Friday, September 23, 2011

Photo Show

I hope you enjoy these photos.  
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Amtrak Trip

As I promised on my blog of August 3, I finally made the trip to Los Angeles.

This past weekend I visited my son, his wife and two children, ages 5 and 8.  I rode Amtrak from San Diego to Union Station in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.  When I arrived there, I went to the bus area and boarded a “Fly Away” bus to Los Angeles Airport (LAX).  I travel this way so that the family doesn’t have to get stuck in Downtown Los Angeles traffic, which can be a bear.  It is much easier to pick me up at the airport.  I purchased my Business Class ticket and boarded the 1:25 pm train and arrived at LAX around 5pm.  I ride Business Class because it gives me a reserved seat for an extra $15.  I remember being on a train to Los Angeles once, when some people had to stand.  Those seats are difficult to hold onto to prevent falling.  So, as a plus, I’ve enjoyed the special treatment given in Business Class.

I like to sit upstairs.  As I was trying to carry my suitcase up the stairs, a young man, who seemed to come out of nowhere, offered to take my bag up for me.  When I reached the seat, I decided to ride the wave, so to speak, and asked him to put the suitcase up in the overhead.  Since I sat one seat behind him and his friend, I heard that they were in the entertainment field.  The same young man carried my bag to the platform in Los Angeles.   As they were departing the train, I asked him the name of his group.  He responded, “Manufactured Superstars.”  I really appreciate that he stepped up to the plate, offering to help me.  I hope he is blessed for his kindness.

At LAX, my son timed his arrival to match my bus.  Because of security concerns, a car just can’t wait at a loading area.  As the bus was entering the airport, he called me on the phone to ask where the bus was and what kind of a bus it was.  He managed to be just ahead of the bus, so there was no waiting on my part, or his.  With an uneventful, yet pleasant trip, the transition was smooth and I joined the family.

On Sunday, my son drove me directly to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.  He expected light traffic.  However, it was bumper to bumper so I missed the 2:00 pm departure.  It wasn't much of a wait since the next train was scheduled at 3:00 pm.  The Business Class section was practically empty and had only five adults and four children.  Since I didn’t bring a book, I had two hours and forty-five minutes on my hands to notice the people on this trip, as well as Friday’s trip.  One of the passengers mentioned, in my hearing, that he and his 3 year old daughter ride the train many weekends.  This little lady with bouncing brown curls seemed right at home in the train traveling the aisle at will.  The other children were three teenagers (two boys and a girl, aged thirteen).  They also seemed right at home on the train.  Unfortunately, they had been visiting their father in Manhattan Beach and were returning home to their mother in Solana Beach….a distance of approximately one hundred miles.  Apparently, they do this quite often.  The boys acted like eight year olds, as she did her homework.  While they seemed to be weathering their situation, it still seemed like a tough life.

The ride was quiet.  When we reached the beach area, I lamented not bringing my camera because the train windows were clean.  The only drawback to the ride was that we stopped five times to let trains coming north go through.  At different points on the trip to San Diego, south of Solana Beach, there is only one track.  I believe San Diego is the seventh largest city in the United States so you would think they would improve the tracks.  I guess Amtrak’s ridership between San Diego and Los Angeles just isn’t large enough.

Even with the inconveniences, the trip was worth it.  I had a wonderful time with the family.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Travel Costs

Next month I will be visiting New York for my fourteen year old granddaughter’s Confirmation.  I plan to stay long enough to celebrate my youngest granddaughter’s first birthday.
Many people remark that they don’t understand how I can fly to the East Coast so frequently.  Actually, I visit there about two to three times a year.  Since I have children and grandchildren on both the East and West Coasts, I make it my business to see them all as much as possible.
The website, Wikipedia, states, “San Diego has on average 146 sunny days and 117 partly cloudy days a year. “  To avail myself of this good weather (no ice, no snow), I live in San Diego, California.  Thus, I unfortunately forgo the children’s birthdays, concerts, moving up ceremonies, and this year, my eldest grandson’s graduation from high school....sounds heartless, doesn’t it?  But I believe it’s better to have a grandma in good health, than not.
So far, I have been able to visit at least twice a year.  In order to accomplish this, I comb the Internet for good airline prices.  This year I joined Airfarewatchdog (  There was no fee to join.  However, this website is usually for someone who can pounce on the opportunity and buy immediately, or someone who has very fluid travel plans.  Since I plan my visits around an event in the family, it hasn’t proved useful to me.  I usually check out:
Cheapoair (,
Orbitz ( ),
Travelocity ( ), and
Expedia ( ), as well as the airlines’ websites.
Over the years, I’ve used them all.  And, I select flights with the most reasonable cost; that is, the most reasonable cost in my estimation.  I have never, so far, encountered any problems using these services. Though sometimes I have to fly into JFK, Albany, or North White Plains to get the lowest price.  My quest is to keep my ticket cost under $300.  My daughter in Queens, NY would love it if I flew into LaGuardia Airport (near her home), but flights into that airport are usually much more expensive.   Earlier this year, I used Southwest.  For an extra $10, you can get a “priority” number for boarding.  On Southwest, this is important since this airline doesn’t assign seats.  It was worth the $10.
Also, it pays to enlist help from people who are adept at finding good fares.  My daughters always notify their Queens NY sister when they are looking for flights because she is very good at it.  She has helped me a number of times.  Though in all fairness, my other daughters are getting much more adept at it. 
This time I picked Expedia because it advertised a $266 fare from San Diego to Newburgh, NY (an airport usually out of my price range).   After taxes, the complete cost is $328.80.  I’ll let you know how I make out.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Recollections of Sept. 11, 2001

I am re-posting my entry from September 11, 2010.  It is my hope that you will be able to feel what I felt that day.   No one should ever forget. 

No American civilian should ever have to experience the events of 9/11 on American soil. And, my experience of that day is in no way comparable to the heartache of the families of the victims. The following is just my personal recollection of that day.

As my train pulled into Grand Central Station that morning, I heard some buzz from other commuters. But, it was none of my business so I just got off the train and walked the underground tunnel to the Forty-fifth Street exit. As I walked up Madison Avenue, I saw a throng of people standing around a bank looking at a TV. As I tried to see that they were looking at, somehow I got the message that something happened at the World Trade Center. I remember looking in that direction, seeing smoke, and trying to use my phone, and then, trying my Blackberry. No signal. I proceeded north to my office on 52nd St. When I arrived, I saw that I had a message from my daughter who worked near the World Trade Center. However, I could not reach her since I had no phone service.

I proceeded to work. A short while later, I heard that there was a TV in Personnel. So, I went to that floor to see what was going on. After a few minutes, I squeezed into the room. The scene was incredulous. I decided that for me the best thing was to go back to work. Young people on my floor were just milling around. We were the IT (computer) department. They either had IT friends in those World Trade buildings or, like me, had previously worked there themselves. I tried to work, but at the back of my mind were all the tens of thousands of commuters who literally poured out of the ground from the PATH (a train from New Jersey). What happened to all those people? Many, many times I had walked through the underground shopping Plaza and the passage ways under those buildings as a shortcut to save time. Since my commute was 2 ½ hours each way from upstate New York, I was always running to be on time at work. In November 2000, a co-worker and good friend gave me a job lead that resulted in my leaving the World Trade Center and moving to 52nd Street. As an aside, I later heard that a very smart female executive of the Port of Authority ordered the trains diverted to the mid-town area of New York City, saving many lives. I thought of how I would take my lunch into one of the glassed-in areas of my building and look at the Towers. How magnificent they were. Of course, I was just looking at the lower floors. I thought the design was intriguing.

Later that morning, I finally heard from my daughter who was with her co-workers at an apartment in lower Manhattan. One of the workers just took his whole department to his home. I advised my daughter to stay right where she was with her co-workers unless they were evacuated. Then, I was contacted by a great friend from Merrill Lynch inviting me to stay the night at her place since the City was in "lock-down."

Being in Computer Security, I decided, since I had no phone, to try sending emails to get messages to my children. I thank the good Lord for the “Information Highway.” Being able to contact my family in an event such as this is why I feel so strongly that there should be no Government interference with the Internet. I emailed friends in San Diego requesting that they contact my family. My children thought I still worked in the World Trade Center. Exactly where I worked was not one of their concerns. I didn’t know my son’s work e-mail address, but decided to create the addresses in different ways. Surely, one of the emails would get through. Not knowing was going to happen next, I wrote to my son that his sister and I were OK. I gave him the address and phone number for the apartment where she was staying. Then, I gave him the phone number of the friend with whom I would be staying. Without being melodramatic, I thought this might be the last communication we could possibly have. It brings me to tears when I think of it.

Around noon, I went to the bank to get money since I couldn’t get home that night. The sea of people walking, shoulder to shoulder, north out of the City on both sidewalks of Park Avenue was at least five people deep. It was an amazing, yet fearful sight.

Around 1pm, my daughter, accompanied by a co-worker, walked the 30 blocks to be with me. Her hair was covered in ash. I got her in our “locked-down” building. When we reached my office, the phone rang. It was my son in Los Angeles. My daughter, wide-eyed and in shock, told him what happened….her words just spilling out. I tried to calm her down. Her only response to me was, “You weren’t there.”

Then, my daughter told me we just had to get out of the City. She kept pressing. As far as I knew, we couldn't go anywhere. I decided to leave and walk to Grand Central to see if any trains were moving. I never in my lifetime had been prepared for what I saw.

As we walked the now eerily empty Park Avenue south to the train station, we were met with men with megaphones ordering us where to go. We walked a sidewalk cordoned off with safety tape into what seemed like the only open entrance. Other than the sea of people in the great expanse of the center of the building, I don’t remember much except that my mind kept reeling, thinking that something else could happen at any moment. Before long, we were on a train leaving the City.

That evening, watching TV, I saw the real events I knew nothing about because I tried to work that day. I realized that I, being the kind of employee I was, would have returned to my desk in one of those buildings when the “All Clear” announcement was given.

My daughter and I were now safe, but what about those people who died. What about their families? Even today, my heart goes out to them

I realize that this is a sharp contrast to my usually light-hearted and hopefully informative blog. I will always remember my daughter walking 30 blocks to my uptown office, covered in ash from those collapsed buildings….wide-eyed and in shock, having seen death and destruction not many American civilians have ever seen. And, as I said in the beginning of this writing, no American citizen should ever have to experience the events of 9/11 on American soil and no one should ever forget.

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