Posted by Ellen

A couple of nights ago, the season's first snow blanketed this meadow high on the shoulder of Mt. Washington, shown here in its August colors. But heavy rain forecast for today should wash away any lingering taste of winter. For now.

Posted by Ellen

I triple dogg dare you, sez the writing on the lightpole.

Tags:
Posted by Ellen

I'm sure there are more than two stories that can be linked to this street corner in Washington, D.C., but I see two in the photo.

The first one is a tale of two gas stations: The year is 1925, cars have only been on the road for a few years, but already here we see a derelict gas station, rundown, boarded up, the gas pump already removed. The parked car may or may not be a junker, but it's not much of an advertisement for the carwash service. But look across the street, at the far right edge of the picture. You may want to enlarge the photo to see full detail. (Or ask me to send you the very high-resolution original photo, 2.6 MB file.) That's a brand spanking new Standard Oil Co. gas station, the original category killer--so Story #1 is about how Mr. Rockefeller probably put this guy out of business and blighted this corner of my hometown.

Story #2 is about the corner itself. It's 2nd Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW, which is stunning to those of us who feel they know Washington. Mass Ave is one of the businest streets in the city, and the intersection is in the heart of downtown, about four blocks from Union Station. In 1925, there wasn't even a line painted down the middle of Mass Ave. Furthermore, based on the trees and their shadows, we can deduce that  the picture was taken in late afternoon or early evening--rush hour. Perhaps it was Sunday, but still--the wide-open emptiness is not consistent with our notions of a major downtown artery. This scene feels like a small town, or the edge of a city, not the center of the nation's capital, just eight blocks from the U.S. Capitol building.

What's there today? Nothing. Grass and a couple of curving walkways--I think the local term is pocket park. It's an unusual park, however, built on the air rights above the I-395 freeway as it dives underground just north of Massachusetts Avenue. Rumor has it that behind this park, they're planning to build offices and even stores and apartments, all on the I-395 air rights. This is said to be the biggest construction project in Washington right now that hasn't been suspended--maybe it hasn't been suspended, but it's not yet what they call shovel-ready.

And for what it's worth, the Standard Oil station isn't there any more either; that corner is occupied by a medium-sized brick office building that serves as Washington headquarters for a business association.

Posted by Ellen

Carol Stack, of North Carolina, and Azaria Galli, of Maine, who have friends in common, recently shared a pizza at Flatbread's on the waterfront in Portland.

Posted by Ellen

Michele and Richard Manno try to pose for a picture on Formal Night during their recent Mediterranean cruise.

These people are related to me.

Posted by Ellen

I'm not a New York person, but this view of the Savoy Plaza and other Midtown towers has got to be one of the most gorgeous cityscapes anywhere, ever. It was shot in Central Park in 1933 by architectural photographer Samuel Gottscho. Today, the view from the same spot would be dominated by tall glass office boxes; the Savoy and many of the other old towers have been demolished.

Gottscho worked as a traveling lace and fabric salesman for 23 years before he could work with his camera full time. He specialized in pictures of houses and gardens, but also branched out into nature photography.

A new novel by E.L. Doctorow uses a heavily photoshopped version of this picture on the cover.

Posted by Ellen

In the small but earnest world of competitive badminton, the Chicago Open is a big deal, a tournament sanctioned by the body that will select the Olympic badminton team. Some of us forget that badminton is an Olympic sport.

Katrin Maldre is new to the competitive version of the sport and feared she wasn't yet playing at the Chicago Open level, but she took first place yesterday at this year's tournament. There were four divisions, from A, the strongest, through D, the weakest, and Katrin won the D division. Still, she noted, "the picture says it all."

What helped her compensate for badminton inexperience was a lifetime of athletic engagement. At the age of six, she was selected for intensive sports training by the Soviet athletic academy, and as a teenager she joined Estonia's national table tennis team, which competed in all the Soviet Republics across Europe and Asia. In recent years, she's played tennis, skiied, dabbled in recreational soccer, even tried a little bit of mountain climbing.

"There's just something magic about sports events," she says. "Also, while I play I don't eat, I get a lot of exercise, and I don't say any bad words, so I improve myself. And maybe that helps to improve the world a little bit."

Posted by Ellen

The gardens at Ludwigsburg am Neckar, near Stuttgart, Germany, were laid out in the French parterre style beginning in the early eighteenth century. In the years since, they have been repeatedly dug up and replanted, according to the latest trends in grand gardening, and they have occasionally been allowed to lapse toward wilderness. The most recent renovation--a tiny corner of which is shown here--restores the gardens to their appearance circa 1800.

A duke named Ludwig started the gardens because the front yard of  his hunting lodge looked barren and boring. The lodge also went through cycles of renovation and disrepair, eventually becoming one of Germany's largest baroque palaces.

Posted by Ellen

The rocks are 400 million years old, give or take.

The photo is five years old.

The occasion was the birthday gathering on Peaks Island in Maine in honor of Bob Horowitz--my father, and the grandfather of these fellows--who was then 80 years old.

There's one obvious constant through all these years: some of us hominids are hard-wired to build forts and weapons and stuff out of rocks or whatever is close to hand.

Not as obvious, perhaps, but just as constant: some of us are hard-wired to knock down other people's forts and stuff. Hank recalls that he had to rebuild this whole structure all by himself. Had to.

My father will be 85 this next week. He's well beyond the stone age; most days, he aims for the Big Band era.

Left to right: Brothers Ted, Hank, Allen, and Joe Stein, with cousin Nick Horowitz.

Posted by Ellen

And many happy returns of the day.