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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Drexel Road Trip

Last Friday was our Road Trip to Drexel. Ben is in his second year at community college, taking courses with an emphasis on computer programming and information systems. In looking for a place to complete his undergraduate degree, he became very interested in Drexel University in Philadelphia.

So Ben arranged for us to visit Drexel last Friday, and we were off before the sun came up. We took the obligatory Start of Road Trip pictures in our driveway at 6:30 AM Friday morning. As you can see from the first photo, Ben was totally fresh and alert as we prepared to roll out.
Ben, Oh-Dark-Thirty
Bapu Ready to Roll

We had an appointment at 9:30 at the office of Drexel's College of Information Science and Technology, where we met Erin Stauffer, who is the Advising Manager at IST. Erin was just the right person to help Ben sort out which courses he can transfer credit as well as which courses would be good ones to take over the next few months at community collge (e.g. sociology, economics, etc - the non-core courses that would be less expensive to take and get out of the way locally. It looks like if Ben takes some summer courses and a normal load this fall, he can enter Drexel in January '07 as pretty close to a Junior. Ben's leaning towards the 5-year program, which would give him the opportunity to have two or possibly three 6-month co-op periods.

After lunch, we had a nice tour of campus. Drexel is part of what's called University City, which includes University of Pennsylvania and Temple. It's a large neighborhood with a funky college-town feel, but right across the Schuylkill River from downtown Philadelphia - within walking distance, actually, of the center of the city.

Besides the academic program, one of the things that attracted Ben to Drexel is that it's in a real city - big buildings, good public transit, the works.

Well, his application is in process, and it's now time for me to find out about financial aid... and maybe see about a second job as a greeter at Wal-Mart. Or maybe I can work alongside Ben at Starbucks.
Erin and Ben Discuss Transfer Credits - Drexel University
After our visit to Drexel, we headed north at about 4:30 PM ... destination: Secaucus.

The idea was to spend Saturday in New York City, and not wanting to spend New York City hotel prices, we had found, on Hotels.com, a ninety-nine dollar (taxes included!) room at Meadowlands Plaza Hotel in Secaucus. The room turned out to be just fine - a decent-sized, comfortable, no-smoking room with two queen beds with a great view of NJ Route 3 and a free breakfast - what's not to like?

Ben - Pancakes In SecaucusAfter getting to our room, we dumped our belongings and headed east on Route 3 for some dinner. In the cold, clear night air, we were treated to a spectacular view of the nightime Manhattan skyline just a few miles away. The Empire State Building was in red, white, and blue livery for Presidents' Day weekend, and the crown of the Chrysler Building blazed just over its shoulder. So joke all you want about Secaucus, but the view is amazing.

Man on Bench 2006 - Hoboken, NJSaturday morning after breakfast, we drove the three miles to Hoboken, where we left the car for the day. Before catching the PATH train into the city, I took Ben into the Erie-Lackawanna Terminal, where we reprised my classic 1973 photo, Man on Bench. It really helps to schlep around your own photo subject.
Erie-Lackawanna Terminal - Hoboken, NJBy the way, on the outside, the Terminal looks as decrepit as I remember it in my Stevens Tech days over thirty years ago. But walk through the doorways and you'll be surprised at finding one of those glorious turn-of-the-century public spaces - nicely maintained, too.

After our quick photo session at the Terminal, we walked next door to take the PATH into New York City. Now, Ben is a huge fan of the musical Rent, having seen it five times live and twice in the movies. He's always wanted to go to Life Café, a real-life restaurant that's prominently featured in the story. So we disembarked the PATH at 9th Street in The Village and went in search of Life Café.

Ben at Life Cafe - 10th Street & Avenue B NYCHe had an address of 10th Street and Avenue B, for which I chided him that there was no Avenue B in Manhattan - he must be thinking about Brooklyn. But after much walking towards the East River, we did indeed come to Avenue A, then Avenue B and Life Café. Score one for the kid against the Old Guy Who Thinks He Knows All About Manhattan. So we had lunch at Life Café, commemorated with a photo of Ben on location.

After lunch, it was time to head up to Central Park. A few weeks ago, I saw some amazing photographs of a new building, the Hearst Magazine Tower, that was nearing completion, and I wanted to take a look. So we schlepped many long avenue blocks back to Union Square and took the Q train to 7th and 57th Street.

Hearst Magazine Tower - 959 Eighth Avenue NYCComing out of the hole in the ground, we walked over to 8th Avenue, and... wow! This is a really impressive 600-foot building, not your typical glass-and-steel box. Well, glass-and-steel it is, but decidely different than anything else on the island.

The 42-floor building is built on top of the original 1928 6-floor Hearst Building, a masonry art-deco design from 1928, which now acts as an architectural base for the modern tower

Rubbernecking at the Hearst for the next block or so, I suddenly heard Ben exclaim, "what is THAT!?"

It took me a second or so to see what he was seeing, as a huge, silvery tower emerged in my vision, sort of like a Klingon vessel coming uncloaked. The mirrored surface of the tower was doing such a good job of reflecting the adjacent blue sky and clouds that it almost blended in invisibly at first.

Time-Warner Center - 10 Columbus Circle NYCAs we walked up to Columbus Circle, it tuned out that there was not one but TWO of these towers! This all turned out to be the Time-Warner Center, a spectacular commercial and residential development built in place of the boring old New York Coliseum.

The towers stretch for 55 stories, topping out at 750 feet (229 meters.) They include a mix of residential apartments and rooms of the Mandarin Hotel, part of a luxury hotel chain. All apartments feature floor-to-ceiling windows (no thank you! I'm getting airsick just picturing it.)

So Mr. Knows Everything About Manhattan had been completely oblivious to all this spiffy new architecture happening on the West Side. Well, you learn something new every day. I took a few photos of Time-Warner, but this neighborhood, with all its new buildings, is a place I'll have to come back to again (preferably when it's considerably warmer than Saturday's 33 degrees) and take a lot more pictures.

'I Love NY' - Columbus Circle, NYCBen and I crossed Columbus Circle and walked up Central Park West to the Dakota and took the Women's Gate entrance to the Park, walking by Strawberry Fields and over to Bethesda Terrace, our favorite part of the park.

As we were getting really cold, we figured we had truly proven our love of New York and decided to finish our visit with a clockwise walk around the south end of the boat lake.

Loeb Boathouse - Central Park, NYCWe walked around the Loeb Boathouse (one of these days, after all these years, I'll go inside) and traversed the wonderful, huge rock that sits astride the lake on the west side of the boathouse. Then back onto a trail that leads along the shore of the lake, heading towards Bow Bridge.

As we stopped for a minute at a rustic little pavilllion, I glanced up at Bow Bridge and saw something that looked... unusual. Three people walked to the middle of the bridge, placed themselves in a line along one side, and lifted violins to their shoulders. "Hey, something's about to happen!" I called to Ben.

And something indeed did happen - one of those amazing New York moments. A young man and woman walked, arm-in-arm, onto the bridge, and the musicians started playing the theme from Love Story. We ran to the west end of the bridge and watched the man go down on one knee and propose. Wow. I got a little fahrklempt, I can tell you. I think I left a tear or two on the eyepiece of my camera as I took this photo.The Proposal - Bow Bridge, Central Park NYC It was beautiful - a great ending to our visit to New York.


I really love the whole story and the pictures, specially the "Ben on Bench" one.
I'm with rojo -- I love this whole story and I'm a sucker for romance and find the last picture with it's flowing rail to be the best.
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