Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hyde Park, N.Y., May 2006

Since I don't have a car, I almost never get to leave the city. I don't mind that much, even on holiday weekends - New York is great when it empties out and everyone goes to Long Island and the Catskills. I'm usually content to stay put.

But on Saturday, when my friend Dan suggested we take his car on a road trip up the Hudson Valley, I readily joined the hordes.

And there were hordes! The New York Thruway heading north was jammed. Fortunately I'd had a pain au chocolat and my coffee, and was able to persevere without getting cranky. (Of course, I was the passenger, so my job was pretty easy.) Finally, about the time we hit Harriman, things loosened up and we had smooth sailing.

We decided to stop first in Hyde Park, where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt lived. We walked the grounds of the Roosevelt estate, which now has a big parking lot and a massive modern visitors' center - Roosevelt wouldn't recognize his yard! We walked through the stables, where we heard Eleanor on tape telling stories about the family horses in her jowly, patrician way. And we walked around the outside of the house; these photos were taken on the front porch, of planters containing sago palms.

Everything in Hyde Park bears Roosevelt's image, even the drive-in movie theater (which was playing "Poseidon").

From there we drove north to Rhinebeck, where we prowled through some antique shops and got lunch at a virtually empty diner where groovy '70s music provided the atmosphere. We continued on to the hamlet of Red Hook, where we got our afternoon coffee, and then crossed the river to go to Woodstock.

Of course, I wanted to see the Woodstock concert site, and while I've always known it's not really in Woodstock, I'd thought it was close by. Well, it's not. It's in a different county, near Bethel. So I settled for the town, which turned out to be fun - it definitely capitalizes on its hippie associations, with shops like "Legends" selling Jimi Hendrix blankets and t-shirts for many of the Woodstock bands. (No Melanie, though - why is that?)

Woodstock also has a strong Buddhist presence, though it may be more Buddhist Chic than anything else. Lots of stores selling incense and little statues of The Enlightened One.

Finally, we hopped back in the car and headed home - only to be halted, once again, in Harriman. This time it was a traffic accident, and everything was at a standstill. We turned around and wound our way over to the Taconic State Parkway and came home that route, which put me at my door at about 10:30 p.m.

I do feel refreshed, getting out of the city. It's always nice to have a break. Thanks, Dan!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Central Park, May 2006

I thought we'd celebrate the holiday weekend with a photo from Central Park, where I'm going today with my friend Rob. This is a detail from Bridge No. 28, an elegant cast-iron structure with a rather prosaic name. It's just north of the Jackie O Reservoir and dates from 1861, according to my handy AIA Guide to New York City. It takes no photographic skill to make this gothic-revival bridge beautiful. In fact, the bridge designers, Calvert Vaux and E.C. Miller, ought to get all the credit for today's posting.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Love on E. 30th St., May 2006

"I Love You" graffiti is everywhere from Murray Hill down through the Lower East Side. Was the prolific painter inspired by one person, or a general sense of goodwill? Regardless, I like the positive message and neat cursive writing style. This was on a wall behind a Mexican restaurant; its glass canopy cast the shadow.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lafayette Street, Feb. 2006

These photos were taken on the same morning in the same block, and they really do look like a matched set. I love the contrasting textures and all the clean lines. My brother said of the first one, "It would be great if it weren't for that speaker!" But I think the speaker adds some interest -- I really like all the little signs and devices you see attached to walls in New York. And the curve of that standpipe in the second photo contrasts nicely with all the straight lines.

Friday, May 26, 2006

E. 29th Street, February 2006

This building is very ordinary-looking. But when I saw that shadow, I literally ran for the camera!

Pizza in Jackson Square

Tonight after work I had some time to kill in the West Village. I needed dinner, so I found a pizza place on Eighth Avenue and bought a slice of cheese and a slice of mushroom, and took them across the street to Jackson Square. It was a nice evening so I thought I'd sit out.

Jackson Square is not a square; in fact, it's a triangle. There's a fountain in the center, surrounded by concrete. Planters and some shady trees turn it into "green space." I sat on a park bench under the branches, in the shadow of the big brick apartment buildings on Horatio Street.

I was about halfway through my first slice when a weathered-looking guy approached me. He had a scar over his right eye. He'd been hanging out on a nearby bench with a buddy.

"'Scuse me, sir," he said. "How do you spell 'awaits'?"

"Awaits?" I wanted to make sure I'd heard him right. (Seemed like an odd request.) He turned to his buddy, who nodded.

I spelled it for him, still not sure I was spelling the right word. He tried to repeat it, but kept getting the letters mixed up. Finally he pulled out a Sharpie indelible marker and wrote it slowly on his palm as I spelled.

I looked at his hand to make sure he had it right. He did. He thanked me and went back to his friend.

I sat there for another 20 minutes or so, eating my pizza, and the whole time those two guys discussed the word "awaits." I couldn't hear all they were saying, but I heard the word over and over again, and my scarred friend kept looking down at his hand.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

W. 46th Street, February 2006

It looks almost menacing, doesn't it? But it's just a streetlight. The twisted bits of dead grass protruding from the seams in the wall only added to the strangeness.

E. 30th Street, May 2006

Half the time, I'm not even sure why something catches my eye. I guess I liked this color combination, and the parallel horizontal lines. And that feathery shadow seemed to be what spring is all about.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Watts Towers, Los Angeles, Feb. 2006

The Watts Towers are amazing sculptures located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. I'd read about them in 1988 or so, in Metropolitan Home magazine, back when they were neglected and in danger of disintegrating. They'd been built by a man named Simon Rodia, an Italian tile cutter, over a period of more than 30 years, from 1921 to 1955. The tall spirals of these sculptures twist into the sky, inlaid with everything from broken glass to seashells to crockery to small toys. They cast fabulous shadows.

I visited the towers with my friends Gerry and Christopher, my hosts during my California visit. They had no idea where I was taking them when I suggested we visit these outdoor artworks in Watts -- I think they were pretty skeptical. But when they saw them, they agreed that the Watts Towers, which are now the centerpiece of a city arts center, are remarkable and entirely unique.

Land O' Lakes, Fla., December 2005

OK, so this violates my blog purpose in that it's not a New York photo. But it's pretty cool -- a leaf from Virginia creeper, which drifted onto the road in front of the house where I grew up.

Long Island City, Queens, Nov. 2005

Here's another space alien, inhabiting a doorway in Queens.

Trash bin, East Village, February 2006

For some reason, images of space aliens seem to crop up in the strangest places.

SoHo, January 2006

There are lots of odd little signs and images pasted on walls all over the city. Not sure why this guy is posted on a wall in SoHo. (Crosby Street, to be precise). But he seemed to have some personality, and I loved the oddly patriotic color scheme.

SoHo, January 2006

New York is full of amazing ironwork, from the old cast-iron buildings in SoHo to the bars covering certain windows and doors. The owner of this building apparently got a deal on large quantities of green paint.

What is this blog about?

Well, here I am, jumping on the blogging bandwagon. I'm kind of ambivalent about it, frankly, since I've always felt like there are already way too many people out there airing way too many opinions. Does the world really need all that noise? When does the "marketplace of ideas" get a little too congested?

But you know, the other day I took a really great photo, and I got to thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to have someplace to put this so other people could see it?"

That's what's given me the impetus to create this blog. I want to post photos here that I've taken around the city, images that capture the beauty of New York and the transience of light and shadow, which tend to be my favorite subjects. (Hence the blog name -- also an indirect tribute to my favorite musician, Joni Mitchell, whose live album from 1980 has the same title.) I'll also post photos from other locations when I'm lucky enough to travel.

Sure, I'll add some narration now and then. Maybe some weird New York stories, stuff that will help me share my life in the city. This is all a big experiment.