99 places to go

well at least that’s the challenge I saw upon reading Daniel Smith’s 100 Places You Will Never Visit, one of the titles I’ve finished in a recent reading marathon that is bringing my 2014 total toward respectability. I’ve been to one, and if I can get there on a whim (albeit with a tour group), they can’t all be that inaccessible.

While the majority of the military sites are of no interest to me, from a history lover’s point of view, I loved this book. The vignettes about each location tell you enough about each to pique your curiosity without getting too detailed. While it skewed American, I like that he included a range of international locations. My only complaint was that in ebook conversion, the photo captions were rendered almost too small to be legible and increasing font size had no effect as they were treated as part of the image.

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#GoTheDist 2.2

About halfway through May I realized that 300,000 steps for the month was doable after just missing it. And then I became a woman on a mission to make it happen. I wasn’t sure if I had since I was away from my spreadsheet but after entering Weds-Sat… I MADE IT!

May Totals:

  • 305, 841 steps
  • 125.05 miles walked
  • 21.09 miles on the bike

Q2 Totals:

  • 604,663 steps
  • 248.49 miles walked
  • 21.09 miles on the bike

2014 Totals:

  • 1,198,375 steps
  • 499.42 miles walked
  • 124.9 miles on the bike

I’m pretty damn happy with that. Check that, very damn happy. I’m 100 miles shy of my official GTD goal and 150 shy of my personal. While those are a little iffy depending on weather, I’m less than 100K steps from my steps goals. I’m doubly excited as June is the first month where I’ll have year on year steps data. [2013 data: 315,031 steps, 132.24 miles walked and 50.1 miles on the bike].

Yep, I’m going to have to bust my hump to get this… but isn’t that what goals are for?

Lower East Side Then and Now

for all the tours I’ve done with the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, I had only done a mini tour of the Lower East Side. It was time to fix that, so I joined this weekend’s tour, the Lower East Side Then and Now. Among other things, I was excited that it included Bialystoker, a building about which I’ve been curious for some time.

I can say without a doubt that this was one of the most interesting tours I’ve done, and also one of the most stunning.

It was a perfect spring day with scarcely a cloud in the sky, which I think led to the vibrant light within the buildings we visited, but I also think Bialystoker would be beautiful wrapped in black construction paper.

While Bialystoker is best known for its mazalot (great information and more and photos), I found the architectural history even more amazing. Yes, the presence of zodiac signs in an orthodox shul is slightly surprising, but challenges of dealing with the conversion of what was the Willets St. Church into Bialystoker Synagogue in 1905 was awe inspiring. I also had no idea that the Manhattan Schist from which it was built was from a quarry practically next door on Pitt St. While the building looks distinctly Jewish with its Stars of David, there are telling pieces of its christian history, including the stained glass and an altar-looking Ark of the Torah, for which the congregation received dispensation for it not facing east. That is believed to be one of the reasons for the extensive imagery of Israel in the synagogue’s interior. While I knew Shelly Silver worshipped at Bialystoker, I had no idea it was once home to Bugsy Siegel and Max Lansky, father of Meyer Lansky. Living history, not all positive.

From Bialystoker we headed down E. Broadway past:

  • some of the original buildings of the Henry Street Settlement;
  • the recently landmarked Bialystoker Center (called “one of the last remaining physical reminders of the Jewish Lower East Side”);
  • a few of the remaining shteibl of what was once Shteibl Row;
  • the Forward Building (yep, an interesting mix of then and then with Tatum O’Neal trying to buy crack in Seward Park); and
  • an unexpected view of One World Trade with the Manhattan Municipal Building.

It’s a really striking mix of then and now. While the neighborhood has changed (and will continue to change with SPURA-more on that later), there’s still a swing back that has been going on since 2000. While the old shteibl aren’t expected to survive long term as their congregations die off, the young returners are worshipping at Bialystoker again.

From E. Broadway we had a quick detour up Norfolk Street to Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the shell of the oldest Russian, orthodox congregation in the US. This was the synagogue that first caught my attention back in November and which I’d thought about recently while wondering how much of the neighborhood SUPRA would touch. It turns out that in addition to the building in which the Conservancy’s visitor center is located, SPURA will come right up against the old Norfolk Street Shul. Hopefully the visitor center will find a new home within Essex Crossing, but there’s no doubt the development is going to change the neighborhood. I find it amusing or amazing, not honestly sure which, that both SPURA and the Second Avenue Subway are finally happening.

Our next and final stop was Kehila Kedosha Janina, the only remaining congregation of Romaniote Jews in the Western Hemisphere. Another amazing interior, and the women’s section doubles as a museum.  This was one of the many landmarked places we saw/visited on the tour that it’s going to be interesting to see how the landmarks of the old neighborhood hit among the new SPURA buildings. I found the Museum Director’s explanation that they’re “less neurotically Orthodox” an interesting one. If not for the gorgeous torah scrolls I’m not sure I’d have realized this was an orthodox shul.

With Bialystoker today, Eldridge St. many times over and Stanton St. and Angel Orensanz last November, I think I’ve hit all the iconic synagogues of the Lower East Side. I’ve also seen some of the amazing uptown architecture, but alas I haven’t been in any. I’m especially glad that I was able to visit Angel Orensanz as it is currently closed due to structural issues and there is no timeline for when/if it will reopen.

All in all, another amazing day on the Lower East Side.

9/11 Remembered

The new museum must help those unborn or unaware on 9/11/01 to understand an awful time. That means telling stories. ” ~ Rick Hampson (with audio)

Reflections of WFC in the South Tower pool

Reflections of WFC in the South Tower pool

Controversial Virgil quote

Controversial Virgil quote

Slurry wall and iconic Last Column with visitors

Slurry wall and iconic Last Column with visitors

The rest of the photos are here.

I argued with myself about attending tonight’s industry preview of the 9/11 Museum, which opens to the public on Wednesday. I nearly didn’t walk through the door and probably would not have if I hadn’t been engaged and talking to a colleague as we approached. But I went, and I’m glad.

As I said briefly on Facebook. I think we have a responsibility to go. I said to a colleague on site, “if it took 13 years to get it right, I’m glad it took 13 years.” This was not something that could be rushed. 9/11 changed the world and the museum needed to reflect that. And I think they beyond nailed it. Perhaps the most poignant thing about today was that the Plaza/Memorial is no longer fenced in. You can cross it to enter the museum, visit the Pools, etc. It is truly public space again.

9/11 is odd to me. I had moved to Osaka three weeks prior and followed 9/11 though a very time shifted and distant lens. I am forever grateful that I wrote that up because my initial reactions to the 9/11 Memorial are lost to time. That’s why I’m writing this now.

While the tridents are meant to be the museum’s icons, it was the Last Column and the controversial Virgil quote that repeatedly hit me today. The museum’s own posts about the Last Column say more than I can about the symbol of our city’s resiliency. The Virgil quote has been an issue for three years but it recently bubbled up again due to the context. I was aware of the controversy and the context, but seeing it in the atrium today was no less powerful. And I wasn’t even aware on site that it was the “guardian” to the museum’s tomb of the unknowns.

I did not read the captions today. I can’t. I wasn’t ready to see 9/11 as a museum. It’s still living history to me. One day I will go back, see the exhibits, and read captions

Today was about stepping foot on a plaza I hadn’t since at least August 2001 that is now hallowed ground.

#GoTheDist 2.1, Went!

Totals for April:

  • 298,822 steps
  • 123.44 miles walked

Personal Q2 goals, you are well in sight. As is the official #GoTheDist goal of 350 miles walked.

If I’d realized how close I was to 300K steps or 125 miles walked this month I’d have figured out a way to get them. But this is still very good. Thank you this past weekend!

Review: Jeneration X

So I realized something sad when I started to read Jeneration X, Jen Lancaster’s 2012 “chapter” of her non-fiction series: I think I’ve outgrown it. This is equal parts sad and odd because a) I used to love her non fiction titles and b) I’m at least a decade younger than she is.  At some point between My Fair Lazy and the latest chapter in her “I’m a fancy author and now so is my friend Stacey and I have to remind you every other page”, I got bored.Also sad, it look me four weeks to get through this book, only the sixth one I’ve finished this year. I am so off pace it is sad. I think the biggest issue with this one was a lack of filter or editor. Seriously, a book shouldn’t read like a blog, and there’s a reason I don’t read her blog.That said, there were some funnies in this book as well as some things I identified with — unfortunately they were somewhat drowned out by her egotism. Midway through the book when talking about eBay she identified herself as “hypercompetitive asshole”. At least she knows her shortcomings.Note to self: read the Amazon reviews before buying. A good number of them nailed exactly what I was thinking.

Those of us born between 1965 and 1980 had none of the benefits of the generations that came before or after us. We know nothing of the kinder, simpler America from the Camelot days, nor were we born with an innate understanding of how to operate Microsoft Windows. Today, we’re a beeper generation in a smartphone world. Watching this generation operate makes me very glad that people my age understand that tools like technology and social media are a means to an end and not the end itself. My generation didn’t play soccer so we know that when the game is over not everyone gets a trophy. Yet here we are, trapped in middle management between two massive cases of generational arrested development.So that’s what those of us in Generation X have done to define ourselves. We’ve become the only adults in a world full of children. I mean, if I could finally grow up? Anyone can.

In hind sight, that’s probably where I should have quit reading. Although I may or may not be Gen X depending on who is drawing the boundaries, I’m definitely closer to Gen Y/Millennial than her broad strokes.

“I don’t do shots anymore because I hate how they make me feel in the morning. Coincidentally, this is also why I no longer eat Lucky Charms for dinner. Much as I enjoyed both acts, I haven’t the liver or the stomach of a college kid anymore.”

Attempt to open the boxes of shipped items with a tablespoon. [Hey, it was the most handy pointy thing.]

I admit – this is me, to a T. Although it was Fruit Loops and not Lucky Charms, which are gross.

Overthinking Tourism in the South

“The crowds continue to visit the dead.

They walk through the gates at Auschwitz. They take the boats to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. They hike through battlefields and slave auction sites.” ~ Katia Hetter

First off, Charleston and Savannah are amazing. AMAZING. I am a history nerd and I fell in love with Charleston the first afternoon that we spent walking around. More on that and pictures soon.

However, there were moments that gave me serious pause as we began to plan the trip. The following were often recommended: Charleston’s Old Slave Market, Boone Hall Plantation, Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation. All with a dark history. Part of me thought I was over thinking it, until my brother mentioned the same thing while at Boone Hall.

While plantation life wasn’t on the scale of The Holocaust (where I also struggled with the idea of the camps as tourist destinations), it wasn’t rosy either. I especially took issue with one of the Boone Hall guides who made light of the fact that the slaves’ grave markers were gone. It didn’t seem to be something you should laugh about.

I’m still thinking about this three days later and decided to look into slavery and dark/memorial tourism. And I admit, this is where my tourism nerd side came in.

“When memories of the actual events fade, many people still come to memorials looking for answers as to why an awful thing could happen: How could Adolf Hitler have perpetrated the Holocaust? Why did Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge murder its people? Why did Japan attack the United States at Pearl Harbor? It’s a balancing act for memorial sites: How to teach the cruel facts of tragedy to an audience that is often on vacation.” ~Katia Hetter

The Camps bothered me. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bothered me.  Pearl Harbor didn’t, for whatever reason. Nor do battlefields (or Ft. Sumter on this recent trip). But the Plantation? That bothered me.

“Thanatourism” is apparently the buzz word, but I prefer dark tourism. I think thanatourism  hides it too much. It should be uncomfortable. It should make you think. Slave tourism is also apparently known as roots tourism.

As a history person, I think memorials are key. Not as much for those who lived through it (my generation doesn’t need “Never Forget” not to forget 9/11), but for those who didn’t witness it. They’re key to education. But being excited to visit it? That’s harder, yet I was eager to visit Boone Hall. Until seeing the “Slave Street” hit me.

The Institute for Dark Tourism Research is clearly an idea whose time has come. In Europe alone, tourist meccas are dark sites. Sadly, death is part of our heritage. Slavery is a huge part of both African and American history, and the slave castles in West Africa are experiencing growth. Is this good or bad?

In truth? I don’t know. But it’s definitely food for thought. And I have some more homework to do.

To Read:

#GoTheDist Q1 in the books

while I hit my official #GoTheDist goal (2 a few days early, I did not hit my personal goal.

My personal Q1 2014 goals were:

  • 700,000 steps
  • 300 miles walked and
  • 75 miles on the bike.

Totals for March:

  • 242,500 steps
  • 100.84 miles walked
  • 17.82 miles biked

Totals for Q1 2014:

  • 593,712 steps
  • 250.93 miles walked
  • 103.81 miles biked

I could blame the 3.5 days lost, or the eleventy billion polar vortices, but it is what it is. Not dwelling on it. I did top Q1 2013 (61.88 miles walked) in a huge way so I’m calling that a win.

Official Q2 goal is 350 miles walked.  My 2013 Q2 results were:

  • 300.5 miles walked
  • 98.36 miles biked

With that, I’m setting my personal goal as:

  • 700,000 steps
  • 400 miles walked
  • 125 miles biked

I do think that’s attainable. The weather is better and I’ll have a full three months of FitBit Flex data.

I’ve also been on a huge green drink kick and I’m doing the #SimpleGreenSmoothie challenge. THis is the year I will hit goal.

 

Invisalign is the new Weight Watchers?

Over the weekend I was kicking myself for missing my Weight Watchers anniversary, but then on the way home today I realized that I got my Invisalign very close to my WWversary. Now what on earth do braces have to do with WW (which I haven’t followed since Dec ’10 anyway)?

I’m down 4 lbs this week because Invisalign has *touch wood* kept me from snacking. It’s also my inherent laziness paying off. The m&m or whatever isn’t worth going to the bathroom, taking aligners out, eating whatever, going back to the bathroom, brushing my teeth and putting them back in.

Some wise friends said this isn’t going to last, but I’ll take it while it does. Maybe I’ll re-break a few bad habits while I’m at it?

Unrelated unexpected side effects: I’ve made my lunch for all of this week and made it last week too. I had no soda today. That was accidental I’m cutting back (hate Sprite, hate straws) but didn’t expect to go a day without.

But I still don’t like the taste of plain water.

photo 1

Invisalign, one week in. Aligners on.

Invisalign, one week in. Aligners on.

Henderson Place

Henderson Place Historic District sign on E. 86th St.

Henderson Place Historic District sign on E. 86th St.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve walked past these buildings on E. 87th or East End and wondered what relic they were… and then I spotted the sign above. I finally had a name to research. And what better time to do so then on the brink of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the New York City landmarks law.

Although not the oldest in the neighborhood (Gracie Mansion was built in 1799), they’re certainly the most picturesque.

Built in Queen Anne style in 1881-2, twenty four of the original thirty two houses remain. They were landmarked in 1969. The houses are named after John C. Henderson and were designed by Lamb & Rich. Sometimes called “dollhouse architecture“, they were built for people of “modest means” although they soon became home to some of Manhattan’s upper class families. Their history, like the architecture, is fascinating.

I’ve apparently added more small historic blocks to my NYC bucket list.