Changes Over Time

Every year I get older. Fifth graders stay the same. That seems unfair.

IMG_0534 copy.jpgI went to Prospect, CT this evening for their annual DARE graduation. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been doing this, but I seriously expected a parent of one of these kids to tell me I was at his/her graduation too! Some things have changed. Some have remained the same.

Bob Chatfield is still the mayor. He was there when I first came. He’s the longest serving elected official in Connecticut.

The ceremony still takes place at Community School. Parts of it were built in the mid 30s. Not much change there.

D.A.R.E. 2010 008.JPGI don’t know why but the girls seldom look me in the eye as I hand them their awards. They stare at the floor. Some of the boys look up–not all.

I used to shake hands with all the grads. Tonight it was fist bumps. I’m not sure if that’s flu related, but I’ll just choose to blame Howie Mandel.

When I began the school was all white. It is now a mini United Nations. Yes, the majority are still white, but there are now lots of other shades. Families moving up have moved in to Prospect.

D.A.R.E. 2010 009.JPGOriginally parents came with their video recorders. A few years ago the video was gone and there were lots of digital cameras. Now it’s digicams and cellphones.

The slide projector has been replaced with a PowerPoint slideshow.

As an ‘honored guest’ I’m asked to say a few words. Tonight I asked how many of the kids wished they were adults, able to control their own lives. Lots of hands.

I then asked the parents if they wanted to be kids? More hands.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood there’s a disconnect! The parents understand too well.

Every year I get older. Fifth graders stay the same. That seems unfair.

Bob Lacey’s Surprise Birthday Party

Bob was heading to the apartment with his younger daughter ostensibly to get a gift from some friends, It wasn’t until he opened the door that he realized something was up.

Bob Lacey gets surprised!This is what’s meant by whirlwind, right? Twenty five hours after arriving in Charlotte I’m sitting in the departure lounge at C2 waiting to leave.

The reason for my trip was to celebrate Bob Lacey’s birthday. Bob and I have been friends nearly forever having worked together at WSAR in Fall River, MA and WBT in Charlotte.

Bob and SheriBob’s been going to work in the same building on Julian Price Place (the only building on Julian Price Place) since 1971. That’s an amazing accomplishment spanning three different facets of broadcasting. For the last 15 years Bob and Sheri Lynch have been on-the-air in Charlotte and 60 other cities.

Dedicated blog readers (is there such a thing–really?) will remember Bob visiting me last weekend. He had no idea there would be a party for him upon his return to Charlotte nor that I would be flying to Charlotte on the plane after his! In untypical Geoff-style I was quiet… hint-less.

Bob and MaryI arrived in Charlotte and met his girlfriend Mary (literally met her for the first time at the airport) who shuttled me around the city as we took care of last minute party preps. The party itself was held in a beautiful condo apartment in the Myers Park section of the city (rub your thumb and the two adjacent fingers together in the money symbol).

Bob was heading to the apartment with his younger daughter ostensibly to get a gift from some friends, It wasn’t until he opened the door that he realized something was up.

The party was filled with Bob’s friends and co-workers and, of course, Mary. Another former WBT, WSAR alum, John Lambis, drove in from Atlanta.

You never know if the guest of honor is truly surprised at a surprise party, but I think so. He certainly looked shocked.

Bob and GeoffWhat do you get someone reaching his 60th 30th birthday? Among the most memorable a ‘mocked up’ cover from AARP Magazine with Bob’s photo and Bob oriented pull-quotes replacing the actual Bruce Springsteen cover. I gave Bob a book of photos from our Maine “mancation” a few years ago.

Charlotte’s mayor, Pat McCrory, declared the day Bob Lacey Day and read a very un-mayoral, funny, proclamation. You’re not going to see this one quoted in the newspaper!

All things considered a very successful trip. I’m glad I could share the moment.

Blogger’s addendum: While driving to-and-fro we passed a sleazy looking motel by the side of the Interstate.

“Oh my God,” I blurted, “I used to live there when they were apartments!”

I’ve been gone from Charlotte a very long time. A lot has changed.

There Is More To Jerry Springer… And You Want To Know It

He had also been linked to a prostitute across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. God love him – Jerry paid by check!

jerry-springer.jpgIt was a Saturday night, years ago and I was aimlessly watching TV in the family room when Stef walked in. The set was tuned to C-SPAN.

C-SPAN is to middle school girls what kryptonite is to Superman. I expected her to immediately leave. She did not.

On the screen, a man was in the middle of a lecture to an auditorium full of college students. C-SPAN’s search engine tells me this clip doesn’t exist, but I saw it. Stef did too. The lecturer was Jerry Springer.

She watched in total amazement.

It wasn’t something we talked about, but obviously Stef had seen some of Springer’s low rent, daytime circus on TV. This was, however, a very different Springer. She was confused.

He was smart. He was well spoken. His words were well thought out and elegantly chosen.

I don’t remember her exact words, but “why” is a reasonable summary of her question to me. Why is someone like this doing something like that?

I tried to explain only someone like Jerry could do what he did. It was too demanding for a lightweight. The content might have been awful, but the execution was masterful, and that was the show’s real strength.

Even then, I knew he had been in politics. He had been mayor of Cincinnati and a highly rated, and well loved, local TV anchor.

He had also been linked to a prostitute across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. God love him – Jerry paid by check!

This Saturday, while listening to my shower radio, I heard the whole story. It was on NPR’s, “This American Life.” Like his C-SPAN appearance, this was an unexpected find.

Jerry Springer’s story is stranger than fiction. How could it be otherwise? Still, whatever you expect, there’s more… a lot more. He is everything good and everything awful, with little in the middle.

This time, as opposed to C-SPAN, the aircheck does exist&#185. If all you know is what you’ve seen (I know you’ve seen his show – don’t deny it) this is must listening.

&#185 – The Springer story starts around 4:00 in.

Hiding On The Internet

It’s election day. I’m about to go to the polls and vote in this municipal election in my town. I don’t expect to have to wait (even with new optical scan voting machines). Things move quickly even in hotly contested, major elections.

I’m disappointed to say I don’t know much about either man running for mayor. This early afternoon I set out to learn. Now I’m just frustrated.

Neither has a whole lot of specifics on their website. Maybe there just aren’t a lot of specific things you can say when running for the mayor of a relatively small town.

I can tell you, one has a vastly superior website to the other. Maybe that shouldn’t impress me, but it does. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve judged someone by their familiarity with technology.

People who proudly announce their Luddite views on computers and technology scare me… especially when they’re in positions of power and influence.

There’s still some pondering to do. I’m still quite undecided. There’s even the chance I’ll go into the voting booth and mark neither name. I don’t want my streak of voting in every election since 1971 broken.

Maybe waiting until election day is a bad move on my part. Maybe? Who am I kidding?

Michael Bloomberg… Really?

It’s been fascinating to follow the speculation over the last few days as New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, switched from Republican to Independent. Is he thinking of running for president?

Though Bloomberg has said “no,” the speculation persists. The 24 hour news cycle must be fed. Even I’m not above speculating (and it’s not like I had to write about this… I could have told you about the two suits I bought today).

Bloomberg is an interesting guy. A self made billionaire, he still rides the subway to work. When he goes away for the weekend, taking his own jet to his own hideaway, he tells the press where he’s going and what he’s doing is none of their business. He’s a bachelor&#185. He’s Jewish.

If Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation has been a concern, how can Bloomberg’s not be? I’m Jewish and I’m surprised there hasn’t been any discussion of his religion.

There’s no doubt New York has flourished under Bloomberg. He speaks freely, which New Yorkers appreciate. He is not a fence straddler.

He is the guy, who after a plot to bomb Kennedy Airport was unveiled, said:

New York Stinks

Sometime this morning, the smell of natural gas… or more accurately, the smell of the chemical they add to natural gas, began being noticed over Manhattan and parts of New Jersey.

Mayor Bloomberg said there was no cause for alarm, everything’s safe, though he had no idea where the smell was coming from and what it was. Or, to quote the mayor, “We are waiting for the gas to pass.”

Seriously, how could he have said that? Did the guy who wrote the, “Eat Here/Get Gas” billboard, transfer to City Hall?

There are chemical sensors squirreled all over New York. That’s probably where the mayor’s confidence comes from. However, eliminating known agents doesn’t directly translate to guaranteed safe breathing. And, sadly, the assurances following 9/11 were totally off the mark, with toxic debris floating around Lower Manhattan.

In the past I’ve considered jobs in New York City. Since 9/11, every time I’ve thought about working there, I’ve thought about the threat level.

My job search process never went far enough to know for sure, but I decided I could deal with my uneasiness. I suppose that’s easier to say in the abstract.

In the end, this smell will go down with all the unaccompanied packages and lost airline passengers that have collectively cost us millions of dollars (or more), slowed us down, and changed our lives over the past five years.

Pump And Dump

I probably get more spam than you. My address is plastered on thousands of web pages visible across the Internet. It is, literally and figuratively, ripe for the harvesting.

Without the spam protection provided by Thunderbird, my email client, I’d be lost&#185. I still browse my spam box to make sure nothing I want is there, but it takes much less time since I already know it’s probably garbage.

Over time the spam has changed. I don’t get as much porn spam as I once did. I still get lots of meds for losing weight, gaining virility and recovering fortunes squirreled away by African despot’s aids.

More than anything, I get ‘pump and dump’ stock spam. This form of email garbage has exploded in recent months.

In case you haven’t seen these, here’s the text from one I got three dozen times this weekend:

Our picks bring our readers BIG gains! Why? Because we present well-researched, quality companies backed by promotions which have

the ears of investors around the globe. When you have GREAT product

and unrivaled PR you get super gains! This one is just what your

portfolio needs:

The Name of Company Promoted, Inc.

Symbol: XXXX

Current Price: $0.96

Projected Price: $3.20 (330% gain)

XXXX is has an incredible business model in a booming sector. Look

around you. Everything is being standardized and franchised. XXXX

is a company specializing in the development and expansion of proven

independent restaurant concepts into multi-unit locations. Business has

been booming!

A huge publicity campaign is beginning and will be supported by some

astounding press releases. It is imperative to get in before the first big

announcement. Readers, this is a big one. Don’t miss this chance!

Three dozen of these!

I know that because they all have similar subject lines, making them easier to segregate. Though they’re sent from random names, spam ‘from’ Gladys Jones would have the subject, “It me Gladys.” Spam from Geoff Fox says, “It me Geoff.”

My beef isn’t that there’s spam going out (that’s a separate beef), or even spam with poor grammar. My beef is the SEC is either powerless or unwilling to do anything about this. Can’t they make connections on who is in and out of these thinly traded stocks?

As long as these spams exist, they call into question the integrity of our markets. Yes, these may be small players, participating in relatively minor crimes, but they reflect on our financial system as a whole.

When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York, he quickly went after “quality of life” crimes. They were mostly small nuisances.

Akron’s Fine For Speeding

It looks like Akron, Ohio has put in automated speed enforcement equipment. Hey, this stuff works like crazy!

Here’s part of what Akron and the vendor said as the program began:

William B. Danzell, Chairman of Nestor traffic systems, stated, “We are excited to partner with the City of Akron on such an important safety initiative. We believe that the unique ability of PoliscanSpeed to capture violations on limited sight roads makes it the most effective system for Akron’s automated enforcement program. This technology, coupled with our turnkey processing services will allow the City to provide consistent enforcement without burdening City resources.”

Strongly supporting Akron’s implementation of the Automated Mobile Speed Enforcement System, Mayor Donald Plusquellic quoted, “Nestor’s PoliscanSpeed System is another tool that we can use to let our community know that speed limits will be enforced and that we are serious about ensuring safety in our neighborhoods.”

And here’s the proof in the numbers from the Akron Beacon Journal:

Here’s a look at the first 19 days of work, all weekdays, for the automated speeding ticket machines:

Total drivers fined: 2,676

Amount of fines: $451,500

Amount vendor to receive ($19 each): $50,844

Remainder to city: $400,656

The worst offender was going 29 mph over the limit (54 in a 25 mph zone).

Forty percent of those fined $150 were going 10 mph or less over the posted limit.

More than half of the violations were in 25 mph zones, with the average violator going 37 mph.

The Copley Road area near Erie Island Elementary School yielded the most fines, followed by the 400 block of Darrow Road near Betty Jane Elementary School.

In many cases, the cameras wrote more than a ticket a minute. On Nov. 7 at Copley Road, a camera ticketed five people at 3:16 p.m., then caught seven more at 3:51 p.m.

It’s no secret, if you scrupulously enforce traffic laws, you will find violators. There’s one highway I take home from work every night where I’ve exceeded the speed limit by a factor or two or more! I’m sure I’m above the limit more than I’m below it. Who isn’t?

Maybe I’m going too fast, by a little. Definitely, the posted limits are too low by a lot.

I’ve never quite understood how speed limits are derived, but they’ve never made sense. As I exit a two lane divided highway with broad shoulders, its speed limit is lower than the city street with no shoulders I’m entering.

Is speed enforcement a matter of safety or income? I would hope it’s the former. It’s extremely tempting to make it the latter. Look at the incentive for Akron. Look at the incentive for the vendor.

Of course a speeding ticket (or any moving violation) has secondary implications. Your insurance company knows and you’re likely to see them extract an additional premium on your policy.

If we’re going to have this more stringent enforcement policy, isn’t it time to revisit the speed limits themselves? If they are too low or unrealistic, do they become a form of entrapment – enticing me to break the law?

The Meisels Go Home To New Orleans

Back when Hurricane Katrina was threatening the Gulf Coast, I did my best to get Ruth Meisel out. The day she drove to safety up north was the last time she saw her home, until yesterday.

With her two adult children in tow, Ruth Meisel returned to New Orleans to see what could be salvaged and tie up loose ends. She will be among the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, who will leave their homes and move elsewhere.

New Orleans is being abandoned, wholesale.

I asked her son, my friend, Farrell to type some of his thoughts so I could put them here in the blog. I’ll sprinkle a few of his photos here, though the best way to see them is in this slideshow.

Clean up goes on. 80% of the city was affected. Some parts of the city have begun to function, albeit at half speed. This area is still without electricity and is deemed unsafe. It’s expected that electricity won’t be restored in New Orleans East for six to nine months. My mother returned for the first time since the hurricane and subsequent floods, to survey the damage and see if anything could be saved. She’s suited up and ready to go inside. In the background, my sister, Cheri, ready to suit up, as well.

It’s nice… no, it’s amazing to see Ruth smiling.

Here’s my read. She could be distressed with what she’s about to see, or she could be happy to see she raised her children right, and they are accompanying and supporting her. She chose the latter.

My mother knew from earlier reports and a prior visit by my sister, that things didn’t look so good. She’s been very optimistic and hopeful, looking forward and giving us much encouragement. My mother’s house survived the storm on the outside, but the inside looked and smelled awful and was a total disaster. Entering the front door we were greeted by a living room chair that wasn’t there when my mother left in August. That gives you an idea of how we were greeted.

From the marks on the wall it looks like 4-5 feet of water made it into the house. From the ‘bunny suits’ the Meisel’s wore, you can assume it wasn’t spring water.

Nearly everything was ruined.

One of the things that struck Farrell when we spoke on the phone was the proliferation of signs advertising Katrina related services. There are also markings, scrawled on homes with spray paint.

This house has been FEMA’d. FEMA is not an acronym here. It’s a four-letter word. BTW, so is Bush.
One of the city’s synagogues, Beth Israel, an Orthodox house of worship…Also one of the city’s oldest, which used to be in the historic uptown area until the late 1960s. Also on Canal Blvd, note the watermarks. Reportedly, the head Rabbi fled town, leaving the Torah scrolls to flood and be rescued from religious volunteers. The Rabbi has since been fired. My sister spotted prayer books and prayer shawls on the ground in front of the now-deserted synagogue….a sin in the Jewish religion.

Here’s how Farrell ended his note, and I’ll leave it pretty much intact:

As I visit here, for the first time in several years, 3 months after the devastation that has been chronicled worldwide, I have now discovered: A Missing City. Parts of the city and neighboring parish (Jefferson) we have seen are beginning to function, but it’s slow and without spirit.

In our many conversations with New Orleanians and Jeffersonians, one hears a great deal of anger leveled at Government. I could only find one person with a nice thing to say about President Bush. I asked why? The waitress at the seafood restaurant said it was the Louisiana Governor’s fault for not letting Bush send FEMA and the troops in. I then asked, out of curiosity, did she know that Bush was on a fundraising trip in California for three days before he did a “fly-over”, VP Cheney was buying a vacation house and the Secretary of State was shopping in Manhattan, while her home state, Alabama, was flooded. The waitress hadn’t heard that.

A newspaper stand owner or manager clearly vented his anger towards Bush, but didn’t spare either the local, regional and state governments, but felt, the US Government let Louisiana down.

Most of the Greater New Orleans area, (Orleans and neighboring parishes), as it’s known, with some 1 million people once living there, don’t have electricity, a home, assistance from FEMA, insurance companies, and they feel forgotten just three months after the hurricane and floods.. As is the case with crises the world over, once the cameras leave, the sense of urgency goes with the camera crews.

The stores and shops that are open are operating for limited hours due to two factors: limited shoppers and limited staff.

It’s quite unusual to be driving in one part of the area, say neighboring Metairie, where the shops and malls have reopened, only to continue on Interstate 10 to downtown New Orleans, and pass through darkness because whole areas have no power.

There were some signs of life downtown and in the French Quarter. The beautiful St. Charles Avenue historic areas seemed to be untouched and lit, yet, just a few blocks away, one would have thought we could have been in a war zone.

Rumors of price gouging exist. Household stores are reportedly charging double for goods consumers can buy in the middle of the state or in Mississippi for less. Gasoline is 30 cents a gallon more expensive than in the center of Mississippi or Louisiana reportedly.

Residents feel abandoned now. From the newspaper shop owner to restaurateur, residents don’t feel the city of N.O. census will approach even half of it’s close to 461,000 registered residents.

Employers are looking for employees. Potential employees are looking for housing, assistance from FEMA and the insurance companies, and those are the few, who have returned.

The Times-Picayune reported today that the New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, rumored to be in Washington on business, actually wasn’t there on business, but took his family on vacation to Jamaica. While I’m sure he’s deserving of a break, there are several hundred thousand to one million people, who’d love to take that break, if only they could get some help from the various government agencies so they could get on with their lives and rebuild. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the levee system.

As I write this at 2am Central Standard Time, I was trying to think, after only two days here, how could I best describe what I have seen and heard? The word that comes to mind is “abyss.”

New Orleans, which had once been described as the “city that care forgot,” from an old Mardi Gras tale, has become the bottomless gulf or pit. There are only a handful of truly unique cities in the U.S. with some history and character. When tourists think of those cities, New Orleans had always been in the same company with San Francisco, Boston, New York, Savannah, and perhaps one or two other cities or towns.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest, if there is no sense of urgency, New Orleans could drop off that list in my lifetime.

Please, look at the pictures. It is so sad… so tragic.

Election Day 2005

It’s election day. My town is electing a mayor and a few other posts. Before I went to work, I went to vote.

It’s always the same. I walk into the lunchroom at the local elementary school, find the table that matches my street, show my drivers license and get my ‘ticket’. Then I vote on a machine which looks like every voting machine I’ve used since 1971 (Nixon-McGovern at Mallard Creek 2 in Charlotte, NC).

I looked down at the list today as they crossed off my name. Beneath Helaine Fox and Geoffrey Fox was Stefanie Fox. How cool is that, Steffie is a registered voter.

Steffie didn’t vote today and that’s fine. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, she did the right thing by not voting!

Voting is the final step of a long process. Unless you take all the steps – don’t vote. Steffie is at college where it would be impossible for her to know what’s going on locally.

I was passing by VH1 last night while some folks were talking about Paris Hilton’s participation in a “Vote or Die” program in the last election. As it turned out, Paris neither voted nor died.

I worry about get out the vote programs. They concentrate on the wrong part of the equation. You shouldn’t vote because there’s guilt involved. When you vote, it should be because you’ve got an idea what’s going on and an opinion you want heard.

Like I said, voting is the final step of a long process.

The Subway Threat

Yesterday in New York all hell broke loose. Word came there was credible information suggesting a possible attack on the New York City Subway system. Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials gathered for a news conference spelling out as much as they wanted to spell.

Later word from the federal government played down the threat… or not. Who knows? We’re only being told what we’re being told and my guess is, that’s far from everything.

The problem isn’t that someone wants to create terror in the subway system, the problem is that’s one of a zillion targets in New York.

For no more than a threat, it is possible for a terrorist to create enough uncertainty to cause New York City and the United States, a significant amount of money. Cops get paid for those extra hours. Tourists stay home when they’re scared.

I’m not a security expert, and I won’t begin to say what should and shouldn’t be protected, or how. Still, isn’t everything in New York a target? Along with the subways there’s the George Washington Bridge, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, Statue of Liberty plus reservoirs, gas storage facilities and… well, you get the idea.

When it comes to targets, New York City has no shortage.

Is it even possible to keep a city safe? Does it make sense to concentrate resources in one spot, leaving the others vulnerable?

The September 11, 2001 attacks were accomplished in a way that wouldn’t be possible today. In fact, after the first three planes, it wasn’t even possible on 9/11!

That being said, we have built up a huge, clumsy, cumbersome infrastructure at hundreds of airports as if airplane hijackings were the only viable way to get at us. I wish I felt more secure because of it. I don’t.

I’d like to end this post with some uplifting ending, but I’ve got none. I just don’t think it’s possible to stop everything, all the time. That’s a problem if we have enemies willing to do everything all the time.

Bad News For New Orleans, Out of Left Field

I just finished watching a show I’d recorded earlier tonight. When it ended, I went down to my cable system’s block of news channels to scout around.

Usually, this time of night, they’re re-running shows from earlier in the evening. Tonight, as I hit CNN, I noticed a white LIVE ‘bug’ in the upper left hand corner.

Rick Sanchez was on the air, speaking by phone with someone from Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital’s spokesperson was talking about water – rising water.

The hospital had seen no real flooding while Hurricane Katrina passed by, but tonight, water had begun rushing in and it was rising at an alarming rate.

I could hear the fear in her voice as she described the water level rising an inch every five minutes. That’s a foot an hour. Already there was six feet of water outside the hospital. Soon, water would reach the level of their emergency generators on the second floor.

Sanchez was taken aback. I’m not sure he originally understood what she was saying. It was so unexpected – so out of context.

She said a levee keeping Lake Ponchartrain out of New Orleans had been breached. The cut in the levee was two blocks long and water was rushing in unimpeded. Even if there were pumps working, and she wasn’t sure there were, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with this deluge.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez kept asking questions, but it was obvious this woman wanted to get off the phone. Speaking to him wasn’t going to help her.

I heard terror in her voice.

The hospital had to get its patients out. Its patients were by and large critical. The only way to move them would be by helicopter and FEMA would be needed for that.

The other all news stations are in their usual reruns. I have no way of knowing if this is true. If it is, this is New Orleans’ worst fears are realized. Lake Ponchartrain could inundate the city.

I went to WWL’s streaming site, but it’s down. WDSU’s streaming site has static and solid blue video.

CNN is my only source and their info is coming from a woman whose identity I can’t confirm. On top of that, her claim is totally unexpected.

There was nothing at, so I went back to WWL’s website and found a recorded video clip from the mayor. He confirms the levee breach and a lot more.

I thought, based on what I’d seen and heard, New Orleans’ damage was moderate. Based on what I’m hearing now, it’s tragic. The mayor sounds like a defeated man. Some city areas are under 20 feet of water. Highways and bridges have been destroyed. Gas lines have been broken and geysers of flame are shooting up through the water on a few flooded streets.

The Twin Spans are gone. When the mayor said that, the two anchors sitting with him stared in total disbelief.

The Twin Spans are an amazing 23.8 miles across, held in place by 9,000 concrete pilings. During the day, as you approach the middle of the bridge, you can see no land in either direction. At night, you can faintly see the city lights.

Locals say it’s an eerie feeling until you get used to it. Too late for that now, I suppose.

Earlier, I had used the term “fog of war” to describe how much we didn’t know. Now that the fog is lifting, the true extent is damage is coming into view.

Blogger’s note: In my original posting on this entry, I think I confused one roadway for another.


Came across your blog when doing a google search on Twin Spans after what

I heard in the NO Mayor’s interview that according what FEMA told him that

Twin Spans are gone. Well it may be correct but you are confusing the Twin

Spans with the twin Ponchartrain Causeway (the one which is 24 miles long)

and connect the North and South shores.

The TWIN SPANS are the bridges on the I 10E crossing the Lake on the

eastern side of NO.

You will find it in the map below


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– –

Jignesh Badani

I appreciate Jignesh’s attention and help in pointing this out.

The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip

One of the prime reasons for going to Philadelphia was to go the see a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

Before we go on, let me say how displeased I am with naming rights to stadiums and arenas. It’s a shame there’s no longer a Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia or Oakdale Theater near me in Wallingford, CT. Maybe there is a benefit to me by having Citizens Bank or Chevy (in the case of the Oakdale Theater) kick in some cash… though I don’t see it.

I am tilting at windmills. It’s never going back.

My friend Peter picked us up at the hotel and it didn’t take long to drive to South Philly and the stadium. Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Core State Arena (it’s hurting me to write this) are all located on the same tract of land that held the Vet, Franklin Field and the Spectrum (still there, but now with a corporate name preceding the word Spectrum).

I paid the $10 to park and we found a space fairly close to the entrance. Helaine had bought four tickets from a broker – though they were only marked up $4. We walked into the stadium.

Since this was my birthday trip, Helaine had arranged for my name and age to be flashed on the scoreboard with the other 11 year olds. We went and signed in. There was a charge, but I got a very nice Phillies hat.

The ballpark itself is a very nice place. Whereas the Vet was all concrete and steel with no thought of aesthetics, there’s lots of exposed brick and other warm touches now. And, Vet Stadium’s turf – possibly the worst playing surface in all of professional sports, has been replaced by beautiful real grass.

Beyond the outfield is a huge food court – Ashburn’s Alley. That’s where we headed first.

Steffie wanted to have a genuine Philly Cheesesteak, and Geno’s of South Philadelphia fame is represented. This is not ‘old school’ baseball food. It wasn’t soggy. It was hot. It was delicious. We found a place to sit and ate our lunch.

The game was scheduled for 3:15, so we headed down and took our seats. I was surprised that there had been no hassle when I brought my camera and two lenses in. The Phillies web site said it would be OK, but I had a sneaking suspicion there would be scrutiny over any camera with a removable lens.

These were probably the best baseball seats I’d ever had. We were behind the Phillies dugout, in the sun, 25 rows from the field. We were in foul ball territory. We were very close to the action.

The Phils were playing the San Diego Padres… and the Phils had gotten hot! The night before, Chase Utley ended the game with a walk off homer. Is there a more macho act?

For us, the game began slowly. It seemed like Robinson Tejeda, the Phillie starter wasn’t in control. I say ‘seemed’, because when you see the box score, you see a pitcher totally dominating the opposition. It’s funny how those two elements don’t always match up.

I took a lot of pictures at the game. Some might say I took too many pictures. Here’s my favorite, Bobby Abreu ducking out of the way of a Pedro Astascio fastball. Judging by the catcher’s glove, this pitch was traveling where it was aimed.

We stayed until the very last out, anticipated the worst when Real Cormier was called in, but getting a one inning gem instead. Billy Wagner picked up the save.

After a short stop back at the hotel, the four of us (Peter included) went out searching for dinner and the sights. We hit South Street first, but realizing that wasn’t the right spot for dinner, headed to Market Street and the Penn’s Landing area.

Again, we found Italian food. Again, it was very good. But we were very tired.

Our walk back to the hotel was uneventful, but left me uneasy. There were too many places which seemed sinister.

Tonight, I sent an email message to Mayor Street. It’s attached to the link at the bottom of this entry. Whether this kind of message makes any difference or not is beyond me, but I am always willing to write and make my opinions felt.

We finished up our stay Sunday with brunch on the Moshulu.

Since the launching of the Moshulu (pronounced Mo-shoe’-loo) in 1904, she has had a long and exciting career on the seas working the ports of Europe, South America, Australia, America and Africa. She was confiscated by the Americans in one war and by the Germans in the next. She has traveled around Cape Horn 54 times. She has hauled coal and coke, copper ore and nitrate, lumber and grain. In lesser days, she has served as a floating warehouse. In grander days, she won the last great grain race in 1939. Today, the Moshulu is the largest four-masted sailing ship in the world still afloat.

I once heard someone say you should never go out to dinner at a revolving restaurant. I think the same applies to converted sailing ships. The food was OK – nothing special. The ship was OK too… but just OK.

The interior of the ship was larger than I expected. I know that because of the schlep from our table to the buffet!

By 1:30 we were heading home. We headed north on I-95, over the Delaware via the Betsy Ross Bridge (A white elephant when it was built, I hope it’s more useful now), Route 90 to Route 73 to I-295 and then the New Jersey Turnpike.

We waited as long as we could before getting off I-295 and onto the Turnpike. It made no difference. We were stuck in stop-and-go traffic for the better part of an hour before things opened up. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

Oh – there was that sign on the George Washington Bridge that I captured. I’m hoping it’s legal to take photos before you get to the sign, as I did.

So, what have we learned? We were surprised and pleased that Steffie enjoyed the game. Yes, she got a shirt and excellent junk food… but she bought another shirt with her own money and seemed to be interested in the game.

We also enjoyed visiting Philadelphia, the place where we met 25 years ago, as tourists. There are rough edges that need to be smoothed for Philadelphia to become a better tourist destination, but so much is in place right now.

Continue reading “The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip”

The Collapse Along The Henry Hudson Parkway

At the moment I’m watching New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg conduct a press conference about a collapse in Upper Manhattan this afternoon.

A retaining wall holding back a steep hill gave way, allowing the hill to tumble onto the Henry Hudson Parkway and its access road. Debris was piled up at least 25 feet deep and you could see partially buried cars at the edge of the slide area. This all took place in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge.

I have driven by this particular spot dozens, maybe hundreds of times, over the years. It is a physically impressive part of Manhattan, because of the steep rise of the land adjacent to the Hudson River.

A little farther south of this site are buildings, seemingly perched on nothing but spindly columns. Their front entrances are at street level. The backs of the buildings are way above the ground. Underneath, the ground plunges away from the basement.

At the moment, it seems no one was injured. That’s pretty amazing considering the traffic this road handles (there’s actually significantly more traffic just south of the collapse where traffic can exit from the George Washington Bridge or Cross Bronx Expressway – I-95).

It’s possible the hill gave way slowly, or possibly in a few disjointed slides lead to the major crash at the end. It couldn’t be blind luck that no one was underneath.

From the photos I’ve seen, there are construction ‘canopies’ where the slide took place. Undoubtedly there was work going on – maybe trying to prevent what ended up happening.

In a situation like this, the most obvious culprit will be water. Unfortunately, there’s water seeping all over Manhattan. The water mains, some well over 100 years old, leak like crazy underneath the streets. No one really knows how much, but it’s substantial.

I heard the mayor say there might have been seepage from a park on the top of the hill. More will come out with time.

As a frequent driver in New York City I have seen other signs of water damage and seepage that have worried me in the past. Portions of the brickwork along the side of the Cross Bronx Expressway have eroded away. The mortar is still there, but much of the brick is gone.

Some underpasses show the same or similar problems. There looks to be water flowing and carrying away parts of the facade.

You always hope this damage is superficial, that New York City has a handle on it. Maybe not. Hopefully, this is a wake up call that the water has to be put under control and damage repaired.

One mile south, this same slide would have been a huge catastrophe. The potential would have been there for casualties in the hundreds, or more. Tonight it’s just a head scratcher.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”