Did anything good happen in 2013? Yes! There was one shining ray of hope in the person of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford , who admitted that, while in office, he smoked crack cocaine, but noted, by way of explanation, that this happened “probably in one of my drunken stupors.” This was probably the most honest statement emitted by any elected official this year, and we can only hope that more of our leaders follow Mayor Ford’s lead in 2014. (We mean being honest, not smoking crack in a drunken stupor.) (Although really, how much worse would that be?)
I found this to be funny, from Dave Barry:
It's part of a longer year-end review:
Previous Post: Part VIII, Asian New York
This will be the last post about NYC. Whew!
Here is a question for you. Does the below look like an "upper middle class neighborhood" to you?
Previous Post: Part VII, Modern Art
Two East-Asians, well dressed, passed us by. A man and a woman. They spoke a foreign language. Half a moment swirling around in my brain, and it registered. It's Korean. Korean, a language I'd heard near-daily for three years (with mostly no understanding).
It was a little disorienting, somehow, but not as much as encountering this a moment later:
Previous Post: Part VI, The Ghost of Sherman McCoy
Previous Post: Part V, "Under the Christmas Tree Like It's 1999"
A Manhattan street scene:
Previous Post: Part IV, "Paying Up"
Another post about cruising around Manhattan in Dec. 2013:
Previous Post: Part III, "Up the Empire State Building"
Just like Greenland doesn't have much "green", Times Square doesn't have much of a square, that I could tell. Here it is:
Yesterday being the solstice (see Post-168: Yuletide 2013) reminds me of something I ought to record here, a recollection of my time as a hagwon teacher in South Korea. I once taught about the equinox. Let me tell you about it.
[Beware: This runs long When drawing words from the honeyed recesses of a cherished memory, it's not hard to do so.]
Here it goes:
Winter has begun, if you follow that clumsy system for determining seasons by the solstices and equinoxes,
The solstice was at 12:11 PM EST on December 21st this year. The Sun was "moving south" at 12:10, and "moving north" at 12:12. It briefly "stood still" sometime in the minute of 12:11. That's what a solstice is.
Ancient people figured-out the mechanics of this back in the Stone Age and attached special religious meaning to it, to that mystical moment of the reversal, the beginning of the "days getting longer" (as we say). The ancient Northern Europeans developed this into a major holiday. They held elaborate celebrations, which they called Yule or Yuletide, and their descendants continue to celebrate "the holidays" at the same time.
I wrote about the summer solstice in post-92.
2013's is the first Yuletide during which this weblog has existed, but hopefully not the last!
Thanks for reading.
Previous Post: Part II, "Feeling Provincial"
It was a bit eerie how all of them got extra-polite when they saw The Card. I'm referring to the many staff at the Empire State Building, who were dressed up like hotel doormen. Many made mild noises of being impressed ("ahh", "wow", "aha", you know the sorts of noises I mean). Some actually seemed to bow when T.A. flashed it. No kidding: There was a distinct lowering of heads, at times, to accompany the extended arms which showed the way to proceed.
T.A. had insisted on going to the Empire State Building. I soon realized this was because he possessed The Card, which, like that "Ring" of the recent movies, allows the possessor access to a magical ability, in this case the ability to rise to the top of the Empire State Building, any time, any day, free, as many times as the possessor wants, with guests in tow, with no need to wait in any lines. Amazing! T.A. had gotten it through another magical ability that many seem to have: Procuring favors from a network of connections. The card was issued by an employer to a Russian-speaking person whom T.A. seems to know. T.A. said that he has been up to the top about fifteen or so times in this way.
Onward with the pictures:
Previous Post: Part I, Transportation
I left off in post-165 having just gotten off the bus in midtown Manhattan, about 11 AM.
Waiting nearby was one of the most optimistic people I've ever come across, my friend T.A. from Kazakhstan. I met him when I was traveling there in 2011. He is in the USA on a "work and travel" visa now. He holds two college degrees back home, and worked in a bank in his hometown. Although ethnically-Kazakh, he cannot speak the Kazakh language very well, as so many of them can't. He speaks Russian.
T.A. has lived all around the USA now, from the Southern-efficiency of Carolina, to the Northern-charm of New York City, to the gentleness of the Pacific Northwest.
In 2011, I recommended T.A. to read The Great Gatsby after he asked me a question that was, in effect, "What is the Great American Novel?" I found the book locally and bought it for him when I left. / T.A. also asked me around that time about which era or aspect of history one should study "to understand the USA". Without hesitation, I told him to study the U.S. Civil War, the defining event of the USA, to my mind. In the course of our day touring around Manhattan, we passed a statue of General Sherman on horseback. He didn't recognize the name. Enthusiastically, I said," This man won the Civil War", which, according to my amateur studying of the subject, is not far off from the truth. "Wow!" he said, and insisted on taking my picture in front of the statue (below). I mentioned that if he ever goes back to Spartanburg, South Carolina (his first place of residence, last year), he would do well to not to get too chatty about ol' Sherman! [Click on the photos below to enlarge them]
Backtracking to 11 AM, some scenes of the vicinity of the bus drop-off point:
I was surprised to find myself in New York City last week.
A whirlwind trip. I enjoyed it, and I was glad to see my friend T.A. remaining in good spirits.
Monday 4:30 AM: I woke up.
Monday 5:00 AM: I left home in Arlington and proceeded to Union Station in Wash DC to get on the inter-city bus.
Monday 6:15 AM: Departure of the bus from Wash DC to NYC, with stops in Maryland and Philadelphia.
[Bus ride; I sleep]
Monday 10:50 AM: Bus arrived in midtown Manhattan near Penn Station.
[I meet my awaiting friend; we walk around, etc., etc.]
Tuesday 1:25 AM: Bus departed NYC to Wash DC.
[Bus ride; Sleeping]
Tuesday 6:45 AM: Bus arrived back in Union Station in Washington.
Tuesday 7:30 AM: I arrived back at the door of my home.
I want to note a few things I find of interest regarding this trip first, then some photos:
The Opposite of Automobile Dependence
Now, any long-distance trip in the USA which requires no use of a personal automobile at all, "from door to door", is neither easy nor common. I found myself remarking many times while back in the USA, "Why can't the richest country in the world 'get it together' enough to have decent mass-transportation?" I have ideas about why.
I've always found ways to transport myself without an automobile. For some reason, this has been a point of pride for me ever since high school, and this attitude even impelled me to visit my friend J.S. in Roanoke, Virginia in October 2010 in a...highly-unique way, which I will have to elaborate on later, as NYC is the topic at hand now.
This time, I rode the subway ("Metro") in Arlington and Washington, the inter-city bus ("Megabus") for many hours, and the subway in NYC a couple of times; all else came down to expenditure in shoe-rubber, as they say.
Welcome back, readers, if any. I apologize for the long hiatus.
When I posted #163, I expected it would be one of many more to come about my partially-successful cross-country mountain hiking trip in Korea (mid-September to early November 2013), the "Baekdu Daegan Trail". I had many ideas for posts floating around in my head. Somehow, no other posts materialized. I got too busy in November and then got out of the habit.
Executive Summary: Below I explain why I posted only erratically during my hike; reasons for leaving the trail; about my trip to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand; how I returned to Korea and settled my affairs. Now I'm in the USA.
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