New York, a first time visitor

New York, a first time visitor

Last weekend I got to go to New York with my darling wife. The trip was planned as a gift for my 50th birthday and I had a choice of destination but New York was really my only choice as it is a city I have wanted to visit my whole life.

And guess what, New York didn’t disappoint. What a city, crowded, tons of neon, lots of places to visit, things to do, food and drink to sample and only 4 days to try pack as much in as possible. We had some things booked, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty and an evening at the US Open Tennis but other things we just went with how we were doing on time.

But of course we nearly never got to New York after Leanne was summoned for jury duty and was selected for a Superior Court case, but luckily on Thursday afternoon she was excused and we were able to pack and catch our flight out at noon on Friday.

Arriving in Newark Airport at 3pm and catching the train into New York meant I got to tick something off my to do list, arrive into Penn Station subway platform and walk out onto a packed New York city. The volume of people was just amazing but everyone managed to get where they were going without to much bother. We got to our hotel, The Millennium Broadway on 44th Street, just off Time Square. First thing that hit me in Time Square was the neon, even in daylight. And I knew it would be fantastic at night, and I wasn’t wrong, throngs of people and tons of neon.

New York has a strong Irish connection and this is quite visible through all the ‘Irish’ bars around Time Square. We decided to use the one right beside our hotel, O’Donoghues, and even though they didn’t serve full pints, more like half litres, it was nice and comfortable.

We went off to explore New York and get our bearings so we wouldn’t get lost to much. We went to the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Catherdal and looked for somewhere with a bit of New York flavour to it to have something to eat. We settled on Juniors after finding our first choice seemed to be everybody else’s first choice too. 

So after a ton of food, one dinner would have fed us both, we decided to head to the Empire State Building. This was one of those things we wanted to do but hadn’t really planned it. And are we so glad we did, and got the extra ticket to go to the very top. The views across the city at night were absolutely amazing. 

And like any good Irishman, the night was wrapped up with a beer in our new Irish bar beside the hotel. Sat was going to be a busy day as we had 9.30am tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour as well as dinner plans. Probably the main thing I wanted to see in New York was Ellis Island. As a recent immigrant to the USA, I do feel a certain affinity to those who came here before me. Their journey was a lot more precarious than mine, filled with more unknowns and much harder. But the affinity I felt has only grown after visiting Ellis Island. It’s immigrants that have helped make America the nation it is today, but unfortunately that seems to be forgotten by some.

After our tours, we done more walking, around Chinatown and through an area that was filled with lots of state and city buildings. So it was time to catch the train back to Time Square and the hotel. We managed to get on the wrong train, twice. But it meant we got to cross the river and head into Brooklyn. This wasn on our plan but it was fun. We now know we must come back to New York and see even more.

Anyway, the world really is a small place and I have friends in New York that I went to college with back in Ireland. So we arranged to meet up and have dinner and a catch up. So sitting in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy in New York were 3 graduates of Ballyfermot College, Dublin and an American from Atlanta via Michigan. 

Sunday was 9/11 Memorial and US Open tennis day. The 9/11 museum and memorial is a ‘must see’ but it is also something you have to give time to. We were there 4 hours and probably could have stayed another hour or 2. It’s definitely a ‘wow’ museum as well a very sombre place. The artifects and the stories touch your heart and soul.

And finally we have have last thing to do, US Open tennis. This was a ‘bucket list’ item for my wife but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it too. We went to the Arthur Ashe Stadium but we also got courtside on one of the outer courts. It was a fun night even if the matches were over relatively quickly.

And so my first visit to New York was over, seen lots but lots more to see, so we will definitely be making a return trip in the future.

Thank you to my darling wife for the wonderful gift of a trip to a city I had never been to and thoroughly enjoyed. Till next time New York, Slán. 

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And I am back

And I am back

So after a month away from posting here on my blog I am back. So much has happened I think I have to make time to post. This blog serves numerous purposes; sharing my life with friends back home in Ireland, with friends here in the USA and further afield, being a diary for myself to look back on and just charting my life here in the USA.

What has been happening these last 4 weeks? Well I had my 50th birthday at the end of July and a great social gathering at our new house, surrounded by friends, to celebrate my milestone birthday. One of my gifts was a table, well the process of building a table, for my new model railway layout. This has always been a dream for me to have room to do an expanded layout, not just 6×4, and now we have that room in our new basement.

New Model Train

As we entered August, Myself and Leanne put something we had talked about for the last few months and years into motion. We started the process of Foster to Adopt a child. We can’t have children of our own and we both want to give some child a new start or at least a helpful lift up in life. Does it scare me, yes but I have the support of my wife and we will work together to make it work. And the agencies have picked to work with do wonderful training and are always on hand to help. 

In my own work life I am still trying to settle on a career. I love my job here at Hennessy Ford in Atlanta but has it got enough career options for my own personal growth. Well just as I start to look around at options, my boss here comes up with a plan for me and a substantial pay rise. So I think I will bide my time here and see what the rest of 2017 and early 2018 has to bring. 

Amd lastly, the main gift for my 50th birthday was a 4 day trip to New York for Labor Day weekend, this weekend. New York has always been a place I wanted to visit but never got the chance. I will have lots more on our pre trip hassles and hopefully our actual trip in a couple of later posts this week and weekend. 

It’s good to be back and I hope people share this blog and keep reading as I think I have found a way to refocus and keep posting. 
Slán agus beannacht

Small Observations

Small Observations

As I am here now just over 19 months, there are a few things I haven’t seen before but they are getting less and less.

But today I got to see something I had never seen before, a prison chain gang, ok its now called a Prison Inmate Work Detail, but when you strip away the political correctness, it is what it is, a chain gang without the chains.

The funny thing is, seeing this today as I drove in Gwinnett County just outside Atlanta, I suddenly noticed another on the side of the road and then a big orange bus with Prison Inmate Work Detail written on the side of it passed me by. So the chain gang sighting was like waiting on a bus back home, you don’t see one for ages, then 3 come along together.

Not sure how many other counties in Georgia do this or even states across America but it does strike me as a good idea. Having inmates help to supplement the county workforce, keep motorways tidy, help cut grass etc. Of course the PC brigade back home would be up in arms if this was to be even suggested in Ireland.

50!

50!

And so I am now 50. I have been through all sorts so far in my life and I try to be nice, polite and friendly. I also live by a motto, growing old is mandatory, growing up is voluntary and recently I have added that growing old is a privilege denied to many so enjoy life while you have it. 

So as my 50th birthday has arrived I intend to continue to live by my motto and try to be a nice and friendly person. I have a good life, a great wife, great friends and a family not only back home in Ireland but also here in the USA. 

I will end by wishing myself a Happy Birthday and look forward to the next whatever years I have left, hopefully another 50. 

My Dad RIP

My Dad RIP

This past week I have been sharing memories of my life as I approach my 50th birthday this weekend. Today I will share some memories of my Dad, who passed away on July 21st 2016, a year ago today. 

July 21st 2016 and we are driving to Michigan for a weeks vacation with Leanne’s parents. We were up at 4am, dogs in back of car keeping Robert company and we were making good time. At approx 8am I got a call from my sister to tell me my Dad had taken a downward turn and we were in the last few days of his life and she would keep me up to date. Less than an hour later I got the call I was dreading but knew was coming, my Dad had passed away, with my Mam, sister and brother with him. I was lucky that Leanne and Robert were with me and it helped enormously to be with them at that time.

But let’s go back a good few years. My Dad was the the one that drove us to everything, football, scout trips, vacations and family day outs. My Mam didn’t start driving till we were teenagers so my memories are of us all being piled into the car, bags on the roof rack and me standing behind my dad, helping to navigate. 

Of course there were times when we bent the rules on the roads, cramming a bunch of scouts and bags in car was definitely one of them, a driver’s the car at the time was just a VW Beetle. 

Rather than me ramble about things we remember about my Dad I am going to borrow the Eulogy my sister, Anna, wrote for the funeral……

Bright Eyes and One Front Tooth

Bright Blue Eyes,

One Front Tooth,

Warm Heart,

Kind Hands,

Dark, dark hair that turned to white.

A man who put his family at the heart of his world.  And we knew it, no doubt.

A man who was more ethical than ethics required.

A man who let us watch Westerns but told us that the Indians were not the bad guys and to not always believe what we saw in the movies or read in a book.  Life was more complicated than that.

A man who showed is that integrity was to do the right thing, not so others could see, but because it would be the right thing to do.

Gur Cake, Madeira,

Knickerbocker Glories on First Holy Communion Days.

Taxi-ing to rugby, football, scouts, ballet.

Working up from a green dilapidated Volkswagen Beetle to a car with sun-roofs, not one but two.

Full of boldness and giddiness,

Sneaking a Big-Mac into hospital ‘coz he knows you won’t survive on toast and tea,

Getting ice-cream for you for breakfast ‘coz sure you’re on your holidays,

Building stone houses on the beach ‘coz sure they cost you nothing but time and love,

Fitting in a sneaky water fight while pretending to be taking the job of washing up after dinner seriously,

Snuggling under blankets with grandchildren and pretending to be asleep when Mam came in,

But then, at every major step of life, being there, listening, offering advice but never making you feel obliged to take it.

A man who like to keep to his routine but who would travel to unknown destinations, both in real life and metaphorically, with the love of his life.  Always together, in heart and in soul.

A man, understated in emotion, who showed his love thru’ his actions, steadfastness and generosity.

And though his last breath has gone,

He lives, 

In our hearts,

In our minds,

In our souls.

All that and more is the man I was lucky to call Dad and my sister done a wonderful job in putting into words everything we we thought of a wonderful man. 

Now as I get ready to celebrate my 50th birthday, today and over the weekend we will take time out to remember one of the most loyal, loving and friendly men you would ever meet, my Dad. Miss you every day Dad and I hope I am making you proud with how things have turned out. I will have a pint in your honour tonight and we will celebrate your life and the influence you had on us all. 

RIP Dad, sleep well.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Lots of Memories

Lots of Memories

Today’s post will be a bit of a ramble through my life, schooldays, family holidays and just various other stuff from the last 49 years and 362 days. 

So let’s start at the very beginning, Sunday July 23rd 1967, the day I popped into this world as a little chubby baby. Of course I remember absolutely nothing of that day or the following few years but I was a good baby, eating and sleeping when I was supposed to, sone people will tell you they are 2 things I am still very good at, eating and sleeping. 

Sometime around when I was 4 it was time to go to school and learn the stuff that I would need for the rest of my life. So reading, writing and math, of course school couldn’t leave it at that so I had to also learn history, geography, and as I got older they added French, Science and accounting. But eventually my sentence of 14 years in school was completed and I was allowed out into the real world of being an adult. Whoohoo, time to work, grow up and be mature!

As usual I ramble, so back to my childhood and family holidays. We were lucky as we had a family holiday every year as we grew up. It was either on the beach in Portrane just outside Dublin, some were spent in Mosney Holiday Camp, we went to Wales, Isle of Man and our last family holiday together before we were to old to go on family holidays was to Jersey, a place were my parents spent their honeymoon.

We also had trips away with the Boy Scouts, again visiting the Isle of Man, various places in Ireland and Belgium. So all in all I was very lucky and got to travel and see different places, and now all these years later I am still seeing new places but on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. 

So to borrow a phrase from Forest Gump…..”Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get.” Well I have certainly lived my first 50 years, living for 48 of them in Ireland and looking forward to living another half a century in the USA. 

A trip down a railway memory lane

A trip down a railway memory lane

The day of my 50th birthday is fast approaching and I continue with my trip down memory lane and recall some things that helped me fall in love with trains. 

Where I lived in Dublin was close to one of the mainline rail station out of Dublin to the West and South of Ireland. Places like Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Waterford were served by the train from Heuston Station and still are today. My second job after I left school would see me get a job on the trains. And as I loved trains this was probably the best job for me to start my working life. Meeting people every day and working on something I loved. 

I got to travel to Westport in Mayo most days before moving over to the Dublin – Belfast line for about a year and needed my career on the railways working relief shifts on Dublin to Galway, Waterford and Sligo. I got to travel on nearly every inch of track in Ireland over my 3 years working on the train and it was a wonderful experience. 

But my love of trains started well before my working life started. The railway being beside me helped and getting a Lima model railway set for Christmas one year certainly helped. I had pictures on my wall of trains and I vaguely remember train wallpaper in my bedroom too. 

We went on a family holiday to Wales and got to go on a steam train and of course the Isle of Man had all sorts of railway stuff, steam trains, vintage electric and horse drawn trams. I just loved tracks and it’s something I still notice as I drive from place to place. 

Last summer on our drive to Michigan from Atlanta, and even though the day was tinged with grief (more about this on Friday), I noticed railway tracks wherever I could. Detroit was great for that and driving around I got to see and get an idea of how busy it must have been as a rail kink years ago.  

Well my love of railways will now manifest itself into probably one of my life bucket list items, a model railway layout in our basement. I had a small layout back home but I had to leave all my railway stuff behind when I made the move to the USA in 2015.