Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Outing to Coney Island

This post is dedicated to everyone whose world would not be the least affected if suddenly all the thrill rides at amusement parks disappeared into thin air. I belong to that group. I know there are some who used to love these rides but for reasons of physical disabilities are no longer able to go on them; I also have to be wary of many of these rides for medical reasons these days but I confess that this just gives me an easy excuse to avoid them.

My blog co-writer, as you may have noticed, is a fearless little bear who loves adventure.  And he knows I love anything related to history, so he devised a plan. He suggested we go check out the historic amusements at Coney Island.  Here’s how our day went:

Stretch: Hey, look at this historic wooden roller coaster, built in 1927.
Me: Yes, that is magnificent! But sorry, I don’t think the old bod would like the rattling it would get on that thing. Let’s move on.

Stretch: Wow, what a Ferris Wheel! It was built way back in 1920. And look, it has both stable and moving cars. Those inner cars slide back and forth while the wheel turns, how cool is that? And it’s the height of a 15-story building. Imagine the view! It also has a perfect safety record for its entire history.

Me: Hmm. It does look awesome. But you know—we really should wait to ride this one day with our friend Joanne. She loves stuff like this and I did tell her that I “might” allow her to talk me into taking you on this with her sometime.

Stretch: Well, here’s a ride you won’t be able to resist! It’s from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, one of your favorite historical topics. Each parachute holds two riders so we can sit together. All you do is rise to the top of the 262-foot tower then glide gently down like you’re parachuting.

Me: You might have had an outside chance of getting me on this ride Stretch except for one thing: It’s been restored as an historic landmark and no longer operates. But it used to be a ride here back in the 1960s when our Uncle Ben brought his family on a visit to New York one year.  Our cousins will enjoy his recollection of the ride in a letter he wrote me years later:

“I guess you know that they took the parachute jump from the World’s Fair and moved it to Coney Island. I remember Joey Koncick and Rod going for a ride on the parachute jump. I thought Julie was going to faint.”

(For our readers: Rod is Uncle Ben’s son, Joey his nephew and Julie his wife who apparently didn’t enjoy watching the boys being dropped off the tower!)

Stretch: You don’t even have to tell me your reaction to the idea of going on this brand new coaster.
Me: I've suddenly remembered our last post about your hero, Teddy Roosevelt. I think it would be a good idea to follow his advice: "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." 

Stretch: Well, there’s one thing that will still make this outing worthwhile. How about lunch at the original Nathan’s?
Me: Now that’s a bit of history that’s definitely palatable!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oyster Bay (My Hometown) by Stretch

My human sidekick is busy with some project or other this morning, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to sneak in here and write a blog post for her. I know my fans are always anxious to hear more about my background, so I’m going to share some pictures of my hometown.

I chose to live in the best place suited for a teddy bear—Theodore Roosevelt’s hometown of Oyster Bay.  What could be more perfect than to reside in a place associated with the man who helped make us teddy bears the well-loved creatures we’ve become (especially me).

Our whole town is filled with history related to our 26th President, so it’s hard to focus on just a few things but I thought I’d pick out some of my favorites. To begin with, you’ve read in this blog about my human sidekick’s mania for “henge” places (Stonehenge, Foamhenge, Carhenge, Woodhenge). Well, here in Oyster Bay we have our very own henge—Teddyhenge, as I like to call it.

Down by the waters of Oyster Bay they’ve dedicated a park to T.R.; in this park you’ll find a grouping of stones set in stones, along with some larger boulders. Each stone represents some milestone in T.R.’s life and they come from all over the country and the world.

My favorites are the ones I can climb on like the boulders from T.R.’s ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota, one from San Juan Hill, and another from the Panama Canal zone.
From San Juan Hill
From Elkhorn Ranch, ND
From the Panana Canal area
After playing on the rocks, I sometimes pop into Teddy’s estate, Sagamore Hill. 
The house is closed for some needed restoration work right now, but you can still stroll the grounds and often find a regiment of T.R.’s Rough Riders parading around and practicing their military skills.
When the house reopens next year, I look forward to again hanging with the President himself and listening to more of his rousing speeches delivered straight from his porch.
Fourth of July several years ago

No visit to Sagamore is complete without stopping to chat with my good friend and neighbor who is a Ranger there. As you can see from this picture, he has designated me to be an honorary Ranger. When the house opens, he’s going to finally let me sit in one of T.R.’s chairs for a photo op.

Just joking Howie, I know I’m not allowed on the furniture. And you’ll be glad to know that your friend, my human sidekick, also prevented me from following in the footsteps of T.R.’s sons and climbing the windmill.

All that fun sure does work up an appetite. And I know just the restaurant to go to for a great meal—it’s called “Wild Honey” and it just happens to be located in the building that was T.R.’s Summer White House.  
Hmm, come to think of it, writing a blog post works up a good appetite, too. I’m off to lunch. And oh, if you see my human sidekick you didn’t read any new post in the blog this morning and you don’t know where I went with her charge card. . . 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shark Week

Once a year the Discovery Channel devotes an entire week to shows about sharks. This year’s Sharkfest follows the hugely successful and truly ridiculous movie “Sharknado 2” on SyFy. (Yes, I admit we did watch that movie out of morbid curiosity to see just how bad it could get. It didn’t disappoint. Our favorite scene was Ian Ziering being blown off the Empire State Building and then riding a shark in a whirlwind to save himself.)

I don’t know what it is about sharks that so fascinates humans other than perhaps their reputation as vicious killers stokes something in the thrill seekers among us. I personally find it relaxing watching them in a tank at the aquarium as they glide by so smoothly, a huge bulk moving effortlessly and dodging obstacles with just the slightest twitch of their tails.

Well, maybe that shark is looking at you as a tasty morsel, Stretch.

In any case, I have to admit that the shark shows with all their drama fueled by loud eerie background music and breathless narrators don’t impress me. I’m blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who daily battle sharks far more scary and life-threatening than anything the Discovery Channel can think up for their hype fest. Sure, I’ll watch some of these shows for escapist entertainment. But please know that when the actors/re-enactors are doing their best to impress me with how brave they are in their pseudo-scientific quests that put them in grave danger of becoming human sushi, I’ll just chuckle and say, “You don’t know what true courage is.”

Do you want to add any comments to this blog post, Stretch? Stretch???

Monday, August 11, 2014

Presidential Joke Day

Some of our readers who are “so last century” as Stretch refers to me might remember the incident that created this “holiday.” On August 11, 1984 while Ronald Reagan was doing what he thought was an off-air voice test while preparing for a radio broadcast he decided to joke around and said, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.”

Unfortunately for Reagan the remark was picked up by the live television cameras filming the radio broadcast and was heard by millions around the world.  If you don’t remember the outcry, you can well imagine what it was like.

And if you’re wondering where Reagan got the idea to make such a gaffe, there’s a photo buried in press archives . . . and all I’m going to say about it is that you can thank me for whisking the little fellow away before the international incident got any worse. . .

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stretch Meets Ahnichito

If you’re facing some “boulder” this week that seems impossible to deal with, perhaps this story will inspire you to take heart and keep trying. Or maybe you can follow in Stretch’s pawsteps and look at it in a different light. . .

In the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, there is a very large meteorite—in fact, the largest on display in any museum—weighing 34 tons (about 68,000 pounds). It’s so heavy that the posts supporting it extend into the basement of the museum all the way down to the bedrock underneath the building.  Its name is “Ahnichito,” it’s estimated to date from the beginning of our Universe and it fell to Earth in Greenland thousands of years before man inhabited the area.

So how did it find its way into the museum in NYC? While exploring the frozen north back in the late 1800s, Admiral Peary heard stories about an “iron mountain” somewhere in northwestern Greenland and found the huge boulder with the help of a Native guide. Not content with merely having viewed this amazing rock, Peary decided to bring it back to the U.S.

His first attempt in 1896 ended in failure. His crew was able to dislodge the meteorite and succeeded in rolling it down the steep hill it sat atop, using hydraulic jacks to turn it over. (Can you even imagine climbing a steep bluff in the frozen tundra in sub-zero weather and attempting to roll a 34 ton rock down a cliff?) The weather worsened as they worked and they were forced to leave the boulder on the bluff beneath the hill when it became apparent that their ship was in grave danger of being trapped by sea ice.

Peary returned to Greenland in the summer of 1897, docking his boat near the bluff where the meteorite was resting, and had his crew lay steel rails between the meteorite and the ship. They greased the rails with soap tallow and then managed to roll the huge rock along the rails and load it onto the ship. It’s said that the native people watched in fascination, sure that the huge rock would sink the ship.

When they arrived back at the Brooklyn Navy Yard it took a 100-ton floating crane to unload the meteorite. It was later floated up the East River on a barge and unloaded onto a custom-built cart pulled by 28 horses in 14 teams for the trip to the museum.

Keep in mind that this was all accomplished in an era without cell phones or even radio transmitters for communication; before computer programs to help plan the expedition; before advanced modern machinery to aid them.  And they had to work in one of the most inhospitable climates on the planet to accomplish their aim.

So Stretch, I’ll let you have the last word. How did this story and our outing to see the rock inspire you?
WHEEEE!!! I got to sit on a rock that was born in Outer Space at the very beginning of the Universe, it’s billions of years old! How cool is that?