Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Memoirs Of Dakini (Review of the eBook)

I bought the Kindle version of this book because a woman friend had recommended it; I don't know if she actually read it or simply saw the title somewhere and figured I would like it since I'm usually intrigued by that Woodstock era. I know one thing for sure: I could never read the entire book. I started reading it in its entirety, then began skimming through some pages, and stopped after completing about one third; I wasn't going to finish it, and then gave it another chance a day later. By the time I was 58% through it I decided I was done. Why?

It's a disturbing, depressing and demoralizing story by Valerie Fries Wade, a woman who was neglected by her parents, tormented by her older sister, sexually molested at age 7, date raped by her boyfriend at age 14, and gang raped by a car full of guys a short time later. She ran away from home regularly; did drugs early, often and for many years; served time in reform school and jail; and lived on the streets for much of her life. Sounds like something you'd want to read? Be my guest.

The story is disjointed, jumps around a lot and has poor flow; pieces from one part are often partially duplicated in another part. The book has no formal numbered "chapters" but numerous sections or parts with titles, the likes of which will give you an idea of what to expect: "Wicked, Evil Grandma," "The Day I Murdered My Parents, Almost," "Kidnapped, Beaten and Betrayed, Parts 1,2, & 3," "Opium Den," "Lost In Addiction," and, "The Day They Pointed The Shotgun At The Pregnant Girl." Fun stuff, right?

And I wouldn't mind putting up with the gory parts if there were some uplifting segments to offer reprieve from the onslaught of grief – but there are few, if any. Even her recollection of being at the 1969 Woodstock festival holds no real enjoyment for this reader because, as Valerie puts it, "The next day and a half blurred together." Compare it to Sheryl Strayed story, Wild – which was recently made into a powerful movie – in which the author intersperses good experiences and uplifting moments with the bad so, even though she suffered through hard times, we're offered some pleasant memories to relieve the depression.

Maybe writing this book was a form of therapy for Valerie and she was able to exorcize some of her demons. And, maybe there are people who will enjoy reading her story; I just know I'm not one of them.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Poughkeepsie Walking Bridge Across the Hudson

The Poughkeepsie railroad bridge originally carried trains full of people and freight high across the Hudson River. It's now become a part of the New York State Parks system and invites folks to walk across the river at a height of 212 feet. At 1.28 miles long, it is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Walkway State Park officially opened to the public on Saturday, October 3, 2009.
(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

 (Above): This public domain photo shows the
Wisconsin Varsity Rowing Team
posing beneath the structure in 1914.

Ro and I visited it on in July, 2014, and
accessed it from the Poughkeepsie side
via a staircase off Washington Street.

The Poughkeepsie end of the bridge disappears into a densely wooded area.

(Above) Looking west, toward the river.

A tall chain link fence protects cars on Route 9
(and people on the ground) below
from objects that might fall or be thrown
off the east end of the bridge. 

(Above) Looking south down the Hudson River
at the Mid-Hudson Bridge connecting Poughkeepsie
and Highland (on the west shore of the river).

A barge makes its way south along the river
under the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Ro finds it's pretty windy high up in the center
of the walking bridge.

(Above): Looking east toward Poughkeepsie.

From the vantage point high above, you're
actually at the height of tall trees in the
community below.

We only walked halfway across the bridge
before returning to our starting point
but we plan on going back.
If you're in the area of Poughkeepsie,
take the time to walk across the bridge
and appreciate the unique experience it affords you.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New York Rising

I imagine anyone having serious damage from Superstorm Sandy must be very used to having their patience tried. Government red tape and delays in getting any kind of assistance to those in need have got to be maddening for those affected.

We know some people who live in a two-story house in Massapequa, here on Long Island; it was originally built in 1947 but had been renovated and expanded over the years. They are about a block and a half away from the bay to their south, another block away from a canal to the east, and two blocks from a canal to the west. Their first floor was wiped out during Hurricane Irene, a few years ago, so they had to rebuilt it. When Sandy hit Long Island, it completely destroyed their first floor again.

Early photos by Ken Bausert; later photos by Tim (the homeowner).
Click on any photo to enlarge.

Now, I’m sure there are people saying, “Well, they shouldn’t build homes so close to the water,” and, of course, in a perfect world, that’s correct. But, as in many other areas, homes have long been built in locations that never suffered such catastrophic damage over the course of decades – or even hundreds of years – and it only takes one superstorm to show how vulnerable they can be.

In any case, after fourteen months, this family was finally approved for assistance and they are in the process of raising their house ten feet off the ground. Since we had been in contact with Pat, she informed us of when the work was being done so I spent two days watching – and photographing – the event.

Because the house originally sat on a slab (no basement) there were no first floor joists to lift it from. That required hefty wooden beams to be secured to all the inside wall studs of the first floor so that huge steel girders could be placed (through holes in the walls) under them before being lifted by powerful hydraulic jacks. And, because there were few load-bearing walls in the center of the first floor, massive supports had to be placed under the second floor during the lift to maintain integrity with the first floor walls.
A tricky undertaking!

The new ground level can not be used for “living space” and, of course, the old first floor (now the second floor) must have all new floor joists installed. The oil burner remains on the ground level but must be raised over a yard off the slab so that it will not be damaged unless the water level rises above that height in the event of another storm.

The hydraulic pumping station which distributes pressure to
nine strategically-placed jacks that raise the house.

Each time the house is raised about 12-15 inches, the house must be re-supported
so the jacks can be lowered and repositioned for the next stage of the lift.

Once the house reaches about ten feet,
a new footing must be prepared for a new foundation
before the house can be lowered to its new final position..

Spiral pilings are screwed into the ground
to a depth of ten-feet before the concrete footing can be poured. 

The tops of the pilings can be seen in the photo below
after they have been driven into the ground.

The new footing forms receive rebar to reinforce
the new concrete.

Vertical rebar is added to reinforce the concrete
that will be poured into the foundation forms.

After the foundation is complete, it must set up before
the house can be lowered and attached to it.

With the house finally reattached to the new foundation,
the interior and exterior can be rebuilt.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Long Beach (1-10-13) Sandy Clean-Up

Superstorm Sandy damaged Long Beach,
on Long Island's south shore, very badly.
Many homes, apartments and condos
 are still without electric or heat
and need serious structural repairs.
a 13 to 17-foot storm surge deposited
beach sand over a foot deep throughout
the streets. The boardwalk, originally
built in 1914, has withstood many
hurricanes but Sandy was too much
for it to bear. It was so badly damaged
that it's being demolished and a
new one will be built in its place.

(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

The extreme west end of the boardwalk
(New York Avenue),
where I used to go with my parents
most summer weekends, when I was a child.

The demolition has progressed about a
quarter-mile east from the extreme west end.

The concrete supports seem to be in
good shape and will probably be reused.

A workman salvages some of the benches
that were bolted to the old boards.

The concrete roof (part of the boardwalk)
on the men's & women's rest rooms

Many benches were donated by local or
past residents in honor of their loved ones.

A 4 x 12 support beam was twisted &
split like kindling by the force of the water.

Sand being cleaned of debris.

Clean sand being put back on the beach.

Trucks distribute the clean sand to
all areas of the beach.