Monday, December 19, 2011

Arkansas, From Hope To The White House


No matter your political persuasion or party affiliation, anyone should be able to appreciate a visit to The William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The story and journey of a little boy from a small town in Arkansas, Hope, who's father dies before he is born but nonetheless he becomes The President Of The United States is impressive.



Clinton With YasserFor me, William J. Clinton's rise to become one of the most important men in the world is reflective of one of the great things I love about this country, my second birthplace.

It is a land of opportunity for anyone to succeed if one has the courage and fortitude to take advantage of what is offered.





Raised by his mother and nurtured by his grandparents, William J. Clinton overcame many obstacles and challenges to become not only one of the youngest governor's ever to win (and lose an election) but he also served two terms as President Of The United States.



President Clinton Swearing InSome even believe that if it were constitutionally possible, Clinton may have even served three or four terms.








2011-12-01 13.18.59Did you know that the first Presidential vehicle used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was one seized from the famous gangster, Al Capone?


Or that today Presidential limousines are proudly built in Warren, Michigan.







2011-12-01 13.38.41Oval Office




2011-11-25 15.02.30Also, did you know that after World War II President Truman redesigned The Presidential Seal?

Originally, the eagle faced the talon holding the arrows of war, now it faces the olive branch. President Truman believed that the president, although prepared for war, should always look towards peace.






While this is President Clinton's library, it is not all about him. Here, I have learned more about the First Lady, life at the White House and the Office of The Presidency itself.



2011-12-01 13.47.32There is also currently even an impressive Lego exhibition. This exhibition has displays that I would have never thought possible from little pieces of colorful plastic.







Done with my afternoon tour of the library, I walk back into downtown Little Rock just in time for Happy Hour. Sliders with a side order of Pickles & Peppers along with a pint or two or three of a cold micro brew hits the spot at Big Whiskey's.




2011-12-02 17.37.16Big Whiskey’s Pickles And Peppers




McDonaldsAlthough this is no McDonalds, I have a feeling someone from Hope, Arkansas just might like hanging out here.

I hope he brings his saxophone.








New York City, A Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


I will be the first to admit that I am biased towards New York as being one of the best cities on the planet. No matter what time of the year I visit, I find being in Manhattan to always be an exciting and enjoyable experience. From museums to street vendors, restaurants to shops, subways to crazy taxi drivers, New York City is always vibrant and full of life.


2011-12-16 19.56.29Visiting during the holiday season adds just a few more reasons why I love this city. Spending time at one of New York's if not the world's most popular and recognized holiday spot, Rockefeller Center, is enough to put anyone in the joy of the season.








2011-12-16 20.03.30 




2011-12-16 20.30.08Seeing the huge Rockefeller Christmas tree while watching ice skaters cut across a freshly saved ice rink below is almost magical as holiday music and sounds fill the air.







A loud clock winds down in front of me, ten, nine, eight ….. and then the side of a multi story building comes alive with a crowd pleasing audio visual holiday display. Multiple windows open and close then the walls become covered in sparkling snow flakes before the inner workings of the clock reappears.

Another countdown begins.




2011-12-16 18.27.56This evening, I am fortunate to share in another New York City holiday tradition. I am going to see The Rockettes in their Christmas Special at Radio City Music Hall. Regular ticket prices range from US$55 to US$150 for the show.

A little bargaining and good fortune at the box office and I manage an orchestra level seat for US$70 for the 9:30pm show.







2011-12-16 21.40.38From a tap dancing rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.










2011-12-16 21.58.49A brilliant Toy Solider performance.





2011-12-16 22.51.48Hundreds if not thousands of Santa's appearing on stage. To the best Nativity scene I have ever seen with live animals including camels on the stage.

This show lives up to it's spectacular billing and more than exceeds my expectations. Money well spent for an evening and holiday entertainment.





Besides shows all around town with a touch of the holiday spirit, the streets are also filled with characters like Spiderman, Elmo and even Santa willing to share the joy of the season for a small price. However, to make sure we do not all get to carried away being in a festive mood, silently working the crowd and making his presence known is the man who eats onions for breakfast.

Da, da, da, GRINCH!

Nonetheless, even he cannot resist the happiness and joy of the holiday season in New York City especially if you give him a buck or two.





Friday, December 2, 2011

Florida, Feeling Presidential



2011-11-25 15.02.30Entering Hanger One at The National Museum On Naval Aviation, I see my chance to have a bit of a Presidential Experience.

Sitting in front of me is one of the many “Marine One” helicopters used to transport Presidents of the United States. Now retired, this one was actually used to transport two of our most famous or infamous presidents depending on your perspective.






One of President Nixon’s more memorable photographs was taken while he was exiting this particular helicopter. For President Ford, one of his least graceful moments, a famous stumble also took place while exiting this Marine One.




2011-11-25 15.00.44I am not a crook, maybe?





2011-11-25 15.03.11Duplicating both events, I think I am more presidential striking Nixon's pose than Ford's stumble.

Based on recent events and polling data, today I am proud to write you and announce my candidacy for President Of The United Bubbas Of America.

Yes, we just might!






Florida, National Museum Of Naval Aviation




2011-11-25 12.23.09Leaving the Pensacola Airport, I make a quick stop for lunch with one of my favorite girlfriends, Wendy.

Less than twenty minutes later I arrive at U.S Navy Base at Pensacola Florida, home of the world famous Blue Angels and The National Museum Of Naval Aviation.








2011-11-25 14.44.23Blue Angels



Parking and admission to the museum is free so it has already been worth the drive. To my surprise, 2011 is the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation which began in May of 1911. A free guided tour begins with a nice history lesson on the birth of the Naval Aviation and it's first airplane, a flying boat. For sure, in 1911 the operation of any flying machines was a dangerous mission and a few pilots were lost in the process.

Do you know where the first Navy bombing in foreign waters occurred? It was in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Apparently, while performing aerial reconnaissance over the area an irritated naval aviator dropped bars of soap on the Mexicans who were firing shots at his flying boat. Guess he was trying to get them to clean up their act.



2011-11-25 12.50.14This and many other interesting stories are told during our tour by a volunteer who has been involved with the Navy practically all his adult life. Did you know the Navy was responsible for seat belts in airplanes?

Today, all airplanes in the United States begin there registration number with the letter “N”. This process began as a part of Naval history attributed to the “Navy Curtis” (NC) which was a flying boat designed to patrol and fly across the Atlantic.







2011-11-25 13.45.38Ford Tri-Motor




Even Henry Ford, the famous automaker has a part in Naval history. Mr. Ford's contribution, the fully aluminum framed, Ford Tri-Motor. Used as a transportation aircraft it took two days combined with an overnight train ride to get from the East Coast to Los Angeles. Now the same trip is done in about six hours.




2011-11-25 14.23.30From a two pilot safety hazard aircraft at it's birth, the Navy's flying boats soon became monstrous machines that could sustain flight for up to twenty four hours.

Others like the PB2Y-R5 flew military officials around to places like Tokyo Harbor for the signing of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.







2011-11-25 14.52.00PB2Y-R5



Today, flying boats and even the once thought to be sophisticated F-14 of the movie Top Gun fame are a thing of the past. With the advance of warfare systems and technology, the present Navy airplanes are machines that could not even be imagined one hundred years ago.



2011-11-25 15.35.08Launching from an aircraft carrier on the high seas practically anywhere in the world, one airplane can carry and deliver over 15,000 pounds of bombs into enemy territory.

A far cry from a few bars of soap.







2011-11-25 16.39.51Whether you are a military or aviation and airplane junky or not, if you are in the area, I think a visit to the National Museum Of Naval Aviation is a worthwhile trip.

Who knows you might even meet or become a Blue Angel because of it.









Friday, September 23, 2011

New York, A Ride In The Park


I think is a fair conclusion that while during anytime of the year it is good to visit Central Park, I would say late summer or fall is best.

This afternoon the weather is warm and beautiful as I start a walk from Madison Avenue to the park. Along the way I am enticed by a $5 bike rental offer and decide to see park using some pedal power.A driver's license left behind as a deposit and I am peddling my way down 8th Avenue.



SamSep22 004 



The park is busy with others enjoying it's picturesque and serene surroundings as the sound of the city fades in the background. Joggers, cyclists, skaters, walkers and horse drawn carriages all compete for space on the park's numerous streets and paths.

I detour of the main road and follow the sound of music echoing from a distance. Groups and individuals provide free entertainment to park goers although donations are gladly accepted.



SamSep22 006 As boats row behind us, I spend a few minutes trying to cheer up a young man who seems a little gray.

His cellphone rings and it puts him in a better mood. However, he's still a little stiff as he leaves.






My next stop is at what I am told is the only private part of Central Park, a lawn bowling club. I am thinking about a membership just for the chance to spend more time here. I am sure I can master the form to become a pro lawn bowler.



SamSep22 021

I leave the park for a daring adventure. I actually want to ride the streets of New York on a bicycle and survive.

Passing the Apple Store, I head towards Rockefeller Center, St Patrick's Cathedral and then of course, Times Square.








SamSep22 011 Times Square



Needless to say I survived weaving between buses, yellow cabs and pedestrians. I could hardly imagine having more fun and excitement in Manhattan for just $15.00!





Thursday, September 22, 2011

New York, These Streets Will Make You ….


Over the years, I have spent plenty of time in New York City. I would argue that it is the most awesome city in America if not the world.

Here's just one of my experiences in this great city.

I wake up on a Sunday morning and just outside my hotel, The Roosevelt there is a street fair on Madison Avenue. Although Japanese food seems to be the flavor of the day there is still a nice mix of other ethnic foods that represent this great melting pot.



SamSep22 002 From Mexican to Thai, Madison Avenue is lined with a diversity of food vendors and other merchants.

I fall first for a taste of Japanese, a pork belly burger then it is a sampling of Thai, satay and a sweet potato fritter.

All delicious!





It is easy to see why in the words of a popular hip-hop song that these streets will not only make you feel brand new but I would add, pleasingly full, as well.






Thursday, August 11, 2011

South Dakota, Crazy Horse Museum



2011-06-26 15.13.32 Without a doubt this is one of the best museums that I have been in that is dedicated to the history of native American Indians.

Furthermore, this museum and the dedication of the people that operate it shows that great things can really be accomplished without help from the government.




Inside the museum is a movie theatre that gives a decent presentation about the history of the project and the work in progress.




2011-06-26 15.18.49 Indian artifacts, along with Korcaz's various works are well displayed throughout the museum.








2011-06-26 15.12.23 Crazy Horse



When the work is completed here, it will be an awesome and well deserved tribute to the American Indians. My hat is off to all who are making this project and dream a success.



2011-06-26 15.23.42 If you get the chance be sure to visit Crazy Horse Memorial. It will be time and money well spent.

Don’t forget to take a piece of the mountain home with you even if you love your mother-in-law.









South Dakota, Crazy Horse Memorial


After my visit to Mt. Rushmore, I am a bit apprehensive about visiting Crazy Horse. My expectations are low but that quickly changes at the entrance booth. There is only a $10 admission fee with free reentry for a laser light show and blasting.


2011-06-26 13.54.36 A nightly blasting happens once a year, weather permitting and tonight happens to be the night.






A short walk from parking and I am on a bus for a close up tour of Crazy Horse. The tour is $4 which I am happy to pay since all funding for this project comes from visitors and private donations. No public, state or federal money is being used or accepted to fund this monumental task.



2011-06-26 14.15.01 Our bus tour is informative and gives us a good knowledge base about Crazy Horse.

Did you know it will take another 80-100 years or more to complete this monument?

Or that once completed it will be much grander than Mt. Rushmore?





2011-06-26 14.22.23 At our only stop on the tour is a slab of granite the material from which the monument is being sculpture.

Although it has a tough composition it still must be treated with heat to slow down decay from the elements especially ice.







So how much wood would a wood chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?

Apparently, not much based on the skills of the ones running around Crazy Horse who spend most of their time chucking grass not wood.

Our tour drives by Korcaz's tomb which interestingly has a door knocker on the inside. Korcaz designed it himself along with building his own coffin. Apparently, he told his family he would knock if he wasn't have too much fun and wanted to be let out. I have to appreciate a man with a sense of humor even I death.

Somewhat carrying on this tradition, our bus driver invites us to take a piece of the mountain home with us as a souvenir. Inside the museum there are pieces of blast rock which are free for the taking. According to the driver the rocks are just heavy enough that he used them for his mother-in-law's life jacket.





Wednesday, August 10, 2011

South Dakota, A Bird's Eye-View



2011-06-26 13.45.08 I am on my way from Mt. Rushmore to Crazy Horse Memorial, which is less than twenty miles away, when a roadside sign grabs my attention.

A quick u-turn and I discover that for $49 I could set myself up for about 6 minutes of elevated fun.




I sign up at Black Hills Aerial Adventures and wait with excitement as a thumping sound rises above the noise of the nearby highway. As if suspended by an invisible cable, a Robinson R44 descends from the sky and smoothly lands less than a hundred feet away. I am told to wait as passengers are being assisted from the helipad.



2011-06-26 13.41.45 Fortunate for me, the next time the R44 is airborne I will be the only passenger.

Sitting next to the pilot, I have the most awesome views.

With professional confidence she flies us along a route that she has done hundreds of time before.



From about 500 feet above the ground, the beauty of the Black Hills expands in all directions as far as the eye can see. I am given a brief history of the area and some unknown to me landmarks are highlighted.

Our tour takes us as close as possible to Crazy Horse Memorial before we begin a circle back to our landing spot. The 6 minutes goes by too fast but it was money well spent for some fantastic views that could only be experienced with a set of wings.




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

South Dakota, Mt Rushmore



It is a beautiful summer day with clear blue skies as I leave Rapid City Airport. I am on my way down Highway 16W to the town of Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Keystone is known as the gateway to Mt. Rushmore.



2011-06-26 11.51.13 About twenty miles down the road I arrive in Keystone and it looks like a good place for lunch break.

A main street lined with shops and restaurants provides a good opportunity for a stroll before I settle down for a tasty pulled pork sandwich.





2011-06-26 12.17.26

It is not long after leaving Keystone that America's First President comes into view.









2011-06-26 12.31.14 George Washington. Awesome!




2011-06-26 12.41.31 Thinking a close up view would be more amazing, I pay an $11 entrance fee to park but I am a bit disappointed.







2011-06-26 12.49.18 By George, I think I like you more from a distance.

Had I been able to take in a Park Ranger lead hike maybe the $11 entrance fee would have been more worthwhile.





Back on the road I get another impressive glimpse of Mt. Rushmore. This time, I think I see a bit of resemblance between old George and myself.

Wow, he was actually one handsome dude!






Monday, July 25, 2011

South Dakota, A Cluck Cluck Here


I am traveling down Highway 16 West on my way to Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore when I come upon a discovery that takes me down a pleasant childhood memory lane. E I E I O.


VID01462 An $11 entrance fee and I find out that there truly is a cluck cluck here and a cluck cluck there on Old Macdonald's Farm which is located just of Highway 16 West.






VID01463 From pygmy goats to draft horses and hatching chicks, there are a lot of interesting and fun animals on Old Macdonald's Farm.








VID01460 Hey, you want a piece of me?




VID01461 So if you are ever near Rapid City, South Dakota and want to relive a bit of your childhood stop by the farm.

With an oink oink here and an oink oink there you might just have a little fun but watch out for that old man who would not even give a dog a bone.






Sunday, May 15, 2011

Minnesota, A Prairie Home


It's May 14th, 2011 and I wake up in St. Paul, Minnesota, excited that I am on my way to try and buy a ticket to see “A Prairie Home Companion” show in Minneapolis.



A Prairie Home Arriving downtown Minneapolis, I face two disappointments.

One, the show has been sold out for six weeks.

Two, people are walking around in coats and hats because it's freezing. It's the 14th of May and I think I see a snowflake!




My second disappointment I deal with first inside the warm Rock Bottom Brewery. There, I enjoy a chilled Smoked Porter while watching the Twins play baseball in light rain and wintery weather. My first problem, I will tackle in about an hour or so.

It almost show time and I am back in the lobby of State Theater. “Ticket, I need just one ticket. Does anyone have one ticket?” As luck would have it, I find a gentlemen that has four of them. A little bargaining and I am on the main floor for $40.


The Show At 4:45pm, I am sitting at a live taping of a show that I enjoy on National Public Radio, NPR.

Live from downtown Minneapolis it’s…

“A Prairie Home Companion's Spring and Beauty Show. Brought to us by Yoplait, giving women the calcium they need.”



What a nice way to spend an afternoon. Much better than sitting in the rain watching a Minnesota Twins game while freezing my …. off.

Don't ya know!