The Farthermost Seas of the South Pacific

The Cook Islands

The South Pacific appears on my desktop globe as a swathe of blue speckled with distant dots of land. The 15 Cook Islands are some 2,000 miles northeast of New Zealand and 3,000 south of Hawaii. 700 miles east lies the nearest neighbor, Tahiti. These isolated outposts at the end of the Earth make the great expanse of South Pacific, if nothing else, a convenient location for the mapmaker’s logo.

My wife, Jessie, and I visited three of the Cook Islands on our honeymoon. The main island, Rarotonga, and two outer islands: Aitutaki and Atiu.
The islands are not crumbs of continents that drifted over a Tectonic timescale. Bursting tens of thousands of feet from the ocean floor, these volcanoes are among the highest peaks on Earth. (Mauna Kea, the Big Island of Hawaii claims the title for tallest mountain in the world, from base to peak.) 
Many of these volcanoes no longer exist. Atolls, ring-shaped islands composed of islets connecting around central lagoon like a string of pe…

Grand Central vs. Penn Station

As Grand Central Terminal celebrates its 100th birthday this year, its magnificence is more meaningful when measured against its cross-town competitor, Penn Station.

As someone who has at one time commuted daily for a span of two years in and out of each station, I’m in a good position to compare the two.The New York Times said it well from the architectural side in February 2012.“To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation.”

I never appreciated Grand Central until a two-year purgatory in Penn Station reminded me that you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.New York is a different city viewed through the grandeur of Grand Central.

The two stations carry commuters to the contrasts of the New York metro area.From Grand Central, Metro North serves Connecticut, Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley; from Penn Station, New …