Thursday, March 22, 2018

JFK to Manhattan on the Cheap

A taxi ride from JFK to Manhattan will set you back $60+ with the flat rate, tolls, fees, and tip.The trip is typically 45 minutes, depending on traffic. But if you would rather keep a few of those dollars, and you're up for a little adventure, take AirTrain to Jamaica Station and then either a subway or Amtrak to Manhattan.

AirTrain is free within the airport and $5 to Jamaica Station. You don't pay until you arrive at Jamaica. 

When you exit the plane, follow the signs for Ground Transportation and Baggage Claim. 

You'll notice the sign will soon change to include AirTrain in the green section by Ground Transportation. Keep following AirTrain signs.

You will go up an escalator and through an entrance with a welcoming I 💗NYC sign.Keep walking. If you don't naturally run-walk, you are already getting on New Yorker's nerves, so move over to the far right with your slow self.

And this guy on the escalator? He's asking to be run over, or at the very least, cussed out. New Yorkers don't stand on escalators like lazy other-49-state-residents. Know your escalator etiquette. If you must stand (you should probably turn around and get back on the plane home), move to the far right. Leave the left side open for run-walking New Yorkers.Stand on the step behind your luggage rather than next to it.You'll have a better chance of keeping it that way.

Keep following those green AirTrain signs to the platform. And mind your manners.

On the AirTrain platform, you'll find a simple map. Your destination is Jamacia Station. 

Your current location is visibly posted. Be sure to get on a train heading to Jamacia Station. When the train opens, stand aside briefly to allow passengers to exit first. Do this on all subway trains as well. If you forget, you'll get a chewing out by a run-walking New Yorker. You may not understand it all, but it means, "You're an idiot."

Seats are limited on AirTrain. Standing requires a special stance. Notice how this guy has his feet slightly apart. He isn't holding on because he does this often. You, on the other hand, need to hold on to prepare for those lurching starts and stops.

At Jamaica Station, you will pay to exit the AirTrain and enter the train station. There are Metro Card
vending machines along the right-hand wall. Get in line. Have your card ready. Ain't nobody got time to wait for you to fish it out of your Marry Poppins bag. All these guys standing around trying to figure out what's going on? They're likely to get run over.

At the vending machine, do the following:

On the first screen:
  • Don't select AirTrain card unless you are not going to use the subway at all during your trip. For example, if you prefer to pay more for an Amtrak ride into the City (faster, nicer), you would only need the AirTrain card, which is a Metro Card with only $5 value to allow you to enter the train station. The easiest way to buy an Amtrak ticket is through the app.
  • Do select Metro Card (works to pay AirTrain $5 fee + subway ride to Manhattan) if you are taking the subway from here.
On the next screen:
  • Select Get New Card (unless you happen to have one from your last trip and it hasn't expired; in that case, select Refill Your Card)
When asked what type of card:
  • Select AirTrain + Subway. This will get you to Penn Station. After that, you will have to refill your Metro Card for additional subway rides.
When it's time to pay, the machine will instruct you to "dip your card." Southern translation = quickly insert and remove your card. 

With yellow Metro Card in hand, proceed to the turnstiles. They work both ways, so don't enter one where someone is exiting. If you aren't sure how to insert it, watch someone do it first. 

Now proceed to the train station. Follow the signs to the E train, which will stop at Penn Station. 

Go spend those saved dollars on New York food.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Packing Tips

Make a list for each day and add the desired outfit as well as the budgeted amount of money needed for food and activities. Then pack half the clothes and take twice the money.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

5 Ways to Make Chickfila Great Again

Some might argue that Chick-fil-a is already great. The lines wrap around the building during lunch hours. Double drive-thru lanes are popping up rapidly. But this is America where we expect perfection. I don't mean the America that fancies a sliding
scale menu for the entitled or exorbitant wages for college workers to afford their IKEA furnished apartments and photo-opp drink habits. I mean the America that wants things to be like they used to be when life was slower and priorities were centered around family rather than self(ies). The Chick-fil-a business model epitomizes traditional American values, so let's make this place great again.

  1. Teach employees to count napkins. As a keeper of extras, I have daily appreciation for the colossal stack generously included with each order. However, I can't help but wonder what role this liberality played in my recent meal inflation.
  2. Join hands with tree-huggers. Although hipsters and conservatives don't often unite, Chick-fil-a can conciliate by demonstrating genuine value to human life and God's creation in providing non-toxic and easily degradable packaging. (Want to know more? Read this.)
  3. Implement a bag folding policy. Chick-fil-a employees are highly skilled at bag stuffing. At any point, I expect to see a little yard sign in the drive-thru line boasting, "Yesterday we hoarded 265 extra bags." While I applaud all conservation efforts, I do expect the food I take home to be appetizing by the time I get there. 
  4. Pour tea properly. It is one of the Seven Deadly Southern Sins to serve tepid iced tea. A fountain Coke needs one level of ice. Recently brewed, still-warm tea needs quite another. Iced tea in the South deserves the highest consideration. 
  5. Eliminate the unconventional fry. Like the lone black pea in a can of white acres, this fat, end-fry is loathed by children, discarded by OCD'ers, and drenched in extra sauce by the sacrificial Mikeys. Do us all a favor and upgrade that potato cutter. The fry count is already consistently inconsistent. Annihilating that bothersome chubby guy will make room for a few more of the ones we crave.
Don't be deplorable, Chick-fil-a. Make yourself great again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chicago Airport to Downtown

Taking the train is easy and an excellent way to see more of Chicago. The above ground L train takes about 30 minutes from Midway to downtown, and gives you a glimpse of different neighborhoods and industry in the Windy City.

From the terminal, follow the signs for ground transportation and then CTA, also known as the L. Once inside the small station, buy a one ride ticket via the vending machine. A ride from Midway to State/Lake was $3. 

The State/Lake station requires using a steep staircase. It is right next to the Chicago Theatre and also an underground train station where you can easily transfer to other parts fo the city. I made the 10 minute walk from this station to Emabassy Suites on North State. Walking was safe and another great way to see the city.

Ready to Learn

Dear Students,

Welcome to my class. Notice I said my class. Yes, this is my room and this is how I run it. You will sit. You will not get up without my permission. To be granted permission, you will raise your hand. But do not wave it or I will surely ignore you. If and when I choose to acknowledge you, then and only then may you make your request known. Subsequently I, having the ultimate power, shall determine whether or not you may leave your rigid desk chair. No, I don’t care that your pencil point
broke. Yes, I realize you haven’t been to the bathroom in four hours.

In order to survive this hostile environment there are other essential requirements. First, you must speak only when spoken to. Open, thoughtful discussions are not conducive to my ultimate goal of control. Second, you must never laugh. We are not here to have fun. We are here to listen to my well-prepared lectures. And finally, and certainly most importantly, you must never, ever write on paper with squiggly edges. To do so in the real world will surely result in your demise, thus I must not allow it here.

Alright, students, now it’s time to learn. Aren’t you excited?

Your Uninspiring Educator

Friday, April 8, 2016

Getting Around in NYC

Planning a trip to the city? Here are five things you need to know to make your journey easier.

1. Familiarize yourself with the subway system. You cannot just show up in New York City without first doing some research to understand the basics. Start studying a subway map and also get the app for your phone before going. It is confusing at first. 
Every subway train that runs on a line doesn't necessarily stop at every station on that line, so use Google map's "Get Directions" feature and choose the public transportation mode. The subway is best for going uptown to downtown, but not so easy to go across town. Make sure you look at the signs at the subway entrance to see if the trains are going uptown, downtown, etc. Typically there is one across the street going the other way. You can buy a Metro Card (multiple rides) at vending machines in all the stations. Just walk down the stairs and you’ll find at least one machine. If you aren't from the North, "dip your card" is their way of telling you to insert your credit card into the machine. Don't get on an express train unless you are certain it will stop at your destination. 

2. Make a plan. I map out our trip before we go and create an Excel spreadsheet with addresses and cross streets. I typically work on this over time, so having a document saved is helpful. Close to the trip date, I put it in my phone's calendar with approximate times, and this helps me keep us on track.

3. Get out of the way. When waiting at a subway station and the train stops, use elevator etiquette: let people off, then enter and move quickly to a seat or a standing position. If you have to stand, hold on. If there is no hand bar available, stand with legs apart and be prepared to use your legs to brace the sudden movements. Once out of the way, enjoy the scenery. This is the best people-watching place to see real New Yorkers. They are the ones asleep or reading the paper. When you exit the subway station, you will not know where you are, in terms of heading north or south, etc. Walk out and then move immediately over until you get your bearings or can check a map app.

4. Move with the flow. Your primary means of transportation will be your feet. Crossing the street means paying attention. Get off your phone when on the sidewalks. Cross streets only at cross walks. However, New Yorkers don't wait for the cross signal, but rather watch the traffic and move quickly when it's clear. Don’t just follow people blindly, as you may get run over. If you get confused and need to look at your phone's map, move out of the way. New Yorkers don’t appreciate slow walkers or groups who walk 3-4 abreast. If you ask someone for directions, try to be as general as possible, such as, “Where can we find a subway with a downtown train?” They don't have time for your long explanations.

5. Hail a cab. When going short distances, a taxi may be your best bet. Step out as far as possible and put your hand up very matter-of-factly,as if you know what you are doing, even if you don't. Only hail the ones that have lights on (and not the "Off Duty" light). Taxis turn off their lights when they have passengers. As you enter the taxi, tell the driver the cross streets of where you are going, not the exact address.
You will be let you out somewhere close. Never get in an unmarked car (usually dark sedans). These are not licensed and will overcharge you. If one pulls over and motions to you, shake your head “no.” Be aware that taking a taxi may take you longer than taking the subway, because of traffic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Sometimes you have two sons.

Sometimes your oldest son becomes a rebellious teen and begins listening to music you don't understand.

Sometimes he likes a band called Anti-Flag. And you scoff.

Sometimes you begin to listen to what your son is saying about the band and you notice that even in his darkest days, he is influenced by their straight-edge lifestyle. And you are relieved.

Walt 2007
Sometimes that band brings inspiration for your son, who struggles to find his fit in a round hole society.

Walt 2009
Sometimes that influence takes place in a garage where he teaches himself to play a bass guitar.

Sometimes that son begs to go to an Anti-Flag concert with his friend and that friend's rock-n-roll dad.

Sometimes he comes home with new zeal after singing on stage with them.

Sometimes that son teaches his brother to play his bass while taking on a new challenge of learning to play guitar and sing.

Sometimes that son forms a band and writes music and plays for bigger and bigger audiences in cities around the nation.

The Pinz with Dead Kennedys after their show at Levelz in Melbourne, FL in 2009
Sometimes that band does a Florida tour with Dead Kennedys and you go with them and you meet some really fabulous people.

Sometimes you see a video on-line of your sons on stage with Anti-Flag at an outdoor festival and you know they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.

Walt at Harvest of Hope 2009

Sometimes you stand back behind the merch table in a smoke-filled, dimly lit venue and you watch with pride as your sons skank with such intensity.

Sometimes you feel sorry for people who don't get to experience this side of life with their sons.

The Pinz at Trash & Vaudeville NYC 2011
Sometimes you book your sons' band a show in New York City because Anti-Flag is playing there that weekend.

Sometimes your son texts you and says a band is coming to stay at your house that night...and by the way three are vegetarian and one is vegan.

Sometimes you have to stand in the grocery store and Google "food for vegans."

Sometimes you see your sons sitting on your sofa with their musical man crush and you are glad you were open-minded to punk rock.
The Pinz with the White Wives 2011

Sometimes you drive to Austin, Texas with your sons and their band to play SXSW. 

Sometimes you drive straight through the city the band is playing along the way and rush ahead to Austin to make an Anti-Flag show. 

Sometimes you then turn around and haul it back to their show and then back again to Austin.

Sometimes you realize the time and money are worth it when you have experienced seeing your younger son singing on stage with his favorite band.
Wyatt Singing with Chris #2 at SXSW

Sometimes you watch your sons on stage at Warped Tour.
The Pinz at Warped Tour 2013

Sometimes your entire family goes to an Anti-Flag show together and your daughter gets to mosh for the first time.

Sometimes your sons open for The Adicts.
Wyatt at The Adicts Show

Sometimes you watch your sons playing on stage in Times Square. 

The Pinz Playing Times Square for CBGB Festival 2013

Sometimes your sons begin to mature and change and they stop playing shows with their band.

Sometimes you are sad that something so extraordinary has come to an end.

Sometimes your son gives his most prized pedal
 to the one who inspired him to begin with.

Sometimes you see punk rock come full circle and you know your sons have more than most.

Always you are thankful.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Musings from Murk: Turning My Will Over to Him 1

Taken from Murk's AA/NA journal writing regarding steps  1 -3 of The Steps to Serenity:

How does the third step allow me to build on the surrender I've developed in steps one and two? By taking practical action on a daily basis of turning it over to God, not using, and taking suggestions.

In what ways have I demonstrated willingness in my recovery so far? Not picking up first, going to meetings on a regular basis, taking suggestions, honestly looking at suggestions I don't take and praying about them, fulfilling commitments of service, building a recovery network in all aspects of my life - work, homelife, church, & play - and using this network.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Musings from Murk: A Higher Power 6

Taken from Murk's AA/NA journal writing regarding steps  1 -3 of The Steps to Serenity:

Have there been times when I have been unable to let go and trust God to care for the outcome of a particular situation? Yes. Nearly every time that I became angry or very stressed before I started honestly seeking to turn it over to Him.

How do I take action to turn it over? Now I just look up and say, "Take this! I can't. It's in your hands." And then let it go.

Are there any words I say regularly? "God, your will and the power to carry it out. Guide me in my life and recovery."

What am I doing to reinforce my decision to allow my higher power to care for my will and my life? I look each day for the hope I find when I know He's doing for me what I couldn't have done for myself. It's a wonderful feeling to know it's His hand in the situation I face each day.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Musings from Murk: A Higher Power 5

Taken from Murk's AA/NA journal writing regarding steps  1 -3 of The Steps to Serenity:

How might my life be changed if I make the decision to turn it over to my Higher Power's care? I then have the opportunity to experience happiness and serenity and joy in the blessings He has created for me that I've always missed by being in charge myself with no idea what I really need or what truly would bring me peace and happiness.

How do I allow my Higher Power to work in my life? Through honesty, open mindedness, and willingness in my surrender. With these I get the faith I need for Him to guide my actions and thoughts.

How does my Higher Power care for my will and life? He allows me to instinctively do the things that used to baffle me. Situations that I used to fear or that used to cause much stress in my life, I turn to Him, and He smooths them out and I react differently to these situations.