Tuesday, August 18, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

August is a month that is unkind to this city. Summer's heat catches up with us. The air can become a bit stale. The sweet scents of springtime reach a maturity that does not encourage deep inhaling.

Tempers can be short. Hairdos can be twisted and frizzy. Attention spans can be tested.

I live near an intersection in which three heavily trafficked roadways intersect. Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue and West 71 Street. The complex choreography of vehicular and pedestrian motion is directed by various traffic lights. Not all participants follow the directions.

The above photo shows a yellow taxi whooshing through a walkway as some walking workers returning home try to share the space. It is twilight and the soft colors of early evening give a bit of atmosphere to the picture.
Here is another view of the homecoming crew. Just behind them you will see a city bus on its way down Broadway, and just to the left of that bus is one of two little "subway houses" that provide entry to those wishing, or required, to ride the subway trains. The station's below ground train platforms are hot, very, very hot. It is a blessing when the air-conditioned subway train arrives and its door click open.
We New Yorkers pretend to ourselves that we get used to summer in the City. Some of us so wish that we could give the month of August a miss.
I did not have to work today and gave myself a pretty agenda-less day, with only a few errands, and some phone calls to friends, and a bit of reading and needle crafting.
Mid-afternoon, after the midday heat, I went out for a short walk. I returned to find a huge traffic jam at the intersection I showed you. Trucks, cars, firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, pedestrians, bicycling persons. Horns honking. Sirens shrieking. Two police women were valiantly attempting to direct the traffic flow.
Tempers were rising.
What had happened? Was it the subway? Was anyone hurt? We New Yorkers know that bad things can happen.
Well. What had happened was that one of those fast-moving yellow taxis had tried to make an unauthorized left-hand turn from a lane reserved for buses, and had been cut off by other traffic. Having no where to go, the taxi had crashed through the supposedly protective iron fencing around the traffic island and crashed into the subway house.

I am delighted to report that only minor injuries resulted. What concerns me is that we now have proof that those iron fences are no protection to pedestrians about to enter the subway stations.

The above picture shows the yellow police tape that has now blocked off the accident site. In the background is another NYC landmark, Gray's Papaya, purveyor of delicious hot dogs and legendary papaya juice. See the sign proclaiming a Recession Special.

Here is another view of traffic continuing up Amsterdam Avenue.

And another view of folks looking at the site of the accident.

And finally, here is the southern, or downtown, entrance to the subway station. The station remained open for passengers throughout the afternoon excitement. Our city just keeps going.
I know that I will have to continue to take the subway, and will continue to look in all directions before crossing any street. Unless my attention is diverted. Accidents can and do happen.
Best wishes to all.

Friday, August 7, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

What a beautiful summer day is now just about to end. And with another 24 hours, my week off will also be about to end.

I've found the days pass by with a welcome pace, and have found time for what seems so elusive when I am always about to go to the shop, or tired from having been to that shop.

I have had delightful lunches with friends. I have gotten to Central Park several times. I have been to some beautiful galleries and museums. I have gotten my sketch book out and actually sketched and painted.

I have had my ophthalmologist give my glaucoma riddled eyes the healthy okay. I have had my treasure of a stylist bring my hair back to precise bob-dom. Shocking even to me, I have done a bit of apartment cleaning.

Perhaps even more shocking, I have even been taken out to dinner by a charming man, who continues to offer me invitations though I show him little encouragement.

And, today I went to the movies, for the first time making use of my senior citizen discount.

The film that I saw, Julie and Julia, has just opened. One of its stars is Meryl Streep, who normally I do not seek out, even though she is an acclaimed and accomplished actress. Back in the 1970's, she lived not far from me, and I know that she is not a tall person. I really wanted to see how she would portray the legend that was Julia Child.

This film is a depiction of two marriages that are linked by a blog begun by Julie Powell, who very much admired Mrs. Child.

I liked the movie much more than I had expected I would. It took me back to my early days in early apartments, when I began to learn how to cook. Nowadays, I rarely use recipes, except when baking, but back then I regularly referred to several books.

The Joy of Cooking is a very good manual and my copy still has its tattered dust cover.
My aged copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is a brittle-papered paperback. I still use it for many baking recipes around Christmastime.

However, it was when I first became of aware of Julia Child that I discovered that with a bit of time, it was possible to actually prepare classic dishes.

The dust cover for my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is long since gone. There are strange stains on various pages, remnants of meals prepared decades ago.

I used to love experimenting with the book's recipes, and felt so accomplished when something turned out just right. Many of these dishes were prepared for long lost boyfriends. I cannot tell you the last time that I made a souffle, although I do still have several porcelain baking dishes at the ready.
Seeing that film today really did take me back to a time when I still had so much to discover about life. Sitting here now, and thinking about the scenes depicted in the film has got me a bit contemplative. It was lovely to sit in that dark movie theatre, and see the glory of Paris and the more familiar challenges of bringing beauty and civilization to certain more modest NYC neighborhoods.
The director and cinematographer did wonders to make the rather petite Ms. Streep seem to be the very tall Mrs. Child. I will also admit that Ms. Streep did a marvelous job of bringing Mrs. Child back to us. I suspect that kitchens might soon be busy again in many homes.
The film also opened up anew the question of ... why do we write blogs, and for whom do we write them.
Best wishes to all.

Monday, August 3, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

What a delight it is to explore New York with a friend. What a double delight when the exploring takes place in the morning of a day that features blue sky, puffy clouds and a bit of a breeze.

The area of New York that I explored is called the High Line. It has been created on a formerly derelict span of elevated rail line very near the Hudson River, on the western boundary of our fantastic city. The architects, engineers, and gardeners that have worked on this project should be very, very proud of their achievement. It is new, yet seems to be in harmony with all the neighborhood scenes that one can view from its three/four-story height. One can see the river, and watch boats and ships pass by. One can see and remark upon the various trees, shrubs, wildflowers, not so wild flowers and grasses that have been planted along this walk way.

The walkway itself is done in planks that are reminiscent of seaside boardwalks, and have a north-south orientation that echos the original railway direction.

We have had a very wet June and July in New York, and many of the plants are quite overgrown and blowzy. They are sculptural and crazy, and grab your attention. Little children love to run back and forth along this walkway, and to see their city from very different angles.

There are many buildings along the Hudson Riverside that are dramatic. There are others that show no particular attention from architects, yet are still interesting in the mix.

Along the walk, one comes upon clever benches upon which to sit. These benches also have a design that derives from rails. Some manage to be in shady spots, although most of the walk is in brilliant open air.
The juxtaposition of being above the city, and yet in the city, is fascinating. Scale constantly shifts. Savvy advertisers know where to post a poster or two.

Between the location of the High Line and the Hudson River is another area where many warehouses still function as warehouses, but many now function as either art galleries or very, very expensive housing.

At one point, the original rail line ran straight into a building. (There was an entrance to that building that allowed trains to unload their freight right into the building.) And, in a witty homage to that original notion, the High Line also dives straight through a building, treating it like a covered bridge. This gives a welcome bit of deep shadow, and opportunity to sit with one's laptop, and contemplate distant views of New Jersey across the river.

Back out in the sunshine, the pathway decides to duck under, yes under, a modern hotel that straddles the High Line on what must be very strong pillars.

At this point, the length of this spectacular walk is less than a mile. It will be extended. I so look forward to returning to see this route in late afternoon, early evening, and as the seasons change.
May I extend huge thanks to fabulous Elizabeth , for introducing me to this wonderful addition to our city. Any readers who have not already done so are very much encouraged to visit any of Elizabeth's blogs. Her photos are much, much better than mine.
Sweet dreams to all.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.
About this time yesterday, I returned home from the shop relieved that I had commenced my week of vacation. Seven sequential days off. Last spring I was also able to have that sort of break and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was such a pleasure to go to sleep knowing that I would not have to hear the alarm clock's beep on Sunday morning.

Surprises were in store. Around 1:30 am, the sirens of four arriving fire trucks woke me. I do live in a big city, and we are very glad to have various siren-equipped vehicles available on call, each vehicle carrying well-trained professionals. This is our urban village. In the middle of the night it is wonderful to know that a response to an alarm will be quick.

And so, wide awake as I realized that more than one fire truck had stopped somewhere near my apartment building, I wandered over to the window to see what was the matter. (Do you all hear a bit of Twas the Night Before Christmas?) I did indeed see at least three fire trucks and at least five firemen getting out of some of those trucks and entering my building. Smoke? I did not smell it. I sort of took my place at the window, parting the shades, and tried to gauge the engagement of the various firemen. It really seemed that this was not a major emergency, and yet, I did wait to see that encouraging moment when the firemen climbed back onto their trucks and slammed those doors shut, and relaxed to see all the trucks depart.

I went back to sleep.

Not long before 5 am, I was again roused from my usual very deep sleep by the ringing of my telephone. Again, I got up and answered the phone to hear the welcome, even at that hour, voice of a dear London friend. We have known each other for years, yet she still has trouble really, really focusing on the difference in our time zones. All the same, it was great to have this call, and to get caught up with each other. She berates me for working too hard, and for not having been to London in far too many years. We laughed a lot, and eventually I did hang up that phone, and ... got back to sleep.

If I had needed to be up early and ready for work today, those night time surprises would have been trouble. How wonderful to realize, when my eyes next opened, that I did not have to go to work.

Even horrid weather was not a downer. I got laundry and grocery shopping done well before today's series of thunder storms arrived. My building doorman filled me in on the fire brigade visit. Apparently, some tenant on the eleventh floor had sent something that was still alight down the chute of the trash compactor. The lit whatever had extinguished itself prior to the arrival of the valiant firemen, and only smoke remained as evidence. All the same, how good to know that the situation was checked out.

Once all that was sorted out, and the Sunday paper read, and lunch eaten...I took out my pencils, paints, brushes and paper, and...

I did a few pencil doodles, and then, painted this little water color that I will cut out tomorrow and mail out as a birthday card for someone who was once an August baby.
It was so much fun just to play about with the paints, and dot and blot and dot again.
It has been an age since I actually got round to even this level of painting. I am hoping that the next six days will lead me further along the path. Even a giant thunderstorm can be a welcome catalyst.
Best wishes to all for dream-filled sleep.