New York City Vacation – Day Six

On the sixth day of my vacation I gave a day to Brooklyn. I probably should have spent more time in Brooklyn since I’ve done Manhattan to death, but I did not have enough time to do extensive research. I had breakfast at Pret a Manger again and got my usual; a cup of coffee, a parfait berry yogurt, a mozzarella and tomato croissant, and a small bottle of orange juice. I went to Duane Reade to use their ATM and withdrew another $80.00 at 7:56 a.m because I had run out of my stash of cash.

I took  the 7 train at Times Square to Court Square Station in Queens and then transferred to the G train. I got off at the Bergen Street Station to explore the Boerum Hill neighborhood although there really isn’t much to see there. I located and photographed the Invisible Dog Art Center even though it was not open. I also located and photographed a Mosaic House which showed up on Google Maps. But I have no idea what the story is behind it. I initially went down the wrong street but I quickly found the right street. I then walked to the Books Are Magic book store in Cobble Hill. I bought the book Anna Ziegler’s Plays One at 10:16 a.m. This book was published by Oberon Books, a UK company, so I thought Anna Ziegler was a British playwright but she is actually an American playwright born in Brooklyn. That may explain why Books Are Magic had this book on their drama shelf. Now that I was in the Cobble Hill neighborhood I photographed the Cobble Hill Cinemas.

Invisible Dog Art Center

Invisible Dog Art Center

I then walked north on Court Street to reach Atlantic Avenue. I walked many blocks east to reach the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district. I did not see Roulette Intermedium but I did locate Fire Lotus Temple which was covered in scaffolding. The Fire Lotus Temple is a Zen temple. I’ve read a few books on Zen Buddhism and have a lot of respect for that religion, but they have nothing to tell us about the visionary aspect of spirituality and mysticism which is better exemplified in shamanism.

Center for Fiction

Center for Fiction

The only place I visited in the BAM cultural district was the Center for Fiction, an organization devoted to fiction writers which had recently moved into a new building. I bought the book In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri because I liked the cover which pictures a young woman reading in a library. This is a book about a writer’s struggles to learn Italian and I may have heard about this book when I was studying Italian for my trip to Rome and Venice. I was cheated out of $2.00 in change when I bought this book so I guess the Center for Fiction is totally intent on taking money off of writers.

BAM

BAM

I photographed some of the art institutions in the neighborhood; the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the BAM Tower, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. The only thing new I stumbled across was the MUSE Academy, a private school for early childhood instruction in the creative and performing arts. I found that as I was circling around the Brooklyn Academy of Music to photograph the Apple store at the rear of the BAM Tower, also known as 300 Ashland. Brooklyn now has a lot of residential skyscrapers and is beginning to look like Manhattan.

At the  Barclays Center I took a Q train to 42nd Street Bryant Park. This train did not make the expected stops so I will have to look into that. As usual some subway performers took the opportunity to pester riders as the train was making its long way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I think they take advantage of the extended time between stops. I dropped off my books at the hotel and had lunch at Pret a Manger. This time I sat outside and for once they gave me a tray. I had a Ham and Swiss baguette, a can of coke and blood orange, and my usual parfait.

I photographed the New Dramatists and Actor’s Studio then walked far west on West 46th Street to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. At 1:48 p.. I bought a ticket with my credit card which came to $33.00. I’ve seen the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum on a previous trip but that was before they got a space shuttle. I took an elevator to the flight deck and photographed lots of planes. Then I went into the hanger where they keep the space shuttle Enterprise. They insisted on taking my photo as they do at some of the more tacky attractions but I didn’t want to buy any photos of myself. I did take many photos of the space shuttle but it was huge and filled the hanger so you could not get it all into a shot. I think they should have kept it on the flight deck so you could take a photo from a distance. There were a few exhibits on the space shuttle and a physics demonstration designed for kids. After that I went to the control tower, explored the hanger deck with its many exhibits, and saw the crew sleeping quarters. I went back outside to the flight deck and took photos of the Concorde all the way towards the back. At this point it began to look like rain and I did not have my umbrella. But I did take time to tour the USS Growler, a submarine docked beside the USS Intrepid. First I saw many interactive exhibits which I don’t remember from my previous trip. I didn’t waste much time on those but hurried down the missile bay to crawl through the ship. Several people were in front of me but I managed to take photos of almost every room. I remember thinking the sleeping quarters were almost as small as my hotel room. After leaving the submarine I did rush back to my hotel to beat the rain.

USS Intrepid

USS Intrepid

I had dinner at Chik-fil-A because we don’t have that restaurant chain in my area. I ordered a Chick-fil-A’s original chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a coke. I had to ask for some sauce and they kept me waiting for a good long while before asking me what I wanted. I had my orange umbrella with me because it was starting to rain. I spilled some sauce on my white dress shirt and tried to remove it in my hotel room.

The Sound Inside

The Sound Inside

That evening I saw the play “The Sound Inside” by Adam Rapp at Studio 54. This was the second straight play I saw on my trip. This was also the second time I’ve seen a play at Studio 54. We did not form a line outside because you could wait in the lobby. We formed two lines in the lobby under some chandeliers. I had a front row seat for this show. At one point Mary-Loise Parker sat on the stage right in front of me. If she had come any closer it would have been to climb into my lap.

The stage was mostly keep completely dark and black with sets appearing out of the abyss. I liked the tree that appeared like a spectral apparition in the background. Stage sets moved forward or receded magically and the stage lighting picked out the actors in the darkness. The play was about fiction writers or novelists, and mentioned Dostoevsky often. It sort of had a surprise ending because I was guessing that the student was just a character the lonely professor had written into being. I was completely wrong about that. The student was real the whole time. Instead the play was about suicide and the character who actually committed suicide was not the one you expected. I kind of like my idea of the student being just in the head of the professor, but that is a bit too predictable.

I loved this play because it was very serious and it concerned writers. The lonely professor of creative writing getting involved with a student is a bit of a cliché but I think Adam Rapp might have some actual experience in this area. I hope I never have to teach writing or literature. I just don’t think that is appropriate for a visionary writer. I kind of anticipated this possibility in my play Charcoal Sketches but I considered how the muse would sabotage an inspired artist who gets too comfortable and lazy.

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New York City Vacation – Day Five

Having explored the Upper East Side the previous day, my goal on the fifth day of my vacation was to explore the Upper West Side. I had rarely ventured into the Upper West Side on previous trips so there were a few things for me to see, mostly around the Columbia University area. I had breakfast at Pret a Manger since that became my routine. I had a cup of coffee, a parfait, a mozzarella and tomato croissant, and a small bottle of orange juice. At 7:37 a.m I went to the nearest Duane Reade and bought 6 inch scissors, a gel heal cup, and foot blister Band-Aids since by that time I had a few blisters. In the end I only suffered from two blisters due to my tight shoes, one my one little toe and one on the back of my heel of the other foot.

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

I walked to the 50th Street Station and took the 1 train uptown to the 110st Street Station on the Cathedral Parkway. I photographed the subway exists since this was a station I’ve never used before. I walked to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and photographed the Peace Fountain. I couldn’t really enter any other areas of the garden. I discovered the cathedral does not open until 9:00 a.m. even though they put out the Enter Here sign. Not being able to visit the cathedral, I walked up Amsterdam Avenue to Columbia University. I took photos of the Low Memorial Library, the Alma Mater Statue, the Butler Library, and the Miller Theatre but I didn’t actually attempt to enter any building or explore the campus. Once again, I got the impression that foreign dignitaries were being entertained at the college so it may not have been wise to poke about. From there I quickly found the entrance to Barnard College. I saw a curious wooden duck sculpture in the crosswalk leading to the college but I didn’t even cross the street. I circled around to the block to take photos of St. Paul’s Chapel. There were actually a lot of grand buildings in the neighborhood which I could not identify. Visiting Columbia University was kind of extra meaningful since I mentioned the college in my last play. In fact, it occurred to me that this play might do better than I expect since it would be great for high schools to do this play as part of their career counseling. My play could prove to a sweet little money maker!

Alma Mater Statue

Alma Mater Statue

I walked  back down Amsterdam Avenue to the cathedral and found the Book Culture book store which was open. I bought the book What Blest Genius? by Andrew McConnell Scott for $29.34 at 9:22 a.m. This book is about the jubilee that helped to establish William Shakespeare as a literary god. I had heard about this book, and although it was not on my shopping list, it seemed the best book I was likely to find on the drama shelf. I then located and photographed the Nicholas Roerich Museum but it did not open until 12:00 p.m. noon. So I walked back to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine where I was finally let in. It only cost $5.00 admission since the cathedral was being renovated and there was not much to see inside. Both times I attempted to walk straight in since most churches will not charge you to enter. The chapel was kind of spooky since it was covered in scaffolding and looked like the backstage of a theater.

I walked back to Columbia University but this time I only saw an additional fountain to photograph. I proceeded to the General Grant National Memorial. I watched a  film in the visitor’s center before crossing the street to enter the tomb. There was not much to see except for two sarcophagi and a few bronze busts of Civil War generals. I then walked south along Riverside Park to 107th Street near the Nicholas Roerich Museum. The museum did not open until 12:00 p.m. noon so I sat on a park bench reading my book, What Blest Genius?

Nicholas Roerich Museum

Nicholas Roerich Museum

The Nicholas Roerich Museum had two floors of paintings and exhibits and mostly photos along a hallway on the ground floor. I left a $3.00 tip. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian-born artist whose work focused on nature scenes from the Himalayas. H.P. Lovecraft mentions his paintings in his Antarctic horror story At the Mountains of Madness and that is enough to make Roerich part of the mythos. I would not go out of your way to visit the Nicholas Roerich Museum but it is pretty cool if you are in the area. On Saturdays they are only open from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. so it would have been difficult to fit this place into one of my day trips.

After seeing the Nicholas Roerich Museum I was done with the Upper West Side so I took the 1 train back downtown to the 50th Street Station. I walked up to 52nd street to photograph some theaters and then up to West 54th Street to photograph Studio 54 again. Then I saw Stephen Colbert filming alongside the Ed Sullivan Theatre. He appeared to be taking a baseball bat to a car windshield with a maybe a guest on his show?? I saw a crowd around them trying to take photos and I managed to take a few myself. That was pretty much the only celebrity I have seen on the street. I went back to my hotel to drop off my book.

At 1:49 p.m. I ate lunch at Pret  a Manger. I bought a Prets Classic Grilled Cheese which they had to heat up, a Parfait Berry Yogurt, and Blood Orange Soda. I used the ATM at the  Duane Reade on 771 8th Avenue at 2:10 p.m. and withdrew another $80.00.

New York Public Library Reading Room

New York Public Library Reading Room

Since my trip to the Upper West Side did not take all day I was able to proceed to do some things on another day’s itinerary again. I walked to Bryant Park and visited the New York Public Library. I made a mental note to add its hours to my notes since that information was missing. At the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building I saw watercolors by travel writer William P. Rayner. He trekked across Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and North Africa. I found the Picture Collection room and pulled out a folder to browse through drawings. Most of the drawings appeared to be from pages torn out of magazines. This was kind of interesting but completely random. I wandered through the building and found a few reading rooms but there was not much to see. I also found the library gift shop. Most public libraries do not have a gift shop and I was tempted to buy something but I was already over my quota on books. However, it could be good place to buy commemorative books on my future trips to NYC.

Morgan Library and Museum

Morgan Library and Museum

After leaving the library I quickly walked to the Morgan Library & Museum to sneak in a visit before they closed. Both the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum were on my itinerary for another day so I was getting ahead of schedule. The admission to the Morgan Library & Museum had increased to $22.00. They seemed to be setting up for visiting dignitaries.  I saw metal detectors being set up and when I left there was a lot of security gathered around the entrance which made me nervous. I saw the Morgan office and library and took some great photos. I even saw a page from a William Blake illustrated book, America: A Prophecy. There were a few interesting exhibits on opera; Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet and Verdi: Creating Otello and Falstaff—Highlights from the Ricordi Archive. I saw both a First Folio and Second Folio of Shakespeare’s plays bound in leather as part of the Verdi exhibit and that really made my visit worthwhile because I’ve recently read a book about the textual differences in the Shakespeare folios. The museum guard asked me if I understood the writing and then realized that the books were in English. I’m not sure what that was all about. At the gift shop I bought Verdi’s Shakespeare: Men of the Theater by Garry Wills. I am not familiar with any operas based on Shakespeare’s plays so I was curious to know more. Part of the reason to travel and visit museums is to be exposed to new art but to be honest I rarely follow up on what I’ve seen.

I went to the Hourglass Tavern at 6:00 p.m. This was a very cramped restaurant but I was given a table by myself down stairs. I had a prix-fixe dinner of pork chops with mashed potatoes. The meal began with a bowl of chicken soup and ended with tiramisu. I drank several glasses of water because I was thirsty. After this pre-theater meal I saw Linda Vista at the Helen Hayes Theater. This was one of the two straight plays I saw on this trip. Linda Vista was written by the playwright Tracy Letts so I expected it to be a great play. I did not have my ticket delivered to me so I had to go to the box office to get my will call ticket. A line did not form outside the theater because we were allowed to wait in the lobby, but it took me awhile to figure that out.

Linda Vista

Linda Vista

My seat was below the level of the stage so I was looking up at the performers. The play began with Ian Barford carrying in boxes to move into his new apartment. The stage set revolved to reveal a living room with a kitchen area, a bedroom, a camera repair store, a karoke bar, and a restaurant. There was nudity and simulated sex in this show, twice! This seems to be a new trend on Broadway. I don’t really mind it, but I think the audience should be forewarned about simulated sex scenes.  There was some mention of the nudity but the simulated sex was a surprise and I think it is meant to be kept a surprise.

Somebody began grunting really loud during the first act. The management had to threaten to throw this person out. It caused a bit of a stir. Ian Barford managed to work a snide remark about the grunts into one of his lines. Everybody laughed at that. They were watching Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon on a flat screen TV at one point in the show. This really lent a surprising degree of realism but I have to wonder if they got permission to show that clip. I liked Linda Vista because it was about a guy my age but it did make him out to seem a little pathetic. I don’t like my protagonists to seem like real losers but I often leave them without a job since I end the play with them getting fired. I don’t think Linda Vista has been published yet but I intend to buy a copy of the script.

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New York City Vacation – Day Four

On the fourth day of my vacation in New York City, September 24, 2019, I began my practice of having breakfast at the Pret a Manger near my hotel. I liked eating there because it was affordable and convenient. You don’t have to wait for your sandwich to be made. You just grab whatever you want and then pay for it, cafeteria style. I got a cup of coffee, a yogurt, and a small bottle of orange juice. They just give you a cup for the coffee and you pour it yourself at the coffee station.

My goal for this day was to visit some minor museums on the Upper East Side. I walked to the 42nd Street Station and took the shuttle to Grand Central. Then I took the 6 train uptown to 96th Street Station. I didn’t have any photos of this station’s exits so I took a few photos myself. It is surprising how poorly documented some aspects of New York City are but I’m taking care of that. I followed my detailed trip directions to prevent getting lost on the Upper East Side. From the 96th Street Station I walked west along East 96th Street between Food Universe and Pure and Natural which took me past a church, St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church. I turned left onto Madison Avenue between Jerome Florists and Starbucks. I walked past the red brick Madison Avenue Armory and saw its stone plaque with the squadron’s cry “Boutez en avant!”, “Press forward!”. I found the Corner Bookstore on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 93rd Street but it was closed. It would not open until 10:00 a.m. and I was there at 8:06 a.m. I did not return after visiting the museums because I had other book stores to visit and did not want to buy more books than I could fit in my luggage.

I followed my directions perfectly but arrived at Cooper-Hewitt by 8:10 a.m. so I went to Central Park to wait.  I saw a few memorial plaques there. I eventually got tired of waiting around and strolled down 5th Avenue to photograph the Guggenheim Museum, Neue Galerie, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I found the Group of Bears sculpture and took photos of that. I searched for Cleopatra’s Needle and eventually found it but I really need better directions to locate it. You would think you could see the obelisk rising above the trees but the trees are actually taller. Cleopatra’s Needle is between the King Jagiello Monument and the Alexander Hamilton Monument. I took some great photos of Belvedere Castle which is also in this section of Central Park. That killed enough time for me to return to the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum shortly before it opened. The entrance is on East 91st Street and I found a group of people waiting for it to open. A guard unlocked the front door.

Cooper-Hewitt

Cooper-Hewitt

The Cooper-Hewitt had a strange innovation. They gave you an electronic pen which you used to tag the exhibits you found interesting. One end of the pen could be used on light tables to interact with a digital display. These were like giant tablets laid flat. Your ticket has a code for retrieving your visit. This eliminates the need to take a lot of photos to record what you saw. For example, I can determine that I saw the following at the museum during my visit; the Curiosity Cloud, a cloud of large light bulbs each containing an insect which fluttered within the bulb as you approached, a soft robotic grip glove, Visualizing the Cosmic Web which used a computer graphics technique for visualizing connections that I know how to create in JavaScript, a video of self-organizing robot pucks, a photograph of a jeweled mask, and a drawing for a design for a musaphonic clock. Not everything I tagged has been digitized yet. I remember I also saw a demonstration of facial recognition technology and how unreliable it can be. Overall I found the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum an odd mix of exhibits which did not seem related to design. I’m not sure if I saw any of their permanent collection since everything appeared to be a special exhibit. This museum would definitely not be on my list for a first trip to New York City but if you’ve seen everything else in the city it is definitely worth some time.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Next I went to the Guggenheim Museum just because it was nearby. I have been to the Guggenheim Museum a couple of times before but it is a major museum for modern art. I also have the bad habit of failing to return to museums to see their special exhibits, assuming that once I’ve seen their permanent collection there is no reason to go back there. The Guggenheim Museum had the following special exhibits; Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, the Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat, and Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story. This exhibit examines Jean-Michel Basquiat’s exploration of black identity and his protest against police brutality after the death of artist Michael Stewart. There was a limit on the number of people allowed in the Jean-Michel Basquiat gallery so I had to wait in line. I was in the Guggenheim Museum until Noon. I walked up the spiral to the top floor and took photos of the skylight and looking down at the floor below. I even checked out the gift shop but I did not buy anything.

Asia Society

Asia Society

After seeing modern art at the Guggenheim Museum I walked to the 86th Street Station and took a downtown 6 train to the 68th Street – Hunter College Station. I found the Shakespeare & Co. book store where I bought a copy of Lear: The Great Image of Authority by Harold Bloom. They had a small selection of drama books so this seemed to be the most appropriate choice. Then I wandered several blocks all around Hunter College trying to find their Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse. Eventually I figured out that it was boarded up for renovations so I had seen it but not recognized it. I then made my way to Asia Society, another minor museum which I had never bothered to visit on my time crunched day trips. There was not much to see at Asia Society and they appeared to be hosting foreign dignitaries for something going on at the United Nations. But I saw the exhibit Xiaoze Xie: Objects of Evidence. This exhibit was about banned books in Chinese so I was unfamiliar with them but it was interesting to see foreign books. The other exhibit was on Lakshmi, a Hindu goddess. I saw some interesting artwork representing the goddess including collages by the Brazilian artist, Roberto Custodio.

C.G. Jung Institute of New York

C.G. Jung Institute of New York

That completed my itinerary for exploring the Upper East Side so I returned to my hotel around 2:00 p.m. This left me with several hours to kill so I proceeded to do things on the next day’s itinerary. I felt like doing more shopping so I walked to the C.G. Jung Institute of New York. I wanted to take a photo of this establishment because I’ve read a lot of Jungian psychology. Unfortunately, modern psychology has all but abandoned the concept of the psyche or the unconscious mind and no longer considers it a factor worth considering. Jung is dismissed as an antiquated mystic. However many creative people are still into Jungian psychology because anyone who has confronted the depths of their being is obliged to take the psyche seriously. The C.G. Jung Institute of New York isn’t really open to the public but they do have a book store where you can buy books on Jungian psychology. I bought Jung in the 21st Century Volume One: Evolution and Archetype by John Ryan Haule and Jung in the 21st Century Volume Two: Synchronicity and Science by John Ryan Haule. These books were on my shopping list because they are an attempt to relate Jungian psychology to contemporary thinking. I paid almost a hundred dollars for these two books and they added a lot of weight to my luggage. Still they could very well prove to be the most significant find of my trip.

I walked past the New York Public Library but found its lion statues where covered in scaffolding boxes. When I got back to my hotel I tried the hotel cafe. I noticed they had an ATM but it probably would have charged me for withdrawals. I bought a can of coke and an ice cream popsicle which was charged to my room. I decided not to use the hotel cafe since it did not accept cash.

Bond 45

Bond 45

I had dinner at Bond 45. This turned out to be the most expensive meal of the entire trip. I ordered a Crab Cobb salad expecting it to be mostly seafood but it was an actual salad so I only picked out the crab, the cheese, the olives, and the eggs. I also had a glass of Prosecco, a coffee and tiramisu.

Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Eugene O’Neill Theatre

That evening was my first theater show on this trip. I was eager to spend an evening at the theater even though I made this trip to do other things in the evenings to experience a variety of night life. I saw the musical The Book of Mormon at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. This was the very first Broadway musical I’ve seen since I prefer straight plays. I choose this show because I wanted to see inside the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and they could be doing this show for years and years. The Book of Mormon was a comical show. It was a bit juvenile and not very witty. I didn’t think any of the songs were memorable. Still it was extravagant and featured a good amount of dancing and inspirational songs. The show made fun of a major religion but was unable to completely dismiss the utility of religion for dealing with life’s challenges. It is a bit surprising that the subject matter was not more controversial since it made fun of Aids in Africa, but I suppose it is seen as being critical of well-intentioned missionary work that does not accomplish anything.

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New York City Vacation – Day Three

The third day of my vacation in New York City began with breakfast at Applebees on West 42nd Street. We don’t have an Applebees in Williamsport but there is one in Lewisburg. I like West 42nd Street even though it is tacky. I ordered a breakfast sandwich with sausage which came on toast. I also had coffee and potatoes although I barely ate any potatoes. I rarely eat breakfast so I wasn’t looking for a foodie experience. My hotel room appeared to be cleaned early in the morning from around 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. so I made a mental note to be out of my room by then. After breakfast I climbed the TKTS ticket booth steps because I don’t remember if I’ve ever done that before.

My goal for this day was to visit the Lower East Side to take a tour at the Tenement Museum and buy a Raspberry Pi 4 at Tinkersphere. I also had a list of establishments to photograph that I had missed on previous trips to the Lower East Side. I took an F train downtown from Bryant Park to the Lower East Side’s 2nd Avenue Station and arrived around 9:24 a.m. I located the Marc Straus Gallery with some difficulty but it was closed. I had a second breakfast at Dudley’s but I only had a cup of coffee and a bowl of granola and yogurt with blueberries and strawberries. The bowl was larger than I expected!

Dudley's

Dudley’s

After that I walked far east on Grand Street to photograph the Abrons Arts Center. Along the way I passed massive apartment complexes like the Seward Park Housing, Seward Park Extension II, and off in the distance a residential skyscraper, One Manhattan Square. I also came across the Harry De Jur Playhouse next to the Abrons Arts Center and saw the Doughnut Plant. This neighborhood seemed a little gritty so I retraced my steps back to the center of the Lower East Side.

I located and photographed the entrance to Slipper Room which is next to Pizza Beach and hard to spot since it is just a door. I had completely failed to locate this establishment on a previous trip to the Lower East Side. I did find one art gallery open, Benjamin’s Art Gallery on Orchard Street. When I went inside I was greeted by a sales person who seemed more eager to chat up a customer than is usual for an art gallery. She showed me the work of Jeon Nak, a Korean artist who does lenticular lens paintings. This is a technique that makes images that appear to change or move as the image is viewed from different angles.

I found a new CVS store at 194 Orchard Street where I used a Santander ATM to withdraw another $80.00 from my checking account.

Tinkersphere did not open until noon so I walked far west on Delancey Street and found the Bowery Ballroom, a music venue I wanted to photograph because Mother Feather has played there. I walked up the Bowery street and saw the Germania Bank Building which is kind of famous for being in many punk rock photos. I went inside and found it was now home to Supreme, a skateboard clothing boutique. Next I thought I would find the MoMA Design store but I went west on Prince Street instead of Spring Street. Prince Street is directly opposite the New Museum. So I wound up walking past McNally Jackson Books and eventually reached the Prince Street Station at which time I knew something was up. From there I walked north on Broadway back to East Houston Street to eventually find Allen Street. Before going to Tinkersphere I went into Stop 1 Gourmet Deli and bought a small bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino because I was dying of thirst. At Tinkersphere I bought a Due R3 Arduino and a Raspberry Pi 4 (1 GB model). I haven’t really done anything with the Arduino or the Raspberry Pi but I plan to get into that over the winter.

After making that purchase I thought about heading back uptown to leave it at my hotel and get the print out for the Tenement Museum tour which I forgot. I even entered the subway, but as I waited for a train to show up, I began to worry that I would be cutting it too close so I left the subway. I found another deli store to buy something to drink because I was dying of thirst again. The weather was very hot for September and every day of my trip was hot.

97 Orchard Street

97 Orchard Street

At the Tenement Museum I was scheduled to go on the Shop Life tour at 1:35 p.m. I got there about an hour early so I went to the checkout counter to get my ticket. Then I went downstairs to use the restroom and got a drink from a water fountain. I could not use their storage lockers because I did not have a quarter. I watched a 15 minute film and looked through the books in the gift shop. They were selling that New York Non-Stop A Photographic Album in the museum store! That book has a few of my photos in it. The Shop Life Tour did not leave at 1:35 p.m. because there was only two of us and two other people did not show up on time. I had to wait until 2:15 p.m. for another tour which had a different guide. For the Shop Life Tour we walked to 97 Orchard Street and entered a basement store which was once used as a German saloon. We were led to the cramped meeting room and kitchen behind the saloon. There was also a bedroom. From there we entered a room that was left in ruins and finally into a room with sophisticated flat screen tables. You could place an object on the table and read details about the merchants.

After the tour was over I looked for the I Need More punk clothing store but it was closed even though it should have been open. I didn’t feel like spending any more time in the Lower East Side so I took an F train uptown to the 47th-50th Streets – Rockefeller Center Station which brought me closer to my hotel than Bryant Park.

Daniela Trattoria

Daniela Trattoria

I had dinner at Daniela Trattoria on 8th Avenue. I had a reservation there for 5:00 p.m. I ordered the Chicken Scarpariello with lemon, white wine, sausage, vinegar peppers. There was only one sausage. I had tiramisu for dessert. The total was $58.36 with tip so that was a pretty expensive place to eat. Afterwards I walked down West 42 Street to photograph theaters. I saw Theater Row which had been renovated and I notice Stage 42 which is a theater I’ve overlooked until now.

Iridium Harlem Blues Band

Iridium Harlem Blues Band

That evening I finally got to visit a Jazz club in New York City, something I could not do on a day trip. I chose to go to the Iridum Jazz Club because I’ve seen that place on just about every one of my trips to NYC. It is between Ellen’s Stardust Diner and the Winter Garden Theatre. The band I saw was the Harlem Blues Project. I would have preferred some Jazz but there were none scheduled that would have fit my schedule. Although I had a TicketWeb ticket they didn’t actually take it. I was given a white card instead. The stage was actually down a flight of stairs. I was seated pretty close the stage and in the center.  There was a two drink minimum so I ordered a Prosecco and a Mai Tai. The drinks came to $38.65. I paid $40.00 in cash and actually got $2.00 change back. The Harlem Blues Project was made up of four elderly black men. Three of them had guitars and one played drums. They appeared to be pretty laid back and friendly. Some of them worked for New York City in education. I’m not very familiar with Blues so I did not recognize any of the songs but they were quite soulful.

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New York City Vacation – Day Two

The second day of my vacation in New York City began with breakfast at Bond 45, an expensive restaurant just down the street from my hotel. This was a Sunday, September 22, 2019. I had a gooey cheese omelet and coffee which came to $28.00 plus tip. Needless to say I only ate breakfast there once! My goal for this day was to visit the Financial District to see the Museum of the American Indian, a minor museum which I’ve never seen before. I walked to the vast 42nd Street Times Square station and took the S train shuttle to Grand Central where I transferred to a 4 train to head downtown to the Bowling Green station. This requires walking for blocks underground clear across the 42nd Street Times Square and then clear across the Grand Central station so I’m not sure it really saves you from as much walking as going directly to the 51st Street Station.

I exited the Bowling Green Station from the headhouse in Battery Park and proceeded to photograph monuments in Battery Park like the East Coast Memorial and the Netherland Monument. I also found a few monuments I was not looking for like the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Giovanni da Verrazzano Sculpture, and the Immigrants Sculpture by Luis Sanguino. I found the Castle Clinton National Monument and walked inside to see where you buy tickets for the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I saw the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Portal Building which is used as the fictitious headquarters of the Men in Black.

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

At 10:00 a.m. I was ready to see the Museum of the American Indian, also known as the George Gustav Heye Center, which opens at 10:00 a.m. Technically this is just an branch of the Museum of the American Indian which is based in Washington DC. This museum is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a Beaux Arts-style building. I had to go through a metal detector to enter the building since it is also home to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. I had trouble finding the rotunda because it is located on the second floor. The rotunda features murals by Reginald Marsh which I photographed. Around the rotunda where black and white photographs by Ara Güler. Ara Güler was an Armenian-Turkish photojournalist. So why were his photos on display at the Museum of the American Indian? It appears there was an Intercultural Conversation on Ara Güler, an expert panel discussing the work, life, and legacy of the world-renowned Turkish photographer, held on September 24th at the Museum of the American Indian. The panel coincided with the opening of a new exhibit at the Alexander Hamilton Custom House, running from September 23rd through October 4th.

Museum of the American Indian

Museum of the American Indian

The American Indian exhibits were behind the rotunda. I saw lots of pottery, baskets, and buckskin clothing. The only thing that really interested me was a display case devoted to the Peyote Way. I used the restroom and then went to the gift shop where I bought a medium sized dream catcher, a Shaman’s Way CD,  and a book The Wind Is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Bear Heart with Molly Larkin. I did not intend to buy anything at this museum store but I could not resist anything related to shamanism.

After leaving the museum I quickly found the Charging Bull statue which was surrounded by a crowd of tourists as usual. However, I did manage to take one decent photo during a break in the crowd. Next I located the 3-Legged Dog performance space but it was missing all its signage so I’m sure if it still exists. I took the 1 train Uptown to 50th Street Station and returned to my hotel to drop off my purchases.

Charging Bull

Charging Bull

There was a Broadway Flea Market going on down a few streets so I found the Dramatists Guild table and bought a copy of Out Of The Water by Brooke Berman for $1.00. The flea market was very crowded or I would have spent more time looking for rare theater merchandise.

I made a special trip to a New Age book store, Quest Bookshop, which is associated with the Theosophical Society. The book store is located near the Lipstick Building and I’m rarely that far east in MidTown Manhattan which is why I’ve never visited this book store before. Unfortunately they had a poor selection of books on shamanism so after much deliberation I had to settle for the book Natural Prayers by Chet Raymo, which appears to be a book on nature mysticism. There was nothing else to see or do in that neighborhood so I returned to my hotel and had lunch at Carve: Unique Sandwiches. I had a mini sandwich Tuna Salad with Dill, with tomatoes, lettuce and mayo. And I drank a coke which I ate at the counter. After dropping off my book at the hotel I took an R train downtown to the 28th Street Station and photographed the Little Church Around the Corner. This church has some associations with the theater and actors. I located the Museum of Sex afterwards and found Madison Square Park where I managed to take another R train Uptown to the 50th Street Station. I went to a Duane Reade where I bought a bottle of Starbucks coffee and a small bottle of lotion. For dinner I went to Pret A Manger where I ate a Basil Chicken sandwich with Avocado, an apple parfait, and a can of coke.

Carolines on Broadway

Carolines on Broadway

That evening was the first night life activity I had scheduled. I saw a comedy show at Carolines on Broadway, Natalie Friedman: First Impressions. I had never heard of this comedian before. Apparently she is famous for doing impressions of celebrities like Kim Kardashian. But I have gone without cable television for so long that I barely know who Kim Kardashian is. I only had a print out so an hour before the show I went downstairs and was given a piece of paper which serves as the real ticket. However, I did not want to wait for an hour at the bar so I walked around Times Square for awhile. When I returned to the comedy club they seated everyone numbered 1 through 20 first. I had number 22 so I had to wait a bit longer. The first group may have been let in early for a meet and greet with Natalie Friedman before the show. I did see her come in.

There were three comedians before the main act; Tyler Fischer, Jim Mendrinos, and Meme Simpson. Frankly I thought they were all better than Natalie Friedman. There was a two drink minimum so I ordered two cocktails; a Mai Tai and something with blackberries. These drinks must have contained very little liquor since they had no noticeable effect on me. After the show we were given lottery tickets so I thought there was going to be a raffle but these were just meant to show that we had met the two drink minimum. You had to present this raffle ticket as you were leaving.

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New York City Vacation – Day One

I finally decided to spend an entire week in New York City for my vacation. The main purpose of this trip was to check out the night life, since all of my day trips end at 8:00 p.m. I have been prevented from doing anything in the evenings. I also thought it was about time to give New York City an entire week like the other cities I have visited. I actually spent eight days in New York City because I did not return home until Sunday morning. This did not give me a day to recover, but I didn’t really need that.

I booked a round trip to New York City with Fullington Trailways because Susquehanna Trailways no longer handles regular service to New York City. Their routes have been taken over by Fullington Trailways. I still parked at the Church Street Transportation Center and got on the bus there. I was carrying my Skyway carry-on bag with my laptop in the bottom and my favorite Protege luggage. I considered taking my largest piece of luggage so I could bring a lot of books home, but I didn’t want to drag a huge bag along the streets of New York City. The plan was to walk from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to my hotel and thereby avoid having to get a taxi. The bus ride to New York City took five hours with one transfer to another bus in Lehighton.

Paramount Hotel

Paramount Hotel

I arrived in New York City around Noon and used the restroom at the Port Authority Bus Terminal because I was not sure if my hotel room would be ready. I hauled my luggage four blocks north to West 46 Street. I was staying at the Paramount Hotel on West 46 Street, right in the heart of the Theater District. I had considered staying at Yotel but their rates were not competitive. Fortunately my room was ready. My room number was 1839 so it was on the 18th floor of the 19 floors. I got two room keys which were like credit cards. You could only operate the elevator with a room key and you only had access to certain floors. Getting the card reader to give you the green light proved to be a little tricky at times. My room turned out to be pretty small and cramped but I hardly spent any time there since I treated each day as a precious day trip and kept busy walking around the city.

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A

I was hungry after that long bus trip so I went to a Chick-fil-A on 6th Avenue for lunch. This fast food restaurant chain is not in my area so this was a new experience for me. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a coke. There were almost no tables so I had to stand at a counter to eat. After that I took lots of photos of establishments on West 46th Street because this was to be my base of operations. I also took photos of the theaters with advertising for the plays and musicals I was going to see. On West 46th Street I took photos of Brasserie Athénée, the Richard Rodgers Theatre which was showing the musical Hamilton, the Church of Scientology of New York, and Havana Central Times Square. I also took a lot of photos of establishments on West 42nd Street because I had discovered that I’ve never taken good photos of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! or Madame Tussauds New York. Although I’ve never been interested in the more tacky tourist attractions, I did buy a ticket for Ripley’s Believe It or Not online. This museum is like the last remnant of the dime museums, freak shows with bizarre attractions like flea circuses. In fact, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! also calls itself an odditorium since it features oddities. I didn’t see any actual freaks, just mannequins representing freaks of yesterday. All in all, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! wasn’t as bad as I expected, even though it was tacky. I saw some shrunken heads and a headless chicken.

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

I made sure to photograph the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, the Hayes Theater, Studio 54, and Carolines on Broadway because I was going to see shows there. I stopped in at One Schubert Alley and bought a lyrics book for The Book of Mormon since I was going to see that musical. Eventually I walked all the way uptown to West 57th Street and located the Art Students League of New York and Alwyn Court but they were covered in sidewalk sheds. I bought a 7 day Metrocard at the 57th Street Station for the F and M trains. It was difficult to tell which stairs to take because the signage did not indicate uptown or downtown, only the final station. I think I took an F train down to Bryant Park since I have a lot of photos of the park.

At some point I wandered east on West 50th Street to reach 6th Avenue and took photos of Radio City Music Hall and Fox News Corporation.

Brasserie Athénée

Brasserie Athénée

At 6:00 p.m. I had dinner at Brasserie Athénée which was near my hotel. I had the French Cut Chicken Breast wild mushrooms lemon jus and Trio Sherbert for desert. After dinner I wandered around Times Square a bit to see it at night. I didn’t have any plans that evening because I expected it to take longer to get settled in at the hotel.

 

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New York City in August 2019

Yesterday I made another inspiring trip to New York City. The main goal on this trip was to see a Broadway play. This was not my original intention but now I receive flyers and postcards in the mail for major Broadway shows and one showed up that I could not resist.

Unfortunately I forgot to pack my headphones so I spent the bus ride to New York City reading a novel on my Kindle. I’ve been reading The Brownstone by Ken Eulo, a horror novel. The only interesting aspect of this novel is that the protagonist is a theater director and the brownstone is in New York City. I still have an hour’s of reading time left to finish this novel. I like how the Kindle gives you that kind of information. Instead of stopping at McDonald’s for a breakfast break, the bus stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in New Jersey. There was a bit of a mix up with my order since I was not given a receipt.

The Susquehanna Trailways bus arrived in New York City at 10:00 p.m. and had to drop us off at the Times Square Church since 8th Avenue was closed for a street festival. This put me close to the sunken plaza for the 50th Street Station for the 1 line which I intended to take downtown to the 18th Street Station. I decided to head directly downtown rather than wander around Times Square to photograph some establishments. This put me in the vicinity of the Rubin Museum of Art before it opened at 11:00 a.m. So I walked to the Poster House museum on West 23rd Street to take a photo of the entrance to this new museum. Along the way I photographed a few interesting buildings along 6th Avenue. There was a Housing Works Thrift Shop across the street from the Rubin Museum of Art so I went in there to browse through the small selection of used books and DVDs before going to the museum.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art promptly at 11:00 a.m. when it opened and explored all six floors in only a half hour. I saw relics from an ancient stupa on floor 2. On floor 4 I saw the shrine room. On floor five I saw prayer wheels. The sixth floor was the least interesting since it featured contemporary art on acts of resistance. Frankly, I’m getting disgusted with the obligatory virtue signaling of progressives. I don’t mind it when it seems genuinely organic but nobody even attempts to hide the fact that they are pandering to some precious marginalized community, even when it does not apply in any obvious way to their mission. This museum dedicated to Himalayan and Tibetan art could obviously be expected to address issues related to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, but the art on the sixth floor was mostly irrelevant.

The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art

My next destination was the Poster House, which I had previously located. The Poster House is a new museum in New York City for poster art. There is no telling how long this museum is going to last since most people aren’t too keen on seeing posters. But posters are a legitimate form of advertising art and there is a long history of innovative design in posters. The museum isn’t really big enough to do the subject justice but I saw a major exhibit on Bauhaus posters and the Art Nouveau posters of Alphonse Mucha. Alphonse Mucha artwork is extraordinary and seeing a large collection of his posters made this museum worth my while. I especially liked his theatrical posters of Sarah Bernhardt. I’m thinking of getting a print of his poster of Sarah Bernhardt for Hamlet. This would make a nice addition to my wall of theater promotional photos which I’m designing for the sake of inspiration. I didn’t spend much time at the Poster House because I wanted to get uptown in time to see my Broadway play.

Poster House

Poster House

The 23rd Street Station for the F line is near the Poster House so I took that train uptown to the 42nd Street – Bryant Park station. I immediately headed for the HBO Shop thinking I’d buy season 4 of Silicon Valley before the play started but I found this store closed for asbestos removal. I was carrying the Rubin Visitor Guide around in my hand so I wanted a shopping bag to put it in. Since the HBO Shop was unexpectedly closed, I went to BookOff on West 45th Street instead. I didn’t find much in their shelf of plays but eventually I settled for a Dramatists Play Service script for Gizmo Love by John Kolvenbach. I also found a Skyscraper (Dwayne Johnson) Blu-Ray for only $7.00. Some of their prices were ridiculous, like $45.00 for a DVD of Adaptation, which was on my shopping list. The sales clerk was extremely rude to me although I don’t know what set him off.

Now that I had a shopping bag for my stuff I proceeded to locate the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and took a few photos of its advertising for the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter. There didn’t appear to be a line forming for the show yet so I went off to photograph a few establishments in the theater district. The only one I had time to locate was St. Lukes Theatre, an Off Broadway venue that has escaped my notice. When I returned to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre there was a huge line down the street which must have formed in the few minutes I was away. I was kind of pissed being so far down the line but eventually somebody came to ask us to form a second line which placed me closer to the doors.

The highlight of my trip was seeing the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter on Broadway. I have to admit that the big draw for seeing this show was Tom Hiddleston. Tom Hiddleston plays Loki in the Marvel Thor and Avengers movies. In fact, I joked that this play was about Loki betraying Thor once again. But I’m actually familiar with Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal. This play is familiar to all aspiring playwrights since it is frequently cited for its unusual handling of time. The events of the play go backwards in time, making the play a little hard to follow, but it is done brilliantly. Most modern playwrights have studied this play. While that alone may have made it worth seeing, I’ll admit that I just wanted to see Tom Hiddleston live on stage. Tom Hiddleston is a respected Shakespearean actor so I’m not entirely to blame for being too much of a pop culture nerd.

Betrayal

Betrayal

The play was 90 minutes without intermission and we were warned that we would not be allowed back to our seats if we got up to use the restrooms. I was seated close to the stage, but far to the left. I was able to hear the dialogue perfectly well although it was a little low. There was no stage set except for some chairs and a back wall. However, the stage did rotate so the characters would be turned around like dolls on display. They frequently cast shadows on the back wall that were so perfectly rendered by the lighting that it must have been deliberate. I kept my eyes on Tom Hiddleston who is quite tall and lanky. He looked very distinguished looking, like a male model. While the other two actors were doing a scene he was lurking in the background looking aggrieved. The other actors did the same when they were not part of the scene. This kept the presence of the character on the stage as they were being betrayed by their spouse or friend. Without a stage set I think the drama was a little abstract. This was a great play which I would probably see if our community theater or college theater did it, but I only paid $169 to see it on Broadway because it featured a major movie star like Tom Hiddleston. Charlie Cox is also a movie star but I’m less familiar with his work.

After the play I had about an hour to kill before my dinner reservation. I used the time to photograph a few obscure establishments that my relentless research had turned up. First I located Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue. Although this appears to be only a restaurant, on the fourth floor of the building is NuBox Theatre and John DeSotelle Studio. I have submitted a 10 minute play to NuBox Theatre but it probably won’t be selected. Next I located a rare art gallery in Hell’s Kitchen, Jadite Galleries, but they were closed and shuttered with a security gate. Finally I photographed Theater at St. Clement’s, a church which offers a performing venue for the Red Bull Theater, a classical theater company that I’m interested in. I still had time to go to Best Buy on 5th Avenue where I bought a pair of cheap Neon brand headphones for $20.00. I needed headphones since I had forgotten to bring my good headphones on the trip. Before leaving the store I was forced to show a security guard my sales receipt, which was annoying because I was in a hurry to make my dinner reservation.

The Algonquin

The Algonquin

Fortunately I had plenty of time to make it to the restaurant. I chose the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel for its literary associations. This is where Dorothy Parker and other witty writers would meet for lunch. Other members of her “vicious circle” were playwrights like George S. Kaufman and Robert E. Sherwood and theater critics like Alexander Woollcott. I was not seated at the round table, but I sat nearby with it in view. I don’t think they like to seat anybody at the round table. I ordered the Grilled French Cut Chicken Breast which comes on a bed of spring peas, fava beans, artichoke roasted sunchokes and maitake mushrooms with a whole grain mustard jus. It took a long time for that to come, in fact, it took an entire hour for me to complete dinner. Before my entree arrived I drank a glass of ice water and ate a single bread bun which they eventually gave me. I asked to use the restroom which was downstairs. There was a steep winding set of stairs to get to it. On the way back to my table I took a photo of the painting A Vicious Circle by Natalie Ascencios. The chicken breast was excellent and not too much to eat so I also had some ice cream for desert and a cup of coffee. My entire bill came to $52.26 and I left a tip of $5.00 for a total of $57.26. The service was excellent and the food was great so I think it was worth it.

Times Square Betrayal

Times Square Betrayal

After leaving the Algonquin Hotel I walked to the Kinokuniya Bookstore on 6th Avenue to do a little more shopping. I did not find any Japanese movies on DVD to buy since they seem to only carry manga now. But I did buy a book, The Changeling by Victor LaValle. I had added the novelist Victor LaValle to my notes as a New York City writer the day before my trip. I was hoping to find one of his earlier novels but I settled on this one. My final goal was to take a better photograph of the bar, Characters, on 54th Street for my notes. I walked though Times Square on my way there and stopped for several minutes waiting for a digital screen to cycle back to advertising for the Betrayal Broadway play. I also came across the HOPE sculpture on the way. After taking several photos of the Characters bar I walked back to the Times Square Church to wait for the bus that would take me home. On the ride home I watched the movie The Black Hole on my smartphone using my 128GB USB OTG Flash Drive. My new headphones were not as good as the headphones I forgot but they worked well enough. We stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at Delaware Water Gap on the way home for a rest stop. I bought a bottle of coke from a vending machine but it caused me terrible indigestion when I drank it all.

In conclusion, this was another successful trip to New York City which was as inspiring as previous trips. A few minor things went wrong but nothing serious. Unfortunately, the inspiration I get from these trips does not last long and does not appear to be enough to counter the discouragement I get from my play rejections. Still I will soon be writing a significant play and I’ve come across a few more promising opportunities. I’m considering spending a solid week in New York City this month as my next vacation, but the only things left for me to do are some nightlife stuff.

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Glitter Girls Review

On Friday, August 30, 2019, I saw The Glitter Girls by Mark Dunn at the Community Theatre League. This play was a comedy written by a playwright who appears to have some special relationship with the Community Theatre League. As far as I can tell, he simply kept in contact when the theater after they did one of his plays years ago.

I have not seen a main stage production at the Community Theatre League in a long time because they are now doing the more serious, literary plays in the upstairs Moyer Studio.

The Glitter Girls is a play about a southern social club for women. The glitter refers to the tieras the girls wear. The comedy is based on the wealthy founder’s scheme to test the character of the members. There were a few modern references which indicate the play was recently written but the only contemporary touch was a part for a transvestite. However he was only in disguise as a woman to avoid trouble with the law. As usual, I found myself asking what was the point of writing this play? Why was this subject important to the writer and what did he expect to accomplish? I ask these questions because I feel that all writing should serve a purpose. I don’t think anything should be written just for the sake of doing some writing. But as far as I can tell this play was just intended to be light entertainment. It makes a vague statement about not judging people too harshly since everyone has their struggles, but the play cannot be justified by that common observation.

The set design was simple but effective since it had to combine a porch with a herb garden. I thought the porch was an interior set until the dialogue made the setting more clear. The costumes were very contemporary and did not draw much attention to themselves. The local actors gave the production a mundane realism. A more professional and glamorous cast couldn’t be mistaken for common folk. Only the former stripper was too overweight to be believable as a slut. Most of the humor in the play came from shocking revelations of sexual indiscretions and witty put downs of various characters as they vied for a fortune.

I don’t know if the Community Theatre League will ever do one of my plays. They don’t hold any playwriting competitions, playwriting classes, playwriting festivals, or do anything to encourage new play production.  But I’m currently getting ready to write what should be my most important play. The subject matter alone will make this a significant play since I will be writing about the social responsibilities of creative visionaries. Once I have finished writing that play I will create a web site for my playwriting endeavors. Then I will write a screen play and a science fiction novel to see if I have any better luck at that.

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Hamlet

Last night I saw a performance of Hamlet at the Trinity Episcopal Church. The play was put on by Studio 570, a local theater company which does not have a permanent venue or theater. The play was performed in the chancel, the space around the altar, while the audience sat in pews in the nave, the central part of the church. I had to look up church architecture to get that right! The problem with this was the acoustics. I could barely hear the dialogue. It was not too much of a problem since I’m very familiar with this play and its  dialogue.

The production was part professional and part amateurish. For example, the ghost of King Hamlet was just some scarves held aloft on a stick in front of an actor wearing a hoodie. I thought that was pretty lame. I think the play was meant to be set in a specific time period since many of the actors wore tuxedos and used guns for swords. The actor playing Claudius looked rather dashing and regal. Although the production failed to convey the full potential of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, it was an ambitious attempt and managed to present a curious spectacle due to the venue.

Trinity Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church

This opportunity to see Hamlet came at a fortuitous time because my interest in Shakespeare has grown acute. I am currently reading the book The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascos, Palace Coups by Ron Rosenbaum and I’ve been buying a lot of DVDs. That very night I received a box set BBC Shakespeare Tragedies DVD Giftbox from Amazon. The reason for my renewed interest in Shakespeare is my recent insight that those who worship Shakespeare would likely be my natural allies. By this I mean that these are the sensitive souls who worship genius. In order to worship genius you must have great faith in human potential. As Hamlet puts it “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason? How infinite in faculty, in form, and moving how express and admirable? In action, how like an angel? In apprehension, how like a god?” To have the apprehension of a god you need to be inspired. I like to quote these lines from the Wikipedia article on artistic inspiration: “In Greek thought, inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods’ or goddesses own thoughts to embody. ” The genuinely inspired poet is not giving voice to his thoughts. He is giving voice to the thoughts of the gods. Shakespeare was undoubtedly familiar with the divine frenzy of poetic madness which is why Hamlet has an antic disposition.

There is a phenomenon known as Bardolatry which is the excessive worship of William Shakespeare. Harold Bloom is famous for worshiping Shakespeare as if the poet/playwright were literally a god. I’ve recently read Harold Bloom’s book Hamlet: Poem Unlimited and picked out these lines:

Page 84
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will –

The divinity may be one’s own lost godhead, fallen into the world of love and sleep, and manifested now as one’s genius, hewing finer than one’s will can.

Page 88
I belatedly agree with Dame Frances Yates that the Shakespearean Theater of the World has subtle links to visionaries like Giordano Bruno and Robert Fludd.

Page 90
We do not (and need not) know Shakespeare’s prime malaise, but we know Hamlet’s: to be a mortal god in an immortal play.

Page 96
The Dionysian is a very old kind of man: an ecstatic.

Apotheosis is an extraordinary challenge even to Shakespeare’s powers of representation: how can you dramatize the exaltation of a human being to a seeming transcendence?

Page 98
Contending with unknown powers within his own self, the prince seems to struggle also with the spirit of evil in heavenly places.

I am convinced that Harold Bloom knows something of the divine frenzy of poetic madness and he was able to detect it in Shakespeare’s work. Note that he clearly related Shakespeare’s genius to the god Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, ecstasy, and theater.

Shakespeare is often championed by reactionaries who wish to enshrine him as the exemplar of Western Civilization. I’m not interested in aligning myself with reactionaries, just those with a strong belief in the genius of the playwright.

So what is the divine frenzy of poetic madness in terms that modern man can accept? We cannot accept that the inspired poet is embodying the thoughts of the gods. Many people believe that the inspired poet has exceptional access to his unconscious mind and is simply giving voice to the depths of the human spirit. The original religious concept of genius was that it was a personal spirit guiding your destiny. In other words, genius is the personification of the unconscious mind which is your deep spirit guiding you through life. This makes perfect sense yet I am surprised how scholars struggle to explain human nature without using the concept of the unconscious mind. For example, Ron Rosenbaum attempts to account for the infinity of Shakespeare’s imagination without invoking the hidden depths of the unconscious mind which could easily account for that:

“Again, when Peter Brook says we are very close to the mystery of Hamlet, a mystery that has confounded four centuries of investigation, conjecture and debate by poets, madmen and lovers, attention must be paid. It seems that what he’s saying is that the mystery, the secret of Hamlet is the mystery, the tragedy, of bottomless consciousness. Of what it is to walk around with that kind of awareness. The same burden of awareness Brook suggested Shakespeare walked around with. And so what Brook is suggesting is that, in this aspect at least, Hamlet is the closest thing to a portrait of Shakespeare’s mind. When you think about it, the other characters in Shakespeare who suggest self-portrait, a portrait of Shakespeare the writer – Mercutio, Falstaff, and Bottom – each to a different degree, in a different mode, are burdened by knowing too much. Bottom having just had his dream of bottomlessness. Mercutio, someone for whom language itself is a dizzying spiral into which he almost disappears. Falstaff plumbing the bottomless depths of his own lies.”

The bottomless consciousness and awareness of knowing too much could easily be accounted for by exceptional access to the unconscious mind. Yet Ron Rosenbaum  apparently has never heard of the concept so he is completely mystified. It is shocking how many contemporary intellectuals are refusing to incorporate the theory of the unconscious mind into their thinking. They are left pondering mysteries that have been illuminated and they fail to make connections that would lead to real insights.

 

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The Arboretum at Penn State

I visited the Arboretum at Penn State on July 27, 2019. Also known as the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens, this is the only botanic garden in the region. I enjoyed the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond Virginia so it was great to find something comparable closer to home.

Before I went to the Arboretum at Penn State, I stopped off at the Centre County and Penn State Visitor Center. This had been on my itinerary for previous trips but I did not realize how close it was to the Beaver Stadium. As it turned out, finding the visitor center’s parking lot was not easy since another building and its parking lot are easily mistaken for the visitor center. I used the restroom at the visitor center. This would be convenient on future trips to the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. I checked out their gift shop but I did not see the book I was looking for, This Is Penn State: An Insider’s Guide to the University Park Campus. I picked up a few brochures and maps including a visitor’s guide to Lycoming Country and Lancaster. There was also an exhibit area which seemed geared towards children.

Penn State Visitor Center

Penn State Visitor Center

The Arboretum at Penn State was the main goal for this trip and it proved to be a worthwhile experience. This botanic garden is still being expanded but there was enough to see. I saw the Joel N. Myers Sundial, the Glass House, the Lotus Pool, the Margery Enes Smith Soaring Waters Fountain, the Marsh Meadow Boardwalk, and the American Bison Statue. They even had a fake cave in the children’s garden. The parking lot was full but I managed to get a spot. The Arboretum at Penn State is open to the general public and it appears to be quite popular.

The Arboretum at Penn State

The Arboretum at Penn State

After strolling around the gardens I drove north on North Atherton Street to the Original Waffle Shop. This restaurant was extremely busy and I almost did not find a parking spot. The line to get in was very long but when I indicated that I was alone, I was directed to sit at the counter. I skipped the entire line and found a seat at the counter. I ordered a cup of coffee and a strawberry waffle with whipped cream. I thought it was pretty good but not so spectacular as to warrant such great fame.

The Original Waffle Shop

The Original Waffle Shop

Next I drove further north on North Atherton Street to Colonnade Boulevard where several big box stores are clustered. If downtown State College appears to be small you should realize that there is more retail in the surrounding area. I went to Wegmans because I was curious to see another store. It was just like our store although they did have a large section cleared for remodeling. I only bought instant coffee and some coffee creamers. I forgot to mention that I did buy a cooler at Walmart to keep my beverages cold. I got the idea for this when my Gatorade became boiling hot on my last trip to State College. This is my first road trip using a cooler. I noticed a Targets store in the same shopping complex so I went there and bought two DVDs; Valentine: The Dark Avenger and Upgrade. I watched Valentine: The Dark Avenger when I got home. It is not a very good movie but it was made in Indonesia so it provides a fascinating glimpse of another culture.

Wegmans

Wegmans

Those four destinations where the main purpose of my trip; Centre County and Penn State Visitor Center, the Arboretum at Penn State, the Original Waffle Shop, and Wegmans. But that would hardly justify the long drive so I also went downtown. I parked at the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage again because it is so convenient. This time it only cost me $1.00 to park there. I did not spend a lot of time downtown because I’ve already explored it pretty thoroughly. But I did want to photograph Happy Valley Launchbox and the Baby’s Burgers and Shakes diner. I found a few other establishments to photograph too like the Music Mart and the distinctive Grace Lutheran Church.

I went into Uncle Eli’s Artist Marketplace and Frame Shop just to look around. They had some interesting merchandise but not as much as you would expect so I could find nothing to buy. Instead I went to Webster’s Bookstore Cafe to make yet another raid on their drama bookshelf. This time I bought two books; Breaking the Silence by Stephen Poliakoff and Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist by Richard Green Moulton. The Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist book was not in great shape but it appeared to be readable. I decided to buy it anyway because I’m interested in how to be a good dramatic artist.

After doing that bit of shopping I went home. I could have spent a few more hours downtown but I had already met my objectives and I’d explored the downtown area pretty thoroughly.

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Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 2019

Yesterday I went back to State College for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Since I was just there last week I was able to concentrate on the festival and spent less time exploring the town. On my very first trip to State College in 2015 the festival was taking place and it kind of interfered with my explorations.

The first challenge was finding the event parking lot. Another car was following me and got misled since I didn’t know where I was going. There were a few signs but once I approached Beaver Stadium they failed to provide a sign that was specific for the arts festival. The sign only indicated event parking so I drove past it and had to turn around and go back. I paid $5.00 for parking for the entire day and had to place a receipt on my dashboard where it would be visible. After leaving my car I took some photos of Beaver Stadium because it was right in front of me, looming like a mountain. Beaver Stadium is the third largest stadium in the world. I walked to the nearby bus stop and waited for a Blue Line bus. I picked up a Town & Gown’s Official Program Guide at the bus stop. The first bus I saw was full so it did not stop. The next bus was pretty crowded but I did manage to find a seat. I got off the bus at the first stop on West College Avenue instead of waiting until it reached The Corner.

I stopped at the first booth I saw to buy a festival button for $10.00. This was probably a waste of money but I pinned it to my dress shirt so that everybody would know I was there for the arts festival. I walked up Allen Street and saw the stage, some kind of mist tunnel, and a water fountain for the kiddies. Near the Schlow Centre Region Library I saw the BookFest tent so I went there. I bought the book Nervermore by Paul Michael Kane from the illustrator Chris Ring who autographed the short story The Gold Bug. All of the stories in the book are by Edgar Allan Poe. I bought this book because I am currently reading a biography of Edgar Allan Poe and could use a slim volume of his short stories to refresh my memory.

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

I needed to find a restroom and I found one in the State College Municipal Building. This building appears to be open to the public and does not have any security so I think it would be a good place to find a restroom on future trips. There were some brochures and free flyers in the lobby. I lucked out and found a program and schedule for the 2019 Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival. This was exactly what I was hoping to snag on this trip. The program has a wealth of information on the festival which you will not find on the web site. For example, I learned that the playwriting competition received over 120 submissions from as far away as South Korea. There were also pages in the program for different theater groups that are unknown to me.

I began to seriously explore the art work in the artist’s booths. I saw a lot of amazing art work. Some of it gave me ideas for something I could do in Processing but I did not see a lot of abstract geometric art. Eventually I bought three art prints which was more than I intended to buy. I was just going to buy one but I was inspired. At Foster Avenue I found the Italian Street Painting which is art drawn on the street using chalk. The artist booths stretched around the block to Fairmount Avenue where I found the State College High School building. The artist booths continued down South Fraser Street where I saw the Memorial Field, KCF Technologies, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. I noticed these things because I was still looking for establishments to research. After retracing my steps I bought my first art print, Mr. Entertainment by L. Lee Junge, Giclee on Canvas, from the Jackson Junge Gallery in Chicago IL. I could not resist this art work because it was very colorful and depicted a performing arts fantasy world. Fortunately the print came in a clear plastic bag that I could put my programs and book into. I was concerned that my Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival program and schedule was going to get smudged and crumpled from my sweaty hands.

Once I had my stuff in a bag I could think about lunch. There were a few food trucks at Nittany Avenue; Specially Grilled Cheese from Selingsgrove and Brazilian Munchies. I like grilled cheese sandwiches so I went with Specially Grilled Cheese. There did not appear to be a long line to order but there was a lot of people milling about waiting for their sandwiches to be made so it took almost a half an hour to get my sandwich. I also bought a can of Pepsi for a drink and it was no longer cold by the time my sandwich was ready. I ate at a picnic table set up in the street. After lunch I walked back down Allen Street and noticed that the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center was open so I went in there. I saw the current art exhibit and the ticket booth. I picked up some brochures for Penn State Centre Stage and the Center for the Performing Arts.

Specially Grilled Cheese

Specially Grilled Cheese

Next I went to Webster’s Bookstore Cafe to buy more books. Somebody offered me a stool to reach the top shelves. I only bought one book since I was getting weighted down with purchases, Hamlet and Oedipus by Ernest Jones. Lately I’ve been thinking that I ought to be seeking out theater makers with a serious case of Bardolatry. Bardolatry is the worship, particularly when considered excessive, of William Shakespeare. People worship Shakespeare because they worship genius or the idea of genius. Harold Bloom is a notable critic who seemed to worship genius and he has already come to my attention, although I have not read many of his books yet.

After buying that book I headed across East College Avenue onto the Penn State University campus to check out the artist booths along Pattee Mall. I saw an orchestra playing on the Old Main Lawn but I did not stop to listen to them play. At the Art of Discovery booth which was a Penn State Booth I picked up a free poster of Ladies of La Vie. This poster shows the changing fashion of women on the cover of the Penn State Yearbook. The artist booths extended down Pollock Road to the Westgate Building. Along the way I saw the Steidle Building, one of the most iconic buildings on the campus, so I took lots of photos of that. At an artist’s booth along Burrowes Road I bought my second art print, an abstract oil diffusion by Sara O’Connor. This artist specializes in heavy-textured pointillism but the print that caught my eye looks more like it was produced by adding oil to liquid color, like watercolors. Sara O’Connor is based in Richmond, Virginia, the city I visited for my vacation this year.

I was keen on visiting the Penn State University Bookstore, which I imagined would be as lavish as the Bucknell University Bookstore in Lewisburg since they are both associated with Barnes & Noble. The Penn State University Bookstore was definitely a lot smaller. To reach it, I had to walk far east along Pollock Road to the HUB–Robeson Center which is a significant student center that I had not seen. It was difficult to find an entrance to the Penn State University Bookstore as it is entirely inside the HUB–Robeson Center with no outside entrance of its own. But I managed to find the place without wandering throughout the entire complex, which was massive. At the book store I bought a copy of Selected Poems 1966-1987 by Seamus Heaney. To be perfectly honest this was sort of a symbolic purchase because I’m not sure if I will ever read this book. Reading a book of poetry takes forever. Each poem has to be slowly read and thought about or you just won’t get it.

Before reaching the HUB–Robeson Center on Pollock Road I saw the Old Botany Building, the Penn State Veterans Plaza, and a historical marker outside the McAllister Building which caught my eye. The historical marker was for Combinatory Logic. It honored professor Haskell Brooks Curry for his contributions to combinatory logic. Combinatory logic is used in computer science. In fact, the Haskell programming language gets its name from this Penn State professor.

Combinatory Logic

Combinatory Logic

When I left the Penn State University Bookstore I headed back downtown and decided it was time to return to my car to drop off my purchases. This was not an easy proposition since my car was parked near Beaver Stadium. I had to get on a Blue Route bus to get there and since there were no empty seats I had to stand almost the entire ride, until a bunch of students got off. When I got to my car I discovered that some of the back windows were down a crack since I forgot to power the windows shut while attempting to roll down the driver’s side window to pay for parking. I did have a bottle of Gatorade in my car but it was boiling hot. I put up my window shades and windows before leaving my car. I would have driven home at this point but I was on a mission to explore State College so I took the bus back downtown to wander around until 6:00 p.m.

Douglas Albert Gallery

Douglas Albert Gallery

When I arrived back downtown I visited the Student Book Store where I bought an 16 GB USB flash drive with the Penn State logo. This was the only item they sold which I had any use for. I also bought a bottle of Coke because I was dying of thirst. I immediately drank the entire bottle of Coke while sitting on a nearby bench facing the Inspiration Mural. Next I wandered down the length of East Calder Way taking photos of a number of establishments which are hidden away on this street. I found College Mart, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Christian Education Center, Calder Square, Avant Garden, Looks Hair Design, Yallah Taco, Epic Art, Shandygaff, the Douglas Albert Gallery, Underground, the Escape Room, and Jax Bar Kitchen. Epic Art looked like it was a cool art gallery with round windows but it appeared to have gone out of business. I did enter the Douglas Albert Gallery which was a cramped space full of fantastic, but expensive art. I also saw the Centennial Pigs statue by Eric Berg. This statue is beside the Tavern Restaurant on McAllister Alley.

Lion Antiques

Lion Antiques

When I got back to Allen Street I sat down to hear one song played by a band on the Allen Street Stage. Then I walked up to East Beaver Avenue to walk down its length. Along Beaver Street I saw Margarita’s Pizzeria, John’s Shanghai, Kung Fu Tea, and the Palmerton apartment building. When I reached South Atherton Street I began to walk north on that street. I walked past the Imperial ‘400’ Motel and saw the University Club building on West College Avenue. Further up South Atherton Street I found Lion Antiques, Rainbow Music, and the Greyhound Bus Station. Basically this was me in full exploration mode locating every establishment I could while just walking down streets. But I was invited inside Lion Antiques which was a cramped antique store filled with high quality merchandise. I was impressed by the quirky collection of wonders and rare items. But eventually I found the books and settled for buying a book. I found The Complete Talking Heads by Alan Bennett. I thought this would be a book about the rock group but Alan Bennett is a British dramatic writer. I bought this book for $5.00 and got into a brief conversation with the store owner during which I revealed that I was an aspiring playwright. I don’t usually mention this but he asked just the right question when I revealed my interest in a book by a dramatic writer.

Even after that I was not quite done for the day. I walked along West College Avenue looking for an ATM. I passed several before entering a CVS Pharmacy because I knew their ATM would not charge me a withdrawal fee. I got $80 in cash and bought a can of Peet’s Van Latte because I was dying of thirst again. I can tell by my receipt that this was at 4:38 p.m. I then proceeded to walk very far down West College Avenue to East College Avenue. I was going to eat at The Waffle Shop but they were closed by the time I got there. Instead I entered McLanahan’s Penn State Room. This establishment proved to contain a massive convenience store where I bought a lessentials 2 USB ports wall charger and another can of iced coffee. I think I found my way back to a portion of East Calder Way because I found The Makery and an arts mural to photograph. When I reached Allen Street I made one final trip up this street and bought my third art print, an Asian watercolor by Bryan Yung for $45.00. Finally I took the Blue Bus back to the parking lot outside Beaver Stadium and left for home at 6:00 p.m. I had spent seven and a half hours in State College, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. which was a good amount of time.

The Makery

The Makery

On the way home I stopped in at  Zindel Park, on the north end of McElhattan. Zindel Park was deserted since it was getting late and the mosquitoes bothered me but I wanted to see this mysterious place again. I also took a few photos of the Henry W. Shoemaker mansion which still looks deserted, although I thought it may have been cleaned up a little.

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Exploring State College and Penn State University

On Saturday, July 6, 2019, I explored State College and the Penn State University. I had only been there once before, in 2015 for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. That is not an ideal time for visiting the town because the festival tents are everywhere and the town is quite crowded. However, it is the Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival that gave me the impetus to do a more thorough exploration of State College. The new festival has only been held since 2018. It includes a playwriting festival which is of particular interest to me. Part of my mission was to locate the various venues used by this festival.

Let’s consider the relationship between Williamsport and State College. Both cities are in Central Pennsylvania, but Williamsport is the center of North Central Pennsylvania while State College is dominated by Penn State University. A few attractions in the Williamsport area are mentioned in the Central PA Visitors Guide. State College is only an hour’s drive from Williamsport so it is close enough to be considered a cultural resource. An interesting question is do I have any connection with Penn State University? I am a graduate of the Williamsport Area Community College which is now Pennsylvania College of Technology. Pennsylvania College of Technology became an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State University in 1989. I don’t know if that gives me any special privileges as an alumni. But if I am ever heralded as a genius, I’m sure Penn State University will try to milk a tenuous connection.

A major concern for this trip was finding a place to park. I did some research and decided that the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage was a good bet. I had taken a photo of this parking garage on my 2015 trip but neglected to identify the building. I input the address into my GPS device and was navigated there without incident except for a brief detour to the Innovation Park at Penn State. After parking my car, my first objective was to photograph the Fraser Centre which looms right across the street from the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage. The Fraser Centre is a curious example of urban development for a small town in Central Pennsylvania. It is more like the kind of urban development you would find in New York City. This massive structure houses residential condos, a Hyatt hotel, a Target store, a H&M clothing store, and a Federal Taphouse restaurant.

Penn State Downtown Theatre Center

Penn State Downtown Theatre Center

On West Beaver Avenue I walked past the Post Office and the Beaver Avenue Lot. I was originally going to park here, but there are far less spaces in that parking lot. One of the first establishments I photographed was the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center. This building also houses the Woskob Family Gallery. On my 2015 trip there was a festival tent set up in front of the building so I was unable to take a good photo of the place. I think the art gallery is closed on Saturdays so I did not attempt to enter. Next to the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center is an Amazon Hub Locker. This is another curiosity of State College. Why do they need or merit an Amazon Hub Locker? I assume the hub locker stores Amazon packages for customers to pick up instead of having them delivered. Maybe Penn State students are such industrious scholars that they need a special establishment just to handle all the books they order?

The State Theatre

The State Theatre

Next I crossed East College Avenue and photographed all the establishments facing Penn State University. East College Avenue separates the university campus from downtown State College. The State Theatre is on East College Avenue along with many restaurants. I needed photos to add these establishments to my custom travel guide. I then wandered onto the Penn State University campus, walking up Pattee Mall. Pattee Mall takes you to the Pattee Library but along the way I saw the Schwab Auditorium which is also used for performances and cultural events. I also saw the Sackett Building and the Carnegie Building. And I checked out the Old Main building but unfortunately its tower was wrapped in scaffolding so I was unable to take a decent photo of the most iconic building on campus. Nearby I saw the Penn State Obelisk, a geologic column of rocks.

Penn State University makes up nearly half the town of State College and many of the major attractions are located on campus. I really like strolling through a college campus since the grounds are so idyllic and the stately buildings represent learning and intellectual achievement. It is especially pleasant to be on a college campus while not having to attend any classes or deliver any lectures. I wandered through the place secure in the knowledge that it has no hold over me.

After reaching Pattee Library I walked around the building to see the Paterno Library. These two libraries are connected together but what there really is to see on the other side was a sign, some very fancy bus stops, and the east entrance. The bus stops were strangely impressive with a long shelter and electronic signs, as if the university had its very own transit system. Past the libraries I found the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and the Palmer Museum of Art. I decided to visit the Palmer Museum of Art because it is one of the major attractions on campus and it is free to the public. The Palmer Museum of Art has two floors of exhibits. I saw a Cindy Sherman photo. They also had some nice glass pieces and a hallway of engravings. I used the restroom behind the gift shop. I was carrying my umbrella and they made me place that in the coat room. Upon exiting the art museum I found the sculpture garden but it wasn’t that interesting. But I did see a huge blue water tower. I don’t think that was a sculpture since it was massive. Nearby was the Stuckeman Family Building which appeared to be clad in copper which has turned green. Also in that area is the Theatre Building.

Nittany Lion Shrine

Nittany Lion Shrine

Next I found the the Nittany Lion Inn and behind that the Nittany Lion Shrine. As usual there was a line of people waiting to take photos of the Nittany Lion Shrine. This takes awhile since everybody wants to climb on the lion and have their photo taken. Fortunately there were not too many people, but a few with lots of kids. At this point I was baking in the hot sun and just wanted to return downtown to maybe enter an establishment to cool off. I walked down Burrows Road and saw a few grand fraternity residences and the Westgate Building, formerly the Information Sciences and Technology Building.

Cozy Thai Bistro

Cozy Thai Bistro

When I reached downtown State College I went to a restaurant on South Allen Street, Cozy Thai Bistro. I ordered the BBQ Chicken Thai Style which proved to be three large pieces of breast meat. I was only able to eat two. This meal also came with a small salad and some fried rice. The small salad had Thai peanut salad dressing on it. I didn’t particularly like that. This meal was reasonably priced and would satisfy any foodie. For Central Pennsylvania this was a mighty fine restaurant.

Webster's Bookstore Cafe

Webster’s Bookstore Cafe

After lunch I was eager to do some shopping. There was only one place I really wanted to visit, Webster’s Bookstore Cafe. The book store’s owner Elaine Meder-Wilgus is a co-founder of the Central PA Theatre & Dance Festival. That may explain why the book shelf devoted to theater, plays, and drama was so well stocked. I splurged and bought four books; The Big Secret Live “I am Shakespeare” Webcam Daytime Chat-Room Show by Mark Rylane, Bond Plays 2: Lear, etc by Edward Bond, Andromache by Jean Racine (translated by Richard Wilbur), and The Stuff of Dreams: Behind the Scenes of an American Community Theater by Leah Hager Cohen. Mark Rylane portrayed James Halliday in the movie Ready Player One. The book I bought appears to have been autographed by him so that was an added bonus.

I returned to the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage to drop off my purchase and left my umbrella there too, which turned out to be a mistake. The sun finally came out and offered an opportunity to take more photos in better light so I retraced my steps along East College Avenue and even walked up Pattee Mall again. This time I did manage to photograph the Old Main Sundial and the Old Main Bell. When I reached the rear of the Pattee Library it began to sprinkle but the rain was pretty light. Eventually I located the Pavilion Theatre and even came across the Eisenhower Auditorium which I had totally forgotten about. When I got back to East College Avenue I was far to the east and a little lost. But I saw the McLanahan’s Penn State Room and the Waffle Shop. I also found the Inspiration Mural which is another thing I forgot to look for. I entered a store, the Family Clothesline, which sells a ton of Penn State merchandise. However, the only thing I found worth buying was a small sock monkey wearing a Penn State shirt. The cashier must have been a student because she had a lot of trouble ringing up the sale. By the time she managed that it had started to pour outside the store so I was stuck there for around fifteen minutes. They did sell some umbrellas but they were way overpriced. This was when I regretted not having my umbrella on me. When the rain finally let up I walked as fast as I could back to the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage, although I did stop to take several photos long the way. Just before I reached the Beaver Avenue Parking Garage it started to pour again so I got a little wet. It only cost me $6.00 to park there for six hours.

On the drive home I encountered some horrible weather. The rain was coming down so hard that I could not see the road. Visibility was reduced to zero and driving was nerve wracking. At one point I pulled off the road but I really should have done that sooner and waited longer. I was not pleased by the hazardous driving conditions which kind of ruined the whole day and made me regret going out. But overall my mission was a huge success. I took lots of photos and improved my knowledge of State College immensely. This weekend I will probably return for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. I will probably also submit some plays to the Central PA Theatre and Dance Festival playwriting competition next year.

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Jim Thorpe in June 2019

On June 22, 2019 I visited my favorite small town in Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe. My last trip to Jim Thorpe was on September 16, 2017 and a few things had changed since then. It now costs $10.00 to park at the train station parking lot. The first thing I did was buy a ticket for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I paid $19.00 for an open air car on the forested route to Old Penn Haven. This trip takes 70 minutes and began at 11:00 a.m. But I had about a half hour before that to kill so I walked up Broadway to take some photos.

When the train returned to Jim Thorpe I discovered that Blue Mountain Sports had gone out of business. It looks like their storefront is going to be the location for a new restaurant. My first shopping destination was Sellers Used Books where I bought the book The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David M. Buss. This is an important work of evolutionary psychology which is hated by the lunatic fringe of the Far Left, the gender crackpots. I want to read this book so I’ll have more ammunition to use against their lunacy. Next I went to Soundcheck Records where I bought Annie Lennox’s 1992 solo début album, Diva, on CD. I listened to this CD on the long drive home but I did not care for it. After that I browsed the goods at the Emporium of Curious Goods. This store has a lot of New Age merchandise but the only thing that caught my eye was an expensive Art Deco statuette. I bought a Celtic Cross bookmark instead of that. I had lunch at Bear Appetit Cafe. I ordered a beef brisket sandwich which was more like pulled pork with shredded beef. It came with some tasty fries and a glass of Pepsi. While I was eating I could see a wedding party on the balcony of the Inn at Jim Thorpe.

Sellers Used Books

Sellers Used Books

I returned to my car to drop off my purchases and then went to Woods Ice Cream where I bought a vanilla cone for desert. I ordered the medium size cone but this turned out to be a lot of ice cream. All this ice cream on top of the beef brisket sandwich was too much for my stomach and I experienced some painful twisting in my guts later on. After that treat I walked up Broadway to the bookstore Trappe Alley Limited. I always thought this was an antique store but actually it is more of an used bookstore. They have an excellent selection of theater books with an unusual number on acting. I bought the book The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler because I had recently read her biography. I’m also reading her books on script analysis which are very impressive. Stella Adler was clearly a genius who knew her own worth and would not let anyone belittle her.

The Stabin Museum

The Stabin Museum

I walked far up West Broadway after buying that book, far into the west end of Jim Thorpe which is more residential. I discovered two new artist studios; Studio YNW Yvonne Wright and the Stabin Museum which is devoted to the works of Victor Stabin. The Stabin Museum appears to have been in Jim Thorpe for a long time but I never really checked it out. I explored the Stabin Museum and saw a lot of fantastic art work but the place was completely deserted. I also popped into Studio YNW.

Before leaving Jim Thorpe I climbed the hill to take photos of the Asa Packer Mansion, the Harry Packer Mansion, and Kemmerer Park. On the way home I stopped in at the Lycoming Mall. A large carnival was being set up in the parking lot. At Books-A-Million I bought a DVD, The Kid Stays in the Picture, a 2002 film version of the autobiography by film producer Robert Evans, and a book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. I also renewed my Books-A-Million club card.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Friday

The final day of my vacation was spent on a road trip. I got to see some rural areas of Virginia including a plantation instead of just the city of Richmond. The road trip was to the Northern Neck, a peninsula between the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We must have gone on Interstate 360 East because our first stop was at NN Burger in Tappahannock to get a milkshake. I got a coffee milkshake but it tasted slightly like peanut butter. Next we stopped off at some acquaintances of June’s before proceeding to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.

George Washington Birthplace

George Washington Birthplace

At the visitor center we watched a short film on George Washington’s family farm. June decided against a house tour because she said it would be boring. Instead we walked around the grounds. First we saw the herb garden which wasn’t very impressive compared to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In going over my photos I do see that I managed to snap an excellent photo of a Monarch butterfly. Nearby we saw the memorial house which we did not enter. Beyond that was two horses in a corral. Near the corral was a white outbuilding which contained a restroom. I had to use the restroom which proved to be surprisingly nice inside, but this was a national park after all. Then we walked over a long wooden bridge to see a log house with a good view of the Potomac River. We retraced our steps instead of completing the long hike around the island. After that we walked around the farm and saw some farm animals like pigs and steers.

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

The next attraction we drove to was Stratford Hall. This plantation is where Robert E. Lee was born. The gate keeper kept us at the gate for over fifteen minutes relating the family history of the Lees of Virginia. Again, June opted not to tour the Great House so we only bought ground passes at the small visitor center and museum. At the gift shop I bought a book, Robert E. Lee: A Biography by Emory Thomas. I’m not terribly interested in Robert E. Lee but he was a major figure in the history of Richmond and Virginia. He also suffered a major defeat at Gettysburg and I explored Gettysburg in 2017. The Virginia Monument in Gettysburg has a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveller. So I kind of kill two birds with one stone by learning more about him. We saw the stables and the Great House. I was very impressed by the view of the North Lawn with its rolling hills, wood fence, and woods. We saw the Octagon which was either an orangery or a garden folly. And we saw another garden and a hedge maze. In a fenced in field I even saw a llama with brown hindquarters that made it look like it was wearing pants. I’m not sure if Robert E. Lee ever owned a llama or used them on the Civil War battlefields. Later we drove to the overlook to see the Potomac River which was so wide that it looked like an ocean. On the way we drove past some cabins that looked like they were available for renting or lodging. We did not spend much time at the overlook because June was worried that the gates would be closed on us before 5:00 p.m. I saw a fox on the way back to Stratford Hall.

After leaving Stratford Hall our next destination was Urbanna for dinner but first June stopped at Montross Virginia because some murals caught her eye. Montross is a small town with just a few establishments on its main street. I did not mind this detour because I often explore small towns in Pennsylvania. We saw Angelo’s Restaurant, the Historic Westmoreland County Courthouse, Courthouse Corner (aka Carrot Cottage), the Art of Coffee, and the Westmoreland Mercantile General Store. At the general store I bought a bag of Butterscotch Sanded Hard Candies because they were packaged as Pennsylvania Dutch Candies. We also visited the Art of Coffee to look at their artwork but the coffee shop was closing. Then we went browsing at the Carrot Cottage which had a large selection of kitsch souvenirs. I saw lots of puzzles, sports memorabilia, and assorted crap. Most of it was the sort of thing you would find at a yard sale but everything was brand new. The only thing I bought was a bookmark but I was still entitled to a free gift so I also got a sports branded keychain bottle opener. After taking photos of everything in sight including many more morals we went on our way.

Montross Virginia

Montross Virginia

Somewhere near Kilmarnock we stopped to visit Eugene’s grave where we got stung by wasps. There was a small wasp nest under a plaque resting on his tombstone. I got stung on the hand but fortunately the pain did not last long and my hand did not swell up. Finally we drove to Urbanna Virginia after crossing a long bridge over the Rappahannock River. Urbanna is a small town on the Rappahannock River with a town marina. We saw a lot of boats tied up at the town marina. There were no large ships but some of the boats where fancy luxury crafts. Urbanna Virginia seemed like one of those picturesque small towns that are popular with tourists but there was not a lot there. We had dinner at the Virginia Street Cafe. I got a glass of champagne for 50 cents because they were celebrating their anniversary. I ordered the crab cakes which were really good. It came with clam chowder without milk and really good onion rings.

Urbanna

Urbanna

I had to get up early the next day to catch my Amtrak train to Philadelphia and then another train to Harrisburg. On the train I finally finished reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet and I ate most of the Milk Coffee Candy. This vacation went as well as any of my other vacations. I found Richmond Virginia to be a worthy destination with plenty of interesting sights. This was also a very affordable vacation since I was staying with my sister and did not have to pay for a hotel room.

 

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Thursday

On the fifth day of my vacation, my sister had to volunteer at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden so we went there. While my sister did her volunteer work I strolled around the gardens. First I explored the conservatory which has a tropical orchid wing, a palm house, and a cacti and succulent collection in its West Wing. The conservatory also had live butterflies in another wing. I had to be let into and out of that room to prevent the butterflies from escaping. After leaving the conservatory I did not get far before it began to rain. It was only a light drizzle which lasted for fifteen minutes but I waited it out in the Robertson Pavilion. Next to the Robertson Pavilion was a kaleidoscope sculpture by Matthew Leavall. I did not know that you could turn its wheel until June mentioned it later. I found the nearby Tea Garden but it was closed so I only went out on its deck. I saw a small creek with a plaque that read “Dot’s Garden”. After going through an area known as the Asian Valley I came across the Bloemendaal House which had a gazebo. It looked like they were setting up for an event, maybe a wedding. Next to the Bloemendaal House is the Children’s Garden where I saw a 100-year-old Mulberry tree that kids can climb on. Near the water play area I found the restrooms and some vending machines. Later on I bought a bottle of Pepsi and a package of cookie snacks from the vending machines and ate on the covered walkway up to the CWDKids Tree House. I explored the tree house which overlooks Lake Sydnor. After walking all around Lake Sydnor I arrived at the Louise Cochrane Rose Garden. I think I had time for another stroll around the entire garden before returning to the conservatory where I immediately found June. June wanted to walk through the grounds before we left so we essentially retraced my steps. This did give me a chance to take lots of photos of Lotus blossoms along Lake Sydnor which I had not given enough of my attention. June pointed out a few other things to me. Before leaving we browsed in the gift shop. I was not going to buy anything there but June left to go change her clothes so I had plenty of time to look around and eventually bought a book, Gilded Age Richmond by Brian Burns. After touring the Maymont Mansion I was a bit more interested in the Gilded Age.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

I forgot to mention that June 13th is my sister’s birthday so we finally went somewhere for lunch. We went to Lulabelle’s Cafe in the West End Antique Mall. I ordered Virginia Biscuits which where small buns, not biscuits, containing bacon and cheese spread. It came with a leafy salad and a small bowl of Thai Chicken soup. For dessert I had an ice cream sandwich with peach and cinnamon. I drank two cups of coffee to keep myself awake on this day. It turns out there were more buildings that are part of the West End Antique Mall. We only saw the furniture on our previous visit. The other parts of the antique mall were more of what you would expect in an antique mall, but the merchandise was high end stuff, not much junk. June bought a Murano glass bowl which was a good buy if it is genuine.

After lunch she drove me to Carytown for some shopping. Carytown stretches along West Cary Street and is similar to South Street in Philadelphia. Both streets are packed with boutiques and fine restaurants and serve as bohemian shopping destinations for the big city. First we saw artwork at Chasen Galleries because it was located right behind the parking lot where June lucked out finding a parking spot. We also saw a brightly colored building with a small mural, Ellman’s Dancewear. We went into a big candy store where I searched for a bag of candy to tide me over on the train ride home but I could not find anything suitable. As we were walking down the street, a car knocked over a motorcycle rider and started an argument. I used this opportunity to slip away and crossed the street to enter World of Mirth, a toy store. I was looking for some STEM toys and while they had a few things, there was nothing interesting for a serious maker. Next I went to the Plan 9 Music store where I bought a The Future Sound of London CD, The Isness. I was vaguely familiar with this British electronic music group and took a chance on this album. I listened to this CD on the long car trip home from Harrisburg but I did not care for it.

Chop Suey Books

Chop Suey Books

I crossed the street to meet up with June and we walked to the Byrd Theatre. I was eager to take photos of this cinema because the art print I bought as a souvenir featured the Byrd Theatre. Across from the Byrd Theatre was Chop Suey Books where I spent quite a bit of time browsing, trying to find just the right book. June was kind of rushing me so eventually I settled for The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer. But this was a good choice since I am reading his book on creating imaginative fiction, Wonderbook. We had ice cream at Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream. I had coffee ice cream in the hopes that it would keep me awake. June insisted that we go to Tokyo Market, a cool Japanese grocery store, where I bought a bag of Milk Coffee Candy. That was mostly what I ate on the long train ride back to Harrisburg. After that we browsed Bygones Vintage Clothing, Askby, and The Clothes Rack. There were two art galleries I suggested but June determined that it would have been a long walk to find them.

Byrd Theatre

Byrd Theatre

Before 6:00 p.m. we drove to Agecroft Hall. I picked up our “will call” tickets at the box office, which was located in the Agecroft Hall office. Our tickets turned out to be nothing more than the theater program. I treated June to her ticket since it was her birthday and seeing this play was my idea. I think doing something unusual like seeing a play is an excellent and memorable way to celebrate a birthday. We ate on a seat in front of the
sunken garden since you were allowed to picnic on the grounds before the performance. I ate a roll filled with chicken salad and some cheese crackers, plus a small bottle of Sprite. A few people set up their picnic in the sunken garden where they were serenaded and entertained by a roving band of young actors dressed in Shakespearean costumes. I got to hear a brief recitation of some lines from Hamlet. This was neat because I was currently reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. June went back to the car and I eventually went back to the box office to use the bathroom.

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

At 7:00 p.m. we took our seats and at 7:30 p.m. the outdoor performance of The Tempest began. The performance was very professional. I especially liked the character of Ariel who wore body paint and moved like a puppet. The actor playing Propsero looked a bit like Pierce Brosnan. It was interesting to see a play performed outdoors in the dark. There was a moon that night which added to the magic. Agecroft Hall was the perfect stage set in which to see a play by Shakespeare. I was worried that I would not be able to follow the story very well but I remembered a movie version of The Tempest. That helped me to anticipate the scenes. Seeing the play was definitely the icing on the cake of my trip to Virginia.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Wednesday

On the fourth day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Agecroft Hall. Agecroft Hall is a Tudor manor in Richmond. It looks like some place Shakespeare would have lived in so it is used for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. We saw the stage and the seating all set up for the 2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival. But for this day we were just there to tour the mansion and to see the gardens. First we watched a short film on the history of Agecroft Hall and how its materials were transported from Lancashire, England to Richmond. We were not allowed to take photos in the house which was furnished according to the Tudor period. But we saw beds, tapestries, old books, and portrait paintings. After the tour we went out to the sunken garden and the herb garden. The sky was overcast so I could not take any photos that do justice to the greenery but at least it did not get hot. The stone patio at the back of the house overlooks a field and some woods. It really gave me the impression of a grand estate. A yellow cat began to follow us around, meowing for attention. At the gift shop I bought a pack of cards, Shakespeare’s
Quips, Cusses, and Curses, Library of Congress Knowledge Cards for $10.50.

Agecroft Hall

Agecroft Hall

Next door to Agecroft Hall is the Virginia House, another manor house. June opened the front door to make inquiries but they no longer offer public tours. We could only take photos of the exterior.

We then drove to Carytown and stopped in at Montana Gold Bread Company to pick up some rolls and chicken salad with dill. We had a picnic lunch at the William Byrd
Park, near Swan Lake. From there it was short drive to Maymont Park. At Maymont Park we saw the herb garden, a carriage collection, and a water fountain before going on a tour of the Maymont Mansion.

Maymont Mansion

Maymont Mansion

The Maymont Mansion was my favorite house tour of the trip since it was a really grand place. Built during the height of the Gilded Era, the interiors were lavish and impressive. These rooms were designed to convey the wealth of James and Sallie Dooley and they certainly gave that impression. Our tour guide was a retired English teacher, or maybe it was a History teacher, who was really into history. He led us through a parlor, a library, the dining room, a foyer, and upstairs to some bedrooms. One of the bedrooms had a fanciful swan shaped bed. After the tour of the house was over we went through further exhibits in the basement where the servant quarters were located. After that we took pictures of the exterior and the front entrance and even ventured onto the veranda.

Maymont Park Italian Garden

Maymont Park Italian Garden

The rest of the day was spent strolling through the Maymont Mansion gardens. We saw the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden which had a winding watercourse that leads to a waterfall and a large pond. The pond had Koi fish of course. Every Japanese Garden is going to have Koi fish.

We did do as much on this day because touring the grounds of Agecroft Hall and Maymont Park took up most of our time.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Tuesday

On the third day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Virginia Holocaust Museum. I did not include this museum in my notes since I think the Holocaust is too depressing but it was near the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is housed in a former tobacco warehouse. Admission was free and there was free parking. As you walked through each room the motion detector would turn on the lights. We saw exhibits on the Kovno Ghetto, the Nuremberg Trials with Nazi war criminal mannequins, displaced person camps, the SS Exodus ship, concentration camps, etc. There was also a synagogue and a Jewish Wall of Fame where I saw a plaque for the playwright Arthur Miller. Outside of the museum there was a cattle car or freight train car from Deutche Reichsbahn which was used to transport victims to the concentration camps. The exhibits were of some slight interest to me because I was currently reading a biography of Stella Adler and she was involved in the effort to smuggle displaced persons to Palestine.

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Next we went to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, something I really wanted to see. I’m not a particularly big fan of Edgar Allan Poe but he really got around the East Coast. I’ve seen his grave in Baltimore, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia, and a recent statue of Edgar Allan Poe in Boston. We entered the museum through the gift shop. Making visitors enter through the gift shop seems to be a popular strategy for museums. While you are waiting for a tour to start, you are expected to browse the merchandise. Often you have to pay the admission fee in the gift shop as was the case for this museum. There were three separate buildings to enter although I expected everything to be in the Old Stone House. First we went out the back door to the Enchanted Garden, the courtyard which is surrounded by the museum buildings. The Enchanted Garden had a small fountain in its center and a Poe Shrine towards the back. Unfortunately the Poe Shrine was taken over by a tour bus group who appeared to be entertained with a dramatic telling of Poe’s short stories. First we entered a room which appeared to be an exhibit devoted to Poe’s days in Richmond. This room mainly had furniture like his bed, a chair, and a piano. The next room we entered had a more elaborate collection of artifacts and impressive displays like a large Edgar Allan Poe Memorial sculpted by Richard Henry Park. This large sculpture was originally on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’m not sure if this was a copy or the original. This room also had an upright coffin which you could stand in to have your picture taken and a seated statue of  Edgar Allan Poe missing its left hand. I also saw Poe’s chair. Up the stairs was the reading room which only had one shelf of books. But there was also a Poe portrait gallery over the stairs and a few movie posters. The film poster for “Der Rabe” puzzled me but this turns out to be German for “The Raven”, the 1963 film starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson. The final room was devoted to Edgar Allan Poe’s death. I mentioned to my sister that I had visited his grave in Baltimore. I also mentioned that I had read part of a biography on Edgar Allan Poe which I never finished reading. This was the book Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance by Kenneth Silverman. When we returned to the courtyard we saw two black cats which live at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. At the gift shop I bought the book Great Horror Stories: Dover Thrift Editions by various authors, a collection of classic horror short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Before leaving the Shockoe Bottom we saw a freight train go by, pulled by a CSX locomotive. The next museum we visited was The Valentine. June had trouble finding a place to park but eventually she found the rear parking lot where a valet parked the car for us. This was another museum with its gift shop at the entrance. Right off the bat we got a
tour of the Wickham House even though there was just the two of us. The Wickham House had an impressive spiral staircase and various furnished rooms to see. We learned about the Valentine Meat Juice which was the basis of the Valentine fortune. I liked the dining room which had old engravings of scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays. A Google search reveals that these are prints from The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of Shakespeare. See Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. We heard the story of how John Wickham defended Vice President Aaron Burr during his trial for treason. This was part of the same story we heard at the Virginia State Capitol. When the tour of the house was over we saw the rest of the museum which featured large display cases full of artifacts of significance to Richmond’s history and culture. There was a Woolworth lunch counter display to represent the Civil Rights Movement. Downstairs we saw lots of black and white photos of Richmond landmarks. They even had a costume department with a woman to explain how they preserve and research costumes, although I did not see that much need for costumes at this small museum. As far as I could see, they only use a few mannequins.

The Valentine

The Valentine

We had lunch in the garden behind the Wickham House. I had a toasted cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato which June said was a Southern touch. I also had French potato salad, and a plastic cup of iced coffee. They gave us wooden utensils and cardboard straws which I did not like.

Wickham House

Wickham House

After lunch June drove down to a parking lot next to the James River so we could walk across the suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge to Belle Isle. Belle Isle is used as a city park and it appeared to be quite popular. There were many people sun bathing on the flat rocks in the James River. Other people were walking their dogs or strolling along the trail. I saw many great blue herons in the James River who did not seem too shy of humans. There was a large quarry pond. After walking clear around the island we went back over the suspension footbridge which afforded a great view of the Richmond skyline. Then we walked to yet another footbridge, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, and crossed the James River to the other side before turning back. Even then we proceeded to walk a little ways along the Riverfront Canal Walk. I saw the Headman Statue on Brown Island.

Belle Isle

Belle Isle

Finally we we visited the Virginia War Memorial. We could not find anywhere to park while we visited the Virginia War Memorial so June parked at the bottom of the hill where a couple of other cars were parked. Then we walked up the hill to the Virginia War Memorial. Park of the hill was covered in small American flags which looked like a field of flowers. Unfortunately the Virginia War Memorial had some construction going on but we were still able to go inside and see the Shrine of Memory, the glass walls, and the statue Memory. After that we called it a day since we had managed to visit three museums and did a lot of walking.

Virginia War Memorial

Virginia War Memorial

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Monday

On the second day of my vacation in Richmond Virginia my sister drove me to the Virginia State Capitol for a free tour of this government complex on a hill in downtown Richmond. Richmond is the state capitol of Virginia. We had trouble finding street parking downtown so my sister eventually had to park in a public parking deck. After parking the car, we walked to the Capitol Square and took photos of various statues on the grounds. I found the Edgar Allan Poe Statue under the trees in the north west corner of Capitol Square. We couldn’t miss the Washington Monument. I also saw the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial and the Governor’s Mansion.

We used the Bank Street entrance which leads to an underground extension of the statehouse under the hill. While June used the restroom I browsed the gift shop. While we waited for the tour to begin, we looked at some costumes in a display case. A tour guide lead us through the modern underground lair, under the steps of the statehouse, and into the actual building which Thomas Jefferson designed. There was a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the stairwell. Once inside the building we entered a room with a large statue of George Washington. George Washington was born in Virginia so the state is very proud of our first President. After that we were led to the Old House and Old Senate chambers where we saw a model of the Capitol building and various historical paintings. Then we were led into the Old Senate Chamber room dominated by a large statue of Robert E. Lee standing with his hand on his sword hip, looking before him as if to say “Well lookie here”. We were told the story of how the third floor collapsed killing 62 people. Next we were allowed into the House Chamber where actual state legislative business is conducted. The tour guide mentioned that the 2012 film Lincoln was shot in this House Chamber room so I have since bought a DVD of that film.

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

It cost June $30 for the parking garage since we were there for over two hours. She was indignant over the amount and I agreed to cover half of the cost. Next we went to the Science Museum of Virginia. We ate lunch in the car before entering the museum. At the Science Museum of Virginia June rushed to the special exhibit, Pompeii: The Immortal City which featured a few artifacts from the ancient doomed city and even two plaster casts of bodies. Then we went outside and saw the steam locomotive and the Aluminaut, the world’s first aluminum submarine. We also saw an IMAX movie, Volcanoes – The Fires of Creation, at 2:00 p.m. Before the film began, the screen was advertising other museum offerings and the Forge, a maker space, caught my eye. I was expecting this to be a workshop for open source hardware and Arduino electronics but it proved to be more material oriented for wood working and the like. The museum gift shop also disappointed me with its poor selection of science books and no maker books. The Science Museum of Virginia is really just a kiddie museum with no exhibits on hard science, computer science, or any serious stuff. After that we wandered around some more and found some aquariums for lizards, snakes, turtles, spiders, and other small critters.

Science Museum of Virginia

Science Museum of Virginia

Next we drove to the Crossroads Art Center, a gallery for hundreds of artists where they can present and sell their work. This was like a free art museum with affordable art work. First I bought some Tums antacid tablets and Invisible Solid Powder Fresh anti-perspiration deodorant at a Bremo Pharmacy next door. At the Crossroads Art Center I bought a Byrd Richmond International Film Festival art print for $35.00 and a bunny card for $4.00, ZouZou’s Basement. We browsed the West End Antiques Mall next door which looked more like an interior designer’s showroom. Curiously there was a cafe in the store, Lulabelle’s Cafe.

Crossroads Art Center

Crossroads Art Center

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Sunday

My vacation actually began on Saturday with a drive down to Harrisburg PA to catch an Amtrak train to Richmond. I made it to Harrisburg without incident and managed to get across the bridge, but I did have some trouble navigating the streets to the train station. There was some road work going on which added to the confusion. But eventually I managed to find my way to the Transitpark parking lot. I could not find a way to walk from the parking lot to the train station. You actually have to walk around the block and down a tunnel under the bridge. I tried to check in my baggage but you actually have to handle your own baggage. It has been a long time since I used Amtrak to make day trips to New York City so I was uncertain about many aspects.

30th Street Station

When the train arrived in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station I had an hour before I had to transfer to the Northeast Regional train. I used the restroom and had lunch at a Pret A Manger because there would be no wait for my food. Pret A Mangers are like cafeterias where you just select packaged sandwiches, cans of soda, and deserts like yogurt parfaits. That is exactly what I got. I took a few photos of the 30th Street Station since it was featured in the recent film Glass. Also, on NYC day trips I don’t think I ever got off the train to see the interior of the train station. After getting settled into a seat on train 195 I was waiting for the train to depart when they announced that everybody had to evacuate the train. At first I thought it was just my car, but everyone had to get off due to a fire scare. After about an hour we were allowed to reboard the train. I sent my sister June some text messages to let her know that I would be delayed.

During the long train ride south I read the book John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. I didn’t even use my smartphone or Kindle because this book kept me entertained for most of the down time on this trip. The train took me through Baltimore, Washington DC, Alexandria Virginia, and Fredericksburg Virginia so theoretically I could visit any of those cities. I saw lots of giant condominium apartment buildings in the vicinity of Alexandria Virginia. June was waiting in the parking lot for me at Staples Mill Road Station and pulled around to the curb to pick me up.

Sunday, the first full day of my vacation, began with a prayer meeting and hymnal singing in June’s living room. Due to my interest in comparative religion, this wasn’t as boring as it would be for a dedicated atheist. I observed everything with a clinical eye and found the short ritual especially interesting. This ritual was the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine which seemed to be based on the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. A ritual is a symbolic action, a gesture that is meant to demonstrate something. Various other aspects of the service seemed to function as an emotional support meeting for the care of the soul with individual testimonials. There were no ecstatic moments during which the Holy Spirit could be said to enter into someone. I would have found that interesting for its shamanic aspects.

After the meeting was over we went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the best experiences of my trip since I love art museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was large enough to satisfy me with a wide variety of artwork. This was the only day of my trip when rain was a problem so I had to carry both of our umbrellas in my pant pockets.  I saw a Salvador Dali painting. He is one of my favorite artists. I saw some Fabergé eggs which the museum is famous for having. There was a monumental statue of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. I found Henry Prellwitz’s painting Lotus and Laurel which I had in my notes, a great painting with classical figures. One piece that really caught my eye was an Art Nouveau female portrait bust by Alphonse Mucha, Nature. Alphonse Mucha is the artist who designed the poster of Sarah Bernhardt which is used on the book cover of Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, the book I bought in Eagles Mere. We also marveled at the Mughal Garden Pavilion which I thought was some kind of Islamic arcade. More precisely it is a Persian style of architecture used for the walled enclosures of gardens.

Alphonse Mucha’s Nature

From the windows of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts I saw a small church which appeared to be open to the public. We checked it out and it was the Confederate Memorial Chapel, with a Civil War canon on its grounds.  We went inside and saw its stain glass windows. Also in the vicinity of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the Robinson House, a historic house which is now being used as a visitor’s center with a few small exhibits. We picked up many brochures at the Robinson House and I kept dropping brochures as we visited the Virginia Museum of History and Culture next door. At the Virginia Museum of History and Culture we saw coaches, rifles, an art gallery of paintings, a streetcar, a Conestoga wagon, and Civil War murals. I was amused by an exhibit of old technology and media which included things like an IBM XT, a Windows XP laptop, a Walkman, a Gameboy, a VHS tape, and a Zip Drive. They even had a smartphone on display which isn’t exactly obsolete yet. Some of these history museums are getting way ahead of themselves and display contemporary artifacts as if they were trying to make you feel old.

Virginia Museum of History and Culture

Next we drove to the Hollywood Cemetery were June parked by the gates. We walked a little ways along the cemetery roads but it began to rain so we went back to the car and then drove along the cemetery roads. We managed to find the mausoleum of W. W. Pool, aka the Richmond Vampire. We also found the memorial of the Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. Nearby was a chapel with a great overlook of the Richmond skyline. We also found the mausoleum  of Lewis Ginter which was of interest to June because she volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Finally we found the President’s Circle after much driving around and saw the graves of James Monroe and John Tyler. We were still in the Hollywood Cemetery after 6:00 p.m. when it closes so a guard chased us out, but he was nice about it and opened the gates to let us out.

James Monroe Grave

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New York City Theater Trip

Yesterday I went on yet another bus trip to New York City. This trip went perfectly and I found it to be exceptionally inspiring and invigorating. As I’ve mentioned before, New York City makes a very powerful impression upon me. And I have to be there to experience this. I can scarcely remember this feeling when I am not there. It is an inexplicably impactful emotional response, like an expansion of consciousness. To a certain extent this can be attributed to New York City because the city is the hub of human achievement. New York City is where everyone goes to make a big impression upon the world so everything from the architecture to the art in the museums is top notch and designed to impress. But I’m not sure this fully accounts for its thrill. The topic of New York City can bore me at times so I think my imagination and expectations are also contributing something to the mix. I am always puzzled and maddened by what is intrinsic beauty and what is heightened by what I’m seeing into an object of contemplation. Suffice it to say, New York City is a world of wonders in my eyes.

We arrived in New York City at around 9:45 a.m. My first objective was to visit the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle. The bus literally left us off right in front of the subway station entrance I needed, the 50th Street Station for the C Line, although this particular entrance is on West 51st Street. I only had to go one stop uptown to reach Columbus Circle. The first thing I saw at Columbus Circle was the enormous silvery globe at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. I took some photos of that even though it might have made me look like a Trump fan. But Donald Trump has been a fixture on the New York scene for decades so he still represents some aspects of the city. At least there were no garbage trucks parked around Columbus Circle to protect his property, the real sign of just how much the public hates this man. I also took some photos of the Christopher Columbus statue, the Time Warner Center, and the Shops at Columbus Circle entrance. I’ve been to Columbus Circle before but that was years ago and I only have a few photos of its landmarks.

The Museum of Arts and Design is a pretty minor museum. I would call it a third rate art museum, or maybe a second rate museum, but definitely not second tier in a city with so many great museums. So I had never visited the Museum of Arts and Design. It isn’t necessarily a bad museum. There are just so many other NYC art museums you would put on your list before it. One of the pleasures of making so many trips to NYC is that I can explore the more obscure establishments and see things that the majority of tourists overlook. But the big attraction for me was a special exhibit currently running at the Museum of Arts and Design, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986. This art exhibit featured many Punk Rock posters that were quite familiar to me. You know you are getting old when your favorite music and youth culture shows up in a history museum as artifacts of a forgotten era. The Museum of Arts and Design is not exactly a history museum but you know what I mean. This exhibition was meant to look back on a cultural movement that has had its day. They had two record bins for the obsolete media known as the vinyl record. Visitors could browse through the records for that experience of record store nostalgia. Virtually every record I saw was one that I once owned, although I have most of them on CD now. In fact, my smartphone has most of that music stored on its microSD card. I saw a few Blondie posters and some rare Blondie memorabilia. It occurred to me that at least one piece of rare Blondie memorabilia could even be from my extensive collection which I sold off years ago.

Museum of Arts and Design

Seeing everything at the Museum of Arts and Design only took a half hour. The next item on my agenda was a Broadway play at 2:00 p.m. so I had hours to kill. First I went to the Shops at Columbus Circle and found the Amazon book store on the third floor. I just can’t resist book stores, even though Amazon is responsible for killing most of them off. I didn’t actually buy any books there. I just browsed the titles for books that I might want to buy later on Amazon. See what I did there?

There isn’t that much to see at Columbus Circle so I walked over to Central Park and took a long stroll through the park. It was a beautiful summer day and I took many iconic photos of Central Park. Several skinny skyscrapers are still being built to overlook the park so they kind of  ruin some of my photos. Even when completed, these skinny residential towers will be an eyesore. Central Park was downright idyllic but it occurred to me that I did not visit the big city to enjoy nature.

Central Park

Central Park

By Noon I was starting to worry about getting to Midtown in time to see the Broadway play so I walked back to the south end of Central Park and entered the first subway station entrance I found, which was the Fifth Avenue – 59th Street Station for the N Line. I took a N train downtown to 42nd Street Times Square. I almost made the mistake of retracing my steps and returning to the 50th Street Station, but the 42nd Street Times Square Station is actually closer to the Broadway theaters.

I arrived at 42nd Street – Times Square around 1:00 p.m. with plenty of time to spare but I was starving. I don’t think I was really hungry, but my doctor prescribed some medicine for my arthritis, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAI)  which may have given me a stomach ulcer. My stomach is frequently rumbling and I feel severe hunger pangs by the end of the day. I’ll probably have to see my doctor about that. Anyways, I had to visit a McDonald’s to grab a filet-o-fish and a cup of coffee. I hate McDonald’s but I didn’t have time for a long wait for my food. My coffee did not come with cream or sugar which annoyed me. I drank it black because I was hoping it would help to keep me awake during the show.

There was a surprisingly long line for the Broadhurst Theatre where the play I came to see was being performed. Several hundred people where lined up half way down the block. The line didn’t move at all until about a half hour before the show was to start. The play I saw was Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally. This is a play I read a long time ago, so I had some vague idea what it was about, but I didn’t really remember it. Most plays only run for two hours and you can read a script in less than a day so they don’t really stick in your memory. The big draw for this serious drama was the great actor, Michael Shannon. Michael Shannon has long been considered a major theater actor, is more or less a major movie star now, and also an established Broadway actor since this is the second time I’ve seen him on Broadway. I also saw Michael Shannon in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night. It is quite a thrill to see him in the flesh on stage. And by in the flesh, I mean buck naked because there was a lot of nudity in this play! In fact, the play began with both Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald stark naked in bed doing a simulated sex scene. I was pretty shocked. I’ve seen nudity on stage before but never actual sex. The lights were kept low and I assume they were only simulating sex. The audience started giggling so they were more amused than shocked. When the lights came on there was some effort made not to show full frontal nudity but it took a while for them to get decent. Other than that, this was a very serious play with plenty of humor to keep it from seeming too dark. Michael Shannon shambled around the stage in a strange manner which may have been his way of portraying a character who isn’t meant to appear very intelligent or sophisticated. Nevertheless, his character, Johnny, was fond of Shakespeare and prone to misquoting him. Personally, I’ve never heard anyone quote Shakespeare in real life, not even a professional or somebody involved in the theater, so quoting Shakespeare does seem awfully pretentious to me. Now that I think of it, maybe I should do that myself. If there is one thing you can do to introduce an element of the dramatic into mundane life, it is to shock people with an unexpected quote from Shakespeare.

Broadhurst Theatre

Broadhurst Theatre

I loved the stage design which was very realistic and drank in every detail of the theater itself. The back wall was a brink apartment building facade which didn’t really fit the design of an apartment interior. I didn’t really notice this until the end of the play when they unexpectedly drew back the back wall. It was slowly pulled back into the wings. Then I realized it didn’t really make sense as part of the set. There was also a fire escape that they never really used even though some publicity photos showed Frankie and Johnny on the fire escape in each other’s arms. What I want to remember was the sight of all the stage lights covering the entire space of the area over the stage with that background of a brick facade. This really seemed quintessentially theatrical to me, New York space made sacred in a theater space.

Sardi's Restaurant

Sardi’s Restaurant

I had a dinner reservation at Sardi’s after the show. Sardi’s is conveniently right across the street from the Broadhurst Theatre and the play ended just in time for me to make my reservation. Sardi’s is a bit more formal than I like. The waiters are all in uniform and the maître d’ is very smartly dressed and strikes you as a very serious and reserved sort of man. The service is also ridiculously attentive with a waiter rushing to refill your water glass only minutes after you’ve taken a sip. But Sardi’s Restaurant is an old Broadway mainstay and reeks of good old-fashioned theater tradition and history. The place was pretty empty at first but eventually it filled up with after-matinee theater goers like myself. I ordered a chicken club sandwich which arrived as a stack of food. The large pile of French fries made this a mountain of food. I wish I had just ordered an appetizer since I was not that hungry. I also had a single glass of Chardonnay which made me surprisingly tipsy. I really don’t like feeling woozy and sleepy when I am on an adventure.

After dinner, I had left plenty of time for shopping. First I went to BookOff on West 45th Street. This Japanese used media chain store sells used books, DVDs, CDs, and other media formats. I found two DVDs that were on my shopping list: As Good As It Gets and The Thirteenth Floor. After looking down every book shelf aisle I eventually found their meager selection of Drama and had to settle for a translation of Racine’s Phedre by the poet Ted Hughes. Next I went to the big Barnes & Noble book store on Fifth Avenue. I was surprised to find they did not have a book shelf devoted to Science or Non-Fiction. They did have a decent section on the performing arts where I found Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights. I’m becoming a bit more conservative in my tastes now that I no longer trust progressive theater artists to be sensible. I question their devotion to the arts so I would rather read something written long ago. I think I can trust Stella Adler to focus on what is really important to the human spirit. There is not a single female playwright on her list! That is being a little too conservative, but she was a product of her time. Although I did not browse the science fiction titles, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word For World Is Forest was prominently displayed and this book was on my shopping list so I snagged it.

After making those purchases I made my way back to the bus pick-up spot near the Times Square Church. I got there almost an hour early but I didn’t really try to wander off to take any more photos. I was pretty satisfied with what I had accomplished on this trip and quite frankly the entire Times Square area has become too familiar to me.

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