Sunday, March 29, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Isn't it pleasant to have golden sunshine and bright blue sky greet you on a day off from work?
I love to wake up without aid of an alarm clock and find early morning light encouraging me to get up quickly and prepare to enjoy the hours ahead.

Today was a day off. I woke without aid of my alarm clock, to find very dim light. Then my ears picked up the sound of several cars passing by on the street outside my bedroom window. The whooshing sound told me that the street was wet. So I was not to have any golden sunshine or bright blue sky.

I got up anyway, and went over to take a better peek through my window, and saw that we had a misty, foggy morning. I love that atmosphere, and think that this city's architecture often looks its best under this filter.

The weather definitely encouraged me to a slower beginning to my day. I am lucky to have the Sunday New York Times newspaper delivered to my doorway. No need to get my feet wet in order to have access to the relaxing treat of reading the news, listening to the radio, and enjoying a simple breakfast of coffee and croissant, with marmalade.

I called one of my brothers and had a long catch up call with him. Also very relaxing.

Several projects were listed on a tiny square of paper that I had left near my keys. I had made the list yesterday, before I knew of the lure of staying indoors today. I began the charming chore of defrosting my aged refrigerator, I balanced my checkbook and bundled up some papers to be re-cycled.

And then I noticed that the light was changing, and that I could venture out without an umbrella.

I took the bus across the Park to return a book at the library, noticing that the very soggy green Park was finally showing brilliant yellow forsythia highlights. From the bus window, I glimpsed a few scattered early daffodils. While on the east side, I popped in to see some dear pals who were working today.

Feeling lazy, I opted for the bus for my return trip to my lovely west side, and then continued walking along to take care of a few errands, including stopping at a neighborhood green market. That is where I treated myself to this primrose.

Primulas always are so sprightly. Who can see one and not smile?

It's just about sundown time here, and once again the city is cloaked by that gentle dim light.

Later tonight, I will definitely need to set my alarm clock, to ensure an early start to Monday. Much has been going on at the shop. We hosted our semi-annual special event last week, donating ten percent of our proceeds to a philanthropy. The turnout was fabulous, particularly in light of the continuing economic uncertainty.

There are some other interesting developments underway at the shop that I hope to write about at a later date. Please forgive me for being a tease. For now I will keep these developments confidential.

Wishing you all sweet dreams.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York.

This St. Patrick's Day has been granted glorious late winter weather and I have walked across Central Park to view the traditional parade. The parade begins down in mid-town, but it is so much more pleasant to watch the marchers and musicians, and even the other watchers from the Park side of Fifth Avenue.

I took lots of photos.

Here are some bagpipers.

Here are some ladies whose contingent was a bit quieter.

More pipers quickly appeared.

I love these huge banners. It often takes quite a few folks, generally men, to keep them up and moving along.

This is a day that brings out head gear that rivals that worn on Easter.

Not all the marchers were from the United States or Ireland.

These serenading gentlemen came all the way from Spain.

Back to traditional marchers.

There were many, many firefighters marching today. The Mayor marched along with them. Then, he must have retraced his steps so that he could also march along with the police. I thought that the flags were beautiful.

This little fellow was a bit chilly when the warming sun began to drift to the west.

I think that these two were about to trade telephone numbers.

These boys accompanied their parents to the parade, but weren't really that interested.

Something about this young lady reminds me of Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

Now here is a frothy hat.

In this family, only dad held out against going green.

More head gear.

Here is a little princess with her favorite doll.

Chairs reserved for children, who have decided to stand a while and stretch their legs.

What a pretty smile on this very young lady.

More head gear, and a beautiful tartan.

Sorry that I shot this facing the sun, I wanted to catch the Kilkenny banner.

Perfect extensions for this day only.

There once was a banner from ....

Little sisters telling each other secrets.

More headgear.

Please also take note that these very well dressed horses are wearing green stockings.

I like the decorated drums as much as the large banners.

This little girl got lots of attention.

I saw many feather boas this afternoon, and many little errant green feathers along the sidewalk.

Someone made this hat with lots of care. The gentleman wears it well. On the left, you can see the edge of the very beautiful Frick Museum.

Another painted drum, and a gentleman who knows how to play.

Isn't she sweet in her tartan?

This little boy seemed to enjoy playing around with his plastic derby.

Good looking sweaters and kilts, and beautiful music, too.

Here is another majestic group of marchers.

These fellows were just too cool and required a photograph.

This little girl was enduring her tinsel antennae.

The parade goes on and on ... perhaps close to five hours. You all might now feel the same about this post!
I did not stay for the entire parade, but had a nice stroll back across Central Park, passing by beautiful Bethesda Fountain. You can see the lake and, just barely, the boat house in the background. When spring arrives, the Fountain's water will be turned back on.

At the edge of another part of the Lake, I saw lots of patches of these little white flowers. I am too ignorant to know what they are, but think that they are beautiful.

I hope that I have given you a taste of today's parade, and that each of you will some day be able to see it for yourself.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

Tonight is the night that we are commanded to re-set our clocks. Daylight savings time will begin. I will doubly re-set my clock, since tomorrow is the day that I will return to work. Meanwhile, I will try to stretch this day to its limits.

Spring is toying with us today in New York. The warm temperature has already melted any traces of last week's snow, and by early afternoon we are promised a high around 65 degrees F. Wise readers can do the C conversion.

Yesterday was still a bit on the cool side, and I had the huge pleasure of spending the morning with a friend from my childhood and her husband, who were visiting from out of town. I was so lucky to have the day off, and to be able to join them for a tour of that remarkable Bonnard exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed by a leisurely and very chatty lunch.

Isn't it grand to reunite with friends after a long, long time, and find that you just pick up where you left off? That is exactly what I felt happened yesterday.

After reluctantly saying bye bye to my pals, I walked back across the Park, dodging the puddles that were accumulating as the snowy, icy edges of the meandering pathways melted. It was funny to see various red and yellow signs warning of icy situations on steps, and advising folks not to try to walk across the lake. The ducks who winter near the banks of the lake seemed very happy to have their waterworld back.

I will share a view across the lake with the towers of Central Park South in the distance. You can see how grey a day can be hereabouts.

Even so, this vista seems tranquil to me. No sounds of cars. Not too many sounds of people, either. Mainly just some bird chirps, and some squirrel scurrying. In another few weeks, if the weather gods favor us, the trees will begin to have that faint new leaf green haze and then ... leafing will really get underway.

I did see one forsythia bush in its startling yellow blaze. Just one. Its spot must be very sheltered and must catch lots of sun ... on a sunny day.

What were in bloom along many banks were snowdrops. I thought that you all might like to see some New York snowdrops. I cannot tell you which variety these might be.

Whatever their proper name, I just find them charming.

Back home again, I did manage to get out my sketchbook and did several drawings of the primulas I bought last week. It is a testimony to the posies' strength that so far they are surviving the testing environment that this apartment provides. I love drawing flowers while really, really examining them, and thereby truly learning how their petals are shaped, how those petals meet in the middle, how the flowers meet the stems, how a leaf meets the stem and the flower. It is a way to truly appreciate the grace that nature brings us.

It's fun to do some really careful drawings (not quite up to botanical studies ... not at all) and then to do other drawings that are looser, but still capture the character of that particular plant. Maybe I was drawing under the influence of seeing those Bonnard paintings at the Met.

Having explored primulas with eye and pencil, later yesterday afternoon I got out my watercolors and did a very improvised birthday card for my uncle. I always like to make cards, rather than buy them ... if time permits. This card was a jumble of watercolor and rubber stamping. I had no idea where the design was going, but the result did please me. Sort of crazy, but with a vaguely vintage look. I think that it will make my uncle smile.

Let's see, what else has been created around here. I finished the granny square afghan and think that I got the color distribution right. Even though I thought that project would use up lots of my leftover yarn, I find that there is still plenty, plenty of yarn in various baskets and bags.

And so I do near the time for that clock reset. Still have groceries to buy, a bit more housecleaning to do. Definitely plan to get that sketchbook out one more time this afternoon.

Hoping everyone will have a fine weekend.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

How is it that my week of seven vacation days is more than half over? Once I begin to relax, and do what I want at a pace that I choose, the hours really do seem to move much more quickly on any clock in the house. This manifestation of the rules of physics will be given an additional push this Saturday/Sunday night when we folks in the States will be commanded to Spring forward. We will lose an hour's sleep.

I intend to get lots of hours of sleep stored up between now and then. Waking up on Sunday and motivating downtown to the shop should be easy. Ah, but that is a few days off.

Since I am not leaving my home town (big city) during this week off, I did want to treat myself to something extravagant. Today, I chose to take an early afternoon subway ride down to Times Square, and see if I might snag a ticket for a matinee performance of the revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. The play is currently in previews ... unfortunately ticket prices are not reduced during this final trial run. But ... the tickets are available to the last minute fan like myself.

So, I handed over my credit card to the rather flustered man in the ticket office, and got my admission card to a fine seat in the orchestra (stalls) seats.

I have always been a Noel Coward fan, but have never before seen this play as a play, though I know that I did see the film.

Drawing me to this afternoon at the Shubert Theatre was another chance to see the truly marvelous Angela Lansbury. On one of my very first visits to New York (I was still in school) I saw Ms Lansbury in the original Broadway production of Mame, and have quite enjoyed her performances in various media since then. Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Manchurian Candidate, and even her long-running whimsical tv series as amateur detective Jessica Fletcher.
Today's cast also include Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole, and Simon Jones (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe) and others.
I love seeing revivals. It is fun to see how the wit holds up, how the modern director decides to honor the past, and usually one can count on the play being a well-crafted survivor.
I did quite enjoy this afternoon's performance, even it the critic who lives inside my head definitely notices a few technical glitches and a few flubbed ... but quickly recovered lines. If I were lucky enough to have access to the director, Michael Blakemore, I would also give him a few tips on getting some of the cast to be a bit warmer towards each other. I had the sense of some of them being a bit too much on their own individual spot of the turf.
Still. How lovely it is to live in this city, amongst all its challenges and problems to be solved, and still ... on a free Wednesday, to suddenly decide to go to see a fine bit of theatre, and to be able to be sitting in a fantastic seat an hour later.
I did take along a package of cough drops, and by repeatedly unwrapping a lozenge and popping it into my mouth, managed to keep my recovery from my cold to myself. I am a well-mannered audience member who loves to applaud the cast at the final curtain.
Sweet dreams to all.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.
Today was the first day of my seven days of vacation, or holiday time. I am delighted that the bad cold that gripped me for the past couple of weeks does seem to have pretty much drifted into history. So...I will be able to enjoy these days of freedom. I am going to try to not give the shop another thought, although this will be difficult for me.
I knew that I would be enjoying this week on a budget, courtesy of the financial crisis which has not drifted away like my cold. In the deepest part of my soul/brain, where I hold my fears, I do fear that the financial recovery will take a long, long time, and think that all my decades of financial planning for my old age have been thrown out the window. Realizing that others are in even worse shape that I am does not really calm me.
Yet, I won't let those worries mess with my time off.
The major news of today is once again courtesy of Mother Nature. We might actually have an overnight snowstorm here in New York. So far we have been graced with dainty snows that really didn't even produce proper slush.
Tonight may offer the real thing.
And so, after a slow, relaxing start to my morning, with real breakfast and the Sunday New York Times, I ventured out to obtain the tradition item required for impending snow, or hurricane. The fresh quart of milk.
Once that was taken care of, I took a bus across the Park to the wonderful little library that provides me with all sorts of reading treats. I needed to return my copy of The White Tiger, having finally finished that novel. Rather than checking out another new book, I decided to venture into the many layers of Stacks. It is such fun to roam freely through these shelves, with a list in hand, but also being prepared to be sidelined by a sighting of a book you never saw before, or a book that you always hoped to see.
Today's official mission was to find Emma Smith's The Great Western Beach. Found it. Then back into the funny little cage of an elevator to explore some other stack levels. Found 84, Charing Cross Road, which inexplicably, I have never read. Back into the cage for another ride.
And that was where I found a real gem, a 1986 large print re-publication of the original 1942 collaboration of author H.E. Bates and illustrator C.F. Tunnicliffe, In the Heart of the Country. It is an amazing book, very much reflecting the war in the countryside, but beautifully championing the strength of the countryside.
For this dreamer, the book will be a delight to savor.

Then leaving the library, I caught a west bound bus to take me back across the Park, and on my walk back home down Amsterdam Avenue, stopped into a tiny flower shop to pick up some paintbox primroses to cheer up my apartment, as the snow watch commences.

I so hope that the predicted 12 inches of snow does accumulate. If so, I will be out early with my camera, and will be back here soon with some urban snow scenes.

Meanwhile, I wish you all sweet dreams as this brand new month begins.