Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pride Parade NYC...In Pictures

Once the graduation ceremony had finished and the photo ops taken, I rushed off to meet my pals Manny and Ozzie for a weekend trip to the city and the Gay Pride Parade.  Now I'd been to the parade several times in my life, and the last time I went I swore I'd never go again.  But it was Ozzie and Manny and they'd never asked me before...besides, it was an opportunity to stay overnight in the city, which is always fun.

The weather over the weekend was decidedly gray...and rainy.  The ride into the city invariably was a long one, but we finally made it in and settled into our new surroundings on 23rd St.  Food was first on the agenda, and since Dallas BBQ was right down the block, that was the destination...


Now for those of you who never heard of Dallas BBQ, well, it's an awesome place!  Not only is the food deliciously barbecue, the prices affordable and the atmosphere positively festive, they have these drinks...oh those drinks!  They come in all sorts of different flavors, all delish, and a lil bubbly and a shot come with the giant concoctions.  

As it would turn out, the best part of our evening would be spent at Dallas.  Dinner was great, especially the vegetables tempura, the drinks were, well, intoxicating, and our waiter was a blast.  His name was Ozzie, oddly enough, and he was a big dude with an even bigger personality.  Before the night was over, we were all snapping pictures and exchanging numbers. 

Next up was G Lounge, a small trendy bar just four blocks away on 19th St.  The place wasn't too crowded at first, but soon enough, the place became quite full, with apparent regulars and visitors alike filling up all the space in this small lounge.  We spent the next few hours there, and it was fun, but it had been a long day and this tired teacher needed sleep.  So we left around 2 a.m. and headed back to the hotel and to sleep.  Sunday was going to be a long day...

Me at G Lounge

Sunday's weather began much like Saturday's.  The skies were overcast and rain drizzled down from up above.  We headed over to a diner on 23rd for breakfast and then took our spots on 5th Avenue to watch the parade, which had already begun.  Now I had expected massive crowds, like the ones during the parade of 2011, when New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act, but probably because of the weather it wasn't too bad.

Even though I don't really love parades, I have to admit it is fun and a little bit exciting to see just how many of us P.L.U.'s (People Like Us) there are.  Politicians, television stars, police officers, firemen and many big corporations all come out and show their support, too.  Rather than tell you all about it, I'm going to just show you some of what went on from my vantage point...

Senator Chuck Schumer

Are we having fun yet?

Let's do the time warp!

As you can see, there was plenty of reveling to be had at this year's parade, even though it wasn't the huge turnout I had expected.  Anyway, I'm not sure if I'm going to be attending again...you've seen one parade...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Graduation Day Pride

I tell ya, there is one time in the school year of this teacher's life when all of the heartbreaks and joys, the trials and tribulations, triumphs and defeats all become worthwhile. To know that you've made a real difference in a young person's life, that you've helped them achieve their first major accomplishment, is the most gratifying one of my own. Congratulations to Yunus, Kevin, Jeremy, and all of the other graduates, including my awesome nephew Nick, who've made it through high school and who now move on to bigger and better things.

It's a beautiful Monday morning, the first official day of summer vacation for me and I am finally going to delve deep into those lazy feel-good days of summer.  But before I do that, here's a little recap of the first part of the wonderful weekend I had to start my summer...

Graduation Day

Saturday was graduation day at my high school, and I attended the ceremony because I had not one, but two very special young men that were receiving their high school diplomas.  I've had the privilege of working with both Kevin and Yunus for several years now and to have both of them reach this first pinnacle of their lives was too special not to miss.

Kevin, me, Yunus

I first met Kevin when he arrived in the United States from El Salvador in 2003.  He was seven years old and in the second grade.  I worked with him in my class for about three years until early 2007, when I went over to the high school full time.  Kevin was always an inquisitive little thinker, often coming up with profound questions about whatever things we were learning in class.  Though I lost touch with him for a couple of years, he became an on-again, off-again fixture in my classroom, right up until this year, when he would often spend his lunch period in my classroom.  Kevin not only graduated from high school, but also the BOCES automotive repair program.  Man, he's gonna do well, I am sure, and I'm surely going to have a place to take my car for years to come!

Yunus is a young Turkish kid who has been in my class for the past six years.  I first met him in the summer before junior high school when his brother Can introduced the young sixth grader to me.  His genial and joking nature made me like him immediately, and through the years we've been through all sorts of life situations together...he's become almost like a son to me.  I am so proud of him for making it. Though I'm happy for him at the moment, I am sure going to miss him come September.


Kevin, me and Kevin's brother Jonathan, last year's graduate

So that was the first part of my weekend...a sentimental moment of one kind of pride.  Stay tuned as I post about another...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

An Introduction to Switzerland...Beautiful Zurich!

Before I had gone on this trip to Europe, several people had told me that Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Pristine mountain lakes, quaint old European cities, and of course the vistas provided by the world-famous Alps.  Well, they weren't kidding!  Though Switzerland wasn't one of the places I was super-looking forward to visiting, it certainly was one of the most memorable...and spectacular!

Our first stop in Switzerland was Zurich, financial capital of the world.  I'd heard that Zurich was a small, unimpressive city, but whoever told me that was dead wrong.  It was indeed small, but the meandering streets and scenic spots dotted the place and I loved it.  

Zurich was merely a pit stop for us on the way to Luzern.  We'd arrived there from Paris early in the day and we only had about four or five hours to explore.  This time, all of us chaperones began our free time together, in search of some much needed sustenance, and not long after leaving the kiddies to their own devices, we found our place, a good old-fashioned authentic German beer garden.

Of course, all I could think of as we sat there at the picnic tables was the Festhaus in Busch Gardens in Virginia (I have to say, they capture the feel of a real beer garden pretty well!).  We spent about an hour enjoying one another's company and feasting on some delicious German sausages and of course, delectable potato salad.


Once we were finished with a most enjoyable lunch, I decided to go off on my own to explore Zurich on my own, wandering through the streets, to nowhere in particular, and trying to make the most of my time in the city. Rather than describe the experience, I think that pictures of the things I saw during that time might tell the better story of that time.  Check it out...

I hope you enjoyed these photos and got a little taste of Zurich at the same time.  Stay tuned for some more posts to come from Switzerland and then our final tour, Italia.  In the meantime, check out these past posts on my European adventure...