A writer’s experience – this will go in a book

New York is amazing place, filled with a multitude of experiences that often you have to go looking for, or, as in the case of the Brooklyn Diner, stumble over when out for a walk around the block, a very large block I might add.

This is one of those surprise discoveries.

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 Traditional 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: No two sunrises are the same – 2

Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.

20180812_073230

This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon

20180812_073241

It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony

20180811_074651

And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.

20180811_074622

It looks like it’s going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

Searching for locations: No two sunrises are the same – 1

Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Three days after we arrive.  Cold.  Red Sky.

A warning that the weather is going to change.  Will it be rain or snow?

20180811_173146

It is as cold and peaceful as the first, but the sun is not yet shining.  All we have is this ethereal pinkish tinge to the sky

20180811_173156

Before the first clouds appear.  The surface of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the sky, and clouds.

20180811_173201

How soon will it be before the boats begin to appear?

Searching for locations: Off to Philadelphia

We are up early and I mean early because we decided to take on Philadelphia the next day, and instead of taking public transport because all the fares I could find were ridiculous, we hired a car.

Again the words ‘or similar’ foiled us.  All charged up and excited its quarter to eight in the morning we arrive at the Avis center just a five-minute walk from our hotel.

Shock number one.  We finish up with some crappy Nissan the desk lady was using as her personal car.

She lied about the car being full of petrol, it was not.

We asked for a GPS and all it was was a glorified phone.  She switched it on, the first didn’t work but the second displayed a screen and that was enough for her to say it was set up and working.

You guessed it, another barefaced lie.

We put it in the car, switched it on, and it was in French.  She hadn’t checked the language of the last user.

We took it back and she had the audacity to call us ‘stupid’, blaming us for breaking it, and then she couldn’t fix it so she gave us another one which I’m sure she checked for English.

The question, if she could set these things up, why couldn’t she instantly fix it?

Sorry, the woman was arrogant and very nasty, and not a good advertisement for Avis or the U.S.A as a place to visit.  I shall never use Avis in America again if she’s the best they can put at the front desk.

Still seething from that encounter it was a good thing I wasn’t driving.

I remember when I was writing Echoes From The Past I had a sequence of events starting in Lower Manhattan and ending up in Philadelphia.  In that narrative, I was not sure if the main character used the Lincoln tunnel, which, on this occasion, we did.

As it turned out the drive was reasonably accurate in that we also followed the i95 turnpike and a number of tolls along the way.  Unfortunately, our mode of transport was not quite as luxurious as my characters.

Once in Philadelphia, we managed to find the Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square…

and parked the car outside the Free Library.

From there we walked to the city center, what some might call City Hall, a rather large and impressive stone structure, and then ended up at stop number six of the big bus tour.

Big bus tour

There are 27 stops of which we got on at 6 and got off at 1, managed by a miracle of fate to get back on at 1 and got off at 8 where our car was parked.  By then we were frozen solid.

But…

There’s always an intervening adventure with our outings and the quest was to find the best place to have a Philly Cheese Steak.

Between stops 1 and 6 when we were not on the bus, we hailed a cab, deciding not to wander around the city looking for a Philly Cheese Steak place ourselves.

We had a side mission to the side mission and got the cab driver to take us back to the car so we could lengthen the parking time.  This done, he took us to what he believed was the best Philly Cheese Steak place.

It was a long and convoluted ride that showed us the real Philadelphia, where the citizens live, not the showpiece tourist attractions.

It was somewhere in little Italy. A place called Geno’s steaks, a new and shiny restaurant where there was only seating outside.  Mid-afternoon, it was cold.

But were they the best Philly Cheese Steaks.  I’m not an expert so I don’t really know.  What I do know is the cheesy steak in a roll was absolutely delicious.  Freshly cooked in front of you, the steak slices were still dripping juices as they were put on the roll with a layer of cheese and onions which you have to ask for.

And at ten dollars each, it turned out to be less than the cab fare to get there.

Of course being dropped in Little Italy in America on the 20th Anniversary of the Sopranos, conjured up too many nightmares to be walking the streets in the fading afternoon lights.

Two boys on bikes who looked like thugs in hoodies scared us into a cab and back to the bus stop to do the last eight stops before going home.

All in all, a very interesting if not at times scary adventure.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

A sleigh ride wasn’t the first activity that came to mind, but that first day we saw the sleighs lining up and thought it might be a bit of a lark.

It was New Year’s Eve and we booked a 2pm sleigh ride.  I figured any later we’d probably freeze to death.  The ride was for about 45 minutes, out around the edge of the lake and back.

Rides were on the hour and sometimes run at night.

We arrived at the departure point about 15 minutes before the ride and watched those who had been on the ride before come back looking somewhat frozen.  The only covering you had provided was a red blanket.

Wisely we put on many layers of clothing, hats, and gloves.

We managed to get a seat for ourselves where the maximum per seat was three.  The blanket wasn’t the thickest.

It was cold, and according to my phone, about minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  You could feel it, and it was lucky we were not moving fast.

 At the halfway point, we went out onto the lake to turn around.  It gave us a chance to take a photo of the sleigh, and the horses pulling it.  I felt sorry for the horses out in the cold.

As we turned around, we got to see a frozen waterfall.

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely sources

And this was one of those times.

We came down from Brisbane to Melbourne for a wedding, perhaps the last for this family for quite some time, this being my wife’s brother’s last daughter to tie the knot, so to speak.

And like someone said, as with births, weddings and funerals, it turned into a family reunion on my wife’s side of the family.

But there were extra benefits…

We got to meet the extended family of the groom.

And, we got an insight into their friends, the thirty-something, footloose and fancy-free acquaintances that had been off and on a part of the bride and groom’s life for about 15 or so years, and most of whom had been to London, for various stints, and who are now scattered across Australia, and other international destinations.

I have to say that these people were quite interesting.

As an older person, I didn’t have much in common, so I followed one of my father’s old adages, if you’ve got nothing to say, shut up and listen.

And as a writer, I did something else, observe.

It was an eye-opening experience, if nothing else, and a rather interesting look into what it might be like as an unmarried reasonably well off thirty-something. For starters, you didn’t have to worry about the price of drinks, or how much you drank. You can just up and go anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat. For a few minutes there I was starting to feel envious.

It was sometimes overindulgence, but I noticed it was never to the point of becoming what some refer to as legless. Noisy perhaps, crude at times, yes, but in reminiscing, it was a curious phenomenon that they had all “hooked up” at some time or other.

Aside from learning what appeared to be a new “language”, there was also a running theme that at one time or another nearly all of them had lived with the groom in London for a period.

It got me thinking.

It would make a good story.

It was just trying to find a context, other than a wedding, that would bring them together, one where a series of vignettes that involved each of them in turn that could bring to the story of that person to life.

In this case, but not so much the reminiscing, it was the wedding.

What if it was an untimely funeral?

Trying to find joy in the midst of a very sad occasion.

I’m sure this has been done to death many times, but after hearing a lot of happy memories, it seems to me that in this case, it could be uplifting.

Yes, the ideas need a little work, but it’s firmly there in my mind.

Perhaps when I get back home, I might just start writing.

Searching for locations: New York, again

After arriving latish from Toronto, and perhaps marginally disappointed that while in Toronto, the ice hockey didn’t go our way, we slept in.

Of course, the arrival was not without its own problems. The room we were allocated was on the 22nd floor and was quite smallish. Not a surprise, but we needed space for three, and with the fold-out bed, it was tight but livable.

Except…

We needed the internet to watch the Maple Leafs ice hockey game. We’d arrive just in time to stream it to the tv.

But…

There was no internet. It was everywhere else in the hotel except our floor.

First, I went to the front desk and they directed me to call tech support.

Second, we called tech support and they told us that the 22nd-floor router had failed and would get someone to look at it.

When?

It turns out it didn’t seem to be a priority. Maybe no one else on the floor had complained

Third, I went downstairs and discussed the lack of progress with the night duty manager, expressing disappointment with the lack of progress.

I also asked if they could not provide the full service that I would like a room rate reduction or a privilege in its place as compensation.

He said he would check it himself.

Fourth, after no further progress, we called the front desk to advise there was still no internet. This time we were asked if we wanted a room on another floor, where the internet is working. We accepted the offer.

The end result, a slightly larger, less cramped room, and the ability to watch the last third of the Maple Leaf’s game. I can’t remember if we won.

We all went to bed reasonably happy.

After all, we didn’t have to get up early to go up or down to breakfast because it was not included in the room rate, a bone of contention considering the cost.

I’ll be booking with them directly next time, at a somewhat cheaper rate, a thing I find after using a travel wholesaler to book it for me.

As always every morning while Rosemary gets ready, I go out for a walk and check out where we are.

It seems we are practically in the heart of theaterland New York. Walk one way or the other you arrive at 7th Avenue or Broadway.

Walk uptown and you reach 42nd Street and Times Square, little more than a 10-minute leisurely stroll. On the way down Broadway, you pass a number of theatres, some recognizable, some not.

Times Square is still a huge collection of giant television screens advertising everything from confectionary to TV shows on the cable networks.

A short walk along 42nd street takes you to the Avenue of the Americas and tucked away, The Rockefeller center and its winter ice rink.

A few more steps take you to 5th Avenue and the shops like Saks of Fifth Avenue, shops you could one day hope to afford to buy something.

In the opposite direction, over Broadway and crossing 8th Avenue is an entrance to Central Park. The approach is not far from what is called the Upper West Side, home to the rich and powerful.

Walk one way in the park, which we did in the afternoon, takes you towards the gift shop and back along a labyrinth of laneways to 5th Avenue. It was a cold, but pleasant, stroll looking for the rich and famous, but, discovering, they were not foolish enough to venture out into the cold.

Before going back to the room, we looked for somewhere to have dinner and ended up in Cassidy’s Irish pub. There was a dining room down the back and we were one of the first to arrive for dinner service.

The first surprise, our waitress was from New Zealand.

The second, the quality of the food.

I had a dish called Steak Lyonnaise which was, in plain words, a form of mince steak in an elongated patty. It was cooked rare as I like my steak and was perfect. It came with a baked potato.

As an entree, we had shrimp, which in our part of the world are prawns, and hot chicken wings, the sauce is hot and served on the side.

The beer wasn’t bad either. Overall given atmosphere, service, and food, it’s a nine out of ten.

It was an excellent way to end the day.