21 July 2008

Red Birds

My apartment is right in the heart of downtown St. Louis. I am only a short 10-minute walk from Busch Stadium. When I am out and about during the evenings, I nearly always end up passing the Stadium as I return to my place. Each and every night when I see the lights blazing down upon the field, I wish I were at the game. If I had my way, I would attend much more often.

I must credit the St. Louisians for their affection and loyalty to the home-town team. The fans here are dedicated, educated, and unfailingly supportive. They are a fun group to live amongst.

18 July 2008

The Family Man... before the 'glimpse'

Instead of a silver Ferrari, I drive a white Mazda. Instead of a luxury Manhattan penthouse, I reside in a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in a lower-income area of St. Louis. I cannot boast a lavish CEO income of a Fortune 500 company, but I earn enough to pay the bills. I do not wield the power to broker billion-dollar business deals that send waves through the financial community, yet I have a job I enjoy.

Minus the ravish embellishments in the movie The Family Man, I sometimes feel I live the life of Jack Campbell - before his life-altering 'glimpse.' I am well-taken care of. My needs are met. My time, my job, my home, my finances, my diet... so much of my life is very neat, tidy, and organized - in both a literal and figurative sense. The unfortunate detail is that everything is I, my, and mine instead of we, our, and ours.

11 July 2008

A visit to D.C.

Well, I arrived back in St. Louis early this morning. My flight was scheduled to depart Dulles Airport at 10:25 p.m., but we did not get out until after midnight - I am not a United Airlines fan. I have only flown with them a couple of times, but my worst experiences with air travel have been due to their mismanagement.

My time in the nation's capitol was quite enjoyable. I was there for an I.T. conference put on by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My first stop after arriving and checking into my hotel was Arrlington National Cemetery.

It is a sobering experience to walk these grounds where so many of our honorable veterans are buried. Throughout the cemetery can be found burial plots of soldiers who fought in every major American conflict dating back as far as the Civil War - including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even the most recent theaters of battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. I spoke with one security officer on duty at the cemetery. He said that during the worst time of the Iraqi conflict, active duty burials topped 30 per day at Arlington alone.

The Tomb of the Unknowns. Interred in this tomb is a soldier from World War I whose identification is unknown. Also, added later in front of the tomb are three unkonwn soldiers from World War II and The Korean War. The Tomb is guarded by a platoon from the army 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Their watch has continued uninterrupted since 1937 - regardless of weather or any other inconvenience. It is quite a sight to see the honor these men take in their duty.

The Marine Corp War Memorial. This statue meant a bit more to me since I have read the book Flags of Our Fathers which details the lives of each of the men captured in the photograph from which this statue was inspired.

A beautiful view of the sunrise over the Potomac River from my hotel room.

I cannot visit a new city without taking in a game at the local ballpark. This is the first year the Washington Nationals have played in their new stadium - uncreatively named Nationals Park. Unfortunately, this park is wanting on all counts. In a city with such history and tradition, I expected a unique integration of America's capital with our favorite pastime. Regretfully, the ballpark was generic and bland. Great parks must have character. Who fails to recognize Fenway's Green Monster, Wrigley's ivy wall, or Yankee Stadium's upper-deck white arches? Other clever efforts to tie the ballpark into its city's culture include Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati - which sits on the Ohio River - where they built a riverboat replica in the outfield. Whenever a Red hits a home run, fireworks shoot out of the boat's smokestacks. In Denver (the Mile High City) they have a row of purple seats in the upper deck indicating exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. The St. Louis franchise wisely positioned their ballpark such that in straightaway center field the stadium grandstands frame a beautiful skyline of downtown St. Louis - featuring the famous St. Louis arch.

Unfortunately, Nationals Park did not measure up to my high expectations.

This is the problem with traveling alone - I always end up with a lot of self-portraits. The National Mall was my last stop before heading to the airport.

07 July 2008

Alexandria, VA

It is sure nice to travel on someone else's dime! Over the past several months it has been my privilege to visit many new places and see many new things. However, I am a cheap traveler. Where do I stay? Motel 6. Unless I am feeling a bit extravagant, then I will step up to a Super 8 Motel. Or if I am really living it up, maybe a Comfort Inn.

Well, I arrived in Washington DC this morning and checked into my hotel in Alexandria, VA - a small colonial town just south of the metropolitan DC area (hometown of General George Washington). When I walked into my room, I was floored by the niceties of the accommodations. The spacious king bed is dressed in soft, pure white linens accented with a olive-green checkered duvet - and I think I have seven different pillows to choose from tonight. The remainder of the room is furnished with elegant, chestnut furniture - including a desk, armoire, two night stands, and even a little ottoman/bench on which I can sit when to put my shoes on tomorrow morning. I enjoyed a movie this evening on the 36 inch flat screen television. The far wall of the hotel is a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window looking up the Potomac River with a view of the Capital Building in the distance. To top it all off, when I returned to my room this evening after seeing some sights I found my bed turned down with a little "sleep soundly" packet. Included in the packet are an eye mask, earplugs, lavender linen spray, and a CD with doctor prescribed tips on how to get a better night sleep. How is that for royal treatment?

Stay tuned for pictures of some of my sightseeing...

05 July 2008

The New York Experience

This is just a replica of the sidebar I have had on my blog for the past year. I want to delete it from the sidebar since I no longer live in New York. However, it will be here and available to anyone who may want to use it for a reference in the future.

Done (activities):
- Midnight run in Central Park
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

- Empire State Building observation deck
- Rockefeller Center during Christmas
- Run from 125th Street to South Ferry Station along the Hudson River
- Staten Island Ferry
- Broadway shows: Wicked, Les Miserables, Hairspray, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins
- The Cloisters Museum
- The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
- Shopping for contraband on Canal St.
- Grand Central Station
- Run across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey
- Halloween Extravaganza at St. John Cathedral
- Toys'R'Us in Times Square during Christmas (not recommended, but I did it - 3 times!)
- Visit Columbia University's Campus
- Run in Riverside Park
- New York City Public Library
- MACY'S - the world's largest department store (34th Street)
- Roosevelt Island
- South Street Seaport
- Wall Street (really not much to see)

- Run from 120th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge along the East River.
- Charging Bull

- Flatiron building
- Battery Park
- SYMS - my favorite store to buy ties, socks, shirts, etc.
- Gay Street in Greenwich Village
- Hang out with a homeless guy
- See the sunrise while running around The Reservoir in Central Park
- See the Red Sox play the Yankees at Yankee stadium
- Eat Nathan's Hot Dogs while watching a Mets game at Shea Stadium
- Ground Zero - not much here but a construction site
- North Cove Marina - if timed right, you can see some amazing yachts here!!!
- Knicks game at
Madison Square Garden
- Road
trip to Boston
- Symphony at Carnegie Hall
- Ride the ferry across the East River for fine dining at
Waters Edge Restaurant (beautiful views of Manhattan!)
- See the United Nations headquarters
- The Met... if you are into art
- Watch the sunset over the Hudson River from
Riverside Park

- Bronx Zoo
- Top of the Rock Observatory
- See an opera at the Metropolitan Opera

Done (food):
- Street vendor food - pretzels, kabobs, hot dogs
- Lunch at
Gray's Papaya (72nd Street)

The Burger Joint (Parker Meridien hotel - 56 Street)
New York style pizza!!!
- Breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner at a sidewalk cafe
- Street fair food - sausage, kabobs, pitas, crepes, popcorn, etc.
- Lunch at
Subs Conscious - the best sandwiches in town (two locations: Amsterdam at 120 St and Broadway at 109 St)
- Brunch at
Cafe Fresh (121 St. and Amsterdam)
Joshua Tree - American grill (366 W. 46 St)
Patsy's - Italian (61 W. 74 St)
RUB - Bar-B-Que (208 W. 23rd St)
Indus Valley - Indian (Broadway at 100 St)
Capri - Italian (358 W 46 St)
Tom's Delicious Pizza - best pizza in New York!!! (3161 Broadway)
Stone Street Tavern - traditional American/Irish (52 Stone St)
Charm - Tai (Amsterdam and 95 St)
Max Brenner, chocolate restaurant - everything on the menu is chocolate! I want to go back (841 Broadway).
Mama Mexico (Broadway at 102 St)
Grimaldi's Pizzeria (across Brooklyn Bridge)
Waldy's Wood Fired Pizza (800 6th Ave)

- Experience the various eateries on Restaurant Row (46th St)

To do:
- New York Marathon
- Museums - MOMA, Natural History
- Sample the various pastries at local bakeries
- Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- Eat on Indian Row (East Village)
- See Coney Island
- Road trips: Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Ivy League campuses (Yale - CT, Princeton - NJ), LDS historical sites (Palmyra, etc.)
- See a taping of
The Late Show