Monday, August 31, 2009

Take This Tune

My friend Jamie at Duward Discussion has chosen the song “Life Is A Highway” for this week’s prompt on her new Take This Tune meme and considering I’ve been doing an awful lot of driving around the countryside this summer, it somehow seemed appropriate for me to do this meme!

This past weekend I put another 756 miles on the odometer when Amanda and I went down to Baltimore for a couple days but I’ve also made several other trips this summer on highways in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Hampshire. I probably should have kept track of the number of miles I’ve driven but alas, that’s one of those ‘hindsight 20/20’ things that I didn’t think of at the time!

In thinking about it, though, it would have been a lot more interesting to have started a log of miles driven way back in the Dark Ages of 1976 when I first got my license as I’ve no doubt that I have racked up an impressive amount of mileage over the years starting with my very first car – a 1974 Chevy Chevette. It was that first car that carried myself and my best friend Carol on a journey from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and back to Connecticut when we both were but 18 years of age and equipped with a couple of maps, two cases of 8-track tapes, a major sense of adventure, and the resiliency of youth! We were footloose and fancy-free and, except for the occasional call from a payphone to let our parents know we were still alive, we were out of touch with our lives back home as there was still no such thing as the internet and email or cell phones. I bet kids these days would wonder how we managed to survive but we did and we had a great time.

With Amanda fast-approaching the same age I was when I took my first epic road trip across the country in my own car I’ve got to think that if she approached me with the same plan today, I’d have major serious doubts about the whole thing. Even with the technology to keep in touch just about every step of the way were it necessary along with electronic GPS to make getting lost virtually impossible, the highways of America have changed drastically since 1977 and road-trips are no longer the fun-filled journeys that they used to be.

As I’ve relearned from firsthand experience this past summer, the roadways are clogged with traffic and the act of driving - something that used to be fun and enjoyable - is now more of a white-knuckle experience as you grip the steering wheel and try to keep an eye out in all directions for drivers cutting in and out of traffic, cars mysteriously slowing down in the middle of the highway for no good reason, and people who obviously never learned how to merge while training for their licenses. My Dad’s best advice to me as a new driver was to “pick a lane and stay in it” but alas, you can’t even do that anymore as there are those people who seem to think that going ten miles below the speed limit in the 3rd lane over on a 4-lane highway is okay while people fly by on the right at speeds that make you look like you’re sitting still even if you’re going the 65 mph maximum.

If I’m tense and on the verge of road-rage simply driving from Norwich to New Haven with over 33 years of driving experience on my side, what makes me think that Amanda – with zero years of driving experience – is ready to get behind the wheel of a car? I don’t and that’s rather frustrating for her as she’d really like to get her license while I have no desire at all to see her do so because I know what it's like on the highways these days and it ain't pretty!

There are too many cars on the road these days, there are too many people not paying attention behind the wheels of those too many cars these days, and there are too many people who are bad drivers that are not paying attention behind the wheels of those too many cars these days to make me feel comfortable as the parent of a future driver (times two considering Jamie is also of licensing age). Heck, I’m not comfortable as an experienced driver these days and that’s really too bad because life really is a highway and it’s a shame that the joy of a road-trip has been diminished by the very act of getting there in the first place.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taking a Break in Baltimore

After some rather frustrating driving through downtown Baltimore we found the final resting place of E. A. Poe and then our resting place for the night- the Tremont Plaza. I'm now spending some time sitting on the outside second floor patio of a huge Barnes and Noble near the Inner Harbor listening to a very good local band and sipping iced coffee. Not bad, not bad at all!

Dining in Joisey!

We're on the road again - this time to Charm City aka Baltimore. Last night was spent in Cherry Hill, New Jersey after picking up Amanda's friend Darci. Just had breakfast at a classic New Jersey diner and now we're off to find all things Edgar Allan Poe. Fingers crossed for good weather!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Will Only Hurt a Bit ...

I haven't posted any of Amanda's artwork in awhile but she was rather pleased with the last piece she did so I told her I'd toss it on my blog being that she is absolutely horrible at posting on her own blog - just like she's absolutely horrible at locating the dirty clothes hamper and chooses the floor instead! She seems to think she has no knack for writing and doesn't like to do it but I'd like to beg to differ on that one however - as her mother - what do I know? Exactly!

Anyhow, this latest drawing is one that she did from a picture of Curtis and Erik - the two guys who make up her current favorite band Creature Feature -

Curtis is the tall one inflicting pain on Erik, the one with the retractor stuck in his mouth! If you'd like to take a look at the original picture that she based the drawing on please feel free to click here.

I'm none too savvy when it comes to drawings and the like but I believe she said she did this one using a grid method where she divided the original picture into 16 blocks and then went from there. It's probably too much like math for me to understand but suffice it to say I think she did a pretty good job, I especially like the shading and the feeling that you're looking down.

My only contribution to this whole project was when I asked her the name of the picture and she said "I dunno" so I suggested "This will only hurt a bit" - somehow it seemed appropriate!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Queen's Meme #7

Recently Mimi, The Royal Queen of Memes, has been running a regular series of memes for her royal subjects (or is that blogjects?) to do but because I have a lifetime "Get Out of the Dungeon Free" pass I've been rather remiss in doing any of them. That and I'm just really, really bad at doing memes these days!

However, not everyone is so lucky as to have a GOOTDF pass and while visiting one of my blog friends in Britian - Akelamalu - today she pleaded with at least five of her readers to do the meme in order to keep her out of the dungeon. Being the good blog buddy that I am (truly!) I thought I'd help her out and participate in this one - plus it's easy and fun!

The Queen's Meme #7 reprises the Message in a Bottle Meme that previously placed 285 bottles with messages both inspiring and funny floating through the bloggy ocean. Queen Mimi, though, has decided that's not nearly enough so she's commanding asking everyone to toss another one out there. Of course, as always seems to be the case, this meme comes with rules that you can either choose to adhere to or break depending on how you feel about being thrown into a damp, dark, rather cramped virtual dungeon! Should you decide to participate, the rules are as follows:

1. Compose a message to place in your virtual bottle below.
It can even be ANONYMOUS message.
The Queen will not reveal your identity.

2. Right click and Save the graphic below

3. Use a graphics program of your choice to place the message on the picture

4. Post the meme and these rules on your blog

5. Tag a minimum of five people - or your entire blogroll - to do the same.
Notify them of the tag.
Now I'm not going to tag anyone because - as I said - I've got that whole GOOTDF pass but if you'd like to play along, it really is a lot of fun and it's easy to boot. Fun and easy both sound good in my book!

Oh ... and as for my own message in a bottle ...

Tell me I haven't been watching too much Doctor Who with Amanda!

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Just In!

Received in my email this morning ...
8th Annual South County Tourism Council’s Photo Contest Winners Awarded!

The South County Tourism Council’s 8th Annual Photo Contest winners were unveiled on August 20th at the Courthouse Center for the Arts, 3481 Kingstown Road, West Kingston , during a wine and cheese reception and presentation of cash prizes totaling over $1,000. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners and 5 Runners Up were awarded. 10 Honorable Mentions were also recognized.

Stephen Wood won first place with “Clay Motion” taken in North Kingstown . Judi Wood won second place with “Westerly Library” taken in Westerly . Third place winner, Sybil Hebb, captured, “Lola At The Beach” in Westerly . Listed alphabetically, the 5 Runners Up were Michael Gocha, Linda Orlomoski, John Pitocco, Stephen Wood, and Ingrid Mathews. Photographers who had received “Honorable Mentions” were Eric Wertheimer, Judi Wood, Marc Jaffe, Michael Gocha, Alex MacLeod, Tammy Anderson, John Pitocco, Stephen Wood, and Franca Cirelli. Photographs will remain on display at the Courthouse Center for the Arts until September 10th.

Deb Stallwood, of Charlestown , photographer and board member to the Courthouse Center for the Arts, was challenged to judge this years contest winners from 416 photographs submitted.

Myrna George, President of South County Tourism Council said, “We are inspired by the creativity presented by the entrants in the Eighth Annual South County Tourism Council Photo Contest. Capturing the beauty within our communities of Charlestown , Coventry , East Greenwich, Exeter , Hopkinton, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Richmond , South Kingstown, Westerly and West Greenwich is the joy of our promotional planning. This year’s photographs are a true reflection of the love shared by many residents and visitors for this special place we call home.”

Jennifer E. Cantoni
Marketing Coordinator
South County Tourism Council
I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this as it's the first photography contest I've ever entered and I had hoped beyond hope to capture one of the Runner-Up spots and I did! Of course, it would have been nice to have been told about it before the wine-and-cheese reception but that's okay because I'm still uber excited that I won a Runner-Up spot out of 416 photographs submitted.

Gee, guess I'll have to take a drive over to the Photo Show while they're having it and see which picture won as I'm not even sure which one it was!


Just found out that it was this photo that won and I have to admit, it was one of my favorites!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Scribblings

One of the good things about modern technology these days is that it's much easier to keep in touch with people then it ever used to be. When Jamie went back to Florida two weeks ago she took with her a new cell phone that hopefully won't be taken away from her if/when she manages to get herself into trouble. The last time I tried giving her a cell phone, her dad was constantly taking it away and it was very frustrating that the phone had become an instrument of discipline instead of a way to keep in touch with me. Now that she seems to get in trouble less than she did before, I am hoping that the phone can be used for what it was meant to be - a way for us to keep in contact.

One way for her to do that is to send me pictures of the drawings that she has been working on. She sent me several yesterday and asked if I would use them on my blog. Being that I had absolutely no idea what to do for a Sunday post, I figured they'd be perfect and put them together into the following collage:

The quality isn't perfect as it's cell phone to cell phone to email and no doubt the quality suffers in the translation but still, they are much better than I could ever do as I have no talent whatsoever when it comes to drawing things - unless maybe it's drawing money out of the bank or drawing out a sentence or drawing on other people's talents to give me a blog post!

Happy Sunday everyone! And for those that this post popped up for yesterday, I have NO idea why it did that as it was set to publish on Sunday. Blogger problems?? Either way - have a great Sunday - which is TODAY!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thirty-Seven Years Ago Today

In August of 1972 I was living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at Pease Air Force Base which was where my dad had been assigned following his overseas tour in Iceland. I was 13 years old and would be starting my freshman year of high school in a few short weeks at a high school where I knew absolutely nobody being that I had graduated from 8th grade while living in my hometown of Canterbury. There was a lot to be nervous about but I had changed schools a lot already as that's what we military brats did - we moved every few years and we readjusted - but more than being nervous, I was distressed during that August of 1972 as my beloved grandfather was dieing and I knew it.

My Mom's father, known as Grampie and then Gramp to all of us cousins, had been diagnosed with leukemia and going for regular blood transfusions as that was the prescribed treatment for leukemia back in the dark ages of the 1970's. Being only 13 I didn't know all the ins and outs of his condition but I knew that during the summer of 1972, he took a turn for the worse. My Aunt Eleanor still thinks that he got "a bad batch" of blood as when he started to go downhill, he did so very rapidly.

It was decided that my Mom was going to head down to Canterbury to be near Gramp as they were pretty sure he didn't have very long to live and even though I didn't know all the specifics I knew with a certainty that my grandfather whom I loved deeply wasn't going to be around much longer. I seem to remember crying at the drop of a hat a lot during that time and I tried wearing sunglasses to hide my red and swollen eyes but I doubt I was fooling anyone. The decision had been made that my two youngest brothers would go down to Connecticut with my Mom and my older brother and I would stay in Portsmouth with my Dad as Mark and I were more than old enough to take care of ourselves while Alan and John would have lots of other family members around to keep them company.

The night before my mother was going to head down, I wrote her a letter and told her that I really wanted to go to Connecticut with her as I wanted to see Gramp before he died. I remember sticking it on her bedroom door so she'd find it in the morning. I knew that if I had tried to actually talk to my Mom about it, she probably wouldn't have understood me around the tears so I figured a letter was the best way to go.

Even though my Mom understood why I wanted to go with her and my two youngest brothers, she told me that she thought it would be better if I stayed with my Dad as my grandfather no longer looked like the Gramp that I remembered and she thought it best that the last pictures I had of him in my mind were as I saw him in June and not as the emanciated person that he had become. Apparently he was now mostly skin and bones and in all honesty, that's definitely not the way I would have preferred to remember him.

My mother left on Monday to go stay at my Aunt Eleanor's, whose house was very close to my grandfather's, while I stayed behind in Portsmouth and hoped and prayed for a miracle to save my grandfather. On Tuesday, our next door neighbors, the Craigles, asked if Mark and I would like to go for a ride on their boat out in the Great Bay at Newington. I think we both really wanted to get out of the house and jumped at the opportunity to go. I seem to recall that it was very nice out on the water and we had a really good time.

Shortly after we got home we were sitting in the living room watching TV when the phone rang. My Dad answered it with a simple "Hello?" and then there was a pause before he said "When?" To this day I remember the feeling I had of my heart stopping and my blood running cold as I knew that when he put the phone down he'd tell us that Gramp had died. I was as sure of it as I was of my name as I sat frozen in my chair.

Following the annoucement that I feared, we packed a few things into suitcases and climbed into the car for the 2-hour ride to Connecticut. Mark sat in the front seat with my Dad while I sat in the backseat behind my father. I'm pretty sure I didn't move for the entire ride as I stared at the moon that followed us through the night sky as I thought to myself that Gramp would never see the moon again. Beyond that, I don't remember thinking much of anything and I hadn't yet shed a tear; honestly, I think I was probably in shock.

When we got to my Aunt Eleanor's house it was after 11:00 but it was still pretty warm. August in New England is like that. My Aunt Eleanor asked how I was holding up and I think I just shook my head to try to indicate that I was okay. I went directly to bed in the room that I had spent the last few months of my 8th-grade school year in (I had lived with my Aunt Eleanor's family rather than transfer during the last few months) and after climbing into bed the tears finally came as I listened to the peep frogs and crickets outside of my window and thought "Gramp can't hear those anymore".

As I was walking into the house from the car last night, I heard those same noises that I heard the night my grandfather died - the same peep frogs and crickets and whatever other night musicians there are that create the cacophony of noise that defines August nights - and once again I thought to myself, "Gramp can't hear those anymore." It's been 37 years since my beloved Gramp left this earthly plane and yet every time I hear those night noises, it transports me right back to August 22nd, 1972.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking at the Sky on Friday

I've come to the conclusion that I am just no good at doing memes on a regular basis but I can certainly try to do one every once in awhile, right? Please tell me that I can be at least organized enough to do a meme every once in awhile or I'm going to have to give over my astrological sign to someone else as certainly no one has ever heard of a totally disorganized Virgo!

It's been a long time since I've participated in my friend Tisha's wonderful Looking at the Sky on Friday meme but I've certainly seen quite a few gorgeous skies on other people's blogs - like the beautiful pastel skies I saw at Ralph's blog today - and I was reminded that I had taken a picture this past Fourth of July while on the way home from my mom's house in Canterbury back to Norwich for the annual Fourth of July Fireworks Show that I had wanted to use for this meme. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember thinking "this would be great for Tisha's meme!" when I pulled into a gravel pit to take the shot!

That little itty bitty white spot in the middle of the picture is the moon, which you could probably see better if you click on the picture and biggify it! I don't own a zoom lens yet so unless I've managed to talk Kevin into letting me borrow his, I have to do what I can with my regular 18-55mm lens. Needless to say, it makes the moon look as far away as it really is! Trust me, this scene was a lot prettier in person as the camera didn't do the color contrasts justice, especially with the evening skies melting into the clouds, but I thought it was still rather pretty.

In addition to that picture, I also forgot that I had fireworks pictures from that same night to show you - see how absent-minded I'm getting?!? Again, no fancy lens - just my regular old one so they aren't spectacular but they're definitely fireworks!

So there you have it, one Looking at the Sky in the evening and a bunch of Looking at the Sky when it was lit up with fireworks! No matter what sky you're looking at today I hope it's a good one and don't forget to go by Tisha's to see what other skies there are in the Blogosphere!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

  • Looks like my schedule at work may change a little bit in the near future being that we are going to be down one dispatcher yet again. I don't know why it is that we can't seem to get that seventh spot filled with someone who wants to really be a dispatcher but it's been that way for as long as I can remember now!
  • Jamie called from Florida the other day and was very excited; she auditioned for and was accepted into the visual arts program at Blake High School in Tampa. From what I've read about Blake they have an award-winning magnet program and I think this is going to be a huge positive for Jamie. She's going to major in television production, something that she had the chance to dabble in a little at her old high school and which she has definitely showed an aptitude for.
  • From what I can tell on the weather forecasts, Hurricane Bill isn't going to be hitting us directly but we should be getting a good drenching from him on Friday. Figures - I'm working an overtime shift but hopefully there won't be a bunch of medical emergencies as a result of the heavy rains.
  • The nasty heat wave that we had definitely caused more than its fair share of medical emergencies. Hazy + hot + humid = increased difficulty breathing for a lot of people, especially those who suffer from asthma. August in New England can be a very difficult time of year for a lot of people.
  • I'm pretty sure that Amanda and I will be heading down to Baltimore for a few days the end of next week. Everyone tells me that Baltimore is a great city to visit and I found a really good deal on a hotel only four blocks from the Inner Harbor. Amanda wants to see Edgar Allan Poe's house and gravesite and I've wanted to go to Fort McHenry for a long time.
  • If we do go to Baltimore, I'm hoping we might be able to take a side trip down to Washington D.C. as originally we had planned a trip there with Jason & Amy for next week but plans for that fell through. I still have reservations for a Capitol Tour, though, and I'd really like to be able to keep those if possible as well as visit some of the monuments. I've heard the World War II monument is beautiful and I find the Korean monument to be haunting - especially at night.
  • My house really needs a good cleaning but I have zip, zero, and zilch ambition when it comes to doing that. Plus it's still too hot to do that or mow the lawn which is getting kind of overgrown, too.
  • The thought occurred to me the other day that my 51st birthday is rapidly approaching and I've been trying to figure out where the last year went so quickly. I wish I had a visit from Claire and an evening at the local pub with some of the handsome paramedics and EMTs I work with to look forward to like last year's birthday (which also included delicious chocolate ganache cupcakes by Mags!) but alas, I see nothing fun on the horizon for the 9th of September this year. As a matter of fact, I believe I am working.
  • I had put in for tickets to go see another taping of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on September 4th in New York City but ABC called the other day to say that the taping had been canceled and there are no others left for the year to go to. Rats! It was so much fun last year I wanted to go again this year and bring my friend Amy, she would have loved it.
  • I'm still thinking a trip to New York City to walk the Manhattan Bridge may be in order. The plan is to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn across the Manhattan Bridge, check out Brooklyn Heights, and then walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's about a 2-1/2 mile walk but I think it would be great. Anyone want to go with me? Maybe we could find a cupcake afterward??
  • I guess for now I'll go find another cup of coffee and see if I can also rustle up a side of ambition! Everyone have a great Thursday!

Tools of the Trade

As previously mentioned the other day, I've been divorced for eight years now and during that time have yet to find anyone else to have a "meaningful" relationship with - or even an unmeaningful one if you want to get right down to brass tacks! Due to that, I have to be the one to fix things around the house on my own as I don't have a member of the male persuasion to help me out; unless, of course, I rely on the kindness of one of the guys I work with once in awhile when it comes to the heavy lifting and such!

Luckily I grew up in a household of brothers and am actually pretty good with a few power tools as long as they aren't of the Tim Tyler "MORE POWER!" variety! Matter of fact, I'm not so sure that putting a reciprocating saw in my hands would be the best idea in the world but I'm pretty good with a power drill and a power screwdriver is one of the best things since sliced bread in my mind! Good thing that there are places like Shop.Wiki to find whatever sort of home improvement gadget you might need as I still feel somewhat intimidated in a hardware store, though!

All things considered, though, I would be willing to bet that more women are comfortable with doing some of the home improvements themselves these days versus oh, say, even twenty years ago. Just like I'm sure that more men are comfortable with kitchen tools than they used to be, right?? Progress can be a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On the Road Again ... This Time to Points North!

Even though it was kinda warm this past Saturday, it was still a nice day so Amanda, our friend Amy, and I piled into the car and headed towards Quincy, Massachusetts and the Adams National Historical Park which includes the birthplaces of President John Adams and President John Quincy Adams as well as Peacefield, the final home of John and Abigail Adams and four generations of the Adams family.

A trip to the Adams Homestead first requires a stop at the National Park Visitors Center where you board a trolley that takes you to the birthplace houses and then continues on to Peacefield. This past weekend was a "Fee-Free Weekend" offered by the National Park Service, a nice little perk they offer about three times each summer that gives you a chance to enjoy some of the best the National Park Service has to offer us for free!

Inside the Visitors Center in Quincy there are models of the houses and the United First Parish Church, where both Presidents and their First Ladies are entombed. The church itself isn't part of the National Park but is owned by the active congregation of Unitarian Universalists which has used its own resources, including its endowments, to preserve the building. Established as the parish church of Quincy in 1639, the current building was constructed in 1828 from designs by the American architect Alexander Parris; the building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 30th, 1970. In the picture above Amanda is pretending to be Godzilla just in case you were wondering!

First stop on our tour is the birthplace of the man who became our second President of the United States, John Adams. Born October 30th, 1735, John Adams was more than just our second President but also a very important figure in the American Revolution and the events leading up to it. If you've not read David McCullough's book John Adams, on which the award-winning HBO mini-series was based, I suggest you do as it will give you a pretty good idea of just what our forefathers went through to get this great nation of ours started. If you're not up to the book, I hear the mini-series is fantastic though I've yet to see it myself.

Across the yard is the home where our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, was born on July 11th, 1767. It was in this house that young John Adams and his bride Abigail started their family and the future President launched his career in politics and law. John Adams maintained his law office in the house and it was here that he, Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin wrote the Massachusetts Constitution.

Both houses are quite small and tourists are not allowed up to the second floors due to safety reasons nor are pictures allowed inside (though if you watch the video below you may find one or two snuck in). This was actually the second time I had been to the houses and I was quite thankful that there were no stupid questions like "where was the bathroom?" and "how did they do the dishes if there was no sink?" that were asked by the two other women on the tour we took. Of course, back when I went the first time with my cousin Amy there were very few people taking the tours whereas the popularity of the mini-series has really increased the number of people wishing to visit the oldest preserved birthplace of a United States President.

From the birthplace houses it's back on the trolley and a short ride over to Peacefield, which was the home where both Abigail and John died. The residence of the Adams family for four generations from 1788 to 1927, it was home to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; First Ladies Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams; Civil War Minister to Great Britain Charles Francis Adams; and literary historians Henry and Brooks Adams. Adjacent to the house is the medieval style Stone Library, built in 1873, which contains more than 14,000 books that belonged to the Adamses and which is considered to be the very first Presidential Library.

After touring all of the houses, we climbed back onto the trolley and made our way back to the Visitors Center. From there the idea was to drive up to Cambridge and tour the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Home which was also part of the Fee-Free Weekend but Amy's GPS kept wanting to take us to Logan Airport instead. For the most part I don't mind driving pretty much anywhere but Boston is one of the few places that I truly despise driving in so after getting lost a couple of times I said to hecks with it and we headed north on Route 93. After stopping for lunch at a Friendly's in Shoreham we got back on the turnpike and next thing I knew we were in New Hampshire!

At that point Amy told me that she had never been further north than Concord, New Hampshire and even though it was late afternoon, we made a snap decision to continue up towards the White Mountains. By California and Colorado standards the White Mountains aren't much but they're the best we've got here in New England and I do so like the mountains so off we went!

We drove up through Franconia Notch, where the Old Man of the Mountain used to hang out on the side of a granite mountain, and then drove down to Lincoln and took the Kancamagus Highway over to Conway. The Kancamagus is 35 miles of beautiful scenery through the White Mountain National Forest; the last time I had traversed it was just about 18 years ago today while I was on my honeymoon in Franconcia. Trust me, this was simply circumstantial and was not by any means planned!

Unfortunately it was pretty hazy on Saturday - probably due to the heat we've been having here in New England - so the vistas weren't very scenic but it was a nice ride all the same and Amy really enjoyed it and hopes to go back again in the fall when the foliage changes. Amanda, though, didn't quite grasp the whole concept of a ride to nowhere and was probably ready to expire from boredom in the back seat!

Our day started at 8:00 a.m. when we left the house and ended at 11:30 p.m. when I pulled back into the driveway, a little over 500 miles later! It certainly wasn't planned that way but sometimes that's half the fun of going someplace - not knowing where you're going to end up!

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17th, 1991, August 17th, 2001, August 17th, 2009

Eighteen years ago today I walked down the aisle at the Sheperd of the Sea Chapel in Groton, Connecticut and said "I do" for the second time in my life to a Navy man. At the time I thought it was the right thing to do on many levels as I had been a single mom to my son Michael since he was about six months old when his father and my first husband decided that there were "too many single women in the world for him to be a husband and father". We were both in the Air Force at the time of that marriage which ended in 1981.

The main thing I remember about my second wedding was the fact that I truly felt sick to my stomach and even though I chalked it up to nerves at the time, I think it was actually the smarter part of me that I refused to acknowledge telling me that I was doing the wrong thing. However, as Forest Gump has said, "stupid is as stupid does" and I didn't sit down on the steps of the vestibule with my head in my hands and say "never mind" even though I should have. That would be that whole "hindsight 20/20" thing.

Eight years ago today, on my 10th wedding anniversary, I told my second husband that the marriage was over and that I just couldn't do it anymore. I was miserable, he was miserable, and I knew the girls were starting to be miserable, too. In spite of all the misery and the fact that the marriage was pretty much as dead in the water as you can get, my ex didn't want the divorce. He took a vow before God and he was by golly going to honor it whereas I figured that God really didn't want His children to be miserable no matter what sort of vow they took. I stuck to my guns and the marriage ended.

Since then, the ex has remarried but in a phone call the other day he asked me once again why I ended the marriage, was he that bad of a guy? As I have explained to him several times over, I don't think it was so much that he was a bad guy as that we just didn't have much in common, his beliefs and my beliefs didn't blend, and there was no sense in making everyone miserable by staying in a loveless marriage. I've always thought there was supposed to be more to it than that. And as I have said so many times before, I know I'm a hard person to live with so it wasn't him - it was me. Of course, why he's still asking me this eight years down the road when he's remarried is totally beyond me - I rather doubt his new wife would appreciate the line of questioning; I know I wouldn't if I were her.

Anyhow, so here it is eight years to the day since I ended my ten-year marriage that - for the most part - I seem to have blocked out of my mind as I can remember very little of it other than the feeling that I had a very large albatross around my neck that I had put there myself and I am still alone. No relationships with anyone since then and no glimpse of any on the horizon so sometimes I've got to wonder if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy when I said that I thought I would be better off alone. I wonder if I really meant that? I wonder if I really thought that would be the case?

I've always believed that it's better to be alone than with the wrong person but sometimes that whole being alone thing isn't what it's cracked up to be either. At least not when I'm feeling unloveable and unloved like I am today when I am reminded of my failure in my last relationship. I wonder if August 17th will always make me feel that way??

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Quick Trip

Not the best picture I'm afraid but this was taken yesterday when I decided that driving to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire would be a good idea. That was after we went to the Adams Homestead in Quincy, Massachusetts! I think it ended up being a 500 mile day, I will tell you more about it later!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

Meanwhile, back in New York City ... after biking through Central Park, looking futilely for cupcakes near Bryant Park, and dining at the Hard Rock Cafe it was time for Jamie and I to move on to the next part of our New York City adventure - the Brooklyn Bridge!

Heading back down into the subway we grabbed the 'S' train from Times Square to Grand Central Terminal and then jumped on the '6' train to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop; from there we just followed the crowds! Obviously I'm not the only person to think that walking across the Brooklyn Bridge would be fun!

You have to admit, though, it would be pretty cool, right? I mean, come on, it's the bridge people have been trying to sell each other for years ("yeah, and if you believe that I've got a bridge you can buy!") and the history is pretty neat, too. After all, we doesn't love stories of danger, death, and daring-do by we mere mortals who look to tame the land around us?

Stretching 5,989 feet across the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world as well as the very first steel-wire suspension bridge built. From it's completion in 1883 until 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world with a main span of 1,596 feet; it currently ranks at #73 behind such bridges as the Golden Gate Bridge in California, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington.

In 1867, a group of prominent leaders formed the New York Bridge Company "for the purpose of constructing and maintaining a bridge across the East River" and two years later, in June 1869, the New York City Council and the Army Corps of Engineers approved the design of German-born John Augustus Roebling who had designed and constructed several other suspension bridges in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Ohio. Before construction of the bridge officially began on January 3rd, 1870 its designer was injured while examining locations for the Brooklyn tower site when his foot was crushed between a ferry and a piling. Within a few weeks of the accident tetanus set in and the elder Roebling died before seeing his historic design become a reality.

The project was taken over by Roebling's son, Washington, but in 1872 he was stricken with caisson disease (a decompression sickness, commonly known as "the bends") due to working in the caissons of the bridge. The caissons were large, airtight cylinders in which workers cleared away layers of silt underneath the riverbed that were sealed at the top and filled with compressed air to keep water and mud out. Caisson disease would occur when workers left the compressed atmosphere of the caisson and rapidly reentered normal (decompressed) atmospheric conditions which affected the nitrogen levels in their blood - much like when divers come up too quickly from beneath the sea.

Life in the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge was reportedly absolutely miserable. Immigrant laborers worked in the subterranean foundations for $2.25 per day in hazardous conditions without electricity, telephones, or any other conveniences. Fires, explosions and caisson disease took the lives of 20 men in addition to leaving Washington Roebling paralyzed.

Following his paralysis, the younger Roebling directed the construction of the bridge from his Brooklyn residence with the extraordinary assistance of his wife, Emily, who studied higher mathematics and bridge engineering under her husband's tutelage. Soon she made daily visits to the bridge to oversee her husband's staff of engineers and builders while delivering his wishes. When the Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and officially dedicated on May 23rd, 1883 by President Chester Arthur and Governor Grover Cleveland before more than 14,000 invitees, Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge with a rooster - a symbol of victory - in her lap.

Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, the bridge was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in an 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle however the name wasn't officially changed by the government until 1915. Originally estimated to cost $7 million to build, the Brooklyn Bridge had a final cost of $15.1 million, $3.8 million of which was to purchase land for approaches and the remainder going toward construction. The bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Workers weren't the only ones to die in the history of the Brooklyn Bridge; shortly after the bridge's 1883 opening, on Memorial Day, a woman who was walking up the steps of the Manhattan side tripped which caused her female companion to scream. That lone scream set off a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse and in the panic and resulting crush to get off of the bridge, 12 people were killed and 35 others were seriously injured.

A few other interesting pieces of history: In 1884 Master Showman P.T. Barnum demonstrated the safety of the bridge by parading across it with a herd of 21 elephants; the first man to jump from the bridge was Robert E. Odlum on May 19th, 1885 who struck the water at an angle and died shortly thereafter from internal injuries; the first woman to jump off the bridge was Clara McArthur in 1885 who weighted her stockings with 20 pounds of sand so that she would fall feet first - she survived the fall.

Jamie and I arrived in Brooklyn, home of Jackie Gleason, Neil Diamond, Mel Brooks, Barry Manilow, Al Capone, Woody Allen, and too many others to name, just as it was starting to get dark which really didn't give us any time to explore the area beyond the bridge. We also decided at that time that Coney Island wasn't going to happen this trip as it was starting to get a bit late.

After getting a hold of Amanda (who was somewhere in Brooklyn) and agreeing to meet back at Grand Central Station, Jamie and I caught the 'E' train back towards Manhattan. We stopped off at Bryant Park again for soft-serve ice cream from a truck and several bottles of much-needed water before walking through Times Square and catching the 'S' shuttle to meet up with Amanda and Sami who had taken their own train in from Brooklyn.

Climbing back on board a MetroNorth train we took our leave of the city around 9:45 and arrived back in New Rochelle at 10:30 for the drive home. All in all, we had a great day and both Jamie and I got to see some great things while Amanda had a good time hanging out with Sami. Even though Cape Cod would have been more relaxing, I guess New York was a good choice after all even though it definitely wore me - and Jamie - out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just a Walk Ride in the Park

The girls and I couldn't have asked for a better day for our trip to New York City last Friday - the sky was blue, the clouds were puffy, the temperatures were in the low 80's, and the humidity was non-existent! A perfect day to head down to the Big Apple and do some touristy things ... or not.

The "or not" applied to Amanda as she was meeting up with Sami, aka Cyanide, who hails from Brooklyn and doesn't do the whole New York tourist thing but that's okay, I was more than happy to let them go do their thing while Jamie and I hopped on the subway and made our way down towards 57th Street where we picked up the two bikes I had reserved for three-hours and then made our way over to Central Park for the first part of our day.

I don't believe I had been on a bike since I moved back to Connecticut from California back in the late 80's but it turned out that it was extremely easy to remember how to do, though dodging other bicyclists and pedestrians who obviously didn't care that you might run them over if they walked in your path was a little tricky at times! I got real good at hitting the brakes very quickly and luckily never managed to fall over, which would have been uber embarrassing!

Naturally there was a lot of stopping for pictures and looking at the map I had as I had absolutely no clue where in the park we were a couple of times and the signage could have been a little better but for the most part we covered all of the sights that I thought would be nice to see and a few I hadn't!

I've spent a little bit of time in Central Park in the past but this trip was the longest amount of time I'd been there and I really wanted Jamie and I to have a chance to see some of the highlights of the country's oldest public park. Just a brief bit of history (as I'm sure you knew there would be!) - the park currently covers 843 acres but was originally built on 700 acres of swamp and desolate landscape in 1857 as a way to show Europeans that we Americans weren't totally without class and cultural refinement! The land itself was chosen because of its lack of appeal for commercial building and eminent domain did the rest evicting approximately 1,600 people who had made their home in the rocky terrain.

The park was based on the winning design of Frederick Law Olmsted, the park superintendent, and Calvert Vaux, an architect, that was called the "Greensward Plan". It took more than ten years, ten million dollars, and approximately twenty-thousand Irish, German, and New England-area laborers who toiled ten-hours a day for $1.00 to $1.50 per day to create Central Park. The first part of the park was opened in the winter of 1858 and construction of the park was finally completed in 1863.

The park's maintenance and beauty declined a bit in the 1960's and 1970's due to severe budget cuts within the city so the Central Park Conservancy was formed which - to this day - contributes more than half the public park's budget and exercises substantial influence on decisions about its future and maintaining the beauty that can be found in the heart of Gotham.

Some of the really beautiful things we saw weren't just inside the confines of Central Park however but could be found towering over it, like this building here which is named The Beresford and has been home to many of the rich and famous of New York City. The building was designed by Emery Roth, who also designed the San Remo which is another of New York's most prestigious residential buildings, and even though it's only 22 stories tall it looks a lot bigger as you're staring up at it! With two bedroom apartments starting at just under $3 million, I don't think I'll be moving there anytime soon so I'm just going to have imagine what the view of Central Park looks like from there. Darn, I really do need to find that winning Powerball ticket!

While on the subject of castle-like structures, one of the things I had really wanted to see was Belvedere Castle which sits atop Vista Rock, the second highest natural elevation in the park. The castle was built in 1869 using Manhattan schist (a type of metamorphic rock) that was excavated from elsewhere in the park and then dressed up a bit with gray granite. The views from the castle are absolutely phenomenal so it's well worth the steps you have to climb to get up there!

Another "had to see" was Bethesda Fountain which sits at pretty much the center of Central Park. The sculpture that tops it, Angel of Waters, was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1873 and is one of the most recognizable icons in the entire park. The angel holds a lily which symbolizes purity as the sculpture was designed to celebrate the new Croton Aqueduct that not only fed the fountain but also supplied fresh/pure water to New York City. Considering the contaminated water they had before, the new aqueduct gave the citizens of New York plenty of reason to celebrate!

Personally I kept wanting to break out into a rousing chorus of "That's How You Know" from Disney's musical Enchanted but I managed to restrain myself and not embarrass the heck out of Jamie! Nor did I try to reenact any scenes from Godspell and act like I was John the Baptist singing Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord which really would have mortified Jamie! Aren't I a good Mom?!?

Because it was an absolutely beautiful day it looked like a good part of the population of New York City was out in the park enjoying the gorgeous weather, many of them with their pets along for the adventure. Jamie decided to keep count of how many she saw during the time we were there with a final tally of 105 dogs and 1 cat on a leash!

After our 3-hour trek through Central Park, we returned our bikes, hopped on the nearest subway, and made our way over to Bryant Park where there was supposed to be a Crumbs and delicious cupcakes therein but we looked all over the place and couldn't find one anywhere. Leave it to New York to be constantly moving things around! We finally gave up and made our way down towards Time Square where I took Jamie to the Hard Rock Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner in order to have some sort of strength for the next part of our agenda - a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge!

While I'm still putting the pictures together for that one, I'll leave you with a video that I made with some of the pictures from our time in Central Park.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Sleepy Hollow Update of Sorts

Even though I've got lots of pictures to post from our recent trip down to The Big Apple (the picture above was taken by Jamie), I wanted to take a moment and post something that I got in my email the other day that I thought was exceptionally cool - at least to me!

Remember our recent road-trip to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York? -

Shortly after I posted about the trip, I got the following email:

Nice article, and great photos. Hope you get to see the Irving stained glass on your next visit.

-Jim Logan

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Historic Fund
540 North Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591
I emailed Jim back to tell him thank you and that we were tentatively planning another trip back down in mid-October for Amy's birthday when we could also see the Scarecrow Festival at Lyndhurst and the Jack-o-Lantern Blaze at Phillipsburg Manor - not to mention see some more of the cemetery. Shortly after that I got another email from Jim ...

Chances are the office will not be open on the weekend. As the date gets closer, shoot me an email and I'll arrange for someone to open up the chapel so you can see the stained glass.
By the way, we've added you to our "in the news" page:

-Jim Logan
Now is that not the coolest thing ever that someone would take the time to have someone meet us so that we can see the stained glass windows if the office is closed? See? It pays to blog about your travels! It's also pretty darned cool that I now have a link off of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery website - almost makes me feel like a professional travel writer!

Thanks again, Jim, I'm really looking forward to October!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday Morning Coming Down

My blogging buddy from the Great Northwest, Jamie @ Duward Discussion, recently started a new weekly meme entitled Take This Tune in which she gives a musical prompt on Friday for posts on Monday. When I saw the prompt for this week I thought to myself "Hey! You've actually done a post based on these lyrics once already - perfect!" So ... I hope it's not cheating that I repost the following that originally appeared on my very first blog at LiveJournal on March 12th, 2006. The only difference between now and when I wrote it is that I no longer have Sundays off to feel alone as I work 16-hour shifts but the rest of it certainly applies and there are some things I will always miss about Sundays.

"On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone."
Johnny Cash sure did know how to sing a depressing tune or two, didn't he?? "Johnny One-Note" my Dad used to call him but he sure did like his music; a lot of people did because he sang about a lot of the not-so-nice things in life that a lot of artists avoided. I mean, come on, who else would sing about Folsom Prison or the porter on a railroad train? Johnny Cash just didn't sing happy-go-lucky songs (heck, even A Boy Named Sue might have had a jaunty beat but wasn't what you'd call a happy song!).

Anyhow, I'm not feeling like a recovering alcoholic or drug addict or anything this morning but Sundays just have never been the same since my grandfather died way back in August of 1972. Prior to that, Sundays were always the best day of the week because it meant church with Gramp followed by the big family Sunday dinner at his house. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins - everyone was there along with the best roast beef this side of the Connecticut River! You never felt alone on a Sunday when Gramp was alive - you felt like a member of a big, happy family and I, for one, felt totally loved and accepted.

These days, if I'm not working on a Sunday then I'm just hanging around the house catching up on everything that I didn't do during the rest of the week. Fun stuff like laundry, vacuuming, dusting, etc., etc. Yee-freakin'-ha. And Sunday dinners certainly don't exist and haven't for years and years. And even though I miss the roast beef and crazy-colored icing on the cake that Gramp always made, I miss the man himself even more and that hasn't stopped since he died. A kid couldn't have asked for a better grandfather than the one I had and even though he was ready to die when his time came, I sure wasn't ready for him to. I was only 13 for crying out loud ... there should have been a lot more years to bask in the unconditional love that he gave me, to be called "Linnie" by the one person that I didn't mind it from, and to sit by his side at church and just feel prouder than punch to know that he was my grandfather. Heck, I guess that explains some of why I don't even like to go to church anymore (well, that and I'm a lazy Christian if you ask my dear ex-husband!). Well, that and my views on God don't exactly fit into your normal church atmosphere either but that would take up another whole entry and then some!

So, anyhow, it's another Sunday morning with no roast beef to look forward to, no one's lap to sit on, and no cousins to spend the afternoon running around the fields that surrounded Gramp's house with. You would think by my age I would have put that behind me by now but Johnny was right - there definitely is something in a Sunday "that makes a body feel alone".

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back to One

I get the feeling the house is going to seem a little emptier now that Jamie has returned to Tampa and that's probably going to make some people happy ...

... but it always makes me sad to put my baby on the plane at the end of her summer with us ...

... I just try not to show it.

Where did the summer go??

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A New York Minute

Just a quick update as most of today needs to be spent getting Jamie packed up and ready to fly back down to Florida later this evening but I wanted to post two of my favorite pictures from our trip to New York City yesterday and just say that we had a great time though we didn't get to do everything we wanted to do - naturally!

Biking through Central Park was both fun and frustrating as, New Yorkers being New Yorkers, people don't hesitate to walk right in front of you even if you're coming at them on a bicycle! Having not been on a bike in well over 20 years it was a little tricky at first but then it was just like riding a bike! We got to see a lot of the things in the park but missed a few. Guess that means another trip is in order at some point!

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was quite the experience and a lot of fun, too. We couldn't have had better weather if we had custom-ordered it! If I ever do this again, though, I want to try it at night just to see the lights of the city and the bridge. If you ever get to New York, I highly recommend taking the time to take this walk; it's well worth it!

Unfortunately we didn't find any cupcakes (though we tried mightily to find the Crumbs near Bryant Park!) and we didn't get out to Coney Island as by the time we got across the Brooklyn Bridge it was starting to get late and rumor has it Coney Island is not the place to be after dark unless you're very brave. Add on the fact we were pretty worn out and I guess that's to be done another time, too!

We did do a lot, though, and I'll be doing a post on that pretty soon. For today, though, it's off the computer and spending the day with Jamie before taking her to the airport for a 5:40 flight. Hard to believe it's been over two months already since she got here and it's going to be downright strange to not have her anymore but this is something we go through every summer. You would think I would be used to it by now but apparently not.

Anyhow, everyone have a great Saturday ... I'm going to give it a shot on my end in spite of what will surely be a large lump in my throat later.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Central Park & Cupcakes & Coney Island ... Oh My!

Earlier in the week I was kicking around the idea of packing up the girls and heading out to Cape Cod for a couple of my days off. With good weather in the forecast, I thought it might be a nice relaxing end to Jamie's time here for the summer. She'll be flying back down to Florida on Saturday and I thought something special might be in order.

I was envisioning some time at the National Seashore watching the waves roll in while the girls spent some time battling those same waves; perhaps a drive to a lighthouse or two; and then watching the sun set in one direction while a full moon rose in another. Except for the fact that there might be too many tourists on the Cape, it sounded like a nice relaxing and enjoyable time.

When I put the suggestion to the girls, though, I wasn't overwhelmed by their enthusiasm for the idea. Instead I got a chorus of "Can't we go somewhere else?" Obviously my idea of a good time is not theirs. "Okay, so where would you like to go?" Amanda piped up with "New York City!" and Jamie soon followed suit. My initial reaction was "No, New York wears me out" but after giving it some further thought, it didn't sound like a bad idea and might even actually be a good one.

Granted, New York does wear me out but it's a good idea because Amanda can go spend time with her friend Sami, who lives in Brooklyn, while Jamie and I can spend some time together doing things that I've always wanted to do but never had the chance to and that Amanda might not find all that interesting. With Amanda off spending the day with her friend and only Jamie with me, I'm not going to have to worry about playing the traveling version of "Family Feud" except in the car on the way down and back but I'm sure they'll both be on their best behavior all things considered. This could be a wonderful thing!

So what do I have on the agenda for today? Once we take the train into the city from either Port Chester or New Rochelle (oh, Rob!) and Amanda hooks up with Sami at Grand Central Station then Jamie and I are off to Central Park where I have reserved a couple of bicycles for three hours so that we can ride around the park and see some of the wonders that it has to offer - the carousel, Lowe's boathouse, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, and a lot of other places I've only seen in the movies. We're not going to be able to cover the entire 843 acres or see everything there is to see but I think we'll be able to put a pretty good dent in the very first public park built in America.

After all that exercise we're going to go in search of a Crumbs Bake Shop and we're going to have ourselves a snack! One of the guys at work was telling me how incredibly good the cupcakes at Crumbs are and with the a Key Lime cupcake on the menu you can bet I'll be all over that like ... well ... like a fat kid on a cupcake! Trust me, I have the addresses for numerous locations already printed out so I'm sure we'll be able to find one!

Following that we're going to go do something I've always wanted to do - walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Amanda has a major fear of heights so I know this isn't an activity she'd want to participate in but Jamie is my fearless child and I think she'll really enjoy it. Rumor has it you can get some beautiful pictures midway across and I promise to try my best to do so!

Once we get to Brooklyn, we're going to hop on the subway and head out to Coney Island to eat hot dogs at Nathan's, ride the Cyclone, and maybe - just maybe - take a spin on the Wonder Wheel. I believe our plans are to meet up with Amanda and Sami at Coney Island and maybe even stick around for the Friday night fireworks if it isn't too crowded and the girls are so inclined. Seems to me to be a good way to wrap up Jamie's summer.

All in all, I think it will be a great day and even though I am more than sure that New York is really going to wear me out at least Jamie will have some great memories to take back to Florida with her when she gets on the plane on Saturday.

I can always do Cape Cod another time ...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Horsing" Around in East Providence

Leaving the beauty of the River Bend Cemetery in Westerly behind, Amanda and I continued east on Route 1A towards Watch Hill on our impromptu road-trip this past Saturday. I had hoped to find a lighthouse there but after finally getting there and looking at the crowds of people and cars, I decided that the best thing to do was make a big loop on out of there and come back at another time when it wasn't one of the few nice Saturdays of the summer.

After making a brief stop at my son's house in Bradford, we got back on the road with our new objective of East Providence as I had read about a historic carousel located there. Normally I wouldn't drive in Providence if you paid me but I figured it probably wouldn't be too bad on a late Saturday afternoon. Turned out that I was right as the traffic going into Providence wasn't nearly as bad as all of the cars on Route 1 as people began to make their way back from the beaches that draw thousands to the Rhode Island coastline.

I've come to the conclusion that if I am going to continue to try to make the occasional road-trip that I really might want to consider investing in a GPS which would make things a lot easier. I had printed out rudimentary directions prior to leaving home just in case we wandered out towards East Providence but I seemed to be having problems with my TNS (Teenage Navigation System) in that it was more concerned about what was playing on the radio then reading me the directions! Still, we didn't make any wrong turns and traffic was light as we approached the turn-off that would lead us out to Riverside, which is the southern most section of East Providence, and the 114-year old masterpiece of Charles I.D. Looff.

In 1886, Colonel George Boyden established Crescent Park Resort in Riverside (then known as Wannamoisett) around the 400-foot Bullocks Point Dock. Colonel Boyden commissioned the famous wood carver Charles I.D. Looff to build a carousel that would come to be the cornerstone of the park which, in its heyday, was known as "the Coney Island of New England".

Considered to be the first of the great American carousel manufacturers, Charles I.D. Looff, a native of Denmark, immigrated to the United States in August of 1870 and settled in Brooklyn where he found work as a carver in a furniture factory. After work, he would bring home scraps of wood and carve them into carousel animals. Those animals eventually became the first carousel at Coney Island when Looff assembled his wooden horses and animals onto a circular platform and created his first amusement ride. Following that success, he opened his own factory and built two more carousels carving all of the animals himself.

After being commissioned by Colonel Boyden, Looff built a large carousel at the head of the 400-foot pier that received throngs of people from the steamboats that cruised up and down Narragansett Bay during the summer months. When his home in New York was taken under Eminent Domain to establish a park, Looff then moved his wife and six children to the area of the Crescent Point Amusement Park where he set up his new workshop. Shortly afterward, Looff built another carousel in 1895 a short distance away from his original carousel that was then used as a showpiece for prospective buyers to choose the types of horses and other things they wanted for their own carousels. It is that second carousel that is still in operation today as the Crescent Park Looff Carousel.

The largest and most elaborate of Looff's works, this grand carousel features 62 horses, four chariots, and one camel as well as a Ruth Style 38 organ to provide the music that all good carousels require. It even has brass rings that riders can try to grab as they whiz past the arm that holds them out which are then thrown into the waiting clown's mouth. If you get the gold ring, though, don't throw it away as you can trade it in for a free ride! Also, don't think you'r going to keep one of the brass rings as a souvenir as it's against the law to remove them from the building.

Neither Amanda not I took a whirl on this wonderful carousel as I tend to get a little sick just going around in circles and Amanda pleaded a slightly queasy stomach from too many Swedish Fish on the way over but I had a great time taking pictures and watching the smiles on the faces of the children that were riding either with or without a parent standing next to them.

You could tell this little fella was having the time of his life as he smiled happily for the camera while his mom got his leather strap adjusted and ready for the ride. I honestly don't think there's anything that makes a child happier than picking out his or her horse and taking a ride on a carousel. As a kid it was always my favorite ride as I always loved horses and riding one on a carousel was probably about as close to the real thing as I was ever going to get; that and there was just something magical about the carved horses and the band music and the feeling of flying on a "galloping" horse.

I couldn't get Amanda to go on the carousel but I did talk her into posing for a picture by the Crescent Park dinghy. Come to think of it, she looks a little dingy here herself! I can't remember if I promised not to post that picture or not ... oh well, too late now!

The Crescent Park Carousel, which is nationally recognized as a true masterpiece of wood sculpture, was rescued in the 1970's by a handful of East Providence residents who continue to maintain it today. In 1976 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites and Places and in 1985 the Rhode Island General Assembly proclaimed the carousel as the "State Jewel of American Folk Art". In 1987, the Department of the Interior's National Park Service designated the carousel as a National Historic Landmark.

When I was talking to my mom recently about our trip out to see the carousel she told me that she remembered Crescent Point Park and going out there when she was a kid. I would be willing to bet she even rode this carousel a time or two and maybe even caught the brass ring!

While doing some research, I found out that there is another Looff carousel in Rhode Island at the Slater Memorial Park that I need to check out. Built in 1895, the carousel there was originally located in upstate New York but was moved to Pawtucket in 1910 and restored in 1976. The carousel, which features a band organ from 1910, has three rows with 42 horses, three dogs, one camel, one giraffe, one lion and two chariots. Like its cousin in Riverside, this Looff Carousel is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I guess I know where I'll be going at some point in time! And perhaps then I'll actually take a chance and take a spin on a piece of history!

In the meantime, please enjoy the following video that I put together with pictures from the Crescent Park Looff Carousel. Not having the actual music from the carousel's organ, I set the video to the "Faust Waltz" performed on a Wurlitzer Style 153 organ - I hope you like it.