Sunshine at the Beach

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt on 03/16/15: “Places.” Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?

If you’ve been to my website, you will see that I have been to NYC, one of the greatest cities in the world, and that I am from Chicago, another great city; that I’ve to the Badlands State Park in Wall, South Dakota; and in future posts you might see or hear that I have been to Yellowstone National Park (MT, WY), the Grand Tetons National Park (WY), Mt. Rushmore (SD), Antelope Island State Park and Arches National Park (UT), among other well-known nature-loving refuges. On our road trips, we made brief stops in cities of different sizes – Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; Atlanta, GA; Milwaukee, WI; Pittsburgh, PA; Canton and Cleveland, OH; Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Canon City, Aspen and Basalt, CO. While travelling with my college tennis team through the southern states, I briefly got to enjoy Savannah, GA, as well as Jacksonville and Pensacola, FL, where I got to experience the beach and stick my toes in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout my time in Chicago, I have been to many beach spots along Lake Michigan, but I have yet to take a beach vacation. I find peace and relaxation of different forms from each of these types of places (urban, country, forest, mountain and beach) because I can find a new memory to cherish. However, I have always wanted the chance to go on a beachy vacation to a place like Hawaii, Jamaica, or even Australia, that offers a variety of activities and cultural experiences. Jamaica beach 1

My brother recently had the opportunity to go on a Caribbean cruise, and his photos were beautiful. I don’t know that a cruise would be my preference because I like to have an idea of places to go and things to do but also I like to change the plan if necessary,  for which a cruise would not allow. I would like to leave the US for a brief trip to experience a different way of life and to truly get away from life for a few days. I think sitting on a beach while soaking up the sun and reading or walking in the sand would be great.  On cloudy, rainy days like today, I dream of warm weather and sunny skies…

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

We Built This Town…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt on 03/19/15: “We Built This City.”

I moved to a town in Central Texas that, in funny ways, mirrors my experience in the Chicago suburb from which I moved. I live approximately 30 miles from the nearest major city, just as I did before, and the town I in which I live is somewhat limited in its shopping offerings so we often travel a town or two over to get all of our groceries and needed items. In both cases, I have lived near an interstate highway, though I am much closer to the highway where I live now. Also, I worked for a social service agency with city government contracts/affiliations, and my current job is through local government and has social service agency affiliation/contracts. It’s very strange how my experiences in two very different places mirror each other. Now, on to the topic…

courtesy of clipartpanda.com
courtesy of clipartpanda.com

I don’t know that I would change much about the town itself where I now live. It’s a fairly cute, yet growing area of Central Texas that is keeping some of its country charm and slowly modernizing. In good traffic, I can make it to or from work in 10 minutes, and in bad traffic I make it in about 20-25 minutes.  Apartment living is where I would make some changes. Apartment options were somewhat limited when we moved almost two years ago but more apartment complexes are being built, though they are fairly pricey! I realize that builders and businesses are capitalizing on the demand but I think there should be a happy medium between rundown and/or low-income housing and luxury apartments with amenities that eat up 50% or more of your income. How about  putting up nice, well-built apartments at reasonable prices rather than hastily built, expensive apartments showing signs of poor craftsmanship and with amenities that are not properly maintained so they are, therefore, frequently unavailable. The complex we moved to was brand new and the other options were old and undesirable or unavailable. Houses are also being built everywhere you go but are also expensive in price and in the corresponding property taxes as well. I just read that the average home price for our neck of the woods is $215,000!

The one thing I would change about our town is the upkeep of roads, which is improving as they repair and expand high traffic roadways, and add in access roads where they had none.  I think that water drainage on the road needs to be addressed. Where I come from there were sewers, which I don’t see too much here, and when it rains, look out! There are a lot of low-lying areas and “retention ponds”, which fill up quickly.

Something I will be interested in is the outcome of the influx of people moving to what is considered a fairly conservative area, in all ways imaginable, from places that are as far from conservative as you can get and are hell-bent on remaking their new home in the likeness of the home they left. As I said, I think the area could use a lift into slightly more modern times but, being that I am an independent thinker who believes that no side is completely in the right (or left), but I like that Texas fought for its independence, can wave its flag as high as the US flag, and that it has its own pledge , which I have heard recited at many local government events. I like that Texas is a second-amendment friendly state, hopefully becoming an open carry or constitutional carry state. I like it is a place where ideas, new and old can merge, and that there are places where small businesses are almost as common as chain businesses in the surrounding metropolis.

I don’t wish to be mayor of this town and don’t think I would win the race, either, as I would not be the candidate to say whatever just to get elected. Care for some tea? I am curious what the mayor of this town thinks about having three fried chicken chain stores within half a block of each other on a major street. I hope that he continues to build on the strengths of the town without conforming too much to the negative influences of overspending, over-regulating and the ongoing bending of the rights of American and legal citizens at all levels of government. South San Gabriel Blue Hole

All in all, I like my small Central Texas town, which is close to big city things but offers a quick commute, less congestion and beautiful scenery nearby.

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

NEVER…

In response to The Daily “Post’s writing prompt: “Never.” What will you never write about.

I believe in freedom of speech, expression, religion, being yourself, dressing in your own style, and making your own choices. I will not write in support of censorship or of taking away natural rights.

As the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I realize that this is and has been considered a very loaded statement. I am aware of the history of the United States of American and the fact that this statement has not always been fully representative of all legal citizens of this country. The part I want to focus on is the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” To me this means that I should have the opportunity to pursue things that will make me happy but I am guaranteed nothing.

Having a blog and being able to express myself is within my pursuit of happiness, as well as my liberty. Word Press offers an outlet for my expression, which is sometimes therapeutic for me, but that does not mean I am owed attention by others, that others will even read what I have to say or that I will gain anything tangible from writing. It only means that, like it or not, I can saw what I want and how I want for as long as I want, period.  I have a right to be alive until I either die or someone takes my life away. I have, or should have, the right to make my own choices, as long as they are not criminal, put others in harm’s way and I feel that other should as well.  With the freedom of speech and expression we can all say or do something offensive to someone else at times and they, in turn, can say or do something that offends us.  As Voltaire said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” And, as Oscar Wilde said, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”  I whole-heartedly agree with both statements, and I think it is important to listen to what others say, whether we agree or not, because I have learned a lot from others with a different experience.

I am not suggesting that speech which harms or slanders should not be dealt with appropriately, as I also support the right to defend yourself. However, I do caution against the trend of limiting speech and expression because I fear the day when the book 1984 becomes a reality. I hope the time never comes when the art, the history, the literature and so many other aspects of our culture, good and bad, are gone forever, preventing future generations from missing out on the truth.

Quotes found on: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/freedom-of-speech

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

Tourist Trap ~ NYC

Rock CenterIn response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt from 02/21/15: “Tourist Trap.”

One of my favorite tourist traps is New York City. As I am sure you figured out already, I am a Yankee fan! Yankee Stadium in the lights

After a seven year hiatus from NYC, I took a three-day weekend trip in June 2014 to visit my younger brother, who lives near  East Harlem. This was a pretty relaxed mini-vacation and it was meant to celebrate my brother’s birthday, which was great because I got to spend time with him and a few close friends, meet his girl and relax.  I was on a budget so my goal was to have fun but not buy or spend too much, and I succeeded. Too bad the Yankees lost to the Red Sox! In my previous five trips to the other Yankee Stadium I  acquired a perfect winning record and, I have to say, the vibe was not the same as I remember in the older stadium. Still, I enjoyed seeing the sites at the newer stadium, got to see Derek Jeter play in person one more time, and my brother and his friends were wonderful company. Kid, D-Nice and Marvin

Patsy's PizzaSince I haven’t visited my brother or NYC in a while and I had seen many of the big attractions on past trips, one of my objectives was to see my brother’s daily existence – his neighborhood, his commute to work, the places he frequents, and reacquaint myself with a few of his friends whom I met the year prior when they visited Chicago, as well as play a little tennis. I was very lucky in that the weather was beautiful, my flights were on time and that my brother and I got to really hang out, eat good food and talk, which is not the same over the phone.  My first choice of food was pizza because, regardless of what Texans think, they don’t really know about good pizza. We ventured to Patsy’s Pizza (2287 1st Ave NYC 10035, http://thepatsyspizza.com/), as my brother gave me a walking tour of his neighborhood. We were starving by the time we ate, and I thought it was the best pizza I had eaten in awhile.  If you are in the area, check them out!

RFK Bridge near my brother's place
RFK Bridge near my brother’s place

One thing I didn’t get a chance to do on previous NYC trips was play tennis at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. Being a tennis player for most of my life, I have watched on TV many great U.S. Open matches, and I was very excited when my brother suggested that we book a court. The rental courts serve as the practice courts during the U.S Open and you are able to walk through the grounds, see outside of the large stadiums, the statues and take in the scenery. USTA statue While I am no longer at my best, we had a great time on the court on a beautiful day and we will both cherish the opportunity to have played where the greats play. I enjoyed soaking in some of the tennis history, reading the list of champions, seeing photos and walking through a bit of Corona Park. I think I even saw the concession stand where George Constanza ate his sundae! As we made our way from the subway, I caught a peak of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and we took a few pictures by the Homerun Apple that had been a fixture in the old Shea Stadium. Court 17

Armstrong stadium

There is no shortage of places to eat any and every type of food you can imagine, but I can always eat breakfast food and pizza. For breakfast on Sunday morning, my brother and I ventured over to Fetch Bar and Grill, a dog themed-restaurant that partners with Animal Haven to find homes for dogs and cats. The food was good and reasonably priced, and the service was fast and friendly. If it had fit into our schedule, Fetch seemed like it would have been a fun place to grab a drink. Another place we stopped in passing was Pie Face, where I picked up a little birthday dessert for my brother. They had a great supply of mini-pies in many varieties, and upon looking them up, was sad to learn that they closed most of there NYC locations. However, I came across Two Little Red Hens (An American Bakery), which I would like to visit for a dessert on a future trip. Created with Nokia Smart Cam

While I don’t have a return date in mind, New York City remains one of my favorite places to visit. I experienced a lot of the big attractions on my first two trips, and feel fortunate to have seen the view from the top of the World Trade Center five months before 09/11/01. The view was absolutely beautiful, and on my second trip, unfortunately, I saw the personalized memorials and  the last of the ruble and debris being removed. 

courtesy of latitudeslife.com
courtesy of latitudeslife.com

One of the reasons I like NYC so much is that you can find whatever it is that you are looking for –  shopping, culture, art, sports, music, food, indoor activities, outdoor activities, and all walks of life. One suggestion I would make: with a budget, target a few places or activities on your must-do list and plan for them.  Some events and tours required advance purchase of tickets or fill up fast. I have had fairly regimented trips but been flexible and it has worked well.  New York City is one of the major cities that sells a pass that enables you to visit multiple museums and tours for a flat fee rather than paying at each place, including the Guggenheim, the Top of the Rock, MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art and 70+ more places. 

Times Square

Long Island City

 I would personally recommend each of those places, as well as South Street Seaport, the Empire State building, the Staten Island Ferry and the Roosevelt Island tramway, and Yankee Stadium, which I have seen over 6 different trips. My only wish about this last trip was that, other than the Yankees game I didn’t plan much and then learned about places that my brother and I would have enjoyed… I guess they will be on my NYC tour.

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

* All pictures unless noted are posted courtesy of Chrellie

Me and my brother