Remember Them.

Like Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the Challenger Space Shuttle, everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of a plane hitting the North Tower.  Many of my friends and family were watching the news while getting ready for work.  Listening in shock and confusion as speculations were made about how and why the plane was off course and hit a such a large building in lower Manhattan.  This shock and confusion quickly melted into horror and disbelief when many of them watched on live tv the second plane hit the South Tower.  The world as they knew it was dissolving right before their eyes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I slept.  My friend and fellow American Matt called and woke me up by asking “are you watching this? The plane. The plane hit…” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought.  “The Pentagon,” he whispered. The bottom fell out of my stomach.  I couldn’t breathe.  My heart stopped beating.  It was like someone pressed the ‘pause’ button on my life.  I just sat there staring into the dark, my brain trying to process.  The Pentagon?  Surely not, I reasoned, he must have misheard.  He had to have.  The Pentagon?  THE PENTAGON?  I sleepily marched into the living room and turned on the tv.  Every station was replaying horrible images of New York under attack and producing billowy clouds of black smoke.

I call home, my hands shaking as I dialed the phone.  The lines were busy. I tried again and again.  Waiting.  Watching the tv project surreal images of a city I had never visited, but still identified as home. My brain was trying to make sense of the entire scenario and praying for it to be some horrible made-for-tv movie.  It wasn’t.  My friend Penny sat up with me all night holding my hand, while we shook our heads and tears rolled down our faces, plopping into our cold cups of forgotten tea.

The morning sunshine brought no happiness.  Just more horrible stories about people jumping out of the buildings, rescue workers who had perished trying to save as many people as they could, and everyone looking shell-shocked.  The death toll was in the thousands.  People were frantically searching for their loved ones and coworkers.  The numbers of victims just kept rising and no one knew where it would stop. At that moment, 8:14 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, the newscaster said the scariest thing I had ever heard in my life:

Americans abroad are urged to stay where they are and do not under any circumstances go to any US Embassy or Consulate Office.

At that point in my life, I had been traveling for nearly a decade and the one thing that was hammered into my brain from the time I was preparing for my first international trip: if you are ever in trouble or lost or need help, go to the Embassy.  Now I was being told not to under any circumstances?  I couldn’t believe it.  My heart started pounding.  I just stared at the tv, shell-shocked.  What the literal fuck was happening?  I didn’t know what to do.  Mind you, I was in Australia, and I felt safe. But I did have thoughts during the middle of the night that I should probably check in with the Embassy in the morning, you know, just because.

That was the moment 9/11 felt real to me.

Fast forward 17 years and I now live in New York City.  I have met people who were first responders or who had loved ones die or who were stuck in Manhattan and couldn’t get back home to the other boroughs or who were in schools or buildings nearby and can remember the ground shaking when each plane hit and each tower fell.  For the city of New York, nothing would ever be the same.

As a country and as a world, we mourned.  We mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people.  And it changed us.  We are a little less naïve.  We pause a little more when a plane flies a little too close to buildings or just a bit lower than we think it should.  Even I glance wearily at these planes.  Me, who did not live here at the time and could never possibly hope to understand exactly how the city coped.  I can only observe the aftermath as an outsider.  And the aftermath is raw and rough, but yet, beautiful and graceful at the same time.

On Monday, the World Trade Center Subway Stop on the 1 Train opened.  Since I moved here, it was only a grey dot on the map indicating that it wasn’t in use.  Honestly, until a couple of months ago, I didn’t think it would ever open.  But here it stands, as a poignant reminder of true American grit.  She might be broken, but she will never stay that way and what will emerge will be better than before because of what happened, not in spite of it.

Always remember how fragile and fleeting life can be.  Two waterfalls stand where two buildings once proudly towered over all.  Etched into these waterfalls was every person who fell with those buildings.

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Remember them. Honor them, so that they too may soar.

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Sunday Comics: Back To School Edition

Greetings, salutations, and all that other jazz.  It’s heading into mid-August and nearly everyone on social media seems to be posting back to school pictures already, which seems rather early and I’m not even a teacher!

For all of you who are a bit shell-shocked by the sudden arrival of back to school, here’s something I found on Buzzfeed that might help:

back to school

Cheers!

Dusting Off the Keyboard.

It took me 28 days to wish you a Happy New Year, so I think that waiting nearly 7 months for the next post seems to be right on schedule…right?

How is it already July?   And there’s no denying it is July–the humidity here in New York City is stifling and I feel we’ve already had more days in the 90s than all of last summer combined.  I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

Speaking of hell, I found a meme on Instagram the other day and of course, I couldn’t find it again.  But the gist of it was the following:

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I mean, it’s definitely too late for me, but…

 

Curve Ball

In case you were counting (and color me very impressed if you were!), I made it through Day 47.  Neeeeearly the half way mark to my 100 Days of Blogging goal.  Then the fates decided to have a laugh and throw me a curve ball.

An angry appendix.

That’s what my surgical team called it.  It didn’t rupture and my body wasn’t reacting as if it would burst–no fever, no elevated white blood cell count–but the inflammation looked like it was starting to spread, so the surgical team wanted to take it out.  ASAP.

angry appendix

I believe my exact verbal reaction was something like “okay, great, thank you,”  while the thoughts in my head were a little lot more expletive.  Since the surgeon wanted it out ASAP, it was considered emergency surgery, however, not-so-emergency that I had to wait in line behind two other more-pressing-emergencies for the operating room.  I didn’t ask.  I really wanted to know what qualified as more emergency than an emergency appendectomy, but as the actual possibilities started swirling through my brain, I thought perhaps it best not to know.

The surgery went well.  The inflammation had not spread and about 12 hours after surgery, I was given coffee and my release papers.

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I had grandiose blogging ideas at this point, having only missed Day 48 and 49, of getting back on track–but my body had other plans.  Despite my brain’s restlessness, I managed to sleep most of last week except when Ann very kindly brought me food or coffee or coffee and food.  You know, when she wasn’t answering a barrage of text messages from the Fam and feeding & walking the Princess Pupcicle and Evil Kitty…well, I don’t think she actually walked the cat…but point being, she’s been absolutely amazing!

Now that I’m on the mend and my restless brain is starting to win out a bit more, I realized that I owe you 53 more posts (well, 52 after this one!).  At this point I can’t guarantee they’ll be every day, but hopefully more frequently than every 10 days!

Ciao-ciao for now-now!

Breaking News!

I’m interrupting our Hawaiian trip to bring you some exciting news.  Or at least, exciting news if you live in or are visiting New York City.

The old-new South Ferry station is fiiiiiiiinally reopened!!  Tourists came and went with their only concerns being if they were getting on the correct train and which stop they needed to get to where they were going.  Meanwhile–in something resembling first time tourists in Times Square–residents looked a little shell-shocked and in awe of the spacious and updated station.

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Why all the fuss?  When I moved to New York City (in 2007) if you wanted to get to South Ferry on the 1 Train, you had to be in the first five cars of the subway train.  Then in 2009, the MTA opened a shiny new South Ferry station–one where you didn’t have to be in the first five cars and was well lit and had escalators (for those times when you just couldn’t walk up one more fucking step no matter how close you were to your FitBit goal).

Then in late-October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit.  Water filled the new South Ferry station to the point where it was coming out of every entrance.  According to the MTA “almost 15 million gallons of salt water flooded it during Superstorm Sandy.”

It took several months of walking from South Ferry around Battery Park and up to the next subway station before the MTA opened the old South Ferry station and once again, anyone wanting to get out at the South Ferry station needed to be in the first five subway  cars.

It took nearly five years, but today the old-new South Ferry station was reopened.  This morning we were all in awe and this evening it was so nice to just get on the train without the hustle and stress of making sure you are in the first five cars–because now we can luxuriously use all ten of them!

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🙂

 

Kilauea

For the record, this isn’t what I wanted to share with you today.  But in the interest of actually getting something posted, I had to improvise (let’s just say wifi and technology haven’t been my friends this week!)

I could have easily made this picture a Wordless Wednesday post, but it was suggested to me last week that not writing in posts was “cheating”–so here’s my little blurb about this slightly fuzzy pic.

It is the glow of the Kilauea caldera from the Observation point at the Hawaii Volcanos National Park.  I’m 99.9875% sure April has a sharper picture taken with her camera rather than with my iPhone, but I’m 100% sure if I went looking for it, I would miss the deadline for posting this today!

Here are some tidbits from LiveScience website about Kilauea (click here to read more about the eruptions of Kilauea):

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is a shield-type volcano that makes up the southeastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcano rises 4,190 feet (1,227 meters) above sea level and is about 14 percent of the land area of the Big Island. The summit caldera contains a lava lake known as Halema`uma`u that is said to be the home of the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele.

To the casual observer, Kilauea appears to be part of the larger volcano Mauna Loa, but geological data indicates that it is a separate volcano with its own vent and conduit system. Kilauea has had 61 recorded eruptions in the current cycle, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and has been erupting on a continuous basis since 1983.

Native Hawaiian oral traditions record the extraordinary eruptive history of Kilauea long before European and American missionaries wrote about it in their journals. Scientific study of the volcano began when geologist Thomas Jagger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited Hawaii on a lecture tour and was approached by local businessmen. The Hawaiian Volcano Research Association (HVRA) was formed in 1909. In 1919, Jagger convinced the National Weather Service to take over the pioneering research, and in 1924 the observatory was taken over by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Also if you’re interested in seeing What’s Going On With The Volcano, click on the link to be taken to the National Park Service webpage for volcano updates.

Aloha!

Colorful Beaches

When most people think of Hawaiian beaches, they probably think of something like this:

Or perhaps this:

But what about something like this?

If you’re saying to yourself : “Self, that sand sure looks black,” you would be correct!  It is, in fact, a black sand beach (which shouldn’t surprise any one who read Pilgrimage to (Coffee) Mecca).  But here’s a fun fact that might surprise you about Hawaii: all beaches are public.  ALL OF THEM. It doesn’t matter if they are on a military base or in a fancy gated community, they all have to have public access.  ALL OF THEM.

This is quite handy knowledge when you’re planning beach activities and have never been to Hawaii.  It was also information that we did NOT have at the time of planning our Hawaiian vacation.  All we knew is that we had never been to a black sand beach before and we definitely wanted to visit one while we had the opportunity.  We found several north of Kailua-Kona and randomly picked the one closest to where we were staying.  It was in Kamuela and called 49 Black Sand Beach–so it sounded perfect, after all “black sand beach” was in the name!  As we turn off the main road and are making our way down a tiny winding road, we notice that dead ahead is a gate with a security guard.  We were a little hesitant, as our information on said-beach never mentioned anything about it being private or in a gated community.  We pull up to the gate, thinking perhaps Siri was a bit lost, with the plan of asking the guard for actual directions to the beach.

Instead we were handed a visitor pass to put in the car and given directions to the visitor parking lot and were told to stay only on the visitor walkway to the beach.  So we drove to the visitor parking lot, put our pass in full view on the dashboard, and embarked upon the visitor walkway.

SIDENOTE: I just googled “49 Black Sand Beach” to make sure that I had the right spot and here’s what Luxury Big Island has to say about the community where this beach is found (aka why we had to stay on the visitor walkway)–

The community of 49 Black Sand Beach is an ultra-exclusive private enclave of just 49 custom homes and home sites nestled atop rugged cliffs on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Inspired by its sensuous and unparalleled natural landscape, 49 Black Sand Beach overlooks the Honoka’ope Bay and its exotic and unique 800-year old black sand beach. The community as a whole sits on 60-acres of private oceanfront property, 18 of which are on beachfront bluffs with the remaining home sites found fronting the Mauna Lani South golf course. Ideal for those seeking complete isolation from the hustle and bustle of the city, potential buyers will find the community of 49 Black Sand Beach to perfectly blend picturesque natural surroundings with all the amenities and luxuries you would expect of a world-class resort.

Annnnyway…

Along the visitor walkway, we passed by some workers who were de-coconutting the trees (yes, I’m sure there is some official phrase, but basically they were disposing of all the coconuts which had either dropped or looked like they were going to drop onto someone’s car or head or small child).  As we passed by Christi made a comment about how fun it would be to crack one open while glancing at Tracy expectantly.  I’m not sure what she was expecting him to do–pull a coconut-cracker out of his pocket?


But before he even had the opportunity (he’s a magician, it could have actually happened!), we heard a voice from behind us say: I can open one for you.  We all turned around to see one of the workers weilding a large machete.  We agreed because, well, when in Rome Hawaii…and who tells someone with a machete “no”?

With a couple of well placed whacks, we had a coconut to drink!   We passed it around, so we could all try it.  It was warm but delicious.  However, it definitely needed some rum!


With our coconut in hand, we continued down the visitors walkway.  Suddenly, it opened into a span of black sand and blue water.  It was stunning.  It was mesmerizing.  It was hot.  Really, really hot.  Which makes total sense, since it was black sand and a warm, sunny day.  But it’s not something your brain fully comprehends…you just think oooohhhh…beach….let’s take off our shoes and walk run squeal and haul ass quickly to the cool water looking like an over-animated cartoon character.


We poked around for awhile, however, beach itself was a bit too warm to lounge around on for a long period of time–plus we had other things to see, places to go, food to eat, and beverages to drink! We soon headed back up to the visitors walkway.  As we passed by the workers again, our machete man waved his machete at us–which we totally interpreted as “do you want a coconut for the road?”  We just waved, thanked him again, and happily walked back to the car.  One coconut, a man with a machete, some hot black sand, and cool, crisp water made for a perfect Hawaiian experience.


Aloha!