Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the Soulseaker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

It’s Summertime, and the living is fine!

The sunshine and humidity, the heat and the storms, the tastes and the feels…. man, summer is my time of year, but as the car commercials warn, it’s only available for a limited time. I composed a “Summer Bucket List” filled with experiences I hope to enjoy this summer as both a way of embracing the season and as a vain attempt to hold onto it just a little bit longer.  My list is fluid and has changed a bit since I first penned it as I have said yes to unexpected opportunities while realizing that others just aren’t going to happen. I am keenly aware of the importance of the present moment, and that includes saying yes on a whim and also to leaving technology behind. My intention in sharing this is to highlight some of the wonderful places here along the Jersey shore as well as perhaps inspire readers to comprise their own “Summer Bucket List.”

Some Places I’ve Visited and Experienced:

IMG_6956Seaside Park Kite Night: Kite Night is held every Wednesday evening from 6-9 pm at J Street Beach in Seaside Park. What a sight it is to see the kites flying up and down the beach sky spanning both north and south from J Street in person. I went with my family and we brought beach chairs and Jersey Mike’s subs for dinner. The kids played in the sand and looked for treasures as kites of all sizes and types flew their long ribbons proudly or spun among the clouds. You can learn more about Kite Night here.

IMG_7121The Chicken or the Egg: A landmark for sure, Long Beach Island’s iconic eatery should be on everyone’s life “must visit” list. My niece’s birthday is in March but the Chegg, as it is locally known, is only open during the summer, so when she asked me to take her, I wholeheartedly obliged. We had to wait about half an hour for a table for two and it was worth it; friends told me about using the “No Wait” app afterwards, so I’m looking into that for my next visit. E and I didn’t mind the wait at all, and we were completely satisfied with our lunch. She had stuffed French toast with chocolate chips, and I had the fried chicken platter. My chicken and biscuit were both homemade and served with fries and a cup of honey. It was simply delicious. The kitschy surf culture/antiques décor complemented the tables that had comic book type prints on them. The Chegg is open 24 hours during the season. You can learn more about The Chegg here.

IMG_7117New Jersey Maritime Museum: I love Jersey Shore history, especially learning about shipwrecks, and I’ve been looking forward to visiting the New Jersey Maritime Museum in LBI for a long time. Did you know that there were over 3,500 shipwrecks off the coast of Monmouth and Ocean counties alone? Well, the New Jersey Maritime Museum has records about each and every wreck along the New Jersey coast, as well as a host of artifacts and historical information spanning back to the birth of New Jersey. There’s one room that is solely dedicated to the Morro Castle, which burned off Asbury Park in 1934, including artifacts from the ship. The only complaint I had was a result of my own planning: I didn’t give myself enough time to really delve into the wonderful displays, books, artifacts, and documents available to visitors (a second visit is already in the works). The New Jersey Maritime Museum is a non-profit organization and focuses on education, providing research, and To learn more about the New Jersey Maritime Museum, whether you plan to visit, attend their annual fundraiser (which will be held this year on September 8), make a donation, or become a volunteer, visit their website at www.njmm.org. The museum is open June-August daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and from September through May every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

IMG_6741Lakewood BlueClaws Game: It wouldn’t be summer without attending a Lakewood BlueClaws game, and as luck would have it, I went to their “Star Wars Night” with my family. The BlueClaws defeated the Hagerstown Suns 8-0 with their 18th shutout of the year and an action-packed six-run sixth inning including a home run by Josh Stephen.. The BlueClaws are the single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and over 75 BlueClaws players and counting have made it from the Shore to the Show, ultimately playing in the big leagues. The stadium is clean, food and souvenirs are reasonably priced, and the games are fun to watch. The BlueClaws offer a lot for kids and families, too. Last year, I wrote an article about the BlueClaws which you can read here. To learn more about the Lakewood BlueClaws or to purchase tickets, visit their website at https://www.milb.com/lakewood.

Love and Laughter: Summer gives me so many opportunities to spend time with the younger people in my life who matter in my heart the most, my five nieces and nephews. Whether they tackle each other as they try to climb up me or tell me a silly joke, I do my best to say YES to plans with them as much as possible. I also love spending time with my friends and other family members during my carefree summer days.

Books I’ve Read:

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume (this is the first book I read every summer)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Seven by Erin Shorosky (poetry)

What’s on my to do list?

I’m currently working on my assignments for the Fall/Holiday 2018 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine including articles and editorial work. I plan to post more here with the intention of positively highlighting life here at the Jersey Shore. I’m Dublin-bound on July 31 for a week, and I hope my jaunt this year provides me with the ability to communicate with words that Dublin feeling of awakening and rebirth I experience. Revising and editing my novel is very challenging, but I’m following the signs that are leading me to a better story with hopefully improved writing and character development.

What’s on your summer bucket list? What can you see and experience in reality versus through technology?

Remember, Summer is only here for a limited time…cross something off your Summer Bucket List today!

Until next time,

Jill

*** This entry is cross-posted on my blog at jillocone.com. I was not compensated in any way for my positive comments about establishments, events, places, or people mentioned in my post.

Let’s LIVE This August!

Since I’m feeling almost exactly the same way today, I decided to reblog my post from the beginning of August 2016 with some minor updates…read on:

August is like the Sunday of Summer.

It sure is.

Don’t get me wrong…I still love every summer day. I just want to hold onto Summer so much. It’s my season, when I am my best self.

June is a new beginning, a giant sigh of relief. It’s full of opportunity and wonder, like January 1 kicks off every year. Anything is possible. It’s refreshing and reassuring. It’s also deceiving, leading us on to believe that there’s plenty of time to get our summer “to do” and “to enjoy” lists completed.

Then comes July, which is like my favorite pillow. I can hug it a thousand times, or play with it over and over, and it never loses its shape. It’s there when I wake, and when I say goodnight to the day. I can sleep soundly with that comforting pillow, free from worries and nightmares. It reassures me that tomorrow is another day when I can still start fresh, no need to really be concerned about the passing days…

As July wanes into August, things change again, ever so subtly. Each day is now filled with a little more urgency. Sunsets get earlier as the sun’s early evening slant changes its angle and becomes less intense day by day. Many of the bright summer flowers have lost their blooms, and nights become slightly cooler by the week. I look back at June and July, and wonder where the hell those days went. I then look ahead at what’s still on my summer goal lists, removing a few because there’s no longer enough time to accomplish everything I had hoped to do.

The lone cricket’s serenade that woke me early this morning affirmed that yes, it is indeed August already.

So, what do we do now?

Let’s live in the present and forget our lists.

Let’s turn off our notifications and stop being a slave to technology.

Let’s hold onto each moment, to each day, to each experience.

Let’s notice the breeze blowing through our hair and feel the rain on our skin.

Let’s put our feet in the salt water and find eternity in the waves.

Let’s savor the ice cream cone, the watermelon, the corn on the cob, the peaches and plums.

Let’s laugh and sing with family and friends.

Let’s be grateful for all that we have, for all that we are, for all that we do, and for all in our lives.

Let’s face each day without worry, without fear, and without strings attached.

Let’s soak up every single second of August without leaving any wasted time behind.

Let’s live.

Let’s live this August.

 

Saying YES to LIFE this Summer

Summer 2017, Day 25: July 15

It’s summertime, and the living is fine, for sure. Morning walks along the boardwalk and the beach, sitting in the shade and writing, watching the hundreds of birds at the feeders, enjoying an ice cream cone or a treat from the ice cream man, lunches and dinners with friends, picking green beans from the garden, wandering downtown, fishing with my husband, laughing with my nieces and nephews…life has been simply beautiful. It helps that I’m feeling extraordinarily better than last year at this time. I am once again an active participant in life with an awareness of my limits. I’m doing my best to savor each of my experiences and celebrate the ordinary moments in my days. Feeling better physically has led to a more positive mental and emotional outlook as well, and I can’t remember a time when I ever felt this content.

I said yes to an opportunity on a Facebook status months ago, and it turned out to be a fantastic time with friends and classmates as we saw the Violent Femmes in Asbury Park. Random, spontaneous fun for sure as the gents of the Femmes rocked the house. What a great time with even greater people!

But isn’t that the point of life? Shouldn’t we be doing all we can to enjoy every moment of our time here on Earth?

Yes. Definitely YES. And I will be saying YES to life from this point on.

In other news, my novel is taking shape. I can see the storyline now, and what helped me get to this point was creating two large plot boards. I color coded events, themes, and symbols and arranged them in the order I want to include them on large, styrofoam-type poster board. It’s easier for me to look at it all at once, versus paging through a notebook to find the right note. Now everything is right there in front of me. The novel is going to be in three parts, and I’m almost done with Part One. My goal is to finish Part Two before I go to Dublin in the middle of August, then write most of Part Three after I return because that part takes place in Dublin. While there, I plan to visit some locations and look through the eyes of the main character so I can accurately write about it. I’ve been writing every day and am plugging along as I tell the story of Kelly Lynch and how her friend, Shannon, led her to her true purpose in life.

I’m also going to be setting up an author webpage with it’s own blog that will track my progress. Once that’s set up, I’ll be promoting it here and then you can follow me on that avenue if you’d like.

If you are looking for a great book to read this summer, consider Liz Nugent’s Unraveling Oliver. I had the opportunity of briefly meeting Liz at BookCon in June, where I received an advance copy. Set in Dublin, the novel develops the story of Oliver Ryan and is full of suspense. Talk about signs…when I started reading it, I had no idea it was set in Dublin, or that Liz Nugent hails from Ireland. I couldn’t put it down! It’s going to be released later this summer here in the USA. I highly recommend Unraveling Oliver.

Have a splendid day, and thanks for being a part of my journey.

Until Next Time,

Jill

 

What’s There To Be Afraid Of, Anyway?

Summer 2017, Day 4: June 24

I woke up this morning to my phone vibrating like crazy with a slew of severe thunderstorm alerts.

I used to be very afraid of thunderstorms until two years ago when I was at a local amusement with my nephew, then 10, and some terrible storms came through. We were standing outside under an awning, and he was a little uneasy about the situation. I couldn’t let on that, inside, I was curling up in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears because I didn’t want to further freak him out. So I pretended that the storms didn’t bother me. I remained calm on the outside despite hearing the sizzle of lightning and the crack of the thunder close at hand. I pointed out different things to look at, like the family dancing in the rain and the people who would run past at top speed every two minutes. We both laughed as we tried to predict when the next person would come screaming through with a bag over their head and shoes in their hand. Within a few minutes, the worst of it passed us and we ended up having a stellar time because almost everyone else left the park. The rides were ours and ours alone for the remainder of the night. I learned two valuable lessons that day. One was to sing and laugh in the rain, and I wrote a post about that lesson in January 2016 (click anywhere in this sentence to read it).

The other was that there was nothing to be afraid of. I couldn’t control the lightning or the thunder, so why had I let the thunder and the lightning control me?

What was there, really, to be afraid of?

Nothing.

The lighting and the thunder would do what it does, regardless of how I feel about it.

Could I ever, truly, prevent the worst from happening?

No.

So when I woke up to the alerts this morning, I didn’t retreat to the floor in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears covered by a blanket. Instead, I opened the blinds and watched the water pummel down from the clouds, making little waterfalls on the trees and the leaves and the neighbor’s roof. There was no thunder and no lightning, but if there was, I would have watched it instead of hiding from it.

Now, let’s take that a step further.

If I look at other things I’m afraid of with the same logic, why do I let fear run the show?

What’s the worst that could happen if, say, I got on that big roller coaster?

Or better yet, what’s the worst that could happen if I took a chance on my writing and stopped using fear as an excuse?

I was afraid of thunder and lightning for almost 44 years.

Did the worst ever happen?

No.

If I take a chance and get on that roller coaster, I’m 99.9% sure the worst isn’t going to happen. And as a wise friend once said, I can do anything for a minute and a half.

I think it’s time to consider getting on that roller coaster ride.

And it’s time to move forward with my novel. I’ve wasted enough time because I’m afraid I’m not taking the right path with the story line.

I’ve just got to trust the path that I choose to take for my characters and go with it, regardless of my trepidation.

What’s the worst that could happen if it’s not the right path?

I’ll simply just start over again.

No worries.

And no fear.

 

 

 

Welcome, Summer!

Summer 2017-Day 01: Welcome, Summer!

Today is one of my most favorite days of the year! Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of the summer season here along the Jersey Shore, but today it’s official. I’m celebrating the Summer Solstice by embracing and appreciating everything SUMMER and all that comes along with it.

The first day of summer, to me, is a bold reminder that anything is possible this season. Summer’s newness is a fresh start…time to begin anything again or for the first time. The only goals I have are to write and to live with appreciation while having fun.

Along my boardwalk walk this morning, I stopped frequently to take in the sights, the sounds, and the smells I encountered as my feet headed north. The aroma of the coffee brewing from the coffee house combined with the sweet smells of the sea air and the cotton candy that was being prepped for the day stopped me in my tracks…so delicious! The beaches were dotted with umbrellas here and there as they weren’t crowded just yet. Most badge checkers and lifeguards were still prepping the beach for the day. A local morning radio show was broadcasting outside of the Aquarium, with a few penguins, snakes, and a tiny alligator along with plenty of Aquarium staff as their on-air guests. I strolled along, stopping here and there to take a photo, and when I reached the Inlet end I was pleasantly surprised to find it empty. I sat in one of the new white, rocking chairs and relaxed there in solitude, rocking for about ten minutes. I took in all of the sights of the Inlet, from the west to the north to the east and observed the calm meeting of the current and the sea, quite rare for the mouth of the Inlet I can assure you. Then it was time to turn around and head back south down the boardwalk. One of the benches near the Inlet was decorated with red, white, and blue bows, and was dedicated in memory of Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard from Woodbridge, NJ, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. I paused for a moment of silence to honor his legacy. I once again took my time as songs from my summer playlist played quietly through my earbuds, but not too loud to hear the occasional hellos and “Good Morning!”s from passerbys. I made sure to reply to each well wisher with a smile and a kind hello. As I took a picture of the palm fronds with the blue sky as a backdrop, a small plane entered the viewfinder at just the right time. I turned around and took a few photographs of the empty ride area and thought about how full of activity it would be in a matter of a few hours with children and adults laughing as they soared into the sky or spun around and around. I am glad I moved at my own pace because it made for a more meaningful experience.

When I returned back home, I took pictures of each day lily that bloomed today and picked a handful of ripe blueberries to add to yesterday’s till. I spent almost two hours at the library researching my family history after receiving a few more emails from my new cousins with more details about my Grandpa C.’s side (stay tuned for that update!). We took two beach runs and I’m now writing this outside on my lounge chair as the goldfinches and the house finches and the sparrows eat while the catbird sings for me. The bees are busy at the clover flowers and there’s a stillness as a few storm clouds are approaching from the west. And with the Severe Thunderstorm Alerts I just received, it’s time to head back inside.

It was a glorious day this Day 01 of Summer 2017, rumbles of thunder and all. Truly glorious.

I hope your day was glorious, too.

Until next time,

Jill

PS: The deluge of rain that’s now wreaking havoc outside? I still find it glorious. 🙂

Seeking Calm In The Biggest City In The World….

I spent Monday with a dear friend wandering around New York City. I’ve always loved spending time in the Big Apple, and this day was no exception. We had no itinerary and no real plans of places to go other than to find the New York Public Library and Library Way. For the most part, our plan was just to wander and be.

You’d think that in a city as large and as loud as New York City it would be difficult to find a place for calm and peace, especially on this day:  the day before this year’s tumultuous Election Day, and one with numerous terror warnings issued as well.

Well, we found not only one but many. And I have been mentally escaping to each amid the post-Election rancor and animosity over the past 36 hours.

oc1_20161107_nyc-61

We took an early train and were on the streets exploring before the time our first-period block class would normally end. Ironically enough, fate brought me a chance meeting on 33rd street during rush hour with a very special former student! We talked for a few minutes and then went our separate ways. Within a few minutes, my friend and I were in Bryant Park.

I’ve passed by Bryant Park before but never wandered into it. And I am so glad I did this time.

It was before 9:00 AM as we walked by the boutique shops set up as a part of Bryant Park’s Winter Village, then we soon found ourselves in front of the skating rink. (Sidebar: it’s free admission! And the price to rent skates was very reasonable!)

oc1_20161107_nyc-79There were about 25 or so skaters making their way around the ice rink at that time, some by themselves, some holding the hand of a little one, some couples skating together, some doing advanced spins and jumps in the center of the rink. Jazz music was playing, and each person skating was enjoying their moment on the ice, sans technology and to do list. There was even a man in a suit skating round and round the rink, sometimes passing us by facing forward, sometimes skating backward.

It was a sight to be had, a very peaceful and serene sight so early in the morning. I could have stayed there all day watching this calm and refreshing scene amid the hustle and bustle of the city.

oc1_20161107_nyc-108After a while, we made our way to the next block in hopes of visiting the New York Public Library, but as fate would have it, the main branch was closed for a fund-raiser. At least I got pictures of the front steps where Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz ran down in the first part of the original “Ghostbuster” movie. Yes, you can see what motivates me sometimes!

We instead visited a smaller branch of the NYPL across the street. We found the NYPL Collection of Photographs room and perused the pictures in the folder for John Lennon, which we agreed was a great subject considering his rich history with New York City.

oc1_20161107_nyc-175 About 45 minutes later, we left the library and found Library Way. We then spent the next 45 minutes or so taking pictures of each of the literary and library focused bronze markers along the 2-block stretch of 41st Street between Pershing Square and the NYPL main branch.

I found this peaceful yet energizing as I have been writing a novel of my own and needed some inspiration. These quotes from writers such as William Styron, Kate Chopin, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, and more lit a fire under me, so to speak, and were a push in the right direction for me to get going with my work.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

At the end of Library Walk, we turned left and took in Grand Central Terminal, another iconic NYC location that I had never visited before. What a beautiful place, so much different than Penn Station. The building was beautiful with marble and brass and good white light everywhere. As I stopped in the main terminal area to take some photographs, it amazed me that with so many people passing by, it wasn’t crazy and chaotic at all. An added bonus was seeing so many people proudly wearing the 2016 New York City Marathon medals, which took place the day before. Here I was surrounded by people from all over the world in one of the busiest locations in the city, yet it was calming, just like what I experienced at Bryant Park’s ice skating rink only two hours earlier.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

Our bellies were calling, so we went to the dining concourse level and….man! So many places to choose from! We decided upon Shake Shack and were both very pleased with our choice. I was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the cleanliness of the entire concourse, but that didn’t compare in the slightest with how happy I was with my chocolate milkshake and cheeseburger lunch. So good! And they had crinkle cut fries (my favorite) cooked just right. Again, I looked around to take in where I was at that moment, and still couldn’t believe how peaceful it was despite so many people.

Our day would then take us back through Bryant Park, which was now filled with people, to visit the shops and take in more of the Winter Village atmosphere. Each little store that sold food contributed its own aroma to the wonderful smells that teased my nose and my stomach. More people were skating now, or sitting at a little table enjoying lunch or a coffee, or buying a new pair of gloves, or reading a book to their child in the children’s area, or even demonstrating their juggling skills. It was glorious, a true amalgam of human behaviors all rolled up into one giantly awesome oc1_20161107_nyc-278experience. I was only a watcher, but I was present for each and every moment and observed all that made up the human experience at this moment in time.

My friend and I took our time leaving, then also took our time wandering back towards Herald Square. Upon stopping for a minute outside of Macy’s we looked to our left and there it was, the grand and majestic Empire State Building. Despite the numerous photographs of the building from ground level we have both already taken, we shot a few more to add to our collections.

Then we looked at each other…we had almost two hours to spare until the 3:45 train home, so we decided why the hell not? We played tourist and went to the top of the Empire State Building! It was a great day to do so, as the lines were very reasonable. Again, there were a lot of people with marathon medals around their necks. I congratulated one man from the Netherlands who was here in the USA by himself. That got me thinking…so many people pursuing their dream HERE, a place that’s only like 70 miles or so from where I live. It put a lot into perspective….

oc1_20161107_nyc-371Anyway, we stopped first at the 82nd-floor observatory, which was surrounded by glass. I looked down upon Macy’s Herald Square where we literally were only 30 minutes prior. The glare from the sun on the Freedom Tower side did not lead to great photos, but it was still so awesome to see.

Before long, we then went to the open-air 86th floor. Speechless. I was just speechless. Looking out above almost everything else in sight, the sun lighting up buildings I had walked past earlier in the day…just too awesome for words. I found Bryant Park and that weird building next to it that reminded me of “Spook Central” (Ghostbusters reference again), Madison Square Garden, the George Washington Bridge, and so much more. I tried to find Yankee Stadium with my own eye but couldn’t do so; later on, after I uploaded my photos to my computer, I did find it once I zoomed in.

What sticks with me? Here I was at the top of the Empire State Building, looking down upon millions and millions of people going about their day, and it was quiet, almost silent at times save for the breeze. I thought of people traveling from all over the world to stand in the same location I was standing in because it was an item on their bucket list. I remembered looking from the same vantage point 20+ years ago with my California cousins, the only other time I did so. Why did I not enjoy these sights more often?

I realized how much I do take for granted, and that life is pretty damn good.

When it was time to leave, I purchased an Empire State Building pin from the souvenir store to add to my collection and then we descended back to ground level. Once we got to Penn Station, we stopped at Zaro’s Bakery for our traditional NYC trip cookie and were on the 3:45 train headed home. We remarked how the world was going to change “tomorrow” (election day), and we were thankful to enjoy a day in the city to escape and just be before life changes for all of us.

As I write this, I’m listening to Jazz music, thinking of the skating rink, and my soul is happy.

I’m selecting which pictures to ultimately attach to this post and when I look at each one, I recall the exact minute it was taken…the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the aura of each moment frozen in time yet willing to be experienced again and again.

I’m escaping into calm as my NYC day memories, free from protest and violence, trump the hateful animosity rearing its ugly head minute by minute on my social media feeds (no pun intended?).

Most of all, I’m thankful that I have a friend who loves wandering, observing, and experiencing life as I do. Thank you, friend. 🙂

*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on November 7, 2016 and are copyrighted. It is illegal to reproduce or to take credit for my intellectual property contained on this post. Thank you for your compliance.

oc1_20161107_nyc-381

Library Walk
Library Walk
Library Walk
Library Walk
From the top of the Empire State Building
From the top of the Empire State Building

oc1_20161107_nyc-282

Thank You, Chicago Cubs…We Need You SO Much!

This year’s MLB playoff season was the best that I can remember. As the first games began, I wasn’t necessarily rooting for any specific teams, although I had a soft spot for two of them. One was the Cleveland Indians, in part because of Andrew Miller (since the Yankees traded him and Ardolis Chapman, I was hoping for a World Series Ring for one of them), and as an 80’s teen, in part because of the movie Major League.

The other team I was hoping would do well was the Chicago Cubs for a number of reasons. One was pitcher Jon Lester. If you know his story, you know how he survived Lymphoma only to come back less than two years later and pitch Game 7 of the 2007 World Series, which he won for the Red Sox. That alone is just amazing, and a true story of victory amid a terrible hand dealt by life. However, Jon Lester earned my utmost respect in 2014 when he appeared in Nike’s “Resp2ct” saying farewell to Derek Jeter. Lester, in his Red Sox uniform, was seen ready to pitch to Jeter, and Lester was the first one to tip his hat, which led to many other greats also tipping their hat in a show of respect and thanks to the Yankee Captain. Lester didn’t let his uniform or fandom define his loyalties.

Of course, the 108-year drought and the stories accompanying the Cubs history made each and every victory more amazing. The Indians, in their own right, were hoping to erase their own 68-year drought.

Unfortunately, my bedtime was not conducive to watching the games in their entirety, but I did my best to watch what I could before my eyelids went on strike.

If you are interested in reading a recap of the 2016 MLB Playoff Season, there are plenty of other sites to help you do that. These are some of my simple observations and reactions to the 2016 World Series, things that I will remember, and things that gave (and still give me) hope.

Seeing the individual stories of each team, each player, and fans from both sides hoping for a victory were a lesson in loyalty and in perseverance. From a man who drove to his father’s grave to listen to game 7, to the stories of fellow humans well into their golden years, each snippet of a glimpse into the lives of these people when combined is the true definition of loyalty. The anthems performed by John Vincent and the Cleveland Orchestra, alongside “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sung by Bill Murray, Vince Vaughan, and Eddie Vedder unified us and brought us all together, regardless of stadium or team.

108 years versus 68 years is historic in its own right, but seeing individual feats of history during the series, especially in Game 7, was equally momentous. Corey Kluber’s amazing pitching in games 1 and 4 was a force to be reckoned with. Kluber broke a record in Game 1 with 8 strikeouts in the first 3 innings. Dexter Fowler hitting the first lead-off home run in Game 7 history…David Ross becoming the oldest MLB player to ever hit a home-run in the world series, and accomplishing this in his final MLB game ever…Game 7 with a tie, and a rain delay, and a 10-inning hit by Ben Zobrist, ultimately clinching it for the Cubs…the crowds outside of Wrigley waiting for that final out, then erupting with sheer joy as did the players…the class of the Indians fans and players who realized that even though victory wasn’t theirs this year, that they were witnessing history and demonstrating true sportsmanship…the raising of the W…I could go on, and on…

And after the Cubs victory, the tributes on the wall of Wrigley to those who couldn’t witness this historic moment?

How about the one that read, “We Did Not Suck.”? That one got me, especially considering my last blog post titled “Because You Are Good.”

The parade, the images of school late sign-ins with the reasons being CUBS or INDIANS, the skits on SNL…

All in all, the Chicago Cubs, along with the Cleveland Indians, have brought joy and good to the American public now, a diversion when we need it the most, during this awful time of animosity, judgment, and hatred caused by the election.

Thank you for bringing us that joy. Thank you.

Congratulations David Ross! Linked to the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Firefly at the Baseball Game – For H

I went to a Yankees game in August with my brother, my sister, my two nephews (5 and 2 years old), and two family friends. It was Star Wars night, and what a night! It was the boys’ first Yankees game, and they got to see the “real” Darth Vadar, Chewbacca, R2D2, Boba Fett (and yes, he was the REAL Boba Fett in my eyes and I was on Cloud Nine), and lots of other characters. We also witnessed a Yankees Grand Slam by Starlin Castro in their victory over the Indians. It was an all around wonderful night, one of the best nights of my life.

We were in our seats early to see the parade of characters on the field, then shortly after, the game began as the sun descended into dusk.

The 5-year-old, H, said to me, “Look at that firefly. He’s going towards the lights.” and he pointed to a buggy that was flying around.

I replied that I bet that firefly had a lot of stories to tell, living here at Yankee Stadium…and that got me thinking.

This is written for you, H., with love.

 

“The Firefly at the Baseball Game” by Jill Ocone (Copyright 2016)

A firefly named Sly lives up in the sky,  

The lights are his stadium home.  

He wakes at sun break then a tour he will take.

He will fly and he’ll spy and he’ll roam.

Over the field, his journey will yield

Green grass and the dugout and more…

The bases, the races, and all sorts of places

Will be full of the players at four.

Sly dives as he flies as the baseballs and guys

Begin to appear in the air…

The cracks of the bats and the blue baseball hats,

The strikes and the fouls and the fairs.

The outs and the bouts and the fans do they shout!

And Sly joins the crowd’s standing wave.

He’s bright as he lights and he loves all these sights…

The legends, the rookies, the brave.

Sly swirls as he twirls as the balls also whirl,

Whizz by and are hit oh so far.

Sly cheers as he steers from the bleachers…he’s clear…

Another home run by the star.

Sly flies as he dives in his own special guise

We won! We did it! Oh, yay!

Sly rests in his nest and watches the guests

And the players go home for the day.

It’s soon by the moon our friend Sly he will swoon,

He’ll dream that he’s one of the guys…

Running the bases, and walking the places,

His own home run up in the sky.