Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cleveland and Irene

Well, we made it through the weekend! Nobody was washed out to sea or blown away or any such things. Hurricane Irene came and went, as did I. I'll tell you about our weekend today, then try to wrap up Chicago tomorrow or Friday. (Look at me, making another post out of chronological order! I really do live on the edge, don't I?)

My weekend was quite lovely. My changed-to-Friday flight got out of both NYC and Baltimore with no problem, and I was glad I changed it when I saw BWI closed down around 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, about an hour after I had originally been scheduled to arrive there. So yes, my fears would have been correct: I would have spent the weekend in the Baltimore airport if I had kept my original flight. Boy, that would have been swell. Maybe next time!

But anyway, my flights were fine, and I was even able to see fireworks over Progressive Field after the Indians game as I flew in! My friend Megan picked me up at the airport and took me to my Gramps's house, where we ate some soup and hung out for a while. On Saturday, Gramps and I spent the morning and afternoon at the house, chatting and watching hurricane coverage. By that time I knew that all public transportation in NYC was going to be shut down as of noon and, in a state of wifely panic, I woke Eric up that morning, just to make sure he didn't think he should evacuate before he no longer had the option. He assured me he was fine.

Saturday afternoon Megan picked me up and took me to her apartment, where I was able to meet her boyfriend Andy (I like him!). Megan and I had some girl talk while Andy cooked us homemade fajitas (homemade tortillas and everything!), so clearly, he is an awesome guy. Dinner was delicious, and afterwards we got some ice cream from Honey Hut and watched a movie.

Sunday I went to church with my Gramps, and then he and I watched the Indians game together (a loss, boohoo). That evening Megan picked me up once again for dinner at her parents' house, where we spent a long time catching up with her folks. They're good people, and I haven't had much of an opportunity to sit and chat with them in a long time, so that was quite nice. Of course, we also picked up four more pints of local Cleveland ice cream and had ourselves an ice cream feast afterwards!

And that was pretty much my weekend in Cleveland. Monday morning I hung out with Gramps a bit more before beginning my looooooong trek home. My flights were fine, but once I arrived in Newark, things turned awful. The New Jersey Transit still wasn't back up and running (post-hurricane) from the airport, so my only real option for getting home was a bus into NYC then the PATH train back home. However, the bus that so proudly boasts arrivals "every 15 minutes" took over an hour to arrive. Luckily, I was the last person to make it on that bus (if I had been forced to wait for the next one I would have either cried or punched somebody or both), but then the bus ride took another hour, then another 45 minutes to get back to Hoboken from the city thanks to my slow walking and evening train schedules. All in all, it took me nine hours to get home from Cleveland. Google Maps tells me that if I had driven, it would have taken me 8 hours and 12 minutes. It literally would have been faster to drive. RAGE.

And can you believe I didn't take a single picture all weekend? Who am I?!

But you know who did take pictures? My dear husband, who was left back at home in Hoboken to fend for himself during the storm. He started off with some "before shots" on Saturday afternoon, before things really picked up.

Rainy, cloudy skyline

Sandbags in front of Zylo at the W Hotel

PATH station, all closed down

Restaurants boarded up

Parking meters covered over, and empty streets

Apparently the winds really started to pick up that evening. Hoboken even imposed a curfew, prohibiting anyone from driving or being on the streets as of 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for ground-level apartments, but because we live on the seventh floor, Eric stayed put. He took the dog for his last walk before the storm then they hunkered down.

I was pretty nervous about how Hoboken would weather the storm, because just a couple of weeks ago we got some heavy rain and western Hoboken flooded pretty badly. With Irene, they were predicting the eye to pass over us right at high tide on Sunday morning, which was expected to be disastrous. Not to mention, on any given winter day, the winds really whip through that town. There have been times that I have been sitting in our living room, thinking the wind might blow our windows right in, just on your standard blustery afternoon. Hoboken did not seem like a good place for a hurricane.

Luckily, on our side of town, things stayed pretty under control. Eric never lost power, and when things cleared out a bit on Sunday, he wandered around our part of town to survey the damage. There was some flooding down by the train station and some uprooted trees, but nothing too terrible.

Uprooted tree along the riverfront bike path

Hurricane puddles and hazy skyline

Area in front of the train station, underwater

Another downed tree by the door to our apartment

Debris marking how high the water came

Natalie Morales doing some reporting from northern Hoboken

Sign in a shop on Washington street that seems to primarily carry funny onesies for babies

By Sunday evening, the clouds were starting to clear over Manhattan and New Jersey.

Skies clearing over downtown

Clouds over the Lackawanna terminal

Looking back towards the W Hotel in Hoboken

Much clearer skyline 

And by Monday night, we were back to our beautiful sunsets.

Monday's sunset, as seen from our apartment

Of course, other parts of Hoboken were not so lucky. The western portion did, in fact, flood significantly, and many residents lost power (I think some are still without, in fact). Check out some of these pictures taken from The Boken's Flickr photostream:

Flooded streets
(credit: Brad Miller, source)

(credit: Brad Miller, source)

Flooded ShopRite
(credit: Brad Miller, source)

The water was knee-deep
(credit: Gary, source)

Even yesterday, I was hearing more reports of mandatory evacuations in New Jersey (further inland) thanks to flooding due to rivers continuing to swell. Needless to say, we were lucky in that our portion of Hoboken avoided much damage, but others weren't so lucky. We're counting our blessings, and wishing the best to all those still facing the impact of this storm.

I hope all of you stayed warm, dry and safe this weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2011

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

...for some weather talk.

I know, I know, I was doing so well with getting my Chicago recaps up on time, and I was looking forward to posting the last installment today. But I can't, because I didn't finish going through the last batch of pictures last night, because I was busy frantically doing laundry and packing for my weekend trip to Cleveland, which got bumped up by a day thanks to Hurricane Irene.

I was supposed to fly out for a fun weekend with my grandpa and best friend Megan on Saturday morning, with a layover in Baltimore. But, as of yesterday, NYC/NJ is all in a tizzy about Hurricane Irene, who is predicted to hit our area on Saturday evening. I figured my morning flight would still be able to leave, but with my layover in Baltimore, who knew if I could get into Baltimore...and even if I did get in, could I get back out? I had visions of being stranded in BWI until Monday and that did NOT sound like a good time. So, I changed my flight and now am leaving at 5:30 tonight. Here's hoping tonight's series of flights gets out on time without any trouble.

Why do I have such luck with travel? It seems like I am forever bumping up flights because some major weather catastrophe is about to take place. For example, there was my trip to Florida in January. And my trip down to Florida last February before I went cruising with my sister (that one was especially fun, because even though my departure and return flights were two weeks apart, both were screwed up, thanks to two different snowstorms!). And of course, the most memorable: that delightful hurricane that rolled over our beloved Cayman Islands the day after our wedding, delaying our honeymoon by a week (and yes, we know we were lucky to be able to go at all!). Basically, if there's some major weather hoopla headed towards the U.S., chances are good I have a flight booked in or out of the affected cities. I just have awesome timing.

But yeah, there's a hurricane coming. As of now some predictions have the eye passing right over our lovely little Hoboken on Saturday night. Of course, I am a Florida girl and this is not my first hurricane rodeo, so I know that it is still early and Irene could do all kinds of crazy things to either spare us or slam us. But I think it's safe to say that we'll get at least some rain and wind. My boys will be riding out the storm in our 7th floor apartment in our waterfront building, so I wish them luck with that. Hoboken is preparing for some hardcore flooding, it seems, so I hope the dog doesn't have to go for a swim every time he wants to go outside:

Hoboken has been spreading this map of predicted flooding. I know you don't know where we live on this map, but I'll just tell you, it's red.

Hoboken residents have been encouraged to get the heck out and head inland, or at the very least stock up on supplies and move cars off the street and into garages. As of last night, all municipal garages in Hoboken were already full and the Shoprite was reportedly already out of bottled water, so it seems people are paying attention.

NYC is also in panic mode a little bit. Some lower-lying areas are already being evacuated, and there is talk of shutting the entire subway system down as of tomorrow afternoon. Eric had planned to golf tomorrow before the weather turns bad, but now he probably won't for fear that if he takes too long he won't be able to get back home. It just all sound like a big old giant mess, doesn't it?

And on top of all this, we felt an earthquake this week! That 5.9 earthquake in Virginia sent our skyscrapers a-swaying a bit on Tuesday - not enough to cause panic, but enough to be all, "whoa, weird." So yeah, an earthquake and a hurricane in one week. Where do I live again?

Stay safe this weekend, friends!

Update: As of Friday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg announced they WILL be shutting down the transit system (including subways and buses) tomorrow at noon. I think it's safe to say that no matter what Irene does now, this weekend will be a hot mess in New York.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cubs v. Cardinals at Wrigley Field

Last Friday, Eric and I went to our second Chicago baseball game. This post is slightly out of order, as we did do some sightseeing between the two games (and you know how I am bothered by things being out of order), but I thought it made sense to lump the baseball talk altogether. So let's do this!

We made our way out to Wrigley Field via train around noon on Friday, for the 1:00 Cubs v. Cardinals game. The train ride out there was insane - talk about crowded! But, we made it! 


Eric was quite excited as we made our way around the stadium and saw that oh-so-familiar sign on the front!

This was definitely an important one on the list!

Eric holding our tickets in great excitement, and both of us ready for some baseball!

Cute little band playing out front

Wrigley Field was stadium #17 for Eric, and #12 for me. We really are plowing through that list, aren't we? And I have to say, Wrigley was one of my favorites. Of course, it's rather old compared to many of the stadiums we have visited, but I loved it. It didn't have all the bells and whistles of the newer stadiums, just a small concourse with crowded food stands, and seats right up along the field. There is barely even any advertising along the field, thanks to the ivy-covered walls of the outfield. Add to that the charm of one of only two hand-operated scoreboards remaining in Major League Baseball (the other is at Fenway), plus organ music instead of the usual modern walk-up songs, and it all just felt so authentic. This was how baseball was meant to be watched, if that makes sense. It was quite charming.

Inside Wrigley

The hand-operated scoreboard

The view from our seats (and look - there's that little band again!)

"Hey, Hey!" on the foul poles

Another thing that I found adorable was all the restaurants/rooftops surrounding Wrigley, on top of which the building owners built bleacher seats so that many fans can watch the game without even setting foot in the stadium. Cuteness.

See all the buildings in the outfield, with bleachers on the rooftops?

We snapped this pic of the rooftop buildings from outside the stadium as we were leaving!

As I mentioned in my first Chicago recap, we were also treated to a bit of an air show throughout the game as various jets zoomed overhead in all kinds of formations.

I guess they are kind of hard to make out, but do you see the cluster of planes to the right of the scoreboard?

Once again, it was a glorious day for baseball. Our seats were in the shade, and it was probably in the high 70s under that overhang, with a nice breeze. Does it get better than that? Oh, yes it does - let's add a hot dog and a delicious Lemon Chill, and then it's just heavenly.

The Cubs ended up beating the Cardinals in extra innings, although we didn't stay that long. We did make sure to stick around for the seventh inning stretch, though, when Larry King sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!"

Larry King is allegedly up in that press box somewhere, although we never caught sight of him.

Ah, another great afternoon at the ballpark, and yet another ballpark crossed off the list!

Yay, baseball!

Coming up tomorrow: our last bit of Chicago sightseeing!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

White Sox v. Indians at U.S. Cellular Field

When I left off yesterday, we had enjoyed a full day of sightseeing in lovely Chicago. After taking some time to rest and refresh in our hotel, we headed back out to the train to catch a ride to U.S. Cellular Field.

I was excited about this game because the White Sox were playing my hometown Cleveland Indians, so I was actually interested in the outcome of the game. Sometimes I make a fuss about Eric dragging me to all these different baseball stadiums on his "Visit All 30 MLB Stadiums" quest, but really, I generally enjoy baseball, and I like going to games, even if I don't care about the teams playing. I like the atmosphere, the crowds, the hot dogs and the beer. It's good times. But really, we've been baseball-ing it up so much this summer, at so many different stadiums, watching so many different teams, that I'm getting a little tired. So, being invested in the game itself this time was a nice change of pace.

And, U.S. Cellular Field officially put Eric over the halfway point on his quest - it was Stadium #16 of 30! Woohoo!

The stadium itself was perfectly nice. I wouldn't say it was a favorite, because it was just a pretty standard new stadium, but we liked it just fine. It didn't hurt that it was also a perfect night for baseball!

View of U.S. Cellular Field as we walked in from the train

Outside the stadium

There were lots of statues inside, like this one of Frank Thomas

U.S. Cellular Field

We settled into our seats and watched some baseball. The Indians were very well-represented in the crowd, I must say. There was even an adorable little Indians family next to us, with several cute little boys all dressed in their jerseys and caps with gloves in hand. Fairly early on in the game, the White Sox hit a home run and the Indians dad caught it, so they were all excited. It was rather cute. (Of course, I fully admit that it was probably largely cute because they were Indians fans...if they had been Yankees fans, eh, not so cute! Ha.)

Enjoying some baseball!
(Side note: can you believe that in my rush to pack on Tuesday night I forgot to pack any Indians gear?! Shame! Cleveland shuns me. At least I wore a blue dress!)

Another highlight was Indian Matt LaPorta hitting a home run right to our section. As you may recall, we are BFFs with LaPorta after a meet and greet with him at Yankee Stadium thanks to the Gotham Gators. Go Tribe and Go Gators!

As the night wore on, we did a little stadium exploring.

Lovely night for baseball!

More statues

I liked this one - statues playing catch!

Of course, we also picked up a souvenir cup for Eric, and had some hot dogs and chips for dinner. Yup, our fourth anniversary dinner was hot dogs and chips. Ladies, if you are thinking of marrying a baseball fan, let this be a cautionary tale.

Oh! I almost forgot about the most awesome thing ever, which was this guy:

Margarita man!

That guy has a MARGARITA BACKPACK. So, you can be sitting in your seat all happy and rested, and then decide you feel like a margarita, so then you just flag this little guy and his backpack down, and he comes over to you and pours you a margarita right there on the spot. Where has this guy been all my life?! Or better yet, why do I not own this backpack for trips to the beach (or, you know, just carrying around the city)?!

All in all, it was a lovely night at the ballpark. The Tribe ended up winning 4-2 (yay!), and we had a great time. Plus, that's one more stadium crossed off the list!

U.S. Cellular Field at the end of the night - so friendly!

Are you sick of baseball talk yet? Well, I hope not, because tomorrow we're talking about Wrigley Field! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicago Sightseeing, Day 1

Check me out! I'm actually getting my recaps started as planned. I'm such an overachiever.

Eric and I left for Chicago last Wednesday evening. We caught an 8:00 p.m. flight out of LaGuardia, and after arriving at O'Hare we took the train into the city. We had no trouble finding our hotel, which was older and inexpensive (with abysmal water pressure), but perfectly serviceable with a large room, king size bed, fridge, microwave, and location near Millennium Park that was perfect. We got all checked in and settled before running across the street to Dunkin Donuts for a late-night snack, then it was off to bed to rest up for our Big Day of Sightseeing.

We got an early start on Thursday (our anniversary!) because we wanted to hit the Doughnut Vault, a delightful little place a couple of Eric's coworkers recommended. They open at 8:30 a.m. to sell their fresh, delicious doughnuts until they are all gone, then they close up shop. We got a little turned around on our way there but ended up finding it in plenty of time to get in line.

Waiting in line at the Doughnut Vault

The line moved quickly, so we had doughnuts in hand in no time. We decided to get one of everything, which included: an old fashioned buttermilk doughnut (my favorite), a gingerbread stack, a glazed chestnut doughnut, a glazed chocolate doughnut (Eric's favorite), and a glazed vanilla doughnut (a close second favorite for me). The inside of the store was small and rather charming, and the doughnuts were every bit as delicious as they look. This was a good way to start the day!

This really is about as big as the little shop is. Teeny tiny!

Almost to the front of the line!

(Clockwise from top left: gingerbread stack, chocolate glazed, chestnut glazed, vanilla glazed and buttermilk.)

I was a happy girl. This doughnut is as big as my face!

Not to worry, we were not enormous pigs and did not eat all of those doughnuts in one sitting. We tasted all of them and then wrapped most of them back up to take with us, and ate them for breakfast the next two mornings!

After doughnuts, we made our way over towards the Navy Pier, enjoying some sights of Chicago along the way.

Chicago streets

Harry Caray's

We made it to the Navy Pier and did a little roaming around for a while.

Navy Pier

Fun with statues

This thing will haunt my dreams.

Fun with funhouse mirrors

More Navy Pier

We had several different people tell us that we should take an architectural boat tour while we were in Chicago, so we decided to do just that. Our timing was perfect to hop right on a tour after our Navy Pier stroll. We thought the boat tour was a great suggestion - it was a very cool way to get a feel for Chicago, while learning a bit about Chicago's history and well, architecture.

The boat for our tour

Let's do this!

Beautiful city!

The Wrigley Building, one of my favorites.

One of my favorite parts of the tour pointed out these three buildings. The two on the left are affectionately called the "corn cob buildings," and are clearly all about curves. The one to the right of them is very straight, with rigid, precise lines. Interestingly enough, the architect who designed the corn cob buildings was a student of the architect who designed the very straight building! What different outlooks for teacher and student, right?

Forgive me for forgetting the name of this building (they threw so much info at us in just an hour!), but if you'll notice, it is not symmetrical. There are more windows on the right than on the left. Originally it was symmetrical, but as they were designing the street grid, they would have had to upset the straight grid lines to go around this building. Instead of doing that, they just knocked out some of the building on the left so the street could continue on it's perfect path!

This is Trump Tower, and the cool fact about this one is that each of it's different levels matches the height of a nearby building. Isn't that cool how it took from the surrounding architecture and paid tribute to it?

This one is pretty recognizable - the Sears Tower! (Or Willis, or whatever you want to call it these days.)

After our boat tour, we walked along the water for a bit. It warrants mentioning that our weather was spectacular for the whole trip. We're talking high 70s/low 80s and sun. Picture perfect!

Eric enjoying a beautiful day in Chicago

Our wanderings eventually brought us to Marilyn, who is just as big and immodest as we expected.

Giant Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn, really. Let's be a little lady-like here.

One thing that was crazy was that there was this fighter jet zooming all around the sky all afternoon. I don't know if there was an air show going on that weekend or something (there were a bunch more jets to be seen during the baseball game at Wrigley on Friday), but all afternoon on Thursday this one jet kept zooming by, so low in the sky and so loud. It was really freaking me out, to be honest. I just kept thinking, "this would not fly in New York!" (For example: remember when an Air Force One lookalike flew over NYC without warning and people freaked out? It was just for a photo-op, but really. Can't we Photoshop that business these days? Why scare the living daylights out of New Yorkers?)

But anyway, I digress. After Marilyn we made our way back across the river and stopped for lunch.

Photo-op on a bridge

After lunch it was time to explore Millennium Park, which was one of my favorite sights of our trip. We saw the Bean, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (a super cool concert venue at which I would have loved to see a show), and the Crown Fountain, which projects different faces on two large towers that periodically spit water at the children playing below! We even took our shoes off and waded through the fountain water for a bit, which was very refreshing.

Millennium Park

I mean, seriously - how cool is this concert venue?

THE BEAN! I was so excited.

This picture was taken from underneath the Bean, looking up. Can you spot us in the middle there? Eric is wearing a black shirt, and I'm standing in front of him (in purple) with my arms stretched out to my sides.

There we are in the side of it! We had fun checking it out from all angles.

Loved it.

One side of the Crown Fountain

The other side, spitting water!

Splish, splash!

We think Chicago rocks.

After letting our feet dry, we proceeded on to the Art Institute, which we did wander through for a couple of hours. We saw some great artwork, of course. My favorites were the Monets, but I'm just a Monet kind of girl.

Art Institute of Chicago

Examining Monet's Haystacks. I made the joke that it looked like he was trying different Photoshop actions on the same picture. Ha!

Water Lilies, my favorite.

Vincent van Gogh's self-portrait

Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"

Renoir's "Woman at the Piano" (another of my favorites), and El Greco's "The Assumption of the Virgin"

Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"

Grant Wood's "American Gothic"

Picasso's "The Old Guitarist"

By this time we were getting pretty worn out, so we made our way back to our hotel to rest up a bit before Baseball Game #1 that night.

Stay tuned for some baseball talk tomorrow!