New York

Posted by Ellen

Cousin Michele was rocking her shoes Saturday at her retirement party.

The party playlist featured an Alice Cooper number that kinda set the tone, as Michele celebrated completion of approximately forty-eleven years as a schoolteacher in Brooklyn and Queens. School's out now, at her house.

Posted by Ellen

In this photograph, taken in 1929, the visions of two men come together.

The subject of the portrait is Clayhorn Martin, a Harlem street preacher who had gone barefoot ever since the day in his youth when God told him to shed his shoes and walk on holy ground. Till the day he died, he walked the streets with his tambourine, shouting to the world that God dwells in every single person, not in church buildings or special dignitaries. 

Martin was a homeless man, a neighborhood character. In this formal studio portrait, photographer James Van Der Zee focused not so much on his outward condition as on his internal seriousness and faith. In other words, the scene he set for his camera aimed to take Preacher Martin at his word, seeking to show the higher purpose within him.

Martin had been born a slave in Virginia in 1851; he died homeless on the street in 1937. Van Der Zee and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance raised money to give him a proper sendoff, a funeral attended by five hundred or more of his neighbors, his flock.

Posted by Ellen

St. Patrick's Cathedral from behind and a little bit above, in midtown Manhattan. We enjoyed this view from the window of our hotel room during a recent trip to New York.

Posted by Ellen

Ron Baron's "Lost and Found," bronze luggage and seating, was installed in 2010 in a plaza outside a new Long Island Railroad station in Hempstead, New York.

Posted by Ellen

In 1899, snow was shoveled off busy Manhattan streets, loaded into wagons, and hauled down to the docks, where it was dumped in the river. 

Nowadays, the EPA doesn't like for states or municipalities to dump dirty snow from city streets into rivers or, as in the case of Portland, Maine, into the ocean. Portland used to throw its snow from downtown into the harbor, but it now builds mountains of snow, dump-truckload after dump-truckload, in an empty field near the airport.

New York City trucks its snow to melting machines, known as snow dragons, which can melt thirty tons of snow an hour and discharge the meltwater into the city sewer sytem. In an emergency, however, such as a ridiculously huge blizzard, we are told that the EPA will look the other way while the city rids its streets of snow the old-timey way.

Posted by Ellen

Two cranes get their act together high in the sky above New York City's High Line promenade.

Many, many cranes are hard at work these days in that neck of the woods; apparently, real estate developers are firmly of the opinion that people will pay even more than the usual Manhattan rates to live in an apartment or condo near the High Line. They may be right; nobody's yet found the ceiling on what New Yorkers will pay for anything.

Posted by Ellen

We open this post with a small step back in time, to October of this year, when our niece Melissa Koehler married Matt Solomon. We noted this elegant and awesome occasion at the time but somehow managed to omit any photo of the bridegroom. By now, photographers and videographers and Facebook contributors have documented the day in images worth a billion skillion words, and from all that treasure we selected a frame from a video, with its swirl of wind and an imminent kiss.

Below are pictures of four other of our nieces, two sets of sisters, taken as they celebrated with Melissa that day. At left are Maggie and Amelia; to the right are Avi and Gillian. These pictures are tightly cropped to feature the nieces; people have been cropped out literally and perhaps also figuratively as we try to keep the focus on these young women.

Gillian's wedding, of course, was just this month in New Zealand. Maggie's was back in June in Maine. Gillian works in Wellington, New Zealand, organizing ecotourism adventures. Maggie is a nurse in Rochester, New York, studying to become a nurse practitioner.

Maggie's little sister, Amelia, wearing blue in the picture, lives and works in New York City, where she is creative director for a brand new startup fashion label, The Girl That Loves. Amelia prepares marketing materials and designs the company's overall look and feel.

Who is The Girl That Loves? According to the website, she's a girl who's "going places, but she plans to have a good time getting there."  

She mixes edgy and trendy pieces with cute and playful pieces. Her favorite combo? Sexy heels, jeans and a sweatshirt (and possibly a fedora). Tadaaaa! Looking great has never been so comfy! Instead of breaking her bank over one designer piece she lines her closet with a variety of fun pieces. She likes simple, elegant clothing but enjoys taking an occasional risk: the right neckline, a bit of cool embroidery or an edgy color scheme can turn a piece from “like” to “love.”

Here is one of The Girl That Loves' new designs, in the playful category, a rhinestone panda skirt that perhaps, when some people wear it, can go from "like" to "love" in a heartbeat.

At the other end of the world from New York City, on New Zealand's South Island, Amelia's cousin Avi is herself no slouch when it comes to fashion; in fact, she once was almost turned down for a job because an interviewer thought she dressed much too nicely for someone in her line of work. Avi earns her living by studying penguins in their natural habitats.

She's just beginning a new position at Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, on the east coast of New Zealand about three hours' drive south of Christchurch. There at the edge of town, hundreds of little blue penguins, the world's smallest penguin species, sometimes called fairy penguins, have colonized an abandoned limestone quarry, making their nests at the top of a steep rocky slope just outside Oamaru's harbor.

Most days, the penguins leave the colony before dawn to swim several miles to their fishing grounds offshore; they fish all day and then return home at nightfall. Their nightly return has become something of a tourist attraction in Oamaru, so much so that an important research focus for scientists like Avi is how best to manage interaction between the public and the penguins.

Below is a huddle of Oamaru penguins just back from the sea; they swam in together as a "raft" and then paused amidst the rocks, perhaps just to catch their breaths and cool off after their long swim. Penguins' greasy feathers keep them very warm, so warm that to prevent overheating they have to fluff themselves, as they've done here, to allow chilly evening air to reach their skin.

Little blue penguins are not endangered, but many local populations are at risk because of land predators such as dogs and cats, which are not native to New Zealand. In the water, they are preyed upon by fur seals. In some coastal areas, they get hit by cars while trying to cross the road at dusk.

At the bottom of this post is a portrait of a little blue guy. He weighs about four pounds or less and is only 12 inches tall, not even knee high to a ten year old.

Posted by Ellen

Veterans' Day is Armistice Day, except that it's not. Calendar-wise, they're the same, but pausing or parading to show gratitude for our veterans is not really the same as pausing to commemorate the moment 95 years ago when soldiers lay down their weapons and those among them who still had the vitality and the nerve climbed out of their trenches and tried to put World War I behind them.

We know more than a few military men and women who squirm at hearing "Thank you for your service," which servicepeople hear all the time these days. All too often, what the people who say it really mean by it is: "Hey, I'm not one of those dirty hippies who burned their draft cards and stuff during Vietnam–I'm a real American, and here's my business card." Or something like that.

Still. We are grateful for our veterans and for all the people through the years who put their lives on the line for us. People sacrificed so much in so many wars, and way too many of those who benefited from their sacrifice are obnoxious Americans like me.

Anyways, VJ Day, much like Armistice Day, was a very good day for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We young folk know it mostly from Eistanstadt's iconic photo of a kiss in Times Square, recreated here in Lego by photographer Mike Stimpson.

Posted by Ellen

By the summer of 1942, the American war effort was in such high gear that many agricultural regions were experiencing a severe labor shortage. All the young men were serving in the military, almost everybody else was working in war industries, and nobody was left to pick the nation's peas and beans.

As part of a program designated "Food for Victory," this specially chartered train brought more than three hundred high school boys and girls from the coal-mining town of Richwood, West Virginia, to the farming district around Batavia in upstate New York, where they would pick peaches, apples, tomatoes, and other crops. The program also brought in teenagers from other non-farming places, including Brooklyn, New York, where one of the high schoolers who signed on to help with the harvest upstate was the young Helen Ruskin, Norman's mother.

Posted by Ellen

A woman and her dog, by Gordon Parks. New York, May 1943.