Today is the official first day of summer, but the weather has taken on the airs of summer a while back. And what a summer it is shaping up to be! An imminent trip to Canada (Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa), an invite to a summer wedding in London and an end-of-summer visit to San Francisco… not to forget the list of events happening in and around the city and there you have the perfect recipe for a perfect summer!
Central Park, a joy to visit any time of the year, is at its best in the spring-summer seasons. Add to it an incredible art show nestled among the greenery and you have one of the best summer experiences ever!
Drifting in Daylight, organised by Creative Time in partnership with Central Park Conservancy, is an eight part performance, display and participatory show running for eight weekends at various locations in Central Park.
Starting at the northern end of the park, you see S. S. Hangover, a fishing boat reimaged to look like the boat in a party scene from the mystery movie ‘Remember Last Night?’ (apparently no one does; hence the name of the boat!) sailing on the Harlem Meer. The boat carries six musicians playing a classical composition by Kjartan Sveinsson, musician and composer.
Notice how fat the Pegasus (okay, plump; we don’t want to offend the creature!) on the flag looks? According to the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, creator of the show, that Pegasus is a ‘symbol of the artist struggling to reach sublime heights’.
The first time I visited the show, it was sort of pouring and this was one of the two performances that went ahead despite the rain.
What is the perfect symbol of sunset in a park? An ice cream cone, of course! Spencer Finch captures this symbol with his ‘Sunset in Central Park’ ice cream truck. The truck is fully powered by solar energy and the colour of the ice cream, varying shades of the sunset, is from the pigments extracted from a painting of a sunset over Central Park. He intends each soft serve cone, free of charge, as a poetic gesture revering the sun and nature in the park.
Central Park has always been a favourite spot for movie scenes to be shot. Taking inspiration from these movies, David Levine presents the show ‘Private Moments’. Scenes from eight famous movies are placed into their original locations, actors dressed like the characters re-enacting the scene in a continuous loop.
A scene from Bullets over Broadway
Another from The Royal Tenenbaums
So now when I see a person not dressed to suit the season, the first question is, “which movie?” 🙂
Karyn Olivier’s ‘Here and Now/ Glacier, Shard, Rock’ is a pictorial representation of the life of the park, connecting the past, present and future. It is a transformational signboard in three sections, which alters your perception every time you move. The scene fluidly transforms from the blue glacial waters which formed the rocky underpinnings of the park to the present day topography and back. The scenes are knit together by a shard of blue pottery from the Seneca village which was moved from the location so that the park could be established.
Printed using the lenticular technology, the panels of the huge signboard evoke a true seamless 3-D vision.
‘Cartas al Cielo’ (Letters to Heaven, in Spanish), an artwork by Alicia Framis, presents a link between the earth and the sky or heavens, as reflected on the mirror-like surface of the sculpted form.
Viewers are encouraged to write letters on the cards provided, addressed to someone who is not on this earth anymore. The cards, dropped into the globe, are collected and at the end of the show will be symbolically forwarded. Apart from the physical cards, the sculpture is a poignant reminder of the relationship of the earth and the sky and the here and the departed.
‘And all directions, i come to you’ is a contemporary dance performance that moves through the North Woods of the park. The dancers move through the rough pathways of the woods, their audience following them.
Their presence is airy, their movements delicate, ethereal. Though choreographed, the movements seem so spontaneous and magical.
Don’t let their gazelle-like appearance deceive you; these dancers are a hardy lot! This is one of the teams that kept performing all through the rain, that too on the muddy pathways of the woods!
Presented by the conceptual artist Lauri Stallings and performed by nine artists from Glo, the experimental performance platform founded by Stallings, this is one show that you can watch for hours without the fear of getting bored ever.
Central Park is a haven for bird watchers… And Nina Katchadourian’s ‘The Lamppost Weavers’ replicates the habits of birds of using human objects for building nests. Made out of basket balls, footballs and old shoes, these points out the connection between wild life and human utilitarian items.
These pseudo birds’ nests hang from the lamp posts, but the Department of Transportation did not want the real lamp post arms used for anything other than actual lamps. So the curators of the show had to build pseudo arms to hang them from!
‘Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos’, presented by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, is an animated, energetic performance of dance, music and poetry. Inspired by present day racial politics, the performance looks back to the movements in the African-American history and the legacy of hip-hop.
Following the style of the second line parades of New Orleans, the performance, on the Great Hill of the park, is lively and vibrant.
Each of these shows is unique and contributes to making the whole an unforgettable experience.
Drifting in Daylight forms the center piece of Central Park Conservancy’s 35th anniversary celebrations this year. What is special about this show is the way it deviates from the typical performance or installation art. It has that element of surprise that adds to the thrill of enjoyment, as you discover each of the pieces along the meandering paths. And as you make that discovery, you also discover that each artwork fits so perfectly and naturally to its surroundings as if born right there!
21 Jun 2015
Someone recently asked me… what’s so special about the marathon? Why are people, generally not interested in athletics, so keen on running it? The easiest answer was ‘prestige’. Prestige and pride. The sense of accomplishment. The immense way it makes one feel good about oneself.
It is not about the running – in fact, running is the least of it – it is all about one’s self perception. The discipline and dedication needed to get to the level of training required for a marathon is tremendous. And of long duration. To prove that one can adhere to the punishing schedules with the accompanying scarifices for as long as it takes, to oneself more than to any others… there are not too many achievements that compare, at least in my opinion.
Training for a marathon brings structure and organisation to one’s life, often calling for life style changes. The fact that one can take all that in stride, and focus on a goal not tied to any financial goals… isn’t it proof enough of a person’s strength of character? Yes, that’s it… being able to prove that one has that kind of grit and purpose is what makes it so great. And of course, the bragging rights granted for life, doesn’t hurt either! 🙂
Spectators line the entire 26.2 miles – 26.219 miles to be exact – of the route the runners take, cheering them on. They bring placards and signs and personal messages to encourage the runners. The spectator involvement is so great that it actually amounts to a vicarious participation in the event. The energy of the crowd is palpable and contagious.
I went there to see the event and take some pictures… and came back with a hoarse throat with all that cheering!
The New York City Marathon route passes through all five boroughs of New York City, starting in Staten Island and going through Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx (passing through Manhattan) and ending at the Central Park in Manhattan. It is held on the first Sunday of November.
NYC Marathon has the largest participation among all the marathons run anywhere in the world, with both professionals and amateurs participating. Anyone who will be 18 years of age or older on November 1, the following year can participate in the race. This year, 50,530 participants finished the race with an average time of 4 hours 34 minutes and 45 seconds.
Wilson Kipsang of Kenya won the 2014 NYC Marathon, along with the $ 500,000 World Marathon Majors championship, with a timing of 2 hours 10 minutes and 59 seconds. The second place – with a difference of 7 seconds, yes… seconds! – was taken by Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.
Among the women competitors, Mary Keitany claimed the first place with a timing of 2 hours 25 minutes and 7 seconds, just ahead of Jemima Sumgong by 3 seconds, both of them from Kenya. Mary Keitany placed third in 2010 and 2011, but hadn’t run in the race the last two years as she was on maternity leave.
The NYC Marathon is organised by New York Road Runners and has been held every year since 1970, except in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy made landfall around that time.
Demand for participation is so high that runners are selected by a lottery system. The start of the run is at 10:10 a.m, though it is regulated by a staggered start for different groups. The time limit for the completion of the run is 8 hours 30 minutes.
Running time is recorded by a computer chip attached to the runner’s bib, which records the crossing of timing mats located along the course.
Several TV stations in and around New York broadcast the marathon live. It can also be watched online.
However, the NYC Marathon is not just an ego boost for the runners; it has a major economic impact as well. Through the event, millions of dollars are raised for non-profits and charitable organizations. It also generates millions of tourist dollars for New York City.
Several organizations support their own team of runners and have an active presence at the marathon over the years.
Guides running with a participant in a wheelchair to help him along. In 2000, a new official division was introduced for participants using wheelchairs and handcycles.
Some of the messages on the shirt fronts of runners are quite interesting. This guy has definitely scored some points with his honey!
The runners have their names on their official bib and often on their shirts. We, the spectators, are encouraged to cheer by name, especially if we see someone tiring. However, we were told not to shout “almost there” as it might have a negative impact!
You can always see some interesting costumes at the run.
If you ever – ever – feel dispirited, inadequate, lethargic… or are on the brink of giving up on anything, all you need is a visit to the NYC Marathon to change your mood, to pick you up, to boost your candoo attitude sky high! The cheering of the crowds is enough to pick you up and hasten your footsteps even before you reach the runside! If you haven’t done so already, do add it to your bucket list!
BTW, I saw my first Salvation Army bell ringer of the season today… Also, holiday muzac is on everywhere… in the malls, in the elevator, even in the train station! WooHoo!
23 Nov 2014
I think I have mentioned that the salt mine that employs me, is located in Times Square. Yes, right bang in the middle of the universe. Yesterday, we were all at work when the public address system sputtered up. Usually that thing is used to announce fire drills, but this was in the afternoon and fire drills happen in the morning. Could it be a real fire? “Attention please… 42nd Street is closed between 7th and 8th avenues due to police activity. There is a possible jumper somewhere on 42nd.” What? Possible jumper? On 42nd? In a minute, we were at the windows.
From the 14th floor, where I’m located, we had a direct view of that part of 42nd Street. This is what we saw…
There is this guy in a white shirt sitting on the wall of the terrace. And there are cops in different uniforms on the terrace, but most of them are keeping their distance. There are a few near the guy and actually talking to him. But even they are being careful not to get too close as they do not want to trigger any unwanted action.
It is 3 pm when the announcement is made. We don’t know how long he has been out on the wall. Looks like he is on the building that houses the ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ museum and ‘Dave & Buster’s’ diner.
Right next to Madame Tussaud’s. Must be around 12th floor height as he is slightly lower than out 14th floor.
The road below, 42nd St, has been closed off to all traffic, including pedestrians. We can see the police tape and vehicles blocking the traffic on one side. And the police below have positioned an inflated thingammie right below where a person would land in case he decided to jump.
See, that things is taller than a person! Meanwhile there are non-stop comments and conversations on our floor. What could motivate a person to go to such a drastic measure as committing suicide? Someone expresses the opinion that a person seriously planning suicide would never do so in such a public fashion; he wants to get something, that’s all. Some others are quick to refute… there are so many instances of people actually committing suicide in a very public fashion… what about that? I zoom the camera and look at him…
He seems to be quietly talking to the cops nearby. But not really looking at them. What could the cops be talking to him? What is there to say? Come on down and everything will be okay? I was fervently hoping the cops would be able to get through to him. Anyways, they were talking…
And I notice… the position of his legs. Apparently he is more relaxed now. And he is leaning towards the cops now. By this time, it is 4 pm… my usual time to leave for home. But there is no question of me going home, leaving that guy perched on the wall; I have to see the end of this. We are off and on going to the windows, checking up on progress. Things seem to be at a standstill. The talking continues. It is 4.30… 4.45… I’m at my desk. Suddenly, there is some noise from those at the windows. I rush… there is a collective sigh of relief. The cops are helping the guy from the wall!
He is led away, by a group of cops. Seem to be continuing to talk as they move inside the building. We couldn’t really make out whether he had cuffs on.
All is well that ends well! Time to go home. As I walk out of the building, I notice that 42nd Street is not yet opened. The police vehicles are jus leaving…
Okay, so these were the people talking to him! Great work, guys!
Here is a local report of the event… and another one.
17 Oct 2014
The castle was designed with soaring spires and high ramparts, after the castles in the Rhineland, the neighbourhood where he grew up. A self-made millionaire, he had risen from a kitchen worker in a hotel to the proprietor of the great hotels Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia. And when George Boldt wanted to build a castle to demonstrate his love for his wife Louise, no expenses were spared. He bought the Hart Island in the Thousand Islands group which he reshaped in the form a heart and renamed ‘Heart’ Island. Going up six stories, the castle had 120 rooms, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, tunnels, and a children’s play castle.
The castle was to be presented to Louise on Valentine’s Day of 1904, but things went wrong before that. In January, Louise died of a heart failure at age 41. A heart-broken George Boldt immediately ordered all construction stopped at the castle and never again set foot on Heart Island.
The grand staircase
The Boldt Castle, the biggest castle on Thousand Islands, stood abandoned for 73 years, subject to harsh winters and random acts of vandalism. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority was handed over charge of the castle. Currently the castle is undergoing restoration, as per the original plans. The lower two floors are fully restored and work is going on, on the upper floors. All entrance fees collected from visitors are used solely for the restoration work.
Stained glass dome of the cupola
The Thousand Islands salad dressing was first introduced at the Waldorf Astoria by George Bolt. So was the Waldorf salad.
The power house, which was planned to generate all the electric power needed for the Boldt Castle, was destroyed in a fire in 1939. Now it has been fully restored.
A gazebo on the castle grounds
Children’s play castle named the Alster Tower
The portrait of Louise Boldt displayed in the castle
Another very prominent castle among the Thousand Islands, is the Singer Castle, named by Frederick Bourne, the president of… you guessed it, the Singer Sewing Machine Company! And every room in the castle, I mean every room, has a sewing machine in it!
When Bourne acquired the island, it was named Dark Island because of the dark pine trees growing thick. A self-made millionaire, he started working in his teens, in the offices of a thread company which developed a thread suitable for a sewing machine for the first time. He wanted to build a castle and engaged the famous architect Ernest Flagg to build one, around the same time as the Boldt castle was being built, 1902 to 1904. And as model, he pointed to the castle in Walter Scott’s novel ‘Woodstock’.
And the result was the 4-story, 28-room Singer Castle, with many hideaways, underground tunnels, dungeons, spy holes and secret rooms all over the place, just like in Woodstock Place. Today, many of those are open and visible to visitors. The castle boasts of elaborate boathouses, a workshop, powerhouse and a 2-story ice house.
While the castle was being built, Bourne kept it an absolute secret from his family so that he could present it to them as a surprise! I can really imagine the whole family of nine kids, going ‘OMG!’ 🙂
The dining room with elk, caribou, deer and moose heads mounted on the four walls
The furnishings included Italian hand-carved ornate tables and chairs, wrought-iron chandeliers, brass lamps, oak cabinets, bronze work, and paintings.
Do you see the difference in the height of the headboards? And the size of the breakfast trays? Yep, the wife had to know that she could never be equal to the man! 🙂
Corn Island seen from Singer Castle
During the days of prohibition in the US (1920-1933), groups of guests used to be ferried across by luxury launches, to Corn Island which is located in Canada, but had the same owner. After the cocktail party, they will get back in time for dinner!
I wonder whether this is still functional!
Today, Boldt Castle and Singer Castle are available for weddings and other functions. You can also stay at the royal suite at the Singer Castle for a not-too-exorbitant rate.
One fact that impressed me while listening to the stories of these castles, was that both were built by men who rose from the bottom rungs to the highest positions in the society of their day, only through the dint of their hard work. Would such a feat be possible today?
There were several more castles built among the Thousand Islands… Castle Rest, the first castle to be built on Thousand Islands, Imperial Isle, Calumet Castle, Arcadia, Carlton Villa… it is a long list. But none of them are in existence today. Most were demolished and replaced by more modest and modern edifices.
This was a weekend well-spent, but I doubt there will be any more such outings this year. As the weather gets cool, cold, icy, activities turn indoors. And food! How about this gorgeous caramelised pear and roquefort tart for a start?
26 Sep 2014
Oh yeah, we were talking about the Thousand Islands. What really really enchanted me about the place were the cute little islands with just one home on them. Of course, these are summer dwellings as it will be physically impossible to live in the middle of a frozen river in the winter. Or would it? Imagine sledding to go visit your neighbour! 🙂
The most picturesque of all the houses, is this little gem, with the water and water birds almost coming up to the front steps.
In fact, if you get out of the back door, you will be stepping directly into the water!
There are no industries emitting effluence into the St. Lawrence river and the boats on the river have to adhere to strict cleanliness regulations. Also, it is a crime, punishable by law, for a resident to throw any garbage into the river. Thus the water of the St. Lawrence river is extremely clean and clear. Even at a depth of meters, you can make out the dark patches of the rocky river bottom.
Look at another red house. This one has more trees around it, and it has its own boat jetty.
This barge like house is built covering the entire width of the narrow island, like someone picked up and placed it there precisely.
Some of the large islands have common power generation facilities. And recently, underwater power connections have been introduced to a few islands located closer to the mainland. But most of the islands depend on individual generators and battery power for household needs.
See the neat boat house at the side of this house? The tree look huge, comparatively.
This house is directly under the tree. Hot summer’s day, blue chair, heavenly breeze… aah!
Perfect oval of an island. Can’t really see the boat house hidden among the trees.
There are no natural springs or waterfalls anywhere on the islands to provide drinking water. So the islanders have to bring their own water from the mainland. For cleaning and washing needs, water from the river is used.
Here is a blue house among blue waters! Step off the boat and you are directly on the deck of the house.
What do you do with your household garbage when you are located in the middle of water? And it is a crime to throw anything in the water? Not to worry, garbage collection is done regularly, by a barge nicknamed ‘honey barge’.
Here is a house located at the extreme end of the island. Also, I believe there is a pathway built to the neighbouring island.
While our boat passed by, the two guys sitting on the deck chugging beer waved to us. Many of the houses are owned by weekenders who live and work elsewhere during the week.
The Wau-Winet Island was written up in New York Times a while back.
Tourist guides on the boats always tell the story of the Zavikon Islands, owned by the same person and connected by a bridge but located in two countries. And how it is the shortest international bridge. Our guide was no exception… he spoke of the owner telling him about the convenience of being able to escape to another country for a while, whenever he had a little spat with his wife. (I could see the wistful looks on the faces of many a man on the boat!) And the boats stop around that area for a photo-op. However, that story has been debunked; both islands are in Canada!
Apparently the owner likes the fake story and is encouraging the telling of it, by displaying the different flags prominently on the little bridge.
After seeing the small houses, let’s take a look at the huge castles next.
23 Sep 2014
Usually half the fun of travelling to a new place is the planning, the talking, the anticipation… but this was a trip without any of those. When Gloria asked me whether I wanted to go to Thousand Islands with two more of her friends, my only question was… when? The answer ‘tomorrow’ was not what I expected, but what the heck, how long does it take to throw some clothes and toiletries in a bag? So there we were, driving to upstate New York and the Thousand Islands on a Friday evening.
The group of islands known as Thousand Islands, is located in the St. Lawrence river, flowing along the border between Canada and the US. The river originates at Lake Ontario in the Great Lakes region and drains into the Atlantic Ocean, flowing in the north east direction. It is the widest river estuary in the world and shelters the beautiful islands in its blue waters. And though the group is called Thousand Islands, there are actually 1864 islands in all, in a 50 miles long stretch of the river.
The only way to experience the beauty of the islands is to go for boat rides among them. And there are several shore towns on either bank that offer such tours. We chose to go to Alexandria Bay, one of the big towns on our side, the US side. And it has a variety of tours to suit people of different interests.
To be qualified as an island in the group, a land mass should be above water the year round, should be at least one square mile in area and should support at least one living tree.
The area of the islands vary considerably, from 40 square miles to tiny ones with just one home and one tree. Also, there are numerous outcroppings of rock without any inhabitants except for the birds. The majority of the islands are modest sized with two or three homes on them. And there are two castles that you can visit, also on the islands. More about them later.
The river St Lawrence was named after the saint himself. Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, was the first European to explore this area, in the first half of the 16th century. He arrived at the mouth of the river on an August 10th, which is the martyr day of St. Lawrence and hence he named the river St. Lawrence.
On a cliff overlooking the river on the Canadian side, is a statue of St. Lawrence, put up as a tourist attraction.
The statue is shown holding a book and a gridiron. Legend has it that St. Lawrence, who was the archdeacon of Rome, was asked to surrender the treasures of the church by the Roman prefect. St. Lawrence brought forward the poor of the church saying that they indeed are the treasures of the church. The enraged prefect ordered that St. Lawrence be punished by a slow death on a gridiron with burning coals underneath it. The gridiron is thus associated with the saint and he is worshipped as the patron saint of cooks.
In the early 1900s, many industrialists, businessmen and other prominent men in the society bought islands and built houses on them. Today the Millionaire’s Row boasts of large beautifully landscaped homes occupied by the rich and famous of the land.
St. Lawrence river is a major shipping route connecting ocean going ships to the Great Lakes. Due to the presence of the islands and rock formations under the water, it is a difficult river to navigate. There are plenty of navigation aids like lighthouses and beacons present to help the ships and boats.
Beacons indicate the boundaries of the navigable area of the river. A ship should keep the red beacons on the port (left) side and the green beacons on the starboard (right) side when going upstream, away from the ocean.
Similarly, when going towards the ocean, the green beacons should be on the left and red ones on the right.
During days of the prohibition in the US from 1920 to 1933, a lot of money was made by a lot people on the St. Lawrence river by transporting liquor from Canada where there was no prohibition. One of the amusing stories is about how smugglers will have the cases of whiskey bottles trailing their boats so that the rope could be instantly cut if there was any chance of the prohibition agents approaching the boat. But then, the losses became so unaffordable that they started packing half of each case with salt. When the rope was cut, the load will sink, but once the salt got dissolved the case with the whiskey bottles will promptly rise up in three or four days! And the boats were often painted different colours on either side to trick the agents watching.
One of the islands in the group is actually called ‘Whiskey Island’. Apparently, boats from Canada used to leave their cargo on this island, of course within the territory of Canada, to be retrieved by their counterparts from the US conveniently out of sight of the agents. Interesting times and interesting stories!
How would you like to live on an island where you are the only resident? There are several such one-home islands! More about them when we continue.
19 Sep 2014
Being educated in a missionary school part of the time, I’m pretty much familiar with the array of saints. At least so I thought. Till I found out that the legions of towns and municipalities in Italy have their own patron saints! Prominent among them is San Gennaro who is the patron saint of Naples.
Little Italy in downtown New York celebrates the Feast of San Gennaro every year. This year the feast started on the 11th of September and will last till the 21st.
The statue of San Gennaro in front of the Most Precious Blood Church at Mulberry Street. Devotees pin their offerings to the streamers hanging from the base of the statue.
According to Catholic beliefs, San Gennaro was the bishop of Naples in the 3rd century AD, and became a martyr to his faith, being beheaded by Roman emperor Diocletian who persecuted Christian believers. According to the faithful, a vial of his blood kept in the Naples Cathedral turns back into liquid form on three days important to his history, every year.
Decorations of green, white and red, the colours of the Italian flag
The tradition of celebrating the feast of San Gennaro started in 1926, in Little Italy where the early immigrants from the country had first settled. Over a million people participate in the event every year.
Colourful parades, musical entertainment, and fun events like cannoli and pizza eating competitions are all part of the celebrations. And food, plenty of food, is of course the main focus of the feast. And the word ‘feast’ is not used loosely here… it is a real feast, with food and drink in abundance. More than 35 of the restaurants along Mulberry Street participate with extended temporary dining areas to accommodate the feast goers. This is in addition to 200+ street vendors lining Mulberry Street and selling varieties of Italian food, from the exotic to the mundane.
And of course, traffic along Mulberry Street is shut down for the duration of the feast.
Sausages, meatballs, calzones, pasta, and pizza… in all their varieties were present, but my attention was mainly towards the sweet side.
We sampled everything except the fried oreos. I have eaten fried oreos once earlier, around the time they first appeared. Would I eat them again? Maybe, if the alternative is death by starvation… Haha!
One Italian speciality going fast was torrone. It is a kind of candy made out of sugar and various nuts. The best way to describe their texture is to point to the hammers found in the stalls selling them!
Stuffed clams ready to go into the oven at a seafood stall…
Attractive cocktail containers that you can take with you. And what is more, it is free refills!
If you don’t really care for the cocktails, there are soft drinks.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable time will be yours, regardless of which day you go!
12 Sep 2014
The Union Square Green Market is an eternal source of goodies, any time of the year. Still, the best season at the market is the summer. The lush abundance of nature’s bounty on display is like so much eye candy, and something truly exciting to any food lover.
Most weeks during the summer, I make a side step to the market on the way from work. There is always something of interest to pick up… a bunch of green garlic, a block of unusual cheese from an upstate dairy, or a black and white cookie… among the mounds of produce that is piled up in the stalls.
The variety of produce available in the market is amazing. And most of them are organically cultivated. All in all, any locavore’s dream come true! If I did not have to commute home, I would be doing all my veggie shopping here, without a doubt!
On a recent visit, the place looked fully loaded despite the signs of a waning summer. Just walking along the tables was enough to make one hungry!
And more vegetables…
Multi-hued root vegetables looking especially pretty…
Tomatoes in all shapes and colours…
Celery root, one of my favourite things…
Some speciality garlic…
Squashes, summer and winter…
Varieties of chilies…
Jams, jellies and preserves…
Cookies, pies and breads…
Interesting small batch wines…
Hard cider made from local apples…
Ready to eat salad mixes…
And this time, there was even a ‘Harey Krishna’ group performing at the market!
09 Sep 2014
A bridge that symbolizes everything that is great and eternally inspiring about a city, that stands towering high bringing joy to the beholder from far or near, at the same time functioning as a major artery of traffic connecting the city, and has contributed to the lexicon of English language… is there any other bridge in the country – no, the world – as grand as the Brooklyn Bridge?
And one of the key figures behind the construction of this great bridge was Emily Warren Roebling, the daughter in law of John Roebling who designed the bridge and started the construction. When John Roebling died of tetanus, his son Washington Roebling took over charge of the construction. Unfortunately, Washington was afflicted by caisson disease, the decompression sickness caused apparently by long hours spent under water. He became bed-ridden, his wife Emily stepped in as the ‘first woman field engineer’ and saw to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Emily functioned as the construction supervisor and project manager for the construction. And as the only person who saw Washington Roebling in his sick bed, she was the link between him and his assistants at the work site. She gained extensive knowledge and understanding of the technologies involved, with training from her husband. She performed the chief engineer’s duties and supervised the day-to-day construction while her husband watched the bridge going up, through binoculars, from their residence at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. According to reports, Emily Roebling was the first person to cross the bridge by carriage ahead of the official opening, carrying a rooster as a sign of victory. I found this a very interesting story and went looking for some image of the event. And see what I found!
When it was opened to the public on May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and the tallest man-made structure in the American continent. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
As the name implies, the Brooklyn Bridge connects the burroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York city. At present, the bridge carries 6 lanes of automobile traffic, with an elevated walkway for pedestrians and bicycles in the center.
As you can imagine, the view from the bridge is breathtaking. And it is a vantage point to observe the way the look of the New York city skyline changes to reflect the time of day. Whether in the day or night, it is something that you can keep watching!
A rather new phenomenon I noticed on the bridge is the way people have attached all sorts of things to the sides of the bridge. It used to be locks previously, following the belief that if couples put their names on a lock that is locked onto a bridge and throw down the keys into the water below, their love will be everlasting!
But these days there is all kinds of stuff being tied to the railings, including ear phones and plastic paper. Really an eyesore!
Brooklyn Bridge has featured in many books, movies and songs. Most noteworthy is ‘The Bridge’, an epic poem by Hart Crane, the well-known American poet. What a coincidence that he lived for a while at 110 Columbia Heights, the same address where the Roeblings used to live!
And there are plenty of works about the bridge as well. The Great Bridge by David McCullough, published in 1972 and the PBS documentary film, Brooklyn Bridge, made by Ken Burns in 1981 are prominent among the lot.
By the way, the usage “If you believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you” has its origin with George Parker, a master con man who managed to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, several times, to gullible customers. Apparently, he convinced them that they could make a fortune controlling the access to the bridge! Other public landmarks he managed to sell, again many times over, included Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. 🙂
These days the word ‘amazing’ has lost all meaning, through overuse. But this is one case where it should be used in its true full meaning… AMAZING! And that is the most apt word to describe this great icon of this great city!
19 Aug 2014
There are some things in every one’s life that have a lasting charm… some threads that run through life, helping keep alight the joy of life even when things are not so good. Something that gets you excited about life itself. For me, it is trains. I love trains… I mean, all trains. Long distance trains, commuter trains, touristy trains… love them all. And never give up a chance to ride on one either.
I don’t know when I was bitten by the train bug. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I was not enchanted by the trains. When I was in third grade, we were doing a chapter on transportation. Teacher asked whether there was anyone in the class who had not travelled on a train. To my utter amazement, a number of hands went up. And I was thinking… where have you been living? Under some moss covered rocks? Lived thus far without a single train ride? The pity I felt for those kids was fathomless. Even at that age, a train ride was one of my favourite things.
As I grew up, I found out that there are kindred spirits all around the world. Known by various names such as railfans, rail buffs and train buffs, they form groups and go train spotting. Yes, it is a legitimate hobby, with many followers. Train photography, model trains, exploring historical railway tracks and trains, and collecting train memorabilia are some of the activities of these groups.
You have to admit… some of the old trains are a pleasure to see. And you never get bored watching a train go by. Whenever a car I’m travelling is stopped at a railway crossing, and there are groans from the rest of the party, I’m secretly thrilled though I have to hide my glee! 🙂
As fun it is to watch a train from the outside, it is equally interesting to watch it from the inside. I mean watching the people. Where else would you get such a golden opportunity to watch a microcosm of society, yourself unobserved? Some of the people are busy reading the newspaper or books, some are engrossed in prayers and rosaries, some keep yakking away to either their friends or on the phone… some even do their chores like opening the mail or doing their nails.
One thing interesting about New York trains – including the subways – is that you get to hear all kinds of languages. Sometimes when a conversation in a language I do not understand gets too loud for comfort, I have a trick to bring it under control. I pretend to be seriously listening and smiling or frowning at all the right moments. And the conversationalists begin to wonder… does this woman understand what we are talking? In no time, it is toned down and there is peace and quiet again.
Let me ask you a question. Imagine this scene… you get on a train, from a station in between, and you have a ways to go. All the window seats are taken. Some of the people have their bags and papers all spread around on the aisle seats and are sitting taking up most of the two seats. Others have kept their possessions neatly on their laps and the aisle seats are left free of any encroachments. Where would you opt to sit? Don’t you think that by that choice, you are rewarding bad behaviour? 😉
Whenever I go visiting a new place, I would find out if there are any interesting train rides around. Very often, there are. And I never let go a chance to ride on one of them. This is a train from St. Kitts, that went around the island and the old sugar cane farms, keeping the Caribbean always within sight on one side. It was wonderful!
One of the activities of the railfans is called ‘complete riding’, which is to try and ride the complete railway network of a city, state, or country. It would be an interesting activity to consider during the fall in NYC.
I cannot end this note without a shoutout to a fellow railfan… you all have seen him, laughed with him and at him. And said ‘Bazinga’ with him! Yes, I mean Sheldon Cooper from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ whose love for trains is as intense as mine!
And the only reason I do not have an elaborate train set running on the floor of my apartment is that I live in a matchbox!
01 Aug 2014