Thursday, December 28, 2017

NYC Holiday Windows 2017

Bergdorf Goodman's window in honor of the New-York Historical Society, part of their To New York With Love theme. Click here for the evening's Flickr album.

I can't remember why we skipped last year, but Mandy and I resumed our annual holiday window viewing this year, braving an icy cold night to do so. We usually finish with Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany, which tend to be the best, but this year we went the other way around in case we ran out of steam early.

We made it down to Lord & Taylor, at which point Mandy jumped in a cab and I headed for the Herald Square subway station. Since I had to go right by Macy's anyways I did finish with a look at their windows - we aren't always crazy about them so generally that's the one we skip if we're feeling like we've had enough, which is usually the case, but I was kind of sad to discover this year Mandy would really have enjoyed them - they were these very cute New York cityscapes populated by cartoon animals. Sorry Mandy!

Here were my quick impressions as I was putting up photos on Facebook late late late at night:

Bergdorf's - Salute to NYC with window themes honoring local cultural institutions - the NY Phil, NY Botanic Garden, New-York Historical Society, Museum of the Moving Image, and the Natural History Museum. Pretty nice!

Tiffany's - Vignettes with silver artists' dummies and some of the items from their odd "Everyday Items" collections, which features things like tin cans and paper plates and high school geometry tools and bird nests and other ordinary objects made out of sterling silver. Not as cool as some of their past displays, in my opinion, although the ice fishing scene was done nicely and I did like the miniature Metropolitan Opera chandeliers in the sculptor's studio scene.

Saks - 80th anniversary of Walt Disney's Snow White, main windows featured scenes from the movie, light show a castle theme with music from the movie. I would love to know how many light bulbs they used! Side windows had fairy tale themed fashions, a couple quite gorgeous.

Lord & Taylor - Apparently snow globes was the theme, I didn't quite get that as the first one we saw had some kind of Jules Verne/steampunk sense to it and I was thinking more along those lines - also the Hallmark Channel sponsorship which was clearly stated on all of the windows had me thinking this was supposed to represent some television special I hadn't seen. Fun to look at but kind of confusing. They also had some neat small paper-cutout NYC vignettes that reminded me of Tiffany's in other years, just needed a few more sparklies!

Macy's - As mentioned, NYC scenes populated by cute cartoon animals, plus Santa. Loved the nod to the local whales, of course, and the subway worker rats (with pizza!) were a fun touch.

A couple of other landmarks interspersed.

Finished with Newkirk Plaza - Be it ever so humble!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mele Kalikimaka from Brooklyn!

Barely in time but wishing you all the best here at the end of the year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Post-Solstice Antisocial Paddle, 12/22

It wasn't one of those sparkly blue winter days we get here, but it was warm and the wind was light and with all the pre-move hubbub at work I'd been dreaming of just a quiet paddle on my own - so I made it happen. Hugged the shore, Gerritson Creek and back with a little side trip into Mill Basin to take pictures of the old drawbridge there, now being demolished. 

The brants have now arrived in full force, filling the air with their calls, and lots of bufflehead, and there were some nice things going on in the clouds, including one moment when they were in rolling ripples as smooth as a boat wake on a quiet day. I'm usually not crazy about being out after dark in the wintertime but it was warm and quiet enough that I made an exception.

13 statute miles, might even have kept going except that my left wrist gasket needs stretching or trimming or both and my left hand was going numb. Unexpected since I hadn't had any trouble with that in Colorado, which was the last time I wore my drysuit, but uncomfortable enough to send me back to the dock sooner than I might have otherwise. Otherwise a great year-end paddle - I do love that feeling of having the bay to myself that you only get in the wintertime.

Only pictures after this, click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Solstice Sunset from the Staten Island Ferry

One more solstice post - photos of my own private observance of the day before the days start getting longer again. I had two options of things to do with friends, either of which would have been great fun (the Flatfoot Flatbush dance parade and party with my dancing friends at the City Stompers, or a solstice celebration with music and food at Sebago). I was thinking about both of them as I left work shortly before 4:00, after finishing my packing for the office move, but then I walked out of the office and looked up at a perfect late afternoon blue sky over Mercer Street and realized that I was just in time to go catch the sunset on the Staten Island Ferry. 

I always love a Staten Island ferry ride, and saying good night to the sun as it set seemed like a good way to observe the solstice, and I think I was also ready for an evening to myself, it's been a busy month or two at work and I'll be doing quite a bit of holiday socializing next week. I jumped on the W train to Whitehall Street and arrived comfortably in time for the sunset sail on the big orange boat. It was just perfect. More photos on Flickr, click here for the album. Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Solstice!

And now the days start getting longer again, hooray!

Here's the trailer for the solstice performance at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine that Mandy and I enjoyed last week. It's just moments of each but you'll get an idea of the great performers they had.
Here's a little more of the Forces of Nature Dance Company - it was funny, for a split second as they came out in the tasseled belts I thought this was going to be the Tahitian dance segment of the performance! That would've been neat but this was great too. 

And a little more of the Balkan choir, which was also amazing. This is another performance, not the solstice concert, but I picked it because there are some dancers, starting at 1:07 if you want to see those. Wonderful harmonies.

And here's Teresa Thomason. Again, another performance, and this one completely wrong for a winter solstice post, being about winter being over when it's actually just begun, but it gives a better idea of her splendiferous voice than the videos I found of her in the solstice concert -- magnificent in person but the  reverberating acoustics of the cathedral make the videos sound murky. I thought this was lovely so inappropiate though it is for the day, here you go. 

And here's a good short video explaining of solstice from National Geographic. If you have a little more time, this summary is expanded upon nicely in this article

Happy Solstice!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Photos from the 38th Annual Paul Winter Winter Solstice Celebration

Here are a few photos from the 38th Annual Paul Winter Winter Solstice Concert at the Church of St. John the Divine. My friend Mandy and I like to do something musical around the holidays; usually it's traditional carols at one of the local churches, and for at least  one year it was the singing Christmas tree at the South Street Seaport. I'm not really a churchgoer these days, and relentless holiday muzak in a store just makes me want to hurry on my way, but I do still love joining others in singing the old carols and listening to performances of less familiar ones.

This year's musical event was a little less traditional! It was spectacular, with great voices, musicians, and dancers, and pageantry, and I never could've imagined an audience being invited to howl like a gigantic pack of wolves in church (the director called it the "Howl-lellujah Choir" and it was so unexpected to us, being newbies at this event, that we started laughing, but we did get our acts together and join in after a bit - fortunately I get some good howling practice in out on Jamaica Bay when I can make it out for Vicky the official club mermaid's full moon paddles). The Puritans would have been appalled. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I was sort of surprised - when I posted these photos on Facebook, I actually left a comment saying,

"Would it be taken the wrong thing if I said this was the most pagan thing I'd ever seen in a church? I don't mean it as an insult, I was kind of amazed at the way it was direct praising of the earth and everything on it, rather than the more usual thanking of God for 'giving us' all these wonders. Wolf howls,
 elephant growls, whale songs, and instruments echoing the natural sounds - very cool and very outside of anything I'd ever imagined under the roof of a church".

Vicky, the official Sebago mermaid, who also happens to be a Presbyterian minister, had a very interesting response, which she said I could share here:

"There is actually a new 'liturgical' season that was begun by the church in Australia called Season of Creation. The themes are very earth-based and each week water or flora or earth is celebrated. The end of the season is the first Sunday in October which is Blessing of the Animals. I’ve done a round of this season."

She continued,

"Besides if it weren’t for pagans we wouldn’t have the holidays we celebrate in the church!"

And that was exactly the sense I'd had at the cathedral on Thursday - that this celebration was going back to our natural joy in the daylight beginning to come back that goes back for who knows how long before the Christian holy day was overlaid. And it was beautiful.

Here are the photos - click for a slide show view.

And it's going to be a very busy week at work (moving days on Wednesday for the bosses and Friday for the rest of us, yikes!) and I saw at least one video and an NPR piece about the performance. I think a couple of quick lunchtime posts with those will keep things moving here while I'm busy packing!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

doodle du jour

This was a post-it doodle I drew a while back. Somehow reminded of it this week. 😉

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gotta love this town...

Maybe not all the time. But look. Here we have a random drugstore -- with a bluegrass session. How cool is that? I may have to stop by next time I need toothpaste or something, find out if this is a regular thing. Not too far from the office, either.

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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Post Walk In The Snow Chowder

I went for a walk in the snow in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today. Had the camera but forgot to put the battery in before I left. Oops. Too bad, it was pretty. But here's a picture of the clam chowder I made when I got home. 

BTW would you believe that a little hunk of pernil skin works pretty well in lieu of salt pork or bacon for chowder making? I know, it seems farfetched...

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

2017 Black Friday Bonus Escape 2 - Gotham Whale!

Gotham Whale!

Fun to find that I actually got a photo of a whale with NYC in the background! World Trade Center and other downtown buildings just to the left of the vapor cloud from the spout, Empire State Building just to the right of the whale.

This was an unexpected pleasure - I'd gone out on the American Princess a couple of weeks ago on a bit of a whim, and we had a pretty amazing day with five or six or maybe seven whales. I posted about it, and my friend Jenn saw it and said something about going sometime. Now, she's working in Calgary these days so I assumed "sometime" meant sometime in 2018, but it turned out that she was coming back to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving, so the 3 extra trips the boat was able to add at the end of November were possible. We ended up getting tickets for the last trip of the AP's whalewatching season. TQ has Sundays off for the winter, so that worked for him, and we were also joined by Jenn's husband, and also Capt. Kat, my old friend from the days when I was working on the Schooner Adirondack, who is the mutual friend through whom Jenn and I met when Kat took us for an incredible midsummer sailing trip in the Gulf of Finland a few years back.

 It was a beautiful breezy day with kitesurfers having a blast at Breezy Point, tons of birds, a wide assortment of boats, a good mirage, a gorgeous sunset and one very quiet whale taking an afternoon nap. :) Interesting whale fact from the Gotham Whale naturalists on board - whales only sleep with half of their brain at a time so they can be aware of their surrounding and keep coming up for air as needed. When a whale sleeps like this it's called "logging"; sometimes they will rest on the surface; this one was mostly submerged but coming up for leisurely breaths every couple of minutes.

You just never knew where the whale was going to come up and it got pretty close to the boat, so for once I got some pretty good photos, plus of course lots from the trip out and back. Click here to visit my Flickr album from the day. I'm still a bit blown away that this is all going on out there.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

2017 Bonus Escape 1 - Prospect Park

The weather continued to be great on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I took the opportunity for a "bonus escape", just a nice long walk in Prospect Park. We had one of those falls this year where a lot of the leaves on the street trees just went from green to dead without showing much color first, but there was a little foliage to be seen in the park. I walked up the east side of the lake, crossed the bridge by the Boathouse, went up the Ravine, headed west along the ball fields then south again over the top of Lookout Hill then on down to finish the loop by going on around the west and south end of lake, about 2 and a half miles in total at a much more exercise-ish clip than Friday's beachcombing except for (of course) the stops for pictures. Click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Escape from Black Friday 2017 - Dead Horse Bay aka "Bottle Beach"

Let's escape down this lacy tunnel of trees! 

Then through the phragmites

and on to the shore - they'll never find us here!

This year's Escape from Black Friday was a pretty laid-back one. The "sample escape route" shown in the last post can be found in Sleeping Giant State Park, a favorite hiking location for TQ and me, but one that's far enough away from NYC that we mostly only go when we're staying in CT (where TQ's mom lives) overnight for a holiday. This year, we made a day trip of our Thanksgiving, returning to Brooklyn after a wonderful dinner with his mom and other family from the area.

We weren't very quick to get going the next day; we briefly mulled over the idea of doing a little exploratory trip for a hike on the Staten Island Greenbelt Trail, a hike that might be quite suitable for one of Sebago's off-season hikes, but with sunset now being at 4:30 in the afternoon (blech), and us not knowing exactly where the trailheads are, we scratched that in favor of just running on out to our favorite old local hiking standby, Floyd Bennett Field, part of the Jamaica Bay unit of the National Park Service's wonderful Gateway Recreation Area.

We usually hit the North Forty Natural Area for short hikes like we had in mind, but I thought it would be a nice switch to do the Dead Horse Bay loop instead. I was guessing that the tide would be fairly close to low and although these days I pretty much have enough old bottles for the available windowsill space (although room can always be made when I find something that's particularly eye-catching, as of course usually happens), I always enjoy beachcombing here, there's just so much weird and interesting stuff to look at if you've got the time, which we did.

Dead Horse Bay got its name from the horse rendering plants that were the main industry in this part of NYC back when the horse was the city's main means of transportation; after a horse carcass was broken down for its useful components, the chopped-up bones were dumped in the bay (sorry to all the horse lovers out there, I'm rather fond of 'em myself and I know that's not a pleasant picture). After the adoption of motor vehicles rendered the rendering industry obsolete, the city began using the area for a landfill; the landfill was capped at some point but the cap broke and now decades of early 20th century garbage steadily leaks out onto the beach.* Bottles, shoes, celluloid toys, knick-knacks, china and pottery, bits of hexagonal tile floors, all sorts of stuff. People love to come here to see what they can find - some people just look, some people bring bags to take treasures home, some people enjoy making little or not-so-little arrangements for others to enjoy.

We've usually come here by kayak, but it was kind of interesting coming by land and walking a bit more of the beach - TQ spotted an eroded bank which was full of the debris that eventually ends up on the beach, and he also spotted a point in the bank where the breach in the landfill just ends and the bank is suddenly clean, pale sand (you can see that in the last photo).

All in all a very pleasant, low-key Escape from Black Friday on a very beautiful day. Click on any photo for a slideshow!

*Atlas Obscura has a good article about Dead Horse Bay - I basically knew the history of the area, other Sebago paddlers have told me the story behind the name and why all the bottles and stuff are there, but I did do a little googling just to make sure I'd heard it right.