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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Minor League Baseball...With a Purpose

I have recently been driving through rural Pennsylvania and found myself at First Energy Stadium in Reading, PA, and Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, PA.

Both stadiums seem to be part of a plan to revitalize urban centers which have been hurt by the onslaught of suburban life. The stadiums are quite ornate, and there's a lot to do in addition to watching baseball.

Baseball is the main event though, and here you will see a member of the Reading Phillies go up to the plate.

Ticket sales seemed to be pretty good, and the Reading ballpark was small enough that almost all of the seats were good ones.

Local Reading businesses seemed to rally behind the place, judging by all of the ads at the home run wall.

Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, PA also had a positive and friendly vibe to it. They also seemed to take extra care in having non-baseball things to do.

They even had a Ferris wheel. How cool is that? Shea Stadium really needs one of them, that way kid can play while the Mets blow big leads in the ninth inning when they play a closer who sucks.

Minor league parks give you a close seat to the action that you really cannot cheaply get in a major league atmosphere. Also, things like steroids do not appear to be visible, although I imagine they are part of the small town game as well.

What this is doing for the urban centers they are trying to revitalize is not clear. I did not see a lot of things going on outside of the stadiums, but they did bring in a few thousand people into a city that they might have normally avoided.

You may recall that I was a big fan of New York City building a football stadium, as it was a sign that the city was trying to maintain its greatness. In places like this, it's more a matter of survival. If nothing is done, the cities will implode. These stadiums seemed to be a good effort to avoid that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Valley Forge Military Academy

I was given a rare opportunity to tour the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, PA. The all boys boarding school and junior college is best known as the location where the movie Taps was filmed.

One of my co-workers attended this school for six years and was given a nice alumnus welcome.

According to Wikipedia:
Valley Forge Military Academy was founded in 1928 by Lieutenant General Milton G. Baker at a location several miles away from the campus' current location. After a fire devastated the original single-building campus, the Academy was moved to its present site in Wayne. Baker, an Anglophile, modeled many of the Academy's drills, customs, and ceremonies after a British model. The Academy still maintains loyalty to this tradition. Many graduates go on to own their own businesses
We arrived just in time for the daily inspection of the 500 cadets in grades seven through post-graduate.

Kids, mostly of high school age, marched in formation.

They groups were apparently divided into "companies". These groups dormed together and probably took a lot of the same classes.

The leaders appeared to all have swords.

Some cadets served as an honor guard of sorts.

They lined up for inspection. Permission to approve it was granted, and the kids went on with their day.

It is a beautiful campus and is deeply rooted in tradition. Cadets have a pretty strict schedule and are given a six week orientation before classes start.

I'm a sucker for libraries, so I had to walk through to see what kind of books they had.

It is an extremely orderly and well maintained place.

The books, however, are quite old. Many of them are from the 40s and 50s. You don't have too many books coming out today titled "Great American Negroes". Yet for books that were almost 50 years old at time, they were incredibly well maintained. The school librarians did a great job and clearly the students had a respect for the books held inside.

Kids from all over the world attend the school, and the countries represented are honored with flags in one of the campus' halls. No one from Greece or Ireland appears to be at the school right now.

This is Eisenhower Hall, which houses the school's senior administrators. It is also the backdrop of some of the scenes in Taps.

Graduation ceremonies take place here.

President Dwight Eisenhower is revered at the school, and plaque where he once stood is on display.

General Baker, the school's founder, is also honored.

The campus has a number of meeting rooms for public speeches and events for the students.

This dining hall is part of the Eisenhower complex.

It gives you a good view of the graduation area.

As you would imagine from a military academy, the dorms are Spartan, with blue and white hallways and simple beds.

The academy has a small museum that shows the history of the place. Here is a uniform used from the movie Taps.

Also on display is an old-style closet area for the cadets. Each student was required to carefully maintain this area.

The style for formal wear has changed over the years.

The time of a cadet is carefully guarded. Here is a "leave permit" from long ago so that G.J. Supplee could go see a movie.

The part from Taps I most remember is the chapel and a scene where actor George C. Scott reads the names of students who died for their country.

The chapel is as I remembered it from the film.

Stained glass windows show scenes of military and state history.

Students who have died are honored by a statue...

...a book...

...and for some administrators, a plaque.

George C. Scott was here!

So was Larry Fitzgerald, now of the Arizona Cardinals. Other famous graduates include J.D. Salinger, author, "Catcher in the Rye", Norman Schwarzkopf, Centcom Commander, Operation Desert Storm, Edward Albee, American playwright, Warren B. Rudman, United States Senator, R-New Hampshire, and Aaron Beasley, NFL player, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons.

It was a nice, random thing to do. It's a nice place to visit, but I don't think I would have been able to go here. I would have been on KP duty all the time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Let's Go Sabres!

While walking around South Street, my coworkers and I decided to have a beer and relax for a while. I looked up at the television and saw that the Buffalo Sabres were playing in the NHL playoffs and were winning their game 7-2.

Being a Buffalo Bills fan, I have an affinity for all things Buffalo. When it comes to Hockey, I really don't care too much about it, but I'll nominally root for my childhood team the New York Islanders when they play.

But this is the playoffs, and the Islanders suck. So it's the Sabres.

Well, the Sabres scored again, making it 8-2, and I screamed out "YEAH" to celebrate. It only took my a split second to realize that the whole bar was looking at me, and they weren't happy.

Then I realized that the Sabres were playing the Philadelphia Flyers, and I was in South Street Philadelphia.

Oh well.

These two in particular seemed to want me dead.

The bartender came up to me and asked me if I was from Buffalo, so I gave him the story of how I was a big Bills fan. Well, due to the Sabres victory, he decided to start bashing the Buffalo Bills for losing four Super Bowls.

For a while, I took it in stride, as I was on their turf and they all probably felt bad that their hockey team was an abject failure.

Then something clicked in my head and I decided that the Bills jokes weren't funny anymore. At that second I blurted out to the bartender:

"Jim Kelly may have lost four Super Bowls, but at least he never dry heaved during a two minute drill with the Super Bowl on the line."

Immediately again I realized I was the least popular guy in the bar right now, and it was time to go.

So much for the "City of Brotherly Love" and making friends.

Let's go Sabres!

South Street, Philadelphia

Today I visited South Street Philadelphia, a holdover of a time that predates the growth of suburbs and shopping malls.

As you approach Penn's Landing, you realize there is a uniqueness to the place that is demonstrated on art placed on nearby buildings. It's a kind of urban art that seems to use junk to make a point.

Tiles, paint, and perhaps glass serve as ornaments to someone's home. I doubt most neighborhood associations would allow this to happen in most places.

I do not know if this place has any practical use. If it's abandoned, it at least looks interesting. It's a pretty cool urban renewal technique.

It's hard to get a clear story on the birth of the cheese steak. Some locals insisted it was here at Jim's Steaks, although other sources point to Pat's King of Steaks in a nearby part of town. It didn't matter, as I was still savoring my previous experience.

This place is not famous, but it is important. About eight years ago while working in Lancaster, PA, my best friends from high school paid me a visit. After drinking a few, we decided we were going to get tattoos. It took us a really long time to get there, and did not arrive in Philly until about midnight. We picked this place because it was the only one opened. It was not a really thorough selection process.

Anyway, long story short, it took so long for my friend Josh to get a panther plastered on his thigh that the rest of us sobered up. None of us did it except him. He was happy with it though. It was a great tattoo. Seeing the place brought back memories of a really good time.

The joy of a place like South Street is it's throwback nature, yet it's still a thriving place. It reminded me of Greenwich Village in New York, as it is a place where you could eat, shop, and browse from stores that were just a little bit odd.

They have all the things you would want from a shopping mall, like clothes, music, and restaurants. Here, though, there is a less corporate feel and more of an independent streak among the patrons and the visitors.

Looking to find the latest drum and bass records? You're probably not going to find them in a mall (you're probably not going to be normal either, but that's another story). In South Street, however, there is a place you can go to that specializes it. Actually, there was a couple of them. It takes a throwback area to hold things like records, which are probably things that most kids today have never seen.

Imagine that for a moment.

Store owners and landowners of the area seem to have a lot of fun with their buildings. It adds to the color and tapestry of the place. The area's website describes it nicely:
South Street speaks of ordinary people who dreamed of building new lives where hard work and imagination could lead to economic independence and a chance to live and worship freely with their families. South Street then and now speaks of the everyday people of the continuing American revolution. South Street was (and is) a marketplace. Shops sold fish and fowl, fabric and all the produce of the land and vineyard. Families occupied the space over the storefronts - a bustling and noisy place where commerce ruled and kids played in the alleyways. Sounds like today, doesn't it? Or at least like the past when hippies and, artists and craftspeople moved in during the 60's and 70's and recreated a workplace and market reminiscent of the 1700's.
It is an important place historically, as William Penn's landing took place here in 1682. He is considered the founder of Philadelphia:
William Penn first sailed up the Delaware River in the fall of 1682 aboard the ship Welcome, an aptly named vessel, for in Penn's progressive vision of his colony, all religions would be welcome to pray as they pleased. Penn arrived in Philadelphia by barge from the downriver town of Chester where the Welcome had moored. He alit near a tidewater basin called the Dock fed by a creek of the same name. At the time of Penn's arrival, the area was inhabited, though sparsely, by some landowners in his "holy experiment," as well as by Swedes, Dutch, and Indians. Many of these locals gathered to welcome Penn near the Blue Anchor Tavern, an inn being built along Dock Creek.
If you're in Philly, you must spend some time here. It's a great place to walk.