Alaska – In Search of the Elusive Arctic Grayling

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I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a hunter, but I’m not against hunting. I like to fish, but my version of fishing is to hang bait on a hook and let it marinate in the water for endless periods of time. Long ago I did a Cost Benefit Analysis and realized that, while there is a stoic serene pleasure of the art of fishing, if I have to provide sustenance at the end of the day it’s more beneficial (and easier) to just avoid the cost of gas, bait, whatnot and just go to the local supermarket and buy the damned thing. If out in the wild, I’d probably trade tools, furs or whatever implements of survival for a nice fresh culled moose. If I were on an expedition with Teddy Roosevelt, I’d be that guy who gets chased by the lion or attacked by piranhas.

But I will not pass up a chance to go fishing, especially if it’s in an exotic place. Also, if there’s no better travel options. But I do like to give fishing another chance at the roulette wheel of sport. So, when I was in Alaska in the mid-90s for a military deployment, the offer was made and I jumped like a wild salmon at the opportunity.

We had a weekend off from our military duties, and I was invited by 2 cohorts, Andy and Steve to pitch in on the rental of a Ford Expedition. Our plan was to rent fishing gear and all the accouterments at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center on base, stock up on provisions and drive like bats out of hell towards the wilderness.

Being the novice I am, when I was at the MWR I passed a requisition slip to the haggard-looking man at the desk for the various equipment I would need. Under interrogation I was asked about which type fly fishing rod, lures and other particulars I would need. I just wanted something, and was definitely out of my element in this arena. I felt like that guy on a TV game-show that when asked the $64,000 question, would freeze up and assume that famous look of the deer in the headlights.

During this time in Alaska, it was mid-June so the sun practically never set. If you’ve never experienced this, it will definitely shake your circadian rhythm about.

Our first stop was outside Fairbanks. We parked the truck and made our way to what seemed like a nice spot. Up until then I had never tried fly-fishing in my life, but this, like other episodes in my life, was when I was willing to give it a sporting chance. Very little expectations and potentially big rewards.

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Fly-fishing for those who’ve never done it, is a series of cascading whips of the rod, with the appropriate lure on the end (specifically chosen for the target and region – you wouldn’t want to entice a 9-year old with prune juice or a 90-year old with a skateboard). This methodical wrist-action and bullwhip of the line can be tricky, but even an amateur like myself can make it look passable.

After a few hours at our first spot, with no luck, we decided to pull up our stakes and get even further north to Denali National Park. Both of my travelling companions talked up the mystery of the Arctic Grayling. This fish only exists in the wild in cold, northern Arctic waters (hence, of course, its name). My local fishing experience consisted of sunnies, catfish and maybe trout.

At the end of the first day, we caught some trout, but not enough for what we hoped for, and definitely not the elusive Arctic Grayling.

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We parked the Expedition on the side of the road at about midnight, which looked like noon at this time. Tired and exhausted, we pulled our ball caps over our eyes and went to sleep inside the truck. Or tried to. At about 4:30 in the morning, with the sun still hanging low in the sky, I was woken by the sound of 2 grown men snoring, so I decided to go outside alone and stretch my legs. For an urban Easterner, the sprawling McKinley Mountains can be truly mesmerizing. The grandeur of the snow-capped mountains is a sight one can never tire of. I walked and walked to explore more and more of this beauty. I was a ways away from the truck when I noticed a glacier slope to the west, and I wanted to keep walking and seeing more. But then a thought dawned on me – Alaska has quite a few bears in its population. And they are territorial. I decided that my walkabout was enough and sauntered the 2 miles or so back to the Expedition.

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At about 7 in the morning we packed up and drove to the nearest tavern for a bit of food. As we walked in, there were the locals sitting, caressing their tall neck Budweisers for company. Spoiler alert: Alaskans drink a lot. After a short reprieve we headed back out for more fishing. We finally found a spot alongside a nice hill and tried once more. Using the wrist-action and bullwhip, I landed the lure on top of the lake in the crisp clean air. Suddenly, a tease of a tug and then a slight yank of the line and a determined resistance. Reeling in, with a playful fight, I brought the prey closer and closer and when he came up to the surface I had finally caught my first Arctic Grayling. The sun was bright, the water cool, and I had my trophy. TR would’ve been proud.

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Combat Crud in Alaska

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“I Don’t Want to Belong to Any Club That Will Accept Me as a Member” – Groucho Marx

When I first joined the Air Force I was an officer assigned to an F-4E tactical fighter unit. Back then, and likely even now, you had to earn your street cred by being able to not only be knowable on every aspect of weapon systems (the gimbal limits of missiles or the proper tactic against orthogonal G-movements) but also to be able to hang properly with the boys. The “boys” of course were obnoxious, Alpha-male egotistical self-absorbed pilots who flew extremely fast moving machines through the air trying to dog-fight against other like-minded self-absorbed macho men.

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Fighter pilots back then in the 80s and 90s were the idolized knights of the US military. Less technology and more seat-of-the-pants flying and reactions that were an innate art. Once, the famous pilot Chuck Yeager made an appearance at our base and aircrew flocked like giggling teenagers at a One-Direction concert to meet him. Turns out he was just as an obnoxious, self-absorbed pilot as the rest, and they loved him for it. Or in spite of it.

In the mid-90s our unit was participating in an exercise in Alaska. Our wing had just converted from fighters to air refueling tankers, but the starting line up consisted of ex-fighter pilots, some of which were the best of the best. My boss happened to be a former instructor at the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, a.k.a the USAF Top Gun. He knew his stuff. And he was not about to lose a second to tell others his Curriculum Vitae. If in a party, how do you know if someone’s a fighter pilot? Wait 2 seconds and he’ll tell you.

In the dead center of Alaska at a USAF airbase during the middle of a joint exercise, we all congregated at the officer’s club, as usual, for the expected rounds of drinking and shenanigans. And of course, a game of combat crud broke out. Crud is a game invented by fighter pilots for fighter pilots, and the convoluted rules are listed here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crud_(game)

Essentially, and to summarize, it’s a twisted game that involves a pool table, billiard balls and complex rules. The complexity is a form of fraternalistic ritual to ensure no novices can infiltrate and dilute the essence of this drunken sport. The drinking games of “quarters” and “beer pong” are like tic-tac-toe compared to this advanced system of chess played by drunken Kasparovs and Fishers.

But back to Alaska. We were there during the summer solstice and endless daylight. Long hard hours of drinking and bravado. Officer’s Club at midnight with the sun still shining outside, but the beers flowing from the taps. Various flying squadrons challenging each other to tournaments of crud – combat crud no less. And an A-10 fighter unit brings forth a challenge to our visiting air refueling members, normally considered the lowest of the low in the pecking order of aircrew. But what they didn’t realize was that most of our air refueling (“tanker”) pilots were former fighter pilots and aces. Ringers. It’s like the New York Yankees challenging the Mudville Hens to a game of baseball not knowing that the Hens were former Cooperstown Hall of Famers.

The game started with a selected referee. The lights were drawn, and the smoke filled the air (yes, it was allowed back then to smoke in bars). Background noise from the jukebox and the clanking of glasses provided the ambiance for this contest. After the initial introductions the game was on, and the A-10 pilots assumed this would be an easy match against these easy mark tanker pilots.

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Once the game of combat crud began, it was quickly determined that our guys were not going to be pushovers. Gary, our Operations Commander, was a former OV-10 pilot in Vietnam and was teamed with Frank, the Nellis AFB Fighter Weapons School ace. Clark Kent had begun to take off his glasses and tie and was now moving faster than a speeding bullet around the pool table to grab the billiard ball. Combat Crud involves hard physical checking and teamwork. I had learned from them a lesson that applies to travelling through the Lincoln Tunnel in Manhattan at rush hour: mass combined with speed defeats your opponent.

Not too long into the game, our A-10 pilot opponents quickly realized that they were facing a team that was not what was advertised. Hard body checking and mental/physical acumen, plus a seasoned experience of combat crud by our aircrew were demolishing their team. The Mudville Hens were racking up points to the astonishment of the Yankees. The Officers’ Club bar started to become even more alive and now the jukebox was turned off and people started to watch in amazement as our pilots checked and physically pushed the other team into submission for placement and field position to score. The underdogs were winning.

A decisive moment came on the final serve, when Gary gave a crushing bow to one of the young A-10 pilots, a cub of a man, into the boards and he fell vigorously into the bar stools and face first into the beer stained floor. This pilot staggered and moaned, and turned out later that Gary broke his ankle, which precluded him from participating in the combat exercise for the remainder of the tour. This was quite the stir, and reached the eyes of the base commander, but like some unspoken code, once “Crud” was introduced into the discussion, it was dismissed as an unfortunate “accident”. Wink-wink, nod-nod. Boys will be boys.

Combat Crud is a serious game played by irresponsible aircrew. It’s a fraternity rite of passage and a ritual unbeknownst to most people. A barroom parlor game that stimulates the mental and physical; necessities for the challenges they may face in the air.

The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

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Virtual Touring – Los Angeles

Virtual reality has begun to slowly descend, or infect depending on your point of view, our everyday lives. Mostly it’s a crude attempt, much like a baby tumbling and staggering about. But just wait: this baby will one day grow up and trample over us.

But rather go into a diatribe about technology, let’s talk about an interesting tool that the behemoth corporate giant Google offers through their Google Earth app: Street View. By dragging a human icon onto the satellite view, much like God plucking his servant Moses and placing him atop Mount Sinai to view his surroundings, it gives you a 360 degree view of anyplace that the ubiquitous surveillance vans have trans versed. And if you click on the road ahead, Google Earth will “drive” you to that destination. If you plan a route, you could theoretically do a virtual tour without leaving the comfort of your home.

LA virtual route

Having never been to LA, I thought it was an opportune adventure to map out a route and drive throughout LA and its environs. I also confess to being very ignorant of the various regions and neighborhoods. Ask me about lower Manhattan and I can guide you in a circuitous way. Ask me about LA and you’ll get a blank look. So, I did what I thought was my best to take in a random sampling of what LA would have to offer by road for someone exploring by way of the internet. And this is my log and what I discovered.

LAX arrival

6:58am – “Arrived” at LAX. Surprisingly the flight was like a second. I found myself outside the terminal at ground level and began my tour of the city. The air is climate controlled at 74 degrees inside my house and I have a steaming cup of coffee by my right side. The adventure begins.

7:25am – Taking the San Diego freeway to Hollywood. As I “drive”, I seem to be constantly following the same yellow school bus until north of E. Arbor Vitae Street, whereupon a 76 gas truck takes it place.

7:48am – Just south of the Santa Monica Freeway, the cars turn into some bizarre shapes. Have I had too much coffee, or not enough? Despite Google’s efforts to portray a realistic 360-degree view, sometimes images seem to twist and bend like some sci-fi scene.

Wilshire Blvd

8:20am – I turn onto Wilshire Blvd. By the US federal building, by a simple maneuver of the mouse I can almost experience many seasons in 1 click. Apparently the various images taken were at all different times and weather conditions. Reminds me of the Crowded House song “Four Seasons in One Day”.

Santa Monica

8:50am – You can tell a lot by just the stores and area you’re in. Along Santa Monica Blvd you can’t throw a wireless computer mouse without hitting either a Starbucks or Fitness Gym. Must be a safe area.

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Hollywood

9:15am – After driving along the Santa Monica Blvd I finally get to Hollywood and Vine, the epicenter of the tourist trap. I stop for a coffee at Starbucks (actually re-fill my own coffee from my machine, get back to my MacBook), and begin more exploring.

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9:20am – Are we there yet?

9:42am – Taking the Ventura Blvd just north of the Laurel Canyon.

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9:58am – Van Nuys seems to be an endless array of car dealerships and anything to do with the sacred vehicle of this city. The car is worshipped, praised, damned and abandoned when it runs it course. Until the electric car becomes mandatory, I feel this city would cease to exist if for some reason the rivers of gasoline dried up.

10:30am – In San Fernando I take the Golden State Freeway past Burbank back into LA. It flies back to me that a highway is a highway is a highway. I’ve driven across the many majestic highways of this great nation, and usually in rural areas you have such sights as the rolling hills of Tennessee, the pines of New England, the endless “South of the Border” billboards along 95, and other landmarks to keep you amused as the car speeds along. But on highways within major cities, except for the billboards for local TV stations or car dealerships, the scene is typically the same whether in LA or on the NJ Turnpike by exit 13: cars and trucks ensconced in a sea of concrete with no discernable features. I could take the San Fernando or Glen Oaks Blvd for a more scenic view, but the expeditious route of the highways is too tempting. Time. We race against time to save time and by doing so avoid the local scenery. With speed we lose flavor.

11:15am – The cat is gnawing at my foot, playing with the laces of my Converses. A small distraction while I take care of this passenger.

Alameda

11:50am – I take Alameda Street to cut through the congested center of LA, not knowing that this is an industrial megalopolis. Every city has its share of warehouses and truck depots. They are the kidneys of any city, moving wastes and by-products about for the function of a greater good. They’re not pretty, except maybe to the locals or in some Zen-like reflection.

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12:15pm – I’m discovering a unique feature about Street View. Sometimes, just sometimes, the visual is distorted and buildings appear as if melting on the digital screen. I’m reminded of the police building in Flann O’Brien’s “The Third Policeman” in which structures give a bizarre optical illusion: “It looked as if it were painted like an advertisement on a board on the roadside and indeed very poorly painted. It looked completely false and unconvincing.”

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12:30 – Taking Imperial Highway as far east as I can in order to snake through the Brea Canyon. Like Grant’s Army slogging through the bayous of Louisiana for the Battle of Vicksburg, I plod along this endless road of strip malls, box stores, discount houses and such.

1:30pm – I take Valley Blvd to Fairplex Drive. I am now noticing the scenery of the San Jose Hills. Quite beautiful.

Foothill Blvd

2:15pm – At La Verne I take the Foothill Blvd to what Google Earth says is East Route 66. Having never set foot (or digital view) of this road, I only recall images and folklore of this famous stretch of highway that connected the realm of LA with the multitudes of those crossing America in search of the splendor of Hollywood and the charm of the Pacific Beaches. “Driving” along, I am saddened. This is not some unique folksy California charm but another endless stream of shopping malls and discount stores, connected along this path like some consumerist vinca vine. I know no one should wax poetic about the NJ Turnpike, but the Turnpike was never some glamorous girl that men turned heads to see. The Turnpike is the ironclad bureaucrat with the illusion of efficiency. Route 66 was the perky girl in high school you admired but then saw her at the 30-year reunion and breathed a sigh of relief you didn’t hitch your wagon to that road.

3:55pm – Taking Route 605 to Lower Azusa Road. Another highway. ‘nuf said.

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4:15pm – Decided to take Peck Road south through El Monte. Norwalk Blvd trying to get as fast as possible to Huntington Beach and the ocean. Throughout this trip I’ve noticed a preponderance of 7-11 convenience stores. These creatures have become almost extinct in the northeast, having lost to the fierceness of the mighty Wa-Wa, much like the Neanderthals being pushed out of Europe 40,000 years ago. Also Jack-in-the-Boxes. They’re still around?

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5:05pm – Finally on Highway 1 – Pacific Coast Highway. Another road with a glorious tag which it wears around its neck. I’m sure the climate controlled air conditioning of my house does in no way supplant to warm breezes and the radiance of the “actual” sun.

5:40pm – On my way to Redondo Beach up to Santa Monica. Google will not allow me to “drive” onto the Santa Monica pier, so I’m left observing on the road. What a splendid place to spend the day it must seem.

5:55pm – Are we there yet?

6:00pm – Taking Sunset Blvd through the hills. A very nice area. The road is walled in by a series of hedges and palm tress. I can’t for a second believe that locals stick to the 35mph speed limit.

6:40pm – On the San Diego Freeway. Developing less of road rage and more of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

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7:20pm – Finally “arrived” back at LAX. The flight back east was amazingly easy – no body searches, no shoe-less shuffle through TSA checkpoints. Just memories and time to walk away from this computer and call it a day.

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Writer’s Block on the El Camino Real

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I’ve always enjoyed writing. And reading. It’s been a passion ever since I can remember. When I first entered college over 30 years ago I had the eager ambition to become a writer, or at least a journalist. But Dr. Resnick and my varied distractions, along with a severe slumping market for newspapers at the time put a screeching halt to that. Even though I took an alternate career path, I never gave up the desire to write.

I’ve always been an admirer of essays. I prefer the skill of passing down observations and recollections of wisdom (or at least perceived wisdoms) down on paper (or rather hard drives). I’ve never gravitated towards fiction. They say that everyone has a novel in them. For me, that’d probably be the case only if I ingested one – paper, binder, glue and all.

I also feel that if it’s worth putting down on page, it should be something worthwhile. I don’t want to become a blogger who just regurgitates things for the simple act of being able to generate large quantities of words, because I can. I’m a citizen of social media, but I’m also not one to just post statuses for the sake of constantly telling the world every waking moment. (“Just went to the bank” “Hot one today” “Saw the same cat wandering outside – LOL”)

Anyway, I had this idea of writing an amusing piece about navigating through LA by way of Google Earth’s Street View. I’ve travelled close by, but never actually been in the City of Angels, so I thought I’d be interesting to describe what it’d be like to do a “virtual drive” having never left the comfort of my home. The problem was, I just could never get the time or energy to break this logjam known as Writer’s Block.

When I was in school, and had a deadline to post a piece I’d usually have something ready, but there were times when my inertia would overwhelm me, plus that devil on my shoulder who’d entice me into some wild diversion, and then I’d have to vomit something on paper for my journalism professor. But writing articles for a blog is something different. For me it’s a wondrous expression, but doesn’t pay my bills. Work unfortunately does, and work of late has been demanding and time consuming. And of course life – which has a way of getting in the way of, well, life.

So here I am, preparing to write an essay about virtual travel. It’s just that I seem to be stuck on the El Camino Real at rush hour and trying to find a way to get this traffic moving. I see the cars inching ahead and there’s hope. Even writing about Writer’s Block is a way to get this traffic flowing. I started my virtual journey yesterday and hope to have something soon. As soon as this traffic gets moving.

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Futbol Flopping

So, when was it that we as a civilization were endeared to making success by faking misfortune? Was there a high-water mark that hard work, dedication and “nose to the grind stone” was surpassed by showmanship and exaggeration of injustice? If so, I must’ve missed it whilst I was busy engrossed with my head down working tough jobs for meager wages and trying to better myself. I digress….

I’m sure to earn a lot of scorn, and maybe get a small bit of praise for the following. I am not nor have I ever played the game of soccer. Except once in the late 80s in Mississippi at an Air Force Base. At the time we had these British and Irish gents enlisted in the USAF. I’m not sure they still have this program, but at the time someone from the UK could serve in the US military and earn citizenship. Anyway, we had a series of “football” games on Saturdays in which their prowess and skills clearly outshone mine. But it was all in good spirits and no flopping broke out.

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I’m sure by now most people are aware of the art of flopping. Basically, it’s the melodramatic display an athlete takes when pushed or physically challenged. This “malingering” to gain an advantage has some historical precedents, but it’s about the same con we take to work on the sorrow of others.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2014/06/30/140630ta_talk_paumgarten

Like most Americans, I don’t dislike soccer, but also don’t take the same rabid fervor to follow every aspect, stat and angle of the game. I just don’t see the same religious dedication to details as one that can recite the ERA of top baseball pitchers of the MLB or the mundane facts of Fantasy Football as one who follows the NY Red Bulls or the LA Galaxy. But like most of us who run furiously to catch up to the accelerating bandwagon of the World Cup, I watch with an attention span that has an expiration shelf life of about 3 or 4 weeks.

So, it was my surprise to see top athletes from around the globe fall in apparent ersatz injury. I’m not saying these athletes don’t experience pain. For God’s sake, just the physical skills necessary to play at such a level are amazing. But when I see someone get bumped, then fall down on the pitch and writhe in such agony as to mimic the death scene of Sgt. Elias in the movie Platoon, then instantaneously bounce up and run at full force as if nothing happened…..

This normally may not disturb me except that I am acutely aware of the story of Bert Trautmann. You see, Bert was a German POW in WWII who stayed in England and played soccer. Bert was the goalie for Manchester City in England’s prestigious Football Association (FA) cup final in 1956 against Birmingham City. In the last portion of the game, an opposing player collides into Bert with his knee on Bert’s neck. Bert is knocked out flat but is revived and assumes his position in the net, playing all the while his one hand caressing his sore neck. He actually stopped a key goal and eventually Manchester won the FA cup. Afterwards, Bert complains but soldiers on to meet Queen Elizabeth at the closing ceremony. Three days later it was discovered that the knee-neck collision actually resulted in the dislocation of 5 vertebrae in his neck, one of which cracked in half, potentially being fatal. I can only imagine what Bert Trautmann would say about the flopping antics of the World Cup if he were alive today (actually he died on July 19th 2013).

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann

Flopping exists. Flopping has always existed in one form or another. But have we rewarded flopping in our society? I can’t imagine Tom Joad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath) falling down in pain in the fields of Weedpatch Camp to elicit sympathy from local sheriffs. But then again, if they had YouTube in the Depression, his antics may have gone viral, ensuring him of his 15 minutes of fame.

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Travelling by Google Maps – Lower East Side Manhattan

“Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby, ain’t nothing like the real thing. I play the game, a fantasy. I pretend I’m not in reality.” – Marvin Gaye

Screen Shot Greenwich Village

Now I’ve travelled around the world and have set foot in 6 of the world’s continents. Some of the places have been simply majestic while others where a lucid blur of bewilderment. Being a New Jersey native, my adventures to New York City were slow at the start. I began, as most tourists do, with the obvious: the bright lights and sensory overload of Mid-town and Times Square. But once you get past the amazement of the cacophony of sounds and over-stimulation of neon lights, you notice, slowly but gradually until it overwhelms you the pungent smells and oppressive crowding (not to mention the crass commercialization). Disclaimer: I still love New York.

Eventually, like some moon fighting the gravity of its orbit, I ventured further and further away from the center of this universe. I began to explore the wonders of Central Park (where else can you be in a city of over 8 million people yet feel the solitude and peace of nature?). My wanderings would then take me to Chelsea, Union Square, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, the Bowery, SoHo, Bronx, Brooklyn, et al. Over the years, and the many years, I would take the weekends for a Walk-about, sometimes with no rhyme, reason or destination to discover more and more places, always finding new adventures and niches of history and culture tucked away in some non-descript place yet seeped with such mysteries and links to layers and layers of the past. Take Greenwich Village, for example. One street may be the epicenter for powerful protests and riots in the 60s for civil rights, and then 20 years earlier be the same place where Bob Dylan and the foundation of folk music percolated, and yet 20 years earlier saw the likes of John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway among others, and years before that the likes of Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, just as an example. There are parts of New York that act as a home that gets rented out by pillars of American literature, music and politics, passed on like some celebrated baton using the geography as the base.

So, what does this have to do with Google Earth? Well, I’ve always wanted to explore the likes of Cherry Street along the lower East Side. According to a fabulous book called “The Gangs of New York” by Herbert Asbury (published in 1927), the lower East Side was THE heart of Manhattan in the beginning of America. It was the location of the very first Executive Mansion of the President of the US, George Washington. Naturally, with the echoes of history in my mind I wanted to explore this place.

First, I should’ve been keyed in to what this place had become when I realized that NY’s MTA has no stops in that area. Walking tours tend to avoid this region. I’ve always wanted to see what Cherry Street had to offer, but could never find a reason or time to witness it, until I did a virtual walk with Google Earth.

Within Google Earth, this feature of Street View brings you right down into a virtual panoramic show. As a kid in the 60s, all I had were Nat Geo magazines and encyclopedias to discover what was outside in the great unknown (and books, and 3 TV stations…). Obviously, we all know that the Armies of Google have traversed through most cities with their NSA-like vans capturing images at the street level. I finally decided to do a virtual street tour of Cherry Street from the comfort of my home to see what I was missing. And I missed not that much. It seems that the lower East Side, north of the Brooklyn Bridge is nice, but very non-descript. Rows and rows of apartment buildings and Chinese restaurants but none of the unique flavor and history one would expect from this part of town. So, in the end, using the internet and Google Earth, I saved myself from a trip to see something I had over-hyped in my mind.

Screen Shot Cherry Street1

Screen Shot Cherry Street2

Will Google Earth destroy spontaneous and adventuresome travel, or be another tool to prepare the traveller. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Epilogue: Once I started travelling by Google Earth (Street View), I decided to “visit” a city I had always wanted to see but never got close to: LA (3 days in Riverside doesn’t cut it). I did a virtual tour throughout most of the city and came away with a new perspective. These results are for a future blog.

Screen Shot El Camino Real

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Flowers and Gardens in New York City (NY Botanical Gardens)

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When one travels, you have to take into account the equation of risk and reward. The “risk” comes in many shapes, sizes and flavors. The risk may be the obvious: personal safety, disease, and/or loss of financial gain. Risk can also and usually be more mundane, in that the time and energy you expended may not be worth the effort. How many times have you embarked on a trip with maximum effort and little gain? How many birthday parties, barbeques or even concerts have you gone to and then afterwards, in a sincere moment of self-reflection say to yourself, “well, that was a complete waste of my time.”

The reward on the other hand, can be as varied as the personal capital invested. Was that trip to Chicago REALLY worth it? They say you make your own adventure, but that entity known as fate, she has a say in how it goes down as well. This is all very heady stuff for the following photos, but in this case we had placed the New York Botanical Gardens as on our “must see” list of things. I refrain from using the well-worn term ‘bucket list’ (damn! I just used it). Travelling through the Bronx certainly qualifies in the risk column, (a colleague who’s from that area best described it as “sketchy”) but when you get to see the wonders of the gardens, the reward is certainly worth the effort. If you love horticulture, it is very close to Nirvana. Even if you only slightly adore nature it will lift your spirits and is well worth the travelling risk.

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