Tuesday, December 2, 2014

30 and Over

As I predicted, and as was pointed out to me, I have fallen behind on this blog thing... So I will try to catch up on the happenings over here. 

This is just a short story from a few weeks ago, that kind of seems to characterize how things have gone for me in New Jersey.

I was talking with a friend awhile back (if you are reading this you will know who you are) about first  impressions of people, and how we approach new people. She stated that she keeps people at a distance, assuming they aren't good people until they can prove her wrong. Ultimately, she really doesn't like someone until they earn that right to be liked. An interesting approach, as I told her... I have the opposite viewpoint, where I give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they are ultimately good people, I am friendly and try to reach out to people, and will continue to think they are a good person until they prove otherwise. And usually it will take several instances for someone to prove to me they ultimately are not worth having any kind of a relationship with. 

Thus brings me to the 30 and Over Basketball League. They call it a league, but really it's just a bunch of guys getting together once a week to play hoops. Just what I was looking for.

To put this situation in better context for you to understand how I was feeling, it is quite a push for me to go to something like this on my own, not knowing anyone. This is definitely out of my comfort zone. This is a foreign place, with foreign people, and I don't like it. But, I'm at the point where I need to step out of my comfort zone if I am ever going to meet people over here!

So it's Wednesday night at 7pm, and I head out to play some basketball for a couple hours with the 30 and over crew. Meara always likes to say I am a 29 year old in a 50 year old's body. It's not too far from the truth. I'm out of shape with two bad knees and a bad back, and not a great basketball player. Never really professed to be, so it doesn't hurt me to much to write that. I told Meara, "I'll just tell them I'm 29, out of shape, with two bad knees. They'll let me play, right?"

So I set out to find the gym at the local rec center. That is my first problem, I can't find the gym. I ask around, and someone tells me they might be playing over at the high school. So I drive over to the high school. I step in the gym, and there are a bunch of 10 year olds throwing around a basketball. Is this what they thought I was looking for?? I kind of feel like a creeper, so I quickly exit. I head back to the rec center, thinking I just missed the gym. I start walking around the building, finding nothing. While in the parking lot, a gentleman asks me if I have any jumper cables. My first inclination was, no, I don't, mainly because I don't want to take the time to help you. I politely tell him I don't think I have cables, but I will look just to make sure. As I head up to my car, I feel like a terrible person. I yell back to him that I found cables, and I will be right over to help him jump start his car. After helping him out, I see a police officer walking by. I decide to ask him where the gym might be (again, stepping out of my comfort zone to do this). He tells me they most likely play up the hill, but he isn't sure if it's going on tonight. So I drive up the hill, find the gym, see the door propped open, and head in.

I finally found it! Sure enough, a bunch of old guys playing basketball. They have just started up a new game, so I lace up my sneakers, stretch out, and wait to get in the next game. About 30 minutes later they finally finish their game (this is not great basketball). One of the guys heads over, and asks, "Hey, how old are you?" I pull out my practiced line, "Well, I'm 29, but out of shape with two bad knees!" I'm smiling and trying to laugh, but no such response from him. He stares at me, and responds, "Well, this is a 30 and over league. Sorry. We can't have you taking up a spot." I'm dumbfounded. Can this really be happening?!?! There's only 12 guys in the gym, and half of them don't look like they can't play another game. I stand there stunned for what seems like an eternity, until someone else chimes in, "It's okay, just let him play tonight." Wow, okay, this is awkward. "No, no, I can leave," I say. But people are leaving, and they actually need me for numbers. So I stick around and play a few games. I play pretty soft and try not to do too much, jog up and down the floor, trying to show I'm not exactly spry and young, looking to tear up the floor. I feel like I accomplished my goal of showing that I may not be that bad to play with, even if I am the young age of 29. 

After we are done, the original guy comes over and says, "Thanks for playing tonight, but this IS a 30 and over league. They have an 18+ league that plays on another night." 18+?!?! You think I can keep up with 18 year olds after my performance?! Well okay, I get the picture, I am definitely not welcome here... Then he asks, "When do you turn 30?" I tell him in the spring. "Ok, we'll see you in the spring then," he responds. "Oh, and do you live in Highland Park?" he asks. Yes jerk! I do live in Highland Park! Would you like to check my drivers license!? By this point I am beyond embarrassed and pissed off, so I quickly exit the gym, probably never to return, even when I turn 30... 

This is probably the quickest decision I have made about someone/group of people. They quickly proved me wrong. Reflecting on this, I still can't believe they wouldn't let me play. I even told them I had just moved to the area, and was just trying to get involved with some things. Who does this?! New Jersians do this... So much for going out of my comfort zone...

So I'm back to square one, hanging out with Moxie. She's a pretty good buddy, with quite an agreeable nature. 

- Kevin

Thursday, October 23, 2014

East Coast Adventures-Delaware!

Last weekend we headed out on an adventure. Our first thought was to try the Poconos in Pennsylvania, which we have heard are beautiful (especially this time of year), and a fun place to take a hike with the dog (did you really think this trip would exclude the dog?!). Unfortunately, almost every hotel was booked up, so our spontaneous trip almost took a plunge. Luckily Meara can think on her feet, and she set out on a new travel plan (she's pretty good at this stuff, so I just let her take it and run). 

We have a little travel book that suggested Wilmington, Delaware (Delaware being the first state, so full of history), and when we found a Westin Hotel that was dog friendly, we were sold! It was only about a two hour drive (even with some Friday traffic) which is definitely one of those awesome things about the East Coast. It was a beautiful drive down, experiencing the fall colors, and passing through Philadelphia on our way. The weekend promised "Sunny and 70 degree" weather, so we had to take advantage of it! 

The Westin we stayed at was right along the Delaware river, with a great "River Walk" trail. Wilmington seemed like a great little town (although being the largest city in Delaware). Meara, being the investigative person she is, quickly found that Wilmington maybe wasn't as "charming" as we thought. She reported that in 2012 it was named the nation's most dangerous city on a per-capita basis. In 2014, it was rated the most dangerous small city in the country. Well okay then, I think we will just stay in and get room service! (It didn't really slow us down, we just kept Moxie close by, no one is going to mess with a dog like her)

The first day we explored the town a bit, and found a nice big park to explore. 

They built this water tower/observation deck back in the early 1900's. It still serves as the town water tower, holding about 500,000 gallons of water. 

There were some huge, gorgeous houses all along the park.  Some of these were incredible, and you could tell they had been there for a LONG time! 

After the park, we went back and walked along the "River Walk."  There was this cool ship that was a replica of the ship that the first Deutsch settlers of this area came over on.  

After a wonderful afternoon, we decided it was time for dinner (rather I decided it was time for dinner!). So once again Meara worked her magic and found a great little place that had quite the intriguing menu.  What really made me want to go was the Kangaroo they had on the menu! So thus our dinner in Delaware:

We started off with a sampler plate of Buffalo, Elk, and Pheasant sausage. The Buffalo was excellent, as was the Elk. The Pheasant was good as well, but you mainly tasted the herbs and spices that they put in to making the sausage. Our favorite was the Buffalo!

Meara followed it up with a nice cheese plate. Maybe a little boring considering what else was on the menu, but man did she love it!

The main course for me was a Rabbit Burger.  I know, sounds a little strange, and maybe you are picturing the little guy hopping around, but it tasted pretty good! It was definitely the gamiest taste of all the meats of the night, and not sure that I would order it again, but it was fun to try! (You may notice at this point that no Kangaroo made it to the table. This was disappointing, so a trip back is needed to get the Kangaroo!)

Day 2:

There were a couple of huge mansions that we wanted to visit, but unfortunately all the tickets for the day were sold out. So we headed out to the Brandywine Battlefield, which was the site of a one day battle during the Revolutionary War. 

The Brandywine Battle was the largest one day battle during the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, Washington suffered a significant loss on this day, and the British continued from here to take Philadelphia.  It was a little crazy to see that Washington lost about 700 troops this day, and when you compare that to later wars in our history, this would not have been considered a huge loss. 

Meara (and the dog) are standing in front of Washington's headquarters.  This was a family's farm, so he slept outside in a tent, and set up his workroom in their dining room. 

The front of the house. 

Up the hill, there was another family farm set up. The Gilpin family settled on this land, and lived in a cave just up from the barn in the background.  The parents lived in the cave with their son, and their son eventually started to build the barn and the house, and finally finished them after the parents had passed away. So the parents lived out the entirety of their new life in America in a cave!

The homestead in the background. 

A very picturesque setting. Hard to believe a major battle took place here!

This tree on the property has been there since the signing of our Constitution! 

By the end of the day, the weather was changing, and the clouds were rolling in. Our cue to head home!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New York, New York

When our move eastward became official, the one comment we received from just about everyone we talked to was, "Oh great! I can't wait to come visit you guys in New York!" Never mind that we actually live in New Jersey... the common consensus among our friends and family was that, with New York City in our backyard, we would be fun to visit and could easily engage with all that NYC has to offer. With this knowledge, we decided that we had to check out NYC so that we would prepared when we get visitors to make it up to the city and back.

On Thursday, we hopped the train into the city for a day of adventuring. After a train ride and a subway ride, we started our adventure in Central Park and a quick lunch at the New York staple, Shake Shack. Burgers and fries in tow, we grabbed a bench in Central Park and chowed down. Honest review: Shake Shack is really good and reasonably priced. It reminds me of an east-coast In-n-Out Burger: a somewhat small menu, but everything made its fresh and fabulous. Four stars.

Shake Shack!

Enjoying our lunch on the edge of Central Park.

Making our way through the park...

After lunch, we decided to take a walk through Central Park. It's amazing how quiet and serene the park is. In fact, Kevin and I kept commenting how it did not feel like we were in the middle of one of the most populous cities in the western hemisphere. Of course, that changed pretty quickly when we exited the park and headed for our next stop--Serendipity 3, home of the world's most expensive ice cream sundae (The Golden Opulence--spoiler alert: we did not order this) and the famous frrrrozen hot chocolate (spoiler alert: we DID order this and it was amazing). Between the frrrrrozen hot chocolate and the humble pie sundae, we definitely consumed our fair share of sugar and calories. It was so worth it, though! Best dessert I've had in a looong time. Five stars.

The Humble Pie Sundae--a piece of "humble pie" (peanut butter pie on a graham cracker crust) topped with hot fudge, banana, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and cherry. So decadent!

The famous Frrrrrrozen Hot Chocolate! Like a richer, chocolatier Wendy's frosty... And way more delicious...

From Serendipity 3, we waddled our way down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center, with stops to visit FAO Swartz and Trump Tower, and to window shop at Cartier and Tiffany's. Rockefeller center was hopping, and we wandered from there to Times Square. Again, hopping! It was at this moment that we both really began to feel like we were in the heart of New York City.

Kev in Toyland...

Exploring Trump Tower and its bronzy-gold opulence.

Rockefeller Center!

In a weeks, this will be transformed into the iconic winter ice skating rink and giant Christmas tree!

Radio City Music Hall--just across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Times Square! The quintessential NYC experience... Hard to believe that last time we were in Times Square, we were driving though it...

A quick subway ride later, we ended our day with a sobering visit to the World Trade Center Memorial and the Financial District. I was struck by how much development and rebuilding has taken place at Ground Zero. I never had the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center before 9/11, but comparing the footprint pre-9/11 and post-9/11, its amazing how that area has transformed so much in 13 years. Truly phoenix-like how a commercial and economic hub has risen out of the ashes of the Twin Towers.

Memorial in honor of the firemen who died responding to 9/11.

Rebuilding at Ground Zero.

One of the World Trade Center memorials...

Kev and the Wall Street Bull... It was smaller than we'd both imagined.

Enjoying exploring and dining in the Financial District.

One last shot of Kev! Enjoying our BBQ dinner outside in a back alleyway.

We grabbed dinner in the Financial District along with all of the day-traders enjoying a drink after work. It was like a scene from a movie--loud men and women in suits, drinks in hand, rehashing and replaying the vast sums of money lost or gained all in days work. Somewhat surreal. Overall, a successful adventure. Looking forward to hitting up some other New York favorites, like the Empire State Building, Broadway, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, MoMA, the Museum of Natural History, etc. etc. etc. And for those of you who want to come visit: We're officially open for business and will be happy to provide tour and transportation services to NYC.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Jersey Moments

Alright, Kevin's really been carrying the weight on this family blog, so it's about time that I participate. He's done a great job of getting you up-to-speed on what we've been doing and the general state of our lives in New Jersey, so my post will be less about the events of our life and more about some interesting observations I've been having about our new home.

Throughout the first few weeks here, I've found myself experiencing this weird moments where I can't explain what has just happened except to say, "Well... I guess that's Jersey."

For example: One of the first few days we were here, we were driving around a major road that runs along a big park called Johnson Park. This park is really great--it's big and runs along the Raritan River and has lots of open fields great for playing fetch with a certain golden retriever. This park also has some really weird features. Like a menagerie. This park literally has a menagerie complete with deer, a shetland pony, random goats, a llama, etc. On a nice day, there are families always there, staring at the animals through the chain-link fence. They can't pet them unless they poke through the fence, and I never see anyone there taking care of the animals. So many questions: how did they get there? Who takes care of them? What happens when the park floods (as everyone tells us it does after the even a moderate rain)? It's odd. Even odder still--just next to the menagerie is a hippodrome (you know--the track they use for chariot races... that type of hippodrome). On this occasion, as we were driving past the park, there was actually a man in what could only be a homemade chariot trotting around the hippodrome. What is this place?

Well... I guess that's Jersey.

Another example: I presented at a new faculty colloquium for my department. The colloquium was held in a very nice section of the library set aside for professional symposia and presentations. After the presentations were over, I ran to the restroom, where I encountered the following sign posted inside every stall in the ladies' room (yes, I checked every stall):

Again, so many questions: what incident prompted the need for this sign? Is this a continuing problem? Do I need to be concerned about these hooligans engaging in "activities" that might jeopardize my health? Again, What is this place?

Well... I guess that's Jersey.

So many other examples exist: Kosher sushi restaurants? Well... I guess that's Jersey. Beach boardwalks that do not allow leashed dogs? Well... I guess that's Jersey. The mystery state dish known as Pork Roll (yep... this is, apparently, New Jersey's specialty). Well... I guess that's Jersey. Being forced to have a gas attendant pump your gas? Well... I guess that's Jersey... and Oregon.

These moments, more than anything, make me laugh. And I guess it's good to know that nothing about this new home of ours is boring.


The Beach

Another weekend, another trip with the dog (you knew all these posts about the dog HAD to be coming). 

Last weekend we headed out to what we researched as the most friendly dog beach in the area.  It turned out to be pretty great! The weather wasn't awesome, which meant we pretty much had the beach to ourselves! The dog part of the beach was a little inlet in the bay, so we didn't actually get to hang out on the main beach. We tried to walk out there, thinking it would be nice to walk along the beach, but it turned out you couldn't bring your dog on the beach, or even on the walkway along the beach... What is this Jersey?!?  So we turned around and went back to our little beach for awhile, and then went in and walked around the town. After another visit to the beach, we found a place for dinner. It was a great day trip!

The beach was all ours!

 Moxie loved playing in the sand

Finally wore her out

After the beach we found dinner in town. After an amazing burger, we decided we had to try the, "Deep Fried Red Velvet Oreos with Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce."