Saturday, 21 July 2012

NYC: 9/11 Memorial...

Remembering 9/11 brought back the harrowing memories of what happened in New York City ten years ago at the former World Trade Center Twin Towers. A place that was left in an unthinkable state on the fateful time of 9/11 has been rising upwards from the ashes of that fateful event. The 9/11 Memorial Site was a place I had to visit during my year in New Jersey.

Why did I want to visit the 9/11 Memorial? I wanted to see the area through my own eyes. The New York City skyline will never be the same, a breath of fresh air is making its way through the Financial District. There won't be way to bring back the same towers, a development is taking great shape before the world's watching eyes. One World Trade Center will give hope and prosperity to the once devastated site. A sense of awareness has been awoken by a large part of humankind as this new focal point has become a holistic vigil point as a place of remembrance. I thought it was necessary to pay my respects to the people that lost their lives during that devastating act of terrorism that happened one decade ago. The new tower is dominating the Downtown skyline, giving the district back its grand appearance that was once visible. We can't change what happened on 9/11, so we can pay our respects and move forwards.

The current phase of construction around the former 'Ground Zero' area is still a work in progress, the new projects will be finished in 2013. Change is coming to the former Twin Towers but through the tragedy there seems to be something positive that progressing to signify a new chapter in the life to remember of New York City's darkest day! Witnessing the energy around the work area is something else, whether the passers-by are making their commute or just taking a break there is a feeling of cohesion and hope in the air. I for one pass the construction site when I take the PATH train to World Trade Center Station from Newark Penn. From a visitor's point of seeing things, there was an overwhelming feeling of excitement in the air. I remain sure that this part of NYC has some big things to look forward to. I hope that the new development brings a feeling of strength to New York City! NYC will build a formidable tower and transport interchange that will give new life. Keep the faith!

I would like to think that I have a knack for visiting places that less than ordinary. For instance I took it upon myself to seek the Headquarters of The United Nations during one of my days off . Now deciding to discover the 9/11 Memorial Site. My visit to this endearing place may have only been brief but in the end it was extremely insightful. Finding a pace that felt like it was a pocket of calm in the centre of all chaos was great to experience. The 9/11 Memorial site remembers the dark times of the terrorist attacks that blighted New York City over 10 years ago. Whereas entry may be free it allows people from all walks of life to admire the exhibits and to remember the cause. A feeling of calm definitely descended upon the memorial site considering the main construction area overlooked the four corners of the site. In-particular the North and South pools omitted a very sobering feeling, no lie. Yes NYC, so sobering!

As July 2012 brought some crazy weather, the day I spent at the 9/11 Memorial allowed me to experience a tonne of rain and gloomy weather. No, I didn't see the dreary conditions an excuse to hop back on the PATH train back to Newark Penn Station, I had something responsible tourism to execute! As far as popular places of interest go I would have to say that the 9/11 Memorial was a hype of activity with the large numbers of visitors taking their time to view the thought provoking sights at the memorial ground. I don't think this place should be viewed with the same gusto like the Empire State building is seen, we need to be respectful and conduct our emotions in a respectable manner. The exercising of true rememberance and mindfulness was how I acted during my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in Downtown NYC! I know that during my time having lived near NYC, I have ensured my sightseeing efforts has focussed on substance to balance the fun times. Make those choices well.

The said memorial gives NYC's Downtown the perfect sanctuary where the people can pay their respects in peace without feeling the full craziness of the city. It's no selfie crazy sight, this place has to be taken quite seriously its not like seeing the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building! I found this memorial site had a feeling of calm where I could take a moment's solace to think about things. The future brings a new exhibit to the memorial site, a museum in the grounds of the memorial grounds is currently under major construction, well at the time of my visit it stood unopened. Only time will tell what things will be displayed for visitors to see. When looking at the effects of the reinvention of the Twin Towers I could not comment on the grounds of what improvements these new structures will make but simply the impact and the legacy that they are intended to create. We remember!

Will time be the healer for this situation? Whatever happens I have a strong feeling that the memory of the day in-question shall be remembered appropriately. Honestly, looking towards the future I do hope that the new developments and the inclusion of the 9/11 Memorial will heightened the impact that the terrorist attacks have caused. We can change the past but we can look onwards to the future, hoping that life can move with the times not forgetting the events of 9/11. Captured above to the left is a photo from the 9/11 Memorial that speaks without words for the stillness of the whole area is quite eerie in one sense but in another its the way one would imagine this place to be. Construction carried on throughout my visit so like I have tirelessly mentioned many times before in this blog the wheels are most definitely in motion. As I made my way back to Newark, New Jersey I felt like my day in the city was well worth it. Yes, I'll be seeing you One World Trade Center!

Remember 9/11! 

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Next Stop... Wilmington, Delaware!

The state of Delaware was in my sights! I took my Amtrak train from Newark Penn Station to Wilmington to explore Delaware's largest city on a July day that was so beautiful, the weather was perfect! Taking a chance on the state of Delaware, I was seeking adventure to find that every American state deserves a chance. Sure, Wilmington served many secrets and surprises!

After arriving bright and early in the city of Wilmington, I was lured by the waters of the Christina River. With the sun getting warmer by the minute it was a pleasure to explore the city's own 'Riverfront'. My opinion of Wilmington had been set from the second I got to know the Christina riverside. Wilmington's 'Riverfront' gave me the chance to hear a slice of nature, sure it was great to hear the chiming song birds sing as they fluttered in the skies above me. Everything in my view blended well, the older buildings blended well with the newly renovated walkways along the riverside. I had been advised that the state of Delaware wasn't worth my time, I didn't pay their thoughts no mind! I was expecting Wilmington to be a squeaky clean city, I was open to finding some surprises and secrets during my day of exploration. The July weather was proving to be a scorcher as the morning went on further. I was ready for Wilmington!

As mentioned before I chose to travel by Amtrak train from Newark Penn Station to Wilmington's red brick station, my train fare was fairly priced because train travel in America stands behind its European cousins. On my way to Wilmington I passed through Philadelphia before I stepped down from my train in Wilmington. I hadn't really done much research regarding what there was to do in Wilmington, I trusted the signs that guided me from the train station to the riverside along the Christina River. Wilmington wasn't a huge city, I had faith that I could make my way around without any issues. Sticking to the riverside for the first part of the day allowed me to see some lovely views, the skyline that Wilmington served wasn't huge but it was humble, appropriate for the size of the city. Moving into the Quaker Hill part of the city lead my to my second part of the day. Bordering New Jersey, why had the train taken the time that it did? I brushed shoulders with Maryland! My tri-state day!

Wilmington prevailed to be a city that possessed a special flare, owning something different that stood out compared with other cities that I had visited before in America. Teamed with a wide range of retro buildings, which resembled the life and times of Wilmington's not so distant past featured the 'Delaware Historical Society'. The city centre layout showcased a feeling of displacement. By the looks of things, Wilmington was just getting started with its future regeneration projects. I did not use a map because I didn't have access to one, I used my sense of direction and thankfully the streets were well signposted. Unlike other people, I wanted to give Wilmington my full attention during that July afternoon. I am currently living Newark, New Jersey so I was able to respect the nature of Wilmington's city streets. Life along the Northeastern coast of the USA helped me open my eyes to the realness!

Amongst the old parts of this city, a feeling of change could be seen and felt throughout Wilmington. I felt a good vibe from Wilmington, considering I had never heard of this city before I had arrived in America for my current internship I knew that my travelling efforts this year have gone from strength to strength! New office buildings and apartments were either newly completed or in the final stages of construction. Wilmington boasted direct access to Amtrak's Acela Express line, another reason for the new developments. Getting itchy feet as I had seen most of the city centre quite quickly, I had managed to snatch some WiFi in the street, I searched for things to do around the Wilmington area. Catching 'Pea Patch Island' and the neighbouring area, I asked the cashier in the local Walgreen's along East 9th Street and Market Street about directions to the bus that I needed to take to find 'Pea Patch Island'. All was good, the lady from Walgreen's was helpful and friendly to me!

Not wanting to limit myself to Wilmington for the rest of my day in Delaware, I took the 25 Dart bus to Delaware City, seeking Fort Delaware located on Pea Patch Island. Thankfully, I was on the correct bus that was going in the correct location. I hadn't had anything to eat for my lunch, I was looking forward to something delicious upon my arrival. Eventually I made it to my stop, being the last stop on the route allowed me to see where the Wilmington bound bus would be boarding from. Scouting out the waters edge allowed me to buy one return ticket for the boat over to 'Pea Patch Island' and my admission, both charges didn't cost me too much! With my tickets booked I found a nice looking pub, things looked really quaint with that area. The pub served me an almighty large point of fish and chips, refuelled and ready I made my way to the dock to take my boat over to the island. Things were running fine, I needed that!

I wasn't bothered with the history of 'Pea Patch Island' because the whole feel of Fort Delaware, sure the island had enough to see for it to grab my attention. Disembarking my chartered ferry from the mainland to 'Pea Patch Island', I made my way to Fort Delaware. Word on the street was that pea seeds had floated over to the island that had formed in the middle of the Delaware River. Being during the week there wasn't many people exploring the fort on the island, I had enough time to see the 17th Century fort at my own leisure without any crowds proud. Feeling content with my wanderings on 'Pea Patch Island', I made my way back across the Delaware River to get my bus back to the city centre. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed, finding my way around the central city core allowed me to witness the realness within Wilmington's inner core. I knew that taking a chance on Wilmington, Delaware was the right thing to do! Which city will be next? U.S, let's keep seeking adventure!

Delaware Called... 

Joseph Harrison

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Jersey Shore... Point Pleasant Beach!

South Beach in Miami or Venice Beach in Los Angeles? Which one would you choose to visit? Well, I didn't choose any of the above because of the obvious geographical issues. So, I chose Point Pleasant Beach on New Jersey's famous Jersey Shore. I am very pleased to say this beach enabled me to have a very relaxing sun-drenched afternoon, one which I desperately needed!

Work has been hectic to say the least, so with my precious two days off around the corner, I decided to make the most of the sensational Jersey weather by going to the beach. New Jersey has recently been blessed with great weather. Throwing caution to the wind, this morning I jumped on the 10:02 NJ Transit train bound for Point Pleasant Beach Station via Long Branch. I almost forgot to take the essentials with me to the beach like sunscreen, so I dashed to Walgreens on the way to my local transport hub, Newark Penn Station. In my opinion my notebook, pen and camera seemed to be the most important things for me to pack, you could say I'm turning into a dedicated blogger in my spare time? Yes, I take pride in what I do and that feels amazing because it's something I can manage. Anyway, with my provisions purchased I boarded my beach bound train. Getting into Nicki Minaj's latest album, so I wanted the beach, beach, B!

Green fields and picture postcard houses passed by before my eyes, this could only mean that the depressing site that my usual Newark backdrop would be history for a few hours at least. I'm such a hypocrite because when I arrive back in Newark I always feel a sense of belonging as its my home for now. The kitsch neighbourhood of Point Pleasant pleased me as it radiated a sense of seaside cuteness, please I make myself nauseous with my own way of describing things. Back to the script, I missed the earlier train from Newark so my plans were somewhat behind than what I previously estimated. I now see a bit of dis-organisation actually pays off as by 12 noon the weather on the Boardwalk was a staggering 36 degrees, a temperature which I would not complain about when at the beach. Taking my time was the bonus, the train didn't have many people so the journey was street free, also I didn't have to walk far at all to find the beach and boardwalk from the train station. Nice one!

Taking my place on the quieter side of the beach, a point that was more than pleasant due to the scorching sun beaming down on the golden sand. Not being bitter but I paid $8.00 to spend three hours at the beach, slightly disheartened that I had to pay but my day wouldn't of been so good without my tanning time. The water was quite nice, but swimming was not on my agenda. Prepared with my factor 4 Hawaii'an Tropic sunscreen I cooked myself until it was time to cool off in the blue Jersey waters. Relaxing to the maximum the stresses of the last week were drifting away from my mind, I have a feeling next week might have to be another beach day to tan and chill-out. Coney Island anyone? I tried to imagine if the beaches in Puerto Rico match the beaches in New Jersey, as my vacation is only two months away. No offence Point Pleasant but I imagine Flamenco Beach makes Point Pleasant look totally different. Go!

This time last year I took my day trip to Miami, me and my Disney friends all had a great day there. Swimming in the crystal clear ocean blue, taking in the likes of South Beach. I look back at that time and think it would have just been nice if our stay in Miami was for a little bit longer. Let's not dwell on what we haven't got or in this case, what we didn't do because by all accounts my day at Point Pleasant Beach was amazing! I'm not a big fan of beaches because of the sand, it can be so irritating to get it mixed with sea water but from time to time its only right to get all sand between my toes, I always get salty so there's nothing new there! No, I didn't go to the Tiki Bar because my day at the beach was all about relaxing on a budget, alcohol hasn't been something that I've been all for during my Industrial Placement at present. I vaguely know a bit about the MTV reality show 'Jersey Shore' but enough to know what beaches the show had featured, I had to see them for myself. Yes!

Point Pleasant Beach happened to be managed by a private company, officially known as Jenkinsons. Processing that fact, I understood why I had paid to use the beach. Jenkinsons company owns the boardwalk, which included the beach. I do wonder if I would have to pay at Coney Island for the same facilities? The fairground is also part of the business, I noticed a lot of children enjoying the rides that made up the fairground rides. Everything looked really clean considering the beach, boardwalk and fairground. All of those family friendly services were really busy during that summer's day.  I still don't agree with having to pay to use the beach but the convenience of the location for the beach from Newark was perfect, I don't think I have ever been to a beach where I could seamlessly get on a train from the next city! Come to think of it, my day at Point Pleasant Beach was probably my first ever American beach day!

As my beach experience drew to a close I enjoyed a little walk along the boardwalk, knowing an ice cream was needed to make the hot temperatures feel more bearable. I have to say the main feeling of the boardwalk had the feel of a British seaside town with its own 'over the top' quirks, each to their own I thought to myself. Ultimately, the deciding factor was the strawberry ice cream I enjoyed from Kohr's Ice Cream stand, that was a choice made well! The sights and the people that made their way down the boardwalk gave it the character and individual seaside charm that made all of the components worked perfectly. Point Pleasant Beach was a great beach to visit, having something for all of the family and an independent traveller like myself I left the beach very relaxed, ready to face another day at work. Would I visit Point Pleasant Beach again? That's a really good question because I probably wouldn't due to NJ and NY having so many other beaches. I need to get out! 

The Jersey Shore!

Joseph Harrison

NYC: The United Nations HQ, World Peace & Bedazzler's...

The United Nations play a huge part in fighting humanitarian issues across the world, using their peacekeepers to restore calm in places like Palestine and Libya. I decided to take an unplanned trip to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to see for myself what Ban-ki Moon and his colleagues are doing to make the world more peaceful. No NY, I definitely won't forget it!

Sitting on the banks of the East River the Headquarters of the United Nations stands proud with a procession of flags flying for each nation that plays a part in this non-for-profit organisation. Generally speaking its not the most traditional pick for visiting during a holiday or in my case a day off. I needed an intervention, my friends from England had finished their placement and the summer flight loads were so high! I missed my English friends, they had become brothers during our time shared in the USA! I found that the security at the Headquarters mirrored the procedures at any international airport. Baggage screening and body scanners checked each visitor, there was even a whole different entrance for visitors to enter due to the nature of the UN's operation, no person could enter without their purpose of visit defined. I felt relaxed within the safety of the United Nations Headquarters, that 'world peace' had me feeling nice.

I look back and think to a time where I tried to write a series of short stories about a group of peacekeepers who are called the 'Bedazzlers' these strong women are sisters and fight peacefully with power of their spirituality. Visiting the United Nations Headquarters made me think that if I was talking about real life 'Bedazzlers' what would they be like? They would be glamazons! I may have transitioned my writing into my blogs, I shall revisit the lives of the heroine I created one afternoon when I have nothing better to do. Belisha and her sisters were watching me, I had a sense that they were around me. I half imagined seeing one of her seven sisters walking through the highly guarded iron gates that surrounded the U.N HQ. I know that one day I'll revisit that writing phase, I feel that I'm doing just that with this blog. Seeing the flags of the agreeing countries had me feeling a sense of security once again. My friends has gone home, I needed to represent myself! I was ready!

I was all cleared to enter the visitors centre, so I took some time to view the exhibits on display, most of which could be described as thought provoking and somewhat sobering. Its not difficult to work-out that our world has troubles that affect people in the poorest corners of the globe, to see the facts in large print was quite an eye-opener to say the least. I really found the exhibits really quite something that made me take stock of my sheltered and trouble-free life because the world isn't such a happy place for lots of people in other continents. The amount of tourists capturing photos on their cameras almost seemed disrespectful because their manner was just so rude and quite inconsiderate comparing to what issues that were on display. Such issues like poverty, terrorism and past atrocities such as the Holocaust were highlighted for visitors to see as a reminder. I was ready to feel that sobering feeling, that was natural, NY!

I didn't need anybody to tell me that my day out could have been seen as 'unorthodox, did I care? No! I was being schooled, reminded that the world need to be ready to hear and see things from history that made them feel a little uneasy. I didn't have time to try to understand the guilt of the next person that was standing next to me, I used my afternoon to get my life together to feel clearer about the world that was going on around me. The United Nations isn't a playground, keeping things serious it was amazing to see the children's books that were on offer! If I don't fly high as a member of cabin crew, those books might be needed as a teacher in a far flung eastern land? After visiting Auschwitz a few years previous, the impact had me feeling all kinds of emotions as I stood inside the building that embodied the meaning of 'freedom'. I used that afternoon to pay thanks for all the work the United Nations does to keep people safe from harm, securing their rights! World, come on!

My wait was finally over as the audio tour which, I booked the previous day was about to begin. As shown in the picture captured to the left, I got the chance to sit in the assembly room that's used for debates and conferences to solves global humanitarian issues. Unfortunately, I didn't see the United Kingdom's desk but Turkey's was in clear view so all was not lost. It wasn't exactly Times Square but I want to believe that I'm quite a cultured soul with an appreciation for things that are a little deeper than the norm. This value for money tour lasted just over one hour, showing me various visuals and displays that showed hope for the future. Such issues like sending school boxes to remote places around the world to ensure children are literate showed that the United Nations has a clear and concise plan to help specific problems facing a large magnitude of people. At the end of the day, we are only human! Are we?

Listening to the terrible things that have now been stopped by the United Nations with the help of their peacekeepers was great to witness. As my afternoon drew to a close I sort of knew that I would have visited a place like this, one could say the outcome was nothing but positive. From the fluttering flags to the ever so predictable gift shop it was a pleasure to have seen the things that were on offer that day. In actual fact the Headquarters of the United Nations is currently undergoing a major overhaul, captured to the right is a photo of the ongoing construction work. I loved that some of the cement mixers were from Portuguese contractors, I live in an area that's highly populated with Portuguese and Brazilian people so it was nice to see that. Hopefully a new chapter for the buildings of the Headquarters could well mean that more positive movements can be accomplished. Feeling humbled by that experience I took my ass to Chinatown for some interesting food. Belisha, I see you!

World Peace!

Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 5 July 2012

NYC Pride 2012: Cyndi Lauper, Christopher Street & Drag Daughters!

New York City dragged itself up in aid for a fabulous cause. Shining with the six bright colours of the freedom flag, the beautiful people came out to play. This month just keeps on giving, I've only been back from Las Vegas three weeks! I certainly wasn't prepared for what I was about to see! We lived our truth, enjoying 2012s NYC Pride March to the fullest! Yass!

NYC was ready for the Pride March 2012, I made my way back to Greenwich Village! All lined up in our thousands the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered folk of NYC waited for this year's Pride March to begin. Flying the rainbow flag for the community, everyone waited out in the beautiful sunshine on New York's Christopher Street, that glorious Sunday. I had never been to a Pride March before, it was a great opportunity for my first to be in no other place like NYC! Waiting in our perfect spot along Christopher Street, I had managed to trade a shift from work to make it to the march, I have the best colleagues! The pavements were beginning to get increasingly busy, filling up with more excited pride goers. The other guys who were rocking their skimpy tank tops and cut up tees, I served my own flex because we are who we are! Another reason I was living a dream, it was a reality in living motion! OK!

Like Christmas this event only happens once per year so the reason behind people's way of thinking must have been to categorise this celebration as our LGBT Christmas. I'm certain that this event will be the first of many for me, its just to good to miss! Work has been crazy but I'm really enjoying myself, I'm not going to lie that it's been difficult to adjust from the craziness of Las Vegas so the hype of the parade really helped balance that out. I have been lucky making new friends from outside work, well from my co-worker Anthony. Me and Dean made our way from New Jersey to Greenwich Village for the Pride March. I'm new to this Pride lark so I just had a great day, I embraced the energy that could be felt along Christopher Street, after meeting Dean's friend we found a spot to wait for the March to make its way down to our side of town. I felt at peace, I had no worries nor did I need to look out for any hateful people! Pride was on and NYC had us safe with its embrace!

Cyndi Lauper made her appearance early on in the march as it made its way. The Pop Icon didn't look a day older than 40, something somewhere tells me that she's had a bit of help in that department? Well, I suppose girls just want to have fun? Another appearance was made by Drag Superstar Manila Luzon and her drag new Drag Daughter. Manila looked stunning in her outfit, she out-dragged the other queens at the March that I saw, and I tell you there was a lot of competition. Other famous faces did appear throughout the March but they weren't really as fabulous as Cyndi or Manila? Advertising is big business at Pride events for the Gays have a bigger capacity of disposable income compared to our straight counterparts. Money makes the world go around! Many sponsors used their logos during the march, showing their alliance with maximum exposure. We know our brands, we support them as much they do us, B!

Delta flown through with their band of enthusiastic staff, some of which were quite easy on the eye. The dancing cowboys from bar "Flaming Saddles Bar" made their entrance onto Christopher St with much gusto. If nothing else made you gasp about this Pride March then I would have to say the talent was exceptional! You had to appreciate the real meaning of this March, It was really good to see the couples that had been through Gay Liberation and the Stonewall Riots. Honestly to have to imagine of living in a world where you're committing a crime for loving the person you are meant to be with. Aside from seeing the Eye Candy it was great to see the golden oldies that make Pride so significant. As we get a step closer to having Marriage Equality, we already live with so much freedom to be with the person that one is meant to fall in love with. Representing the pioneers such as; Marsha P. Johnson I'm with you, let's celebrate those greats! All of us need to fight whilst striking a pose! We do, yes!

We had been standing for ages but the momentum of the March was really quick so it was easy to forget that time was racing past. I was loving the fit bods and the dangerous amount of disco pant wearing! I want some disco pants now! Drag Queens worked it past our spot, some of them were flawless but others needed to sashay away! Even though I missed Birmingham Pride I know that I'll make it sometime soon! From the muscle bound bodies dancing on the outrageous floats, to the Transgendered Divas there wasn't a second where I thought this March was nothing less than amazing. There were parts I do admit that weren't too great but I will not go into details! Please don't make me! I would have to say that one community in-particular knew how to strut their stuff! This group had to be the Puerto Rican's. Now the dancers that I saw were absolutely amazing! Puerto Rico does it better! ¡Hazlo bien, perra!

Sure, my first Pride experience was amazing, something truly great that I will not forget for a long time. From all the campery and fabulousness I'm still thankful that I got the day off work to enjoy the Pride event, after seeing Cyndi Lauper as the Grand Pride Marshal made my day. Like I mentioned I haven't made it to Birmingham Pride yet but its going to happen eventually, I'm going to get the most out of this year. Talking of the Puerto Rican's, I'm going to look at United for some flights from Newark Liberty because I want some sunshine within a holiday environment. Will I hit the town for a night out in NYC? I honestly don't know but I've fallen in love with this maniac city so I know full well I'll make my return when the time feels right. Pride was great, making our exit at the right time was the one, those bars were mad busy and I wasn't going to queue for that one drink! I know that NYC 2012 will the first of my Pride experiences, trust and believe! Giving it all to you NYC, strike that pose! Now!

Flying The Flag!

Joseph Harrison