Thursday, July 02, 2015

New York City Hideouts

Even with the hordes of people, there are still some places in New York where one can enjoy quietness and a break of people.  These two are both nice spots that I discovered last week.

FDR's Four Freedom Park on Roosevelt Island

iPhone panorama shot from south point of island

The United Nations from Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island is a long narrow island in the East River between Manhattan and Long Island.  The north end of the island consists of apartment buildings, but the south end is mostly a park.  It is also the site of the ruins of the city's old smallpox hospital and on the point is a small park/monument dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" which overlooks the United Nations.  I decided to check out this island in order to get a good look at the place where my daughter was spending the week as an intern, and was pleasantly surprised by how pleasant of a place this was to hang out.  Sitting by the point, I watched barges and boats make their way up and down the East River and helicopters whirl back and forth, yet felt totally isolated.  Although the island can be accessed by a subway (F line) I would recommend the tram.  The tram leaves from Second Avenue and 60th Street (just west of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) and provides great views up and down the East River. 

Tram to Roosevelt Island
This stop, which few seem to know about (I even had one friend who grew up in NYC say she'd never been on Roosevelt Island), is another must see site in the city.  It is also cheap as you can use your MTA card to take the tram.  A $31 seven day unlimited MTA card is well worth the investment. Warning, the Four Freedom monument doesnt open until 9 AM, but if you get there early, there are places you can wait around the ruins of old small pox hospital.  There is also an indoor tennis center on the north end of the island.

Tudor City Greens
Just a block south of the UN and running between 40th and 43rd Street is a neat garden park with benches and lots of old trees with shade and various shrubbery and flowers.  It is a private park, ran by a non-profit board.  The park is clean and well maintained and since my daughter was doing an internship in the UN, it was a great place to hang out in the morning and read while waiting for museums to open as well as to wait in the evening.  One evening there was even a concert in the lower section of the park.  But most of the time there was only a handful of people in the park, mostly reading and waiting.

Do the crowds ever get to you and you find yourself wanting a break?  If you have been to NYC, do you have a favorite Hideaway?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Walking in New York City

Cooling heels in shallow water along the Highline 
I enjoy walking and there is no better way to see a city than hoofing it along the sidewalks and parks.  Thanks to an app that came with my iPhone (from which I also took these phots), I tracked my mileage (along with steps and stairs climbed during the week).  The most mileage in a day was 14.5, the least was 7, with a daily average of 10.  What can I say?  Some people leave their heart behind in the city, I leave the tread from the soles of my shoes.  New York has wonderful places to walk.  There are plenty of sidewalks and most of my walking was on sidewalks, but I never took pictures of them.  

Everyone knows of Central Park and one could do many miles within the border of this huge park.  Although it seemed more people enjoyed the south end of the park, where there is a zoo and a nice lake and those two funky high rises that appeared in Ghostbusters (the movie), the north end of the park actually has some wooded areas and hills.  Also, dogs are allowed to run free on the northern end.  There is also a ravine on the upper end that reminded me of the Appalachian Trail as the dirt path paralleled a creek which provided the sound of gurgling water that made it feel as if one was in the wilderness and not in a big city. 
Central Park with the Ghostbuster Buildings in the distance
Hudson from Fort Tryon 
Riverside Park, which runs along large stretches of the Hudson River was another nice place to walk as observing boats on the water and even the large cruise ships that dock between 50th to 55th Streets.   Also, the wide expanse of water provides a nearly constant breeze which moderates the temperature on hot days.  Further uptown, this park links to Fort Tryon Park and some others which are on high bluffs above the river.  While there, check out the wonderful gardens.  Also along the river is Battery Park.  Having been there before and with lots of construction due to Sandy (the hurricane that struck NYC a few years ago), I didn't spend any time there this trip.

The High Line
My two favorite places of walking is the High Line and the Brooklyn Bridge.  The High Line is an old elevated railroad that provided freight service to factories along the Hudson River.  It was abandoned in the 80s and there was a discussion about tearing it down when someone came up with the idea of making it a walk path.   It was opened in 2008.  The path gives nice views of city streets and the river and in places include groves of aspen and lots of flowers and grasses that are interspersed around the path.  Most of the pathway was created by placing precast concrete strips on the old ties, which softens the walking from traditional concrete on packed services.  Some areas a metal service is used with slits for drainage.  There is a covered area where a few artisans sell their work and food and beer is available.  The path is incredibly clean, unlike some of NYC's streets and subways that are just a notch cleaner than Jakarta's streets.   
an audience participation lego project along the High Line

Brooklyn Bridge

The other neat place to walk is the Brooklyn Bridge.  It can be accessed on either side by the subway and then crossed over to the other side on a path above the traffic.  The height and openness of the bridge to sea breezes keep us cool for the sun.  The bridge is a marvel to see and walking across it one can ponder the engineering feats of the day.  In addition, you are able to enjoy the view up and down the East River and of lower Manhattan. 
George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Evening in the Bronx

Im back home this is a piece I wrote last week while in New York City about a game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, June 20th

iPhone photo
I leave everyone behind and find my way to the 6th train, heading north toward the Bronx.  Theres excitement on the train when I hop on and Im soon into a conversation with a couple of younger Hispanic guys from the City who are big baseball fans.  Both are going home from work and neither are going to make this evenings game even though one of the guys plans to take his father to the game tomorrow afternoon for Father's Day.  I tell him I hope he'll have good weather as rain from the remnants of a tropical storm is making its way up from the gulf.  Im a little worried about this evening as the rains are supposed to start later, but as I get off the subway I feel a few drops.  Now I wonder if my game will be rained out. 

I get into the stands around 6:15, about an hour before the game begins. The Yankees are finishing up their old timers game, which had begun earlier in the afternoon.  My seat is barely under the overhang, but the wind is blowing the misty wind onto the seats and its already wet.  I steal a piece of cardboard from someone's discarded lunch tray and use it to sit on as I watch the last inning of the old timers.  It wasn't very exciting.  When they are leaving the field, I head to the concessions to buy a couple of Nathan hot dogs and a beer for dinner.  The rain picks up a bit more and I pull out my rain jacket and sit back down on my dry piece of cardboard and eat while waiting for the game to begin.  Surprisingly, they didn't sing the National Anthem (maybe that was done before the Old Timer's Game) and 15 minutes after the teams come on the field, the game is underway. 

From the beginning, there is a young Asian woman (late teens?) on the front row of our section who keeps standing up when she gets a phone call (she has several during the first two innings).  While talking, she waves her arms around in the air.  She blocks me from seeing between the pitcher and the batter, but two rows down she is blocking the guys views of the batter and they yell out for her to sit down.  The guy behind her taps her on the shoulder and asks her to sit down, but she ignores him.  The guy two rows in front of me threatens to get security, but that doesn't faze her, but her boyfriend (or the man she's sitting beside her) realizes the seriousness of the situation and coaxes her down.  The second time she stands up, people behind me began to make racial slurs about the woman.  Her boyfriend gets her to sit back down.  Then she gets another phone call and she jumps up right before a Yankee slaps a homer.  The guy two seats in front, who had been most angry at her (even though he never said anything racial about her), yells out that he's going to get security and makes his way to the aisle.  Her boyfriend, realizing this might not end well, grabs her arm and they leave and never return and we watch the rest of the game unobstructed.  

It isn't a good night, at least for the few Tiger fans in the crowd.  The Tigers go down three in a row, while the Yankees score two runs in the first.  New York scores three in the second and for such a misty night with a breeze coming in from the outfield, the Tiger's pitchers just couldn't keep the Yankees from slapping home runs.  Detroit, on the other hand, couldn't scrimp up but an occasional hit.  It takes the Tigers to the six innings to hold the Yankees without allowing a run (by then, it was 13-0).  In the seventh, the Tigers bring a little life into the game and score three runs and again hold the Yankees as they leave men on base (The Detroit Tigers never enjoyed a three up/three out inning while the Yankees were at bat).  The Yankees score again at the beginning of the 8th inning.  The rain continues and people begin leaving the stands so I move down and watched the Detroit's last three outs from the lower deck so I can quickly make my getaway to the waiting subway train.  The final score was 14-3. 

Ironically, I had decided against going to the Sunday game because of the weather, but the skies had cleared and the Tigers won by a large margin!  This was my first time at Yankee Stadium. I would have liked to have seen the old stadium, but the new one is nice.  The view is okay, but then it's the Bronx.  The stadium is nothing like the new PNC Park in Pittsburgh or the new Candlestick in San Francisco.  (Although Wrigley's in Chicago is still my favorite and I am hoping one day to make it to Boston and watch a game at Fenway). 

I'm glad I went.  The evening could have been better: the Tigers could have won, the Yankees could have lost, the rain could have held off...  But I can't have everything.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Checking in

Gardens on the way to The Cloisters
I haven't been online much--at least not to blog or check blogs--as I am in New York City for nine days.   Today, I decided to bring my ipad with me and am now sitting under the shade trees at Fort Tyron Park on the Upper West End of Manhattan, relaxing (after having toured The Cloisters).   When I get home, I'll have to start a new series of places to see in and around NYC (especially those special places like this park or the Tudor City Gardens near the UN).   Just below Fort Tyron is a wonderful flower garden from  the photos (taken with my ipad) were taken.   I was thinking I could post that here, but google doesn't seem to like Apple's ipad and I can't get it to post.  Update, I did get them posted, but only by first putting them in a goggle-Pissca folder.

 I'll be back in Savannah on Saturday (I hope the city has cooled off in my absence, but I am afraid I'll be sadly disappointed).  When I get back, I'll get around and catch up with everyone and post more stories and photos.

A garden by The Cloisters
With so many different blog events on-going, I have pondered starting one of my own.  When I read, I like authors who have a strong sense of place, so I am proposing that we do a blog-tour of writers from all 50 states.  The natural starting point would be to go by the order the state was introduced into the Union (which means I would need to either find and author from or one who writes about Delaware).  Looking at the wikipedia list of writers from the first state, I realize I haven't read any of them...  What would you think of such a blog-tour?  Would you participate?  Can you recommend an author with Delaware connections?  What do you think was the highlight of my trip to New York? (Sadly, it wasn't watching the Tigers beat the Yankees.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old Man River

I'm leaving later this morning for New York City.  It's a good time to go because one of the radio reports this morning (as I was coming back from a fire call) said the heat index today could be as high as 114!  The seven day forecast are for temperatures to be in the high 90s or low 100s, with high humidity which makes it feel even hotter.  

Paul Schneider, Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2013), 395 pages.

This was an ambitious project.  The Mississippi River and its tributaries stretch from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains to the Canadian border.  The river is prominent in the American psyche and from the beginning has served as an artery that connects the center of the country.  The waterway connects many major cities and industrial areas that have grown along its banks: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans.  The Mississippi has been a blessing, but at times also a curse as wars have been fought over the river (and against the river as it is uncontrollable and known to flood).  The River has given American one of its best authors, Mark Twain, and influenced the music styles of jazz and blues.  Knowing this, I dig into the book. 

However, I will say I came away from the book a little disappointed.  Schneider begins telling about the prehistory of the river and then a bit about the Native American culture that existed along the river and their interaction with the early Spanish explorers.  Then he shifts to the French and English and the battles and alliances with Native Americans as both countries sought to control the river and the continent.  Most of this battle was in the northeast section of the watershed, along the Allegheny River down to the forks (where the Allegheny joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio River) which is now Pittsburgh.  The struggle for the continent, which was a small part of a larger struggle between France and Britain in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, made for interesting reading.  This took up nearly two-thirds of the book.

By the point that the English establish dominance over the upper waters of the river (and the lost the lands to the colonies), Schneider seems to have run out of steam.  He spends a chapter on the flat and keelboats, then two chapters on the steamboat age (one of rather short chapter exploring the role steamboats played in slavery).  Then he writes about Civil War.  Afterwards, he shifts to discussing the battle to control the river and its negative impact to the marshland in Louisiana and how floods are worse than ever.  His stories about music on the river is limited to one WPA interview (done during the great depression) of a former slave and the songs he remembered from a lifetime of working on the river.  Schneider also only mentions the large amount of materials still transported on the river (coal, coke, iron ore, sand, and grain).  Although he mentions floods, he doesn’t weave in any of the stories surrounding floods as he did with his earlier writing exciting.  My conclusion is that he was ready to be done with the project, which left me as a reader wanting more.

Several places in the book, Schneider becomes more personal as he gets onto the river.  He paddled parts of the Allegheny (including a section I’d paddled in northern Pennsylvania), parts of the Mississippi and headed out in a motor boat to explore the river’s edge as it pushed out into the Gulf of Mexico.

I enjoyed Schneider’s writing style. I just wish he would have been as detailed with the last 200 years of river history as he was with the 200-300 years before.  Perhaps such an ambitious project deserves a second volume.