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.    

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday morning musings

This is going to be a busy week as I’m heading to New York City for nine days on Thursday.  So, I spent as much time as possible this weekend on the water, partly because I like being on the water and partly because it was so dang hot (temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity and heat index well over a 100.

A team working hard to make the most of what little wind
was available as they ran against the tide 
 On Saturday, I did my duty on the committee boat for our local sail club.  I was glad to be on that boat as I could sit in the shade as it was hot and humid and the wind was almost non-existent.  We had set up a triangle with what seemed to be an upwind start (running at a favorable angle across the tide), followed by a long downwind against the tide, and then back on a reach with the tide.   The reason for the course was to make as much of the race visible from the shore where “Harborfest” was happening.  Normally, we don’t worry about spectators.   On a normal day, the course we had set up would have been completed by the winning boat in 20 minutes.   It took them twice that long and the last two boats to cross took way over an hour.   After the first race, several boats headed in.  We shortened the course for the second race (down and back) and it was still slow.  Other’s dropped out and we were left with just two boats who still wanted to sail, but when the wind completely died, we called it a day, picked up the buoys marking the course, and headed in.
Heading toward open ocean

Normally, when it is hot like this, the sea breeze picks up in the afternoon, which it did on Saturday (as we were enjoying a beer on the porch by the marina).  So yesterday, three of us when out for a pleasure sail at 3:30, hoping to catch the breeze and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint us.  We sailed out (against the tide but with a decent breeze) to the ocean and then back with the spinnaker into the basin behind Wilmington Island, and back to the marina.  It was relaxing and enjoyable.

On another matter…  I am curious if my blog titles play a role in enticing you to read what I say?  I learned of a new program and decided to analyze my last ten posts and found that when it comes to titles, I’m not exactly hitting them out of the park.  Here are my scores according to CoScheduler’s Headline Analyzer.  
HEADLINE HISTORY (with numerical score)
26Going to Ground         
52Paddling Open Water to Ossabaw Island
61The Man with Six Typewriters
26The River Home
52Talking about the weather a few other things with some photos added for good measure...
53and interview with Chrys Fey
64Don't think that I've forgotten: Cambodia's lost rock and roll
64Things that I don't understand, a rant by Nevada Jack
60Things that I don't understand
41Paddling to Daufusaki Island

Almost all of my blogs received a letter grade of B+.  Today's title received a C- and a score of 15!  (I  had previously considered using "A hot weekend on the water and pondering blog titles" which received a rating number of 65, but I thought that to be too long).  How do you chose a blog title?  What kind of title catches your attention?  Did you get to do anything fun this weekend?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Paddling to Daufuskie Island

Photo taken by Tim
That's me taking a photo!
This is the story of my trip a week agoits been a busy week and I havent been able to finish up writing this or about any other fun things Ive done over the last couple of weeks.  Next week, Im heading to NYC for nine days.  Hopefully, thatll give me plenty of topics to explore in my blog.

The sun beat us up over the horizon, when we rounded the big bend in Lazarette Creek.  I put on my sunglasses as the rays shine through the booms and netting of the shrimp boats docked before the bridge to Tybee. 

"We just missed it," Tim sighed

Its still beautiful, I shout. 
Cockspur Lighthouse

It's not quite 6:30 A.M. and we're paddling against a strong incoming tide as we go under the bridge and head toward the Savannah River.  On our right is the historic Cockspur Lighthouse, left over from the time before all the shipping into Savannah was concentrated into one channel.  Low tide was at 4:30 AM this morning and one could still walk out across the mud and oysters to the brick structure at the end of Daymark Island by the South Channel of the river.  The water in the shoals in front of the lighthouse is rough and provides a little challenge as we're tossed around in the mix of a north wind and  incoming tide worked against the outflowing current.  A few minutes later we've passed the lighthouse and enter smoother water. 

Tybee Lighthouse and water tower from beyond the break wall
Fort Pulaski (taken on return paddle)
To starboard (my right) is the north point of Tybee, where there is still a lighthouse used to guide vessels into the Savannah Harbor.  To port is Fort Pulaski, one of the brick fortresses built after the gallant efforts of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor to repel the British in the War of 1812.  Fort McHenry, whose bombardment was observed by Francis Scott Key and led him to write the nearly unsingable National Anthem, held and in the two decades after the war, brick fortresses were built up and down the American coast.  However, by the time the Civil War came along, with rifled artillery that could blast through thick brick walls, such forts became obsolete and death traps to soldiers garrisoned there.  After 36 hours of bombardment during the Civil War, the South surrendered the fort and the port of Savannah was closed to shipping. 
Container ship heading to Savannah Port
(taken on the return trip)
  Setting a northern course, the three of us head to the rock break wall that protects the shipping channel of the Savannah River.  The rising tide has begun to cover some of the rocks, providing us a passageway into the channel that leads to the fourth largest port in the United States.  Ahead of the others, I cross the break wall and wait in the river, but the tide keeps pushing me back toward the rocks and I find I must keep paddling just to keep my place.  When the others arrive, we look to make sure no ships are coming, then sprint across the river.   We're not sure how where we can get through the break wall on the north.  Tim has informed us that we might have to paddle out into the open water, but when I reach it, I find a gap that's easy to cross and wait for Matt and Tim on the far side.  I'm now in South Carolina.  

Bloody Point: notice the oil/gas storage containers
at the Savannah ports in the distance
There, the silence is disturbed by squawking of pelicans perched on the exposed rock along with the droning of a diesel engine in a large shrimp trawler heading out to sea.   Actually, we're already in the sea.

From here, we decided to head toward the water tower on Hilton Head.  Originally, our destination was Daufuskie Island, but it seems as if Hilton Head is doable.  Between us and there is an island we think about stopping to stretch, but as we approach and before we can read the "Stay Away" from this nesting site, we decide not to stop because the stench of poop from 1000s of birds is just too much.  We paddle east of Bird Poop Island, far from the shore of Jones and Turtle Islands, places also protected for the purpose of bird nesting.  This area, north of the Savannah River, is fed by the Wright and Cooper Rivers.  Porpoises play in the water and occasionally a pelican will do a head dive and come up with a small fish.  We paddle toward a shoal line that exists on the north side of Cooper River, where its waters drop sand on its way out into the sea. 

Development (not the cabins described by Conroy)
As we approach, it appears that there may be a jetty instead of just shoals, so we decide to return to our original plan and paddle westward to Daufuskie.  Its a good distance as we're way out into the ocean.  We land at Blood Point at 9:30 AM.  This site was named for a battle that supposedly occurred here in the mid-18th Century between two rival Native American tribes. 

Daufuskie was the island that Pat Conroy taught on during the 1960s and which he used as a model (although he changed the name) in the book The River is Wide.  There is still a small Gullah community on the island, but much of the land has been purchased and is now private resort communities.  We walk along the beach a bit and rescue a bunch of horseshoe crabs. 
Fornicating horseshoe crabs

Mammals must not be the only ones in the animal kingdom who rationality is compromised by sex.  These horseshoe crabs are having orgies in the surf which has tendencies to roll them over and leave them exposed to the sun and birds.   Sometimes the waves will roll them back over, but soon the tide is falling and our efforts saves a few from baking in the hot sun far from the receding waters.  After a rest in the sun, we push off and begin to head back the way we came.  A number of smaller shrimp trawls are working the area north of the river and are followed by porpoises looking for handouts (fish that get thrown overboard).   The tide, which has turned is beginning to run out to sea, is still higher than it was this morning and we have no  problems making it over the break wall.  By the time we get to the Cockspur Lighthouse, it is a fight to paddle upstream.  
Matt and Tim passing the Cockspur Lighthouse on the return

Artist at work
After going under the Tybee Bridge, I hang close to the marsh on the northside, taking advantage of the eddy current to make the paddling easier.  I spy a woman painting next at the end of a road where the old bridge used to connect to Tybee and stop to image the scene she is painting, the marsh and shrimp trawlers on the south side of the channel.  At 12:30 PM, we arrive back at the boat ramp.  Tim, who has tracked our trip on his phone, notes that we've paddled 12 1/2 miles (6.5 miles out and 6 miles back).  I am tired but happy.
Looking under the bridge (taken on return trip)

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Things that I don’t understand… A rant by Nevada Jack

       1.There was an American woman killed by a lion in a South Africa.  This must be a terrible time for her family and friends.  She was in a lion park and, against the rules, had her window down.  Was it to get a better photo?  I am not sure we’ll ever know for sure.  As many of my readers know, Sage has had more than his share of close encounters with bears, rattlesnakes, sharks and even a mountain lion.  He’s been fortunate and never harmed.  However, he still respects the animals and have always been nervous when encountering them at close range as he knows they are wild and are unpredictable.  Over the past year, I have seen many disturbing animal of “animal love” on social media.  Photos of a man who raised a young lion and is reunited years later and the lion runs out and welcomes the man, jumping up on him, like Sage’s daughter used to do when he walked to her elementary school to pick her up at the end of the day.   I wonder if these photos and videos of people swimming with sharks, playing with lions and bears, appearing to be “saved” by wild animals have desensitized us to the dangerous and unpredictable nature of wild animals.  Having a window down when only three feet away from an African lion seems pretty risky and, in the long run, will probably undo her efforts to “save” African wildlife.  Yes, wild animals are beautiful and a treat to see, but let’s remember that they are, first and foremost, wild!  Use some common sense when around them and give them space.  If you want to cuddle a wild animal, why don’t you adopt one like me, overstuffed with cotton.

2.    2.  Bikers thinking that the police over-reacted and were stereotyping by taking into custody all the bikers they could get their hands on at a Waco, Texas bar…   Who did they think killed those nine dead bikers, aliens from another plane?  Maybe the police and courts didn’t work fast enough to clear those not involved with the fight, but when bikers are fighting, taking bikers into custody doesn’t seem to be stereotyping.   

3.     3. The obsession with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner…