Tag Archives: Kansas City

Mass Transit: A Traveler’s Delight

22 Nov

Kansas City metro only has one really good accessible mass transit for tourists: the KC Street Car, a free light rail that circles 2.2 miles downtown, featuring Crown Center and the City Market.  Yes, Kansas City does have a bus system, but living in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, I recently realized how cut off we can be without a car.  Our daughter’s brother-in-law was traveling through the USA and wanted to use mass transit whenever possible.  My husband took him to work one day and dropped him off at the Street Car. That gave him an entire day of adventure.

However, it was the start of the Labor Day Weekend.  On Sunday he wanted to take the bus downtown to experience the Irish Festival.  We told him it was impossible. He said,
“No there is a bus a mile away.  I can walk there and take it.  We laughed. My husband showed him on the website that yes there was a bus to downtown, but it would not be running again until Tuesday.  No way to get to the Irish Festival.  (Don’t worry, we arranged for friends to take him.)

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Ferry from NJ to NYC.

It started me thinking about my experience with mass transit.  To begin with, I grew up in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  I spent many hours on busses, trains, subways and taxis.  It was a part of life if you wanted to go anywhere.  Many people who live in New York City do not even own a car.  Of course my mass transit of choice going from New Jersey to NYC is always the ferry!

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Mass Transit tickets

Since moving to the Midwest, I have experienced exciting weekends in Chicago, Illinois, using the mass transit system.  Chicago, like NYC, is another mass transit haven.   Using the Chicago subways is a no brainer.  Going from the airport into the city is so much faster, cheaper and easier than taking a taxi. And getting around to the different areas makes sense on the subways.

In major cities, I try to use the subways to avoid traffic. In Philadelphia we used the Philadelphia Transit Vehicles (PTV), and in Washington DC, using the METRO Transit System is a must to beat the traffic.  I will always remember the very long escalators down into the system when we traveled from a relative’s home in Maryland to downtown DC. Boston also has a mass transit system, the MBTA, that helps college students and travelers get around

I realized that my husband and I use Mass Transit whenever we can.  In Atlanta, the MARTA took us to and from the airport to the downtown hotels.  In California: we adore the Cable Cars in San Francisco. While staying in San Jose, we used the light rail to go the Winchester Mystery House in San and the Tech Museum from our hotel.

We used the light rail in Denver, Colorado, to explore the historic area and travel to and from our hotel. In one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, I used the street car with my children to get from our hotel to the French Quarter!

I have even used the mass transit in St. Louis!  Although I drive there all the time to see family, when I went to a graduation at Washington University, I was told parking was not available. I drove to the nearest MetroLink Station and traveled to the ceremony. What a delight to avoid all the traffic.

One of my favorite ‘mass transit’ rides was on the People Mover ride in Tomorrow Land at Disney World, and of course we love the mass transit success of the Monorail in Disney World.  Does that count?  I think so.  I thought of it recently when we were in Seattle.   I had the opportunity to use the one-mile monorail down to the Sky Needle and the Seattle Center, an area developed for the 1962 World’s Fair.

But it wasn’t only the monorail that had our patronage in Seattle, we also used the light rail system of SoundTransit.  The underground area was so clean!  Currently buses run through these tunnels in downtown Seattle, but I was told that would end in January 2019, as the city prepares for the expansion of its light rail.

I have also used mass transit in other countries.  Vienna, Hungary, we took our children on the subway.  I will admit there was one very loud and screechy turn.  We all held our ears.  In Israel, I have changed my allegiance from the busses to the trains. They are great and have free wi-fi.

The most interesting subway of all was in Athens, Greece. When they dug down to build the subway, the workers kept finding antique treasures. Now in the stations are displays of these lovely objects.  You get a history lesson, while waiting for the subway.

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Funicular in Quebec City.

Another favorite is using a funicular to get up and down a hill.  That was great fun in Quebec City, Canada.  I have used them in other places as well, like the Carmelit underground Funicular in Haifa, Israel, and the one at Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri (this was my first funicular.)  But the one in Quebec City stands out in my mind.  I have seen them in Valparaiso, Chile, but did not actually need to use one.

All my experiences with mass transit makes me wish that my home town would invest a bit more in helping people move around.  I will admit that recently citizens voted to expand the light rail a bit further south to the shopping areas of Westport and the Plaza, as well as the University of Missouri Kansas City campus.  But it still doesn’t help those who live in my area.  But my dream lives on that eventually the entire city will have an operating, useful light rail system.

Why I Marched

22 Jan
my-coexists-sign

My personal rally sign.

Bring in the light.  Restore hope. Support those who are afraid. Make it known that we stand together.

I was not walking against Trump, rather I was marching for those who were feeling lost, frightened and scared since his election. I wanted them to see that we are not silent. That we stand together, and there is no return to the 1930s.

People are so down and pessimistic. While I am an optimist. I always try to find the happy, bright and light in each adventure that impacts me.

So on Saturday I saw the light. On this day when I had planned to go to synagogue and chant Kaddish on the yahrzeit of my mother, I took a different path.

My Mom was one of the kindest people. She taught fourth grade for 30 years.  And she opened her arms to all people. In her honor I marched with so many who were opening their hearts and arms.

My physical self marched in Kansas City, while my spirit marched with women and children and men throughout the world.

To all I say, ” Look at us. We are women! We stand together! We are not afraid! And we will be active in our pursuit of justice and equality for all.”

Flying Is No Longer Fun!

3 Aug
The moon from our plane window.  It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

The moon from our plane window. It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

Six and one half hours. That is how long our flight was delayed.  We spent 8 1/2 hours at the airport in Kansas City in total. A very long day. I am so happy my son was with me.  His amusement and laughter made the day much more enjoyable.

It started as a simple 30-minute delay for an incoming plane. It quickly turned into a nightmare for those with connecting flights.

When the new crew entered the plane they noticed something was wrong,  the plane was extremely cold.  We did not know what was happening at the time. But I did noticed that the captain had come back up the jetway and got the woman agent who was working the desk (for what she thought would be a routine flight.) She went down the jetway with the pilot.

I turned to my son and said, “That does not look good at all.”

I have been flying a lot lately, and to me this indicated a major problem .  She came back out and immediately anounced a one-hour delay. It was a simple problem she told us, one that they would probably just look at and note. If only that was true! But it was not to be.

That one hour turned to two hours . We were told that maintenance was now looking at it and determined that they would need a part to fix a thermostat.

Those with connecting flights started to line up, making their connections would be difficult.  In the summer time, flights are often crowded, with every seat filled.  Plans to fly overseas were especially difficult.

My son was walking around the waiting area, while I read a book.  He came back to where I was sitting with our carry-on luggage.

“Mom, they are offloading luggage from the plane,” he said.  A very bad sign.  I have learned that if enough people are taken off the flight and put on another flight, the airline will cancel  the ‘problem’ flight.  I did not want to be waiting for hours for a cancelled flight.  I absolutely hate that.

I immediately got on the line. I wanted to reserve a seat in the later flight.  Which I did.  We were only 2 1/2 hours delayed at this point and the next flight was to leave in four hours, but you never know. I try to be flexible, but I also want to be prepared.

We started watching people be sent away.  I was calm.  One woman was very upset because she had special concert tickets. She was making phone calls, speaking to people and speaking to the agents.  I notice one of the two male agents who had replaced our original agent was leading her away from our gate.

The delays piled up.  The part was found, but now a team of mechanics were working on it. Instead of being an easy fix, now an entire unit had to be taken out of the plane to get the plane repaired.  It was apparent that things were not going well.

We were sent to another gate as a new plane was coming, being ferried in just for us.  Okay, maybe things would get better.  Maybe.

The line to transfer or find solutions was long, since the earliest we would leave was 4:30 pm.  Our scheduled flight now was leaving five  and half hours late. Some people went home or to a hotel. They had no chance to make any connections, so they were rescheduled for the next day.

We went to the new gate and waited.  The woman with the concert tickets was back! What happened? The flight on Delta was cancelled  so she came back to United to get on the original flight.  Needless to say she did not make the concert.

The plane came. You could feel the excitement from the crowd.  Although many had left our group,  others who were on a flight with a stop in Chicago had chosen to change to our flight to Newark.

We lined up ready to board.  The new agent asked if any of the first class flyers wanted their original lunch meals. One raised her hand.  The agent had to go to the other gate to get the food.  People moaned.

The crew got off the plane.  You could feel the anticipation as we waited for our crew to arrive.  And waited. And waited.

The agent came back on the speaker. “Ummm. Well, first I am really sorry, but the crew members were sent to the hotel and are not here.  We thought they were in the crew lounge at the airport.  But they have left.  We have to get them back.  So there will be another hour and half delay. The earliest you will leave is 5:45 pm.”

People audibly gasped! Tension filled the air. The comments and questions were flying around the waiting area: “Don’t they talk to each other?”  “How could that happen?”  “Will they really come back?”  “Is this flight actually going to go?”

My son burst out laughing. I got up to ask to transfer to the other plane. But the agent was not done.

“Also I have been told that we cannot serve the meals from first class as they have been on the plane for too long.  I am sorry.”  So first class passengers were getting no food.  Neither was my son or I or anyone else.   They had just joined us peons.  And there are not many food choices at the Kansas City airport.

My son and I  had already gone without a real lunch.  It was obvious that we were going without a real dinner.

I was first in line at the counter. “Can you just transfer us to the other flight, please.”  It was scheduled to leave one minute after the flight we were supposed to go on.  But I just was not sure we were actually going to go anywhere.

“I could” she said. “But it is scheduled to go on the original plane that you were supposed to go on, and it is still being fixed.  What do you want to do?”   I really had no choice, at least I knew this plane was in working order. I stayed with the original flight.

We all sat and waited and talked to the people around us.

When the crew arrived we all applauded.

When we boarded the plane, people were laughing.

When the plane took off we were amazed.  I actually heard a few people applaud.

The captaiin came on and apologized.

But we had been at the airport for 8 1/2 hours. The airline did not offer us food coupons. There were no snacks on the plane. Luckily I had purchased some snacks for us.

We arrived 6 1/2 hours late. Instead of 3 pm, we arrived at 9:30 pm. A wasted day. We missed dinner with my brother. We were tired and cranky and hungry.

At the luggage carousel, my son and I waited with others from our flight.  Making jokes about whether our luggage was actually put on the new plane, and what else could possibly go wrong.  However our luggage did arrive.  Our ride from the airport did show up within minutes of us leaving the terminal.

The passengers had bonded during our time together.  People who were strangers became temporary friends.  But it was now over, we were all returning to life outside of the world of the airport.

Earlier in the odyssey I told my son I was going to send an email to the airline when I got home. I was angry. But United emailed us first, apologizing to us and offering a link for a gift for each of us.   You know it is bad when that happens.  I have 90 days, so I have not checked the link yet.

Although nothing can give me back my day, which was spent watching the world from a terminal window, I do appreciate the apology.  But in reality flying is no longer any fun.

Amazing Coincidences After Finding My Ancestors; We Are One People

1 Feb

It has been a crazy time since I found out the lineage of my two times great grandmother Esther (Etka Lew) Wolff. I have connected with distant family through the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page. I have been welcomed to see our very large family tree on Geni. And I have found out who my ancestors were back to 1720.

Amazing.

But the amazement does not seem to end. In one of the many emails my two distant cousins sent me I saw that a branch of the family, one of my three times great uncles descendants migrated to Kansas City. What! I live in the Kansas City metro area. I have lived here for 18 years with no family except my immediate family. For a while my husband had cousins here, but they moved away. Now I find out I have distant cousins here. Really?

And then I thought about it. Many years ago, when the Bialystok Home for the Aged still existed and they still did a newsletter, I would get the “Bialystoker Stimmer.” I was a supporter of the Home for the Aged because my great grandparents, my grandma and my parents were always supporters. So the tradition continued.

In any case, in one issue I read, there was an article by a man and his daughter from Kansas City. And I knew his daughter. I mentioned the article to her, and we would joke about it and call ourselves “Landsmen,” which we were. So when I heard that I had distant cousins here, I immediately thought of her.

I sent her an email.

“What was your maiden name? I just found out that a branch of my family, last name Lew/Lewin/Levin moved to the Kansas City area. (Originally from Bialystok region). Just curious.”

She wrote back. And it all fit. They were from the same small town, Ciechanowiec. Her dad’s last name was Lewin but he changed it to Levine in the USA. We were third cousins.

And I thought that was all.

But my contacts back east (EW and AB), who had been feeding me all this information, were not done. They had heard of my friend/cousin. But there were others as well. They sent me a diagram. And asked if I recognized any other names. I did. One was a boy the same age as my son, they had gone to school together through second grade and had played together. The family belonged to the same synagogue my family belonged to. We have been friendly acquaintances for 20 years. We are related through the father.

I sent them an email because I find it all so interesting. I would never have expected to find family in Kansas! I am still in a state of determined amazement. Jew from the small Polish village of Ciechanowiec settled in Kansas and Missouri!

When my children were little they went to the local Jewish day school. My daughter used to feel sad sometimes because everyone was related to everyone else, except for her. She had no cousins at the school. I wish I had known this when they were little, as they were in school together, although their children were younger and more my son’s age. We might not be family, but they would have been ‘cousins.’

My daughter lives in Israel now. Many of her cousins who she is in contact with are also third cousins. These are branches of my family and my husband’s family that we have been in contact with forever. She has many second cousins, as my husband’s first cousin moved to Israel 27 years ago. These cousins have all been welcoming and loving. It is strange that some lines of the family stay in contact, and we see these cousins even with the distance in relationship; we consider ourselves close family.

But some lines of a family are lost over time. The movement from Europe. The aftermath of the Shoah; the younger generations moving away.   I had information from my Grandma and my Aunt mentioning these lines of the family, but we had no contact with them.

What an amazing coincidence to find some of these third and fourth cousins in Kansas. Of course we are distantly related. Third and fourth cousins are not so close. But it was surprising to find a connection where I was not expecting to find one.

But even more important, it shows that the Jewish people are really one. We are interconnected. My family, with its approximately 20,000 descendants is a perfect example of the inter-relations between all Jewish families. And even though a number of my family, from both my maternal and paternal sides perished in the Shoah, we remain.

That is the most amazing aspect of my continued search for my ancestors how we are truly one people.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/