Searching for locations: A typical diner, New York

We decided to have lunch in a traditional Diner.

On an early morning walk, I discovered the Brooklyn Diner, a small restaurant tucked away in a street not far from Columbus Circle, perhaps a piece of history from the American past.

After all, if you’re going to take in the sights, sounds, and food of a country what better way to do it than visiting what was once a tradition.

This one was called the Brooklyn Diner.  It had a combination of booths and counter sit down, though the latter was not a very big space, so we opted for a booth.

The object of going to a Diner is the fact they serve traditional American food, which when you get past the hot dogs and hamburgers and fries, takes the form of turkey and chicken pot pies among a variety of other choices.

Still looking for a perfectly cooked turkey, something I’ve never been able to do myself, I opted for the Teadition Turkey Lunch, which the menu invitingly said was cooked especially at the diner and was succulent.  I couldn’t wait.

We also ordered a hamburger, yes, yet another, and a chicken pot pie, on the basis the last one I had in Toronto was absolutely delicious (and cooked the same way since the mid-1930s)

While waiting we got to look at a slice of history belonging to another great American tradition, Baseball, a painting on the wall of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets field, long since gone from their home.

The Turnkey lunch looked like this

which didn’t seem to be much, and had this odd pasta slice on the plate, but the turkey was amazing and lived up to the menu description.

The Chicken Pot Pie looked like this

And looked a lot larger in reality than the photo shows.

But, sadly while it was not bad, it was a little dry, and could possibly do with using the more succulent thigh part of the chicken.

All of this was washed down by Long Island Ice Teas and Brooklyn Lager.

AS for the Diner experience, it’s definitely a 10 out of 10 for me.

Searching for locations: The Erqi Memorial Tower, Zhengzhou, China

A convoluted explanation on the reasons for this memorial came down to it being about the deaths of those involved in the 1923 Erqi strike, though we’re not really sure what the strike was about.

So, after a little research, this is what I found:

The current Erqi Tower was built in 1971 and was, historically, the tallest building in the city. It is a memorial to the Erqi strike and in memory of Lin Xiangqian and other railway workers who went on strike for their rights, which happened on February 7, 1923.

It has 14 floors and is 63 meters high. One of the features of this building is the view from the top, accessed by a spiral staircase, or an elevator, when it’s working (it was not at the time of our visit).

There seems to be an affinity with the number 27 with this building, in that

  • It’s the 27th memorial to be built
  • to commemorate the 27th workers’ strike
  • located in the 27th plaza of Zhengzhou City.

We drive to the middle of the city where we once again find traveling in kamikaze traffic more entertaining than the tourist points

When we get to the drop-off spot, it’s a 10-minute walk to the center square where the tower is located on one side. Getting there we had to pass a choke point of blaring music and people hawking goods, each echoing off the opposite wall to the point where it was deafening. Too much of it would be torture.

But, back to the tower…

It has 14 levels, but no one seemed interested in climbing the 14 or 16 levels to get to the top. The elevator was broken, and after the great wall episode, most of us are heartily sick of stairs.

The center square was quite large but paved in places with white tiles that oddly reflected the heat rather than absorb it. In the sun it was very warm.

Around the outside of two-thirds of the square, and crossing the roads, was an elevated walkway, which if you go from the first shops and around to the other end, you finish up, on the ground level, at Starbucks.

This is the Chinese version and once you get past the language barrier, the mixology range of cold fruity drinks are to die for, especially after all that walking. Mine was a predominantly peach flavor, with some jelly and apricot at the bottom. I was expecting sliced peaches but I prefer and liked the apricot half.

A drink and fruit together was a surprise.

Then it was the walk back to the meeting point and then into the hotel to use the happy house before rejoining the kamikaze traffic.

We are taken then to the train station for the 2:29 to our next destination, Suzhou, the Venice of the East.

We’re out in the country

Or almost

When you venture out from the city, particularly, this city, you find yourself among the blocks that run to several acres, allotments that are ideal for keeping a horse or two.

Inner suburban living often runs to high rise apartment blocks, with no gardens, except perhaps on the roof.

Outer suburban living runs to individual houses on allotments that are from 600 to 2,000 square meters. We have not yet gone into mass building of duplexes or terrace housing because for the time being, we don’t have the population.

And, this is why you only have to go about 35 kilometres from the centre of the city to be able to buy acreage.

So, we are visiting, and on such a glorious end of winter day, it’s a pleasure to sit on the back verandah, spending some time soaking up the sunshine, breathing the country fresh air, and let the inspiration flow into writing.

It works.

I’ve manage to write another photograph inspired story, number 124, which will be published on my writing blog in the next day or so.

Also being tackled will be the next chapter of PI Walthensen’s second case.

Unfortunately though, the inspirational location didn’t afford me a title for this new case but it will have the opening three words “A Case Of…’

The rest, I’m sure, will come as the story unfolds.

Searching for locations: A trip to New Jersey

That meant we had to make the journey from New York to New Jersey, by train.  It involved the underground, or as New Yorkers call it, the subway, from Columbus Circle which by any other name was really, 80th street, to 34th street which apparently was the New Jersey jump-off point for us to get overground, well a lot of it was overground. So, were we going uptown or downtown?

Apparently, it was downtown, and to 34th Street on the A train.

You would not think this to be a difficult task, but for people not used to the subway, and where they were going other than some internet derived instructions, but without the help of a man at the station, just getting tickets may have stopped us dead in our tracks.  With his help, we determined the return fare for three of us and then get through the turnstile onto the platform.

We get on the A train, but soon discover it was not stopping at all stations.  There was for a few minutes, a little apprehension we might just simply bypass our station.  Luckily we did not.

Now, finding your way to the New Jersey transit part of Penn station might appear to be easy, on paper, but once there, on the ground, and mingling with the other passengers which all seemed to be purpose going somewhere, it took a few moments to realize we had to follow the New Jersey transit signs.

This led to a booking hall where luckily we realized we needed to buy more tickets, then find the appropriate platform, and then get on the right train, all of which, in the end, was not difficult at all.

Maybe on the return trip, it might be.

At Newark Penn station it was momentarily confusing because the exit was not readily in sight, so it was a case of following the majority of other passengers who’d got off the train.

This led us to exit onto the street under the train tracks.  Luckily, having been before to Prudential Stadium to buy the tickets, we knew what the stadium looked like and roughly where it was, so it was a simple task to walk towards it.

We were early, so it was a case of finding a restaurant to get dinner before the game. So was a great many others, and we passed about 6 different restaurants that looked full to overflowing before we stopped at one called Novelty Burger and Bar.

It looked inviting, and it was not crowded.

It was yet another excuse to have a hamburger and beer, both of which seemed to be a specialty in American.  I could not fault either.

And soon after we arrived, this restaurant too was full to overflowing.  Thankfully there were other Maple Leaf fans there because being in a room full of opposition teams supports can be quite harrowing.

That was yet to come when we finally got to the stadium.  I was not expecting a lot of Maple Leaf fans.
We went to this game with high hopes.  New Jersey Devils were not exactly at the top of the leader board, and coming off the loss in Toronto, this was make or break for whether we would ever go to another game.

It’s remarkable in that all the Ice Hockey stadiums are the same.  Everyone has an excellent view of the game, the sound systems are loud, and the fans passionate. Here it seems to be a thing to ride on the Zambonis.
At the front door they were handing out figurines of a Devil’s past player, and it seems a thing that you get a handout of some sort at each game.  At Toronto we got towels. And, finally, we were in luck.

The Maple Leafs won.

And it was an odd feeling to know that even though their team lost, there did not seem to be any rancor amount the fans and that any expectation of being assaulted by losing fans was totally unfounded, unlike some sporting events I’ve been to.

Perhaps soccer should take a leaf out of the ice hockey playbook.

That also went for taking public transport late at night.  I did not have any fears about doing so, which is more than I can say about traveling at night on our own transport system back home.

Oh, and by the way, there are train conductors who still come to every passenger to collect or stamp their tickets.  No trusting the passenger has paid for his trip here.  And, if you don’t have a ticket, I have it on good authority they throw you off the train and into the swamp.  Good thing then, we had tickets.

It was, all in all, a really great day.

Searching for locations: The Erqi Memorial Tower, Zhengzhou, China

A convoluted explanation on the reasons for this memorial came down to it being about the deaths of those involved in the 1923 Erqi strike, though we’re not really sure what the strike was about.

So, after a little research, this is what I found:

The current Erqi Tower was built in 1971 and was, historically, the tallest building in the city. It is a memorial to the Erqi strike and in memory of Lin Xiangqian and other railway workers who went on strike for their rights, which happened on February 7, 1923.

It has 14 floors and is 63 meters high. One of the features of this building is the view from the top, accessed by a spiral staircase, or an elevator, when it’s working (it was not at the time of our visit).

There seems to be an affinity with the number 27 with this building, in that

  • It’s the 27th memorial to be built
  • to commemorate the 27th workers’ strike
  • located in the 27th plaza of Zhengzhou City.

We drive to the middle of the city where we once again find traveling in kamikaze traffic more entertaining than the tourist points

When we get to the drop-off spot, it’s a 10-minute walk to the center square where the tower is located on one side. Getting there we had to pass a choke point of blaring music and people hawking goods, each echoing off the opposite wall to the point where it was deafening. Too much of it would be torture.

But, back to the tower…

It has 14 levels, but no one seemed interested in climbing the 14 or 16 levels to get to the top. The elevator was broken, and after the great wall episode, most of us are heartily sick of stairs.

The center square was quite large but paved in places with white tiles that oddly reflected the heat rather than absorb it. In the sun it was very warm.

Around the outside of two-thirds of the square, and crossing the roads, was an elevated walkway, which if you go from the first shops and around to the other end, you finish up, on the ground level, at Starbucks.

This is the Chinese version and once you get past the language barrier, the mixology range of cold fruity drinks are to die for, especially after all that walking. Mine was a predominantly peach flavor, with some jelly and apricot at the bottom. I was expecting sliced peaches but I prefer and liked the apricot half.

A drink and fruit together was a surprise.

Then it was the walk back to the meeting point and then into the hotel to use the happy house before rejoining the kamikaze traffic.

We are taken then to the train station for the 2:29 to our next destination, Suzhou, the Venice of the East.

We’re out in the country

Or almost

When you venture out from the city, particularly, this city, you find yourself among the blocks that run to several acres, allotments that are ideal for keeping a horse or two.

Inner suburban living often runs to high rise apartment blocks, with no gardens, except perhaps on the roof.

Outer suburban living runs to individual houses on allotments that are from 600 to 2,000 square meters. We have not yet gone into mass building of duplexes or terrace housing because for the time being, we don’t have the population.

And, this is why you only have to go about 35 kilometres from the centre of the city to be able to buy acreage.

So, we are visiting, and on such a glorious end of winter day, it’s a pleasure to sit on the back verandah, spending some time soaking up the sunshine, breathing the country fresh air, and let the inspiration flow into writing.

It works.

I’ve manage to write another photograph inspired story, number 124, which will be published on my writing blog in the next day or so.

Also being tackled will be the next chapter of PI Walthensen’s second case.

Unfortunately though, the inspirational location didn’t afford me a title for this new case but it will have the opening three words “A Case Of…’

The rest, I’m sure, will come as the story unfolds.

Searching for locations: Ice hockey in Newark, New Jersey

That meant we had to make the journey from New York to New Jersey, by train. It involved the underground, or as New Yorkers call it, the subway, from Columbus Circle which by any other name was really, 80th street, to 34th street which apparently was the New Jersey jump-off point for us to get overground, well a lot of it was overground.
So, were we going uptown or downtown?

Apparently, it was downtown, and to 34th Street on the A train.

You would not think this to be a difficult task, but for people not used to the subway, and where they were going other than some internet derived instructions, but without the help of a man at the station, just getting tickets may have stopped us dead in our tracks. With his help, we determined the return fare for three of us and then get through the turnstile onto the platform.

We get on the A train, but soon discover it was not stopping at all stations. There was for a few minutes, a little apprehension we might just simply bypass our station. Luckily we did not.

Now, finding your way to the New Jersey transit part of Penn station might appear to be easy, on paper, but once there, on the ground, and mingling with the other passengers which all seemed to be purpose going somewhere, it took a few moments to realize we had to follow the New Jersey transit signs.

This led to a booking hall where luckily we realized we needed to buy more tickets, then find the appropriate platform, and then get on the right train, all of which, in the end, was not difficult at all.

Maybe on the return trip, it might be.

At Newark Penn station it was momentarily confusing because the exit was not readily in sight, so it was a case of following the majority of other passengers who’d got off the train.

This led us to exit onto the street under the train tracks. Luckily, having been before to Prudential Stadium to buy the tickets, we knew what the stadium looked like and roughly where it was, so it was a simple task to walk towards it.

We were early, so it was a case of finding a restaurant to get dinner before the game.
So was a great many others, and we passed about 6 different restaurants that looked full to overflowing before we stopped at one called Novelty Burger and Bar.

It looked inviting, and it was not crowded.

It was yet another excuse to have a hamburger and beer, both of which seemed to be a specialty in American. I could not fault either.

And soon after we arrived, this restaurant too was full to overflowing. Thankfully there were other Maple Leaf fans there because being in a room full of opposition teams supports can be quite harrowing.

That was yet to come when we finally got to the stadium. I was not expecting a lot of Maple Leaf fans.

We went to this game with high hopes. New Jersey Devils were not exactly at the top of the leader board, and coming off the loss in Toronto, this was make or break for whether we would ever go to another game.

It’s remarkable in that all the Ice Hockey stadiums are the same. Everyone has an excellent view of the game, the sound systems are loud, and the fans passionate.
Here it seems to be a thing to ride on the Zambonis.

At the front door they were handing out figurines of a Devil’s past player, and it seems a thing that you get a handout of some sort at each game. At Toronto we got towels.
And, finally, we were in luck

The Maple Leafs won.

And it was an odd feeling to know that even though their team lost, there did not seem to be any rancor amount the fans and that any expectation of being assaulted by losing fans was totally unfounded, unlike some sporting events I’ve been to.

Perhaps soccer should take a leaf out of the ice hockey playbook.

That also went for taking public transport late at night. I did not have any fears about doing so, which is more than I can say about traveling at night on our own transport system back home.

Oh, and by the way, there are train conductors who still come to every passenger to collect or stamp their tickets. No trusting the passenger has paid for his trip here. And, if you don’t have a ticket, I have it on good authority they throw you off the train and into the swamp. Good thing then, we had tickets.

It was, all in all, a really great day.

Skeletons in the closet, and doppelgangers

A story called “Mistaken Identity”

How many of us have skeletons in the closet that we know nothing about? The skeletons we know about generally stay there, but those we do not, well, they have a habit of coming out of left field when we least expect it.

In this case, when you see your photo on a TV screen with the accompanying text that says you are wanted by every law enforcement agency in Europe, you’re in a state of shock, only to be compounded by those same police, armed and menacing, kicking the door down.

I’d been thinking about this premise for a while after I discovered my mother had a boyfriend before she married my father, a boyfriend who was, by all accounts, the man who was the love of her life.

Then, in terms of coming up with an idea for a story, what if she had a child by him that we didn’t know about, which might mean I had a half brother or sister I knew nothing about. It’s not an uncommon occurrence from what I’ve been researching.

There are many ways of putting a spin on this story.

Then, in the back of my mind, I remembered a story an acquaintance at work was once telling us over morning tea, that a friend of a friend had a mother who had a twin sister and that each of the sisters had a son by the same father, without each knowing of the father’s actions, both growing up without the other having any knowledge of their half brother, only to meet by accident on the other side of the world.

It was an encounter that in the scheme of things might never have happened, and each would have remained oblivious of the other.

For one sister, the relationship was over before she discovered she was pregnant, and therefore had not told the man he was a father. It was no surprise the relationship foundered when she discovered he was also having a relationship with her sister, a discovery that caused her to cut all ties with both of them and never speak to either from that day.

It’s a story with more twists and turns than a country lane!

And a great idea for a story.

That story is called ‘Mistaken Identity’.

Read an extract tomorrow.

Searching for locations: Central Park, New York

It’s a place to go and spot the movie stars, or perhaps their dogs.

It’s a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It’s a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn’t realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It’s a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It’s a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I’m sure there’s a whole lot more there that I don’t know about.

I have to say I’ve only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn’t seem to deter people.

But…

We decided to go visit another part of the park, this time walking to West 67th Street before crossing Central Park West and into the park where Sheep Meadow is.

Once upon a time sheep did graze on the meadow, but these days it is designated a quiet area inspiring calm and refreshing thoughts, except for a period in the 1960s where there was more than one counter-culture protest, or love in, going on.

And, there’s the sign to say it was Sheep Meadow,

and that’s the meadow behind the sign,

Well, I don’t see any sheep, but of course, that’s not why the meadow is named or should there be any sheep on it.  That greenery that can be seen, restoring for the spring, was a very expensive addition to the park.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing was on it, because signs were up to say the meadow was closed for the winter, a new and interesting variation on the ‘Don’t Walk On The Grass’ signs.

I’m sure I could climb the fence, or, maybe not.  I’m a bit old to be climbing fences.

So, unable to walk on the grass, we tossed an imaginary coin, should we go towards West 110th Street, or back to West 59th Street.

West 59th Street won.

and, just in case we had any strange ideas about walking on the grass, the fence was there to deter us.  Perhaps if we had more determination…

One positive aspect of the park is that you could never get lost, and the tall buildings surrounding the park are nearly always visible through the trees, more so in winter because there is no foliage, maybe less so later in the year.

There is also a lot of very large rocky type hills, or outcrops where people seem to stand on, king of the mountain style, or sit to have a picnic lunch, quickly before it freezes.

Yes, it is cold outside and seems more so in the park.

I wondered briefly if it ever got foggy, then this place would be very spooky, particularly after the sun goes down.

Searching for locations: A trip to New Jersey

That meant we had to make the journey from New York to New Jersey, by train.  It involved the underground, or as New Yorkers call it, the subway, from Columbus Circle which by any other name was really, 80th street, to 34th street which apparently was the New Jersey jump-off point for us to get overground, well a lot of it was overground. So, were we going uptown or downtown?

Apparently, it was downtown, and to 34th Street on the A train.

You would not think this to be a difficult task, but for people not used to the subway, and where they were going other than some internet derived instructions, but without the help of a man at the station, just getting tickets may have stopped us dead in our tracks.  With his help, we determined the return fare for three of us and then get through the turnstile onto the platform.

We get on the A train, but soon discover it was not stopping at all stations.  There was for a few minutes, a little apprehension we might just simply bypass our station.  Luckily we did not.

Now, finding your way to the New Jersey transit part of Penn station might appear to be easy, on paper, but once there, on the ground, and mingling with the other passengers which all seemed to be purpose going somewhere, it took a few moments to realize we had to follow the New Jersey transit signs.

This led to a booking hall where luckily we realized we needed to buy more tickets, then find the appropriate platform, and then get on the right train, all of which, in the end, was not difficult at all.

Maybe on the return trip, it might be.

At Newark Penn station it was momentarily confusing because the exit was not readily in sight, so it was a case of following the majority of other passengers who’d got off the train.

This led us to exit onto the street under the train tracks.  Luckily, having been before to Prudential Stadium to buy the tickets, we knew what the stadium looked like and roughly where it was, so it was a simple task to walk towards it.

We were early, so it was a case of finding a restaurant to get dinner before the game. So was a great many others, and we passed about 6 different restaurants that looked full to overflowing before we stopped at one called Novelty Burger and Bar.

It looked inviting, and it was not crowded.

It was yet another excuse to have a hamburger and beer, both of which seemed to be a specialty in American.  I could not fault either.

And soon after we arrived, this restaurant too was full to overflowing.  Thankfully there were other Maple Leaf fans there because being in a room full of opposition teams supports can be quite harrowing.

That was yet to come when we finally got to the stadium.  I was not expecting a lot of Maple Leaf fans.
We went to this game with high hopes.  New Jersey Devils were not exactly at the top of the leader board, and coming off the loss in Toronto, this was make or break for whether we would ever go to another game.

It’s remarkable in that all the Ice Hockey stadiums are the same.  Everyone has an excellent view of the game, the sound systems are loud, and the fans passionate. Here it seems to be a thing to ride on the Zambonis.
At the front door they were handing out figurines of a Devil’s past player, and it seems a thing that you get a handout of some sort at each game.  At Toronto we got towels. And, finally, we were in luck.

The Maple Leafs won.

And it was an odd feeling to know that even though their team lost, there did not seem to be any rancor amount the fans and that any expectation of being assaulted by losing fans was totally unfounded, unlike some sporting events I’ve been to.

Perhaps soccer should take a leaf out of the ice hockey playbook.

That also went for taking public transport late at night.  I did not have any fears about doing so, which is more than I can say about traveling at night on our own transport system back home.

Oh, and by the way, there are train conductors who still come to every passenger to collect or stamp their tickets.  No trusting the passenger has paid for his trip here.  And, if you don’t have a ticket, I have it on good authority they throw you off the train and into the swamp.  Good thing then, we had tickets.

It was, all in all, a really great day.