The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

The Manhattan Project

My 2016 theme of The Manhattan Project is not about the development of the atomic bomb but is in reference to the name "Manhattan" and what it might make us think of when we hear it. I will be using ideas that readers suggested in my post What Does "Manhattan" Say to You? as well as some of my own observations.
During April I'll be presenting posts related to travel, people, history, food, and more. Then of course there will be two Battle of the Bands posts with songs related to Manhattan. I hope you'll be with me throughout the month of April for The Manhattan Project.

Friday, April 29, 2016

You Are Here (#atozchallenge)

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.    
 -- Henry David Thoreau

Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan
Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Are Here

        If I'm in a big mall you will usually at some point find me in front of one of those maps with the "You Are Here" marker.  Thank goodness that they tell me where I am when I am reading one of those things as the reason why I'm there at the map in the first place is that I don't know where I am. That's the case with most big places where I find myself attempting to navigate unfamiliar territory.

         When in Manhattan if you are unfamiliar with the city you might want to run across some "You Are Here" markers now and then.  A smartphone or some other device with GPS tracking can be of help.  Just having a map might not be helpful to anyone challenged by map reading, but a map is certainly a good thing to have if you don't know where you are or where you are going.

          This post could have been done for "X" as well--as in "X marks the spot"-- but then again there are rarely any X's to be found on the city streets just as there aren't often the display maps on the street with the "You Are Here" designation.   I guess this is where the guides as described in my "W" post might come in handy.

          And while we are on the subject of "You Are Here" we might consider where we are in this 7th Annual Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.   This is the letter "Y" post which means there is only one more post left in my series about Manhattan.  I hope you enjoyed following this series as much as I enjoyed compiling it.  And I hope you had a great time if you too blogged through the alphabet with the many others who did the same.

           Yes, you are here near the end of the Challenge, but there are still the A to Z events ahead like the Reflections post and the A to Z Road Trip.  You can read about all of  it by continuing to follow the A to Z Challenge Blog where all the details will be provided.

           Tomorrow I will conclude my series with my post for Z.   Wanna guess what it will be?  Something famous in Manhattan perhaps?   And then on Sunday May 1st I will have another post for the Battle of the Bands.  This one will be a bit of a surprise with a bit of a twist.  I'll include my entry for Question of the Month in this post as well.  Hope you'll join me for both upcoming posts!

           Do you ever refer to "You Are Here" maps?   How are you about finding your way when you get lost?   What is the first thing you do when you feel lost?


Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-10 Nuclear Reactor (#atozchallenge)

I have always fancied that the end of the world will be when some enormous boiler, heated to three thousand millions of atmospheric pressure, shall explode and blow up the globe. ... They [the Americans] are great boilermakers.
Five Weeks in a Balloon 
Official seal of Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Official seal of Oak Ridge, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

X-10 Nuclear Reactor

       In my post for the letter N I referred in passing to Oak Ridge, Tennessee which played a big role in the developing of the first atomic bombs during World War 2.   This project, known as The Manhattan Project because it was planned out in an office in Manhattan, expanded to a number of research and development centers throughout the United States.  This effort, which was one of America's most intensive projects ever, resulted in developing and producing atomic bombs within a time frame of less than three years.  

       In order to accommodate the R & D facilities and its employees and their families, the city of Oak Ridge was rapidly planned and built.  By the end of the war in 1945, the city had grown to become the fifth largest city in Tennessee.  After the war the city continued to serve as an important scientific center for the study and manufacture of nuclear materials.

       A key facility at the Oak Ridge Laboratories was referred to as the X-10 Pile, the first nuclear reactor designed for continuous production.  The X-10 Graphite Reactor produced the plutonium necessary for the atomic bomb.  This reactor is no longer in operation after being shut down in 1963 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

        The three key nuclear facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford,  Washington are now the three sites of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  Visitors to the park can visit museums and see the original reactors and other components of the laboratories.  For security reasons the X-10 reactor and other buildings at the Tennessee site can only be visited as part of a bus tour provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

         Visiting all three sites would be an epic history vacation for anyone with a strong interest in atomic bomb development, but if you are near any one of these areas a visit to the one to which you are closest is highly recommended.  Oak Ridge is the most accessible to the greatest population area as it sits just a short drive from the most visited National Park in the United States--The Great Smokey Mountains.  The Laboratories are also a two hour drive from Nashville.

            A vacation to the Great Smokies with all of the tourist activities nearby will provide memorable adventure and entertainment for adults and as well as families with children.  There is literally something to please everyone.

        The history of the area ranges from the time when the indigenous peoples such as the Creeks and Cherokees inhabited the land, to the time of the early European settlers, to the Civil War Era and beyond.    The X-10 Reactor is just one more piece of the history that brought the United States into the Atomic Age.

         Have you visited any of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites?   Have you ever visited any nuclear power plant or other similar facility?    Do you see a positive future for nuclear energy?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walking to Wall Street (#atozchallenge)

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time. ~Steven Wright

"View in Wall Street from Corner of Broad...
"View in Wall Street from Corner of Broadway", New York.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walking to Wall Street

        In the previous post we discussed visiting Manhattan.  So how to get around to see the sights in the city?   If you're going a distance across town you must try the subway of course.  For those who prefer not to deal with those crowds, taking a taxi can certainly be a viable method of travel, but it can also get expensive if you use them too much.  These are decent ways to get where you are going and they are big city transportation modes that you probably would want to try at least once just for the experience of doing it.  However, you won't see the city like you should--on the street, up close and personal.

         If you want to immerse yourself among the population and have that tangible encounter with the city itself, then you need to take to the streets on foot.  Yes, get the exercise and trod that pavement.  You can walk on your own meandering and exploring the sights or you can join up with a walking tour guided by someone in the know.  Some walking tours are free while others with a more personal touch might cost you a few bucks.

          The tours might provide a more expedient way of seeing sights since the guides have the experience and know the best places to go, but if you've got the time why not hoof it on your own?   Don a comfortable pair of sturdy shoes and dress suitably for the weather (as well as for the places you are going) and have fun exploring.   A good city map or guidebook will be helpful to avoid wasting time, but the thrill of discovery by surprise isn't a bad way to go either.  Essentially it all comes down to your time, your stamina, what exactly you hope to accomplish while in the city, and your own sense of adventure.

          My last visit a few years ago was on a very hot day.  We took it slow, went inside air conditioned places now and then, and stayed hydrated.  The heat didn't affect me too adversely, but it did wear my wife down a bit.  Still things turned out well for us.  We didn't push too hard and took breaks when they were needed.

          Walking is not a seasonal activity either.  Inclement weather might be a deterrence, but that's what coats and umbrellas are for.   Any time of year the streets will be filled with pedestrians and there are many folks who are more than happy to get you back on track if you happen to get temporarily lost.

         When the question "What Does Manhattan Say to You?" was presented on this blog back in January, my cousin Tom Jackson from Tracy, California was quick to respond on Facebook with, "Capital of Finance".   This as most of you probably know refers to Wall Street.

          One of the places any Manhattan walking tour should include is a visit to Wall Street.  Centrally located with many other sights worth seeing nearby, Manhattan is the iconic financial hub of not just the United States, but the world.  There are several interesting walking tours that include visits to the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, and many other fascinating sites that are educational, interesting, and fun.

           Going to visit Manhattan?  Bring your walking shoes and be prepared to get some exercise as you get an intimate look at Manhattan while mingling with those who live and work in the city.  There are bus tours and horse-drawn carriage rides as well that will provide a good look at the Manhattan tourist sights, but there's nothing quite like walking those bustling streets.

            If you're interested in walking tours you might want to check out some of the websites such as Free Tours By Foot, Wall Street Walks, and Big Onion Walking Tours to name just a few.

          Do you enjoy walking tours?   Would you rather tour on your own or with a knowledgeable guide?    Are there any walking tours in Manhattan or elsewhere that you have taken that you would recommend to readers here?


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Visiting Manhattan

 I did have an opportunity to visit Manhattan a few years ago, had no idea what to expect, will never forget the wonderful experience!--Gail M Baugniet - Author

The Empire State Building.
The Empire State Building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Visiting Manhattan

        After reading some of my Manhattan themed  A to Z posts some of you might be a bit more interested in visiting the island city of the New York Metropolitan Area.   Many of you indicated your desire to do so in comments made in my original post that asked "What Does Manhattan Say to You?".   In this current post I'll be presenting some of what a few of you said on the topic of "visiting Manhattan".

         From Patricia Stoltey there was this thought:  

        When I hear "Manhattan," I think of NYC in the fall of 1984 when I was there for computer software training. I had never been to NYC before, and I had a little time off from work, so I went to the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. I will never forget that day, and I will probably never go up in a building that tall again.

         I never made it to the top of the World Trade Center myself, but sure wish I could have had that experience.  Patricia, you experienced a bit of history so at least you have that memory.

         Ruth from Welcome to Me recollected:

         I have never been there. I do remember my dad talking about going through there when he was in the army. He was going to West Germany and in the 60's they took a truck to New York and got on a boat to go over there. He said it was dirty and smelled. Garbage laying all over.

        Ruth, my dad never talked about going to Manhattan although a few years ago--over 20 years after his death--I found an old photo of him and some buddies on a night out in NYC, a story to which I referred in my post Drinking and Manhattan.   Maybe your dad had the unfortunate circumstance of being in Manhattan during one of their infamous garbage strikes.  Then again maybe it was just the times and the places they were in.

        A frequent visitor to my blog who does not have a blog himself  but comments under the blog handle of  Sheboyganboy VI told his own interesting Manhattan story: 

       What comes to mind first is the borough of New York City. Not the drink, since I don't drink! I've been to Manhattan twice, once earlier this year for a touristy visit that included restaurants, jazz clubs down in Greenwich Village, Central Park, and the Metropolitan opera. The music was great... the glitz and crowds, not so much.

      But I'd say what comes to my memories first is my 1st trip there in 1974 when I was 19 years old. Four girls, my room mate and I made a cross-country trip from San Diego to Boston and back, which included a one-day jaunt into Manhattan. By the time we got to NYC we had picked up another girl, also. We had two vehicles: a 1968 VW Beetle, and my dad's propane powered pickup truck. As we were heading for the Holland Tunnel we saw a sign that said propane bottles were not allowed in the tunnel. Since I was carrying 200 gallons (!!!) of propane, we had to park the truck on a side street and ALL SEVEN of us piled into the VW and made the trip thru the tunnel for an afternoon of visiting Manhattan. The only person without a girl on their lap was the driver! It was a "trip," man!

      That sounds like a "hippie excursion". What a memory!  Those were the days my friend. 

       Bish Denham provided her own story from back in the day:

     When I think of Manhattan I almost immediately remember the time I spent there in the summer of 1967. For a teenager from a tiny island, it was awesome. Went to the Empire State Building, the Cloisters, Lincoln Center, took the ferry to Staten Island, drank "virgin" drinks at Cafe Wha? and listened to a band - who knows who? Friends and I stood on a street corner, stared up and pointed until we had a crowd around. Ate at my first Greek restaurant. Saw an off Broadway show about Jelly Roll Morton.

      It was noisy and dirty and the smog was so thick that from the top of Empire State Building the streets below were almost invisible. I have pictures.

      It was the time of my life. Except for one brief overnight on my way to somewhere else, I've never been back. Though if I had the opportunity/money, I just might.

       What a fantastic memory, Bish. I can imagine how exciting it must have been for you to have spent a summer there as a teen. Manhattan has a lure, but it can be an expensive destination.  I hope you can return one day.

One More Before We Go...

        Finally, from the blog Forty, c'est Fantastique ! with the author's permission I'm reprinting here the blog post she wrote in response to my Manhattan question.  It's too good not to include here. 

New York, New York !

Ah, New York…IMG_4282
One glimpse of this skyline, photo taken from Central Park, and anyone will know where you are. Hundreds of songs have been written about this city, hundreds of movies made there, millions of people have walked its streets, and been captured by its sense of adventure. It is the original “melting pot” where so many cultures can be found in one place.

It is the city that represents the US to the people of most other countries…tell anyone in a different country that you are from the US and they’ll say, “Oh! You know New York!”  Up until a few weeks ago I’d have said, “No. I’ve never been there.” But now, I can say I have been there. There there, and not just “Airport” there. My husband and I visited Manhattan. One and a half days there, and he is wondering if we could move there. Who knows? Tout est possible!  But no, I’m not packing up just yet:-)

I mentioned already in a previous post that we saw a Broadway Musical that weekend, with the aid of the beloved “Two-fer” tickets. This post is kind of a “Two-fer” too, in fact it is almost a “Three-fer” because it fits in with both the Thursday and Friday versions of  The Bee’s “Love is in da Blog.”  For “Traveling Thursday” it is a place I think I am falling in love with. For Friday, it is a “Blog Love.” I really have a hard time choosing a “favorite blog!”  So I’m not going to say this is my favorite, just that it isa favorite, and the one that is on my mind tonight.  So, because I am sort of writing this in response to a question that Arlee Bird asked on his blog “Tossing It Out” — namely, “What Does Manhattan Say to You?” my “Blog love” is going out to Arlee this week. For those of you who don’t know, he is the mastermind behind the “A to Z April Challenge” which really got Forty, C’est Fantastique  off the ground. I’m gearing up for my 3rd time doing this challenge in 2016! Arlee “Tosses Out” all kinds of interesting topics on his blog! I don’t always get involved, but I do read silently from my email box, and when a topic strikes a chord with me I just jump in! I love that Arlee really engages in conversation with his readers who comment. He’s thoughtful. He loves music and hosts a “BoTB” post on his site. I really don’t know how he does all of it. In any case, I highly recommend making a trip to his site to see what he “tosses out.”

So to answer his question (and I hope it isn’t too late!)
What does Manhattan say to me?
After a long flight, we walked, wide-eyed, out of the airport, searching for the metro, or a bus, some way to reach Manhattan. After a short search, we found ourselves on a bus, where we were able to figure out, with the help of a native New Yorker, the system by which one buys a Metro card and uses it to get a little ticket for the bus, which no longer accepts cash. You have to get a metro card and then use that at a kiosk to get a ticket. The lady in question did not have enough money on her Metro card for the ticket, and since the bus driver didn’t take cash, she gave us cash and we ran to a kiosk at the next stop and used our brand new metro card to get her a ticket. Then she told us some cool things to do and see in the city, and I have stashed that advice away for next time we go, because with just a day and a half we really had to choose one or two things. We rode the bus until the end of its line and then switched to the train. I’m not sure that was the most efficient, but we did end up at Times Square, which was just a couple blocks from our hotel.
We got off the train and said, “Hello, Manhattan.”  Manhattan said “Hello! You’re going to have a fabulous time.”  The lady at the hotel desk sang the word, “fabulous.”  She said, I can find you a fabulous restaurant, and she did! We had a very nice seafood dinner, not too far away from the hotel, and we walked around Times Square and gawked at the lights. Funny thing, but Manhattan does say to me that it is somehow okay to be a “tourist” there. It’s okay to stop and gawk at the skyscrapers whilst the real New Yorkers walk around you like water flows around pebbles in a stream.  It’s a much different feeling than say, San Francisco or Paris or Dublin. In those cities, I felt a desire to “blend in” and hide my tourist status. In Manhattan, I didn’t find that to be necessary, even when we encroached upon a somewhat more “local” bagel shop. There was a pleasant mix there of locals and tourists. And the bagel was fantastic. They say it’s the water. You think?
New York is elegant and refined, but at the same time it is loud and gaudy. It is Prada and Louis Vuitton, and it is also tourist shops. It is classic high-heeled pumps, but yet it is also brightly colored Converse. And “puffy down jackets.” Lots of puffy down jackets. I’m glad that at least our jackets fit in a little bit:-)  I’m not really sure why this is a trend all of a sudden. Marty McFly would be proud. IMG_4257

We went walking around Times Square on a Friday night, and a couple asked us to take their picture. Then, they offered to take one of us. Why not? They asked where we were from, and we told them, then asked them the same question. They told us they were locals, just out for a date night while their kids were with family. Isn’t that great? To go to one of the most touristy places in your own city just for fun? They looked really happy, too.
So what did we ask Manhattan? We asked it to show us some of its glamour and some of its traditions. It happily complied, and we came home happy, having seen the “Home Alone 2” Christmas tree, the skaters at Central Park, horse-drawn carriages, beautiful homes that we could never even dream of living in, Times Square, and a Broadway Musical. We ate NY bagels, NY pizza, and NY cheesecake. My husband even had one of those hotdogs from a street vendor. We rode a bus and a subway, and we rode in a NY cab. We looked in the windows of some designer stores that we didn’t dare set a foot into. We truly began to understand the French expression lèche-vitrines, which literally translates as “licking the windows” but really just means “window shopping.” Somehow the French expression is more descriptive! We walked (according to FitBit) eleven miles. It was glorious. So in the end, what did Manhattan say to me? It said, “Come back soon!”  I can hardly wait!

         Do you have a story to tell about your own Manhattan visit?   Are you planning a Manhattan visit anytime soon?   What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about visiting Manhattan?