Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Just watching NY1 coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and in the words of the onsite reporter, Dean Meminger, Rockaway Beach looks "like a bomb dropped." Part of the boardwalk was ripped up and floated down Beach 94th St smashing into parked cars en route.
Annoyingly you have to be a Time Warner Cable customer to watch the video link below, at least you do in the US, but below the link is a screen grab of some of the damage shown in the report. You can see how the boardwalk was pushed inland hitting the black car on the right.
A later report I caught on TV, which is not yet online showed, that some of the playgrounds that were in front of the boardwalk are now crumpled heaps of metal and looting is a serious concern. 80 homes in Breezy Point, further along the beach from Rockaway, were also destroyed by fire.
|Map shows location of Breezy Point and Rockaway Beach relative to the city|
A Facebook page Rockaway Emergency Plan has been set up to keep people in the loop on how things are over there. Once the first responders have done their thing I shall see if I can contribute to the rebuilding of the area in any way I can beyond making a contribution to the Red Cross.
Monday, 29 October 2012
My street is strangely calm on the Upper East Side. Apparently most of the power is out to lower Manhattan, but I am fortunate enough to still be in possession of my utilities. I'm seeing photos of the flooding downtown and it's like I live in a different city.
This is a photo taken of my street taken at 10.30pm. If you look closely you'll see there are a couple of people walking down the street just behind the silver colored car. My fire escape blocks them, but you can sort of see their legs. It's pretty windy out there though, I saw the wind catch a container and fling it down the street, so it's not the most sensible decision to head outside, but you can see there's no flooding.
In contrast here's a photo posted on Gothamist earlier today of 18th St and Ave C
The Gothamist newsmap shows just how busy the emergency services are tonight across the city.
Despite the hurricane warning I did wonder whether some idiot surfer, unaware of his limits, would go out and try to ride the 6-10 foot high waves we are getting in Rockaway right now, so I couldn't resist a sneaky peek from a very safe distance via the surfline beach cam.
Here's how it looks at 8am, 4 hours before the predicted height of the storm and thankfully there are no surfers, but as you can see there are a couple of intrepid spectators.
|Hurricane Sandy comes to Rockaway. 8am, Monday October 29th.|
It's a fairly boring looking rainy day on the upper east side. I'm using the tree across the street as a barometer for how windy it is and the leaves don't even look to be moving. The calm before the storm perhaps. My friend just emailed to tell me that the gym at 91st and 3rd IS open and she is heading there now. I think I'll stick with working out at home, she's just across the street from that gym, but I am significantly further and have no wish to be caught outside when the weather turns. I don't need to get hit with any flying debris.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
A friend posted this on Facebook this afternoon, which feels pretty true I have to say. People seem pretty complacent about the impending Frankenstorm.
Weirdly I just received this email from the BR Guest chain of restaurants informing me that 5 of their restaurants will be open tomorrow, including the Atlantic Bar & Grill in my neighborhood. So, lunch there tomorrow after the gym then!! Eyeroll!!
Thursday, 25 October 2012
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
So the ATM caves - or caves of the crystal sepulchre as it's also apparently known. I never knew that fact, although I only had to go as far as wikipedia to find it, so not exactly elusive - was our destination for our 2nd full day in Belize and our final day in the Cayo District. Again we were up with the larks for breakfast on the terrace at 6.30am - how awful for us - before our Hun Chi'ik tour guide, Gliss arrived at 7am to pick us up. Btw I have to give props to Hun Chi'ik tours - so named for the solitary coati that breaks away from the pack to make its own pack - their guides were excellent, I highly recommend them.
I believe this is the approximately route we took to the ATM caves in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve from Ka'ana Boutique Resort as I recall driving through Teakettle Village. "Named by the British" said Gliss our guide. You don't say, I would have never have guessed from the name. In truth I might have second guessed him because I never heard the word 'teakettle' until I moved to NYC. To a Brit a teakettle is the only kind of kettle that matters and therefore does not need defining by the prefix 'tea'. I mean seriously, do people think I'm going to be confused by the word kettle and think they might be referring to a fish kettle? Trust me, such confusion will never arise.
The drive along the Western Highway is great, nicely paved roads, no big deal, but once we turned off into Teakettle it was a whole other story and what followed was 7-miles of rough terrain. "How are you liking your Belizean massage?" joked Gliss from the driving seat as Melissa and I were violently shaken from side to side in the back. I felt like a ragdoll.
|The terrain looks a lot less rough in this photo than it was in reality. I think this might be Teakettle Village|
|En route we passed teak trees. "Very expensive wood," said Gliss|
|And Mahogany trees, a resource previously coveted by the British|
|The lush Belizean landscapes made me think of Hawaii, but since I have yet to visit Hawaii perhaps I've just watched one too many episodes of Lost.|
|The car park for ATM caves. It's an easy 30-minute hike from here to the caves|
Unfortunately neither car nor camera was not allowed any further than the car park, so we used the facilities - currently holes in the ground that could give those in the Inca Trail a run for their money, but needs must. Workers were busy on building properly bathroom and changing facilities, but Gliss had no idea when they'd be completed - and dressed in board shorts, swimsuits, long sleeved rash guards - "that's a great shirt for this activity, long sleeves are good," said Gliss - and water shoes we grabbed the cooler bag filled with 2 roast chicken sandwiches, chips and salsa, 2 portions of fruit salad and 2 bottles of water that Ka'ana Resort had thoughtfully provided as our lunch plus our hard hats provided by the tour company and set off on our 30 minute hike to the mouth of the cave. Now as I mentioned in the photo caption above the hike is generally pretty easy and pleasant. The terrain is fairly flat, there are no significantly hilly parts, but you do have to wade through the river - Roaring Creek - 3 times, which, by the way, is the cleanest river I have seen in my life. You could clearly see to the bottom and for the most part it only ever came up to my knees and I am only 5ft 1, so not that deep at all really. I think there was one point where it came up to my waist, but for the most part it was my knees. You do have to watch your step as the stones can be a little slippery and can be hard to see as the person walking in front of you will froth up the water, but it's fine, no the worse part is the colonies of flesh eating ants that march along the route.
Um...hmmm...that's right, I said FLESH EATING ANTS!!!!!!
Okay okay, carnivorous ants that eat spiders and stuff, but still....carnivorous ants!!! Who knew of such a thing. Basically you have to avoid getting the carnivorous ants on you, so on the 3 occasions where we came across them on the trail Gliss would pause at the foot of the ant army and then tell us to run quickly through them - usually a distance of no more than 10 feet - and then stomp our feet to ensure none had hitched a ride on our shoes. We were fine and were never bitten, but that didn't stop me from jumping from every leaf that brushed against my legs in case it was an ant mistaking me for a banquet.
"Why are you so scared of the jungle," said Gliss
"Um...well that would be because it's the JUNGLE!!!" I responded
"Are you scared of New York City?" he asked. Well no!! "No, because you are used to it. If you lived here you would be used to the jungle and you wouldn't be afraid. People are afraid of what's unfamiliar."
Good point and for the most part I agree, but did I mention that not only does Belize have flesh eating ants it also has jaguars!!! Jaguars roaming free at that!!! What does one do when confronted with a jaguar was something I wondered as I hiked along the trail avoiding flesh eating ants??
The ATM caves are a relatively recent discovery, first reported by Canadian Geologist Thomas Miller in 1989, later catching the eye of National Geographic who produced the documentary "Journey Through The Underworld" in 1992. Our guide Gliss said that the caves first opened to tours in 1997, which is when he said he started leading people through them.
Now as I previously mentioned cameras are not allowed in the ATM caves ever since May of this year when a tourist got a little careless and dropped his camera fracturing the thousand year old skull of a Mayan sacrifice. Nice one!! However since cameras were allowed prior to May I found some good photos on Flickr posted by Island Expeditions that were downloadable. There are a load of great photos of the caves on Flickr, including these ones by ShellyLeit, but most users had chosen to disable downloading so I was unable to share them here, but I am hoping that since Island Expeditions is a tour company that have no such qualms about me promoting them.
Here's a shot of a group crossing the river. See, knee high max. Easy right?
|Crossing Roaring Creek on the hike to the cave entrance |
The hike ends at a camping area where we hung up our sandwich cooler, so that we could eat our lunch after the tour, which lasted approximately 2-hours.
|A view of the cave entrance. You swim into the cave, it's not far, maybe 10-feet. For most of the tour you are wading through water or walking through the dry upper chamber|
|A view of the entrance from inside the cave|
So like Melissa and I you may be cautious about committing yourself to an ATM Caves tour because you are worried it might be, shall we say, challenging!! If you are averagely fit, don't be. It's really not as difficult as you probably think it's going to be and the guides are amazing. I won't lie to you, there are a couple of instances during the tour where I thought "that's way too tight," or "I may have got up here but hell knows how I'll get down," but trust me it's easier than you think, our guide, Gliss, was amazing at pointing out hand or foot placement and telling us not to worry about going down onto your butt. Your eyes can be deceiving and unless you are significantly larger than the average human or significantly less fit then you'll generally not have an issue!!
Note these guys are in their hiking boots which are generally better for climbing than the water shoes we wore which felt a little too slippery when clambering over rocks for my liking, however you will have to wade through water in whatever footwear you decide upon, so I think the best option are athletic water shoes. Our guide Gliss loved his New Balance water shoes which were similar to those shown in the photo below. Note the drainage holes. I think shoes like these were the best ones to wear, but my $10 water shoes from REI Outlet did me proud.
The cave has some amazing rock formations that I found more interesting than the Mayan artifacts to be honest
But no trip to the ATM caves would be complete without a photo of the Crystal Maiden, an intact skeleton of a Mayan sacrifice, initially thought to be female, but a fact that is now apparently questioned by archaelogists who think 'she' may actually be a 'he'.
That evening we befriended our bartender at Ka'ana Boutique Resort who introduced us to habanero infused tequila. "It's not too hot," he informed us as he poured us a shot.
Good Lord!! Not too hot if you're Belizean maybe!! He then made us a cocktail of habanero infused tequila, pineapple juice and mint which cut the heat significantly by left enough of a kick. It was delicious, I plan to make my own habanero infused tequila.
The drink at the rear of the photo below is habanero infused tequila, pineapple juice and mint. The drink in front is Belizean rum, Caribbean Gold I think was the brand, with soda.
I think I may serve the habanero cocktail at an upcoming gathering in support of friends who are running the NYC Marathon.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
...is pretty much the reaction I got from everyone when I told them where I was spending my next vacation.
I brought my laptop with me planning to take advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi offered at the resorts where Melissa and I are staying. When I discovered there would be Wi-Fi I had good intentions of updating my blog every couple of days, since I find it takes me a while to complete my vacation posts after the fact, but my trip is almost over and I've updated my blog exactly zero times. Oh well, the upside is that I've been too busy having a good time to be bothered with blogging. Belize is fantastic, you should definitely visit!!!
So we began our Belizean adventure in the Cayo District in the western part of the country, close to the Guatemalan border and convenient for day trips to Tikal. It's pretty easy to get to Belize from New York, just a 3 hour flight to Miami, followed by a 2 hour flight to Philip Goldson International airport. From the airport it's roughly a 90-minute drive to the Ka'ana Boutique Resort located a short distance from the town of San Ignacio, the capital of the Cayo District.
We were pretty tired when we arrived at the resort so we didn't do much beyond explore the grounds and have something to eat.
|Home away from home: our casita at Ka'ana|
|The lower level of the saltwater pool|
|A path through Ka'ana Resort lit for the evening|
The most exciting part of the first half day in Belize was realizing that the resort had fancy cable and we were able to watch the 2nd episode of series 2 of Homeland on Showtime, which was showing at 8pm in Belize owing to the 2-hour time difference with New York, while enjoying the evening treats the Ka'ana team had left in our in room refrigerator.
|Delicious evening treats courtesy of Ka'ana|
It cost us $15 US to leave Belize for the day and was roughly a 2-hour drive from the border, although that 2 hours also included the time spent frequently braking for adventurous piglets to scurry across the road and stopping en route to visit a couple of lakes: Makanche and Peten Itza.
|Ladies washing their clothes on stones in Lake Makanche|
|Lake Peten Itza, the second largest lake in Guatemala|
|Edgar showing us how they make gum from a tree|
Tikal's history dates back to 200-800 BC - carbon dating is more than somewhat approximate apparently - although it came to prominence between 200-900 AD when it dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically and militarily.
The Tikal site was apparently 'discovered' in 1848 by Modesto Mendez and Ambrosio Tut, although its existence was already known to the people who lived in the region. Explorers and looters soon followed. Archaeologists first started the business of recording the ruins in the 1880s, but it wasn't until the 1950s that the first archaeological project began, with major excavations carried out by the University of Pennsylvania which mapped most of the site and restored a number of the structures under the direction of Edwin Shook and, later, William Coe. The corporation of Spain continued the initiative between 1996 and 2003.
The 6 large stones in front of the pyramid (Complex Q?) are called Stelae, typically paired with flat circular altars that can be seen in front. The pyramid shown above actually has nine stelae to represent the 9 levels of the Mayan underworld, known as Xibalba, meaning "place of fear."
|Our Guatemalan guide, Berta, showing us a stela and alter|
|Temple I as seen from the North Acropolis|
|Another view of Temple I from the North Acropolis. Check out the stylish hats!! Ha!!|
Tikal is as hot as Hades by the way with about 3 times as many mosquitoes, malaria carrying mosquitoes at that, although I was naughty and failed to make it to the doctors to pick up any malaria drugs, but touch wood I was okay and got away with only a couple of bites. I may well have poisoning from over use of insect repellent, but no malaria!!
|And here is Temple I again. I got a bit carried away!!|
|And again....So this guy would NOT get out of the way and let me take my photo, so I decided to use him to show the scale of the temple. A-ha take that annoying tourist!!|
|The view from Temple 4. I later learned from a fellow tourist that this view was used in the first Star Wars movie, and by first I mean the one from 1977, so technically the 4th movie. 4th movie my arse. Eyeroll George Lucas. Eyeroll!!|
|The wooden staircase upto the top of Temple IV. Someone told us it was 188 steps to the top. It didn't feel like that many, but then there are 45 steps up to my apartment so perhaps I am just used to climbing.|
|Spotted by Berta...a beautiful bird from the quetzel family|
The animals above are from the racoon family and are all over a certain area of Tikal, although they do not approach humans. They are known as hun chi'ik in Mayan which also happened to be the name of the Belizean tour company we used. Their Spanish name begins with a P, but that's as much as I know. When Melissa first saw them she thought their tails were their heads, so now everytime I look at this photo I see them as miniature diplodocuses (diplodocii??)
|Seven Mayan temples all in a row, although you can only see 5 of them in this photo. Berta explained to us that this area was also where the Mayan ball courts were and proceeded to describe a game that sounded an awful lot like Quidditch|
|And lastly...temple V|
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
As usual, I've been meaning to post, but somehow 9 days gone by since my last update and now I am sick with a cold.
Even my hair hurts!!
There's nothing much to report anyway, it's all been work and getting stuff sorted for my upcoming trip to Belize. There's also nothing much to report re my return visit to OkCupid, I haven't heard a peep out of the IT/Sculptor guy for a while, I imagine he's on that European vacation he mentioned, so maybe I will hear from him when he is back, although I suspect not. Previous experience has primed me for disappointment where dating is concerned. I did exchange a few emails with one guy who seemed normal, but then we had the following exchange:
Him: What neighborhood do you live in? I live in Park Slope and I've been trying to limit my dating to my zipcode. I've learned that dating someone more than 1 subway stop away is almost like a long distance relationship. But how many beautiful women am I going to meet that surf Rockaway in the middle of the winter?
Me: Based on your one subway stop criteria we are practically on different continents since I'm in uptown Manhattan.
Him: Oh, man. You live upstate. That's a bummer.
Talk about restricting your dating pool. I never bothered responding to him since the rest of his emails did not give me the impression he was joking and a man who only dates within his own zip code is not a man worth bothering with.
Since posting about my blasts from the past last week I've had two more sightings, both en route from the office, once in Union Square station and once in the subway at 14th St. Both were former work colleagues this time - much less exciting than the Creative Cutie - and on both occasions I pretended to be absorbed in my book. I'd had a tough day, I wasn't up for small talk and I suspect neither of these guys were either, but still 2012 is turning out to be a bumper year for encountering acquaintances.
"What if you start tracking these encounters (person, date, location, connection) in an excel. just as a random project. Give it some time and lets see what comes out," emailed Deesha.
An Excel spreadsheet?? Once an analyst, always an analyst eh Deesha?
I went one step further and plotted my encounters on a map. Geeky? Moi?
|Running into people I know: March - October 2012|
It seems that a lot of people I know REALLY like hanging out in Chelsea. Of the 12 people I've run into 8 of them were in that area, but only 2 of them live in the neighborhood, the rest were just passing through for some reason or another.
Anyway I'm exhausted, so I'll love you and leave you with this gorgeous song by Alt-J, which is accompanied by an equally gorgeous video.
ALT J - Something Good from BREWER on Vimeo.