2016 Recap

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I’m only recapping 2016 because it is pretty universally agreed that the year sucked. It seems like one of those times in history that somebody may ask me what it was like in the moment. Like “How great was it to experience 1969?” Or “How terrible was 1929 or 1941 or 2001?”

It seems like the negative sentiment is driven mostly by the enormous number of celebrity deaths and fatigue from the presidential election cycle, which was even worse for the half (actually 80%) that didn’t vote for Donald Trump. It will be interesting a generation from now to see how 2016 is remembered.

But how was 2016 for me? The celebrity deaths barely register for me. A buddy of mine seems to take every death like a punch to the gut. I don’t want to be that impacted, but I always feel weird that I basically have no feeling other than the occasional “That’s a shame.” As much as I like Reggie Jackson, Paul McCartney, Allen Iverson and Larry David, when they die I don’t expect to mope around because of it. They are all strangers to me. The only famous stranger that may bum me out is when John Sterling dies. But he’s almost not a stranger since I probably hear his voice more often than most of my family’s.

As for the election, well, it sucked. I expected Hillary to skate in untouched. I didn’t count on the press needing a close race, so they gave Trump a pass on everything and blew up anything they could find on Hillary. So much for the “liberal” media. This election made it clear that more than any ideology, the press wants a story. Besides the media, I also didn’t count on the FBI and Russia picking sides either. Oh, and I forgot we don’t live in a democracy…thank electoral college!

Not that Hillary is my ideal candidate – I think that she would’ve been fine as President – she is definitely qualified and capable. The problem is Trump. He is the least experienced President ever. And he’s so soft. He probably has the thinnest skin of anybody that has had his level of success.

Trump’s unpredictability makes him a huge risk. But maybe that means there is a slim chance that he surprises me in a good way. Let’s put it this way, the possible outcomes under a Ted Cruz presidency would’ve been narrow, but all terrible. For Trump it’s probably wider than anybody else. Yes, the down side is frighteningly bad, but maybe he flip-flops into an acceptable result.

As for me, well, a Trump presidency is a lot like the celebrity deaths – I’m not going to let it impact me. My favorite quote is this tweet:

Whether we’re talking about god or Trump, I can relate it the same. I am going to continue to work hard, succeed and take care of myself and my family. Neither god nor President Trump is going to dissuade me. I do feel bad for those that this becomes an obstacle for. Unfortunately all I can recommend is work harder, change the system, and vote in 2020.

The rest of 2016 wasn’t that bad. I started playing softball again this spring. I also ran my fastest 5k ever at 23:36. I took some great vacations too.

New York City
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Pittsburgh
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New England

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Disney
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And the best part of 2016 is that we booked our trip to Italy…

…wait, does is a 2017 trip OK to count? If not, well, at least 2017 already looks promising!

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Pittsburgh

Me, Dave and Pops went to Pittsburgh. The main purpose of the trip was because I wanted to see PNC Park. I thought it would be a good, long weekend trip for me and Pam to do. Besides a game, there seemed to be lots of cool restaurants and shops in the city that I thought she might enjoy. She kept declining, so I asked Dave and Pops. It’s funny, from the time I made arrangements with them until now, there have been a number of women who have told me and Pam how much they like Pittsburgh. I don’t think Pam’s regrets not taking me up on the offer, but I think she would’ve enjoyed it.


On the Friday drive out we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Yes, we had gone to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York earlier this year. This one wasn’t nearly as impressive. Not that I was expecting it to be – clearly New York is going to be able to (and, frankly, need to) do bigger and better. Though the museum here did a good job recreating the day, the memorial lay out was awkward. The path was unnecessarily windy and things were not identified. Because of that I am unsure whether they are even done working on it. It’s worth a side stop on a trip like this, but not worth going out of your way for.


Pittsburgh itself was great. Our hotel was right next to PNC Park. Everything was within walking distance. Friday night we had a great steak dinner at Eddie Merlot’s. On the way back we could see PNC all lit up during the game.IMG_20160415_205648304

We hung out at a cool bar the rest of that night. Saturday we walked all over the city including Mount Washington. We got lunch at Primanti Bros. Then we hung out at a bar to watch the Penguins playoff game. Our Pirates game was right across the street that night.

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PNC Park really deserves the hype. But even better than the ballpark itself is the placement. The street it borders is closed to cars during games so everyone is walking around. There are tons of restaurants and bars so you can easily go out before or after the game. (Or, like we did, both.) All of this gives the game experience a lively atmosphere regardless of what actually happens in the ballpark.

Pops 70

Pops turned 70 today. For his birthday he wanted to go up to NYC with me and Dave. We started the day at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (more detailed review written at that link).

After that we walked around to where he used to work. We found the building. He case-study-brown-brothers-harrimanhad brought 2 pictures with him from 1970. One was of him standing under the big cube outside his old building, which he recreated today. (The other was his vantage point of the World Trade Center towers being built.)

From there we went looking for his coffee shop…the one that served him a coffee with a roach in it. As Pops tells the story, a guy he was with says he saw it in there but didn’t say anything because he thought Pops wanted it in there. Apparently Pops guzzled 9 Cokes to clean his mouth. To this day Pops still won’t drink to the bottom of his coffee cup…whether it’s a clear glass cup or whether it’s home brewed by himself…still won’t drink it. 1017px-starbucks_corporation_logo_2011-svgToday that old coffee shop is a Starbucks!

Then we walked through Trinity Church and the cemetery. Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried there.

At that point it was time for lunch. We had steak and wine at Morton’s. Obviously not a typical lunch, but it was a special day. After lunch we completed our day at One World Trade Center (more detailed review written at that link).

One World Trade Center

My favorite skyscraper has always been the Chrysler Building. The art deco design is really cool. And I appreciate the Empire State Building for how much taller it is, especially considering the era it was constructed. Yes, the old World Trade Centers were tall, but honestly they were kind of bland looking. Basically 2 rectangles with no character. However the new One World Trade Center is striking.

IMG_20160303_115630486Besides just having a sleek, contemporary architecture outside, it is really impressive inside as well. Being brand new allowed the designers to really tech it out.

Start with the elevator. You are surrounded by digital screens. Not only do you know the floor you’re passing, but the elevator ride acts like a time machine. You start out with New York’s first settlement in the 1600’s. What you see on the screens is basically trees. As you ascend, the dial on the years pass. You witness the development of the city all around you with landmarks properly located geographically. It was kind of a shame that the elevators are so quick and smooth because I would’ve liked to concentrate on the displays longer.

Upon exiting the elevator you are put in a long room to watch a couple minute video shown against a wall. It was good, but the unexpected part was that at the end of the video the wall lifts up to reveal a panel of windows giving you your first look from 100 floors up.

From there you go up to the main observation floor. They offered iPads with a system that seamlessly moved with you. So whatever you were looking at, the iPad was as well. You could zoom in or click for more information.

The entire observation floor wrapped 360 degrees. And yes, everything was tiny from up there. The Statue of Liberty is close, but from that height I could easily crush it.

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National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The 9/11 Memorial is a peaceful tribute to those that died there. It very much reminds me of the VietnamUnited States, New York, Manhattan, 9/11 Memorial designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad involving a forest of trees around two bodies of water with two large Square holes in their center at the exact spot where the formers towers stood Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC…something appropriately cold about the materials used and the simple listing of names.

After that we entered the 9/11 Museum. It may be the best museum I have ever been to. It is amazingly designed and laid out. The majority of the museum is underground. They are able to take you right up to the foundations of the World Trade Centers without making you feel as if you are disturbing what is now hallowed ground.

The content of the museum was just as impressive. There are 3 main sections. The foundation hall has various exhibits and the memorial hall has portrait photographs of all of the victims. But the best part was the historical exhibition. In here you walk through 3 sections of time.

bp3There is the World Trade Centers prior to 9/11: the concept, the construction, the use of the buildings, and what they represented including, for instance, as a backdrop in movies.

Then there is reliving the day. I do this every September 11th by watching History Channel. For some reason I like to get myself upset about what happened. But I also like being amazed in watching the brave firefighters go into the buildings. I also take pride in how the people of NYC came together that day. This part of the museum definitely stirred the same emotions that I get by watching the documentaries each year.

(My own recollections of that day…well, it was confusing. I was working at Mercadien listening to everything unfold on the radio. It took awhile for us to understand that the first crash wasn’t an accident. Even after understating, I don’t think I got upset that day. I was too focused on work…Hillier’s tax return was on extension and it was due September 15 whether we were under attack or not. I even worked late that night. To be clear, there wasn’t a person who told me to stay buried in my work or to stay late. It was just the understood culture of the time and place.)

The final section takes you through the aftermath. Not only are the recovery and rebuilding presented, but also the larger effects on the country and the world. I liked that this section didn’t sugar coat anything. The words “Islamic terrorist” were used. On the other side, they presented August Daily Brief from the CIA to President Bush warning “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US”.

(My memories of post-9/11 was that we all wanted a retaliation. The actual consequence of war didn’t matter…we wanted retribution. Beyond that, patriotism was through the roof. Everyone had flags, pins, caps and shirts. It was everywhere. I particularly remember driving major highways like 295 and NJ Turnpike. Every overpass that crossed the road had at least one flag hanging from it.)

OCNJ – Julia’s shirt deal


I took Julia and Madi down to the boardwalk tonight. (Susie and Trini didn’t want to walk that far.) The girls were popping into a lot of the shirt stores. Eventually Julia found the type of shirt she wanted. She asked the guy at the counter how much for a particular iron-on. He said $15.

Julia: “Oh, I only have $10.”
Guy: “Sorry, it’s $15.”
Julia: “How about for that smaller iron-on?”
Me (quietly to Julia): “I can buy it and you can pay me back later.”
Julia shoots me a look.
Guy: “Still $15.”
Julia: “I might have $12.”
Guy (looking around so nobody hears): “OK”

The guy takes the shirt goes to the other side of the counter where the iron-on machine is. Julia takes out her wallet to prepare to pay. She proceeds to pull out a massive wad of bills. I am shocked! Now I know what the look was for…she was negotiating!

Me and Madi run interference by jumping in front of her in case the guy comes back so he won’t see that he’s been scammed. In fact, it takes her so long to peel through all of the $20’s just to find a $10 and two $1’s that I spin her back to the counter as well.

Guy comes back. Julia pays him $12. We leave the store. Madi and I bust out laughing. I’m bringing her next time I go to buy a car.