Where He's Been, Part 2

Oct 05,2012

My life hasn't changed much. I get congratulated a lot, and lots of people from all different places are inexplicably being very nice to me, inviting me to dinner and all sorts of nice things. I've been told I seem mellower than ever, and I probably am. I'm sort of like a cat that's been declawed, and I'm basking in the stability.

At the same time, the semester has started and the whirlwind of academia has snatched me away once again, making that trip the US seem quite distant indeed. Nonetheless, I promised to write about it at least one more time, and do so I will, the looming threat of war with China be damned. (Yes, I'm writing about more pleasant things partly to avoid discussing that. What can I really say about it? People are going nuts about decisions made by governments and scapegoating ordinary civilians; the sort of insanity that all countries go through at one time or another.)

So here's what northern New York looks like when you drive through it:

That's right! The state of New York contains more than just Manhattan! It's one of those shocking bits of news that tends to really rock peoples' boats even in the old country, but even more so in Japan--sort of like the knowledge that pretty much no one carries a gun. I'm constantly having to remind my students that reality is a far cry from what's portrayed in Hollywood.

Here's another thing that some might find interesting--my wife certainly did--the crossing signal machines. You have to press this button to get a 'walk' signal. We forgot to do it our first few days there, and were left standing across from an unchanging red palm-in-the-face while the traffic lights changed about five times. (Of course, in Manhattan most people just cross whenever they judge that oncoming traffic is sufficiently far away to not hit them in the time it takes to cross.)

The big tourist attractions like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building look really impressive from far away but you can't really tell up close. The New York Public Library is just gargantuan and even the outside is well decorated, but tourists can't really do much but stand outside and look. (That's probably a good thing, because we lost too many hours just getting sucked into small bookstores.)

Nice kitty

The MOMA building was interesting, but the only museum we actually entered was the Metropolitan. We spent half a day there and obviously that's not nearly enough. Surprizingly, there are many areas where they don't mind if you take pictures. The most popular spot was next to Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait, but I gravitated more toward the middle ages, where I was treated to a nice review of what people, wore, ate with, and played music on at that time. I even got this spiffy shot of the field armour of Henry VIII, actually worn during campaigns when he was fat, gross, and bloated with the gout.

There have been some seriously nasty governments to live under in history.

Other highlights included Coney Island, which was a first for me. It was already cool by this time of year, but you still had people ignoring the 'No Swimming' signs and fishing as much as they could catch from the dirty water. (Signs warn children and nursing mothers not to eat anything caught here at all, and everyone else to limit their consumption. I'm reminded of a time in high school when some friends of mine were forced to wade through the Hudson River for some reason, and spent the next day with red blotches all over their legs.)

Further west provides us with the San Francisco Bay, where a ferry ride brings us close to the historic Alcatraz prison.

And no trip would be complete without a misty view of a famous bridge, in this case the Golden Gate. We hired cycles to ride across it and take the ferry back.

Last but not least, they gave us a rainbow on our first night in Millbrae.

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