The New York Diaries – Part 2: The Brooklyn Bridge is held together with duct tape

Kentucky chrome in Brooklyn

Hey, remember when I visited New York last February? No? I barely do either! But I’m finally blogging about it based on all the notes I took. Pen and paper are my second hippocampus.

The Brooklyn Bridge is held together with duct tape. I kid you not. Duct tape. Kentucky chrome. Holding the Brooklyn Bridge together. But we’ll get to that.

When I wasn’t manically coding web sites during my first two days in the city, I was reading a print-out of the comments you guys left on my post asking for recommendations. Thanks for that! I love to plan, plan, plan, my vacations, but I felt like I was cramming the night before a final for this one. I didn’t flesh out my itinerary until I was in the city studying your crib notes. I circled anything that was mentioned more than once, and with some help from Google I made a list of what I wanted to see and where I wanted to eat. I wasn’t sure how many days I would have free during my work-cation, so I did the stuff I most wanted to first.

World Trade Center Memorial

Whenever I told someone I was going to the World Trade Center Memorial, they told me, “Get a visitor’s pass!” Seriously. It was like I said, “Knock, Knock,” and they replied, “Who’s there?”

Me: Going to the WTC Memorial!
Them: Get a visitor’s pass!

So, yes, I got a Visitor’s Pass online and then spent an hour installing the proper print drivers so I could use Jasper and Zoey’s wireless printer (which doubles as a kitty bed). It’s easy to get a pass. I got mine the night before and all you have to do is pick the half hour window of time you want to enter the memorial. If you don’t print yours beforehand, you have to find a special ticketing station that is a few blocks from the actual memorial. And trust me, they will check your ticket. They checked my ticket at least three different times. You also have to go through a checkpoint like airport security, only you can keep your shoes on and they don’t take naked pictures of you. They x-ray all your possessions and you have to walk through a metal detector, and after winding your way through a mini-maze you enter the memorial. Of course, me being me, I found myself having two inappropriate thoughts.

Inappropriate thought #1

9/11 Logo

The graphic designer in me can’t help but notice the visual identity opportunity that arose when terrorists chose the 11th day of the month to attack a pair of buildings that looked like the number 11. Did they know they were making the logo for the future memorial really easy to design? Probably not. And even typing these sentences makes me feel like a bad person because thousands of real people with families, friends, dogs and cats died here and I’m sure none of them give a shit about the logo opportunities the day of their deaths provided.

Inappropriate thought #2
This was more like an inappropriate song that got stuck in my head. Yes, I kept wanting to hum “Christmas at Ground Zero” by Weird Al Yankovic while I was visiting Ground Zero. Yes, I am an awful human being, but it would not go away!

I want you to know I feel genuinely bad about both of these things. I realize that the events of September 11th are still very painful to many people and personally changed thousands and thousands of lives. I’m not trying to make a joke about those people’s pain. I’m just observing the thoughts the memorial brought to my mind, as odd and inappropriate as they were.

Memorial fountain

The WTC Memorial consists of two square fountains built in the footprints of the skyscrapers that used to stand there. The names of those killed in the September 11th attacks in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania are engraved around the edges of the fountains, as are the names of those who died in the WTC bombing in 1993. There is a museum still under construction that will be opening soon, so you can’t currently learn that much history at the sight. They have a few artifacts from that day available to view in the visitor’s center, but not too many, so the emotional impact of the memorial wasn’t as big as it could have been for me. Also, the fact that the memorial is currently surrounded by a construction zone kind of kills the solemn mood. Once the museum opens I think you’ll be able to get a better sense of what was lost that day and how it changed the world.

Canyon of Heroes and St. Paul’s Chapel

After visiting the memorial I decided to meander my way to The Brooklyn Bridge. On my way there I accidentally stumbled upon two things. First, the Canyon of Heroes, which is the part of town where they hold ticker tape parades. Each parade is recorded with a plaque in the sidewalk. Tip: The best way to get a plaque is to be a visiting royal. I swear, half of these parades were for queens or kings who’d popped into the city for a day.

Canyon of Heroes

I only recognized the Canyon of Heroes because Penny mentioned it in a comment on my travel guide post. Thanks, Penny! But for some reason, when I was writing this entry I called it the Avenue of Champions. I have no idea how I managed to get that from Canyon of Heroes. See, this is why you should write your travel entries right after you travel!

St. Paul's Chapel

As I continued to head toward the bridge I passed St. Paul’s Chapel, which was not on my to-do list. However, they had a display outside the chapel about its involvement during the September 11th attacks, and I eventually found myself drawn inside, fascinated by all the history. The chapel is just a few blocks away from the WTC, yet managed to survive the attacks. It also survived the Great New York City Fire of 1776, so I think it’s going to take Godzilla to raze this place. Or maybe Mothra.

The chapel served as a staging point for relief after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Firefighters and emergency responders would take naps on the pews. People from around the world sent encouraging letters and gifts, like this huge chain of origami cranes from Japan.

Cranes

The emotional impact I found lacking at the WTC Memorial was present here at St. Paul’s, so I’m glad I happened upon it.

The Brooklyn Bridge

It's this way!

I kept trekking toward the bridge and unexpectedly passed the Woolworth building, because you evidently can’t walk across New York without tripping across a landmark or two.

I'm on a bridge!

Finally, I found the bridge! Then I immediately stopped a tourist to take a photo of me on the bridge. I paid this forward by taking photos for three other people as I made my way to Brooklyn. If you want to steal a camera, this is definitely the place to do it. Just be sure you can run really fast in the other direction. The pedestrian walkway for the bridge is above the roadway and has guardrails, so I felt completely safe walking its length. I also had an urge to yell, “BROOKLYN!!” the whole way across, which I think must be from a movie, but I’m not sure which one. Newsies, perhaps? There are some plaques at the midpoint of the bridge which fill you in on its history. There was also one spot where couples had attached locks to the bridge to symbolize their commitment.

Locks of love

And, oh yeah, as I mentioned before, parts of the bridge were wrapped in duct tape. I have no idea what that’s about and didn’t want to think about it for too long.

BROOKLYN!!

When I finally reached Brooklyn, I wandered into the bike lane for a moment. That’s why a cyclist yelled, “Move over, STUPID!!” at me, which is when I truly felt like I was in New York. Actually, cyclists were yelling at pedestrians during my entire walk, which makes me think the bike lane is more of a concept than a reality.

At this point my feet were tired, and I really had to pee. I walked past a park where a ninja was practicing. Or something. Some guy was wearing all black and doing judo, I think. I tried to snap a picture inconspicuously but he was too far away, and I didn’t want to try sneaking up on a ninja. I stopped at a grocery store to pee, and almost got locked inside the bathroom. I found the subway and was very proud of myself for figuring out which train was the express and not the local.

I got myself back to the Upper West Side and stumbled into an Irish pub near the station for dinner. The food was decent, the waitress had a great accent, but she somehow forgot I was there even though there were only customers at two tables. I suppose it would have been really easy to run out on my bill, which means I missed an opportunity to steal a camera and dinner all in one day. Bummer! Instead I waited for ten minutes after I’d finished eating, got up out of my chair, and actually went to the bar to ask for my bill.

After that I was thoroughly exhausted, made it back to the apartment, and called it a day. A very nice day indeed!

More to come on Friday…

How did I not know there was a castle in Chapel Hill?

Last week I was looking over a map of the Battle Park pedestrian trails here in Chapel Hill, lamenting the fact that I’ve only explored the park once on a date with a guy I met on the Internet. Which in retrospect might not have been the smartest activity to suggest for the second meeting with a guy I knew next to nothing about, particularly without telling anyone where I was going. I’m glad this story doesn’t end with the line, “and then they found her body in the woods.” It doesn’t though! So, yay! Instead, this story begins with the line, “What the hell is Gimghoul Castle and what is it doing on a map that features more pedestrian locales like Old Poplar Picnic Spot and Rainy Day Trail?”

Castle Map

After all, this is a map of Chapel Hill, North Carolina we’re looking at, not Middle Earth or Narnia. The Native Americans were more into teepees than castles, and Gimghoul is a pretty badass name for a castle as it is. It sounds like the place the slithy toves go to gyre and gimble, not like something I’d find near a public park next to the University of North Carolina. So, I Googled “Gimghoul” and discovered that the castle is the meeting place for The Order of Gimghoul, the university’s secret society which is about a secret as any society that has a Wikipedia entry. The Castle was built in the 1920’s for The Order and has a requisite spooky history involving murder, star-crossed lovers, a bloody rock and a duel.

Obviously, I had to check this out, so I drove to Gimghoul castle last Saturday. It’s located in a historic district featuring gorgeous homes I will never be able to afford without some serious life changes. I ended up circling the neighborhood once because the gravel road to the castle looked like it might be a private driveway and I didn’t want to be shot for trespassing. This is the south after all. The castle is hidden back in the woods, so you have to be looking for it or in ownership of a seriously broken GPS.

As far as castle’s go, it’s not huge, but it’s definitely a castle. It even had its own guard dog, thought I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t an Irish Wolfhound.

I walked the short driveway in front of the castle, careful to stay behind the “Private Property – No Trespassing” signs, and then I saw this.

Wow, way to ruin the illusion Mr. Budget Rent-A-Truck. I could almost imagine I was back in the middle ages until I saw this. Not only that, but the contents of the entire truck appeared to be stacked on the front lawn of the castle like they were having a yard sale. (Horrible location for it. No foot traffic.) I appeared to have stumbled upon the castle when someone was moving in or out. Which raises the question, why was a secret society moving all their crap in or out of their not-so-secret clubhouse? I have no idea. They could have been being robbed for all I know. I didn’t see anyone around, and the guard dogs (there was another one) seemed more interested in sniffing tires than running me off the property.

The truck ruined the best angle to photograph the castle, but there are some much better photos on this blog. It’s a quirky and kind of interesting landmark to have in town, but my favorite North American castle is still CastlePost in Versailles, Kentucky. (That’s VER-SALES, y’all, not VER-SIGH. It’s Kentucky, not France.)

When I attended the University of Kentucky the castle was a bit of a mystery. It’s not too far from Lexington, so sometimes I’d take the scenic route back from Louisville to see it. There’s something delightfully bizarre about driving past horse farms and rolling countryside and suddenly sighting a castle on a hill. No one I spoke to ever knew who’d built the place or if anyone lived there. It was closed to the public at the time, but it now appears to be operating as a hotel and event space. Awesome! If I had hundreds of dollars to spare I’d totally spend the night there.

Thanks for trying, Castle Gimghoul. You have a cooler name, but CastlePost is still my favorite!

Bump

Whenever I see a sign like this, I want to give someone a fist bump. I blame the Obamas.

So, my car tried to eat me this weekend.

My car tried to eat me this weekend. Well, it tried to trap me in its bowels, which is close enough. It was definitely a Stephen King moment in my life which is typically devoid of horror movie motifs. I prefer to think of my life as an offbeat comedy, somewhat lacking in major plot developments, but featuring lovable characters, not killer cars.

Last Saturday around seven I got in my car to grab some dinner, turned on the engine, and suddenly heard a horrible CHUNKA!-CHUNKA!-CHUNKA! sound, like squirrels were pelting my car with walnuts, which would have been just one more reason I’d be glad to be moving out of this neighborhood already. After I took about two seconds to FREAK THE HELL OUT, I turned off the engine and the sound continued, which is when I finally figured out I wasn’t being attacked by the local wildlife. Instead, my power locks were having an epileptic seizure.

To make things worse, turning off the engine and removing my keys from the ignition did nothing to stop the problem, which makes sense if you think about it. If working locks depended on having your key in the ignition, we’d all have to become a locksmiths to get back inside our cars. And if we were all locksmiths, why bother having locks at all?

So, there I was, sitting in the parking lot on the weekend at an hour when most mechanics were probably closed, in car that was both locked and unlocked like some twisted Schrodinger’s cat experiment I did not choose to be a part of. My first instinct was to ignore the problem and deal with it later, because that’s always my first instinct. But I couldn’t really abandon my car in this state. Someone could break in and steal my collection of CDS from the 90’s! Also, I was really hungry, and I didn’t want to drive to Panera like this.

So do you know what I did? I READ THE MANUAL. I know. Horrors! As someone who works with computers, reading the manual is looked down upon with scorn. It’s like admitting you don’t already know the answers to everything. It’s awful. But I did it. I figured there must be a fuse somewhere that I could yank to disable the power locks, hopefully without disabling everything electrical in my car because I really didn’t want to lose all my radio presets. I was able to locate the fuse box on the passenger’s side of the main console, find the fuse pullers velcroed to the back of the fuse box panel, and I pulled the right fuse (on the second try, sorry, cigarette lighter). And the seizure ended. Yay!

At this point I wanted to give myself a round of applause for exorcising the devil from my car without having to call a priest. There really is something empowering about fixing a problem you’ve never encountered in a field you know next to nothing about, all while listening to a horrible CHUNKA!-CHUNKA!-CHUNKA! sound. I owned that car! Which is only proper, because I actually do own it. Self-reliance is a powerful drug.

Now let me speak the question I’m sure is on your mind, “Jennette, are you still able to unlock your door with your key fob?” The answer is, YES! By some miracle I am still able to unlock the driver’s door with my key fob, though the same can’t be said for the rest of the doors. But who cares about those doors? After I pulled that fuse I was struck with the terror that from now on I might have to unlock my car door WITH A KEY. How awful that would have been! I might as well start getting off the couch to flip through the TV channels.

I should probably take the car to a mechanic to make sure this incident isn’t the first sign that something is wrong with my entire electrical system. Thankfully I can drive there without my car beat-boxing the whole way.

Longtime blog reader Jacqui to be on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition on Sunday, June 10th

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition

Jacqui has been reading my blog for a long time. I just searched the comments on my old PastaQueen blog to see that she’s been reading since 2007 and has posted well over a hundred comments, so she’s earned a high rank in the Macaroni Military. Salute! She used to comment as JEM from the now defunct site agirlworthlosing.blogspot.com, if you’re curious. I recognized her email address right away when she contacted me earlier this year to put together her web site. It’s strange, yes, but I know some of you better by your email addresses than by your given names.

Anyway, Jacqui needed a web site because she’s being featured on the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition this Sunday, June 10, at 9:00 Eastern Time. (She’s up against the Tony’s, I know, so DVR that and watch Jacqui live, ok? Neil Patrick Harris will understand.) The episode is two hours long, so settle in with your butter-less popcorn.

I can also tell you, there’s no better reminder to get a client’s site done than to keep seeing promos for her show while you’re watching the Indy 500. Every 20 laps I was like, “D’oh! Gotta’ launch that site soon!” For more info:

Big congrats to Jacqui! I’m looking forward to watching her episode.

Keep reading: 

Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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