Monday, June 1, 2015

A Chapter Begins.



Well I can't say this is the last time I will be making the drive from NY to TN but it is the last time I will have a vehicle so loaded up that you would change lanes to get away from me on the highway.


In case you are wondering everything made it just fine :-) I had worked and then finished loading the car before my Mom and I hit the road. Since both of us had worked we planned to drive until about midnight before pulling off at a hotel and spending the night. We were both slightly concerned about someone trying to steal from our car but it would have taken a lot of effort to untangle the mess of bungee cords. Also the hotel kindly allowed us to park in their covered entrance since that is where the security cameras were located. We slept and were back on the road by 7am.

I want to say it was around 3pm when we passed Nashville and it's unique skyline complete with the building we affectionately refer to as Batman.


Which means that around 3:30 pm we passed this sign and we were at my new home. 


There is a lot to do when you move, especially when you move to another state. I had to get my license and re-register my car. I had hoped to get both of these things done in the first couple of days that I was in TN but it wasn't meant to be. I had been able to open a new bank account but my transfer had gone through so quickly that my utility bills hadn't started coming to my new address yet. So I didn't have enough to prove address change in order to get my license. Also I couldn't register Tramp, my car - named after a Bruce Springsteen song, because I couldn't find my NY title which is probably in a very safe location in a box labelled papers . . . . or kitchen supplies . . . . we may have labelled it kitchen supplies in case the ABF truck got broken into because who cares about kitchen supplies but a box labelled paperwork has identity theft written all over it . . . literally. Anyway  I needed the copy of my NY title to arrive so that I could reregister the car. It came eventually as did some utility bulls and I now have my TN license and my truck is now officially a TN resident.

Complete with Smokey Mountain license plate

I want to say that for the first two weeks it did not feel real. I still felt like I was visiting and would be driving back to NY soon. Now that feeling has passed and I am looking forward to future backyard projects and a lifetime of memories in TN.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A chapter ends

It took just one week from the time I set up a search to the time I had accepted a new position in TN. I thought it would take 1.5-2 months. First I thought it would take time for an opening to apply for and then the process of interviewing and so on. But this took a week. So instead of going to TN for a visit at the end of April I am moving. By May 1st, slightly over 2.5 years from when I bought my house, I will be a TN resident.

Luckily the tickets I had bought to fly to TN where purchased for the most part with points I had earned on US Airways. So all I lost was about $40.00 in taxes and fees. Now instead of taking a train to the airport I will be driving away from NY.

There was a lot to do. I had to finish yard work, clean out the NY house, set up a zillow page click here for house info, and pack up the car.

First thing that had to happen was finishing the fence along our pool. Originally it had been a black chain link fence and my neighbor had a wood fence right behind it. However age had taken a toll on the wood fence and it was falling down; also these horrible horrible horrible wisteria vines had taken over. We bought the green privacy strips that would make the fence look like hedges. Normally the pieces thread nicely through the chain links however at some points the wisteria had actually grown around the fence and made it difficult. I had about 2/3rds done but I knew the last third would take a long time and had been procrastinating on it. Now it was time to get it done. My Mom cleared wisteria vines from the fence and I followed behind her weaving the strips. It came out looking great and we had been pretty much on target with the amount as we had about 10 extra pieces.

After finishing the fence my Mom and I decided to head to the east end to get some more Montauk Daisies. We had bought some from a south Hampton nursery when I bought my house and planted them by my mail box. Now we wanted a few more to plant because the quality of those was so good and when Meg eventually builds her own house we will be able to spread them out and bring some to her house for a NY connection. After stopping at the nursery and getting three plants we continued east towards Montauk for one last visit.

Montauk is the very point tip of the southern fork on Long Island and where my parents first meet. My Dad was bar-tending at the Tattler, a bar in the center of town, and my Mom was getting a break from the city. A couple of years ago we had gone to have dinner at the Tattler, now called O'Murphy's. This time as we drove by it was completely closed down. Even though it hadn't been the same restaurant for years it was sad to see it closed. I consider it a sign that we have over stayed our welcome in NY and need to go.

The next day's project was to clean up the yard. Nothing major here. I rolled up the last of the garden hoses and got rid of some left over construction debris from home repairs. We also had 12 concrete blocks to get rid of and my Mom was pretty sure the garbage special pick up would not take them. So I turned to my new favorite website Freecycle. I posted that I had 12 blocks to offer along with a picture. The next morning someone expressed interest. Unfortunately while I was out the blocks had been taken. I got in touch with the person who wanted them and luckily had other blocks that she was interested in. The whole offer/need for free is a nice way for a community to come together to help each other.

Then of course there is saying good bye. The wonderful thing about the internet is it keeps us close to people even when the distance between us is great. But it certainly doesn't replace seeing people face to face. For example I talk to my sister and cousins in Atlanta almost daily on facebook. But there is going to be something very different and special when I can actually see them with my eyes and reach out my hand and touch them. On the flip side though I have friends and coworkers here that I am going to really miss. Because just like facebook is a poor substitute for personal interaction with my southern family it is certainly going to be a poor substitute for interaction with people I have grown used to seeing 5 days a week.

In an effort to combat that I got an address book so that I can send cards, letters and post cards to various people during holidays or just if I see something that makes me think of them. I think it will be nice to actually hand write letters and I hope for people receiving them it will be nice to get something in the mail thats isn't a bill or magazine no one really wants.

Then there were things I had to do and places I had to visit before I left.

1. I went to a diner to get breakfast for dinner. Breakfast, no matter when it is eaten, is my favorite meal. I ordered an Athenian Omelette, a staple in any NY Diner menu. Of course it has different names but it is always something involving spinach and feta cheese, sometimes tomatoes, in an omelette with home fries and toast.

2. I went to Nathan's for the best fries anywhere.

3. I had an egg sandwich from a deli.

4. I went for a little trip to Flanders, NY to see the Big Duck, a small shop in the shape of a duck. It was built in 1931 and was originally a duck farm.


The owner of the farm got the idea to build the Big Duck after a trip to Bedford, PA where he saw a coffee shop in the shape of a giant coffee pot. It is built out of concrete over a wooden frame and the eyes are taillights from a Model T, apparently they glow at night but that sounds kind of creepy.

5. A last slice of pizza will be a must have and is the plan for tonight before we hit the road.

I'm happy and excited to move to TN but there is one person that it really hurts to leave behind. My Dad is buried in Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale. Last Friday was his birthday and I went to Pinelawn yesterday to say my final good bye. I've been thinking about this a lot for the last two weeks as I prepare to move. It really hit me as we were driving in Montauk. Part of me knows that I don't need to be near his grave to feel close to him. I can feel him every day in silly little moments that remind me of him or even my own mannerisms that make me think "I am my Father's daughter". And I know this would make him happy. When my sister and I were kids he worked in NC for a while. At that time he wanted to move south. So now, 20 years later, I am finally listening to him and moving south.

It's was always a family joke whenever someone would come up with a good idea my Dad would always say "I'm glad I thought of it." obviously even if he didn't. Well in this instance he is definitely smiling down on us and very rightfully saying "I'm glad I thought of it."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Road trip: Easter Weekend trip north

When Meg and I were kids instead of going away for vacations for a week we would go for a weekend drive. Maybe it was just out to Montauk to walk out on the jetty and collect shells on the beach; or maybe we would drive upstate to look at the leaves changing colors and go from the still bright green leaves of Long Island to the beautiful reds and oranges of the catskill area. I think it was one of those trips when my parents first saw a roadside advertisement for the world's largest Kaleidoscope. We stopped and went inside and were treated to a 10-15 minute show and then looked around the shop with hand made Kaleidoscopes of various sizes. Last year when we drove up to Niagara Falls I told my Mom that we should go back before we move. This weekend seemed like a good time.

I had been looking at some roadside attraction up north, as I had done for the south the previous week, and found a few points of interest. I wanted to go this weekend because of the length of the drive and the fact that my Mom had a three day weekend. I figured we could drive to the furthest point Friday, making one stop as we went north,  and spend the night in a hotel then return slowly on Saturday. All week I planned for us to take the trip up with one stop in CT to see the largest jack-in-the-box however on Thursday when I called to check everything was open on Easter Saturday the recording at the kaleidoscope said it was open till 6 on Friday. Well since Friday was supposed to be rainy I thought maybe we should stop there, since it is inside. And we would see the jack-in-the-box last on Saturday since rain was supposed to stop early on Saturday. This would also allow us to leave the hotel later since we didn't need to get back to Mt. Tremper NY by 5 on Saturday.

We hit the road around one on Friday for what should have been a 2.5 hour drive to Mt. Tremper. However I didn't account for the fact that it was the start of Passover and there was extra traffic in the afternoon as many people of Jewish faith had to get home before sun set. Speaking of Judaism at a rest area we saw these two vending machines which I feel are one of those "Only in NY' type things.




Originally my GPS started us on a path to take the Throggs Neck Bridge to the George Washington Bridge and then north through New Jersey; but at some point while we were driving it must have read increased traffic and re-routed us to the Whitestone Bridge so that we would drive north through the Bronx before crossing the Hudson at the Tappen Zee Bridge. Looking at these road trips its hard to believe but I really don't like driving on bridges (or tunnels). Anyway the Tappen Zee Bridge is one that I find beautiful while recognizing that it's structural soundness is often put into question and, in fact, they are building a substitute bridge to replace it. Along the east side of the bridge were many cranes that are currently working on the support structure for the new bridge that I believe is supposed to open in two years.

We ended up arriving at the Kaleidoscope at about 4:55. I tried to open the door and it was locked. A young man came to the door and told us it was closing at 5.  I told him the recording said 6 on Friday but he just pointed to the sign on the door that said 5. So we walked back to the car to continue our drive up to Maine. I mean plans are made to be changed, right?

We hit the road and headed north towards Freeport, Maine where we were going to spend the night at a hotel before taking the trip south. When we had crossed the Hudson River at the Tappen Zee Bridge it had been at one of the widest points in order to get back towards Maine we had to cross back. We crossed over on the Castleton Bridge at Schodack Island near Selkirk, NY. And then headed east before turning north again and following the Massachusetts/Maine coastline.

One of the best parts of road trips and long highway stretches is blasting the radio and singing along. As we drove we had to change radio station several times as one country music station would begin to fade away. At some point we started picking up Iconic radio 98.9 and it played a song I hadn't heard in a long time called 'Austin' by Blake Shelton, it has to be one of his earliest hits long before his tv show and him becoming one half of the new country music power couple. Another song that played several times was Brett Eldredge's new song 'Mean to Me' which I think has one of the coolest lines in country music right now. I had heard the song before but the line really hit me while we were driving when he sings "If mine could be the name that changes yours" I thought that is one of the most romantic lines I have ever heard and a beautiful proposal.

As we reached Maine we began to see warning signs about moose. This reminded my Mom and I of our trip to Lake Placid last year when we saw warning sign after warning sign, including a sign warning of deer. ::my blog post about that trip:: Well on that trip last year as we came around a bend in a small Adirondack town all of a sudden (and I do mean that) there was a huge deer in the middle of the road. I stopped so close to him and we sat for a moment before he exited the road. Shortly after that we saw a moose sign and I was like "I want no part of that". Well I had a similar reaction this time too. I like my truck in one piece and uncrushed so seeing a moose is about the last thing I ever want to do. So my Mom was on 'moose duty' watching the side of the highway for any signs of the large creatures. We did see several deer but luckily no moose. As I was pulling into the Hotel parking lot my Mom exclaims "There is a huge moose." So instantly I hit my brakes and I'm like "Where is it and is it coming towards the road." She said "No. It's not a real moose it's a statue, see."  Now that my heart attack had passed I looked out the window and saw the statue.

He does look kind of menacing.

We spent a very comfy night at the Hampton Inn in Freeport Maine before heading out early to get to our first Roadside Attraction of the day. But then a marvelous thing happened . . .we got side tracked. Because the most awesome trips are the ones where you see something unexpected. As we were driving on a side street along the highway we passed a huge statue of an Native American.









Look at him towering over the trees and sign. He is very impressive look out for the Casco Bay Trading Post. 








We also stopped at the information station across the street from our destination. The bathroom was open but there was a gate closing off all the maps and brochures in the information center. As we stood there talking we realized there was a man sitting inside and that the gate wasn't all the way closed and was unlocked. So I opened it and we slipped in to look at the brochures about things made in Maine.
You can't take me anywhere



Because unlocked gates are clearly meant to be opened. Well, we were looking at brochures and my Mom found one for one of our other stops. Then the old man growled at us that he opened at nine and we retreated. Maybe if we had been able to look around longer we would have learned about Maine Department of Corrections Showroom that features hand crafted works by inmates. We learned about it later that week when my Mom was telling a coworker about our trip. I checked it out online and some of the stuff is gorgeous. And if it helps give inmates pride and helps them realize they have skills that can be used and rewarded then I think that is awesome and I would certainly love to support that.







And then we were at our first destination of the day.
Meet Eartha
Here is the World's largest revolving globe, Eartha. She was completed in 1998 and a year later the officials from the Guinness book of World Records did an official measurement.


The north pole
The cantilever arm


NY
Italy

I thought it was going to be amazing and it was more fantastic then I could have imagined. The descriptions all said it was in the lobby. But that was an inaccurate description. It was the lobby. And the lobby was three stories. One of the employees told us that we had to go up to the third floor because that was the only way to see the north pole. So we complied.



The high def pictures that make up the panels are spectacular. They certainly worked hard for accuracy and even used satellites images to help catch the different colors of the ocean to show depth level.  The fact that it was designed and built by Delorme associates must give a strong sense of pride. And what a relaxing and wonderful place to sit on a break and just watch the world go round.



As we were heading up the stairs my Mom pointed out a glass case of coins with a sign above them. 
I'm glad my Mom drew my attention to the display because this is certainly something I can work into future road trips. I followed the link listed on the sign, Geocaching, and learned that it is basically a world wide treasure hunt where players hide coins/trinkets and leave clues for others to find them along with a log book to keep track of visits.

Last we made a stop in the gift shop that was filled with all sorts of globes and maps. My Mom recognized some of the globes as ones her and my Dad had purchased years ago for Meg and I. As I was checking out I saw a robot matryoshka set on the counter so even though it has nothing to do with maps or globes I couldn't resist. 


The cashier told us that they were going to be getting in a penguin set :-) (something for me to look for in the future). 

Speaking of penguins check out these little cuties from our next stop!

Welcome to Len Libby's Candy shop in Scarborough ME. Yes, I went on a road trip with a candy store as my destination and while I love the gummy penguins, as in love to look at them I have not eaten them, the reason for the stop was Lenny the life size chocolate Moose.  

Lenny and his bear friends Libby, Chip and Cocoa are made from milk chocolate and the pond that Lenny is standing in is dyed white chocolate. Considering that he was sculpted in 1997 the chocolate is holding up very nicely. While we were there we got some absolutely delicious hand made salt water taffy and, since it was Easter, chocolate bunnies which we haven't tried yet.

Then we were off to our next destination. The drive was roughly an 1.5 hours which was perfect because it would get us there at lunch time. 


By the way, side note, only in Maine can you buy lobster at rest stops along the highway . .. I mean maybe you can do this elsewhere but I had never seen it before and found it quite amusing.

Just as we were getting hungry we arrived at:
The Clam Box of Ipswitch




If you are ever in the area I highly suggest stopping by for a meal. I'm not a big seafood person, sure I like crab cakes and some other things but for the most part seafood is my last option. I had planned to get something just because it seemed right, like a cup of New England Clam Chowder, but I also figured I would get a hamburger to really be safe. I didn't need the hamburger. My Mom and I both got cups of the Chowder and split a plate of fried lobster tails. And it was delicious. The portions were huge and it was well worth the price.


After a very filling lunch it was back to the kaleidoscope for round two and hopefully better luck than the previous day. It had changed since the time my Mom and Dad brought us as kids and had grown into a hotel and restaurant.  

That silo is the kaleidoscope. When we had been here before I think it was painted sky blue with clouds on it and eyes. The show is only five dollars and it is about 15 minutes. They do have back rests to lean on and watch but the staffer recommended lying on the floor. They have three different shows that they alternate depending on the season. The one we saw was the Patriotic show.




On the way out I snapped pictures of the two wood carved guardians in front of the entrance.























And I almost forgot this adorable little sheep.



Then it was time to head home. Despite the mess up on Friday we had seen everything except the coulrophobia inducing World's Largest Jack-in-the -box located in Middleton CT. That's ok I'll get there eventually.

And finally here is the map of the trip:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Family in Torre Del Greco: A week to Remember


My Grandfather was from Torre Del Greco just outside Naples Italy and most of my family is still there.  At the end of October my Great Uncle Tony, the last of my Grandfather's siblings,  turned 85 and my Mom wanted to go to Torre Del Greco for his birthday.

Meg and I had met some of my Mom's family when we were in college studying in Rome. We had spent a whirlwind weekend in Torre Del Greco where we got to travel to Vesuvius, visit Ercolano, take a walk through Naples and most importantly meet some of the family my Mom had spoken about for years. We stayed at the apartment of her Aunt Angelina and had a party at one of her cousin's home.  My Mom had first gone to Italy when she was in her 20s and then returned a few years ago after reconnecting with her family on facebook.

Our trip was two parts. The first was a trip to Rome where I literarily forced my Mom to go to everything there is to see in Rome. Then we were off to Torre del Greco.

We took an early morning train from Rome to Naples where we met with my Mom's cousin, Michele, for the last 30 minute ride to Torre Del Greco.

Photo by Meghan Keohane
After a quick stop at Michele's apartment we went for a tour of the town. We saw the amazing black sand beach.



The effects of living in the shadow of a volcano. We filled some bottles with sand as souvenirs. Cause yes we are weird :-)




Speaking of the volcano we took pictures of it at every chance we got.



We also got to walk by the apartment building where my Grandfather was born and grew up.
Photo by Meghan Keohane
photo by Meghan Keohane
















The current residents were probably wondering why people where taking pictures of their building.






We walked over to the Holy Cross Basilica in town where, as the story goes, when Vesuvius erupted all the people in the town gathered in front of the church and the lava flowed around the sides of it saving the people.

photo by Meghan Keohane

Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
The bell tower on the left is from before the eruption in the baroque style. The church was rebuilt in the Neo Classical style. Meghan took this photo with her new fish eye lens which she got to play with the entire trip. She is definitely a natural at photography and it didn't take her long to adjust to the lens and get some marvelous shots.
             
Photo by Meghan Keohane


These are some pictures from outside and inside the church. From the statue of the priest holding up his hand blessing the congregation and asking God's protection, the close up of the bell tower and neo-classical columns showing the difference in architectural style, the magnificent organ, and the altar honoring San Gennaro.

Now our travel to Torre Del Greco was kind of a secret. My Mom didn't want her Uncle to find out so that she could surprise him when he came to Michele's apartment, since he was her co-conspirator. She did eventually let her other cousins in on the secret and, again with Michele and his son Antonio's help, she arranged a party for us and her cousins. It was at this party when I fully realized how lucky I was to have so many family members in Italy. 

First the place was absolutely gorgeous. But what made it even better was the amount of people who were there. My Mom's cousins and their families filled the space. It was wonderful to get introduced or reintroduced since it had been so long since we had been there. Part of the wonderful thing about facebook has been keeping up with all of our family in Italy but now I have more of a connection to them. 

Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
My Mom took turns taking pictures with each of her cousin's and their families
Photo by Meghan Keohane



Then she got some news that she wasn't expecting. Michele had arranged for my Mom's Aunt and Uncle to come to the party. Originally she had wanted to surprise them at my Great Uncle's birthday but now everyone got to be surprised as he entered :-)

Photo by Meghan Keohane

We spent so long mingling and talking that the poor wait staff was getting frustrated as we were falling behind in the schedule and I am sure they were wondering if they were ever going to get out of there that night. 

We knew my Mom was having a party with her cousins but we didn't know it was going to be a birthday party for us. We had cake, received flowers, and beautiful Merano glass necklace and bracelets. 
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane

Then they lit giant lanterns that we got to watch sail away with the town far below them.
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane



Hands down one of the best birthdays I will ever have.

In Rome I had gone beyond my comfort zone when it came to food and tried some new things, all of which were great. The trend continued as we visited my Mom's cousin in Caserta. 
Photo by Meghan Keohane

Pasta flavored and colored with squid ink! The only other time I had tried to have squid was at a restaurant when I had fried calamari and as I tried to eat it my Dad kept commenting on how squishy it was and other wonderful comments that made one bite enough for me. This was absolutely delicious!


We also took a trip with Michele and Antonio to Pompei.

Photo by Meghan Keohane
Photo by Meghan Keohane


Later in the day we went with Michele's whole family to Sorrento.


Now my Mom told us that when we got to Sorrento we had to see the lemons. Apparently my Grandfather had always talked about the lemons from Sorrento and compared every lemon he saw to Sorrento. And they all failed in comparison. According to him the lemons were as large as melons, unlike the puny lemons we find in American grocery stores. My Mom had never believed him until she visit and saw one for herself. Now there was a lot of build up about these lemons and they did not disappoint. 
Feast your eyes on the King of the Lemons!


That's right the lemon is so large it barely fits in my hand. 


Two days later it was the day of my Great Uncle's birthday.

Photo by Meghan Keohane

Now before we had left for Italy my Uncle Greg, who had gone to Italy a few years ago with my Mom but could not come this time, recorded a video toasting his Uncle and wishing him a very Happy Birthday and many returns. So at the party my cousin Antonio, a very talented Opera singer, and my Great Uncle Tony recorded a duet for me to bring back to my Uncle and this was by far one of the greatest moments of my life. The feeling in the room was just one of over encompassing love. And watching the video over brings me right back to that night.



I have so much more to say about this wonderful trip from the castle we saw in Caserta and it Merano glass chandeliers, to the splendor of the Neapolitan Nativity, our trips to Pompei and Ercolano, Naples, and more about Sorrento. More posts will come about those. But on this Easter Sunday I wanted to think back and give thanks for my family in Italy and some truly magnificent moments in my life!

Happy Easter to my friends and family and in particular my family in Italy!
Buona Pasqua ai miei amici e parenti e in particolare la mia famiglia in Italia!