Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Job & Life in New Brunswick

Before graduating Elon I had tirelessly searched for jobs part-time, full-time, internships - paid or not, fellowships and volunteers opportunities available post college. I applied to many organizations and postings but there were many different (and random) opportunities that arose while waiting to hear back. One was coming across the Fund for the Public Interest. Its a non-profit agency that has locations all throughout the country and corporate being in Boston. In addition the Fund has adopted smaller, local non-profits for each of the offices across the country. The New Brunswick branch consists of NJPIRG - a local non-profit currently working on a campaign to prevent further toxic spills by introducing other forms of chemicals that are less harmful (and have less catastrophic outcomes if a spill were to occur) to the environment during transport and Environment New Jersey - another local non-profit currently working on a campaign to clean up the Jersey Shore.

My heart was always for preventing further pollution, degradation of shore life and strengthen our shoreline so that in the event of another major storm we are more prepared. Since my first day canvassing (people who go out to the public whether it be on the phone, street or door-to-door to gain support through membership and contributions made to the causes/campaigns they address) Tuesday, June 11th I have learned so much. I've also grown to have more admiration and appreciation for those who do this as a career. It is very hard work but does pay off in raising awareness to local concerns and issues that the state continues to ignore. Now I know some people might say - like some I've met while in various central Jersey neighborhoods during canvassing hours - that I am some college liberal kid fighting for the same environmental issues they fought back in their day. Well, your probably right. The problem is that these are STILL issues that have gotten worse. And yes I am still somewhat innocent and naive but I'm full of passion. I believe that if everyone did their part both financially and physically that these issues would not reoccur.

I also believe that older people with that philosophy are really selfish. Yes the issues might not be different but because they haven't been resolved and in most cases gotten worse, my generation including myself suffer and will have an even more challenging time making it better. This will be my life and my legacy. Unlike other generations who failed to make these issues disappear (no offense) its my turn to make it better for the next generations especially my children.

 I won't put it into a global context since most would say it does matter or effect us (but understand it does). What I will say is that doing this work has made me realize that there are good people out there that want to help and make a difference but in most cases don't know how to go about that. So when people like me come up to someones door with knowledge on the issues and ask for help there are people who grab that opportunity.

Blah Blah Blah...I know I'm going off on a rant but this is why I've stayed with this organization. Not to mention how well I've been able to connect with my work colleagues. They are very diverse and unique individuals, most of which are younger than me still in college (mainly Rutgers). Its definitely been a great experience meeting and getting to know each of them more intimately. Socials with the work crew are fun too. We have a consistent schedule:
Mondays - Frozen yogurt at Truly Yogurt
Tuesdays - Stuff Yer Face: boli and beers
Wednesdays - Free pizza
Thursdays - Tumulty's
Fridays - BBQ

Last week I went to Stuff Yer Face and had a giant original boli as we watched Game 6 Spurs and the Heat duke it out. It was so hilarious watching some of my work colleagues get so into the game especially Ben and Loren. I hope to make it to Tumulty's this Thursday to rock out the close of my week before Keith comes from Philly. We're going to see David Brynn and St. Vincent play at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank Friday evening. It'll be a blast!!!! Saturday is a make-up work day aka canvass day and then Sunday is PRIDE!!!

So much to look forward to. I'll keep you posted lol :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cross-country Roadtrip Part 5

As we waved goodbye to the beauty in Arizona we were off to our last stretch and destination on our two week cross-country roadtrip: Las Vegas!!! Although I knew from the start that coming to Vegas would mean the end of our trip but at the same time I was equally intrigued to see what all the fuss was about this "sin city." Need I tell all that going to Vegas was none other than a destination that was conveniantly matched with our roadtrip route. During our planning sessions months prior to the trip we thought going to Vegas would be fun and since neither one of us had been we might as well check it out. Besides we've both been to Los Angeles and didn't care for it so this was the next best thing.

Heading into the high heat entrenched desert lands of Nevada we sighted dust tornados - tons of them - along Route 66. We stopped in Seligman, the so-called birth-place of Route 66 but it was sad to see how depressed most of the towns were along the route including Selgiman. However, each town has their own gemic so Selgiman advertised their status by decorating the roofs and doorways with colorful plastic models made to look like funk-da-fied people from another era in time. I guess thats what they thought would be a eye-catching point for us tourists.

All I'll say is that if you don't have gas in your car driving on that route you are screwed. There's hardly any towns let alone gas stations out in the middle of no-where. We did get lucky about 20 outside of Kingman (which is 75 miles from Seligman) to find a small working gas station where a kind gentleman "Chuck," "Joe,"...he said he has a lot of names since he'll take on any name someone chooses to call him. What was even more interesting - besides the friendly gas attendant giving full gas service like in NJ - was when a lady in Seligman mentioned before we left that she has to drive to Kingman for groceries. That's 75 miles west and another to go home!!! I cannot imagine what that is like other than feeling so remorse.

Nothing but miles of desert and road....

Almost 1 1/2 hours later we made it to the Hoover Dam with the outside temperature estimating 112 degrees. Yep it was the hottest I have ever experienced in my life other than that one day on the beach in Rhodes, Greece. The difference with Rhodes was the presence of wind. Here there was just heat and sunlight beaming from above. But it was all well and good once we went inside for the tour especially walking in the underground tunnels near the Colorado River. We did have enough energy to walk a bit to get a better look of the dam (see pictures below).

 Our friendly and enthusiastic tour guide from TN

Exhausted from walked not nearly enough to really complain - I blame the heat - we drove to the other side of the dam to see Lake Mead and get a bite to eat at the marina. It was amazing to think we created all of this in the last century. Lake Mead was calm and scerne like no other body of water I've seen because really, what place has that kind of asectics surrounding it? It was especially unique. Satisfying lunch and we were once again on the road again this time for the shortest amount of time (ever) it has taken us to get from one place to another. We could see Vegas in the distance after clearing some mountains near Lake Mead. Casino in the middle of the desert, yeah no kidding!

From here on out it was Viva Las Vegas baby! We arrived at Trump International Hotel in such a state that I was not prepared for the vallet to take our car and be hence waiting on hand and foot as soon as we hit the pavement. They did make us feel like royalty especially the gentleman who took us up to the room and told us how everything worked. The problem we had was forgetting to have enough cash on us to give tips. So later that night once settled into one of the nicest hotel suites we've ever been in (five-stars is really sweet - thanks Uncle Jack) we headed out to a Bank of America ATM to get quick cash to tips and then we went out on the town. We had a great dinner at El Segundo, a Mexican/American restaurant, where we ate awesome burgers and....a 42 oz margarita!!! Wish I kept the glass as evidence and a souvenir of our feat!

The suite!!

 "Wasted away again in Margaritaville"

Later we hit the casinos - because Trump didn't have one of his own and we wanted to be creatures of the night. Slots at the Bellagio, Caesars and MGM. It was so interesting to see my Mom's reaction to how outrageously dressed people were, namely the women, on and off the strip. I wasn't too 'caught off-guard' since I had experience than both during my gap year traveling and being at college for the last four years. Girls dress for attention in all the wrong places but what I find is really startling is how nearly naked they have become to do so. But what I didn't like was the obsenity of public drunkenness on the strip. It was embarassing for me to watch and for them to think acting like that is ok since "I'm on va-cay!' or 'I'm in Vegas, wooot!" NO its really not okay people. That is really stupid and in most cases life-threatening. Ever heard of alcohol poisoning?!?!? Well its not a myth its a sad reality and I'm sure it happens way too often in a place like Vegas.
Inside Caesars
 Outside Caesars
 Inside Bellagio
 Mom won $55!
 Walking the strip our first night in town

The next day we chilled out in the hotel. I had a little bit of a breakdown (what great timing) but as a result we ordered room service and went to the spa which was sooooo beautiful and relaxing. We got reflexologies - feet massages that pinpoint your nerve endings that send relaxing vibes throughout your body namely your head. That night we went to Mandalay Bay at the south end of the strip for dinner at House of Blues and to see the Michael Jackson's ONE Cirque du Soleil show (which was AMAZING - recommend highly). We were even fortunate enough to see and heard some of Grace Potter & The Nocturnal's set outside near the pool before ONE. They were amazing and so was ONE. The energy of the performers and the sentimental feelings shared among everyone in the audience throughout the show was unforgettable. All I know is that despite having some fun playing slots and looking at the casinos interior/exterior and going to Cirque du Soleil Vegas is not a place I could spend a long period of time doing anything. Its a nice getaway place but for a limited engagement. Two days and three nights was enough for me.
Our room service came on a cart that turned into a table! 
PS we spurged on champagne in honor of the occassion
 The spa :)

 Steamer, Sunna & Personal showers with complimentary towels, robes, slippers 
and accessories (razors, shaving cream, hair ties, etc)
 Face and body lotions and creams
 This was so cool!!!

Two flights back to the east coast and a drive back to central Jersey I was exhausted. I called out of my first day of work Monday to have a little time to myself before I got back into the "real-world." And since my Mom is out of work it didn't matter. Despite a little car trouble the Tuesday when we were planning to move the rest of my stuff into my apartment in New Brunswick I was feeling pretty good about my experiences since graduation. Now I have the opportunity to live my life free from institutional obligations and start fresh somewhere new.

I should have expected. Casino slots in the airport.

New post about my first two weeks at Environment NJ, my new apartment and colleagues and where I see myself in the coming months....all coming soon :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cross-country Roadtrip Part 4

Went to Meter Crater after finding we had an hour to kill - spending quality time in Winslow, AR talking to local native, Sandy. When you first get to the Meter Crater site there isn't much to see because your "tour" starts inside their museum and gift shop. I of course went to the observation deck to see the crater and my eyes were amazed! Yeah I know its just a huge hole in the land out in the middle of nowhere Arizona....BUT its still freakin cool!!! Especially once you go through the museum to read some history or rather scientific research and evidence that suggests this crater was created over millions and millions of years ago. Way long before human species existed. The picture to the right is a model speculation of what the actual meter would have looked like and the size needed to make such an impact. Yep, its small thats what I said. 
 Say WHAT?!?!?!
 Cheese next to a huge hole in the ground 

 After I geeked out at the meter crater we went back on the road towards Flagstaff, AR. We were in desperate need of grub. So we whipped out our notebook folder of things to find our handy dandy list of Guy's Triple D hotspots. In luck we found one restaurant in Flagstaff called Brandy's. It was really interesting driving into Flagstaff - which btw is not all too big which was a bit of a surprise, but then again I didn't realize it is not the capital lol - because it was surrounded by mountainous plains and hills.  What was even more interesting was that I felt like I was in central Jersey since Brandy's and a ton of other places (shops, restaurants, etc) were in stripmalls around the city.

Well deserved stop filled us up. We even took some goodies on our way south to Sedona - a gigantic lemon bar and sticky bun with pecans on top. YUM! About 45mins later we were on one of the four scenic routes Mom had looked up beforehand. Of course we didn't know that at the time so we were just jaws-drop the whole time. Sedona is one of those places where you should expect to be amazed despite what you might think you already know. Its different being in a place and experiencing in person than seeing a picture or hearing about it through someone else's experience.
But its still worth expressing how awesome driving around on the scenic routes, going to see a church in the red rock (now decommissioned), meeting the people at the Chamber of Commerce (so friendly) and walking around in one of the state parks and in the oh-so-cute town of Sedona.

Yep, thats a church in the red rock. Casual.

A short walk following a river in a state park 

From a high attitude "photo point"

Next order of business was to head north about 2hrs to go to the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan, a town right outside of the Grand Canyon National Park. It was amazing that most of the two weeks on the road we had sunlight from about 630/7am to about 830/9pm. What was even more interesting was how buzzed the little town of Tusayan was around 9pm. We kept saying to ourselves that we would hate to be here in a week or more because it would be soooo crowded. 

 God Bless America and all its beauty. A painter took 3yrs to paint a full-size still of the canyon.

 Wildlife in the park
 As the sun begins to set the colors of the canyon really come alive

 Sunset at the Canyon (west view)
 That night after we were awe-struck we were hungry. So we went to "We Cook Pizza and Pasta". Easy to understand right. LOL. It was a goldmine and lucky we got there when we did because they were in the mist of closing up the place as we ate our supreme 2 person pizza.

 Next morning we were up and ready around 5am to catch the sunrise. And so our surprise so were a bunch of people. There were quite a bit of activity to see the sun rise up out of the canyon ridges. Most in lounge wear since many of these sightseers came from the surrounding campsites and hotel villages within the park.

 We were even welcomed on our way out of the park by an elk that was literally as close to me as she appears in this picture. 
 Best coffee place in the morning - by the general store. 
 And if you are hiking you should bring the necessary goods. 
Why not take an individual portion of a selection of fine wine? In a 
convenient plastic cup too. 
 Cutest sandwich and souvenir shop in Tusayan