Sunday, July 5, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

I am writing on July 5, but am still thinking about July 4.

July 4 is our national holiday, and it is a day on which we celebrate our independence. There are speeches, songs, parades, visits to beaches and shopping. Most employed people have the day off. Some folks have employment that helps others in their celebrations and those folks work on July 4.

This year many people will celebrate their good fortune in being employed.

Yesterday was a day with glorious weather, a perfect day leading to a grand night for fireworks. Macy's, a huge New York department store, sponsors an annual fireworks display on the evening of July 4. Generally, these displays are launched from barges afloat in the East River, near the eastern tip of Manhattan.

Generally, since I live on the west side of the city, this means that it's way too much hassle to cross the island to watch the sky. I sometimes have watched the display on television.

This year was different. We are commemorating Henry Hudson, and the Hudson River, named for Mr. Hudson. This river is on the western edge of Manhattan, and very close to where I live. This year, Macy's decided to float its barges in the Hudson.

After supper last evening, I thought that I would not be lazily unobservant of the Hudson commemoration. I went to view the fireworks.

It was a quick walk over to the West Side highway, which had been closed to vehicular traffic. Hundreds, if not thousands of folks were already beginning to gather along the two north/south miles of the highway that had been touted as prime viewing locations.

The above photo shows a police vantage point that I passed by to reach the highway. Post 9/11, we often see such safety points. I heard fellow parade goers wondering if there were sharp-shooters within that perch. I just kept walking and thinking positive thoughts.

I thought I would take a few photos to show you the behemoth apartment buildings that entrepreneur Donald Trump has built within the past few years along the riverside.

The buildings are not architectural achievements, but they are very high-priced, and have blocked the river views of many people who have lived in my neighborhood for many years.

I continued to walk southward, and found that the crowds were not so dense as I might have expected. Perhaps the heavy crowding was focused in the mid-town areas. I was glad to not be too crowded. Lots of police men and women were stationed along the highway. Lots of family groups were gathered.

The sun began to set over the west side of the river. This photo shows the "New Jersey coast." It also shows how blurry my photos began to be. I did not put my glasses on, and just clicked away.
Finally, around 9:30, the show began. There were five barges that set off identical blasts. The choreography of the shapes, colors, designs and general ferocity of the fireworks was spectacular and often downright artistic.

At first I did not notice much noise or much gunpowder scent or smoke.

As the show progressed, the barges continued to fire off the jets of light that zoomed high into the air before creating their beautiful afterglow.

I began to realize that my camera technique was not quick enough to capture what I was seeing and so I tried to anticipate the next stage of a particular burst. Sometimes I was more successful than other times!

It was amusing to hear the loud ooohs and ahhhhs of the sophisticated New Yorkers gathered on the highway. We can be very innocent in our reactions to unexpected delights.

I like the above picture even with the shakiness of the focus.

Ooooh! Ahhhhh!


After a while, I just put my camera away, so that I could really enjoy the panorama in front of me. The show ended with a truly spectacularly loud and flashy burst of multi-color abstraction.
And then the sky was quiet. We all strolled back along the route we had taken to see the show.
I was home in no time, having seen some wonderful city views.
Even so, I still return to my country dreams.


  1. Thank you for sharing your Independence Day outing with us, Frances. I love the crowd shots - I'm a people watcher, even on blogs!
    You regret your photographic technique, but I find it imparts a feeling of the moment to your photos - especially the one taken from behind the people watching the sky.
    The smell and the sound of the fireworks - you captured it all beautifully!

  2. I so want to come to New York and one day I will! New York should hire you as their spokeswoman for tourism and all things New York!

    The firework pics are awesome.. The Trump buildings are massive.. Obviously there aren't any city ordinances regarding structural height, what a shame.. Some cities won't allow buildings to be built if they are going to block out the views. Still I will come there one day. I would love to take my family into that big toy store they have there. Is it Swartz? Have you been? Those would be some awesome pics.. Just toys.. Lol..

    I'm glad you enjoyed your 4th.. So awesome...

  3. Thanks for taking us along with you, I imagine that the spectacle would be all the more beautiful reflected in the water. Just as you have country dreams, there are those of us who dream of city life!

    I see that you got home in time to post another mug for Monday. Those Penguin mugs are so nice.

  4. Happy 4th of July!
    I did a teeny tiny 4th of July celebration at home, of course it is not the same as celebrating it in the States, so I am thrilled that I got to celebrate it right here on your blog! thank you!

  5. What a wonderful event, and the more so by sharing your photos. You really have caught the atmosphere of the fireworks, the excitement. Super!

  6. Dear Frances

    I particularly liked the blurry shots - somehow they seemed to capture the fleeting essence of fireworks.


  7. Thank you for that dear Frances - and belated Happy 4th of July from the UK, the old oppressors!

  8. Sounds like a spectacular display - I too like your 'action' shots - they give the impression of movement and scintillation.

    Oooohs and Ahhs are an essentil part of any firework display - it's good we can still be awed by pretty lights - no matter how sophisticated we pretend to be.

  9. Love the firework shots. I always want to take photos on 5th November, Guy Fawkes day here, but it's always too wet. Last year I watched the fireworks and helped to push cars out of the mud-bath the parking field had turned into. Happy belated 4th July!

  10. Thank you for sharing that with us Frances. There is nothing better than a good fireworks display - but, as you say, at a certain point you need to put the camera away and just enjoy it all and take it all in with the naked eye.

    I love my country life, but I miss the urban scene too sometimes. Thanks for giving me a feel of it again! I am thinking of the friends I have currently living in NY and wondering if they were there in the crowds with you...

    Feel for the people who've had their view blocked by Mr Trump. I'd be livid.

  11. Frances, what a delightful post! Brought back so many happy and fond memories of when I lived in America. Happy though I am to live where I do now, I miss America deeply. The firework displays I recall as phenomenal, and your photographs make me so happy on this bleak, rain~soaked Welsh afternoon. You did well, though, to put down your camera, for so often the person taking the photographs misses all the fun in concentrating on the shots! Lovely, lovely post, and thank you so much for sharing!

  12. I'm so glad you went out for that walk rather than staying at home. Your post beautifully conveys the underlying tensions behind the celebrations; Babel towers, the spectre of unemployment, fear of terrorism... and yet people still congregate to share the childlike wonder of watching fireworks fill the night sky. A real portrait of a city.

  13. I love your photographs. They give a real feel of the moment. Over the couple of years I have been reading your blogs, you have totally changed my rather sterotypical view of life in New York.

  14. Hello Frances,
    Lovely photographs for us all to enjoy. The fireworks look wonderful and of course something every age can join together for, and just enjoy the moment.
    Nice to read about your Independence Day.

  15. Super pictures Frances along with eloquent words. There is something somehow innocent in the oohing and ahhing at bright lights and bangs. Just for a moment we are taken out of our own world and away from troubles to the spectacle and brouhaha of flashes and bangs. You captured it all perfectly.

  16. I love when you blog about festivities in the city, Frances. I have been there for many, but it makes me feel close to my NY cousins, who no doubt enjoyed the display. I can just smell and hear the fireworks, and the photos are great. Thanks.

  17. I like the blurry shot too, Frances. I watched the fireworks out over and across the bay here, nothing near as spectacular as your display, but that's ok. And I sat alone on the deck wearing my slippers, which was ok too. Time for reflecting perhaps. But I'm so pleased to read your vivid descriptions here. You have a way with words. I like how you end with a mug, back in your apartment. Just a very, very lovely post here. Thank you Frances.

  18. Frances, I know I keep saying this but I just love reading your posts about NYC because I can imagine it all now I have been! The sights, the smells... good on you for going to the fireworks. Bet it was fabulous :-)

  19. Wow, indeed. Some great shots here Frances. Enlarged and framed they might do well. The fireworks look almost as good as the ones we had last night at the Purple Coo party.
    We even finished by playing Frank Sinatra and New York, New York!

  20. Wow what great firework pictures...thanks for sharing. You asked about the weather in Belfast, Maine in the is FRIGID, sometimes as low as -30F in the daytime..REALLY, this last winter we had a lot of snow (4 feet high sometimes!) on the ground from mid-Nov 'til early April and now it is raining, raining, raining and has been for, I kid you not, weeks!! It should be renamed Precipitation Capital of the World!! Hope it's drier in NY!! BTW thanks for visiting my blog again...always glad to see you there!! Patricia

  21. A little "coucou"to say you hallo after a little time..
    Beautifull fireworks and fantastic city as always!!

  22. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

    Merci beaucoup,


  23. The fireworks must have been amazing Frances. I came by to say thank you for visiting me and leaving a comment. I do hope you will share some of your embriodery on the blog?

    Hugs ~

  24. This was fun watching the 4th of July in New York with you. I really love New York and try to make a visit every year or so, we usually stay around 80th and Broadway as we like that area a lot. Your photo had much spontaneity and were great.

  25. Glorious as always Frances, and once again you bring us with you around NY. Love the pictures, could smell the cordite, and wish you a happy belated 4th!

    Have put a piece re Mme P on the comment list of my blog for you! She sends you royal mious and a few tail sweeps.

  26. Gorgeous pics, Frances, you have really captured the wow of the fireworks, not an easy thing to do.
    Love the mugs in the previous blog - and your HE Bates one here, I have the Nancy Mitford 'Love in a Cold Climate' one, I think of it as my writing mug - it's meant to give me inspiration as I sip my tea (milk in last, of course)!

  27. Lovely to read about Independence Day Frances, and such brilliant pictures you took of those fireworks.

    Love the china Mug, I have one similar with The Reader - V. Woolf.