Friday, May 3, 2024

New York: The Tenement Museum

On our second full day in New York, we visited the New York Tenement Museum. It was a short walk from our hotel in Chinatown. On the way there, we stopped to get a couple of slices of Pizza. After that, we were ready to go. 

It was very interesting, and we had basically a private tour.  The Lower East Side tenement was originally built in 1888; it’s what’s called a prewar walk-up.  You see these tenements all the time in the movies and on television; it was fun to actually go inside and see them personally. 

The tour included profiles of two different families that lived here.  In this one Apartment: a Jewish Polish Holocaust survivor family and a Puerto Rican family who eventually moved in after them.  They both came to America for the promise of opportunity and Freedom.  It was an immigration story and a story of an ever-changing neighborhood.  

The first couple met in a refugee camp, married, then immigrated from eastern Germany.  They were the only surviving members of their entire families who were killed in the Holocaust.  They were from the same area of Prussia as my great-grandfather Skrofronic was from.  This area is now Poland.  It is such a small world.  In New York, they lived near their sponsor in the European Jewish Lower East Side building. 

This area of the Lower East Side eventually became a Spanish district. The inhabitants, mostly from Puerto Rico, worked in the garment industry. They worked in small, little factories that sewed together clothes. It was a hard, scrabble life. They raised families and chased the American dream. The children and Grandchildren of these two families now support the Museum.

The museum guide was very knowledgeable.  She described a lot of intimate details about the families,   We started the tour in the first-floor bookshop, then went outside to the tenement entrance and walked the stairs up to the Apartments.  At one time, the apartments did not have their own bathrooms. The four apartments on the floor shared a common bathroom. Eventually, by the time the Spanish family moved in, the apartments were renovated to include a bathroom. 

It was refreshing to hear the story of immigration. The struggles in life that make life worth living. The streets of New York were   the community thrived.  The Museum provide a picture of the American dream being played out. It reminds us how lucky we all have it in America. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The New York Museum of Modern Art

We are in New York getting ready to get on the Queen Mary 2 for a transatlantic crossing.  I have always wanted to go to the MoMA.  The Museum of Modern Art 

When I saw that they had a Picasso special exhibit, I had to go.  The Museum of Modern Art is one of the world's great museums.  It has a fantastic impressionist and surrealist collection, including Picasso, Dali, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Fredia, and many others.

Then, fast-forward six weeks.  I went to a lecture about the artist Salvador Dali on the Queen Mary 2. Dali, better known as Dali, pioneered the Surrealist movement.  

He once said that the only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad.  He was a very flamboyant individual who thought he was the reincarnation of his dead older brother, Salvador, who died before he was born.  He was a big fan of Sigmund Freud and was fascinated with what dreams meant to the psyche.  His paintings, to some extent, documented hallucinations and interpreted dreams. 

His major contribution to surrealism is the "paranoiac-critical method, a surrealist technique developed by Salvador DalĂ­ in the early 1930s.  He employed it in producing paintings and other artworks, especially those involving optical illusions and multiple images.  The technique consists of the artist invoking a paranoid state (fear that the self is being manipulated, targeted, or controlled by others).  The result is a deconstruction of the psychological concept of identity, such that subjectivity becomes the primary aspect of the artwork."

He met Pablo Picasso when he was young in the 1920s and was influenced by cubism.  He is commonly labeled a member of the lost generation.  At the lecture, we were all asked if anyone had seen his painting, The Persistence of Memory, at the MoMA.  We had just been to the Museum of Modern Art before we departed New York.  Included is a picture I took of it at the MoMA.

Our trip to the MoMA was an incredible experience.  It ranked up there with trips to the Louvre and the Prado.  If you are in New York for any length of time, it is well worth a visit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Southampton: Departing on the World Cruise.

After our transatlantic crossing, we were surprised to learn we would be part of the 2024 Queen Mary 2 world tour.  When I booked the cruise from New York to Perth, I had no idea this cruise was part of any world tour.  Cunard Oceanliner world tours are linked directly to world tours made by English royalty in the past. 

The world tour celebrates the phrase " the sun never sets on the British Empire. " It is now a homage to the United Kingdom and the Common Wealth of Nations. Which are former British Colonies and territories. 

"The Commonwealth of Nations, often simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is an international association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire from which it developed."

Our world tour departure from Southhampton was a major event that made the BBC news in Great Britain.  The British are all about pomp and circumstance. This was a send-off for two ships on their world tours: the Queen Victoria and our ship, The Queen Mary 2.  Queen Victoria is sailing on a western route towards South America, and Queen Mary 2 is sailing on an eastern route around the Horn of Africa. Both ships will sail to the other side of the world and then meet back in Southampton in five months. 

First, the Royal Imperial Military Band performed in the Queen's Room, a grand hall on the Queen Mary. Then, fireworks were displayed as each ship left the harbor.  First, Queen Victoria passed our stern with a volley of fireworks.  Then, as we passed through the harbor, another round of Fireworks finalized the celebration.

It's hard to believe that this was 26 days ago and that we are 11 days from Perth, Australia.  We have had a lot of adventures since we got on this ship in New York.  We endured a Force 10 Gale in the Atlantic and learned about this wonderful country called South Africa. In South Africa, we went on Safari and saw all manner of beasts in the wild.  The world has been our Oyster on the Queen Mary 2.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Stonehenge a Prehistoric Ruin

Well, the Transatlantic portion of the voyage is over.  My great-grandfather, who came from Prussia, made this voyage three times.  What he went through to immigrate to the United States has always fascinated me, and I have always dreamed of making this trip myself.  It is more than I ever imagined, with a force 10 gale to top it all off.  On our first tour of the voyage, we decided to go to Stonehenge. 

On the way, we drove through New Forest National Park.  A unique national park where the tenant family farmers are part of the park.  It used to be a royal country estate.  There are free-roaming horses and other animals with small villages scattered throughout.  It is amazing that now it is a public place.

We had never been to Stonehenge, which has been on our bucket list for years, so we signed up for the tour.  After an hour's bus ride, we arrived at some rocks in a field.  Someone said we should go see these rocks, and we did.  They seemed to be good rocks.  In all seriousness, they were a magnificent sight.  In their simplicity, they were a season and time tracking system.   This all happened in a time before history, shortly before the start of the Middle Ages. 

Returning from Stonehenge, we saw Old Sarum, an example of a mid-evil hill town near Salisbury, England.  In the distance, you could see fortifications and an outline of the old village on the hillside.  Then, we drove through Salisbury, which still had some mid-evil features, like an old town wall and castle clock.

What a great first tour of the trip, Old England at its finest.  Now it's back to the ship; it's time to prepare for the world cruise.  The sights we'll see will be amazing. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

A Transatlantic Crossing: The Queen Mary 2

 It is 3 January 2024, and after 5 days in New York, we are ready to get on board and start our adventure.  New York to Sydney, Australia.  On the Queen Mary 2 should be a unique experience.  Steep in English tradition, The Queen Mary 2 is an elegant ship.  It will be like living in an episode of Downton Abbey for the next 55 days.  A lot of English customs and etiquette.  
We left late in the evening.  Passing under the Varrazono Bridge looked like a close call, but it cleared under the bridge with no problems.  It's surreal that we are on this ship and starting this great voyage.  What a voyage it will be!  It will be 8 days to South Hampton and 21 days to Cape Town, with 2 stops in between.  Then it's 3 Stops in South Africa and 2 stops in the Indian Ocean.  Then, sail to Perth.  Then, 10 days to Sydney.  A week in Sydney, then a 15-hour flight home.

Well, we are settling into ship life.  The hardest thing has been traveling through the time zones.  We have gone through one each day since leaving New York.  It throws us off sleep patterns and planned activities.  The biggest mistake we made was trying to do too much.  We need to slow down and pace ourselves.  It's the 5th day, and we are starting to get into a rhythm.  

It's cold outside with snow on the decks.  The dinners have been great; we sit with a good group.  A father and son; the son is a  helicopter pilot, and the other couple is from Canada's Northwest Territories near Yellowknife. 

Sitting at the watching the snow and the waves.  It's a strange combination.   Last night, the rough seas woke us up a couple of times.  We had things sliding off our cabin table.  The captain told us we were sailing in a Force 10 Gale on the Beaufort scale with 10-meter seas.  12 is a hurricane, so it was pretty rough.  

This ship is built for it and is handling it well.  It has four stabilizing fins that are doing their job of keeping the ship relatively steady.   After a day of rough seas, the ship smoothed out.  The weather is a bit warmer for my walk around the deck.  The rough seas never affected the operation of the ship or its activities.  It was just a matter of getting your sea legs and learning a new dance step. 

Terri is taking a watercolor painting class, and I'm attending the historical lectures.  Which have been interesting.  If you want to know about Crime in the UK from 1939 to 1945, I'm your man.  

I went to a veteran's gathering, a mixture of American and British veterans.  We all had a few stories to tell.  We had one pilot in the group, and one of the British vets said, How can you know there's a pilot in the room?  Don't worry.  They end up telling you all about it.

We will be in Southhampton tomorrow night.  Rumor is that Cunard will have 2 ships leaving South Hampton on the same day.  The Queen Mary 2 is on an eastern world cruise, and Queen Victoria is on a westward world cruise.  After 8 days, we arrive in England and are ready to start the world cruise.  It's been a heck of a trip so far. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New York City 2023/24: A City on the Verge of a New Year

Well, it’s the start of another adventure.  It’s good to be back in Gotham.  It was cloudy coming into LaGuardia.  After an early flight and a cab ride into the city, we made it to Chinatown. 

Our room wasn’t ready, so we walked to Katz Deli for a Pastrami on Rye.  They have been serving them since 1899.  They have had plenty of time to get them right.    On the way to Kats, we passed many Chinese markets selling food we had never seen before.    Hope we get a chance to try all of it.

Our hotel in Chinatown is a short walk to neighboring Little Italy.   Most people think of New York as a big city, and it is that.   But, in reality, New York is a collection of villages. You have heard of many of these and many more that you haven’t.   These villages and their diversity make the city what it is, and by extension, it makes America great. 

After checking into our room, we took a 3-hour nap, catching up on the sleep we missed yesterday due to our 5am flight.   Waking up, we see that darkness has enveloped the city.   From our 12th-floor room, we can see the Empire State Building lit up In Christmas splendor.   We walk over to the Chinese grocery store next door to stock up on snacks and drinks for the room. 

Then, two blocks from our hotel, we ate at a real Chinese restaurant, far from Chinese food in most of America. After dinner, we walked over to Little Italy to get cannolis for dessert. It was a good first day in the city that never sleeps.  

The city is alive with people in anticipation of the New Year.   It’s a great feeling to be part of it all. It's going to be a wild five days, and I can't wait to experience it all.