Tuesday, November 29, 2011

East Coast Adventure: Part 5, Harrisburg and Beyond

Getting in to Harrisburg PA, it was time to check in on my friend Keith, a Gifted man with a soulful voice that had come to Nashville years ago to make his mark in Gospel Music. Nashville can be a hard place to break and even the best singers can get discouraged here. Keith gave it his best shot then decided to head back home.  The last couple of years he's been dealing with colon cancer and the last few months the struggle has intensified as it has moved to his pelvic bone, so he was the second person on my list I wanted to spend some time with.

The first couple of days in Harrisburg were a bit rough for Keith but his attitude continued to be positive.  The third day he suggested that we go to Washington DC which was only a couple of hours away.  Even though I was worried about the strain of the trip, he seemed to have a had a renewed, strength, energy and attitude, so we headed to DC.

We had made arrangements at the Windsor Inn which was right in the heart of the Embassy District.  It was a great place in a beautiful neighborhood but the only parking was four blocks away, so the miles of walking continued.  After unloading our luggage, we headed to park and then walked a few blocks to the DuPont Circle Area to check out the area, find the subway and grab a bite to eat, then a few blocks back to change cloths and back to the subway.  We had scheduled a three hour evening bus tour to the major memorials and sights of DC.

Going down into the subway was like a amusement park ride as the escalator took us deep and steeply into a massive man made cavern.

The DC subway was a lot more modern than NYC and easier to maneuver. Two stops, a change of subways and the next stop, we were at Pennsylvania Ave. and coming out of the subway, our first view was the Capital Building, straight down the street.

DC is beautiful in the daytime but if you ever get a chance to take the tour at night, it is breath taking.  We went to the Capitol, the Mall, The Washington Monument, the, White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial and Wall, the World War Two Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and sights in between. The evening was beautiful and the lighted memorials were again, breath taking, so many memories, so many pictures, so many experiences more than I could ever share here.

The highlight for Keith was to stand on the spot at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. That moment made the trip perfect for him.

Finishing up the tour we walked through the streets to check out some of the night life of DC before returning to our Inn, again worn out but with memories and experiences to last a life time.

The second day in DC, we decided just to walk through the neighborhood.  The autumn leaves were still at their peak and the Embassy district was incredible.  We walked beside so many buildings, some of countries we knew and some we had only heard of during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  Blocks after blocks were lined with townhouses, each one so different, from colonial, to modern, to everything in between.  The uniqueness and beauty of this part of town and the beauty of the day could not have been more perfect. We spent the rest of the day just enjoying the area and what the nightlife had to offer.I do have to add that as fast paced as NYC was, the impatience of the DC drivers was unreal. They would honk at the car in front of them even before the light changed green. One city pickup rubbed against me turning as I didn't cross the street fast enough for him....go figure....

Heading home the next day, my GPS took us through the heart of Georgetown.  Again the quaintness and beauty of the area was an experience all it's own.  As we headed out along the canal drive, we were again surrounded by solid blankets of trees in full autumn bloom. Driving through the mist of a cooler, cloudy day, the light rain fall only added to the ambiance of the area.

Getting back to Harrisburg that afternoon, gave us some time to enjoy the history and area of the capital of Pennsylvania and Keith some time to rest.  The next day, being my last day in Harrisburg, the weather changed drastically as the cool front finally hit PA.  Walking to my pickup, wrapped up in full winter clothing, I saw that all the leaves from the day before had finally blown off the trees.  Walking through the mounds of leaves, they swirled around me in the brisk wind as if to have their final dance of the season.  That evening the trip had caught up with Keith, the pain was back with a vengeance but he still kept his positive attitude.  He had heard the song I wrote for my Mom's memorial and decided he would love to record that along with some of my other songs.  Not knowing what the future holds for him, he's still hanging on to life, hope and plans for the future, inspiring all of us to the strength of the human spirit.

Heading home the next day, the perfectness of the trip revealed itself and so continues the adventure .....Part 6....Perfect Timing, the Finale....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

East Coast Adventure: Part 4, Waking Up In NYC

Morning came way too early as I crawled....yes crawled out of bed.  My day of running caught up with me but my excitement had not swayed.  As I was getting ready to leave the B&B for breakfast, the manager there asked if I made it to some of the places he recommended.  With so much to do I hadn't made his to do list.
Uh oh....was I in for a surprise.  He asked if I had a few minutes and we were off and running. He had more energy than Carters Got Pills.  Heading off down the street, I followed like Festus, limping away...yep showing my age.

We went to so many places in the blocks around and he had a complete knowledge of the history of the area, sharing everywhere we went.  I saw some of the hidden, secluded treasures that I wouldn't have found by myself.  His few minutes of my time took us again for miles and miles and even with the sore legs and broken toe, it was so worth it.  We went in the Chelsea Market filled with old shops, mementos from the old rail track, a whole in the wall cut through from one building to the next, a water fall from an old water drainage pipe and on and on.

He showed me where the boats docked, including the special place where the Titanic was to have docked.

                      Boat Dock
      Arch Way where the Titanic was to dock

After all the running, he did finally send me to a place to eat breakfast but not just any place. What looked like a small Greasy Spoon, had one of the most famous chefs, according to him, in the world before he died, way better than Julia Childs and others. It had visitors including so many stars through the years, presidents, the queen of England and on and on. So sitting there eating my breakfast and having the best cup of coffee I've ever had, I became a part of that history.

After breakfast, I was invited to visit a friend in Manhattan and go to a concert that night and the NYC Marathon that Sunday but I had been concerned about Keith in Pennsylvania and was unable to get a hold of him.  After two stays in the hospital the week before from the cancer,  I decided to head that way.  There were still many wonders ahead for me in NYC but that would come at another time.

I turned the GPS to Harrisburg PA and was again amazed at the wonders of NYC as I was leaving.  The road took me through the Holland Tunnel, one thing I wasn't sure about but it was a unique experience and one I'm glad I had the chance to to travel through.  On the other side was New Jersey.  As I gassed up before I headed out, I looked back and there was the Empire State Building looming in the distance, as if to say...Thanks For the Visit....Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay....Please Come Again.....
And I will one day.....

So the adventure continued to Harrisburg and beyond.....Part 5...

Friday, November 18, 2011

East Coast Adventure: Part 3 The Amazing Big Apple

Two things that I wanted to accomplish on my adventure was spending time with a great friend and seeing some of the sights of NYC and I wasn't disappointed.


Getting into New York, I went straight to Port Chester to see one of my closest friends. Lin, an incredible poet and author.  He's a writer with an incredible control and understanding of the written word but not only intellectually , he has a unique ability to put his heart, his emotions and his passion into his writing like no one I've come across in a long time.  When he writes something, it's real, nothing held back but so descriptive you feel as thought you are living it, feeling it, seeing it, even tasting it.  The more our friendship has grown, the more respect I've come to feel for him.  He's had his struggles in life but he has overcome them and learned to put what he's gone through and experienced into words of life.  As we sat talking over a plate of spaghetti and lasagna, it was a true highlight up my trip.  He was heading to Haiti the next morning so our time was short but one that made a memory for both of us.

The next morning it was time to head to the Big Apple and thank goodness for the GPS....one of the best inventions in our lifetime.  I was able to head straight through NYC to the B & B that I was to stay at.  With each turn my excitement grew, first seeing the Brooklyn Bridge, then the Intrepid, then there is was, the Empire State Building.  These things I'm sure are just part of life in New York but with each new sighting my enthusiasm  kept building up inside me.  Just about as I was to turn on my street, a city cab honked and cussed me for not turning fast enough....even if it was into on coming traffic but hey, that was a New York thing and I loved it. Getting to the B & B I' learned everything you read about something is not always what it's cut out to be.  The place was old, too expensive and no elevators.  I was on the 5th floor with narrow old steps but again, a memory I won't forget....my feet either.

After a quick bite I headed toward the subway....yes I did.  I got on not sure it was the right direction but it was great, a new experience.  Luckily I went straight to 42nd Street where all the sights were I wanted to see.  I've gotta say I walked for miles and miles and miles and did I mention that I broke the middle toe on my right foot two weeks earlier.  Nothing was going to take away from this moment, this memory.

I've always said that the angle of the camera is everything.  Getting to Time Square I was amazed at all the lights, video screens and buildings....but it was so small.  You see the ball drop on New Years Eve and it looks so massive.  GMA was there as well where they do the morning show....and again small....

But I was there and that was good.  After walking the wrong direction a couple of times and learning to ask the security guards directions, I made it to the Rockefeller Center.  I took the elevator to the Top of the Rock, the observation tower.  Now I was impressed by the size of NYC.  The views from up there were Breathtaking in every direction. To be able to see as far as the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty in one direction and Central Park and buildings as far as the eye could see in every other direction was amazing.  There was no angle of a camera that could take all of this in.

Heading down to the Rockefeller Plaza where the skating rink and Christmas Tree is placed at Christmas, I again realized the angel of the camera because they too seemed so small but again, it didn't matter....I was there taking it all in and making some incredible memories.

There was so much to see and I saw all I could downtown in one day but I had to get to the World Trade Center.  Getting on a subway, again not sure it I was on the right one because the red line was not working, I asked a lady where I was. She was sweet and gave me the directions I needed as on lookers smiled, knowing ...yep...I was a tourist.  I've got to say everyone I came in contact with in NYC were really nice.

Getting off the subway at the WTC, I was in awe. A place filled with so much tragedy, now being reborn.  The buildings of the new World Trade Center were rising from the ashes with it's pinnacle being the Freedom Tower.

The crowds of people coming by to see it were phenomenal and it was a memory I will never forget.

Heading back home or should I say limping back home for the night I had the experience of getting off the subway and walking with the multitudes down the streets of NY.  Hustling and Bustling, all with a mission, a part of the pace that New York has to offer, not one I would choose but the life of millions of people everyday, living their lives in their own way and making the best of what they've been Blessed with.

After a full day in New York City......the Adventure Continues....Part 4

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

East Coast Adventure: Part 2, The Beginning

I've lived in Nashville for about 18 years now and am amazed that I've never ventured to East Tennessee.
As I headed toward Knoxville, it surprised me that it was only 2 hours away.  Heading up into the Smokey Mountains, the view was breathtaking as fall was in full bloom.  The photo bug hit me so hard, urging me to stop every few feet and take a picture but knowing I wouldn't get anywhere that way, I settled for soaking it all in and taking all the mental pictures I could.

The beauty of the mountains was overwhelming with every twist in the road.  I would go around a bend and see a beautiful, peaceful, green valley surrounded by a warm blanket of the deepest red, orange, yellow and rust colors I've ever seen.  Crossing over a hill I could see the shadow of mountains in the distance reaching out, calling me to come to them.  I would cross a bridge and on the left see a calm, serene river cascaded  by a sheer wall of rock reaching to the sky, surrounding it, leading it along the way.

As I headed into Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains, the country side was spotted with old barns, worn and weather beaten but just screaming to be photographed.  I began seeing red barns with tall thin silos with the dome tops.  Strangely enough it brought back a memory of my early....early childhood where I had a toy farm house set exactly like what I was seeing. The red barn, the silo, the cows and horses in the fields.  A memory I shouldn't have been able to remember but it was there in living color.

Soaking in all the beauty, I turned a bend in the road and there with an ambulance, fire truck and police, was a small red car turned upside down in the ditch.  The car, so crushed, no one could have survived.  It brought the realization that among all the wonders of the world, the Journey of Live continues beginning and ending.  As beauty came, met by tragedy, it reminded me that we should find the joy where ever we can and hold on to it for we never know what's around the bend.

Virginia and West Virginia brought with it so many names of cities that I only thought of when reading the history of the area.  Then there were signs of the Shenandoah Valley and Mountains which prompted my singing of "Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you. Far away beyond the river"......yep a good memory. The highway through the valley stretched for miles, the mountains rising up on both sides solid in the colors of bright yellow, red, orange and rust giving the most incredible rush of emotions. The area brought with it architecture that was so accustomed to the area but so different from any of my travels before.  Tall two and three story houses that had been there for years, some still lived in and some abandoned a long time ago. One such house was out in the middle of a field and you could almost hear the sounds of laughter in the house and see the children playing in the fields, long gone but still inhabited my those memories of years gone by.

Heading through West Virginia into Pennsylvania and New York, the pace of the area began increasing mile by mile.  Driving down highways of 55 or 65 miles an hour meant no slower than 75 or 80.  You could feel the urgency of the drivers, the pace of life changing from the peacefulness of the mountains to the cities ahead where slow, relaxed and peaceful were not in there vocabulary.

And so the Adventure continues......Part 3

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

East Coast Adventure: Part 1, A Summary

I've been blessed with being able to travel to a lot of places in the USA, from Chicago to Atlanta, to Cincinnati and Dallas, to LA and the west coast and tons of places in between but I've never made it up the East Coast.  The time had finally come.

The interesting part about this trip was that I had no itinerary, no planned schedule, no map at all.  As Captain Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise would say with the wave of his hand......Just Go......Out There......
For those who know me, this is totally against my nature. Mr I've got to plan everything, make sure everything is organized, every detail examined....went straight out the window.  I had a couple of close friends I wanted to see and wanted to make it to a few of the large cities on the way but that was it.

My adventure took me through Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and a few other places.  I experienced more things than I ever expected in my lifetime.

For some, my experiences are not an adventure, just their everyday life.  Some may not see the special moments of those experiences but I've always felt the need to find the joy where ever I can and in the most unexpected places.  Joy is hard to find these days and when it presents itself in the beauty around us, in massive sky scrapers, in the uniqueness of a true friend, then we need to reach out with both hands and grasp it with everything we've got........

So the Adventure Began........And the Journey Continues.......Part 2