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Thursday 30 July 2015

The Naked Cowboy

Does anyone else find 7th ave a bit chilly today?

Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Address: 7th Ave. & W 46th St.
Date: Dec 2008
Website:  www.nakedcowboy.com

  One person who can usually be found in Times Square every single day is The Naked Cowboy.  Fortunately, The Naked Cowboy is about as naked as that Elmo over there is sober.  The answer is "Not quite".  If you do happen to see a totally naked cowboy in Times Square, that is not the one we are talking about and it might be time to head in the other direction.  The real Naked Cowboy wears a white hat, white boots, white briefs and a guitar.  He has been appearing there for about 15 years now, even on cold winter days.  He also tends to attract quite a crowd when he does arrive.  According to his website he can be found in Times Square daily around lunchtime.  That is if he doesn't have any promotional engagements.  He has recorded several music albums and is in fairly high demand for public appearances.  If you live in New York City you can have him appear at your event for $1000.00 per hour.  Otherwise you can find him for free somewhere in the crowds at Times Square. 

Map of Our World
The Naked Cowboy

Post # 66

Saturday 25 July 2015

Pan Am Opening Ceremonies (Toronto)

Cirque Du Soleil Performs.

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: 1 Blue Jays Way
Date: July 2015
Website:  www.toronto2015.org

    We arrived at Union Station courtesy of a free ride on the TTC.  Anyone with a ticket to any Pan Am event gets to ride the subways, buses and streetcars in Toronto for no additional charge on the day of their event.  As we came up from the subway we could hear music and we were greeted by two dancers performing for the crowds as they headed towards the Opening Ceremonies.

This next dance is called "Can You Spare A Token ?"

  The Pan Am Opening Ceremonies took place on the evening of July 10th, 2015.  They were held in the Pan Am Dome (PAD) which outside of the games is normally called the Rogers Centre.  We still prefer its original name of Sky Dome.  As we headed towards the dome we walked right past the Pan Am Games Cauldron which would be set ablaze later that same evening.  The cauldron is made of multi-coloured pieces of steel with symbols of the different sports cut into each piece.

Pan Am Cauldron made of Hamilton Steel.

  We arrived early enough to be entertained by some CBC on-air personalities making small talk and we had a chance to participate in the PACHI shuffle.  Let's fast forward about an hour to when the real show began.

Before the show begins.

  The world famous Cirque du Soleil created a special performance for the Opening Ceremonies.  It started with dancers dressed in traditional outfits from around the world and the electronic First Nation music of DJ Shub.  DJ Shub is formerly of Canadian group A Tribe Called Red who will perform in Toronto as part of Panamania.

World of Dance.
Colourful Elements. 

    The show then switched gears as we were treated to a video performance of the torch relay as it headed towards Toronto.  The gold medal winning 1996 Canadian men's relay team carried the torch past Toronto landmarks and then ended up on the Edgewalk at the top of the CN Tower.  Sprinter Donovan Bailey appears to base jump from the top of the tower and then lands onto the roof of the Rogers Centre.  A moment later he descends down onto the stage carrying the Pan Am Torch.

The Descent of Donovan.

  The torch is placed at the front of the stage so that it can watch over the remainder of the ceremony.  Now it was time for all of the athletes to enter.  In total there will be over 7000 athletes from 41 delegations taking part in either the Pan Am or Parapan Am Games.  We say delegations instead of countries because the Pan Am Games allows teams to compete from territories like the Cayman Islands.  Some of the teams consisted of just a handful of athletes, such as Grenada pictured below.

Grenada's Athletes.

  Some teams were much larger, such as the host team of Canada which boasted 700 athletes.  All of the teams entered in a burst of smoke and lights as excited volunteers danced and clapped and welcomed them to the games.

Canada Arrives.

    Once all of the athletes were seated, it was time for Cirque du Soleil to take back the stage.  Once again the music began as performers rose up on elevated platforms.  Things started slowly as the athletes seats glowed through the darkness.

Cirque du Soleil.
Lights on the athletes.

    Then things picked up as a fire roared through the center of the stage and the Cirque performers danced and flipped through the flames.  The show continued through various changes.  There was always so much happening that we did not know where to look.  Everywhere you did look there was someone swinging or spinning and contorting their body through this world of music and lights.

Into the Fire.
White Veil.
Colours of Cirque.

    Soon it was time for the official Olympic and Pan Am Flags to arrive. As the announcer called out the names of the flag bearers, each one was a Canadian superstar.

Star Power raises the Pan Am Flag.
  • Loly Rico - Refugee Activist
  • Fergie Jenkins - Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Rick Hansen - Man in Motion
  • Marnie McBean - Olympic Rower
  • Yann Martel - Authour of Life of Pii
  • Chantal Petitclerc - Paralympian
  • Pinball Clemens - Toronto Argonauts
  • Simon Whitfield - Triathlete
  • Mark Messier - Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Bobby Orr - Hockey Legend
  • Catriona Le May Doan -Speed Skater
  • Jewel Kats - Author
  • Amanda Belzowski - Amanda's Lemonade Stand
  • Gabrielle Schrimshaw - Aboriginal Professional Association
  • Craig Kielberger - Humanitarian  
  The flags were raised and the athlete and judge oaths were taken.  Then the speeches by Saad Rafi, Chief Executive Officer Toronto 2015 Pan Am Organizing Committee and others welcomed us all to the games.

What you'll see is that our Canadian Hearts are big.

  After the last thank you and muchas gracias, the torch was taken from its resting place and the Canadian women's relay team from 1984 ran with the flame.  They managed to find each other in the dark amongst the athletes and passed the flame along.  Finally, Marita Payne Wiggins passed the flame to her son Andrew Wiggins who is a rising NBA star.  Andrew ran with his torch half way up the stairs into the stands where he passed the flame to certified Canadian NBA star, Steve Nash.  Steve ran up the stairs, exited the Rogers Centre and set the Pan Am Cauldron ablaze where it will burn for the duration of the games.  Officially the games had begun.

Passing of the flame.

  To cap everything off, there was a fireworks display that also set the CN Tower ablaze.  Unfortunately, as we were inside the Rogers Centre with the roof closed we had to marvel at it on the giant video screens.  We had hoped the roof would be open, but with the Rogers Centre being nestled right against the tower we may have only seen a cloud of smoke as the ashes of the expended fireworks rained down upon us.  We are hoping that this display is repeated at the closing ceremonies July 26th, 2015.  So far it has been a great games for Canada and we look forward to the Parapan Am portion to begin in August.

Red & White CN Tower.

Map of Our World
Rogers Centre (Pan Am Ceremonies Venue)

Post # 65

Monday 20 July 2015

The Big Piano

The Big Piano.

Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Address: 767 5th Avenue
Date: Nov 2014
Website:  www.bigpiano.com

  One of the things that the FAO Schwarz toy store in Manhattan is most famous for is that it was used as a filming location for the movie Big.  Almost everyone remembers Tom Hanks dancing on a giant piano along with the owner of MacMillan Toys (Robert Loggia).  First they play a rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's Heart & Soul and then finish off with Chopsticks. Both songs were executed beautifully due to some fancy footwork.
  When we last visited FAO Schwarz the Big Pianos were located upstairs on the second floor.  There were lots of children taking a turn walking or jumping along the keys of the piano that was on display.   We didn't hear anything that even resembled a familiar tune.  The notes were all there, but the order and timing was all off.

Less Forte Please, More Pianissimo.

  The Big Piano was created by Remo Saraceni in 1982 and is designed to be played with your feet by walking up and down the keys. Many people visit the FAO Schwarz store in Manhattan for a chance to play on the piano just like they did in the movie Big.  You can play on a similar piano and even purchase one to continue the fun at home, but the real piano used in the movie has been donated to Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum.
  Sadly, the FAO Schwarz store in New York has now closed its 5th Avenue location.  If you wish to visit the exact spot where Tom Hanks played piano with his feet then you will have to find a way into the building once the new tenants arrive.  The actual spot is not up on the second floor at all. In the movie you see Tom Hanks come down the escalator that is always surrounded by stuffed animals and has a distinctive striped pattern to the glass wall behind it.

Sing it Boys. Heart and Soul. I Fell in Love with You, Heart and Soul!

  He turns right and then walks until he realizes he has stepped onto the piano.  He walks up and down the keys and does a body slide before remembering his piano lessons. He is only 12 years old after all. Once they finish playing he walks away with a very impressed Mr. MacMillan and they go right past the clock tower.  Some of you should recall the FAO Schwarz clock face which sang "Welcome to our World of Toys".

Welcome to Our World ....Hey was that Tom Hanks?

  Basically enter from the 5th Avenue doors and walk straight up the middle of the store until you are in line with the bottom of the escalators.  This is the spot.  This is where a classic movie moment happened in one of the greatest toy stores in the world and makes us all feel like kids again.

Map of Our World
The Big Piano

Post # 64

Wednesday 15 July 2015

FAO Schwarz (New York)

Excited FAO Soldier Greeters.

Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Address: 767 5th Avenue
Date: Nov 2014
Website:  www.fao.com

  Since 1986 FAO Schwarz has been a must visit destination on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York.  Sadly, it will be closing it's doors today (July 15, 2015) and will start to look for a new Manhattan location to call home.  The FAO Schwarz toy company was founded in 1862.  The FAO stands for Frederick August Otto who started the business with his brothers Schwarz.  Toy lovers from all over have flocked to this store where a visit is often just as much fun as the toys you take home.

FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue.

  We have visited the toy store on numerous New York City vacations.  The store is known for it's high end toys such as near life sized stuffed animals.  Animals like the nine-hundred dollar, 95 inch tall giraffe below.

You can only bring one toy and please don't choose your Giant Giraffe again..
  For simpler tastes, or for those with ceiling and wallet restrictions, you may prefer to choose from one of the more reasonably sized dogs sitting next to the escalator.

How much is that doggie in the window?

The displays in the main entrance area just beside the escalators are always changing with different themes.  Everything from Hello Kitty to Star Wars or Anastasia to Tamagotchi.  It is also in this front area where Tom Hanks played on a giant walking piano in the movie Big.  If you wish to buy one of those, just head up stairs to the second floor.  

FAO Schwarz Main Entrance.
Star Wars inside FAO Schwarz.
Anastasia Escalators.
Robot Elevator and Temple.

  There used to be a clock face that would greet visitors and every so often it would start to sing "Welcome to our World of Toys".  This would bring a smile to the faces of children both young and old.  It was all part of the FAO Schwarz magic.

Welcome to Our World of Toys.
FAO Magic.

  The store is filled with all types of toys.  It has everything from dolls and board games to model cars and video games.  There is a candy section downstairs called FAO Schweetz.  The store also caters to the collector with special edition dolls like the Wizard of Oz dolls below.

Wicked Witch. Dorothy Patience.

Fifth Avenue Apple Store.

   In front of FAO Schwarz you will see the glass walls of the Apple Store where patrons descend into the depths of the earth to get all of their iWants and iNeeds.  Just past that was always an excited soldier greeter, more than happy to pose for numerous photos.  With the store closing on 5th Avenue, let's hope they can find another location soon.  It would be a shame if after over 150 years in business one of the world's greatest toy stores became nothing more than a website.

What Now?  I hope they let us keep the hats.

Map of Our World
FAO Schwarz

Post # 63

Friday 10 July 2015

Pan Am Games (Toronto)

Pan Am Games Countdown Clock. Only 47 days to go.

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: Nathan Phillips Square
Date: July 2015
Website:  www.toronto2015.org

  The Pan Am Games are coming to Toronto.  Everywhere you look you see the signs.  Buses and subways are covered over in ads promoting the games.  There is a giant countdown clock sitting in Nathan Phillips Square which is counting down to the very second that the games begin.  Across the street from Nathan Phillips Square, The Sheraton Centre has a huge banner hanging down the side proclaiming "The games are coming".

The Games Are Coming.

  We were even in Niagara Falls, Ontario and noticed this floral display.

Pan Am Floral Display.

  There are also lots of strange signs appearing around the city.  For example, we spotted this building which was labelled UDAC and was flying the Pan Am Games flag out front.  We discovered that UDAC stands for Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre and that this is where all of the volunteers go to obtain their uniforms.

Pan Am Games Flag.

  Back in Nathan Phillips Square (or should we say NPS) the area has become a main location for enjoying the games.

Only 10 metres to go.

  Just outside the square in front of Old City Hall, we spotted PACHI on top of a bus shelter.  PACHI the porcupine is the official mascot of the games.  He has 41 coloured quills on his back and each one represents a participating country.  The games are open to North American, South American, and Caribbean countries. The Pan Am Games are held every four years and are the next biggest summer sporting event behind the Olympics.

Gimme Shelter.

  As we entered the square we could see the scaffolding getting ready for Panamania.  Panamania is a series of free concerts being held around Toronto for the duration of the games.  There are also plans to broadcast some of the sporting events live on giant screens.


  On the west side of the square is a temporary Pan Am Games Superstore where you can get all your souvenirs from the games.  This includes Pan Am T-shirts, hats, buttons, PACHI dolls or merchandise to show your support for a particular country.  We received some free PACHI stickers just for walking inside to take a look.

Pan Am Superstore.

  The countdown clock is getting ever closer to the Opening Ceremonies which take place tonight (July 10 2015).  There are actually two clocks.  One counts down to the start of the Pan Am Games, and the second counts down to the start of the Parapan Am portion which runs August 7th to 15th.  The clock counts down all day and night until the final second passes.  Let the games begin!

Pan Am Games Countdown Clock. Only 6 days to go.
Pan Am Games Countdown Clock At Night.

Map of Our World
Nathan Phillips Square
Pan Am Games (UDAC)

Post # 62