Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Not much to report for the month of June. I plan to enjoy the summer with lot of fun activities, though I was not fond of the steamy weather last week, I am just so glad to be alive! I don't want to complain too much. With all the negative events happening, I am still thankful for all God's blessings. Hope ya'll have a great summer!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Benjamin "Babe" had a great time watching his first small town parade. There were typical floats from local businesses and charity organizations, veteran groups, classic cars driven by state and local representatives, fire trucks, police on motorcycles, a high school marching band and a nice visit from Ronald McDonnald! The weather has cool down a little and the parade took less than an hour. (More about a scary accident happened to Benjamin and at the Fair after the parade in future posts.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


A creative way to make use of an old bicycle. My husband pointed out that someone with a clever idea has installed a lawn mower to the front of this 60s style bicycle. Should we call it a "licycle mower" or a "bawn mower"?
(Photo above - Fanning US 66 Outpost)

At Dixon's Bike Shop (above) on Union & 7th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NYC, I wondered was the mural part of our real world or the bikes and people on the sidewalk actually were part of the mural?
Benjamin had fun riding the bicycle sculpture at Vlasis Park (above).
Yellow bicycle sculptures (below) on display at Chesterfield Valley, a large shopping area that was submerged under water during the 1983 Flood. Developers were confident that after the new levee was built, it would be another 100 years before the town might be flooded again. I would be long gone by then so what do I care?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


This is where I would like to be right now, Meramec Caverns and 60 degrees cool (the proof is in the above photo). Directly off old Route 66 or Exit 230 off I-44, the Caverns is named as "Missouri's Buried Treasure" as stated in the promotional brochure and thousands of billboards along the highway. There is much to do besides the guided tours. Our first visit was in 1997. We enjoyed the tour, ate lunch at the restaurant and ice cream for dessert (there are 28 flavors as advertised in the billboard below) but I don't remember if we purchased anything from the gift shop.
Meramec Caverns is a great family outing with activities such as Sluice Mining that children can "pan for gold", Canoeing, Riverboat Rides, and Camping. For those seeking quiet and comfortable lodging, there is a motel located in LaJolla Natural Park. Or you could try looking for the hidden gold and money that Jesse James and his gang buried somewhere but did not get a chance to retrieve.

Check out Meramec Caverns at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This is where Benjamin has been the last few days - Fritz's Frozen Custard. With the heat index above 100 degrees, we have tried very hard to keep cool. The temperature has been in the high 90s but when you are outside, even in the shade, it feels like 110! Excessive heat warning was issued and everyone is encouraged to stay indoor or in our case, in the basement where it is cool. The same forecast will be for the rest of the week, extreme hot weather in St. Louis and it's only the beginning of summer.
Fritz's Frozen Custard is located just south of Hwy. 141 and Big Bend since 1983. In addition to the rich, creamy custard made with highest quality standards, there are special events such as Annual Car Hop Night with live music, a dance contest for kids and prizes. When you stop by Fritz, be sure to tell them that Benjamin sends you!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I saw this sign at Fanning US 66 Outpost Souveniers shop, (More about the shop in future posts). I don't have any more photos of dry cleaners with funny names and even though I don't exactly know what the sign was about other than "Men from Mars, Women from Venus" humor, I thought the sign would suffice for this week Humor of the Week post.

Now on a new feature - Three Questions (randomly selected from the Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph. D.)

Question #80 - Would you rather die peacefully among friends at age 50, or painfully and alone at age 80? Assume that most of the last 30 years would be good ones.

Answer from TOTA: How about 30 good years starting at the age of 50 without any friends, then live alone and at 80 die peacefully. I would rather be alone, no friends with 30 good years and without the painful part. I am not fond of pains. What can I say, I am a loner! What would be your choice?

Questions #31 - If you knew there would be a nuclear war in one week, what would you do?

Answer from TOTA: It depends on whether I would survive this nuclear war and what became of the immediate surroundings where I lived. If I only had one week (hopefully it would be during hockey season), I probably take all the money I have (not much) and see the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice. Or better yet, playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. What would you do?

Question #32 - Would you accept 20 years of extraordinary happiness and fulfillment if it meant you would die at the end of the period?

Answer from TOTA: Depends on when these 20 years of extraordinary happiness and fulfillment begins. At the age of 20 - I would accept the offer with hesitation because after only 20 good years I would die too young at the age of 40. I would definitely accept the offer when I was 40 because these were prime years physically and mentally. Not sure about after 50 since the body started to break down but 20 good years still would be a good offer. I would definitely accept these 20 years if I was offered "this deal of a lifetime" at the age of 30. I would rather lived a short life with extraordinary happiness and fulfillment than to live to be 100 yet boring and sad.
So, my adoring fans and faithful readers, your turn. What would be your answers?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I spotted the above weather beaten owl while walking around North Flatbush in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York. It stood guard on top of the shop next to the Providence Building. If the owl could talk, he would make a great history buff with the things that it witnessed and heard over the years. I wonder if this owl is a cousin of the owl at the Barn at Lucerne in St. Louis.
Does anyone have a story to share about Mr. Owl from Park Slope or about the Providence Building? How about Qaptain Qwerty? Is the area really North Flatbush in Park Slope or is it something else?

Friday, June 19, 2009


It was a nice surprise when I looked up and saw Mr. Owl while taking photo of the sixty-foot silos at the Barn at Lucerne. Besides taking photos of balloons getting stuck on the power lines, gums on the streets and dry cleaners with funny names, I also started taking photos of landmarks and historic buildings around town. "TOTA, is this another of your obsession?", you may ask. Yes, and here is how it all started. A few months ago I read in the newspaper that Agostino, a local restaurant has been sold. Two days later I went there, the structure was already demolished, all gone, only a few pieces of large concrete blocks left. I always like Agostino, not for the food but for the balcony (no photo to post here-blah) that reminded me of my grandparents' home in Viet Nam.
The barn was once the home of St. Louis finest dairy cattle with more than 400 cows. It was built in 1905 using the bricks from the 1904 World Fair (people already practiced reuse and recycle back then). It was converted to an office building with retail and restaurant space in 1976. St. Louis Community College occupied a large portion until it moved to the new campus in Wildwood. Currently it is almost empty with only a few offices on the second floor, a restaurant with live music and dancing and a beauty salon on the ground floor.
What the Barn at Lucerne looks like today (photo above) and the painting inside (below) depict when it was used as a dairy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


No need to call Homeland Security, it was Cuba, Missouri, the Route 66 Mural City, 75 miles southwest of St. Louis, along I-44 and Route 66. The town was founded in 1857 and named Cuba by the citizens to show sympathy for the island of Cuba back then was under the oppression of Spain.
Cuba was a farming community and railroad shipping point. The area was famous for apples and barrels during the period from 1895 to 1920. Today Cuba is well known for its 12 murals that attracted attention internationally. The town celebrates its Route 66 heritage and is a charming small town that has much to offer to travelers and a must stop for delicious home cooking and to experience a moment of living in another era.

The building above was a cottage style filling station built in 1932. In 1968, it was converted to an office for an oil company. The mural shows the Wagon Wheel Motel (left painting), one of the motor courts that lined Route 66 during the hey-day of the Mother Road.

In Cuba, Missouri, even the electrical box at the intersection (photo below) got decorated with beautiful paintings. Please check back for additional posting of photos of the other 11 murals and more about Route 66 Missouri.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


During a recent visit to NYC, my sister CH treated me to a dinner at Blue Smoke on East 27th Street in Manhattan. Earlier in the day, we had an enjoyable walk and talk while visiting Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It was part of the agenda that we sisters should plan for a nice dinner and some quiet time just us girls. We did not have to wait long because CH already made reservation. I must say that the place was crowded for a Wednesday evening. (Recession or not people still need to eat and a place to hang out.)

We started with Blue Smoke Cornbread, two pieces at a cost of $4.50 (I commented to CH that for $4.50 I could get a box of cornbread mix and made us a whole large pan of cornbread). I selected Kansas City Spareribs ($19.95) with no side item. CH decided on the Memphis Baby Back Ribs, also with no side item. For drinks, I asked for a glass of clean water and ice while CH ordered a house beer.
While waiting for our dinner, we talked about the plans to visit Viet Nam, mostly when and what CH would like to do there. Just like in 1989 when I broke my promise to CH that after we graduated from college we would travel around Europe for a few months, I ran off and got married instead. This time it is because of the economic downturn and personal issues, I again would not be able to go to Viet Nam as we previous discussed earlier this year. We did not talk about our workplaces because we did not want to waste precious time talking about the environment that suffocate our spirits and about co-workers that continued to receive lavish bonus not doing any work and management for some reasons tolerate these employees who spent most of the time socializing and doing personal stuff. We talked about the places we visited, (my favorite is Alaska but CH could not decide between Scottland and Switzerland) about some long lost friends and a few that still connected, and about my plans to drive along Route 66 from California to Chicago.

The conversation stopped while we enjoyed the spareribs and babyback ribs. We did not have desserts after dinner. Overall the food was good, but it was nothing special and I would not recommend it as the place to be if you were in NYC. I looked at my watch; it was 9:30 p.m. I said to CH that it was almost my bedtime. We talked about plans for Mother's Day while waiting for the check. I did not ask CH whether she was dating anyone and she did not ask about my marriage. We talked about the changes at Hunter College and NYU since our graduation 20 years ago, how time flies!

When we were leaving Blue Smoke, there was a long line of people waiting to get into the Jazz Club. The subway ride was quiet as I was a bit tired. CH watched the late night news while I was ready to fall asleep on the sofa. It was a good day spending quality time with my sister.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Call me Dirty or call me Messy but don't call me Sissy! Here is a laundromat with an interesting name, Soapy Sissy's, on Stillwell Avenue in Bath Beach, no longer mistaken as Bensonhurst, but still in Brooklyn, New York :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th to commemorate the adoption of the Flag of the United States by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. A proclamation was issued to officially establish June 14th as Flag Day in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson and became National Flag Day in 1949 by an Act of Congress.
These Colors Don't Run - God Bless America. (Photo above - near United Nations and below - inside Grand Central Station - New York City, December 2007).

Friday, June 12, 2009


As mentioned in previous posts, one of our summer activities on the weekends is driving to Hermann, a small charming town on Missouri River, about an hour drive from where we live (West St. Louis County). According to the tourism brochure, Hermann was founded in 1836 by the German winegrowers in search of the ideal location for their vineyards. They found a site bounded by hills and bluffs on three sides and the Missouri River on the north which was similar to the Rhine River region in Germany. In addition to the famous family-owned wineries, there are many bed & breakfast inns with the view of the Missouri River, many fine restaurants with authentic local cookings, gift shops and antiques places.
A favorite pastime while we are in Hermann would be watching the trains going by from the bridge at the end of town while enjoying the nice weather and a bag of kettle korn. Life is good when you slow down to be in the moment!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Kissing Doves at Whitmoor Country Club in St. Charles, Missouri.
Look closely (center of photo) and you will see a statue of Kissing Dutch Boy & Girl. Photos above and below (a pair of beautiful flowers) were taken on May 2, 2009 in Brooklyn, New York.
Bronze statue of Boy & Girl "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in front of Community Center in West St. Louis County, Missouri.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


If only Benjamin could find a custom-made small, very small Harley-Davidson, he would be all set to enjoy a journey and an adventure following America's historic Mother Road Route 66. Ode to the slow pace when life was much simpler and magic happens if only we allowed ourselves to get off the fast lane. Would you care to share your trips following Route 66 or Lewis and Clark Trail stories?

Monday, June 08, 2009


When I saw the "giant" sign above Duane Reade drug store on Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, I immediately thought about the residents living in the building behind the sign giving direction to the question, "Where do you live? or How do I get to your building?" with an answer like this "I live in the building behind the sign that reads Got Hemorrhoids?". Do people in Park Slope (or Brooklyn/New York City) need this big sign to know what to do with their hemorrhoids?
(Photo taken on Thursday, May 8, 2009)


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