A Travellerspoint blog

New York City 2009

New York City 2009
Michael and I made our second trip to New York, September 24-26. We fought our way from Kennedy Airport in Queens to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. We again ferried to the Statue of Liberty. The Statue is a National Monument. They were taking only 200 people a day to the crown and were booked til January. We headed for Times Square and the Portland Square Hotel where we checked into our room and prepared for Kristina in Concert. We had time but had to keep moving. The hotel is located at 132 West 47th Street. Phone: 212-382-0600. We used my AAA card.

Kristina in Concert was at Carnegie Hall for two nights, and Michael and I saw it on Thursday, September 24. The main characters lined up to sing their parts in front of the orchestra. It was nearly three hours. The melodies were beautiful and full of emotion. Even though it was the English version, it was still difficult to pick up the lyrics. Of course, I knew the story. I pitied those who did not. Leaving the theater, Michael asked me what I thought. I told him it was an accomplishment, an achievement. And that is what it was, that I managed to see it with my son! We sat high in the balcony, close to the edge. A dangerous spot. Benny and Bjorn were in the audience (I figured they would be) and came to the stage at the concert's end. The song getting the biggest ovation was The Gold Turned To Sand. Carnegie Hall was built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, and is located at 57th Street. After the show, Michael and I went to a karaoke bar at Times Square, and I sang Dancing Queen. I told him I had made it on the "big stage."

We walked from Times Square all the way to the Financial District. We entered the New York Life Building. Michael is an agent for them and sells their products. We had a tour scheduled at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and were taken to the Gold Vault underground to see $190 billion in gold. Michael reminded me that one bar weighs 20 pounds and is worth $118,000. I kept biting my nails, and he asked me if I were nervous. I guess it was all that gold! We returned to the charging bull and got pictures. Michael rubbed the bull's balls for good luck. There were more people than last time probably because of activity at the U.N. I told Michael he might be doing business on Wall Street during a future visit.

We took the subway to the Bronx and 161st Street to the new Yankee Stadium. It sits right beside the old one and cost $1.4 billion. It is Steinbrenner's legacy. The Yankees played the Boston Red Sox, the greatest rivalry in all of sports. The Yankees won 9-5. This is four times we have seen them and the second time they have won. The Stadium is the star, and we walked all around it, viewing the game from different angles. There are huge pictures on the walls of great players from the past: Ruth, Gehrig and Mantle. I nearly choked up as we entered the new cathedral. Being among Yankee supporters, I felt like we were among friends. Michael spotted 9/11 mayor Giuliani in the crowd.

Our last day, we found Rockefeller Center and the NBC Studios. We saw the statue of Prometheus, and I told Michael about the Greek myth, how Prometheus brought the gift of fire to mankind and was punished by Zeus until Hercules set him free. We strolled through the NBC Experience, a gift shop, and saw a funny picture of Conan with his hair sticking up.

Our trip ended with a ride through Central Park. We came to the John Lennon Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields, and Michael took my picture giving the peace sign. Everyone else was flashing the sign, so I did. The Dakota was nearby, and I told Michael how Lennon was shot by a guy named Mark David Chapmen in December, 1980, and how I called Karen after seeing the story on the front page of the Tennessean as I was going into Shoney's for breakfast. She always said I cried, but that was not true. Chapman did not try to escape. He sat on some steps and waited for the police. Our driver said that Yoko still lives on the top three floors of the Dakota. Michael and I heard several Beatle songs while having breakfast at Starbucks.

Flying back to Nashville, I told Michael how I was feeding him a bottle in the back room at the house in Lebanon and thinking of New York. Reading about Central Park, I learned how it got its name, by being in the center of Manhattan. Michael said that it was his dream to go to New York. Now he has been there twice. We took it further and deeper. These trips are a few of the many ways I am helping my son.

Posted by Jim Colyer 11:03 Archived in USA Tagged educational Comments (0)

Iceland 2007

For the Northern Lights

After missing the Northern Lights in Alaska, I traveled to Iceland, December 4-9, 2007, hoping to see them. Iceland is a Scandinavian country lying between Norway and Greenland. It is an island nation the size of Kentucky with a peninsula extending from its northwestern corner that looks like a crab with pinchers.

Iceland was a Danish colony until 1944. It became independent when the Nazis occupied Denmark. Iceland's flag has the Scandinavian cross, a red cross outlined in white against a blue field. Greenland was granted self-rule by Denmark in 1979.

People like to say that "Iceland is green, and Greenland is covered with ice." Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream. It was not nearly as cold in Reykjavik as it was in Boston.

I flew U.S. Airways to Boston and took Icelandair. I landed at Keflavik International Airport. Keflavik was built by Americans during the Cold War. It is 45 minutes from Reykjavik. I heard "One Of Us" by ABBA on the Flybus. ABBA follows me everywhere.

The population of Iceland is 300,000, 200,000 of which live in the capital of Reykjavik. Icelanders are reserved and businesslike, fortified against an extreme climate. They are descended from the Vikings who came from Norway in the 9th century. There are lots of square-faced blondes.

Icelanders teach us something. They prosper on an island in the North Atlantic under harsh conditions. Why? Because they make the most of everything. They heat their city with geothermal energy, utilizing the many hot springs. They take care of themselves and each other.

Reykjavik is the northernmost capital. The daylight at noon on December 8 was like soft twilight. SUVs crowded the streets.

That tall building in the city center is Hallgrims Church. It is Lutheran. I climbed the tower. It was misting rain and quite gloomy. The Leifur Eiriksson Hotel, where I stayed, faces the church. I could see it through my window. The statue of Leif Ericsson is in front. Leif was the first European to set foot in North America. He was born in Iceland. The planet Venus was in the morning sky and shown beside the church.

The people speak Icelandic but also English. Their language has changed so little since the 9th century that they can still read the medieval sagas.

Iceland's unit of currency is the krona, abbreviated ISK. $1000 got me 54,000 krona. It takes getting used to. A bottle of water cost 200 krona.

Reykjavik is where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky held the World Chess Championship in 1972. In 2010, Reykjavik will officially be designated the Chess Capital of the World. Fischer, with a long history of personal problems, resides in Iceland.

I went out with Reykjavik Excursions three times. My first tour was the popular Golden Circle. It lasted eight hours and cost 7000 ISK. I saw my first geyser since Yellowstone. The landscape was stark and barren. There were no trees. It was cold, and snow was on the ground. I was thankful for my long-johns. Iceland is fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers. Its arctic-like setting displays its deadly beauty as the yellow sun skirts along the horizon in the turquoise sky.

It was cloudy the first two nights. Clouds seem to materialize from nothing only to quickly disappear. I took the Northern Lights tour on both my third and fourth nights. I kept trying. Did I see the lights? Technically, yes. Were they spectacular? No. Conditions were better the second time out. It was clear and cold. The coach parked for an hour, and everyone got off. There was a broad band of white light in the north below the Big Dipper. It may have been my imagination, but I thought it had a greenish tint. Our guide called it the "beginning of the Northern Lights." He said the raw material was there but that it lacked the final touch needed to burst into activity. It was better than nothing. I got my bearings. The north star was high in the sky like it was in Alaska. The summer triangle was visible, a surprise. Vegas, Deneb and Altair are down this time of year in Kentucky and Tennessee. I marveled at Cygnus the Swan in December. Orion was low as it was in Alaska. Mars burned bright in the constellation Gemini. There were Capella, Aldebaran and the Pleiades, the classic sky which I saw from my parents' back porch in 1961-62. I felt fortunate to be able to see the celestial sphere from different angles. I came away realizing that one does not go to Alaska or Iceland for a few days and see the Northern Lights in their glory. The stories are told by people who spend their lives there.

I did not have the experience with the northern lights I had hoped for. What I did do was fill in the missing piece between Alaska and Sweden, completing an arc across half the globe. I have been in 42 states and 8 foreign countries on 3 continents.

J

Posted by Jim Colyer 02:15 Comments (0)

Iceland 2007

For the Northern Lights

After missing the Northern Lights in Alaska, I traveled to Iceland, December 4-9, 2007, hoping to see them. Iceland is a Scandinavian country lying between Norway and Greenland. It is an island nation the size of Kentucky with a peninsula extending from its northwestern corner that looks like a crab with pinchers.

Iceland was a Danish colony until 1944. It became independent when the Nazis occupied Denmark. Iceland's flag has the Scandinavian cross, a red cross outlined in white against a blue field. Greenland was granted self-rule by Denmark in 1979.

People like to say that "Iceland is green, and Greenland is covered with ice." Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream. It was not nearly as cold in Reykjavik as it was in Boston.

I flew U.S. Airways to Boston and took Icelandair. I landed at Keflavik International Airport. Keflavik was built by Americans during the Cold War. It is 45 minutes from Reykjavik. I heard "One Of Us" by ABBA on the Flybus. ABBA follows me everywhere.

The population of Iceland is 300,000, 200,000 of which live in the capital of Reykjavik. Icelanders are reserved and businesslike, fortified against an extreme climate. They are descended from the Vikings who came from Norway in the 9th century. There are lots of square-faced blondes.

Icelanders teach us something. They prosper on an island in the North Atlantic under harsh conditions. Why? Because they make the most of everything. They heat their city with geothermal energy, utilizing the many hot springs. They take care of themselves and each other.

Reykjavik is the northernmost capital. The daylight at noon on December 8 was like soft twilight. SUVs crowded the streets.

That tall building in the city center is Hallgrims Church. It is Lutheran. I climbed the tower. It was misting rain and quite gloomy. The Leifur Eiriksson Hotel, where I stayed, faces the church. I could see it through my window. The statue of Leif Ericsson is in front. Leif was the first European to set foot in North America. He was born in Iceland. The planet Venus was in the morning sky and shown beside the church.

The people speak Icelandic but also English. Their language has changed so little since the 9th century that they can still read the medieval sagas.

Iceland's unit of currency is the krona, abbreviated ISK. $1000 got me 54,000 krona. It takes getting used to. A bottle of water cost 200 krona.

Reykjavik is where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky held the World Chess Championship in 1972. In 2010, Reykjavik will officially be designated the Chess Capital of the World. Fischer, with a long history of personal problems, resides in Iceland.

I went out with Reykjavik Excursions three times. My first tour was the popular Golden Circle. It lasted eight hours and cost 7000 ISK. I saw my first geyser since Yellowstone. The landscape was stark and barren. There were no trees. It was cold, and snow was on the ground. I was thankful for my long-johns. Iceland is fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers. Its arctic-like setting displays its deadly beauty as the yellow sun skirts along the horizon in the turquoise sky.

It was cloudy the first two nights. Clouds seem to materialize from nothing only to quickly disappear. I took the Northern Lights tour on both my third and fourth nights. I kept trying. Did I see the lights? Technically, yes. Were they spectacular? No. Conditions were better the second time out. It was clear and cold. The coach parked for an hour, and everyone got off. There was a broad band of white light in the north below the Big Dipper. It may have been my imagination, but I thought it had a greenish tint. Our guide called it the "beginning of the Northern Lights." He said the raw material was there but that it lacked the final touch needed to burst into activity. It was better than nothing. I got my bearings. The north star was high in the sky like it was in Alaska. The summer triangle was visible, a surprise. Vegas, Deneb and Altair are down this time of year in Kentucky and Tennessee. I marveled at Cygnus the Swan in December. Orion was low as it was in Alaska. Mars burned bright in the constellation Gemini. There were Capella, Aldebaran and the Pleiades, the classic sky which I saw from my parents' back porch in 1961-62. I felt fortunate to be able to see the celestial sphere from different angles. I came away realizing that one does not go to Alaska or Iceland for a few days and see the Northern Lights in their glory. The stories are told by people who spend their lives there.

I did not have the experience with the northern lights I had hoped for. What I did do was fill in the missing piece between Alaska and Sweden, completing an arc across half the globe. I have been in 42 states and 8 foreign countries on 3 continents.

Jim Colyer http://www.jimcolyer.com

Posted by Jim Colyer 02:15 Comments (0)

LAS VEGAS 1993

Jim Colyer does the Strip

sunny

I returned to Las Vegas for 3 months, March 7 to June 8, 1993, with the intention of adding to the experience I had in 1979. I dug in at the Tropicana Club at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. I relied on the strip trolly for transportation up and down the Strip. I wanted to hang out. Bill Clinton was America's new president, and we were going through a 70s revival. It was an opportune moment for escaping my parents' basement, where I had held up for more than 7 years, and a chance to fend for myself, to procure my own food and to handle my own clothes. Basics. I flew into McCarran Airport from Minnesota, my first flight in 15 years. Las Vegas was the same in many ways, and in some ways it had changed. The Ali Baba Apartments were torn down to make room for the MGM theme park. The Granada Inn was for sale, and the Treasury was now the San Remo. The Dunes was coming down, and the old MGM Grand was now Bally's. Las Vegas, or the Meadows, is still the entertainment capital of the world. The Strip itself is a work of art . Unfortunately, the wind, heat, crowds, traffic and noise ensure that it is partially heaven, partially hell. You pump up the things you like, economize and get the best deals. I finally saw rain.

The castle Excalibur was the big attraction. It exploits a medieval motif, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table from the early middle ages, Robin Hood from the latter. I patronized restaurants in the Medieval Village on the second level. A belly dancer did her thing. The Excalibur, Luxor, Tropicana and the new MGM Grand are forming a second hot corner. Circus Circus owns the Excalibur and the Luxor. The trend is toward family orientation.

Downtown, the Golden Goose Casino is now a topless joint but the sign is still there, an historic fixture on the Glitter Gulch landscape. The sign faces both directions. Above it, revolves the goose figure on its nest of golden eggs. Cowboy Vegas Vic and cowgirl Sassy Sally patrol adjacent sides of the street. On down, Union Plaza sits next to the Greyhound Bus station.

Caesar's Palace is still hard to top. The Forum Shops at Caesar's price themselves into the luxury class. The 18 foot replica of Michelangelo's David (of David and Goliath) presides over Appian Way as the Italian Renasiiance imposes itself on the Roman Empire. I ventured into the pool area behind Caesar's for the first time, beautiful under a moonlit sky. Next door, the Mirage shows off its erupting volcano and its white tigers. I have to say the casinos are awful. Men at the tables, women on the machines. Expressionless. Zombies. One must refrain from drinking and gambling if he is to enjoy Las Vegas. I did. The Fashion Show Mall offers the best shopping on the Strip.

I realized it was the production shows which interested me, most specifically the leggy, statuesque dancers and showgirls. Bally's Jubilee! was the hot ticket. It was the biggest show on the Strip and had the best showgirls. I took Jubilee's backstage tour but was disappointed to have a male dancer as a guide instead of a sexy showgirl. Still, I gained insight. One thing which impressed me was the size of the stage. From the stage, the seating area appeared small. Jubilee! is a dinosaur, a glamorous throwback to musicals of yesterday. It is a composite of Vaudeville, Broadway and classic Hollywood. It boasts of its nightly sinking of the Titanic, but the thrill is seeing all those long, shapely legs assembled in one place at one time. 100 people make up the cast with 100 more behind the scenes. The show is so lavish it leaves you dazed. I got my revenge for the backstage tour when that same male dancer took a picture of me with one of the girls. Free photo sessions are between shows. Some of the girls are 6'2" and 6'3"

I saw Folies Bergere (Ber-share) at the Tropicana even though I did not plan to. Karen and I saw the show in 1979. This time, I took the backstage tour which was led by a former showgirl of 20 years. She may have been part of the show we saw 14 years before. It was interesting to get behind the scenes, especially into the dressing rooms to see and handle the costumes. Some of them are heavy, so the girls have to be pretty sturdy. I lingered a few moments to talk to the showgirl. I asked if there were a pension plan for those who stayed 20 years. She said no, but they were nice and had given her a job. Folies Bergere was the oldest show in Vegas, going back to 1959.

Bare Essence at the Sands was comparable in longevity. Bare Essence was unemcumbered by European tradition and lived up to its billing as a "sexy, sizzling revue."

The Stardust had Enter the Night. It was emblematic of the darkness which pervaded my entire trip.

Melinda, First Lady of Magic, was a native Las Vegan. Using animals, she performd feats of illusion between spicy dance numbers. Her show was at the Lady Luck, downtown. All the shows give a sense of euphoria.

For Crazy Girls, the showroom at the Riviera provided an intimacy some of the others did not. I suppose my feeling of being hustled in and out derived from wanting to take some splendid calves and thighs home with me.

I made it to Arizona Charlie's for the Naughty Ladies review. It was good, old timey fun, high button shoes. For the finale, we paraded to "When The Saints Go Marching In."

Seduction and Viva Las Vegas were afternoon shows. Seduction was in Sahara's Casbar Lounge. It was back to the Sands for Viva Las Vegas.

The Elvis impersonator at Vegas World put on a complimentary show. He called himself E.P. King. I looked down on the city from the top of Vegas World.

Beatle tribute bands were at the Rio and the Four Queens. A promo ticket gave me access to Imperial Palace's antique cars.

I was scared of Death Valley in 1979. This time, I took the Silver Star Line tour. I rode shotgun in the van as we made stops at Dante's View and the Devil's Golf Course. The "golf course" is a dried lake where salt is from 3 to 5 feet deep. I tasted it. Death Valley sits on the Nevada-California line but is mostly in California.

Borax mined from Death Valley is a mineral used in soap. The 105 elements of chemistry make up the 3000 minerals of geology. Minerals form 3 kinds of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.

Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks, laid down by water.

I took a taxi ride on the Colorado River in Laughlin, 90 miles southeast of Vegas.

Returning to Louisville in order to rendevous with Michael, I came east on I-40, old Route 66: Kingman, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville.

I realized the strip is a short-lived thing, like the Mall in D.C. The only reason to see it again will be to show it to Michael as part of a western trip.
Contact: jim@jimcolyer.com

Posted by Jim Colyer 12:54 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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