Raining Condoms on 13th St and Ave B in Manhattan

Just unopened packages of condoms all over the sidewalk everywhere.

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Found a trail of condoms leading around the corner at 13th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan, New York City last night around 11:45 PM or so, July 21st 2017.I mean, who did this? And how did it happen? Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and someone girl was flinging condoms at her former guy? Or was it happy craziness?

I mean, who did this? And how did it happen?Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and someone girl was flinging condoms at her former guy? Or was it happy craziness?

Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and some girl was flinging condoms at her former boyfriend? Was it happy craziness and people were just tossing condoms around for laughs? Was someone making an important delivery of condoms and their satchel ripped open, leaving a trail?

A Dance Parade, Protesters, Painters & People Stealing Garbage

People protesting something going on in Turkey.
People protesting something going on in Turkey.
A crazy guy dancing with a toilet seat. He usually does this by the large black cube at Astor Place.
A crazy guy dancing with the molding from a van window, I think. He usually does this by the large black cube at Astor Place.
This guy was taking a break from dancing to the tune of a nearby Buddhist meditation group. Shortly after this, he took a bag of trash from the public bin and walked away with it.
This guy was taking a break from dancing to the tune of a nearby Buddhist meditation group. Shortly after this, he took a bag of trash from the public bin and walked away with it.
This is Francis Virella. He wants to make it big as an artist.
This is Francis Virella. He wants to make it big as an artist.

Today, there were all sorts of things going on in Union Square. We just happened to be walking through and saw a crazy guy dancing, another crazy guy stealing a bag of garbage from a public trash can, had a conversation with a guy that wants to make it big as an artist, and then wandered into a dance parade. It was a lot of fun, and the random, amazingly entertaining things that you can just stumble into is one of the reasons I love New York City.

You can see the rest of the parade photos, in a higher resolution in my Flickr gallery by clicking HERE.

Semi-Domestic Wild Deer in Fort Lee Historic Park, New Jersey

Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park
Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park

On Sunday, when my wife and I walked over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, we stopped by the Fort Lee Historic Park, which is right next to the bridge and offers a great view of the Hudson River and Manhattan, which, I suppose, was the reason the fort was originally built. We didn’t really expect to see a whole lot there. We were just looking for a place to take a short break before turning around and walking back over the bridge. We were both surprised by how much of the historic fort has been restored. We want to go back sometime with real cameras and spend an afternoon there looking around.

The best part of the pit stop, though, was when we saw wild deer snacking on the underbrush in the middle of the park. Even when I lived in Georgia, it was rare to see deer in high traffic areas, and it was especially bizarre for me to look one way and see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and then to look the other and see a little family of deer hanging out like they were special guests in a petting zoo. It reminded me of a snapshot I’d seen on instagram a few weeks ago (I think) of a deer eating flowers from a planter in the middle of an outdoor, strip mall.

I first spotted them when we were a good distance away and I snapped a few photos, because I expected them to bolt the moment they realized we were there. We kept walking closer though, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. The mother deer kept looking up at us, but she decided we weren’t going to bother her and went back to eating. Later, a large Chinese family with loud kids showed up and the deer just kept grazing. I got the impression that these deer live there and people are used to seeing them in the park. I stood about arm’s length from the mother deer and she ignored me. They’re almost domesticated.

In a way, it’s a great bonus to have wild deer hanging around the park. It helped take me completely out of the city and let me better enjoy the trees around me, the open space, the smell of foliage and dirt, and the lack of crowds.

Trekking Across the George Washington Bridge Into New Jersey

Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge
Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge

When I was in the Army, there was a running cadence that went something like this:

I can run to Jersey just like this,

All the way to Jersey and never quit.

I can run to New York just like this,

All the way to New York and never quit,

Because I’m hardcore,

Motivated,

Dedicated,

etc. etc. (The cadence changes here depending on the unit type)

Well, when I crossed the bridge on foot yesterday, I wasn’t running, but this cadence was rattling around in my head. I was thinking that, of all the times I responded to or called that cadence when I was in the Army, I never actually crossed any state lines during PT (physical training). But, yesterday, I started a walk in Manhattan and ended up in the Fort Lee Historic Park across the river in New Jersey, and then came back again. Maybe in a few months I will go back and run that route, but for now I’m trying to take it easy and just enjoy myself.

The bridge’s walkway is pretty popular. I saw a lot of tourists with name tapes stuck to their shirts as well as families walking across, or hanging out on the bridge. Just as a side note, I noticed a lot of Jewish people hanging out up there. I was reminded of how many Jewish people I saw in the Bronx Zoo last June. I don’t say that to be racist or anything. I’m just wondering if I’m stumbling across popular hangout spots for Orthodox Jewish families, because I don’t recall seeing that many Jewish people hanging around lower Manhattan, the Natural History Museum or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or it could be that I just never noticed?

Anyway, the views going across the bridge are stunning. My iPhone photos aren’t going to do it justice. I’d like to go back with a real camera to try to get some better shots, and I will definitely have the opportunity, because even if I don’t run across the bridge one day, I’ll definitely be walking all the way back to Jersey.

Also, just as a side-note: In my last blog post I wrote about walking up the Hudson River Greenway underneath the George Washington Bridge and I noted that it seemed like the bushes along some parts of the trail were hollowed out, like people live there. Well, it seems like there are some homeless people living in the park, after all. When I was on the bridge, looking down, I saw a homeless guy through an opening in the trees trying to get comfortable. You can barely see him in this image, but he’s resting his legs on that blue box:

A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.
A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.

Crazy Guy Busting Crazy Dance Moves in the Streets of Antipolo

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One of the things I like about the Philippines is how unrestrained people seem to be, though this is sort of a special case.  There’s a stereo equipment store on a particular street in Antipolo that we walk down regularly and there’s almost always a guy standing in front of the store, in the street, dancing to the music that they play.  This guy isn’t all there upstairs from the way it looks, but he’s having a good time doing what he’s doing, and that’s cool.  At least he’s doing something that makes him happy, and it’s definitely entertaining to watch.

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Today, my wife suggested I record him dancing.  She said he’d probably like it, and she was right.  When the guy realized he had not only an audience, but a camera on him, he really went all out.  He seemed incredibly happy to be acknowledged.

Here’s the video:

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A fellow spectator.

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A Night Out In Manila!

So, we’ve been here since the 6th and tonight was the first time we’d left the Antipolo area to go out and have some fun.  I guess you have to prioritize.  It wouldn’t do to go out and have a good time and then come home to crappy living conditions.  Not everything is done, and it probably won’t be for quite a while, but we felt we deserved some time out to relax and we took advantage of it.

So, off to Megamall we went!  We met up with my brother-in-law and his wife there and had a late lunch at Sushi-ya.  The food there is really good and the prices are reasonable.  After that my brother-in-law and I wandered around while our wives got pedicures and then we all met up again to watch Iron Man 2.  By the time that was done, it was 9:30 PM and it was time to make the long commute back to Antipolo.

The time seemed to go by so quick!  There were so many other places we wanted to see while there.  I think we may have to take some more relaxation days and hang out in the city, preferably in a nice air conditioned mall again.

As for the house, things seem to be progressing ok.  The door is in the wall now and it’s functional, but the cement still needs to be replaced.  The guy is working on the plumbing in the kitchen right now and then he’s going to do the cement all at one time.  That’s fine, as long as it gets done sometime in the next few days.

We’re planning on holding off on doing the painting because we want to get the electrical installed properly first early next month.  A fresh coat of paint would do wonders for this place but we have plenty of time, so I’m not all that worried about it right now.

I also found out today that not all Filipinos are ruthless criminals.  Yesterday I dropped my ring in front of a store in the neighborhood and when I went back to find it, it was gone.  I mentioned it to the girl that was working the counter, who lives in the neighborhood as well, and she asked around and actually found my ring.  She went to the person’s house to get it back from one of their kids.  So, a disaster was narrowly averted through her efforts.  It also showed me just how true the ‘everyone knows everyone’ and ‘there are no secrets in a Filipino neighborhood’ sayings are.

We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow, but even though the days are full of work, they’ve also been full of action and activity, which has kept things fresh and exciting.

Unusual Names in the Philippines

Naming conventions differ the world over, but for the most part have remained rather traditional in the US.  That’s slowly changing, but for now you’ll still find plenty of people named John, David, Heather, and Lesley.

In the Philippines, names are a lot more creative.  I’ve seen a girl named Cherry Pie, another named Happy, and my brother-in-laws and my wife are all named after Catholic saints.  Seriously.  Most of my brother-in-laws have 3 ‘first’ names.  My wife has 2.

At first I was a little turned off by the idea, because I had a rather conservative upbringing and lived in a repressive American subculture called the US Army.  Now, though, I think it’s interesting how people here break traditional boundaries and express their creativity through naming.

Here’s one sample I saw at the Jollibee in Antipolo, Rizal Province, inside the Shopwise store.

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Singapore’s National Day

So, Sunday is August 9th, Singapore’s National Day. The country will be celebrating it’s 44th birthday, it’s 44th year of nationhood, supposedly. I say supposedly because I remember reading recently that the Prime Minister said that Singapore is not yet a nation. I know he was speaking figuratively, but it still can’t be a fun thing to hear if you’re a Singaporean. I’ve seen that same sentiment echoed quite a few times on forums and in blog posts, though. There are plenty of Singaporeans that feel as though Singapore doesn’t belong to the Singaporeans anymore.

Somehow, I can’t blame them. A full third of the population isn’t native. About 68% of the country’s jobs are given to foreigners. The country has been built up quite nicely for just 44 years of self-government, but somehow it has failed to produce people who feel like they belong.

Here are some quotes I pulled from a blog post’s comment section:

This is just a small sampling. You can visit the blog post itself for more, but this is just to show that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the current situation in Singapore. There were even comments from Singaporeans stating that they planned to wear black on National Day, rather than the national colors, to represent the fact that they’re mourning rather than celebrating.

Still, not everyone was full of doom and gloom. My wife and I walked through Pasir Ris Park tonight and it was packed full of people barbecuing and camping out for the night. There were tents everywhere! It sort of reminded me of parks and neighborhoods in the US on July 4th, with groups of family and friends getting together to celebrate.

From what I’ve read, and I’ll admit it isn’t too much since I try to steer clear of much involving Singapore politics, people have come to believe that National Day in Singapore is more of a celebration of the PAP (People’s Action Party?) than a celebration of the people, and so a large portion of Singaporeans aren’t as enthusiastic about the day as they used to be. It’s pretty sad that many people in Singapore are opposed to celebrating their own national holiday.

Singapore is a young country. It has a lot of maturing and learning to do yet, and I’m sure that in time it will become a place that all Singaporeans are proud to call home. So, here’s hoping for that day. Happy 44th Singapore.

Sentosa’s Underwater World

My wife and I last went to Sentosa in September of last year.  We showed up in the late afternoon so we didn’t get to do much, but we had a great time and planned to go back.

Today, we finally got that opportunity.

Our main objective for the trip was Underwater World.  The first time we went there I was really interested in it, but we ran out of time.  Later, I saw photos from someone else’s trip and got even more excited to go.  So, we headed straight for it.  The line to get tickets was rather long, but it only took about 20 minutes to get through.  Afterwards we took a short break to get something to drink before heading into the Underwater World area.

In the entrance to Underwater World there are a lot of tanks built into the walls where you can view some of the smaller fish.  There’s also a petting tank and a “feed the manta ray” tank.  That one was pretty interesting.  The rays in it were so used to being fed by people that if you stood near the tank they would come over to you and half flop out of the water expecting you to drop food.

After you pass into the main exhibit area the tanks for the fish get larger.  One of the more interesting tanks had Japanese Giant Spider Crabs in it.  Full grown, their front claws can be 6 feet across or more!

Just past the crabs is an area with a lot of jellyfish that are neat to look at.  One of the tanks, with the jellyfish shown in red in the picture above, rotates the ambient lighting in the water and as the lighting changes the color of the jellyfish changes.

One you go through this area you can head into the underwater tunnel.  The underwater tunnel is a long tunnel with a plexiglass dome so that you can see the fish all around you and above you.  There is a travelator along the left side and a regular floor along the right side, so you can either ride through and look around or jump off to snap a few pictures.  While riding through this area we saw a lot of large and small fish.  We also saw some divers in the tank feeding the fish.  You can see some shots of the fish in the tunnel-tank below.

(We calld this guy the “Nom Nom Nom Ray” because he was constantly munching on something and grinning at us!)

Coraline Movie Review

Coraline isn’t going to be released in theaters in Singapore until September 17th, 2009, but I managed to get a copy early and my wife and I watched it tonight. I have to say I’m quite impressed with it. First of all, it’s visually stunning! These snapshots are a little fuzzy because I took them without pausing the video, but you’ll get the idea:

When I first saw advertisements for Coraline, the story sounded really interesting and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a kid’s movie or not, but it has a lot of deeper meanings and reminds me of classic fairy tales, where there’s always a lesson to be learned. Also in line with classic fairy tales the story has a dark, grim side to it.

Without spoiling the entire thing for a person who hasn’t seen it, the main character is named… Coraline of course! Coraline and her parents move to an old house for reasons that are never divulged. Shortly after moving in she encounters a strange young boy that lives nearby named Whirbie. The next day, he delivers a 100-year-old doll to her that mysteriously looks exactly like her. This doll will cause Coraline to open Pandora’s box (or in this case a tiny door) and send her on a wild and dangerous adventure.

Other things that I’d like to point out are that the characters in this movie are very well thought-out. They have depth and are all very entertaining. Also, I’m going to start looking for a way to get my hands on the original soundtrack. The music was spot-on and did a great job in setting the mood. Oh, and can I mention the great animation again? It really is fantastic. And it’s not just the animation quality either. The use of color and imagery will keep your eyes darting around the screen constantly.

This is a definite must see, whether you have kids or not!