web analytics

  • Category Archives Natural NYC
  • Castle Made of Sand

    Some years ago, I was busy chasing sand castle competitions. My planning was always an afterthought, and I managed to miss every one. Throughout the country, at various times and places, there are sand castle competitions. Some of these are extraordinary events with participants that take their work quite seriously. Even the AIA sponsors a yearly event in Galveston, Texas, where teams of architects, designers, and engineers craft castles from sand.

    Every child has taken his or her hand to the ubiquitous and ultimate sculpting material – ordinary sand, whether on the beach or in the playground. Sand castles are a good instructor for children in many ways, acquainting them with the transitory of most things and Mother Nature’s power to provide and just as easily destroy – a bit of ocean and an afternoon’s work is washed out to sea. We are drawn to and enjoy these childhood activities as adults, whether vicariously through children or those adults who take the work and play of children seriously, taking it to the next level, like the building of sandcastles.

    There have even been a number of sand castle competitions in New York City. I’ve missed them all, including this year’s second annual Creative Time’s sand castle competition on Rockaway Beach. However, recently, I did get to see Matt Long’s extravaganza in lower Manhattan. From the New York Daily News:

    Sand sculptor Matt Long unveiled a stunning 17-foot-high castle this week, bringing a bit of the beach to a stretch of lower Manhattan flooded out last year by Hurricane Sandy. The Staten Islander used 55 tons of sand to create the highly detailed high-rise, with towers, walls, arches, stairs – and even its own waterfall. It took three weeks for Long, 58, to convert his grainy vision into reality outside One New York Plaza. It’s his largest solo work ever.

    The installation is perfectly located in Lower Manhattan at One New York Plaza – edifices of glass, steel, and stone, juxtaposed against a Castle Made of Sand…

  • Nature Gone Wild

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    On Sunday, NYC had its annual Gay Pride parade, the culmination of Gay Pride week. The parade route finishes in the Village, where I live, and I have watched this parade for decades and documented a number of them in this website. It is festive and can be fun, however, one must have the stomach for the onslaught, much as the annual Halloween parade – enormous crowds, music blasting from floats with gyrating bodies, late night revelry, the roar of Dykes on Bikes, cavorting in the fountain, etc. Residents must also plan carefully any movement within the neighborhood or travel out, as many streets are closed off for much of the day. The recent Supreme Court DOMA decision only insured that this year would be quite celebratory indeed.

    So, many of us leave the area before the parade begins and return long after most of the chaos has subsided. But, where to go on another lousy, overcast, gray, humid day with chance of rain throughout? I wanted to wander through a peaceful, natural environment. Somewhere restorative but not too far from the city given the chance of thunderstorms.

    It has been so long since I have visited the National Parks of the United States, and I do miss them, particularly those out west, where nature is so GRAND. Places like Yosemite, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Redwood. Here, in NYC and environs, nature lovers must settle for scraps or be resourceful and explorative to find those special places. Perhaps shocking to most, but New York City has a piece of the National Park System only a subway ride away from Manhattan – Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. I have visited before and featured it here in 2009 in a story called Duffy.

    And so it was there that I decided to spend Sunday afternoon, walking nature trails lined with huckleberries, prickly pear cactus, and rose hips, chatting with Park Rangers, enjoying vistas across marshes, and viewing Osprey. It was a day not of people but one of Nature Gone Wild :)

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Blossom

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    In Back To Our Main Feature, I wrote of how, in New York City, Mother Nature takes a back seat to the people and everything that people make and do. Certainly, no one lives in this city for nature’s splendor, nor do they visit as ecotourists. And at its extreme, I have heard remarks that champion its dirt and edge. During the battle over the renovation of Washington Square Park, some accused architect George Vellonakis as wanting to turn the park into a flower garden. Yes, it was an accusation, not praise – many of his opponents bristled at the thought of the park losing its edge by being beautified and, as they saw it, sanitized. In 2009, I wrote in Toronto:

    But many defend the edginess and grit of New York City as important, defining characteristics. I remember reading an article years ago speaking to this. The article was defending the edginess and made a suggestion for those who did not see the grit’s charm: “There’s a place for you. It’s called Toronto.”

    However, in small and large ways, there are many, many here who work to improve the quality of life through nature. There are community gardens, botanic gardens, flower shops, zoos, and parks, including some of the world’s most outstanding such as Central and Prospect Parks. Of course, nature’s cup does not runneth over in New York, and those seeking such things must look a little harder. For urban explorers willing to travel to New York’s hinterlands, one’s journey may be rewarded by beautiful places like Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

    The efforts can be seen everywhere. Abutting a nondescript brick wall aired by a building’s exhaust, isolated and forgotten in a small patch roadside choked with car fumes, within a park surrounded by towering glass and steel, flanking a dog run and public toilets, or growing along side an electrical junction box in Staten Island – make no mistake. Here, as everywhere, the human spirit can and will, like flowers in spring, Blossom.

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • North Brother Island

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    I had made a rare surprise visit to my parents’ home in CT. However, the surprise was on me when I arrived to find that they were not home. I waited foolishly in their driveway wondering what I might do until they returned. It occurred to me that my surprise visit would be even more surprising if they found me in their home, which they believed to be locked and secured. It would also be the perfect opportunity to test and demonstrate the knowledge I had acquired from Lockpicking Made Easy by Eddie the Wire. I, like many curious boys, had been fascinated by locks and lock picking since childhood, but only as an adult was I able to really study them.

    I recalled that my father never locked his garage and there, I was able to find a few materials and tools and fabricate a crude lock pick. My first efforts at lock picking were a success, and soon, voila – I was inside my home. My family arrived soon after and applauded my cleverness.
    The book on lock picking was published by Loompanics Press, who specialized in “unusual and controversial” books. The subjects ranged from the underground economy, self-defense, revenge, guns, weapons, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, tax avoidance, privacy, fake ID, murder, death, torture, anarchism, survival, how to make drugs, counterfeiting money, and more.
    The Loompanics catalog ran hundreds of pages with hundreds of books. I once showed it to a friend who was an attorney. A quick perusal and he was aghast. He turned to me and said, are these books even legal?
    Good question, I replied, you’re the attorney. Many titles certainly skirted the law, claiming to be for information only with caveats galore that they be not used for breaking the law. Yeah, right.
    There were also more benign titles, such as How to Start Your Own Country and one of my favorites, Uninhabited Ocean Islands, with an exhaustive list of small uninhabited islands around the world, ripe for the taking. My dream was to have my own private tropical island and set up my own paradise. My near obsession with islands knew no bounds. I subscribed to Islands magazine. I cataloged the islands of the South Pacific. I read Fatu Hiva. I traveled the West Indies. Ironically, I settled on one of the most inhabited and least remote islands in the world – Manhattan. Nonetheless, it is an island and does feel like a world unto itself.

    But my fascination with islands remains, and recently, I purchased The Other Islands of New York City to see what secrets I might find. I have already featured the small outcropping in the East River, U Thant Island, here on September 15, 2010. But my investigation has led me to the discovery of much bigger and more mysterious islands in the waters of New York City. North Brother Island was now in my crosshairs, and on September 22, 2012, I studied maps for the best vantage points, climbed into my car with cameras in tow, and went on an excursion hoping to see and learn more about North Brother Island.
    The best spot was Barretto Point Park in the Bronx. It was here that I spotted the Floating Pool Lady. There it lay, in the East River near Riker’s Island and Hell Gate, wild and uninhabited. Abandoned for 50 years, the island is an explorer’s dream. However, the island is now a bird sanctuary, currently abandoned and generally off-limits to the public. The most disappointing news was that, undaunted, other urban explorers have managed to visit. A number of websites, including Gothamist, have run photo essays.

    North Brother Island has one of the richest and most fascinating histories in New York City. The island was uninhabited until 1885, when Riverside Hospital moved there from Blackwell’s Island and was used to quarantine patients with typhus, TB, cholera, yellow fever, leprosy, smallpox, polio, venereal diseases, and heroin addiction. Its most famous resident was Typhoid Mary, who spent 30 years confined there. North Brother Island was also the site of New York City’s greatest loss of life prior to 9/11. In 1905, over one thousand people died when the General Slocum steamship went ablaze near the island. After World War II, the island housed war veterans who were students at local colleges, along with their families. The island has been abandoned since the 1960s.

    I have learned most recently that it is possible to visit the island with special permission from the Parks Department and not during heron season – March to October. A private boat needs to be chartered, and there is no dock. A friend who is well connected to city officials said he could easily arrange such a thing for me. However, after multiple inquiries, I have heard nothing.  I hope one day to finally set foot on North Brother Island

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Beast

    I was standing in my brother-in-law Alan’s shop in front of his mechanical beast – a drag racing motorcycle capable of over 200 miles per hour speed. Alan was telling me about the details of drag racing – races that only last seconds, engines powered by rocket fuel – nitromethane – and that needed to be rebuilt after every run. I was particularly fascinated when he told me that the roar of engines was so loud that race goers can see their shirts flutter when hammered by shockwaves. All the numbers he was citing were extraordinary and off the charts – horsepower per cylinder, decibel levels, speed, G-force from acceleration,  and races won or lost by hundredths of a second. It sounded like an experience worth having at least once, however, I have yet to attend a drag race in person.
    When I commented that much of his life seemed defined by speed, he corrected me adding “and power.” In a world where we often feel powerless against Mother Nature and in our feeble efforts to combat her, the quest for power is understandable. I immediately reflected back on my high school acquaintance who had told me that upon graduation he was going to trade school to major in power (as I wrote about in Pork and Power).

    Do vehicles sporting tremendous power and speed seem to be a world apart from New York City? Perhaps not. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the company that operates the well-known boat tours around the city, also runs New York’s only jet powered thrill-ride speedboat attraction – The Beast. For $27 you can experience a roller coaster ride atop a neon green, shark-toothed, 70-foot, 140-passenger monster machine traveling at 45 miles per hour to blasting music. The 30-minute ride, replete with 180-degree hairpin turns is guaranteed to get you wet while seeing the sites of New York City from the Hudson River.

    For a tamer tour via the city’s waterways, there is kayaking, sailing, or the classic Circle Line tour which circumnavigates the entire isle of Manhattan. There are many ways to see the city as there are modes and methods of transport. For some, it’s a stroll in the park, a walk down Fifth Avenue, a ferry ride to Staten Island, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by bike, a Water Taxi, flying down the Cyclone, or atop the Wonder Wheel of Coney Island. For others, Power and Speed are necessary components, and whether atop a nitro-powered drag racer or perhaps aboard a jet-powered tour boat, no vehicle will do it short of a mechanical Beast :)

  • Yesterday’s Muddy Pants

    I’ve been learning a lot lately about disaster relief – insurance adjusters, the Red Cross, FEMA, tree cutters, water mitigation services, professional drying, pumping water. And shoveling mud. As many as 40,000 New Yorkers have been left homeless after Hurricane Sandy. 80,000 have already filed for Federal relief. Gas stations, often supervised by police, still have lines as long as 6 hours. Many are closed for lack of power.

    I spent most of the last week in Staten Island, helping friends with a home located in a flood zone. It truly is a DISASTER, with over 20 dead in Staten Island alone and houses entirely swept away. In the worst hit areas, entire contents of homes sit on front yards, one home after the next, waiting for pickup by sanitation. Generators are everywhere, used to pump water from basements. There is the occasional sound of chainsaws as residents cut their way out of this disaster.

    Seawater mixed with raw sewage means that for most, little is salvageable. Carpets must be ripped out, floors completely removed, walls cut away, mold remediated, basements pumped, dried, and sanitized. Electrical systems are completely damaged, as well as appliances and, in many cases, furniture. Many families with extensive damage will take what insurance money they may get, if any, and walk away from their homes.
    Emergency public services are OVERLOADED – no one responds or answer phones. The most effective road to recovery in all this? Neighbors, volunteerism or, as a fireman suggested to me, pay for things out of pocket and hope to recover the costs from insurance later. Volunteer groups are everywhere. Michael Blyth, a school teacher at Michael Petrides school, was manning the street I was on with student volunteers able and ready for any task. Vehicles with water and every manner of household cleaners and supplies passed through the neighborhood, as did Army jeeps.

    I spent the weekend filling 33 gallon trash bags and rummaging through household belongings, sorting the dry and the damp from those articles soaked with seawater and raw sewage in a house without power, light, or heat. Even when power is restored by the utilities, in homes with heavily flooded basements (as my friend’s was), power cannot be turned on without the risk of explosion. Entire panels and electrical systems need to be replaced. On Sunday, clocks were set back to Daylight Savings time, so we raced against an earlier setting sun in the late afternoon, finishing the day’s work by flashlight as temperatures dipped in a cold house. But as bad as this home had been hit, there was still much worse, and at the day’s end, I was lucky to have a warm, dry apartment to return to with my possessions intact. I can’t exactly say it is joyful, because the experience has left an indelible imprint on my mind.

    In the morning, it’s easy getting ready for the day’s work ahead. Rubber boots are the only sensible footwear choice. And you might as well just put on Yesterday’s Muddy Pants…

  • One Candle Power

    For those wondering what New York City is like in lower Manhattan, try no electricity, no heat, no hot water, no subway, no lights, no Internet for most. No elevators, no cooking for many, no refrigeration. It’s cold, dark, and primitive. It has been days and will be days longer. For now, it’s One Candle Power :(

  • Seeing Scenes Rarely Seen

    Nothing beats the drama of nature’s fury and nothing fuels it like anticipation, particularly when driven by the constant hammering of the media. The coming of hurricane Sandy has dominated conversation, thoughts, and television. Since yesterday, New York City has been a virtual ghost town, dead and eerily quiet. Streets are deserted, stores closed, extremely light vehicular traffic. Yet as I write this, 9:30AM on Monday morning, we have yet to see more than light rain and an occasional gust of wind. Of course, the weather forecasts must be taken seriously and authorities must err on the side of caution and preparation, with forced evacuations, shelters, and public warnings.

    Last night, after spending the bulk of the weekend indoors, cabin fever finally drove me out for a late night walk. Parks were officially closed and the entire transit system shut down, forcing businesses to close since most employees rely on transit to commute to their workplace. I circumambulated through Washington Square Park, where a musician I know was playing guitar alone in the central fountain. I enjoyed the private concert and the absolute peace that one does not find here excepting times of extreme conditions – hurricanes, blizzards, or a rare event like 9/11.
    The starkest contrasts are to be found where there is almost always perpetual activity – like on MacDougal Street or Sixth Avenue in the Village. It was there that I strolled, Seeing Scenes Rarely Seen

    More weather: Shifting Gears, In Like a Lion, Deep Freeze, Opportunity, Small Gestures, Weather Means Whether, Brooding

  • Sounds of Summer

    It is just after sunrise at 6:00 AM as I write this with an open window facing Washington Square Park. Incredible as it may seem, in the most densely populated city in the United States, apart from the occasional auto passing, the dominant and only sound is a chorus of crickets. This is one of the many joys in store for the early riser in New York City, or perhaps for those who have yet to sleep. Yes, even in Manhattan, amidst concrete, glass, and steel, we got insects. Many a night I have been plagued by mosquitoes, both in parks and even in my apartment.

    One summer evening in Washington Square Park in 2006, I was curious as to what insect it might be that was making a particular clicking sound that I had heard many times before. Friend Bill Shatto, an avid photographer of insects, told me he was relatively sure that it was a katydid. I had heard the word, but was completely unfamiliar with its appearance or anything else about it. In the most miraculous and serendipitous moment during that very discussion, a large green insect lighted in the central plaza of the park, away from any foliage, and sat unfettered. Using online images, we confirmed that it was a katydid (lower photo) – the only one I have seen in my entire life. It appeared to be injured – one leg was missing. It was capable of flying yet seemed uninterested in such. In fact, Bill was actually able to pick it up and place it more strategically on his hand. I took a number of photos, which have laid in my archives for the last 6 years.

    Recently, conversation turned to a much louder insect which as a child we commonly referred to as heat bugs. The cicada. The lone buzzing song, increasing in volume, was never pleasant to me as it typically dominates the air waves on hot, humid summer days in July and August.* The sunnier, hotter, and more blistering the day, the louder the cicada seemed to buzz. Recently, in the very same park, a conversation ensued about a very audible background noise which I recognized and confirmed with my friends was assuredly the sound of the cicada. As miraculously and serendipitously as six years before, a large insect lighted on the central plaza. A cicada. Seemingly unbothered by our presence as we approached it, I was able to get a number of photos, even with supplementary illumination using an iPhone. Even in Manhattan, a shrine to concrete and the manmade, here and there at the right time and place, if you listen closely, you can hear the Sounds of Summer :)

    *Male cicadas have loud noisemakers called “tymbals” on the sides of the abdominal base, using to produce a mating song. Some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB (SPL), among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. Their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans, should the cicada sing just outside the listener’s ear. Conversely, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans. Species have different mating songs to ensure they attract the appropriate mate. In addition to the mating song, many species also have a distinct distress call, usually a somewhat broken and erratic sound emitted when an individual is seized. A number of species also have a courtship song, which is often a quieter call and is produced after a female has been drawn by the calling song.

    More insects: Guessing Game, Back to Boyhood

  • Sunners and Shunners

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    One of the most popular summer activities of my generation was to go to the beach to get tan. Women lubricated their skins with baby oil and virtually fried under a blazing sun, rotating to roast every square inch, sure to leave no skin untanned. Men strutted about with tan musculature, also perfectly and evenly toasted.

    New York City has a plethora of beaches – Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Riis Park, and the Rockaways, all accessible by public transportation. My personal choice was always to venture a bit further out of city limits to Jones Beach and Robert Moses on Fire Island. For those who did not want to leave home, there was tar beach – the NYC rooftop. From the New York Times:

    “Tar beach,” as all roof rats know, is the urban alternative to the Hamptons on a hot summer day; it’s as near as the flight of stairs outside the apartment door. The 1930′s seem likely as a birth date, because it was around then that the suntan became fashionable for the masses. According to “The City in Slang” by Irving Lewis Allen, getting a tan on tar beach was often the preparation for a trip to Coney Island. “By the 1940′s,” he wrote, “city rooftops, those ersatz beaches, were given the fictitious place name tar beach, alluding to the black tarred and graveled rooftops.

    And absolutely de rigueur was the need to get color. Come springtime, examination of each other’s skin invariably led to comments like you need some color, I need to get some color, or some other variant expressing the dire need of a suntan. The desire for light or dark skin color is both time and culture based. Dark skin has been associated with the lower class, where work would have commonly been outdoors. In Asia, light skin is still prized for this reason. White skin has been desirable until the 20th century, when the therapeutic benefits of the sun and vitamin D began to be recognized. Coco Chanel is often credited with the desire for darker skin when she accidentally got sunburnt visiting the French Riviera in the 1920s. From that time on, sunbathing became popular as we saw the bikini of the 1940s and Coppertone’s iconic ad with a little blond girl and her cocker spaniel tugging on her bathing suit bottoms, sunglasses, sunscreens, and SPF.

    Recently, an old college friend and native New Yorker (now transplanted out west) was making one of his periodic visits to NYC. Inevitably, his love of the ocean means a requisite visit somewhere to a city beach. On this visit, three of us found ourselves touring the beautiful seaside community of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens.

    After decades of seeking the suntan, we now live in a world of ozone depletion and concerns of premature aging and skin cancer. Whereas 30 years ago we would have set ourselves up on the beach in order to maximize sun and get some color, we now canvassed the boardwalk for any scrap of shade.

    At Beach 118th Street, we found a small spot against the back railing of the boardwalk by a lone conifer tree with just enough shade for the three of us. Here, we spent the afternoon in gorgeous weather chatting about old times, relationships, and other matters, some grave and some inconsequential, enjoying the peacefulness and beauty – rare commodities in New York City. As the day passed and conversation ensued, I reflected how, as always, some things remain the same, some change, and some change back. A lone lifeguard under a bright orange umbrella joined us in a world that has seen Sunners and Shunners

    More on beaches: Teleportation, The Hamptons, Plum Beach, The Shore

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • no title entry linkThis entry has no title posted on July 26, 2012

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Night on Bald Mountain

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Fantasia was a highly controversial film for different reasons. Many objected to the strong imagery set to major pieces of classical music. They argued that imagery should be evoked by the music, not chosen and superimposed by a filmmaker, making indelible impressions and associations on the mind, particularly on those new to the music. Others argued, many of them well-seasoned classical musicians, that there is no great harm and that anything which brings the public and great music together is a good thing and worth the price.

    I straddle both sides of this issue – certainly there are pieces of music that I now associate with imagery from that film, i.e. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and the dark, brooding images in Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Whether these associations have damaged my appreciation of this music, I have no idea. But from time to time, dark stormy weather brings back those images from Mussorgsky’s work as interpreted by Disney.

    There is no question that mother nature often plays second fiddle to the creations of men and women in New York City. Whether it is cultural or architectural, people do not come to this city for the climate. In Not Moving to Florida, I dismissed all four seasons in the city. In Weather Means Whether, I discussed how my friend from college, who had moved to California, made the observation that the East Coast has weather while the West Coast has climate.

    Whether this is valid, meteorologically speaking or not, I do not know. However, certainly one of the West Coast’s biggest draws is its pleasant climate and nature’s bounty, whereas on the East Coast, particularly in New York City, weather may enhance or detract from enjoyment of some city attractions, but it is not the allure.

    However, when dramatic natural events occur, their juxtaposition with the cityscape makes even the most resolute of New Yorkers pay attention. One is more likely to notice these events when in a natural setting, such as a public park, and where distraction from nature is at a minimum. When strolling the city streets, for most, it will take nothing short of Armageddon to take one’s eyes off the elements that make New York a great city. In July 2010, I was able to capture a spectacular bolt of lightning – you can see the photo below. In that story, Back to Our Main Feature, I wrote:

    Last night, there was a brief lightning storm dramatic enough to make many of us look up and say wow. But unlike our country brethren, who may spend a pleasant evening watching shooting stars, we rarely indulge these natural phenomenon for very long. Glancing up to the sky, seeing a spectacular display of lightning complemented by a waxing moon, we acknowledge when nature has spoken. Yes, like any great commercial, we hear you, but now, back to our main feature.



    Tuesday was another brooding New York City day. The sky was dark and heavy with well-defined storm clouds. Try as I may, images stormed my mind of Night on Bald Mountain :)

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • New York Is Raccoon Country

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Like most places, there are always things to learn about one’s locale. However, in New York City, not only are there a myriad of things to discover, but many of them are also quite unexpected and seemingly antithetical to urban life. Like hawks or raccoons.

    And, of course, owing to New York’s huge population, there are always a small number for whom these things become more than curiosities or points of interest. For some, these things become a world unto itself, such as the red-tailed hawk, Pale Male, whose family attained a cult following and mythic status. To this day, 21 years after the first siting of Pale Male, an entourage of birders have a virtual encampment on the outer perimeter of the Central Park boat pond with a clear line of sight to the nest at 927 Fifth Avenue.

    Yesterday, at the Central Park Conservatory Garden, amidst one of the most bucolic natural settings in Manhattan, I was puzzled to find a number of people fascinated with a relatively unkempt patch of shrubbery on the outskirts of the garden. Suddenly, I noticed the object of their attention and cameras: a raccoon at close quarters in broad daylight.
    One man I spoke to told me that there were, in fact, many raccoons in Central Park and that residents on the west side of the park were in the habit of leaving food for a group of raccoons who resided in the area.

    By many, raccoons is are a considered a nuisance. Like many of the hardy, aggressive residents of the city, e.g. pigeons or squirrels, the dearth of other wildlife makes these types of scavengers the object of fascination for city residents as well as visitors, who are often found feeding squirrels in the parks.

    Raccoons are highly adaptable omnivores and have populated a large range of environments – I was surprised to learn that they inhabit many urban areas worldwide. It is estimated that as many as 300 live in Central Park.  New York City is a mecca for bookstores, restaurants, museums, architecture, the arts, fashion, music, and ethnic culture. And, for now at least, New York is Raccoon Country…

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • In a Fog

    I have done numerous stories featuring nature’s impact on the city. In some cases, more prominent, in some, less. But always that the city is juxtaposed against nature. How the manmade contrasts the natural, but rarely mother nature on her own. On July 20, 2010, I wrote Back to Our Main Feature with a lucky capture of a spectacular thunderstorm and lightning bolt. In it, I said:

    Please understand that I, like most New Yorkers, do love Mother Nature, but the gifts nature bestows and the power she wields often feel secondary in a city like New York.

    Last night there was a brief lightning storm dramatic enough to make many of us look up and say wow. But unlike our country brethren, who may spend a pleasant evening watching shooting stars, we rarely indulge these natural phenomenon for very long. Glancing up to the sky, seeing a spectacular display of lightning complemented by a waxing moon, we acknowledge when nature has spoken. Yes, like any great commercial, we hear you, but now, Back to Our Main Feature.

    Even on a foggy night, a spectacular fog is often more obstacle or at best backdrop to the city’s structures. Today’s photos were taken in Union Square during the ongoing Occupy Wall Street, now a daily social phenomenon. As I marveled at the beautiful effect of the various illuminated buildings filtered by the misty air, I surveyed the hundreds of park occupants and could see no eyes drawn to nature’s show. Surprising, because heavy fogs are rare and spectacular, the delight of many a filmmaker.

    However, this is New York City, and from time to time, without knowing it, the average New Yorker will find himself or herself In a Fog

    More nature: Come Back for Jupiter, The Tide Pool, This Is Not New Mexico, We’ve Got Skiing Too, White Birch Canoe, Trapped in Paradise, Conflicted, Mother Nature, Brooding, Risk Not Living

  • Foolish World of the Fiscally Frivolous

    There is nothing more irritating for some men than the occasion when they feel the need to buy their girlfriends flowers. This obligatory event may be a minuscule effort yet looms larger than anything conceivable. And then there is the terror of Valentine’s Day, where a last-minute purchase in New York City is tantamount to lunacy.

    Adding insult to injury is the perception of wastefulness – buying something whimsically that is decorative and perishable is antithetical to the nature of the practical man. Flowers are a waning asset, so why invest?

    However, having established that everything should not always be reduced to the Very Practical and that whether wasteful or not, there is reason on occasion to the cry, Let’s Have a Parade, the prudent man sees the merit of the flower, the message it will send, and the profound effect it will have on his better half.

    Ironically, the very nature of a gift of flowers being fiscally frivolous is one of the keys to their appeal. Symbols of life and beauty, flowers make a woman feel special and beautiful, particularly when done spontaneously and not for any special occasion.

    In New York City, flowers can feel out of character in a world of steel and concrete that is fast-paced and where utility often rules. After all, the streets of New York do not evoke images of the Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Boboli Gardens of Florence, or the gardens of Versailles. However, not to be outdone, New York City does have its own spectacular displays and like many good things here, they just have to be sought out. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (see here and here) and the Conservatory Garden are worthwhile visits for anyone who favors nature’s floral extravagance. There are numerous other smaller and lesser known gardens, such as St. Lukes, which, for those in the know, provide respite from the city.

    There are also numerous flower shops throughout the city. University Floral Design, a Village landmark and neighborhood icon, is family owned and operated since 1928 with daily delivery of fresh Dutch flowers. It’s not that long a walk or that big an effort to go through the doors of a flower shop like that at 51 University Place and enter a world guaranteed to soften even those who see it as the Foolish World of the Fiscally Frivolous :)

    Related Posts: Joe Plourde, La Vie En Rose

  • dinamic_sidebar 4 none

©2015 New York Daily Photo Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)  Raindrops Theme