the shoes were men's shoes.  Couldn't find a poster in the right window with women's shoes.

About to enter the New York Public Library (5th Ave at 42nd St) and all of a sudden this "tourist" from California jumps into the pic with Sheila.  Great moment.

The library had a number of exhibits including  an exhibit on the three Abrahamic religions.  Time was passing and we were soon on our way.

The Empire State Building from Bryant Park.  This was on our walk back to the hotel.  Lovely little park with a skating rink.

We had decided to finish the night with a nighttime bus tour of the city and Brooklyn.  Dinner was out of the question at that time as lunch was still with us.  The bus tour was outstanding but the tour was cut short by the driver.  As if to encourage no opposition from the passengers we sensed that the heat had been turned off on the bus shortly before we we were told of the shortened tour.  As it was in the low to mid 20s outside and close to that inside the bus there wasn't much complaining about returning early to the "barn."  The guide was informative, interesting, and a New Yorker by 32 years with roots in Michigan.  Michigan was well in his past and New York was his home and in his heart.  He kept telling us his name as if he wanted me to make note of it - David Furman.

Once finished with the shortened bus tour it had to be time to eat again.  And it was.  This time it was an Irish Pub for fish and chips and, I am embarrassed to say, onion rings.  Someone near us had ordered rings and when we saw them we decided we needed an order too.  Add another item to our weekend  diet confusion.  All was tasty and we survived our tilted eating habits.  We didn't linger at the pub.  Sunday night was the NBA All Star game and there must have been 10 TVs working at maximum volume throughout the pub.  It was difficult to hear anything else and pointless to speak.  The score from the morning paper would be sufficient and we walked the few blocks between the pub and our hotel.

Morning wasn't that far away and with that would come our return home.  We awoke in the morning to discover a couple of inches of snow had fallen.  The streets seemed only wet and our train was a noontime departure.  This time there would be no 18 block hike.  We enjoyed another breakfast at the hotel, packed, and hailed a cab.

The story of our visit to NY would be incomplete without mention of our cab rides and, in particular, the ride to Penn Station.  No sooner had the bags been "trunked" we were off like a shot.  We had three lanes available to us and we were using all of them.  In and out of traffic but not always with gradual lane changes.  At one point we moved across the three lanes in what was as close to a perpendicular move as possible.  I kept looking for my seat belt but never found it.  The driver must have looked back and seen fear on my face and interpreted that as if we were late.  He only sped up.  For the life of me I have no idea as to how we avoided an accident.  If our driver wasn't beeping his horn, someone else was beeping at us.  We did make it and I could not help but think that he'd cheated himself with the meter with his speed.  I gave him a more generous tip then otherwise but largely because we had survived and we were now finished with the ride.

The return trip to Manassas was in daylight and the sights along the way invited return trips by car for pics.  We saw many too many old factory buildings, old warehouses, and old row houses and homes that were vacant and gutted.  Traveling on old track beds is probably not the best way to see pleasing vistas but some of that which we saw was broader than that which could be blamed on the tracks and their location.  It was nice to return home to Northern Virginia.  Yet the trip to NY left us with so many more reasons to return to NY for more visits that the only question now is "when."

...til later...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finally Some Snow!

Following last year's many "thumpings" with snow (67.5" for the winter), "thumpings" at least for Northern Virginia, it had seemed until last Tuesday that winter, save for the constant cold weather, would pass us by this year.  Snow, and healthy amounts of snow, was either to our north or our south and sometimes on both sides with our being stuck in a dry hole up until Tuesday.  Finally on Tuesday we received some snow but a heavy, wet snow.  We experienced a little over 6" in something less than 5 hours time.  It came in a hurry, fell in a hurry, and left in a hurry.  Last year our magnolia tree was denuded of its lower branches on one side and now it's starting on the other side.  If we suffer a serious freezing rain event this winter we may have only a "telephone pole" where the tree once stood.  Last year the cedar trees took a beating and the weight of Tuesday's snow was heavy but the Cedars seem to have withstood the event.  The 6" plus on Tuesday exceeds the total accumulation previously this winter and certainly was a pleasing sight.  If this is all the snow for the year I may have to remind myself of last year with a recap and accompanying pics.
The camera and I didn't make it into the yard until Wednesday afternoon and the pics show a glimpse of the weight on the branches.  The night before we had given some relief to the trees with gentle broom swipes so the pics fail to show the "full weight."

One of the sideyard cedars

A backyard cedar with some warmth from the snow and ivy

One of the remaining lower magnolia branches

...til later...