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Ed Boitano:

rainbow over New York City skyline

It's the Time of the Season
In New York
But Seasons Change and So Do Cities
Story by Ed Boitano
Photographs by Deb Roskamp

uch of my adolescence was spent in New York - despite my never actually having been there. As a teenager from Seattle, I had been emotionally transported there many times, but it was the New York of the Hollywood back lot in Warner Bros classics that starred Cagney, Bogart and George Raft. I knew all about the Dead End Kids, the Lower East Side, and larger-than-life characters named Rico and Rocky Sullivan. When the new realism of the Hollywood Renaissance hit in the 70s, my New York became the mean streets of Martin Scorsese and the grittiness of films like the "French Connection."

When I finally made it to New York in person in the early 80s, I wasn't disappointed - it was all I expected and more. Walking around Times Square, I felt like a cast member from "Taxi Driver." Pimps, prostitutes and panhandlers lined the street. Pedestrians brushed past me like I never even existed. This was it, the Big Apple, Gotham, The City That Never Sleeps - and the adrenaline kicked in like there was no tomorrow. When I say New York, I mean Manhattan, of course, the home of the Empire State Building, Central Park. Well, you know the rest - the city where a neighborhood would change texture and ethnicity at the blink of an eye, a place where you could walk and walk with seemingly a new adventure or even danger waiting for you around each bend. Woody Allen was right; every corner was populated with street wise guys who knew all the angles.

the Statue of Liberty with Manhattan skyline in the background

Throughout the years I would return to New York often, and the city never failed to engage me. When visiting New York the first time since the tragedy of 9/11, something very strange occurred to me. While discreetly glancing at a map somewhere on the Lower West side, a woman approached me, asking if she could help. I jumped back with surprise, and then looked at her long and hard. Who was this non-threatening 30-something woman with two little children in a double stroller? What was the con and what type of sucker did she think I was? After a long pause, I explained her to her that I was trying to find the shortest distance to the Carnegie Deli. She politely gave me solid directions, and then promptly moved on. It all happened so fast, but my wallet was still in my pocket.

Over a colossal pastrami sandwich I commented to my New York friend on how the city had changed. Walking through Times Square, I felt I was on the City Walk at Universal City. I didn't know that many digital cameras existed. What happened to all my pimps and prostitutes? I hadn't even tripped over a homeless person once. My friend laughed, and told me that some locals are now jokingly referring to the old Irish working class neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen as Martha's Kitchen. Even Anthony Bourdain has complained about the demise of 'dive bars' in Manhattan. Martin Scorsese, the king of New York as an inferno, had to make his New York-set film “Bringing Out the Dead” - actually shot in 1999 - into a period piece so he could still reflect his dark vision of the city.

kayaks on the Reservoir, Central Park, New York City

Indeed, New York had lost its edge. Later, while walking south, I could see the gentrification, too. Little Italy was now barely a block, stretching along Mulberry Street, north of Canal; and the Lower East Side only had a few remnants left of its old Jewish heritage. Even the infamous Bowery, once a haven for the disenfranchised, was now lined with thriving Fujianese businesses - the newest immigrant community to Manhattan.

My focus on the trip was to write about the Brooklyn Bridge. But I decided to do a side story too - on how the city had changed. I approached everyone from cab drivers, doormen and just folks on the street to friends in travel-related business who called the city home. Virtually everyone was open to a dialog - some even followed up with thoughtful emails.

I asked everyone the same two questions:

  1. Has Manhattan become a friendlier place in the last 10 years?

  2. If so, do you think it is due to 9/11 and/or the clean-up by Dinkins, Giuliani and Bratton?

Below are their answers:

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Madison Avenue

Yes, indubitably Manhattan has become a friendlier place in the last 10 years. It is my opinion that the clean-up by Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bratton has been a very big factor in making Manhattan safer, hence friendlier. When people are less frightened they are more relaxed and at ease. On the other hand because they were so frightened and traumatized because of the tragedy of 9/11, it brought the people much closer. That closeness along with the support of the rest of the country and world, along with the enormous outpouring of love, compassion and admiration did an amazing job of mass healing for Manhattan and all New Yorkers. Hence, I believe 9/11 had a greater impact on Manhattan becoming friendlier.

- Joel, Psychologist

New Yorkers are not friendly. You've been talking to tourists..

- Guy sitting at a bar

I guess you can say that Manhattan certainly has become a friendlier place over the past 15 years. Maybe not so much because of 9/11, which might have had a more short lived effect, but more because of the clean-up by Giuliani and Bloomberg. Areas that used to be tough back in the early 90s such as East Village and Hell's Kitchen are now totally gentrified. The same has happened to the Meat District and slowly but surely also Harlem.

It has become more popular to live in the city, even for young couple with families, and we see them moving into areas formerly occupied and cleaned up by the gay community and artists (Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, and East Village). Prices go up and low incoming groups are being forced out. This is also happening in certain areas in Brooklyn and Queens.

- Lars, National Tourist Office Executive

at Central Park

After 9/11, New Yorkers started looking one another in the eye. Complete strangers would walk up to you and ask if you were ok, if you needed to use their cell phone. 9/11 transformed the city.

- Linda, Hotel Manager

Manhattan's become a friendlier place only because it's become less edgy. Manhattan has taken on such a squeaky clean image that it borders on boring at times. Newer or newly gentrified areas in outer boroughs - primarily Brooklyn and to a smaller extent Queens - are more exciting and have restaurants that offer better quality to price-point ratio due to a more knowledgeable clientele and less foot traffic (which keeps the restaurateurs "honest" if you will). Unless you're in the East Village, Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side or Chinatown, Manhattan has lost that grit that was once made it wonderful and exciting and a little sketchy in a good way. Now visitors looking for this should head to Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights, Astoria or Greenpoint.

Those people (Dinkins, Giuliani and Bratton) have nothing to do with the current shape of the city. The soaring stock market due to the emergence of an entirely new medium (the Internet) made the bonus coffers (bonuses are taxed enormously and add substantially to the city's tax revenues in good times due to the fact that NYC is the country's financial center). NYC cleaned up because it had a) the money and b) a newfound appeal because of money. Capitalism will always trump politics though the latter will always try to take credit!.

- Alex, PR Executive

New Yorkers have always been friendly; the rest of the world just didn't know it. Paul Simon once walked by and we ended up talking for about an hour. Right here, right in front of the hotel. John Lennon would walk by all the time, too. Come to think of it, he wasn’t so friendly.

- Doorman, Central Park West

Columbus Circle in Central Park

Have bit of mixed feelings re. friendly (as in the approach of people towards you). NYC remains a terrific place and no matter what... I love this city. That said, people always seem to be in a tremendous rush, under pressure and relatively stressed. In general, customer service could certainly use a "refresher course."

With regard to just a focus on the city, yes, I agree. Cleaner for sure, I like the infrastructure changes in Time Square area (friendlier towards pedestrians and cyclists) and some other areas of the city (more is planned to make the city safer and pedestrian friendly). Taxi regulations that were put into place over the years have improved that service as well. I also feel safer vs. the 80s (leaving 9/11 out of the scope of things...that is an impact I will never forget). I do believe it has to do with the way the previous and current mayor ran (runs) the city, plus a good economy helped as well for most of these years. It is of course always easier to run a city in good economic times, with a larger budget, keeping people employed and thus happier.

- Monique, National Tourist Office Executive

New York is much less friendly and tolerant today. I grew up in Little Italy back in the ‘50s. It was a real neighborhood. Everyone was friendly. You could even tell what part of Italy people were from by the street they lived on. Now look at it. It's amost gone. Today when I wear my Buddhist hat and clothing, people shout, curse or honk their horn at me, mistaking me for a Muslim.

- Vince, Buddhist Monk

Manhattan absolutely has become friendlier. People who live here love the city and are very happy to share it with visitors. You’ll often see people speaking to people with maps in hand, asking them whether they need help.

(Do you think it is due to 9/11 and/or the clean-up by Dinkins, Giuliani and Bratton?)

Not by Dinkins, certainly, but for sure due to much of Giuliani’s efforts to clean up the streets, reduce public homelessness and harassment by squeegee cleaners and the like. And 9/11 definitely made everyone more compassionate and more appreciative of what an amazing place this city is and what a wonderful treat it is to be able to live here…. And share it with others.

- Meryl Pearlstein, Writer: Fodor’s Guide to New York City;
Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids

I don't think New York is unfriendly. It's just a difficult place to maneuver when you are in the crowd mentality. You have to put your blinders on and forge ahead, and I think that's when New Yorkers get their reputation for being abrasive. Generally, when you have a one-on-one encounter with a New Yorker whom you are not arguing with, it can be a very pleasant, enlightening experience.

I think 9/11 softened us all in some regard, but there are still those daily brush-ups that people have over taxis, rudeness, and customer service. Everything moves so quickly here and there is so much stimuli, we don't want to waste a New York minute.

- Ringa, Travel Writer

older brick church surrounded by skyscrapers, downtown Manhattan

Hmm, good question, if we're talking about people being friendlier, I don't think anything has changed. In terms of making the city safer, sure, but I wasn't here in the 70s to early 90s so I wouldn't have experience about Times Square or topics like the vagrancy issue to compare that with the present.

I would like to point out though that the MTA is slightly unreliable and their customer service especially their booth attendants in the subways are for the majority atrocious. I'd say the change is due to the government. In terms of 9/11, I think that has upped the safety and vigilance of the police force and emergency services to a higher level.

- Russell, PR Executive

Yes, New York is safer and friendlier. It all started with Dinkins, but he gets no credit for it being a one-term mayor. He set things in motion, but Giuliani took credit for it.

- Cab driver

Manhattan has always been a friendly place, contrary to what some believe. I personally tend to accost people in the street who a) aren't dressed in black; b) are staring at an unfolded map; and c) speaking accented English and ask them if they need directions.

Right after 9/11 shell-shocked New Yorkers were much more open to one another. But that really had little to do with tourism, gentrification, or anything but the tragedy. Dinkins was a lousy mayor and Giuliani was a maniac.

- Lenny, Travel Writer

In general I do think the city has gotten safer, due to the zero tolerance rule. I do think New Yorkers are slightly friendlier after 9/11, especially directly after the disaster happened. It has worn off a little bit in the mean time.

- Angelica, National Tourist Office Executive

flowers at the Imagine mosaic, Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon, Central Park

Yes - absolutely! (Although, NYC was always a friendly place - right?! ) Clean up by Giuliani - he rocks!! (even the Dems will admit to this!). He was very instrumental pre-9/11 and then post 9/11; he really brought the city together and helped us regain our strength and a vision for the future!

- Maria, Pediatric Nurse Practioner

Jamie and I have been visiting NYC since the late 70s/early 80s when we were just married and had a few coins to spend. During one of those trips I clearly recall being frightened as we left a Lower Eastside Off-Broadway theater by a woman who appeared to be a prostitute.

Generally, I have always felt safe while traveling in New York, but I am also very comfortable while traveling in any Western city. My job required extensive travel and I must have learned to project a confidence that kept me safe. NYC is cleaner now than in the past, especially in high traffic tourist areas. On our last trip we noticed numerous "No Honking" signs and many public garbage cans, which surely have helped give the appearance of cleaner, quieter city.

Lastly, we must have been approached by at least a half dozen New Yorkers asking if we needed help with directions. During each encounter, I felt grateful for the help and amazed by the generosity. In hindsight, I begin to think, oh no, we look like a couple of old folks who must be dazed and confused. I am not sure the feeling that someone looks at Jamie and me and thinks, "Look Marge, that nice couple needs help, let’s offer them some assistance," feels good.

That Rudolph Giuliani may have initiated the "clean-up" of NYC should not overshadow the fact that since he left office, the city is a better place to visit now, than before. A tribute to the city and its citizens.

- Matthew, Frequent NY Business Traveler & Tourist

Feel free to offer your own comments below:

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Let Ed know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Feedback for "Spokane, Pullman and the Palouse"

Loved the Spokane article – my mom was born there and my grandparents are interred there. Haven't been back in decades.

--- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for "Norway's Fjords"

Hi Ed. I was just reading your great story about traveling through the Norwegian countryside and the voyage along the coast - sounds amazing. I’ve been to Oslo, but definitely would like to return to Norway one day to explore exactly what you wrote about.


--- Sasha H.

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Feedback for "In Search of Movie Locations In the Land of Aloha"

Mahalo for your article on Hawaii film locations. You should check out our new "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" at:

--- Ed Rampell (Co-Author), Los Angeles, CA

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Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

--- Christian Louboutin, U.K.

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Cool site.

--- Donna Namaste', San Francisco, CA

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Great work as always.

--- S. Wyatt, Seattle, WA

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Hr. (Danish for sir) Ed,

Thanks so much for your article on Copenhagen, DK...loved it! Very well done actually I used to live in Christianshavn (just next to Christania) and Danish is my second language.

You really did a quite grand job and pulled me ALL of the way into your analogy and experience from my other home.

Just one detail that I thought might have been included.....the bakeries & cheese shops in the mornings in nearly every 5 or so blocks as they waft the incredible hypnotizing aromas of those amazing Danish specialties.

I most especially and absolutely love the fact that you included the "hyggeligt" element...wonderful!!

Another aspect of the Danish language that I have found interesting is that we only cuss to devil rather than the more typically religious icons and that love (elsker) is only very rarely used.

All-in-all you have me totally on your team and I will always look forward to your future writing.

Med venlig hilsen...(with kind regards).

--- Breeze

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Hi Ed,

Thank you for your article on the Cherokee Nation. I really appreciate the historical perspective and recognition of their contribution to American culture.

--- Nora Weber, British Columbia

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Another cool issue. You da' man. One question: Is that Mark Lindsay on the front page?

--- Brent, Seattle, WA

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This would be a fascinating place to visit. There is so much history within our reach that we don't often acknowledge in more than a token way. I am wondering if any individual or group has ever gone on a vision quest, or perhaps a memorial march, by retracing the path of the Trail of Tears? This would be a painful journey, for most, I imagine.

--- Sandra, Seattle, WA

Osiyo! From Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism: What a great description of Kauai! The pictures are awesome and I loved reading your travel report! Keep pushin' on!

--- Lisa Long, Tulsa, OK

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I'm getting hungry again just reading your article! It's hot today and I could really use a shave ice right now.

Hope you're having a great day!

--- Melissa, Honolulu, HI

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Thanks so much for sharing! Wow. The beauty even from the few pictures here and your descriptions is breathtaking... I can't even imagine being there for real! The food looks and sounds exquisite, I'm not sure my kind of exquisite, but I do like to be adventurous on occasion :).Quite the story there.

--- Emily, Boise, ID

Great pictures!

--- Anna Harrison, Palmdale, CA

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Tough job, Ed! Thanks for sharing.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

Ed, Tim from the team of Jack and Tim - Star Clipper. Great trip. Always enjoy your postings.

--- Tim & Jack, Washington DC

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Hi Ed,

I really enjoyed your story on the Empress of the North. I was an Assistant Cruise Director aboard her in 2004, and you gave me a treasured walk down memory lane with her.You might know this, but if not .... you can cruise the Columbia again late this summer and early fall. The Empress' sister boat, the Queen of the West, was purchased by American Cruise lines and will offer a Columbia River itinerary which almost mirrors the one my Empress used to travel. Just thought you'd like to know.

--- Paul Penta, 2004 Assistant Cruise Director, Empress of the North, Copperas Cove, TX

Ed, you are by far the most interesting of all the Boitanos. Your coverage is extensive and captivating. It's a real treat to read your blogs. Your article on the Baltic Sea Nations is no exception. But don't get me wrong, the other Boitanos have their own charm and perspective. Thanks for all your articles. I can see it's a work of art. I just now noticed your Dog Quotes --- what a great collection! Keep up the good work. Keep on sharing your travels! This is better than the more popular travelogues.

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hi Ed,

How's life? Hope all's well in sunny Cal.

Having just received the latest issue of the Traveling Boy newsletter I popped back over to your site to take a look around and came across this article which I had not previously read:

Loved it! First of all, this is a part of the world that I absolutely adore so reading about it is always a pleasure. Secondly, I'm happy to see you crossing things off your Buck with such gusto! Myself, I have already been to Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Moscow are all on my Buck. After reading through the article I reminded once again why!

One of my favourite lines in the piece is:

"Granted, eight to twenty-fours in world-class cities like Helsinki and Tallinn hardly does them justice, but a sketch is always better than a blank canvas."

So very true. I'll take a sketch over a blank canvas any day! Besides, sketches often lead to full-blown paintings anyway.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. Hope there are many more fun adventures awaiting you soon!


--- Ashley, Toronto

Thanks for a great trip, Ed - such a comfortable way to travel, particularly to several cities i knew very little about. I've had only one sea voyage - crossed to G.B. on the United States in the early 60s - no balconies, etc. on that ship, as she was prepared to be stripped down to carry troops in event of WWIII, but still luxurious in her own way.

Bumped into a documentary recently on PBS re the old lady who is now docked in Philadelphia, I believe with peeling paint on her sides and funnels and of course the interior stripped and auctioned off of everything...periodic moves to rehabilitate her, but so costly people back off. She was the largest and fastest - still is. Her record was 3 days crossing - we did it in a little over 5 (cruise speed I guess!). They showed regular passengers like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who happened to be on board when I was, as well as gazillions of stars who traveled on her. Charles Boyer was the only one on my crossing - we were alone in the library one time, but I didn't say anything. He looked immersed in his pursuit of a book. The Windsors were tiny little people, as was M. Boyer (and this comment from a 5'2" observer!). How's that for an ancient history lesson? Anyhow seeing the ship like she is now made me almost teary - surprised myself somehow.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

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I loved this article!! Kept me in rapt attention, felt like I explored part of the world myself ;) nice way to start my day, sounds altogether amazing and unforgettable!

--- Emily, Boise, ID

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Great writing!! Reading, education and fabulous locations! All around WOWS!

--- E Dava, Burbank, CA

What a wonderful assortment of travel destinations. I have always been drawn to islands, and as a Pacific Northwesterner, dream from time to time about settling in the San Juans someday (like a lot of us here visualize for ourselves). Hopefully, travel will occur before this particular dream comes to pass. I enjoy reading about the connections you have with the places you write about. I will visit that fishing village in Norway, someday, just because of the photograph. Who wouldn't, after seeing it. Thanks, Ed

--- Sandee, Seattle, WA

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Another great edition!

--- CG, Central California Coast

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Hi Ed,

I sailed into Sooke on my way to port Ludlow from Portland, Oregon in my sailboat few years back. It was interesting port. The entry is snake like channel with local fisherman's local markers only to guide you into the port.

--- Larry, Portland, OR

Wow. I want to go to Vietnam! It's beautiful! Those are amazing pictures!

--- Archie, Pasadena, CA

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Kudos to Mark Twain. He knows how to honor a dog, and kudos to Cedric for all he was and still is and kudos to you for another edition of www.traveling Peace and Love,

--- Joel, Pasadena, CA

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Ed, I really enjoy your traveling adventures. Your stories are so well written and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for letting us in on your adventures. You bring the adventure to those of us who aren't able to go. Thank you.

--- Cheryl, Pismo Beach, CA

Amazing story and pictures. To think that 40 years ago we were all terrified at the prospect of going there... what a difference a few decades makes. Fantastic article!

--- Roger, Puyallup, WA

Thanks for your expert insight, Jeremy. Have you ever lived in New York? Don't tell me you are one of those tourists or former transplants. It's a very different experience when one lives here. Unlike Los Angeles, there really is a sense of community. New Yorkers love and care about their city... and, yes, their neighbors too.

--- Lisa - New York, NY

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NY sucks. It's now nothing more than a Disneyland version of its former glory. It city filled with tourists and transplants, and no longer the center of the universe. The WEST is the best. Everyone is moivng to the Coast. Even NY fashion designers check out the LA street scene before launching their new designs. Plus no one in NY knows real pizza. Take a trip to Naples sometime and try the real thing.

--- Jeremy - Los Angeles, CA

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The economic boom is what drove all the changes in New York. The mayors were in the right place at the right time, and to their credit, handled things well. It's easier to clean up the city and cut crime when you have more money to spend. The economic outlook for New York is bleak now with unemployment going up. Bloomberg already is short money and will be cutting services across the board. If things don't turn around, people may not be as friendly in a few years.The idea that New Yorkers are not nice is just a myth; people in L.A. are much more distant and shut-off.

--- Michael, Native New Yorker

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I think that overall, Manhattan has become friendlier in the last few years, not sure why but don't think Giuliani or Dinkins can take credit. There was definitely a surge of NYC solidarity following 9/11, and Giuliani was extremely popular during that period. When he supported Bush so strongly in the election that followed, his popularity plummeted, though. Bloomberg has definitely done a good job with making a lot of bike lanes, blocking off large areas of what was previously street and putting tables and chairs for pedestrian use. Not sure how this economic downturn will affect local attitudes, though....

--- Sue, New York

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This is the best. Keep them coming.--- Paul Ash

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Ed, thanks for putting the Holland button on your site.

By the way, your images really work! I opened the newsletter and was immediately tempted to click on an article. Love it. And also love the fact I can click on images in the articles to enlarge them. The short headline on the image makes me curious. Well done.

--- Bianca Helderman

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Thanks Ed, for this delightful view of this wondrous city! The first time I traveled with a husband to NYC years ago, it was for an Orchestral Conductor's conference. We lived in Newfoundland at that time, so you can imagine my shock of coming from isolation to the big apple!My heart began beating as I looked out of my hotel window at the figures of humans below, scurrying like ants, I was up so high. It wasn't the height, rather, the invisible buzz, that urgently beckoned me to go outside! But when I reached the sidewalk, the rush of pedestrians made me wonder "where's the party?" Friendly? Yes! I lived in NYC for 5 years with a later husband and loved every minute! Being an artist, I could not relax enough to paint, so I took up acting and worked with "Children In Need" a charity, instead and partook of everything NY had to offer from opera and Off Broadway plays and such to ballet and wholistic healings....a city full of everything one could imagine! I truly love NYC and years later am grateful to live in a quieter area of California so I may relax and paint and do my healing work...going back only to visit my delightful haunts. There is nothing like NYC!.

--- Yoka, Westlake Village, CA


Great issue. Well done. They keep getting better! --- Grace Conlee Micetich, San Diego, CA

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I loved all of the traveling news! It’s good to know you are still out there in the world. --- Judy Vincent


Thanks for getting me back on the Traveling Boy newsletter mailing list- I have missed it!

I do believe we need contributions of the ‘road less traveled’ in the US for those of us whose feet never leave the ground… Ahhhh… the Badlands... Two Medicine in Glacier… the Lava tubes in central Oregon… my next destination wish: Monument Valley.

--- Lorrie Sjoquist

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The photos and descriptions of this trip are wonderful. I love the idea of the slowed down pace of the train. Kind of a throwback to the "good old days." --- Larry Lombard, Puyallup, WA

I think you outdid yourself with the "Two Cities" article. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew so little about these two cities. I learned so much. Your article was jampacked with very interesting trivia. Surprised the Jazz greats and Walt Disney came from practically the same area. And those pictures --- especially the WWI museum --- what an incredible shot --- almost like out of somebody's Satyricon dream. Bravo!

--- Rod, Glendale, CA

What a great article! --- Michelle, Torrance, California


The photos are spectacular. I can envision many a romantic novel inspired by these majestic sceneries. Makes me want to do a little more research on Norway. John Lenon must have been one of the converts when he wrote "Norwegian Woods."
--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena CA

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Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. Indeed, Norway was paradise on earth, and I dream of returning again and again. You had a funny line about John Lennon being so inspired by the beauty of Norway that he composed the song, "Norwegian Wood." If I'm not mistaken, his reference to "Norwegian Wood" is just that: an inexpensive pine wood from Norway that was becoming popular in the UK. I did read somewhere, though, that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was inspired by Norwegian fjord trek.

Thanks again… and please keep writing.



Reading Peter's implication that "Norwegian Wood" was based on a trip that John Lennon took to Norway led me to do some research.

According to Paul McCartney at a press conference in Los Angeles: 'Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher] had just done his room out in wood, and a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine, really, just cheap pine. But it's not as good a title, is it, "Cheap Pine"? It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down....'

Of course, just cause it's on the 'net doesn't mean it's true.

--- Jeff M, Tacoma, WA

Weird piece on Copenhagen (Cosy in Copenhaggen). Do you think now that Keefer’s in the slammer in Glendale for DWI he’s experiencing any hygge? I bet some of those jailbirds would like to see how touch he is.

--- Adam S., Glendale CA

I loved your intro and the way you set up the article. It immediately set the tone of an action-paced adventure. I imagined Annette as a spy in a trenchcoat feeding you top secret information. I'm surprised you didn't get lost. Do they speak English over there? Are the street signs in English? Does a GPS work over there?

I never heard of "hygge" but, like you, I think I've felt that sensation everytime the cold wind blows here in South Pasadena, CA. When I sit beside a warm fire, sipping my hot chocolate, I will remember this article. Thanks!

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Stay tuned.

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