Wednesday, December 29, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

About midday on Sunday, December 26, known to some as Boxing Day, snow began to fall in New York City. It continued overnight and into Monday morning. This snow was a true blizzard, with lots of wind and some thunder and lightning, too. Quite a show.

I was working on Sunday, and was relieved to be granted permission to have the shop close a bit early. We had shoveled the sidewalk and entrance way leading to the shop several times during the afternoon, but our efforts were quickly covered by those energetic flakes.

All of us who were working on Sunday were fortunate to have access to public transportation in the form of our underground subway trains. I had an easy time getting home, and was so glad to be indoors as the storm really got going.

I woke several times during the night to peek out my front window and was amazed that wind was so strong, bending the trees along the street, and swirling the snow to create a curtain blocking a northern view past the brownstone houses just across the street. Remarkable. The occasional thunder surprised me every time.

Morning arrived. The light was that unusual glow of snowy ground cover mixing with falling snow, and muted sunlight shining from way above the clouds.

The following picture shows the view from my bathroom window, where my fledgling paperwhite bulbs were backed by a drift of snow on the other side of the glass. I thought that drift made a strange little miniature landscape.

Gradually the snow began to lighten, and once again I could see past the buildings across the street, as my usual uptown view returned.

Ah, but below the rooftops the view was very changed. The brownstone's front steps were smoothly covered. No one had entered or left that building overnight. The little garbage cans to the left of the steps were covered with their polka dots of snow. It was clear that at least one New York City snow plough had scraped some snow from the actual street, but not many vehicles were brave enough to venture down the block.

Here is another photo of the same view that indicates just how quiet and still and even was that snow.

That tranquility would have been lovely to have enjoyed from inside my apartment. The snow was about 18 inches deep, deeper in places.
I had to go to work. The option of keeping the shop closed was not available. Again, those of us scheduled to work on Monday were fortunate to have access to public transport that was functioning. Many of the City's bus and subway and railroad lines were not functioning. The wind was still very strong, and as I walked down my street (in the street) I was lucky not to find myself blown over.
It was strange being at work on such a quiet day. The downtown neighborhood of the shop is normally filled with tourists and really buzzing. This was not true on Monday, but we did have some business.
Again, we had to shovel out the sidewalk and entrance way. It's the law!
Again, we were fortunate in being granted permission to close the shop early.

When I slipped and slid my way to the subway for the ride home, I saw something I have never seen in all my years in New York. There was actually an accumulation of snow along the platform where we travelers wait for the next arriving train. The snow had be able to force its way underground through the grating in the street above.
The following photo documents this. It is not a pretty picture, but shows how commuters had tramped down a passageway that would align with a doorway to an arriving train. In the background you can perhaps see a train stalled in the station, with an Out of Service light in the space that would usually indicate its destination.

Once again, it was relatively easy to get home. And again on Tuesday, I was scheduled to work. Again, all staff scheduled for Tuesday got to work.
Signs of normalcy began to reassert themselves around the neighborhood. Various delivery services were again able to make their deliveries. The City's Sanitation Department had cancelled garbage collection services until more of the snow had been dealt with. City sanitation trucks have snow ploughs attached to them and are used to clear the streets. There are many, many streets to clear.
Our shop makes use of a private garbage collection company, and a representative of that company informed me that they were resuming service...if we could provide them access to the actual curb location usually used to stow the garbage on collection nights.
Well. The City snow ploughing had created curbside drifts that were about four feet tall. I am not a large person, but I do have inner strength, and so, I shoveled snow for about three hours yesterday to create an opening in the snow drifts that we could use for our required garbage collection.
As I was working on this channel, I realized that it was also useful for tourists who wished to cross to the popular restaurant opposite our location. A few said thank you in various languages. One, repeat one, polite man asked if he could help me. I declined.

By the time I got home I was pretty tired, and little sore. I stopped by my neighborhood pharmacy to ask the wise pharmacist what he recommended for someone who had my symptoms. He made a wise recommendation.
I was asleep earlier than usual, and woke up with very minor aches. This was a day off! I was able to get all today's errands done.

The magical glow of our blizzard has now been transformed to the inevitable slushy aftermath.
I offer you all a few photos of today's view from that same apartment window.

You can see the sidewalks are clear, the street is pretty clear, and those curbside drifts are still formidable.

The staff of the large building across the street has kindly cut a channel through the ice-coated drift to allow access to the street. Their channel is larger than mine, but strong men created their channel!

I am delighted to be indoors with warm, dry feet. It's grand to have a hot cup of tea. One little tablet from that Advil bottle seems to have been all it took for my muscles to recover overnight.
The new issue of The New Yorker magazine has arrived with a funny cover reminding us that it's just about time to say...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York, and a very Happy Christmas to all.

I have been hoping to get a better photo of one of the Christmas teacup cards I have been painting for weeks now, but...this one will have to serve.

This 2010 has been quite a year, full of surprises, some of which were wonderful. Amongst those joys has been the pleasure of getting acquainted with so many interesting folks from all over the world. I imagine that next year will increase this wonder.

Meanwhile, may you all know just how special you are to me, and may you find that this Christmas creates the magic that only this season can provide.

May your dreams be filled with sugar plums!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Do you all know that tune, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and in particular, perhaps, Bruce Springsteen's recording? Please do think of it as you continue reading.

I return to work tomorrow, after two weeks' off, during which I have had a wonderful vacation in my home city. It is a wonderful time of year hereabouts.

Early this afternoon, I walked over to the subway station, in order to travel downtown to take care of a few of my own Santa Claus projects.

And. What did I see but a scattering of folks wearing either Santa or elf outfits hanging out around the subway station. I was so glad to have my camera with me.

I could tell that I was not the only person puzzled by this collection of cheery young folks dressed mostly in red. If we were in a cartoon, we would all have had balloons containing question marks over our heads.

As I looked towards Central Park I must have seen hundreds of Santas heading my way, or rather heading for the subway station. Hundreds! It was wonderful!

By this time some information was beginning to spread, and it turned out that this mass Santa event has been launched around this time of year for a few years. The idea is to dress up, meet up in Central Park, sing some Christmas tunes, and then sort of head out into other parts of New York, generally spreading cheer.

Some Santas went for the patriotic look, some for the romantic, some for the downright funny or even sexy.

It was hilarious to see these hundreds, yes hundreds, of Santa folks entering the subway, waiting for subway trains. Definitely not an ordinary pre-holiday Saturday.

These smart young Santas all seemed to have a Metrocard in a handy pocket to allow them quick entry through the turnstiles.

And, they were very gracious in allowing mere fellow travelers to enter the station and catch the next train.

This was such unexpected seasonal fun. On my subway car, an ad hoc Santa sing along commenced, not always on key, trying its best to remember each and every line to The Twelve Days of Christmas. They were best at Five Golden Rings.
And they got to the last line of the song just as that express train arrived at Times Square, and all the assembled Santas dispersed to spread some fun around town.
This is an example of why I do so love New York.
Best wishes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Since I last wrote here, there has been a remarkable change in our weather. The calendar still tells us that it is autumn, but the temperature insists that it is winter. If the marathon race had been run today, those runners would have been dealing with stiff winds and almost freezing air.

Not good for runners, but excellent for the fir trees that have now appeared along the sidewalks. These evergreens appeared the Friday after Thanksgiving and give a wonderful scent and softening atmosphere to the blocks where they are available.

Just don't try to buy one of these beauties though, unless you have got lots of cash in your pockets. They come in many sizes, from three feet tall to well over seven feet. Delivery to your apartment can also be done for a negotiated fee.

I have been off from work for the past week and have been spending lots of time completing many Christmas gifts, and painting my cards. In a week or so, I may show you some of these creations. Meanwhile, I will show you some of the decorations I've recently seen on my quick trips around town. Once upon a time, there were many fine, large shops around New York that took great pride in creating unusual and beautiful holiday window displays.

Times have changed. Many of these stores no longer are in business, and those remaining have obviously been trying to keep up their window decorating standards, even though the economy continues to be challenging.

The above photo and the next few photos are of windows at Lord & Taylor, which try to show some retro New York Christmas interiors. They do call forth some nostalgia for times long gone. They are all right, but not breath-taking.

The following example shows a cookie baking session in a New York kitchen. The miniature bits and pieces are cute, but the tableau falls a bit flat. Note the dog on the floor.

Moving about ten blocks uptown to Rockefeller Center, I took this picture of the giant tree that is set up just above the skating rink. The lights were turned on at dusk on the following day, as heavy rain fell. The tree really is a classic shape, isn't it?

Moving on up the Avenue, I passed by Fendi, and thought its lighting scrim across the front of the store front was lovely. The lights are in motion, and give the impression of dripping ice cycles. Simple, elegant.

I'd planned a few photos of Tiffany's little jewel box windows, but they were done in white on white themes that just did not translate well into my photography skills.

And so, I turned toward the bright blue sky above the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, and offer you all this picture of the crystal snowflake suspended over that trendy crossroad. The building in the background is the Bergdorf Goodman store, with a be-ribboned wreath in each of the upper floors' windows.

I drew closer to BG to try to take some photos of their amazing windows. This year's theme seems to be "wish you were here," with dreamy travel motifs. Or perhaps day dreams.

Once again, my camera and I were defeated by the brilliant sunlight and the glass reflections. Still, you might be able to separate the planes and see a bit of what I saw.

I will try to get back over to this location on a more overcast day with hopes of better resulting pictures.

Still, I do love the following shot of the leopard coated lady taking a look at a fantasy display.

Some of the BG windows made use of paper sculptures, and stage settings made up of blown up enlargements of maps, clock faces, and celestial chartings.

Some of the props used in the windows are great little sculptures.

This mannequin's hairdo was made from peacock feathers.

This vessel was created from pleated papers.

Each of the displays conveys a sort of sophisticated jolliness.

I don't think that selling the merchandise that's featured is actually the main idea. It more showing elegance.

And so, I will leave those shop windows and take you all indoor again, so that you may shed your hat, coat and gloves, and enjoy the warmth of today's annual open house at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Many noted personalities were there.

It was possible to acquire balloons sculpted into the shape of your choice. Hat, flower, or the choice of many young boys ... swords.

A beautiful tree, a little smaller than that at Rockefeller Center, graced the entry hall.

And just in front of that tree was a bandstand, on which some traditional jazz musicians played and played.

The glee club from West Point sang carols. Many folks entertained visiting children with juggling, face painting, story telling, magic, origami, and even a small circus.

Yes, the above picture is blurry, but perhaps you can make out the green fellow in the red coat. Yes, the Grinch was in the house.

And finally, here is another crowd pleaser, Mother Goose. She kept scurrying around and it was very difficult to catch her (and her goose) standing still enough for a proper portrait.

Hoping that you all will enjoy this sampling of some current New York City sights.

You will see that we do not have any snow.

Best wishes!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

This Sunday is the day that we "fall back" and re-set our clocks to standard time. As I write, it is not yet 6 p.m., but the sun set over an hour ago.

Our personal inner clocks will now have to start a gradual adjustment. Soon this city will have added lots of additional electric light in various designs as holiday decorations. These will help to brighten our dark evenings.

Today was also the day that the New York City Marathon was run. Media commentators said that the crisp, cool weather was perfect for the runners. In past years I have made a point of walking (definitely not running) over to nearby Central Park to watch many of the participants make the final quarter mile to the finish line. It is always a very cheery occasion.

Today, I had other obligations early in the day, but mid-afternoon decided to take my camera over to Central Park West, the street that parallels the western edge of the Park, to see some of the aftermath of the marathon.

Central Park West, or CPW as it is often called, was closed to vehicles today, and served as a place for runners to meet up with family and friends, a place for many international media to set up their broadcast headquarters, a place for many ambulances and medics to stand by to aid runners in need.

As the runners reach the finish line they receive crinkly metallic wraps to insulate them from the chilly temperature. You can see that these wrappers also feature lots and lots of advertisements.

The runners also received drawstring-handled plastic bags containing various treats.
The following photo shows a runner who clearly wanted to stretch her muscles and to try to regain her strength. I do not think that she felt the cold sidewalk below her.

Many family members and other supporters found unique ways to allow their runner/s to find them in the crowd. Some waved flags, some rang bells. This couple wore funny hats.

Some runners looked very fresh after their many miles. Others looked a bit worn out.

Some walked along with a jaunty pace. Others limped or trembled. I have never been a runner, and still marvel at what some of these folks decide to put themselves through.

My reservations about the whole notion of marathon running does not in any way diminish my awe at what all these folks accomplished today.

Each participant was bestowed with a medal that was hung around his or her neck. Each of these folks must be incredibly proud of their accomplishment.
Congratulations to you all.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Happy Halloween from New York.

This is a beautiful afternoon, but oh, so very windy! It will be very chilly for folks who might want to attend the annual free form Halloween Parade up Sixth Avenue later on this evening. I decided to venture out earlier, in the sporadic warmth of the sun, to take a few photographs.

We will start with a splendid array of pumpkins at the farmers market. Some might yet turn into jack o' lanterns before nightfall.

Leaving those pumpkins, I strolled over to a brownstone-filled neighborhood street that goes all out every year with its decorations. Around twilight today, the street will be closed to vehicular traffic and will become a magical place for little ghosts and goblins. There will be a street party. I imagine that the shrieking and laughing will be quite loud.

Here are some of the decorations adorning the steps and entrance ways to buildings on this block. The small round pumpkins in the following photo will be lit after dark.

These two Dracula characters are competing to see who is scariest.

This fellow gets my vote. (Ahh, our election day will be this Tuesday.)

I am not sure if this display will or will not actually spook children climbing these steps in search of candy.

Brownstone houses usually have a entryway to the "garden" level of the house, and this entrance way is located under the main front staircase that leads to the "parlor" floor. This little fellow must be busy with his garden at this time of year.

The following photo shows a bit of a mish mash (or is it a Monster Mash) attached to the wrought iron gating over the garden level window. Sometimes, less might be more in the frightening stakes.

One house along the street was decorated tastefully with seasonal plants. These stairs serve as a bit of a palate refresher between the spooky bits.

I began this Halloween post with some pumpkins and will close with another sort of pumpkin. I could not resist taking a picture of this adorable little girl and her mom, whose long shadows echo some of the shapes of the trees along this walkway just behind the Museum of Natural History.
I hope that your Halloween will be filled with many treats.