Spending a little time…

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4-10-14 websitecover Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring my portfolio of landscape photographs. Though feeling physically and mentally much better between rounds of Chemo, I still haven’t quite mustered up the energy to spend much time outside, never mind having the oomph to be out early or late capturing any new good light on the landscape with the camera. That leaves me fondly reminiscing about some of the work I’ve already done, and as I do so, I get to spend a little time perusing my web site – and you know what that means… yes, tweaking.

As you can see from the screenshot above – http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com – I’ve abandoned (for now) my attachment to a single strong black and white coastal image in favor of a more eclectic, colorful, and assorted view of what is distinctly Acadia National Park – after all, there is so much to see in Acadia, why not show her off in all her glory?

We’ve had a lot of incredibly generous local support in response to our little medical emergency, and as a way to say thank you, Lori and I have been selecting prints that we think people might appreciate, and we’ve been ordering and delivering them as thank you gifts.

I’ve learned that it’s one thing to conceptualize, experience, and actually create any one of my photographs, but I have to admit, following the process through to where it physically gets printed and held in hand – whether it is printed on canvas, paper, or better yet, on metal – it is quite exhilarating to hold a piece, especially since many of these pieces to date have merely been images on the screen.

I’ve a couple of big pieces being printed on metal on the way as “thank you’s” to our friends, and I’ll be sure to grab a pic of what they look like “in-person” as it were when they arrive. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in purchasing from what I believe is a new and improved web site, please use the discount code “chemo” when in the shopping cart area – despite it’s not-so-nice meaning, it will get you 25% off any purchase 😉

My $11 beer…

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…tasted great, even though it was a watered-down Bud Light in a plastic cup. What made it taste especially good though, was the fact that as I enjoyed it, I was perched high above Yankee Stadium watching my beloved Red Sox pummel the New York Yankees 11-1!

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Sam just started a summer internship in Manhattan this week, so he and I were making our way down to the Lower West Side of the city to get him installed temporarily in Aunt Joan’s now empty apartment. It was late on a Saturday afternoon as we zipped along the Merritt Parkway through Connecticut, and as we flipped between the local radio stations, we realized that the somewhat surprising first place Sox were going to be in town at the same time we were.

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It was a gorgeous evening at the tail end of what had been the first really hot weekend of the summer, and we both now wondered how difficult it might be to get ourselves to the stadium for the 7:10 p.m. game. We knew that since the new Yankee Stadium is so big, there was a good chance we would be able to get tickets easily, so Sam went to work on the phone. Ten minutes later… score. This version of Yankee Stadium is an impressive place. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the combination of mid-80 degree temperatures and a cool upper deck breeze made for a pretty amazing experience.

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The last time I was in Yankee Stadium was for the infamous night when Grady Little left Pedro in too long and when Aaron”bleeping” Boone hit a 10th inning Tim Wakefield knuckleball for a walk-off home run to send the Red Sox crashing out of the playoffs. That night I was snuggled in with the bleacher creatures – and boy was that an experience – but this time we were in a much more comfortable, and safer, environment. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening than watching baseball (and the Red Sox)… even if the beer did cost $11. Go Sox!

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A Ninja in New York

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There goes my New York Ninja. Jack adapts to the city easily, and although not on the horizon, Lori and I often talk about how well he would do if we ever decided to live there. Though we were sad to be in the city to pack up Aunt Joan’s apartment after she moved to a Northampton assisted living facility, Lori, Jack and I did enjoy being back in the heart of Chelsea – even if it was just for a long weekend. I’ve always felt that life in the city is dynamic, exciting, and full of energy, and our recent visit, though brief, brought back all sorts of good memories from when Lori and I lived here twenty years ago. Knowing that family ties to the city are becoming more and more tenuous, throughout the weekend we felt a sense of wanting to really absorb as much of this lifestyle as possible. I know we will be able to return to the city whenever we want to, but somehow without the family connection I don’t think it will feel the same. The bond and sense of almost belonging here that we have always enjoyed will be harder to find, so I’m glad we packed so much of the city into one of our “last” visits. New York, New York… so good they named it twice.

Madison Square Park, New York City

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After visiting the top of the Empire State Building, Jack and I slowly meandered about the city as we made our way back downtown toward Aunt Joan’s apartment on 25th Street. Reaching the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, we were greeted by an oasis in the city surrounded by spectacular architecture and filled with historical and impressive monuments and sculptures. Home to a kiosk housing the renowned Shake Shack restaurant, the lively and beautiful Madison Square Park is a wonderful place that Jack and I wandered into and then stayed a while. Kudos to the Madison Square Park Conservancy for all of the work they do to keep this park so vital and alive.

The bridge to Brooklyn

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Spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, this marvel of engineering provides a connection between two famous New York City boroughs. Partly constructed of giant granite blocks quarried off the Maine coast on the island of Vinalhaven, the 1595.5 foot long national historic landmark was completed in 1883. Orginally known as the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge” and also as the “East River Bridge” – this iconic symbol of the urban landscape was officially named “The Brooklyn Bridge” by the city government in 1915. We of course did the touristy thing, and with mid-November temperatures that soared to almost seventy degrees, we enjoyed the stroll from Manhattan all the way across the bridge to the East River State Park in Brooklyn.

As you can imagine, the views were incredible, as was the food we sampled at Smorgasburg, an amazing outdoor “farmer’s market” for foodies located in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Filled with smells and tastes to die for, there were 50+ vendors selling handmade food with origins from all over the world. As we relaxed under the Brooklyn Bridge (with the view above), we chowed on the best Falafel tacos ever, tasty Texas barbeque brisket sandwiches, the creamiest of New York cheesecake, and a gourmet peanut butter and jelly smore that was ridiculously delicious. Yum, yum…

High above the city streets

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Located on the lower west side of New York City is one of the absolutely coolest public spaces you’re ever going to find. The High Line is a unique park built on an historic but decommissioned freight rail line elevated above the streets on the lower west side of Manhattan. The idea of turning the old train tracks of what was once New York City’s “Life-Line” into a green area and public park was an innovative one, and when we first visited this amazing place a few years ago, we were intrigued by what we saw. Our return visit only reinforced our feelings of admiration for this spectacular preservation project and those who champion its cause.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened June 9, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened in spring, 2011.

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The design and layout of all of the High Line elements – everything from the railings, to the benches, and the wonderful landscaping all mesh together in a very stylish way that effectively celebrates and incorporates both the history and feel of the old train tracks. As we walked from 20th Street to Gansevoort Street near Greenwich Village, it was almost surreal to be wandering along such a beautiful pathway right above the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world. Kudos to the “Friends of The High Line” who fought so hard for the preservation and restoration of what is a wonderful addition to NYC. If you ever get the chance to wander along the High Line, take it… you won’t be disappointed.

When the lights go down in the city

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New York City exudes a different kind of energy at night. It becomes even more exciting, with what might be obvious during the daylight hours seeming much more mysterious as the shadows reach into dark doorways and alleys. A feeling of anticipation for what’s around the next corner, or further down the street, overtakes every other thought, and the artificial light trying to brighten the streets and avenues provides what I think is a more intense glimpse of city life at that moment. When the lights go down in the city… in addition to being a cool Journey song… might just be my favorite time to wander the ever busy sidewalks of New York.

A New York state of mind

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, and on this visit I was determined to return (and bring Jack up there for the first time). When Lori and I lived in the city, it was one of the first landmarks we always brought visiting friends to, though I don’t remember it being so expensive back then. Jack was incredibly excited to ride the elevator which sped like lightning to the 86th floor, and when we stepped out onto the windy and cold observatory deck and saw the views, this wide-eyed eight year old was more than impressed. I could tell that he was intrigued by how high we were, especially since we had been noticing the top of the tower from just about every part of the city we had already visited, and it was cool to see him literally run from the east to west to north and south sides of the observatory in search of a different view. Methinks this is one experience he will remember for a long time. Once again… everything in this post was Instagrammed.

Two Mainers exploring New York City

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New York City is the greatest city on earth. A family obligation recently afforded us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights on the island of Manhattan, and part of my responsibility on this visit – while Lori was working – was to keep the little man entertained. So, what do two Mainers set loose in the big city do? Well, they explore… and as they explore, one of them Instagrams their adventures. In just a couple of days, Jack and I hit up some of the more famous locations… Central Park (and the zoo), Times Square, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway and 42nd Street, Greenwich Village… and that’s what I’ll be documenting in the next couple of blog posts. Let’s start with Central Park and the Children’s Zoo where we saw some awesome critters (in and outside the zoo). I know it’s weird, but I can’t shake the spooky feeling I get when looking at the first couple of photographs from this post. Makes me think of The Shining… here’s Jack!

A slice of heaven

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No… this hasn’t turned into a food blog, but I figured I would share some iPhone pics from our recent visit to NYC – I love having the camera with me (Lori’s iPhone) all the time.

There are lots of cities that lay claim to having the best pizza in the US, and needless to say, New York City is definitely one of them. Luckily we get to visit what I consider to be the most incredible city in the world quite often, and every time we do, we like to sample some of the local fare, especially the pizza. John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village has long been a favorite of ours, and judging by the number of “Top 10 Pizza in NY” lists it is on, we aren’t alone in our admiration. I can remember visiting John’s with friends one Saturday night back in 1989 when Lori and I lived and worked in Manhattan, so now every time we return it brings back great memories.

You wouldn’t believe how many pizza joints there are in NYC… it feels like there’s literally one on every block. In my book there’s no such thing as bad pizza, but to survive the competition in New York you’d better be good! Besides, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere… wait, isn’t that a line from a song or something 😉

A Nubbly Sunrise…

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At the head of the York River, Nubble Light stands tall as it welcomes seafarers home to the coast of Maine. Most people will be more familiar with the day time scene from here where the classic white and red buildings are framed with green grass, rugged rocks, and the mighty Atlantic surrounding it all… but on this cold February morning I wanted to try and capture something that was a little bit different.

It’s school vacation week here in Maine – and much of the United States – so that usually means a trip south to see granny and grandpa. Often we will drive from Maine to New York in one straight shot, but since Sam was due some little brother time, we decided to forego the usual mad dash down I-95 and stop off in Brunswick to pay him a quick visit. After a scrumptious dinner at Clementine with him and his pal Charlie, we hit the road again and drove another hour or so south before stopping in York for the night. I had been wanting to shoot this lighthouse again for some time, and figured since we were going to be right here in the morning… why not give it a shot. Sunrise was scheduled for 6:37 a.m. on Saturday, so my alarm was set for 5:15 a.m. to allow for an early enough start that would give me time to scout around for compositional possibilities.

Even though our mid-February temperatures have been fairly mild, standing on the edge of the ocean before dawn with a cool winter breeze blowing is sure to wake you up. Unfortunately there were very few clouds to speak of, but there was a nice gradient of color in the eastern sky and a sparkling crescent moon heading toward the horizon. High tide was due at 6:50 a.m., so I wasn’t sure how close I was going to be able to get to the water. A couple more photographers pulled into the parking lot, but since sunrise wasn’t officially scheduled for another 45 minutes or so, they decided to stay in their cars a little longer and keep warm. Me… I know that some of the best light actually occurs before dawn, so I bundled up and hit the rocks looking for interesting foregrounds that might compliment the already spectacular lighthouse just off shore.

I made my first photograph of the morning, posted above, at 6:00 a.m. and long before the sun had made an appearance. The rising tide was washing over and around the ledge I was standing on, and although a relatively slow shutter speed rendered the water as quite peaceful, there were actually a few angry swells that made for interesting moments. I was intrigued by the puddles left behind, and hoped that they would hold enough interest in the foreground to make this as I had intended… maybe just a little bit different?

Creatures of habit

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I’m not sure if this qualifies as a tradition, but any visit to Granny and Grandpa’s house on Long Island wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t make a pilgrimage to the All-American Hamburger joint in Massapequa. A juicy double-double cheeseburger, lightly salted french fries, and a creamy strawberry milkshake are usually followed by a short drive down to Robert Moses State Park and a walk on the beach beside the Fire Island Lighthouse. This was Christmas Eve, and the low winter light still provided some warmth, the ocean views were spectacular, and the quiet stroll helped work off what was a very yummy lunch.

Skipping Black Friday

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My peeps enjoying NYC the day after Thanksgiving

Lori’s parents live in a quiet and beautiful part of Long Island near stunning beaches and only half an hour from NYC, but they are also next door to one of the largest and busiest shopping areas imaginable. Old Country Road and Roosevelt Field Mall are famous for the opportunity to grab a retail bargain or two, and on the day after Thanksgiving – dubbed Black Friday since this is usually when most retailers start to turn a profit for the year – the crowds were expected to be massive. So what do you do to escape the madness? Why you go to New York City of course!

Central Park, Upper East Side

Our love of NYC is pretty well documented here on the blog, so we don’t ever need an excuse to spend time there. On this particular visit we took the LIRR train in and hopped on the subway to get us to where we wanted to be – the upper West Side and Central Park. We didn’t really have a detailed plan… we just knew that we wanted to forego the traditional visits to either the Met or the MoNH and enjoy the temperatures in the mid 60’s and abundant sunshine… and what better place to do so than Central Park.

“Arguably one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park is a manmade wonder.  Not only is it the first public park built in America, but it is also one of the most frequently visited, with over 25 million guests per year. Set in the middle of bustling Manhattan, its grounds serve as a safe haven, not only for athletes, daydreamers, musicians, and strollers, but also for teems of migratory birds each year.  One can spend an entire peaceful day roaming its grounds, gazing upon nearly 50 fountains, monuments, and sculptures or admiring its 36 bridges and arches.”(http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/centralpark)

The Conservatory Water in Central Park

While walking across the park it seemed to be somewhat in transition… there were parts of it closed due to damage from a recent snow laden nor’easter that blasted through weighing down trees still heavy with leaves, and in other places it was a typically peaceful late autumn day where you could easily forget that you were in one of the most energetic cities in the world. We spent a little time feeding the ducks at the Conservatory Water, and though low in the sky, the pleasant fall sun was a welcome respite from the 10 inches of snow that had just fallen back home in Maine. The park was it’s usual vibrant self, and after enjoying a wonderful stroll down toward it’s southern edge, we re-joined civilization and the more “normal” throng of people as we navigated the always busy and bustling area around the Plaza Hotel and Fifth Avenue.

A scene reminiscent of what you would find on a more remote glacial slope in Maine

Pounding the pavement in NYC can be both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, and by the time we dashed onto the return train at Penn Station with just minutes to spare, we were all ready to relax and maybe even take a nap on the ride home. This was of course after some classic NY Pizza from another of our favorite food places… Pizza Villagio on 6th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets… there’s nothing like NY pizza! In New York City there are so many people crammed into such a small space, but there is also so much to see and do crammed into the same relatively small space… and I think it is fair to say that we all feel right at home there.

Enjoying the Billy Johnson playground at 67th and 5th Avenue

An All-American Cheeseburger

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One of our favorite places to grab lunch in New York, the All American Drive-In on Merrick Road in Massapequa, is a slice of classic Americana that has been around since 1963. Awesome burgers, fries, and shakes… plus much more… this is a pretty neat dining experience, one that we first learned about on the Travel Channel a few years back. Being the lovers of food that we are, we decided there and then that our next visit to Granny and Grandpa’s would involve a stop to sample the goods, and now every single trip to Long Island means a quick half hour ride to savor some of the best fast food around. It goes without saying, but our most recent Thanksgiving holiday visit to New York would not be complete without another eagerly awaited stop at our favorite burger joint.

The lines at this place are always long – usually out the door – but the wait is always short. Even though it is always crowded here, you can usually get in and out within five minutes. Living in Manhattan a few years back, Lori and I quickly learned that if there was a crowd waiting to get into a restaurant – no matter what it looked like from the outside – then it must be worth waiting for. There are maybe 3 or 4 tables available outside, though most people are quite content to sit in their car and eat – this is after all, a drive-in! Great food, great prices, and quite an experience!

Slow down, you move too fast

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From our visit to New York last week… the thermometer in my car was topping 100 degrees on the morning we decided to take a run into Manhattan to visit aunt Joan and spend some time downtown in our new favorite city green area, Battery Park. One of the Midtown Tunnel tubes was closed due to construction, so we changed our route to go in via the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge – better known as the 59th Street Bridge. The traffic, the heat, the New York lifestyle… perhaps Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel knew what they were talking about when they wrote the opening line of The 59th Street Bridge song… “Slow down, you move too fast”.

Speaking of music… I couldn’t get the theme tune from the TV show “Taxi” out of my head as we eventually broke free of the slow-moving traffic and sailed across the 59th Street Bridge. We don’t usually travel into NYC via this bridge, but the spectacular views of the city skyline made it worth the detour. The Saturday morning traffic in Manhattan was its usual energetic self, and as we drove down 7th Avenue toward Chelsea, we cranked all of the windows open and soaked in the city. We parked the car, and after a nice visit with aunt Joan, we hopped on the #1 subway train at 23rd Street going toward Battery Park.

The temperature on the concrete streets of NYC was pretty intense, but if you want to feel seriously oppressive and stifling heat, then take a walk down into a subway station – luckily the trains themselves are air-conditioned. After a short ride and another classic NYC experience for Jack, we were at our destination… the eclectic and very much alive Battery Park. Within minutes these three transplanted Mainers were overheating, though the cool waters of a playground fountain brought a brief and welcome respite.

Lori and I lived in Manhattan for a while when we first got married, so the hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle doesn’t seem so unusual to us. As we mingled with the locals and the many wide-eyed tourists, we all enjoyed great views of the Staten Island Ferry coming and going, and the iconic Statue of Liberty and historic Ellis Island welcoming seafaring visitors to New York Harbor. We both loved living in NYC, and if ever there was a strong enough desire to switch gears in life, this is a place we wouldn’t hesitate to return to.

We relaxed and ate a nice (air-conditioned) lunch at a PJ Clarke’s restaurant in North Cove where a jazz festival was jamming, we stopped by the remarkable Irish Hunger Memorial, and we reflected on the more recent emotional history of this part of New York as we viewed the new World Trade Center being constructed. We stopped by the memorial to the Universal Soldier, and we wandered the often tree-covered sidewalks that look out over the busy Hudson River and across to the now quite impressive New Jersey skyline.

Sort of a side note… Jack has been very interested in cars lately, and as we drive along the highway he identifies and names just about every make and model we see. As we were picking up our car from the parking garage, he became quite excited when he noticed a fancy, sporty car parked beside ours. He immediately recognized it as a Ferrari… as you can imagine, that just made his day! I don’t know why he thought this was an appropriate pose, but he’s 7 years old, and I guess that’s what you do when you see a Ferrari!

The couple of hours we spent exploring and enjoying the area around Battery Park were very well spent, but by early afternoon we were craving a return to home base and the refreshing cool water of Grandpa’s backyard pool. As expected, leaving NYC wasn’t any easier than getting there, and if you have never dealt with LIE traffic you might not understand… but trust me, that pool back home never felt so good.

Irish Hunger Memorial in NYC

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This city never ceases to amaze me. There’s always something new and interesting to see around every corner, and while exploring the lower west side of Manhattan on a recent short visit, we stumbled on the Irish Hunger Memorial for the first time. An oasis of green in a jungle of concrete and steel, this unique memorial in New York City is beautifully presented and a poignant reminder of constant struggles to provide the most basic of human needs.

A description from Wikipedia:

“The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed collaboratively by artist Brian Tolle, landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, and 1100 Architect, is located on a one-half acre site at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, and is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine that killed up to a million in Ireland between the years 1845 and 1852. The memorial was dedicated on July 16, 2002. It is a uniquely landscaped plot, which utilizes stones, soil, and native vegetation brought in from the western coast of Ireland. The memorial contains stones from all of the different counties of Ireland. The memorial also incorporates an authentic rebuilt Irish cottage of the 19th century. The cottage at the memorial is from Carradoogan in the parish of Attymass in County Mayo. The cottage belonged to the Slack family but was deserted in the 1960s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial in “memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to America and fared well there.” “

Between 1846 and 1850, potato blight all but wiped out the main source of food for the Irish people and a catastrophic famine ensued. One and a half million Irish people died, and many more fled their homeland just to survive. The quarter of an acre Irish Hunger Memorial garden is a reminder of An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger), and it also recognizes the many parts of the world still affected by hunger today.

A raised overlook provides impressive views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, significant as symbols of the welcome afforded the immigrant Irish people. The outside wall of the memorial is adorned with almost two miles of poetry, statistics and quotes about the impact of the deadly famine.

Somewhat ironically placed deep within the Financial District of the richest city in the world, this site stands as a simple reminder of past and present issues around world hunger, and in a time when some of us have so much, it seems hard to believe that so many people across the globe still go without. Well worth a visit.

Four boys from Dublin

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Before it even became trendy to create a bucket list, and hopefully without sounding too morbid, I had already written down a few things that I wanted to do before I die. Probably like most people, my list included the usual suspects like exotic travel to far flung places and several exciting thrill-seeking activities, but it also included the wish to one day see a certain band from Ireland play live in concert. Just this week I got my wish.

Growing up in Ireland during the 80′s you couldn’t be anything but amazed at the music being produced by U2. They had a style all of their own, and quickly developed a reputation for raw, high energy shows. There aren’t many bands you can instantly identify within the first few seconds of just about any song they play, but there is definitely a unique and unmistakable U2 sound. Before long they had established themselves as a world-wide phenomenon and it became incredibly difficult to score tickets… oh, and along the way they produced some truly remarkable and memorable music.

With the mercury in New York City hitting 95 degrees, Sam and I drove the 35 miles from Granny and Grandpa’s house across Manhattan to the Meadowlands Stadium in a very frustrating and seemingly never-ending 4 hours! Traffic was horrendous, with the struggle to get into the Lincoln Tunnel an absolute bear. We persevered though, and at about 8:00 p.m. we rolled into New Jersey and ultimately the very crowded parking lot of the stadium. As we found our seats, we were amazed by the elaborate and impressive 160 ft tall set, and as the stadium filled to capacity, the huge crowd became quite a scene.

The four boys from Dublin – Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. – collectively better known as U2, put on a show to remember. Even though our seats were fairly high up in the stadium, we still felt as if we were a part of the performance, and as Bono and the boys cranked out classics like Sunday Bloody Sunday, City of Blinding Lights, I Will Follow, and Vertigo… along with the rest of the 80,000 concert-goers, we were treated to an awesome show full of intensity and energy… one that neither Sam nor I will ever forget.

Fire Island Lighthouse

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The south shore of Long Island in New York is one big, beautiful beach. Traveling east on the Ocean Parkway takes you past the glorious Jones Beach, and continuing further you will eventually reach Robert Moses State Park and the Fire Island National Seashore. An unexpected family trip to New York gave us an opportunity to spend a peaceful Saturday morning exploring this spectacular area, so we headed east toward the famous lighthouse.

“For decades, the first evidence of land for travelers crossing the vast Atlantic Ocean from Europe was the Fire Island Lighthouse. Completed in 1858 near the site of its 1826 predecessor, the current Fire Island Lighthouse is still a beacon attracting thousands of people each year. Its light, 167 feet above the level of the sea, can be seen more than 20 miles away.” – NPS web site

I know we are supposed to embrace rather than endure the Maine winters, but this one has been especially stubborn in not wanting to leave, so as we walked the 3/4 mile boardwalk from the parking lot at Field 5 to the Fire Island Lighthouse, we soaked in the more southerly morning sun which was warm and very welcome. In the summertime this place can be quite crowded, so on this day we were glad to be able to enjoy it at a more peaceful time.

Excited that the lighthouse tower was open for a tour, we climbed the 156 iron steps and two small ladders that led to a magnificent view from the top. Jack was thrilled to be able to do this all by himself, and as you can see, he climbed at a furious pace. Me… I don’t like heights so much, and when you add in the fact that you can see through each of the 156 iron steps, I was just a tiny bit more methodical in my approach.

When we got out onto the viewing deck of New York’s tallest lighthouse – despite the long way down – I was able to enjoy the stunning 360 degree views. We also stopped off to admire the inner workings of the lighthouse, an amazing sight when seen up close.

“Today the light is lit by a DCB-224, with two 1000-watt bulbs, which rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. The rotation gives the appearance of a flash every 7.5 seconds.” – NPS web site

A return walk alongside the Atlantic was just the ticket, as we found horseshoe crabs, silver sand dollars, and all sorts of other beach treasure. We had hardly set foot on the beach before Jack had his shoes and socks off, running down to the shore to be chased by the breaking waves. Yes… a very nice morning it was.

Summer Concert U2

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When a company procures your email address and sends you spammy updates, it annoys the heck out of me and I usually hit the unsubscribe link within seconds. One exception to this though is when I open up my email to find that Ticketmaster has news it would like to share with me.

While Sesame Street Live or Josh Groban crooning in Boston don’t really float my boat, every now and then I just can’t seem to help myself as I click and follow the hyperlinked trail that leads from one usually uninteresting event to the next. This time though, I hit gold… look what I stumbled on… U2!

Growing up in Ireland during the 80’s you couldn’t be anything but amazed at the music being produced from this band. They had a style all of their own, and quickly developed a reputation for raw, high energy shows. There aren’t many bands you can instantly identify within the first few seconds of just about any song they play, but there is definitely a unique and unmistakable U2 sound. Before long they had established themselves as a world-wide phenomenon and it became incredibly difficult to score tickets… oh, and along the way they produced some truly remarkable music.

So, my Internet surfing adventure that started with some random “Disney on Ice” event ultimately led me to the new Meadowlands Stadium in July where the #1 band of all time will be playing in front of 80,000 people… including our Sam and one other. He has always been very interested in his Irish heritage, and he has also been keen to see U2, so this wasn’t a bad Christmas present for a him, eh?

Who knows… maybe he will take his old man along with him 😉

A Day at the Zoo

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Central Park Zoo has long been a favorite destination of ours. Ever since Sam was little, when visiting the city we would always plan on spending some time at this small, but wonderfully intimate zoo. It never got old for Sam as we would return again and again to explore the indoor rain forest where he could eagerly search for all sorts of exotic birds, insects, and reptiles. He would look forward to observing the fascinating group of snow monkeys socializing on the rocky island, and he would carefully plan our time so that we would be able to catch the scheduled feeding of the sea lions and see them do their tricks. Before leaving, he would insist on stopping by the penguin exhibit… and of course… he would usually spend a chunk of his time trying to get a really good look at Gus and Ida, the two resident and spectacular Polar Bears.

Things haven’t changed much over the years at the zoo, and even though there haven’t been many new exhibits added, it is still one of the coolest places to visit when in the city. This Thanksgiving holiday we were able to make a quick day trip into Manhattan, and after filling our bellies with some delicious NY pizza, we made a bee line for Central Park and our favorite zoo.

Sam was a very willing guide for Jack, enthusiastically leading him from one exhibit to another, along the way sharing with him everything he remembered about his earlier times spent here. Jack was absolutely delighted to be given the tour by his big brother, and now seeing him marvel at the sights and sounds of the zoo brought back great memories for all of us. We certainly enjoyed becoming reacquainted with all of the old favorites, but I think the highlight for everyone was seeing the new (at least since our last visit) snow leopard exhibit that opened in June of 2009.

There are three of the endangered big cats in the zoo, though we were expecting them to be pretty private and probably quite reclusive. After spending some time scanning the compound unsuccessfully for signs of life, we were just about to move along when we suddenly caught a glimpse of something large and very stealthy working his (or her) way through the vegetation. Imagine our surprise when he (or she) then appeared in the open right next to where we were standing, and after posing ever so briefly for us, this big, beautiful cat gracefully disappeared back into the undergrowth. The snow leopard is an absolutely striking animal, and it is sad to realize that due to hunting there are only between 3,500 and 7,000 of them left alive in the wilds of the Himalayas. How could anyone want to harm such a beautiful creature?