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Posts tagged ‘NYC’

Autumn Beauty

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east.

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east. © JustHavingFun

The autumn colors sing to my soul! I am certain this peek into the Creator’s paintbox carries me through the gray winter. It feels like fall came late this year. But while last week the temperatures were in the 40s, today it’s expected to hit 75. Crazy! I broke out my jacket, though, and put my sandals under the bed. The toes are getting cold so I know the oppressive heat is over. Gearing up now for the frigid winter seems more real day by day.

Speaking of crazy, there’s a certain pleasant vibration in my head that’s caused by the look of yellow maple leaves against rain-darkened tree trunks on a gloomy day. It puts me in mind of a long ago leisurely drive in the country near Poughkeepsie.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches. © JustHavingFun

The day started off as if it had a headache. First the sun came out, then it ducked behind clouds. A wind blew up and fallen leaves swirled like dancers. The sun’s rays through the clouds highlighted odd sights off to the side of the road: a patch of late-blooming chrysanthemums, a kitschy mailbox, a faded American flag left over from July 4th, nude fields, homes festooned with carved pumpkins. I drove over the crest of a hill and lo, ahead of me, was a spectacular stand of maple trees limned against the gray, brooding sky—a vision so powerful so as to remain with me these thirty-some years!

Enjoy the autumn. Savor the crunch of leaves underfoot. Cherish the colors. Memorize the scents. This may be your own dramatic memory in thirty years!

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Chipper thoughts

Chipmunk scampering down pin oak tree.

Chipmunk scampering down pin oak tree. © JustHavingFun

Chipmunks scampered busily around the base of a tall pin oak in Central Park. Acorns dropped steadily as I watched them run across the grounds, up and down the tree. I’ve never seen so many chipmunks all together out in the open!  I’m used to seeing a single chipmunk darting across my path while I walk on a wooded trail. To see this group of at least a dozen at a time was quite a treat. I couldn’t catch them with my camera; they ran too fast!

Not a squirrel was in sight. I wondered if a chipmunk posse had chased them away. I imagined gangs of wild chipmunks intimidating the rodent population of Central Park. They’d be wearing little fedoras and spats à la 1930s gangsters.  “Beat it, fur face,” the tough one would squeak menacingly in a Bronx accent. ”Dis here tree is our turf.” A mini-drama would ensue: nuts flying, fur bristling, little squeaks erupting like machine gun fire.

Marauding chipmunks? Menacing squeaks? I think it’s time for coffee!

Frederick Douglass Memorial

Frederick Douglass surveying his boulevard

Frederick Douglass surveying his boulevard.  ©JustHavingFun

I rode the M2 bus through Harlem last week. It follows 7th Avenue, also known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, below 155th Street. The neighborhood looks much like my own with apartment buildings housing small businesses on street level lining the streets. Some buildings boasted elaborate cornices belying their ages but others showed the worn look of properties that have been purposed and repurposed over the decades. Nail salons, restaurants, cell phone shops, storefront churches, schools, and groceries hunkered by the sidewalks. When I alit near my destination, I enjoyed walking along the pleasant boulevard as it neared Central Park.

After my business was complete, I made my way to catch the C-train. I had never taken the subway to the Cathedral Parkway station so was unaware of the striking memorial awaiting me at the corner of 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Boulevard) and 110th Street. The Frederick Douglass Memorial boasts an eight-foot bronze portrait sculpture as well as a focal fountain wall.

Frederick Douglass Memorial fountain wall

Frederick Douglass Memorial fountain wall. ©JustHavingFun

Frederick Douglass stood in his generation as a defender of human rights. A refined man and former slave, he became an abolitionist leader, a prolific writer, orator, and publisher. His voice still resonates. Large granite blocks immortalize his words at the memorial. The plaza itself greets visitors with stellar words from the masthead of his newspaper, The North Star, carved into the paving.

“RIGHT IS OF NO SEX – TRUTH IS OF NO COLOR – GOD IS THE FATHER OF US ALL, AND WE ARE ALL BRETHREN.”

It is well worth taking the time to pay a visit here. It is our duty to think upon the freedoms conferred on us and about those who have fought for these rights to apply to all men and women.

"WHATEVER MAY BE SAID AS TO A DIVISION OF DUTIES AND AVOCATIONS, / THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN ARE ONE AND / INSEPARABLE, AND STAND UPON THE SAME INDESTRUCTABLE BASIS." - 1851

Frederick Douglass quote 1851. ©JustHavingFun

Changing Signs

Changing of the times at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Changing of the times at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, © JustHavingFun

“Late Night with David Letterman” departs from Broadway’s Ed Sullivan Theater with the installation of the new sign: “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” I’m sitting at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf store across from the theater enjoying a bran muffin and rich, dark iced (decaf) coffee on a Monday afternoon. Something over there requires the assistance of several men, and involves a man-lift, dangling wires, and a cherry-picker. The work area appears dark though my side of the street is bathed with sunlight. The wires dangle from the underside of the marquis. What my eye detects readily, the camera fails to discern.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert Sign

Efforts taken to change the sign at the Ed Sullivan Theater

Life often has layers we see easily and those that are mired in the shadows. We train ourselves to avoid appearing to avidly eavesdrop, but by the same token, we fail to notice someone’s pain when it is socially uncomfortable. For instance, do you look a grieving person straight in the face? It’s hard.  I carefully watch people in public in hope of obtaining great photos, but I can’t be too overt lest it be construed as prying. I’ve seen great emotion but haven’t always been able to record it–it’s been too personal, even for me. A recent change is that sometimes I’ve asked if the person is OK or posed a question about what’s going on around my subjects. I’ve found that it’s all right to stretch past my comfort level. Most people respond positively. Some engage me further. So much for the stereotype of New Yorkers being tough. Another change?

Different cultures enforce different areas of personal space. It changes depending where you’re at. I’m very American so my space expands to fit me and my group. But what is my group? I often find myself on the subway wanting to join in on conversations I overhear. Sometimes I feel it’s OK to chime in, especially when I have knitting in my hands and sense people have questions. Sometimes an eye-roll and smile completes my silent conversation, like when we hear, “OK folks; it’s showtime,” and the performers start swinging from the poles. Sometimes I do comment. Other times I just carry on a conversation in my head. Is this a sign of something different?

So here I sit, sipping coffee and observing, wondering if the changing sign portends any changes … other than a new show and a new host.

Sitting in the Middle of Traffic

Glowing tulips on a sunny day at Columbus Circle

Glowing tulips on a sunny day at Columbus Circle

The sun shone brilliantly through the tulips and they radiated an ultra-intense color. I basked in the sun on a not-too-hot afternoon. The CNN sign showed 46 °F and there was a gentle breeze. I didn’t need a jacket; it was one of the rare times I sat in the sun to soak up the light. The Traffic hummed, horns blared, taxis whizzed around, and Columbus witnessed it all. That is, the statue of Christopher Columbus, perched atop its 75 foot granite column, anchored the spot.

Sometimes I just like to sit in the middle of traffic. Where better to do so than Columbus Circle? Maybe, like a wheel from its hub, the city radiates from this spot. So many types congregate here, like pigeons in a park.

It’s a great place for people-watching. I’ve seen:
• An African man with a drum, tapping it slowly in no discernable rhythm
• Japanese anti-nuclear protesters, asking people to sign petitions
• Silver-clad “spacemen” strolling through, on their way to Central Park
• Persistent skateboarders, grinding on the statue’s steps, inexpertly
• Ballet dancers, one wearing a tutu and the other tuxedo-clad, dancing their way across
• American (!) tourists led by a red-vested tour guide

Columbus Circle, NYC

Columbus Circle, NYC

A webcam records Columbus Circle night and day. I found it at http://earthcam.com/usa/newyork/columbuscircle//?cam=columbus_circle.

The fountain water wasn’t dancing that day. Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters glittered on the bottom of the pools in the brilliantly sparkling water. Pigeons landed, people chatted on phones, coffees were sipped, eyes looked up. Columbus gazed over his dominion, the gateway to midtown.

Creepy Tunnel Awaits Public Art

Creepy Tunnel at 191st St New vs Old - DNAInfo

Photo credit: DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

I disliked using the 1-Train Uptown because of the tunnel. Until a few months ago, it symbolized the Portal to Hell, how lost souls would gain entrance to the netherworld. But not now.

How it used to be: After exiting the 191st Street Station, the dark, dank, dirty and seemingly-endless long tunnel from the station to Broadway captivated my imagination. I envisioned the helpful city planners and happy artists painting beautiful murals several years ago. But we all suffered the reality of ugly black graffiti, stuck-on posters that someone burned while on the wall, and dirty ineffective lighting fixtures. I even complained about the illumination to the local precinct police. Tunnels don’t bother me; I’m from Pittsburgh, a city replete with tunnels. The specter of violence and/or unsavory occurrences spooked me although regular, law-abiding people traversed it daily. My mind simply worked overtime. I wasn’t scared, just leery (and lazy, weary of walking uphill once I exited on Broadway).

Now: The Department of Transportation replaced the lighting with brilliant and energy efficient LED lights last autumn. That transformed the tunnel. It’s still dank and long, but doesn’t awake my automatic dread response. I wish I had a bike or skates to float along its inviting length. Along with the platform renovations, LEDs make the 191st Street Station a safer and more desirable destination.

Public art waits to happen here. See DNAInfo: City Seeking Artists to Paint Murals for ‘Creepy’ 191st Street Tunnel. I moved to the neighborhood after the “new” mural was already blighted, so I never got to see it in its glory. Curse the taggers and graffiti “artists” who’ve already marred and mauled the tabula rasa of newly painted walls! I, for one, happily await new, creative artwork (not spray paint) that will uplift community spirit and beautify our corner of Washington Heights.

Recycling Power!

Recycling takes used and discarded materials and fashions them into something new.(1) In an affluent society, we’ve become accustomed to identifying “new” as “better.” We are trained to have a disposable mentality. Disposable consumer products abound. Categories include clothing, kitchen, medical devices, and pet care, to name a few.

Recycling bins in the trash roomI took a look at amazon.com for disposable items. I typed “disposable x” in the search bar, varying “x” for each letter of the alphabet. Here are some of the things I came up with, A to Z.

Disposables A to Z  (sort of *)
aprons ice packs plates
bags jumpsuits razors
cameras k-cups slippers
diapers lighters toothbrushes
ear plugs masks underwear
forks needles vests
gloves ovenware wraps
hand towels

* Finding “k” was a stretch, and I didn’t find suitable “x”, “y”, or “z” products.

Recycling has many benefits.

  • Reduces the environmental impact of making products from scratch
  • Conserves of natural resources and raw materials
  • Keeps materials out of landfills prevents toxins from entering the groundwater
  • Uses less energy overall to make new products from available materials (such as recycled aluminum) as opposed to newly mined raw materials
  • Creates jobs for people who collect, manage, and distribute discarded and recycled goods
  • Happy neighbors!

Recycling is also important because it is a communal activity. It is something that can bring people together for a cause. Let’s do our part and recycle!

*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*/-*

(1) Much thanks to  recyclebank.com for providing the intellectual stimulation and inspiration for this post, as well as ideas for some of the lists. Visit them to learn more about recycling, living green, and earn points toward purchases at many retailers. 

Blizzard ’15: Update

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

 

QUIET…

The City was silent last night. But for the sound of salt trucks and snow plows, an unnatural, yet welcome silence blanketed the City. Yes, a blanket. Puffy, white piles of snow mounded on the sidewalks, cars, trees, fences.

But now we’re getting back to “normal,” that is, what is abnormal: the busyness of the City. I hear distant sirens; is it some poor ill soul or a vehicular accident?

Restarting trains and buses, the MTA’s progress seems to be a health report of the City. The transit system is its pulse, its heart, and its medical condition is revealed in the transit schedule.  Right now, there are no buses on Broadway—at least none I can hear—and I usually can hear them.

The baby next door cries and quiets. A few children outside sparkle the air with their amusement. My husband, home from work, makes cooking and washing up noises from the kitchen. It is peaceful. An automobile drives by, its tires sounding slushy. Someone’s shovel scrapes the sidewalk.

This lassitude, this ease, this torpor, this languor, this lethargy, this tranquility, this calm—THIS is what it’s like to live “out of town,” i.e., NOT in New York City. Peacefulness. As much as I like the activity in the City, I miss the quiet of “town,” my type of normal, snowy day.

A snow day is rare. Rarer still is subway shutdown. Is the patient moribund? Or just having a heart transplant? I hope it’s the latter. NYC can do with a change of attitude.  A storm can take her to her knees but won’t take her down all the way. She’ll rise again, a remade entity, and wait for the next challenge thrown her way.

We’re safe, we’re warm, we’re well-fed. We’re grateful and taken care of.

Blizzard ’15: Winter Storm Juno

Is this the view I'll see from my window tomorrow night?

Is this the view I’ll see from my window tomorrow night?

NYC is girding its loins for a blizzard! All the media agree: we are going to be hit with a massive winter storm some time early Tuesday morning.  It’s a little after midnight on Tuesday as I write and the streets are still.  All day snow plows have scraped the streets.  The snow started coming down in the early afternoon but mostly as fits and less as starts.  It is under control out there. We are battened down, waiting.

The MTA has put out a severe service advisory.

Snow View 2-09-13 017

Shopkeepers clear the sidewalks.

New York City Transit
The MTA is committed to the safety of its customers and its employees, and due to the forecast, will be suspending service on all bus, commuter rail and subway service at 11:00 p.m. this evening. All nine MTA Bridge & Tunnel facilities will also close to non-emergency vehicular traffic at that time. If you don’t have to travel between now and later this evening, we urge you to stay home….

Prior to full service suspension, express service on several NYC Transit subway lines will be curtailed to allow subway trains to be stored underground in anticipation of the storm. Bus service will gradually be curtailed. Railroad cars will also be moved to locations to protect them from the storm….

Before suspending all subway service, NYC Transit will store trains underground on express tracks to protect the fleet from the elements and ensure that trains are ready for the next rush period.  As trains are stored underground, only local service will be available and all overnight construction work is canceled.

Wow! This is an admission that we are whipped, that we are brought to our knees in the face of the storm.  I like the image of all the train cars being pushed inside the tunnels, deep in the bedrock of the city. The trains are sleeping inside tonight.  They are being tucked in by kindly old Aunt Juno.

Anticipation of what the next few days hold.

Anticipation of what the next few days hold.

All traffic has been banned from city streets after 11pm. Emergency crews only. Schools are cancelled. Who will be able to report to work tomorrow morning, IF there is work tomorrow morning? I am waiting to hear the jangle of the plows on the streets again as they shave the asphalt. They screech and moan, banshees of the canyons.

I am humbled. A city of 8.5 million trapped, immobilized. Where else but here?

This is a life challenge of a different sort than I usually write about.  It’s a good things I have stores of toilet paper and eggs.  We’re in for a bit of a comeuppance.

Coolest Subway Stations?

Photo credit: Kristine Paulus  - , used under CC BY-NC 2.0

The entrance to Narnia a Hobbit hole? – Photo credit: Kristine Paulus , used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Did you know that the A train’s 181st Street Subway Station (IND) is on the National Register of Historic Places? I wouldn’t have known that had I not seen am New York’s article on the Coolest Subway Stations in NYC. So is the 190th Street Subway Station. Of the eight locales featured, the station entrances on Ft. Washington (181st) and Bennett Avenues (190th) ironically earned their attention in the company of the gleaming new Fulton Center station, where virtually every line converges, and the gleaming Smith-9th Streets station (F & G trains).

“The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation,” states the NRHP website. Four local subway stations became listed in 2005. Including those mentioned above there are the 168th and 181st Street Subway Stations (IRT, 1 train). Renovation is ongoing in these stations (as well as the 191st Street station), restoring the old tile, upgrading the facility, and counterbalancing the lack of modern functionality of the early 19th century designs.

The amNY article only highlighted the station entrances and didn’t distinguish the relative pleasantness or ease of use of the underground facilities, both of which I find lacking at these stations. Still, it’s kind of “cool” to have my local stations called out for their art deco styling (181st) and Narnia-like mystique (190th).

I’ll want to explore this further.  I want to see the petition for adding the 181st Street Station on Ft. Washington (and not its art-deco counterpart at 184th St. and Overlook Terrace) to the NRHP, which is not on the website. What, actually, is registered? The façade? The peeling doors? The vestibule? The concrete entrance fronting the elevators?

We shall see, because there is a mystery to get to the bottom of, and I’m the person to do it.

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