31 December 2008

10 .. 9 .. 8 ...

Titan Missile Museum / Sahuarita, Arizona
Titan missile complex 571-1, located approximately 20 miles south of Tucson, remains as the last of its kind. In 1987, all Titan missile complexes in the US were taken off alert and all but 571-1 were destroyed. The complex currently houses an unarmed Titan II missile in its silo. The Titan II was the largest land based nuclear missile ever used by the United States with one W53 warhead and a yield of 9 megatons. The facility's highest state of alert was on November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was shot. When news of the assassination broke, the keys used to launch the missile where ordered to be placed on the table at the launch console to prepare for a possible firing. The Pentagon apparently was pointing its finger (and the Titan missile) at the Soviet Union as it considered whether the assassination was an act of war. However, the keys were never actually placed in the switches. Advancing 25 years as we countdown to 2009 - when the button is pushed in Times Square this evening to drop the Big Apple, wishing a Happy New Year to all.

30 December 2008

anybody here?

23rd Street - Broadway Subway Platform / New York, New York
The week between Christmas and New Years is nice in that it's typically a quiet week with the hustle & bustle of the shopping season winding down and most people taking off from work as it is generally less than productive at the office. And that makes it nice for getting a seat on the subway - unless, of course, you are traveling anywhere near Times Square which is in full throttle for tomorrow's New Years Eve.

29 December 2008

caliente cab

Seventh Avenue (West Village) / New York, New York
Caliente Cab Co. is a tourist-oriented restaurant serving up franchise quality tex-mex fare in the West Village and has been doing so since the mid-80's. While the 1950 Studebaker is definitely caliente, the food is eh.. stick to the freshly made guacamole, chips and magaritas. And it's a great place for people watching from the outdoor patio in the more temperate months - though yesterday hit 65 degrees. Not a bad way to wind down 2008.

28 December 2008

yoga - not for christians!

Watchtower Society / Brooklyn, New York
From lower Manhattan, one can gaze across the the East River to Brooklyn Heights where the Watchtower Society owns significant waterfront property. Well, not unsurprisingly, those friendly Jehovah's Witness folks that you turn off the lights and hide in the bathroom for when you see them walking up your steps are not big fans of yoga. Is yoga suitable for Christians? Well, the Watchtower advises that for those simply exercising for the sake of their health, there are many avenues available that do not involve exposure to the evils of spiritism and occultism. Beware, you mat rats!

27 December 2008

winding down

Central Park West / New York, New York
This beautiful example of ornamental iron work found on a residential building facing the west side of Central Park is representative (hopefully) of these final days of the year before I head back to the UK next weekend (though big New Years plans - but more on that later). We just finished celebrating our third Christmas between families with a big dinner last night in Tribeca at Churrascaria Riodizio followed by the opening of presents which went into the wee hours of the morning. Most company has now departed - though a couple of kids are still here with us. Looking forward to a quiet afternoon - and no eating!

26 December 2008

box til you drop

Temple Street / Birmingham, England
Boxing Day in England (as well in other member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations - a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states most of which are former British colonies, or dependencies of these colonies) is celebrated today. It is based on the tradition of the wealthy giving gifts to their service staff and other less fortunate members of society. However, no surprise that contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a shoppers holiday filled with the frenzy of after-Christmas sales.

25 December 2008

jolly happy souls

Christmas 2008 / New York City
May your holidays be surrounded by jolly happy souls - with warmest of wishes for a sunshine-filled 2009!

24 December 2008

in celebration of chimneys

Up on the Rooftop / St. Peter Port, Bailiwick of Guernsey
On this Christmas Eve, I celebrate chimneys everywhere as St Nick prepares to make his mad dash across the globe. Santa history tells me that he first began using the chimney in the Netherlands. According to tradition, Saint Nicholas had a Piet (or helper elf) for every function including acrobatic Pieten for climbing up the roofs to stuff presents through the chimney, or to climb through themselves. Because we all know, Santa could never fit himself!

23 December 2008

learn to ollie

Building Stencil Graffiti / Bucharest, Romania
Stencil graffiti, which first began to appear as a graffiti genre in the mid-80's, can be found all over Bucharest these days. And because I know you ladies want to know - some tips on how to become a sk8ter girl:
  • Start off with a good skateboard; not one from Wal-Mart.
  • Get some skater gear and neat skater shoes.
  • Don't focus on your looks or you will be called a poser.
  • Talk to the dudes.
  • Don't hang out with the skaters, wear the clothes and then say you are one - unless you are - because real skater girls can skate.
  • Get a hair cut.
  • Wear a street hat.
  • Don't be full of yourself.
  • Learn to Ollie.

22 December 2008

tears of the cherubs

York Minister Cathedral / York, England
These chubby little fellows (almost always male) are Cherubs - as opposed to their counterparts in love and erotica (think Valentines Day) who are more accurately referred to as Putti. Didn't know there was a difference? Well neither did I. Cherubs are angels, occupying the highest angelic orders in Heaven and are supposedly the closest to God. On the other hand, Putti arise from Greco-Roman classical mythology and are more associated with Eros as well as with the muse, Erato; the muse of lyric and love poetry. So how do you tell the difference? As they are virtually identical in appearance, it's best to rely upon the theme of the painting or sculpture. If religious in nature – they are Cherubs; if mythical – they are Putti. And not Putta .. which has a very different meaning!

21 December 2008

turbulent times

Taiaroa Head / Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
Taiaroa Head is a headland at the end of the Otago Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand, overlooking the mouth of the Otago Harbour. Besides its incredible natural beauty, the cape is home to a colony of over 100 Northern Royal Albatrosses - the only such colony in the world on an inhabited mainland. The peninsula is also home to many forms of marine life such as fur seals, sea lions, and the largest colony of little or blue penguins remaining - almost small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. One of the world's rarest penguins and some say the most ancient of all living penguins, the yellow-eyed penguin, also makes its breeding habitat on the peninsula which is the primary reason this area was a "must see" on our itinerary. These 20"-30" tall penguins, some reaching over 20 years in age, did not disappoint us.

20 December 2008

mc lovin' it

Old City Wall / Krakow, Poland
Traveling the globe, one constant (for better or worse) is the proverbial "golden arch". McDonaldization is alive and well. While the menu may vary slightly to cater to the local taste, the basics remain intact. It's entertaining to go in and see what is offered and yes, many times after days of traveling in foreign countries nothing tastes like home like a double cheeseburger. I remember in Finland they offered a black bread bun - not so good. And while you may not speak the language, you can always point to a number or picture on the menu board. I'm lovin' it.

19 December 2008

pink flamingos are divine

Floreana Island / Galapagos
Unlike Divine, infamous for her/his antics in John Water's cult film "Pink Flamingos", these Galapagos flamingos are graceful, stately, long-legged - and don't weigh 300lbs. They reside in the salt water lagoons of Floreana Island, formed by shallow flooded lava fields. One particular lagoon called Punta Cormorant is particularly good for spotting these lanky birds. They are usually seen perched on a single leg (for reasons unknown) though this one must have been feeling a bit unstable as it has both feet firmly planted in the mud. And flamingos love mud. They're born in mud nests, breed in mud, and feed on mud. Unlike most birds which feed using eyesight, flamingos only use the sense of touch. They feed by stirring the mud around with their feet, then sticking their heads under water, turning their unique beaks upside down and straining out tiny crustaceans, mollusks, and algae. The flamingo's characteristic pink coloring is caused by the beta carotene in their diet. The source of this nutrient varies by geographical location and species diet but shrimp and blue-green algae are the most common sources.

18 December 2008

last tango in ..

La Boca / Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tango - probably no more passionate and sensual of a dance exists. And to truly feel its power and beauty, one should experience it impromptu on the streets of Buenos Aires. The tango originated in the lower-class neighborhoods of BA and was derived from the fusion of various forms of dance and music, melding together through the significant European immigration of the late 1800's. It quickly became popular throughout society, as theatres and street barrel organs spread it throughout working-class slums, which were packed with hundreds of thousands of Italians, Spanish and French. And for a modern twist on tango music, I highly recommend listening to GoTan Project, an amazing trio (French/Argentine/Swiss) based in Paris whose music is clearly tango but with electronic elements introduced throughout. The song "Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre)" is captivating - it takes me back to La Boca every time I hear it.

17 December 2008

dyed in the wool

Via dei Coronari / Rome, Italy
It was a wonderfully sunny day in Rome and I was wandering the streets just taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful city. I credit the colors of this recently dyed wool hanging out to dry set against the weathered walls of the street as my inspiration for developing a real passion for photography. Rome is an amazing city to photograph. amoRRoma.

16 December 2008

a prehistoric morning

Larnarch Castle / Dunedin, New Zealand
Due to jet lag having just flown from New York City into Dunedin at the southern tip of the South Island, I was wandering the lush grounds of Larnarch Castle where we were staying at 4:30am - just as the sun was beginning to rise. Combined with a soft flash, it cast a beautiful light on these unfamiliar, almost prehistoric looking, flora. The native flora to New Zealand is rich and unique having evolved in isolation for millions of years and because of this, the majority has a very distinctive look about it. Over 80% of New Zealand's native plants and trees are endemic meaning that they grow there and nowhere else in the world. Although few have showy flowers, the variety of foliage color, texture, and shape is unsurpassed.

15 December 2008

reflecting on the tate

Bankside / London, England
I love those occasions when you are someplace and something totally unexpected happens that just makes the trip that much better. Something small - something big .. it doesn't really matter; I guess it's the element of surprise. I was wandering around London with the intent of ending up at the Tate Modern, having no idea what was showing. Much to my delight, there was a show of Edward Hopper - one of my favorite American realist painters. Check him out - his works span far deeper than the infamous "Nighthawks".

14 December 2008

white shutters

Gun Hill Signal Station / St. George, Barbados
Because we pretty much had the day to kill in Barbados before our flight left in the evening, we hopped on a day tour of the island. This was shot at one of the small out buildings at Gun Hill Signal Station, located in the parish of St. George. It is one of the highest points (and therefore obvious as to why the signal station is located there) and provides a magnificent and captivating view of the entire island. It was recently restored and is now one of the finest of a series of signal stations built in 1818. These stations sighted ships approaching Barbados and signaled to each other in warning of the approaching vessel. Apparently, they were also used to warn of slave rebellions on the island.

13 December 2008

I (heart) NY

Pearl Street / New York, New York
Ah, to be back in Manhattan - the city that never sleeps (so ok, I did finally get to bed at 4:30 this morning). After all, who better expressed it than Eva Gabor in the theme song from Green Acres "New York is where I'd rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view. Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue."

12 December 2008

home for the holidays

New Street / Birmingham, United Kingdom
Leaving Brum in a couple of hours to fly back to Manhattan for the holidays - I can't wait! It will kick-off with a busy weekend of parties with friends and family. Yes .. it will be nice to indeed be home for the holidays.

11 December 2008

santa bard

Victoria Square / Birmingham, United Kingdom
The Bard of Avon - preeminent dramatist - as a street performance artist doing Santa. I guess it makes some sense and he did pen at least one Christmas poem that I know of. This type of street art is definitely popular these days - you see it everywhere. A performer dressed as some recognizable character spray painted gray or silver to resemble a statue who stands completely motionless for much longer than I would ever have patience for. And then - once an unsuspecting child gets close enough to satisfy its curiosity, the performer makes a sudden movement - and terrified, the child bursts into tears. Entertaining to the parent I guess, who is standing there hoping to capture it all on film.

10 December 2008


St. George Point / St. Georges, Grenada
While many architects strive to bring a textural experience into architectural design - sometimes it just happens naturally. The passage of time has a beautiful way of slowly peeling off the layers previously applied to expose the rawness of the building's basic elements.

09 December 2008

a waxing moon

New Street / Birmingham, United Kingdom
Saturday past was a beautiful crisp winter day and as the sun began to set a near perfect first quarter (or half) moon appeared. In the northern hemisphere, if the left side of the moon is dark then the light part is growing and the moon is referred to as waxing or moving towards a full moon. If the right side of the moon is dark then the light part is shrinking and the moon is referred to as waning or moving towards a new moon. Assuming that one is in the northern hemisphere, the right portion of the moon is the part that is always growing. In the southern hemisphere, it would be the reverse. A bit of moonology for you.

08 December 2008

a spectrum of holiday color

German Christmas Market @ Victoria Square / Birmingham, United Kingdom
Many of the open air stalls at the Christmas market this past weekend were selling ornaments in a variety of sizes, shapes and design. Some of the most striking were the cut glass ornaments sparkling from the refraction of surrounding light rays; giving these objects their glimmering effect.

07 December 2008

all for fun .. fun for all

German Christmas Market @ Victoria Square / Birmingham, United Kingdom
The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. In many towns, Advent is ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or "Weihnachtsmarkt". Generally held on the town square, the market sells food and drink from open-air stalls together with traditional singing and dancing - all for fun. Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, held in beautiful Victoria Square, is one of the most popular outside of Germany and Austria with over two million visitors during the five week period that it is open. I think 250,000 of those visitors were there yesterday as it was a brilliant, crisp winter day. Popular delights include German mulled wine, grilled sausages and kielbasa, lots of German beer, and for those with a sweet tooth, gingerbread, marzipan sweets and other candies. A range of traditional German breads and pastries are also baked fresh on site each day. Me - I went for the beer and a soft pretzel. With four hours of Christmas shopping I needed fortification!

06 December 2008

walking on sunshine

Conservatory Garden @ Central Park / New York, New York
Truly unbelievable - the sun is shining in Brum today!! I mean brilliantly shining. I'm smiling all over. Today will be a day of walking - photo shooting - and Christmas shopping. No rain on my parade.

05 December 2008

the working end

Aboard the Royal Clipper / Windward Islands, Caribbean
In sailing, the mechanism used to raise and lower sails is referred to as "block and tackle". The block is one or more mechanical pulleys, usually made of wood or metal, that provides a leveraged advantage to maneuvering the sails; especially helpful on windy days. When rope or line is run through a block or a series of blocks the whole assembly is called a tackle. For those of you who recall high school physics class, it is a compound machine. And - every tackle has a working end which is usually tied off where the final run of rope leaves the last sheave.

04 December 2008

fruits of a summer past

Thompson Street / New York, New York
One of the things that defines New York to me are the open-air fruit (and vegetable) stands located along the sidewalks of the city. They can be found in virtually every neighborhood and know no economic boundaries - from corner bodegas to gourmet specialty shops. The produce always seems much more appealing to me when it's offered in natural light, stacked up and ready for picking - conjuring up images of country roadside stands - which I'm sure is the intention.

03 December 2008

stare decisis

Corporation Street / Birmingham, United Kingdom
There are a number of architecturally striking structures in the city centre of Birmingham. One of the more interesting is The Victoria Law Courts on Corporation Street which is a brick and terracotta building that now houses Birmingham Magistrates' Court. It is faced entirely in deep red brick from the clay of Ruabon in North Wales and covered in intricate terracotta ornamentation. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in March 1887 with the courts' official opening in July 1891. The area around Corporation Street is a major shopping area which includes New Street, High Street and the Bullring. I've been told that there is a great German Christmas Market in Victoria Square at the western terminus of New Street - in fact, it is the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany and Austria. I know where I'll be doing my last-minute Christmas shopping.

02 December 2008

simply the best

Tina Turner Live @ MSG / New York, New York
Last night I was given the opportunity to put a major check on my "bucket list" - Tina Turner live at Madison Square Garden. And yes, she is "simply the best, better than all the rest". At 69 years old, she remains an incredible performer putting on a stellar 3 hour show. The Queen of Rock n' Roll is still kickin' ass.

01 December 2008

smokin' gossip

Fire patrol No. 2 @ West 3rd Street / New York, New York
Multi-tasking: the ability of a person to perform more than one task at the same time - we all do it. Smoking a cigarette .. gabbing on the mobile - heck, you know how it goes. But wait, these guys even dress alike.

30 November 2008

mountains majestic

Foothills of the Andes / Mendoza, Argentina
One usually goes to the Mendoza area for the fabulous Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet wines. But the star of the show is the fabulous landscapes framed by the Andes Mountains dividing Argentina and Chile. This shot was taken not far from a major road between Argentina and Chile which runs through Mendoza. The city is a frequent stopover for climbers on their way to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, National Geographic listed Mendoza as one of the top 10 historic destinations of the World. Go!

29 November 2008

a tuscan glow

Piazza dei Miracoli / Pisa, Italy
Pisa was perhaps most beautiful to me at night. The warm street-level lighting against the earthy Tuscan colors of the architecture brought a soft glow to the city. Evening is when the city truly comes alive. During the day it seems fairly utilitarian but by 19.30 the streets are full with sidewalk cafes and endless trattorias humming with activity - such is Italy - such is Europe. New York City is like this - but sadly many urban centers in the US simply shut down at night as people flee to the suburbs. And just to note; this shot was taken by the leaning tower which is fairly deserted at night as it's somewhat removed from the center. However, the Borgo Stretto area was teeming.

28 November 2008

welcome to zooland

Mid-Town Manhattan / New York, New York
From Thanksgiving week through New Years, Manhattan (and in particular mid-town) is an absolute zoo and to be avoided at all costs - unless, of course you are a tourist visiting the Big Apple. And if so, then the multitude of crappy souvenir stores populating the Times Square area are for you. While it is a huge boom to the city's economy and merchandisers rely heavily on this pre-Christmas commercial season, as a resident it's a good time to stay local and take advantage of what your neighborhood has to offer. Enjoy!

27 November 2008

'tini time

Thanksgiving Day / New York, New York
This Thanksgiving we are hosting a house full of family and friends. And what better way to celebrate the holiday than with a signature drink - our own Pumpkin Pie Martini. Should you wish to join us, read on:
  • take one martini glass and wet the rim with vodka
  • dip into pulverized graham crackers to dust the rim
Mix in a martini shaker with ice
  • 1 part Stoli Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 part Hiram Walker Pumpkin Liqueur
  • 1 part Silk (soy) egg nog
  • splash of Disaronno
  • dash of cinnamon
Strain into martini glass and top with a dollup of whipped cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 November 2008

a falling star

Via Sant'Apollonia / Pisa, Italy
This hotel, located in the center of Pisa on a street not far from La Torre di Pisa, is typical of the many small family-operated hotels that you will find in Pisa - and throughout most of Italy. They are quaint, very friendly, slightly tattered around the edges - and have big neon signs that leave nothing to the imagination as to what sort of commerce might be taking place behind the rustic walls. This one is quite proud of its apparent three star rating - even if that rating may have been achieved 25 years ago. Honestly, who would ask them to dim a star from their beautiful neon.

25 November 2008

fashion interpreted

Selfridges @ The Bullring / Birmingham, United Kingdom
This is just such an odd and interesting building (a department store, of all things) but when you read from the designer's website, you begin to understand - or not. From FUTURESYSTEMS: "The fluidity of shape recalls the fall of fabric or the soft lines of a body, it rises from the ground and gently billows outwards before being drawn in at a kind of waistline. It then curves out again and over to form the roof, in one continuous movement. The skin is made up of thousands of aluminium discs, creating a fine, lustrous grain like the scales of a snake or the sequins of a Paco Rabanne dress. In sunlight it shimmers, reflecting minute changes in weather conditions and taking on the colours, light and shapes of people and things passing by - an animate and breathing form." The structure is particularly striking shot against this dynamic and turbulent late autumn sky.

24 November 2008

doctor dolittle

Lungano Antonio Pacinotti / Pisa, Italy
Have you ever wished you could gab with the gulls? I approached them with a pleasant but apparently unconvincing "buongiorno". They didn't buy into it. I then suspected they were chattering about the lone kayaker on the Arno River that had just passed them by so I suggested with a snicker what an easy target he'd be for a guano drop. They stayed put. And the lovely weather - that's always an easy conversation starter - but they looked at me strangely as if to say "it's Italy, it's always beautiful .. stupid tourist". Stupid gulls.

23 November 2008

lean on me

La Torre di Pisa / Pisa, Italy
I've just returned to Birmingham from a weekend in Pisa, a city of about 100,000 people situated at the mouth of the Arno river which runs down through its center. The city is young, lively and very Italian. Much of the youth can be attributed to the University of Pisa with a student body of nearly 60,000. And Friday evening I found out just how lively it can get - having randomly stopped in a bar and consumed too many sambucas with fast-made friends including two Argentinean sisters (one was the bartender - the other? well, she was just fun) who have lived in Pisa the past 20 years - and a group of their friends. Oh, and the photo - obviously it's the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is one of many works of art and architecture in the city's Piazza dei Miracoli or "Square of Miracles", to the north of the old town center. And perhaps best of all, the weather saturday was brilliant sunshine requiring nothing more than shirtsleeves.

22 November 2008

stalag 13

Auschwitz I / Auschwitz, Poland
This was not the set of Hogan's Heroes, the American television comedy from the mid/late 60's set in a German prisoner of war camp known as Stalag 13 during the Second World War. This is indeed the harsh reality of Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp which served as the administrative center for the whole Auschwitz complex - the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. Opened in 1939 on the site of an old Polish army barracks, the camp was initially used for interning Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, then also for Soviet Prisoners of War. Common German criminals, and other "anti-social elements" of society were also imprisoned there. In 1940, the German began sending Jews there, as well. At any time, the camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; by 1942 the number reached 20,000.

21 November 2008

1 800 spice

Wharf Road / St. George's, Grenada
Grenada is known as The Spice Isle because it is a leading producer of several important spices. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, allspice, and especially nutmeg are grown on the island, providing almost 20% of the world spice supply. All are important exports with the island being the world's 2nd largest producer of nutmeg. It seemed that everyone we encountered while wandering the streets of St. George's was wanting to sell us some sort of spice. In 2004, after being hurricane free for almost 50 years, the island was directly hit by Hurricane Ivan. Ivan struck as a Category 3 hurricane and caused 90 percent of the homes to be damaged or destroyed. Also especially hard hit were the churches - when we were there in May 2007 many were still without roofs.

20 November 2008

the hands of time

York Minster / York, England
I love the cathedrals of Europe. They are incredibly imposing structures, dominating the local skyline (at least before the infill of modern development). And the interior spaces are truly breathtaking. York, a very charming walled city founded by the Romans with a rich Viking history, has one of the best. The York Minster is a Gothic cathedral with parts of the structure dating back to the early 1200's. It is the second largest of its kind in Northern Europe with the largest being the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The cathedral also has two bell towers - one of the things I love most - with one bell (Great Peter) weighing over 10 tons. Hearing church bells is very calming to me and brings back good memories of being at my grandmother's as a child, lying in bed and listening to the church bells on the quarter hour from Westminster College.

19 November 2008

creole colors

City Centre / Fort-de-France, Martinique
As an overseas department of France, Martinique's culture blends French and Caribbean influences with the city of Fort-de-France often referred to as the Paris of the Lesser Antilles. While I've yet to get to Paris, I expect there are some pretty substantial differences between the two! Typical of the Caribbean islands, the architecture though simple in form can be eye-popping in color.

18 November 2008


Sonora Desert Museum / Tucson, Arizona
A typically beautiful day in the desert - dry, hot and brilliantly sunny. And the shadows formed by the sun shining overhead through the trellis work at the museum's welcome center made for some fun, almost schizophrenic patterns. I always find the desert environment very hospitable - the dry heat of the daytime, the cooler evenings temperatures, the dramatically different landscape (from my norm anyways) - all contribute. And sun - 365 days a year!

17 November 2008

let the sun shine

Parasol on Mulberry Street / New York, New York
Oh, and another thing about Birmingham - all it does is rain, rain, and rain some more. I honestly don't know how the Brits tolerate it day after day. I'm here a week and I find it totally depressing. Really. I need sunshine in my life - without it I begin to get very moody. Yesterday I went to see a very funny comedy at the cinema, took myself out for a lamb kabob lunch ..but by mid-afternoon I was very antsy and just wanted out. Please - let the sunshine.

16 November 2008

good eatin'

MacDougal Street / New York, New York
One of the things I miss being in Birmingham is the good eatin' offered pretty much anywhere in Manhattan. While Birmingham has excellent curry houses - and my favorite restaurant, a Persian place called Shiraz is right across the street from my apartment - I can't get excited over typical British cuisine. Come on now ..bangers & mash ..kippers ..scottish eggs ..steak & kidney pudding. While driving to the office the other morning, I was listening to a local Birmingham station on the car radio and the most popular "make at home" dinner based on user call-in was liver & onions. Ugh. Give me the Bleeker/MacDougal St area of the Village any day.

15 November 2008

japanese lanterns

Gardens @ House on the Rock / Spring Green, Wisconsin
I've always loved Physalis alkekengi, more commonly known as the Paper Lantern Plant. My first memories of these as a small child were at my grandmother's house in western Pennsylvania. She had a pond by her house that was full of goldfish and frogs and when we'd go visit I couldn't wait to get to the pond - fascinated that there were goldfish swimming freely - not in a bowl! Growing along the edges of the pond were clumps of japanese lantern plants that in the Fall displayed these beautiful orange seed pods. I remember opening a few up and finding a large perfectly round berry inside each one. It's funny as I'm sure these grow everywhere but her pond is the only recollection that I have of them - which is fine because when I now see japanese lanterns, they are associated with lots of good memories.

14 November 2008

on peregrine wings

Peregrine Winery / Queenstown (Gibbston Valley), New Zealand
Peregrine Winery is located in the Gibbston Valley just outside of Queenstown, an area known for its pinot noir grapes. We visited a number of wineries but Peregrine was, by far, the most architecturally inspiring. The sweeping roof lines of this protective canopy against the mountains of the Southern Alps and the Kawerau Gorge were dramatic. The concrete area is actually a terraced roof, where views of the Kawerau Gorge are framed under the translucent canopy floating overhead which is made of deeply corrugated composite glass-fibre sheeting. This floating 460 foot long roof is not just an architectural nicety; it effectively eliminated the need to allow for snow loads on the building below, and removes most of the solar heat gain from the production rooms (also below), where stable temperatures are critically important. Digging the barrel room and the fermenting chambers into the ground assists in temperature control, requiring the use of less energy. I've seen this alot in wineries in both New Zealand and Argentina - using the naturally cool underground for fermenting and storage - not so much in the States. All in all, a very nice job of blending the built environment into an otherwise beautiful and unspoiled landscape.

13 November 2008

neo-classical bigness

Carmelite Church / Warsaw, Poland
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph commonly known as the Carmelite Church is a beautiful neo-classical style Roman Catholic church built 1761-1783. The present church is the second building to have been situated on this prominent site in Old Town, erected over the site of a wooden church originally constructed for the Discalced Carmelite order in 1643 and burned down by the Swedes and Brandenburg Germans in the 1650s. This impressive facade was built in a style typical for the reign of King Stanisław August Poniatowski, with dominant columns supporting the cornice. The interior is typical of the opulence associated with the Rococo style and has a magnificent main altar, abundant gilding and amazing stucco ceiling decorations. And fortunately, during World War II the church was saved from deliberate destruction by the retreating German forces and was only slightly damaged. I love church architecture - especially of this style - big, beautiful and fun.

12 November 2008

hey bartender

New York Bar / Port Elizabeth, Bequia
I'd like to introduce you to Roni, the friendliest bartender in Bequia. She's a beautiful woman with a wonderfully mischievous smile - who got us deliriously drunk. We met a friend from NYC in Bequia who was working Peace Corps on St. Vincent. It was a fun afternoon on an incredibly laid back and beautiful island. Word of warning - Sunset VSR (very strong rum) , distilled on neighboring St. Vincent, is 84.5% alcohol. From the distiller "The robust youthful spirit of this rum has a delectable flavour. Local enthusiasts drink it straight or with a chaser, while others prefer it with a mixer such as fresh coconut water, fruit juice or cola. It can also be used as a food preservative and is ideal for rich fruit cakes." Yeah - right - also works well as an embalming fluid. I'd place it right up there with jet fuel.