Thursday, August 31, 2006

An Evening at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe

Approaching the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe from the east, and going down around to the left side, I walked by some window boxes ... and right into a private party. No one challenged me. I probably could have joined them - they had a lot of burgers on the grill.

But instead, I went down to the water to wait for my party. Here's a view up the Hudson to the G.W. Bridge. I like all the sailboats quietly hanging out there -- a far cry from the summer of 1776, when John Jay (later first Chief Justice of NY's highest court and first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) taught himself all about the law by waging guerilla warfare on two British ships which had made the mistake of trespassing on the Hudson. He couldn't just requisition the needed supplies, of course, so he had to ride off to Connecticut and use all his best advocacy skills to convince his neighbor colony/state to "lend" him some cannons etc.

There is a little bit of wooded area next to the Boat Basin Cafe. I liked this image because it reminded me of favorite my Mac screen saver. (You know, I think this means I'm spending too much time with computers these days.) See if you can pick out which of these three pictures is of my screensaver:

OK, I guess it was pretty obvious which was which. But still, they all evoke a similar feeling in me.

The sky kept changing. Dramatic streaks of gray with a bit of yellow as the sun set:

But a bit later, after we were seated and enjoying some drinks (mine was "electric lemonade" which looked like Windex but smelled a lot better and tasted more like sugar than anything else), the sky was transformed into a series of spectacular combinations of pink, orange, red, and purple.

Even as the light continued to fade, and the colors were less vibrant, it was still pretty.

Just as magical after dark:

And some unusal light configurations:

Alas, I've seen no fireflies this year. But the twinkling lights of NYC almost make up for that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Interesting Encounter

I grabbed a piece of pizza from my favorite shop, which took me approximately 30 seconds to eat. So, if were going to take full advantage of my "lunch hour," I had approximately 57 minutes and 30 seconds to kill. Accordingly, I headed off to a local bookstore (not my favorite, alas) and wandered around a bit. I looked at the DVDs, but the $10 ones weren't anything I wanted. I breezed by the CDs and found myself at the "Religion and Spirituality" section. After some half-hearted browsing, I opened a biography of Gene Robinson, the well-publicized Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire. I was curious to read more about his family life and see what was said and what could be read between the lines.

As I was thumbing through to read the sections that interested me, I became aware that a guy had entered the same aisle and sat down with a book. He emitted some sounds from time to time, which seemed to be calculated to gain my attention. I resolutely ignored him. (It's difficult to explain exactly what the sounds were -- it was as if he kept reaching passages in the text that really grabbed him, and he really wanted to read them out loud, and was emitting his unique mumble/sigh as if he were almost sounding the words out on the page so that maybe I would ask him about it.)

Sure enough, Mr. Emit did in fact accost me as I put my book back and went to leave. He wanted to know if I had read the Rapture/Left Behind series. (I hadn't.) He wanted to know if I had seen the movies. (I hadn't.) He explained that I should, I absolutely should! They are ... ! [Here, he kissed his fingertips and quickly moved his hand away from his mouth.]

I said something along the lines of "Ah." or "Hm." and didn't linger. Miss Manners would likely have prescribed something a bit more elaborate (like, "Oh, that sounds nice. Thank you."), but I was working very hard at avoiding the blunt rudeness of telling him I'd heard and read enough about that series to put me off it for the next million years or so.

Oh wait, maybe that means I'll be left behind. Then I will only be around for another 70 years.


Friday, August 25, 2006

A Plant Grows in Brooklyn

An inspirational example of cross-borough cooperation.

This cutting from the Queens Botanical Garden (and specifically their booth at the Dragon Boat Festival) has thrived during the past 12 days of benign neglect and sporadic watering in Brooklyn. It has already doubled in size, which suggests that it has sent out roots into the soil. My mom always puts cuttings in water until they are sufficiently rooted, then sets them into the soil afterward. But apparently this new-fangled "direct soil" approach works too. The plant is possibly Tradescantia zebrina.

Intriguingly, each borough except Manhattan has its own botanic garden:
Manhattan has a six-acre Conservatory Garden in Central Park, but it looks a lot smaller in person. There are some small gardens at the Cloisters too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mars Attacks!

NEW PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Sorry, everyone, go back to bed. The supposed once-in-a-lifetime approach between Mars and Earth previously posted here turns out to be a HOAX repeated from last year, and I fell for it. (See the comment to this post.) Thank goodness the skies are cloudy up & down the east coast, so nobody probably was planning to try to see Mars ... which is apparently behind the sun this August so we can't see it at all!

I saw Rigoletto last night -- my plan to attend was in place all along, although at the last minute I ended up with 100% different companions than I expected. It was a lovely & very cool evening, with great music and great people-watching (we were too far from the stage to see the details of what the musicians were doing). It seems that the Met is performing Rigoletto another two or three more times in different NYC parks ... I'm sooooo tempted!

One more surprise this week. I took one of those cheesy personality quizzes with maybe 20 seemingly non-insightful questions. And they totally nailed my Meyers-Briggs personality type: Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiver (INTP), which they call "The Scholar." (Others call this type "The Architect," but it's the same thing.) So maybe I should take their advice and keep my eyes out for an INTJ (a/k/a "The Expert" or "The Mastermind"), ENTJ (a/k/a "The General" or "The Field Marshal") (like my dad? yikes!), or ENTP (a/k/a "The Innovator"). Or not.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Confession

OK, I'll admit it. In Ireland, I went over to the "dark side" and read Philip Pullman's His Dark Matter trilogy -- even though I excoriated him previously. In my defense, I needed something to read on the long bus ride to and from Cashel. But that doesn't really explain why I bought all three books. The story and characters were definitely interesting, although not quite interesting enough to lug the books back to the U.S. with me. So I left them in public places for other curious readers. Hopefully that worked! (On the train, someone tried to return one of the books to me after I'd left it on the table. The airplane was better, because I could slip it into the seat pocket in front of me and slip out undetected. I don't remember what I did with the third volume.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Remembering Martin

I went bowling tonight for the first time in six years. Despite the black light and the loud 80's music (yippee!), bowling still seems like my grandfather's hobby -- which it was, until he was 94 or so. For my grandfather, a "bad day" at the lanes was when he got only 180 points. (I think I broke 50 once, but not yesterday. And hey, I almost got a strike one time, does that count?) He was a really sweet guy, somehow both frail and strong at the same time. It would have meant a lot to him if he could have seen me married off, and I very much regret that I didn't marry someone in the early 90's while he was alive. There was one guy I wondered about at the time -- I don't know if it would have worked out in the long term, but it would almost have been worth it for my grandfather's sake. And life is uncertain anyway, so who knows. Requiem im pace.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shakespeare & the Hudson

At my new job, I've been enjoying some early evenings (you mean I can really leave at 5:30 p.m.??) and some nice strolls along the river at lunch time.

New York Classical Theater appears to have taken over where my beloved Gorilla Repertory Theater left off: free Shakespeare in the city parks ... on the run. Tonight I saw The Comedy of Errors, which is familiar to me although I have not seen it very often. The humor was played very broadly (for widest appeal), and the characterizations are not particularly subtle (it is especially difficult for the female characters, who lose dramatic range in order to be heard), but it was a lot of fun. One character, who plays twins, has a blast fighting himself -- not the first time I've seen someone undertake this feat, but it was well staged with a strategically placed tree. There was quite a large crowd, too. Not everyone was really prepared to race for the new front row at each change of scene. All the better for me! I got great seats every time! Afterward, basking in the cool evening air, I walked from 103rd Street down to Times Square (a mere 60 blocks). If you want to check out the play, it's on Thursday-Sunday at 7 p.m. this week & next week. Take the B or C up to 103rd Street, and enter on the west side. Someone should be there handing out programs and pointing you in the right direction. Or you may notice the migrating crowds. Did I mention that it is free? Slapstick humor awaits....

As for the serene joys of downtown by daylight, here's a short photo essay.

Down by the Hudson River, near the Irish Hunger Memorial, this plant looked like a modern sculpture to me at first in the noonday sun.

A glorious late summer afternoon, as filtered by the WFC.

A quiet evening, far from the madding crowd.

The light fades, and the lights turn green. A nice effect.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

I trekked out to Queens for some boat races at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. The boats were somewhat plain, but people were rowing hard.

They had a dragon dance as well for entertainment.

Here's a video clip:

Afterward, we decided to forego the 15-minute bus ride back to Shea Stadium subway stop and simply take a 20-minute walk back.* As it happened, we went on a bit of a world tour (through the site of New York's 1939 and 1964 World Fair). My friend (a runner) has run a race through this area -- which gloriously includes running a loop inside Shea Stadium -- but is not used to walking by the globe. At a walking pace, everything seems further apart, and you see a lot more details (e.g., long avenues with gardens) in between. She got a little disoriented.

Here is a closeup of the Pacific Northwest.

It would seem that the original Borden Cow dates from 1939. At any rate, her mug is in among the mosaics describing the contents of the 1939 and 1964 time capsules at New York's hosting of the World Fair.

The contents of the time capsules, to be opened during the 7th millenium if there is anyone there to do so, are somewhat idiosyncratic. But the 1964 capsule appears to take some riffs on the 1939 capsule. For instance, the 1939 capsule includes Beetleware, and the 1964 capsule includes a copy of the Beatles' recording of "A Hard Day's Night". Similarly, the 1939 capsule includes a pouch of tobacco, whereas the 1964 capsule includes unfitered Kent cigarettes. The 1964 capsule also includes some new-fangled things such as birth control pills, irradiated seeds, and freeze-dried food. It will not be very tasty in the 7th millenium, I think.

Here is a mosaic of Venus, apparently a copy of a Dali work from 1939:

* Unfortunately, the HK Dragon Boat Festival sounds a lot cooler than it is. You take the #7 train all the way out to Shea Stadium (second-to-last stop) for a "free transfer" ($2) to a bus that takes about 15 minutes to cross the street to Corona Park. There, you walk through the sponsors' tents to the shore of the lake, to see the boats. The boats are quite simple, with little in the way of decoration. I was expecting dragon heads, etc. So you watch a while. Then you go over to find the food and entertainment area, which is well-separated from the corporate sponsors' area. There are maybe 5 food booths. They sell corn on the cob, shishkebabs, Korean sandwiches, and a few Chinese pastries. In other words, the pickings are slim, but the lines are long. Although there are many vendors' booths, those lines are also long and it was difficult to justify waiting in a huge line for a cheap water bottle or plastic kite. But lots of people were loaded down with stuff. (Yes, it's free, but do you really want it? And where are you going to store it?) The entertainment consisted of a single Chinese dragon which spent some time in front of the stage and then ran off to the corporate sponsors' tents (the only place where you can actually see the race). The corporate sponsor groups brought wonderful buffet-style lunches for their teams. Not a few of the spectators were eyeing the lunches wistfully. There was plenty of room for improvement.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

My Week

I saw JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving this week at Radio City Music Hall. They got a rock-star type reception from the crowd. (Esp. JK, who was wearing very cool high-heeled serpent sandals and generally looking not only well groomed but also very foxy -- personal & professional success has obviously been very good for her. Cf. Rita Skeeter.) JK did her usual Q&A, but told us nothing new. Yes, we KNOW Dumbledore is dead and he won't pull a Gandalf. Duh. And we KNOW there is more to Aunt Petunia than meets the eye -- she's even told us so before! I think she confirmed Salman Rushdie's hypothesis that Snape is good (which I never doubted for a moment in the last few books). Oh yes, did I mention that Salman Rushdie & his son were there, asking a question of JK in Radio City Music Hall? Pretty cool, eh?

Also had dinner with my brother at the mediocre Waterstone Grill (the wine was nice though), and saw Night's rather strange movie, The Lady in the Water. The movie is trying very hard to create a meaningful legend/fable in the real world (intersecting with a legend-becomes-real world), and seems to take itself VERY seriously. Oddly, at the same time, there are many self-consciously self-mocking moments. Some of it is very funny (possibly intentionally). Some of it is suspenseful. Some of it is just cause for head scratching. We are invited to believe that there are 15-20 strangers in an small-t0-medium sized apartment complex who are ready to believe - without any particular evidence - that a strange water-loving nudist needs to be saved from otherworldly beasts through weird rituals so she can return to her world and somehow help ours. Right.

Night himself plays a young procrastinator who is told by the nudist (or as the movie would have it, "nymph") that the book he's been avoiding writing will somehow inspire some kid to change the world (it is not specified if the change(s) will be for the better). But Night's character realizes that the nymph has not said the kid will meet him... so he realizes that he will die in a spectacular way that brings publicity to the book.... But luckily, his sister - who is currently single - is scheduled to have 7 children (according to the nudist/nymph), and Night's character will get to meet two of them.... So he will live at least another 9 months, if she has twins.... What a relief!

Then Friday I saw Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center. We sat on the stage behind the orchestra, which is great for kibbitzing ("I think you missed a note there." "You call THAT 'fortissimo'?!") but bad for cello-watching. Sigh. Can't have everything, I suppose. It was a nice concert, although it was not "mostly" Mozart. They played one overture by Martin, one symphony by Mozart, and one violin concerto by Beethoven. So for those of you keeping track at home, it is either 1/3 Mozart (one out of three pieces) or at best slightly less than 1/2 Mozart (since Mozart and Martin shared the first half of the concert). "Most" should be more than 1/2, and quite frankly it should be more like 2/3 or 3/4. Talk about false advertising! I want my money back! Luckily they were student tickets, so it was something like $20. And -- apparently intoxicated by the applause -- the violin soloist played an extra piece for us that was not on the program. So we probably did get our money's worth in the end. :-)

Ireland -- July 5

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Last lingering look at Baltimore - a boat & its reflection.

Images of the ruined abbey on the way to the Pink Elephant, a bar conveniently located en route to Kinsale, our final stop on the bike tour.

Cows to keep us company after we pass the abbey.

The white buildings (a town ahead) shone brightly as the sun descended behind us toward the horizon.

We kept pedaling on toward the Pink Elephant, then caught the shuttle to Kinsale. After dinner, I explored the town. Here is the rosy glow of sunset reflected on window of house on a hill in Kinsale.

Twilight falls on Kinsale.

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