Saturday, September 11, 2021

It was 20 years ago today....

How many of you remember 9/11/01?  Do you remember where you were when the towers were hit?  I certainly do.  Virtually all New Yorkers knew people who were directly affected by the terrorist attack, people who died, as well as survivors.  

I began writing this entry on the day where the last US serviceman/woman was evacuated from Kabul, with the idea that this would be the rare post to appear on the day being discussed. 
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Politicians certainly know how to get us into wars - the loss of roughly 3,000 people in one set of attacks was more than enough to justify this war.  But once Bin Laden was killed, it was time to leave.  And leaving a war zone when a nation hasn't really won a war will always be messy.  We saw this in Vietnam, and we just saw this in Afghanistan.  We ended up depending on our enemy to provide security while we exited the theater of war.

Politicians will be long arguing about what Biden did right and what he did wrong.  But the deal to get out was made by Trump (one of the few good things for which I'll give him credit), and left for others to implement.  As for me, on the whole, I think Biden did the right thing.  Yet, there was much room for improvement.  At least we got over 100k people evacuated before the Taliban took over.

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But how many of us remember what it was like before 9/11/01?

20 years ago, airports and other public spaces were relatively free from "Security Theater".  (Much of what we see is meant to impress the public.  What the public doesn't see is really meant to protect us.) One could meet family at the arrivals gate, going through minimal security inspections which were meant to keep people from bringing firearms on planes.  If one wanted, one could go to the airport, go shopping inside (why, I don't know - but Pittsburgh once advertised its airport shopping), and then go home.  I could bring my soft drinks through security, and not have to pay outrageous prices to quench my thirst.  

One of my trips had me traveling from San Antonio, TX to White Plains, NY with a change of planes in Chicago, IL.  However, the plane coming from Denver, CO was late, and I'd never make my connection to New York.  Luckily, the gate agent changed the booking the second leg of my trip fly on on another airline (something not done today), and said that I had 30 minutes to make it from American Airlines' terminal to United airlines' terminal.  Little did I know that I'd be running from the far end of one part of the airport to the far end of another part of the airport, going through security (exit and reentry) in the process with only 2 minutes to spare.  I could not have made this connection less than a decade later.

Two decades ago, corporations were much more lax regarding building security.  I could go to a job interview without having to present any identification when I entered a building.  In the years that followed, I'd eventually have to go through 2 or 3 sets of security checkpoints in one building to get to a job interview.
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We were much better off 20 years ago.  But once our image of being secure was punctured, we went crazy trying to restore it - and went to war.  No politician would "man up" and say it's time to "bug out". Americans never want to look weak. Our politicians kept making excuses to justify staying in the war zone.  I am very thankful for our president being smart enough to exit this war, and keep future generations of American servicemen/women from dying in a "forever war".  
PS: I'd love to find out what Joe Haldeman would think of our exit from Afghanistan.
PPS: I think you may be interested in this song by Gilbert O'Sullivan:

So appropriate for 9/11, don't you think?




Friday, September 10, 2021

It was the day after the storm, and I made it into work.


This is what parts of Mamaroneck, NY looked like after hurricane/tropical storm Ida came through for its visit.  Much of Lower Westchester could be described as places that "You can't get there from here."  And looking at the picture above, it is easy to understand why this is so.

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Right now, there is a lot of finger pointing going on.  After any major storm, politicians will make a lot of noises and do a lot of nothing.  In the case of Ida, images should be a wake up call that major upgrades to our infrastructure are needed to deal with the effects of global warming.  Unfortunately, this takes money - something we don't have enough of.

My current path to work goes through areas which could get flooded out.  However, I was lucky, as that the only traffic jam I encountered was less than 2 miles away from my office.  Even then, there were no floods blocking my path to work.  Instead, other people's paths to work were blocked in front of me, and the cars going in the opposite direction from me prevented me from speeding off an exit ramp, then making a right turn to make it the last mile to work.  So I drove on the shoulder to do this, and made it to work only 5 minutes late.  Not much for me to get frustrated about. But I can only imagine how it was for the man who hired me - he had to come from Jersey....

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But things could be worse than to have a bad commute to work - One could have had to drive home in the middle of this storm.  There are some people who are not "emergency personnel" (Firemen, Police, Doctors, etc.) who had to be at work and do not have the option to work from home.  An example of this class of worker is a New York City based sportscaster covering an out of town ball game from his hometown ballpark. When the 83 y/o John Sterling left Yankee Stadium after the end of the game against the Angels, he drove home during some of Ida's worst rains.  Due to floods, he got stuck in his car somewhere in Edgewater, NJ. Luckily, Spanish Language announcer Rickie Ricardo (I couldn't but chuckle at the name, given classic TV shows) was able to rescue Sterling safely and deliver him home. 

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Hopefully, my local readers made it through the storm safe and sound, with minimal property damage.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Would you have bought your meat from a vending machine?


Assuming you were a carnivore like me, would you eat meat that looks and tastes this good?  In my case, I did, and miss the option to buy it direct from the butcher.  Unfortunately, the Applestone meat company recently closed down all of its outlets - shortly after they opened their first Westchester county outlet in Eastchester, NY.

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When I was dating XGFJ, one of the places we'd pass in her neighborhood was the Applestone Meat Company outlet.  There were times that she wanted to buy a good steak (or roast), and didn't want to go to the local supermarket or drive into Kingston or to New Paltz.  I've eaten Applestone's meat, and was willing to drive to either of their first two storefronts during the early days of the pandemic.  (In those early days, no one knew how to be safe. So any place one could shop for food with minimal human contact was a blessing - especially when the meat was this good.)  Later on, I found out that they were opening an Eastchester store, but didn't have the chance to get there before this place closed down.

Years ago, many supermarkets butchered their meats on site.  In the past few years, it became cheaper to butcher meats elsewhere and deliver butchered, wrapped meat directly to stores.  (Some stores kept butchering tools in the stores, so that larger cuts of meat could be sliced down into manageable units for consumer use.)  If you were to go to a Walmart, Aldi or Trader Joe's, all you'd find are prepackaged meats - it's much cheaper and more hygienic to butcher the meats in a central location and deliver them to stores. 

In Japan, they sell almost everything in vending machines, including clothing.  In Germany, they have sausage vending machines (shown above).  So why shouldn't Americans take the next step and sell freshly butchered meat out of vending machines?

Applestone did so.  Sadly, it didn't work out for them.  Knowing what I know about their former product, the meat was expensive - but very good.  If I wanted to cook a true gourmet meal, and wasn't satisfied with the quality of meat from my local supermarket, I'd have gone to Applestone.  This is one shopping option that I'll miss, even though I hardly had the chance to use it.


PS: Would you have patronized the BAMN! Automat?.  What about the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop?

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Something I have to say....


There is a reason I chose this picture to lead off an entry in this blog.  Only the person who I hope reads this will understand why it is here....

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Recently, I received  a communication from someone who will remain nameless and faceless - as desired by that person.  It was a picture that was sent in response to this post ("An acquaintance has cancer"), saying it was a favor.  The friend I was with when I received this picture interpreted this communication as something other than a favor, confirming my read on things. (I could have been totally wrong on intent.  So I hope this person understands why I felt this way.)  Without going into any more details than this, I hope this person and her friend had a great time at their gathering.

Unfortunately, my actions in the past hurt this person very much, and all I can do anymore is to say "I'm Sorry".  Sadly, I feel that it will never be enough for her. This is a place where I burnt a bridge without meaning to, and nothing I can do or say can help alleviate this person's pain.  There are only so many "Mea Culpas" one can say before one stops caring to say "I'm Sorry" to someone who has been wronged.  One can only wear a Hair Shirt for just so long....

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In regard to another person who will also go nameless and faceless, I got to thinking that this person hurt me without meaning to.  An action noted in a statement of hers  in a recent conversation echoed an action that could have originally been her way of trying to get my attention, and it backfired big time.  Again, with things playing out the way they did, I'm not sure if anything much can be done to bridge more of the gap between us.  It'd take much more work from both of us to do that, and I haven't yet seen or heard what's needed from her if she wants to take the next step towards a solid friendship.  (Yet, I can hope this happens.)

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In both cases, there was cause for a person to feel betrayed.  And in both cases, things blew up and got out of control.  In the recent case, I only saw this picture with negative intent.  It might have been better had it not been sent, as the messages exchanged afterwards brought up ill feelings for both of us.  Yet, when I think about it, this was a case of two people who didn't trust each other, both finding out that after a negative incident that relearning how to trust a person and their motives can and will take some time.  It's never easy to cut a person some slack after a lot of hurt feelings.




PS: I hope that both people referenced here won't get too upset at my mention of this picture and the associated text messages....



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Shopping at the local mall. Boy, how things have changed!

Lately, I have needed to go inside several malls to do some shopping.  Gone are the days where the mall was busy most of the day.  Now, if you're "lucky", you might bump into a single shopper while walking aimlessly in the mall.  No, it's not that bad, but it seemed that way when I window shopped in some local malls.

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Years ago, the White Plains Galleria was busy from the moment it opened to the moment it closed.  Abraham & Strauss anchored one end of the mall, while J.C.Penney anchored the other.  At lunch or dinner time, one could not find a seat in the dining area. Each and every storefront was rented out with goods available for sale.  Today, the two anchor stores are gone, and the mall's owners are covering up vacant storefronts to keep the few people shopping at the mall from doing the rest of their shopping online.

White Plains is not alone in the decay of the modern mall.  In Kingston, NY, the Hudson Valley Mall is effectively vacant, with all of its major anchors gone.  (I don't want to include Target here, as it is off to the side, and easily severed from the rest of the mall.)  In Yorktown Heights, NY, the local mall lost its Sears, and is in danger of losing Macy's.  There is only one store that I patronize there (Ulta), and I'll bet that it may break its lease (along with other stores) if/when Macy's decides to shut down.  Danbury, CT is doing a little better, as at least two of its anchor stores survive.  But in JC Penney,  they have carefully hidden vacant space no longer being used inside the store, pruned in-store stock to the bone, and made one of the two checkout counters into a general customer service area.  This makes me think that this store may soon be gone.  Will any of the remaining tenants want to stay after that?

However, it's not just the big malls that are hurting.  Local strip malls are hurting too.  When I first started to commute to a job in Westchester, I passed by this strip mall.  All of the storefronts were rented out during the first few years I worked at the bank.  I'd stop by in the morning, pick up a buttered bagel at the bakery, a newspaper at the stationery store, and drop off my shirts/suits at the dry cleaners.  In the evening, I might pick up some fruit and veggies from the small market there and then go to the butcher shop a couple of doors down.  None of these shops are there any longer; most of the storefronts on this property have been vacant for years.  I wonder how the owner pays his taxes on this property, as I don't see the restaurant (not in photo) doing enough business to cover all property expenses.

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Several years, I wondered why someone might sell off a commercial property.  Today's real estate market has given us the answer.  In an era of informality, we don't need much formal wear or the places that service those garments.  In an era where fresh food is delivered to the house, why shop at a small market when you can either have it shipped to your door from Whole Foods, or go to Wegman's to pick out the foodstuffs yourself?  In an era where one reads the daily newspapers online, why stop into your local store for your newspapers or magazines?  

I expect that many shopping centers will be repurposed in the near future, some of them bulldozed for a small number of big box stores (as happened in Poughkeepsie), or to develop new housing projects.  What do you think is going to happen? Do you think this process was accelerated by the pandemic?


Monday, September 6, 2021

Sometimes, I feel like the world is closing down on me.


Lately, I have been feeling down in the dumps because of a few minor things.  But I can sum it up in a simple phrase that could be worrisome if I didn't know myself: "The Thrill Has Gone."

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Since my then girlfriend and I broke up in 2019, I haven't found a new spark to ignite my passions.The woman I called FH in this blog and I stopped seeing each other this spring. The woman I call MWL and I have developed a non-physical relationship.  Given my experiences with the late Ex-GF-M, I don't think I can afford to open up too much to her - even though she is accepting of Marian AND does some exercise. Part of me wants to have a romantic relationship, but is no longer thrilled by the effort it takes to have one.  But being alone is also unfulfilling.

If my "large" apartment was as neat, tidy and organized as the one in the picture, I'd probably be able to invite people now and then.  Alas, it's messy enough to keep me from getting any value out of having a cleaning lady come over.  Sooner or later, I'll have to try to get my cleaning lady back, and see if she can take over where she left off before the pandemic set in.

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The other day, I got an email saying that an interview had been scheduled for me with the New York Court system.  However, when I needed to print a document so that I could physically sign it, my printer ran out of ink.  Wouldn't you know it - I couldn't find any of the ink cartridges I had in my apartment.  So I'll have to go out and buy new ones.  AARGH!

I talked to the hostess of my Yonkers gaming group, and told her of the Court System interview.  She advised me to go as Mario.  And this is what I already planned to do before speaking with her.  This woman is a good resource for me, as she has her finger on the pulse of what is going on in the real world.

If I were to get the job, it'll feel a little strange going to work in trousers again.  But I found that being Marian helps keep me sane; this presentation just doesn't need to be an everyday occurrence.  Too bad that some people didn't understand this....




Sunday, September 5, 2021

From what I can tell, it looks like my ship is going to sail ...with or without me


I've been looking for information on cruise ships scheduled to return to service, and it looks like the ship doing this 18 day cruise is scheduled to resume service soon.  The cruise line is looking to service its Alaska, Panama Canal, Coastal California / Mexico, and Hawaii routes this fall.  

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Right now, the prices are still very reasonable for the cruises given everything, and I may just drop the hammer on one of them.  Alaska is out of the question for me.  But Hawaii is still a reasonable possibility.  All depends on my employment situation.  Part of me wants to get a new job, as that will provide me with spending money without draining savings.  Yet, another part of me wants to travel as Marian, and a Hawaiian cruise would give me the opportunity to do just that.

With one of the 18 day cruises, I will have a minor headache to deal with: Traveling home shortly before Christmas, during the worst of the holiday rush.  Do I really want to do this?  If I were to drop some extra coin and do another cross country train trip, I would be in-transit on Christmas day - either on a two day leg from the West Coast, or waiting in Chicago's Union Station for my connection to New York.  

Is this the way I want to spend a holiday?

What would you do if you were me?



An early dinner with a friend

  Last night, I mentioned to Pat that I wish I could have been born a cisgender female who looked like this when younger.  If I were younger...