Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

suitcase wanderlust

Friday, July 5th, 2013

This has been a fantastic visit with friends, family, business people and just being in the States. However, this is because we have learned through decades of travel to get only just so crazy with the actual travel part of our travel. Getting to the destination and getting to the destination with our belongings has often put in the mindset of why did we ever walk out the door of our home to begin with. As I dribbled on about in the two previous blogs getting from Dalian to Beijing to Vancouver to Newark then to Atlanta was all as normal as travel in the electronic age can be. Getting from Atlanta to wherever it was we were headed for but finally ended up at and four days later still wondering where parts of our extended selves – e.g. our luggage are.

Those companies that are upsetting our peaceful blissful zen-like traveling selves:

  • Delta – a big middle finger to you
  • Almos Car Rental – we left your stupid bloody car at a different car rental at the airport because we could never find, if in fact it exists, the drop-off place. We were going to leave it along side the freeway but feeling kind we actually left it in the car park at the airport.

Delta – who is running your show? Are you really a business that gets people and things to places they pay for? Delta you make China Southern almost look like a real airline and they just lost our luggage for good last year though it was only my Piggly Wiggly umbrella and a specialized curtain rod Narda had found in one of those southern states few tourists ever go to – she said it would be good for our window in China. We had them so well marked and you lost them somewhere between Melbourne Australia and Guangzhou China and spent weeks stringing together enough words in English before we realised they were gone forever and the compensation we received did not match the emotional attachment that I had formed with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella – but not to worry, we know China Southern struggles to act like a proper airline; we know this how? Because we have traveled for the past few years with them and are constantly amazed how we ever get anywhere, not to mention our precious luggage. And we have learned to bring our own food because no one in their right-mind could eat that crap China Southern serves.

Delta! You are the queen of shit.

So we have our flight from Atlanta. What a restful time we had in Atlanta; three days in the mountains at a large lovely house deep in a mountain forest a few days with Narda’s son and his wife and all was good until we got to the airport. We checked in our luggage and got on the plane and even to the end of the runway. After a few moments the pilot went on about some traffic delays in Newark and we would be delayed a few minutes. The next announcement was that we would be leaving in 45 minutes. An hour later we were told the plane was headed back to the terminal but not to worry it would be just a slight delay but we did need to get off of the plane and take our stuff with us. “Just stay in the waiting area and we will have you on your way soon…” another hour – “the flight has been canceled”. OK these things happen so we are told we would not get a flight out Sunday night – we were suppose to leave at 2 PM Sunday. Turns out there is no way to get to Newark but we are able to get to Albany on a ten pm flight. Albany is where we are headed anyway. We were going to Newark to collect a rental car and drive upstate stopping overnight at Marta’s house in the Catskill then going on up the next morning to do our many errands.

We were very clear that our luggage was to get sent to Albany and we were told that all along the way; at the counter where we got our tickets and at the check-in counter at the gate we were told our luggage was definitely on the flight. When we arrived at Albany our luggage was not there and after much checking we were told it would be on the next flight which would have been seven AM Monday morning if that had not been canceled but not-to-worry there was a flight arriving at 2 in the afternoon and they would deliver out stuff to our hotel. In the meantime we could purchase what we needed for the night and for clothing for the next day but keep it under $50 or they will look at it more closely.

Who knows this?

It is not what airlines will tell you but it is true. Once our luggage went for a walk-about when we got to Scotland. We told them we were off for a week and could not wait until the next day for our stuff and we were told to purchase what we needed which to keep this short and not to reveal my dim-memory we needed to purchase a suitcase to carry all our new stuff in. When we got back to Edinburgh a week later we collected our luggage and nicely added our new suitcase of clothes and ‘necessities’ and went on our way and they paid for all we purchased.

At midnight we went to the only place open, Walmart, in Clifton Park; which by the way is close to where I grew up and lived more than 50-years earlier, and bought a few things. The next morning, Monday, still without our luggage we bought some more. And we did keep our purchases below $500.

Tuesday we needed to drive on to New York City and still our stuff was in Newark. We rang three times telling them not to send our belongings to Albany as we were driving to Newark Airport to collect our things. They assured us everything would be held for us.

This is just the baggage and car-rental part of my story. The family, friends, good news, houses and what a trip really is about I will say next so I will not forget which is the only reason to write anything down because I forget stuff the next day and to remember all the good stuff is easy but to put it into context or even in some sort of chronological sequence of it-was-three-years-ago, no, actually it was last month is useful for various reasons though I can not recall why at the moment.

So rentals have been a pain this trip. This was our third rental. The first was with Advantage Car Rental and we dealt with the biggest wanker in New Jersey with our first rental of a couple of days. The final bill was more than three times what was offered on Expedia which is more than usual. We always allow for twice the quote but by the time so many various taxes and stupid stuff was added the bill was more than three times the original quote. We rented from Advantage again in Atlanta for a few days and that was OK. This time we rented from Alamos Car Rental from Albany Airport for two days to deliver to Newark Airport. Our quote from Expedia was about a hundred bucks with taking it to a different location but our final bill was $275 and that is with us bringing back a full tank of petrol. So we have a lovely time visiting upstate – which I will get to – and midway to NYC – which I will get to and we get to Newark and there is no such location to return it to that is on our paperwork. We are a bit nervous by now as our phone has almost no charge left because the charger is in our suitcase at Newark Airport. We ring Alamos to find out where to take the car as the address does not exist they gave us. A rude cranky person gives us another address and we go there but there is no Alamos Car Rental there. With but a few seconds left we pull over and get Alamos Car Rental on the phone and say it is an emergency, come get us then our phone dies. We do not like sitting alongside the runway with no Alamos Car Rental or any place of business near where we are sitting which is where we were told Alamos Car Rental was. We decide to be more pro-active and to leave it at the first car-rental place at the airport we see. As we are driving toward the airport on this side-road we see a tow truck rushing past us – no doubt to our emergency. The first car-rental we come to at the airport is National and we drive in, get out, and say to the woman checking in cars that we are leaving this car and that it is an Alamos Car Rental and she says fine and gives us a receipt and off we toddled to Delta Baggage to liberate our suitcases. So aside of the huge price change Alamos Car Rental was OK they just have terrible service and have no idea where their cars belong. Obviously this happens heaps as it was easier to abandon our rental than we thought it would be.

At Delta, to our surprise, though I am not sure why, there was Narda’s bag but not mine. Holy-cow, they sent mine to Albany a couple of hours earlier. They said it could not come back until the next day, Wednesday, and to get on the first flight it would have to go with United then if we waited for 6 – 8 hours after its arrival we probably would have it delivered to our address. As we are not staying at a hotel but renting an Air B & B place for this week and we had an appointment with our finance adviser in The City Wednesday afternoon we rang and told them we were coming to collect it. This little communication with a company that would be unable to organize a screw in a brothel took more than an hour. The first person I believe was speaking English as some of the words sounded like English but most did not seemed to convey that perhaps the plane with my luggage did leave Albany and had arrived in Newark at 5.40 this morning but as it was a United flight and my bag had a Delta number on it she could not fine it in the system. At eleven AM without our first cup of coffee we got our sorry asses to the PATH train and to Newark. Now at Newark one can take a bus to the airport which we usually do for a couple of bucks but it takes awhile and stops heaps and we were agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry so we took Amtrak, at $16.50 for the two of us, the one stop to Newark Airport. Of course it takes people to the AirTrain at Newark only before going on its merry way. Unknown to us there is another fee of $5.50 on the AirTrain to go the couple of minutes to the terminal. We had already paid too much so following Narda which one tends to do especially when she is acting taller than her five-foot eleven tallness and she is agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry I quickly went through the gate which was open due to the person in front of Narda opening it to get her bags through and walking fast so as to not hear if someone was calling back to pay some unfair fee we discovered that the AirTrain was not running and we all got herded onto a bus to the terminal.

We had tea (dinner) last night with Narda’s art teacher friend (from five years working together at St. Luke’s School in the West Village) and Nancy use to say back in those years that she was going to have a bracelet made that would say, “what would Narda do” because Narda had a reputation for doing what Narda does and she is a great role model (though at times, frightening) for getting done what needs to be done. Nancy reminded us of that last night. Of course Narda said Nancy was true blue which is a great compliment to another human. According to the Australian Urban Dictionary “true blue = The real thing, no bullshit”.

Today having lunch with a few of Narda’s ex-work mates they were saying how “Narda” is a verb at work. “I will Narda it” or “I Narda-ized it” which is doing what is needed then telling someone. Or doing something then asking permission. I know we do this, not just us but most people at our current workplace because to ask first means getting a no but doing what needs to be done or should be done or want to have done then telling about it gets far better results.

Of course my suitcase was not at Delta’s baggage when we got there at 11:30 and Narda in her scary way walked straight into the back area where baggage is stored as three people were yelling at her not to go into the back area. Eventually a woman was on the phone calling United telling them it was an emergency that my bag had to be at the Delta area within the next ten minutes. I was left at the counter as Narda headed upstairs to get a taxi voucher to get us to our appointment on Lexington Avenue – a couple of blocks from Grand Central.

Did you know this? The airlines will give you a taxi voucher to where you are staying if you go to collect luggage that was not on your flight. We got a voucher to where we are staying this week in Jersey City the night before including paying extra to have the person stop at a super market so we could get some groceries. Airlines will never tell you these things about getting supplies if your luggage does not arrive or getting taxi vouchers you have to confront and get this done.

My suitcase did arrive at the Delta Baggage Area and now it was 12:30 – almost seven hours after the plane landed and three days after it never made it on the same flight to Albany this past Sunday evening.

The Delta paid-for taxi, the driver driving like he was in China; no seat belt and going very quickly and weaving in and out of traffic got us to Lex Ave. within an hour which was really good considering the traffic. We got to our appointment on time – our Australian money advice person – and all was good.

We are quite happy that the Aussie dollar is dropping like a stone the past couple of weeks going from $1.05 to 91 cents making our Yankee dollars worth more than ten% more than a few weeks ago. Part of the reason is because of the slow down in China – go China.

Narda says I use to many words to say what I have to say. She use to tell me by mid-day that I had used up my word-count for the day. What? I suppose part of taking on a wife is dealing with their ideas, concepts, stuff-in-general. She does not say that anymore either because I use less words in a day or because she is being kind or she has given up and accepts my dribbling on. However, saying that, I doubt I could have said this all about Delta in any fewer words.

Being in upstate New York was so good. I grew up or made a bloody good attempt at it until I had a gut full of the place and at age 16 headed out on my own to become a writer and artist and 50 years later realising this did not come about but being more accepting of life’s muddy and murky path or at least the ones I have usually gotten on to I am not stressed about the fact I never became the artist-writer celebrity that as one with so many planets and points in Leo should have realised I move forward in a semi-blissful way.

We firstly checked on our houses in Round Lake, http://neuage.org/house/. Beautiful Victorians with good tenants. In our large house the couple have had four children since moving in six years ago and in our smaller house the couple had a child their first year there. These are very fertile houses. We have a great painting couple who paint a side of the house every year; this is the downside of Victorians – absolute money-pits. And we had lots of stories to swap between upstate New York where the new Global Foundry is only a ten minute drive or half an hour bike ride away. (“Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York is currently the largest commercial capital expansion project in the USA”) and our adventures in China. They are building a college there as well as some other chip company and lots of tech companies are moving in all close to our little retirement investment places.

our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.  see http://neuage.org/house
our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.
see http://neuage.org/house
13 second street - our first house in Round Lake
13 second street – our first house in Round Lake
15 Second Street Round Lake  from the side side
15 Second Street Round Lake from the side

We had lunch with my first girl-friend, Kathy, from more than fifty years ago. Kathy is now our real-estate chick and is looking after our houses if anyone wants to purchase a couple of beautiful Victorians so we can retire she is the one to speak with. My father use to be upset that I was dating her because she was a Catholic and in Clifton Park, a 99.9% WASP area then – not anymore, that was really outside the box. My father use to give me those Bible tracks that had a heading “what happens if I marry a Catholic?” well years later I did find out as my first wife (the witch) was a Catholic and true enough my life turned to shit.

Two days ago, Tuesday, we visited my sister and her family. It was the third time in my life that I had seen my sister. A long story that I will not tell now but I was adopted and spent decades trying to find my family and I did and I have a blood brother in Hilo who I have seen once and my sister Sue that I have seen twice before. In other words I have little sense of family. I was a single parent raising my two children and for the most part before meeting Narda and being adopted by her wonderful family twelve years ago I have been on my own.

_DSC0099This was by far my best visit with Sue and her sons and a daughter and her grandchildren. I feel like at age 65, a few weeks from 66, I may end up being a part of my original family yet. Susan’s son, Justin, is so similar to my son Sacha that one would have thought they had grown up together to have such similar traits. Maybe there is something to bloodline.

On the way to Newark – to collect our luggage – I believe I mentioned that above – we stopped in to have lunch with Marta – http://martawaterman.com . Marta is one of my role-models in life. She is a few years older than me – living life to the fullest and on her terms. She is a musician, professor, actor, author and heaps of other stuff. She was a girl-friend of my adopted brother back in the mid-1960s. Marta and Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ a professor who was a friend of my brother and writer of many books are writing a book on my brother who was an artist, writer and musician in NYC up until dying in 1992.

and that is the past couple of days

Here is a picture of my wander-lust of a suitcase – how could they miss it?

suitcase

Lunch Alert at the Butler's
Lunch Alert at the Butler’s

What a great day in NYC and having lunch with the Butlers was great with Narda catching up with her old – well not old as in we are old but former – workmates in their wonderful home built in the 1700’s – the only wooden house still standing in the West Village from the 1700’s.

_DSC0001 and Narda found a sign for her classroom door…

_DSC0006and we spent a couple of hours sitting in Washington Square – my old hangout place from the 1960’s

_DSC0010and what is the Village without its shops?

_DSC0002Or without their beer?

IMG_1903and 4th of July Fireworks – viewed from the Jersey side.

_DSC0069

Christmas Day Hanoi

Monday, December 31st, 2012

25 December 2012 Christmas Day Hanoi

As I forgot to add this URL the last blog I scribbled out whilst dashing to a plane in Hoi An here it is http://blog.travelpod.com/members/3bybike We met this couple and their about ten-year old daughter at our hotel. They left Denmark last June and rode through Europe, Thailand, Cambodia and now Vietnam on their way to Australia then to South America on a year-long trek. I traveled with my two boys back in the 1992s but we took planes and trains from Australia through the States, England, France and Germany. They were 8 and 10 at the time and I was a single parent trying to keep track of us; I should have taken a bike built for three and trekked around with them instead of going the comfortable, but by no means easy, way.

After days out in the thicket of humans, and an evening in, after finishing the Book Thief and receiving yet again Shantaram for Christmas – I had read the first hundred pages a year ago and didn’t like it, I will give it another go. But not being in a reading mood I will try and blog. Not sure why I do, I get something like three maybe five hits when I blog so I know I am not writing for anyone else. Nevertheless – to remember, I tell myself – take notes.

Christmas Eve, how does a city get so crowded? It was not a weekend, and do communists even care about Christmas – wait they do; why give up an opportunity to sell just because of beliefs?

We decided to purchase a Christmas Tree and have Brendan and his girlfriend over for The Day. There was more Christmas crap than in the States at a Christmas store bankruptcy sale…

_DSC3656

It was a bit of a chore but we did get a little tree with stuff on it for about three US dollars and a string of blinking lights for another buck; 20 dongs which now sits blinking crazily away in our house.

_DSC3713

Our house is a three stories affair. The first floor is a bit of a garage for us, Brendan parks his motor scooter there when visiting and there is a bit of a bar or coffee area there. It was or sometimes maybe, a café; we don’t know, we are renting it through airbandb (https://www.airbnb.com/) as we have in other cities (Melbourne, and Harlem in NYC). The lounge/living space is on the 2nd floor with a kitchen and the bedroom is on the third floor. We have balconies overlooking Truc Bach Lake and West Lake (Ho Tay). The narrow house is on Nguyen Truong To and easy walking distance to the old section, easy if you are not us. We managed to take over an hour to walk the 20 minute walk getting lost all the way last night, Christmas Eve. Of course with so many people out it took more than an hour to get home.

The house is good though with a few things that would have been better; they did not leave a quilt or blankets and we huddled under sheets and bath towels and we ran out of cooking gas the first day and the shower doesn’t work but there is a stove in the café downstairs that we were able to fire up. We had a candlelit dinner on the balcony on Christmas Eve with Brendan, girlfriend and us…

dinner-resized

Life is good here; a combination of hustle and fast and slow. On the way back from Brendan’s house this afternoon the taxi driver tried to tell us the 72,000 dong fair was 72,000,000 something like going from $3.50 to $35. When we purchase fruit, mango being our favourite, the price really jumps. This is a cheap place but sellers quickly change prices. Often though the price is like 10,000 dong more, like fifty-cents, and in our world vs. their world to us it is not much but to them….

Last night we ate at a local-like place, meaning there were no other westerners in the place and they had a menu with various ways to have your dog prepared. Grilled and boiled were the most popular. I like dogs but I cannot imagine eating one. But I don’t eat any animals and it is for the same reason, I like animals and I am not going to eat something smarter than me. It all started out for religious/spiritual/metaphysical reasons back in the 1960s but even then I think I thought eating an animal was a bit barbaric without the other reasons. I have never come at it since. I believe I have gotten rid of every fiber of religious/spiritual/metaphysical bits out of me so not eating meat is not based on beliefs as I basically don’t have any; though of course every thought is a belief of some sort. I suppose just the image of killing an animal to eat it is too gross for me to contemplate eating one. (perhaps this is why no one reads my blogs, I am too opinionated – of course no one reading my blogs does not prove this because if no one reads my blog then no one would know I may be too opinionated.

_DSC3701

I shot this photo on the way to the shop this afternoon. Who could possible want to kill them and eat them?

What I often wonder is how people seem so happy when surely they are not making big bucks? A lot of people have so little. A lot of people walk around all day selling stuff from what they carry. For example I watched this woman with her fruit and nuts and she walked down our street a few times with no one buying anything. After a while she stopped and chatted with some folks for a bit then picked up her baskets and went on. She was always smiling or at least not appearing too gloomy. Of course she did not know I was tracking here with a 300 mm lens on my pricey Nikon camera from the comfort of my balcony drinking my overpriced flavoured soy-milk.

_DSC3715

We have had a good stay. We did not go to any tourist stops this time in Hanoi, we did a lot of that last year. We just had a little living here time. Tomorrow we are off to Sapa on the overnight train for almost a week then back here for New Years a couple of days then back to cold Dalian, China to work enough to get our sorry asses to Australia in February. Life is good and if it really did end back on the 21st as so many believed it would then whatever dimension we are living in is quite good.

_DSC3669

work visas finally

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I have had visiting visas in the past, Cambodia, Viet Nam, China (three times) and India. Other countries visited we did not need visas for: Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, The Netherlands [heaps as my wife is from there], do we count Canada?, Puerto Rico, All those British places [England, Scotland, Ireland], Germany, Italy, Korea, Greece, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Vatican City, New Zealand, Fiji, France and I suppose the two countries I am citizens of, USA and Australia and several I no longer recall.
Where was I? 
Yes, China. So now it is a working visa, a two-year working visa. What a lot of paper work and preparation. So we have this pile of papers from China from our employer all set and ready to go but as there is no consulate in Adelaide we have to either post or front up somewhere with a consulate. The nearest is Melbourne and that is what our visa papers from Dalian say. But we are suppose to post them as there is no place in Adelaide but if we post then they have to go to Sydney but if they go to Sydney they won’t take them because the employer’s invitation says Melbourne and by the time we get the visa our plane would have left at the end of July.
We decide one of us will deliver our passports to Melbourne and the other collect them a week later.
Not so fast mate! 
An hour after we purchase Narda a ticket on Tiger airlines we get a phone call from the Chinese consulate in Melbourne wanting us to have a medical exam before filing. We had been told that we would get them in Dalian and not to do it here. They want x-rays too. So Narda cancels the flight and luckily Tiger lets us put it forward to the following week, in the meantime we rush around Adelaide seeing doctors and getting x-rays (something about seeing if we have TB) and by the end of the day we have everything in hand and get a ticket for the next day, Wednesday 29th June. We are up at 4 am and get Narda on the first flight out at 6 and she delivers our passports by ten AM. They want a Melbourne address, my son lives there so that works out, and we say we will pick them up a week later. Of course we are nervous for the rest of the week worried something might go wrong and we will never get to our jobs. The fact that we seem to worry too much and have a history of staying awake at night because of things that really work out well anyway is passed over and we worry some more.
The Chinese had not rung us by Friday night which meant there was no problems with our visa request. Saturday morning I booked a flight on Qantas, for Tuesday 6th July. Saturday came the news that Tiger airlines was grounded for the next week because of safety issues. Luckily I was booked on Qantas.
To make a long story short, and the fact there is not much of a story except what we created as a worry in our head I collected our passports with work visas firmly pasted in, had lunch with my son, Sacha, and flew back to Adelaide.

With 23 days left in Australia I will spend most of my spare time working on integration of technology. A lot of time will be spent going through what we stored in our shed a decade ago when we went off to New York, what a night mare. We left Adelaide to look after my then 98 year-old father in 2002. (see Narda’s blog on this http://blog.narda.us/) We had planned to be in New York for a couple of years. Now we leave behind three houses, all with some of our stuff in them and once again we are off to somewhere for two years. I really doubt we will spend a decade in China but who are we to predict the future? When do we retire?

The ‘to-do-list’

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

It is one of those moments when one realizes the suitcase is still ten-pounds overweight, the last-minute list has few things crossed off of it: ‘Go to Hoboken and change the insurance policy from home-owner to four young computer guys from India are renting our house’, ‘redirect mail to Australia’ which would be fine if the post office actually redirected mail. Since having redirected to our apartment in Harlem from our home in Jersey City 15 days ago we have not received one redirected piece of mail and I am now off to meet up with one of the Indian dudes who is bringing all our non-redirected mail into Manhattan to save a trip to Jersey City – though it does not save us a trip to Hoboken because our insurance company said they will not send our policy or any correspondence to Australia or to China, then that pesky ‘last-minute-list’ of Narda’s (she has been hanging last-minute-lists on doors and walls for the past 11 years, as we always seem to be packing and headed to an airport somewhere): close T-Mobile – we hate that company, return scales to school – probably because we are always over weight, not us, just the baggage – and to think the shipment to China which was like 800 pounds over weight is waiting for a ship that won’t sink to drag it over to Dalian, mail packages – that is because we are overweight so we are posting stuff at $58 per 12X12X5 inch box, book town-car for Friday, good golly that is two days away then we are off to JFK,  cancel New York Sports Club – which I can’t get to today because of this damn last minute list, something about changing something with the airlines, order my vegetarian meals for China Eastern – oh no – they take out the meat and give me an extra serve of sticky yucky white rice, purchase excess luggage from Melbourne to Adelaide… and I just do not want to read on. I just wanted to go to the gym and work on my six-pack-not and biceps and those other saggy 63-year-old bits.
So what does one do when they get overwhelmed by ‘yes we are leaving the USA after nine-years, hoping renters in three-houses will behave and pay rent and not party too hard, and all those things we were going to do in NYC and the rest of the USofA and never did and all the people I was going to look up and say hi-bye to and all I did was get nine-years older with yet another to-do-list in front of me? Well what I do in these situations is work on my webpages and blogs and think OK I will give the gym a miss and this list will just get done through some cosmic virtual abstraction.

Just looked in the mirror – something I usually avoid – and saw two grey hairs – oh no! I had planned to wait until after 65 for that… This is what leaving the USofA has done to me.

145 blocks

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Narda and I left at the same time, 7.15. She got to St. Luke’s School at 8 I got there at 11.30. She took the train I walked which proves the subway is faster than walking 145 blocks.

this is a youtube clip which of course does not work in China – where we are at the moment so if below is blank with no video you are in China

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH5OiPRfglA&w=425&h=349]

And just the day before we wandered over to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, an easier twenty-minute walk from home.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysBVYWYlPZA&w=425&h=349]