31 October 2008

a new york minute

East 23rd & Broadway Subway Station / New York, New York
Last night after dinner at Angelo & Maxies Steakhouse (eh..), Chas and I went to get on the subway at Madison Square Park to head home. While standing next to the tracks waiting for the approaching R/W train, he looked at me and said "ummm, someone is drawing you" which, of course, caused me to immediately turn and look. Sitting on the bench about 5 feet away was a very pleasant guy with a sketch pad in his lap who, yes, was drawing me. He smiled and kept drawing. About a minute later, he very politely handed me the drawing - I was quite impressed. And then I noticed written at the top "Please tip if that's okay with you". He got two bucks and I got a quick sketch capturing a genuine New York minute.

30 October 2008

windows of rome

Via Della "Unknown" / Rome, Italy
While in Rome a few years back, I became totally enamored by the windows of this beautiful city. I walked the streets for hours shooting these openings into a world which seemed very foreign, yet very comfortable, to me. The subject matter was endless with each one unique in its color and design. My intent was to come back and paint a series of watercolors of them - perhaps someday. And sadly, I had written down the location of each shot so that I could identify it in some way but those scribblings are no where to be found. Kind of like my jury summons to appear for State Court next Monday here in NYC - I have NO idea where it is. It's a habit of mine that I should work on, I guess.

29 October 2008

charge of the red brigade

Millennium Bridge @ Tate Modern / London, United Kingdom
Direct pedestrian access to Tate Modern is via the Millennium Bridge from St Paul's Cathedral (in the background). The bridge is a pedestrian-only steel suspension bridge crossing the River Thames, linking Bankside with the City. With construction beginning in 1998, it was the first new bridge across the Thames in London since Tower Bridge in 1894. Its design provides a perfect frame for the south facade of St. Paul's Cathedral when looking back from the Tate Modern. And it serves as an impressive backdrop for this gaggle of school girls garbed in their summery red uniforms. School uniforms - one of the many things I find oddly charming about the UK.

28 October 2008

wash day

Capitol Square / Madison, Wisconsin
The washboard was originally designed for hand washing of clothing. However, with the introduction of mechanized washing machines by the end of the 20th century, the washboard began to take on a secondary life as a musical instrument. Traditionally used in jazz, zydeco, jug band, and old time music, the washboard has remained in its wooden frame and is played primarily by tapping and/or scraping the washboard with thimbles. Often the washboard is accessorized with additional improvised percussion instruments such as a wood block, cowbells, and small cymbals. This lad was quite talented at stroking a rhythm from his fully equipped board which was further enhanced by his old-timey look.

27 October 2008

inner circle

Temppeliaukio Church / Helsinki, Finland
Otherwise known as the Rock Church, this is a shot of the interior dome of the Lutheran church located in the center of Helsinki. This unique structure was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. The circular interior was excavated and built entirely into existing rock but is bathed in natural light entering through the glazing which supports this dome. The exterior dome, sheathed in copper, is all that is visible from the outside. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics with the acoustic quality being ensured by the rough, virtually unworked, rock surfaces. The Temppeliaukio church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city; half a million people visit it annually.

26 October 2008

better days

St. Mary's Cathedral of the Assumption / Kingstown, St. Vincent
Kingstown is the capital city for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is probably best appreciated for its true West Indian feel rather than for any significant attractions. It's an interesting place to relax and stroll the cobblestone streets. Kingstown is known for its rum shops, stone-block colonial buildings and its churches. St Mary's Cathedral, built in 1823, is the largest and has an eclectic mix of Romanesque arches and columns, Gothic spires and Moorish ornamentation. And like the cathedral, the local economy is in need of repair. Agriculture, dominated by banana production, is the most important sector of this lower-middle-income economy. However, the continuing dependence on a single crop represents the biggest obstacle to the islands' development. The government has been relatively unsuccessful at introducing new industry to the island and an unemployment rate of 20%-plus continues.

25 October 2008

loves me ..loves me not

Central Park / New York, New York
One of the last vestiges of a summer now past, this flowering weed in Central Park is still hanging on for a few more days (or hopefully weeks) before a killing frost finally moves in brings it to the ground. I'm not sure what type of plant this is - I see them alot - and I'm pretty sure it's not part of the daisy or Asteraceae family though they look similar in color. They remind me of my mother - a woman of fairly simple tastes who loved daisies. They were by far her favorite flower and every summer she grew clumps of Shasta daisies and zinnias in the backyard which endlessly found themselves popped into a vase on the kitchen table. During her last couple of years, bedridden from a series of strokes, we placed her bed in the living room directly in front of the large glass windows looking out over the back lawn where she could still enjoy them during the summer months.

24 October 2008

dry dock

Port of St Helier / Bailiwick of Jersey
The Bailiwick of Jersey is one of the Channel Islands, located approximately 14 miles off the coast of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, France. It is the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands and like the rest of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, it is a British Crown dependency. And while the defense of all these islands is the responsibility of the United Kingdom; they are part of neither the UK nor the European Union but are regarded as separate possessions of the Crown. The Channel Islands are subject to significant tidal variations, at times exceeding 10 meters within a diurnal tide cycle. This requires careful monitoring of the tidal clock when planning to enter or exit port. Sleep in and you may find yourself in natural dry dock waiting for the next tide to come in and float your boat.

23 October 2008

'n sync

Washington Square Arch / New York, New York
Awhile back I was in Washington Square Park in the heart of Greenwich Village shooting some pictures of the Arch, a towering 77 foot high marble monument erected in 1892. As happens on occasion, it wasn't until I got home and was sorting through the shots that I noticed just how perfectly aligned this young woman was with the base stones. It was if she was playing an unconscious game of "Simon says" with the inanimate stone giant. And who says we are not influenced, knowingly or not, by the environment that surrounds us.

22 October 2008

hey boo boo

Sonora Desert Museum / Tuscon, Arizona
I just landed back home in NYC from a couple weeks in the UK - all work - no play - tires a bear out. I'm going into retirement .. until tomorrow. A little sleep and I'll have my energy back - but then I leave again friday morning. Ugh.

21 October 2008

color my underworld

Under Ludgate Hill / Birmingham, United Kingdom
While walking the canals the other morning, I passed through a rather long, dark and ominous tunnel. About three quarters of the way through, a very small break in the surface above allowed a perfectly placed sunbeam to shine down onto the brick wall support underneath - highlighting a bit of colorful graffiti. While I was unable to discern any particular message, it was a welcome distraction to my better common sense questioning why I was walking by myself through this tunnel of darkness in unfamiliar territory.

20 October 2008

ménage à fois gras

Birmingham & Fazeley Canal / Birmingham, United Kingdom
The canal water was smooth as glass as this mallard drake went about its morning search for food - or whatever it is ducks do to occupy their time and energy. Although this male, with his unmistakable breeding plumage of green head, black rear end and yellowish orange bill might indeed have had something else on his mind. Was it that drab female mallard or perhaps the other dandy drake with him - or both? A ménage of duck duck duck. And stop rolling your eyes; mallards have rates of male-male sexual activity that are unusually high for birds. In some cases, as many as 19% of pairs in a Mallard population are male-male. What would Alfred Kinsey have to say about that!

19 October 2008

floating your boat

Under the Broad Street Bridge / Birmingham, United Kingdom
Yesterday was a beautiful day for walking the extensive waterway canal systems within Birmingham. This is a section of the canal passing through Brindleyplace known as Gas Light Basin where the Worcester and Birmingham Canal meets the BCN Main Line. These narrowboats just completed a series of canal locks (13 in total) spanning a short one mile distance through the city centre - each lock still operated by the boat owner much as they were in the 18th & 19th centuries - requiring strong legs and a powerful body to move the lock gates open and closed. During the 1990s much of the area around the basin was redeveloped and older buildings refurbished. Today, the canals serve leisure travelers navigating the waters in long narrow canal boats, many of original design, where they can travel directly through downtown Birmingham, mooring canal side for a stop in one of the many pubs and restaurants that are located on water's edge between Brindleyplace and the Mailbox. The towpaths, like those in the photo, also make for wonderful scenic walking paths quickly moving from urban downtown to decrepit industrial wastelands to open greenways.

18 October 2008

this ain't no walmart

Selfridges & Co. @ Bullring / Birmingham, United Kingdom
While walking around the city this morning, I shot the exterior of Selfrigdes & Co department store at the fashionable Bullring in Birmingham. The curvaceous store is covered with a dramatic "skin" made up of 15,000 spun aluminium disks - which apparently get polished once a year. The inspiration for the exterior design, you ask? A Paco Rabanne sequined dress. The current shopping mecca, which opened in 2003 and sits at the end of trendy New Street, is one of the largest in the United Kingdom, with almost 40 million visitors a year. The Bullring has been a center of commerce in Birmingham since the 1700's, with early trading focused on food, cattle, and corn. In the mid-1800's, the corn market was moved and it subsequently developed into the city's main retail market area. And for you etymologists, the area was first known as Corn Cheaping in reference to the corn market on the site. The name Bull Ring referred to the grassed area within Corn Cheaping which was used for temporary grazing after the bulls were brought to market. The 'ring' was a hoop of iron in Corn Cheaping to which the grazing bulls were tied to before slaughter.

17 October 2008

queen of the hill

Edinburgh Castle / Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is an ancient stronghold which dominates the sky-line of the city from its prominent position at the top of the Royal Mile. This shot is of a minor structure on the castle grounds sitting literally on the precipice of Castle Rock. The castle grounds were first inhabited back in the 9th century BC; however, as it stands today few of the castle's structures pre-date the 16th century, with the notable exception of St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates from the early 12th century. Perhaps the castle's most recognized royalty was Mary, Queen of Scots who occupied the throne for nearly 25 years during her reign in the mid-16th century. She was later imprisoned, tried and executed in 1587 for treason following the religious divides which allegedly linked her involvement to several assasination plots against her cousin, Elizabeth I of England which would have allowed her to then place herself on the English throne.

16 October 2008

'scuse me, dear

A Streetcorner / Soufrière, St. Lucia
Soufrière is a very colorful place - both in its exterior facades and in its people. Everybody I came across seemed like they could have an interesting story to tell - good or bad - true or not. These are real people living real lives. Unlike many places in the Caribbean, Soufrière does not seem to be particularly impacted by tourism. While tourist dollars can have a positive economic impact on an otherwise depressed economy, the cumulative negative impacts usually weigh heavier on the daily lives on those who make the islands their home.

15 October 2008

a colosseum of more modern times

Bankside / London, United Kingdom
While approaching the Tate Modern, the visual impact of this building reminded me strongly of the Roman Colosseum - except with much more vertical lines. And I thought, how perfect for today's urban environment with its compact footprint. I have no idea what the actual function of the building is and had I'd had more time I would have liked to have investigated further. It has the large open window fenestration of an industrial factory but the small circular layout would be totally impractical to fabricating just about anything, I'd imagine, except perhaps something .. round? I'd like to think it's now some very cool and VERY expensive loft-type living space.

14 October 2008

go ahead - you deserve it

Broome Street - SoHo / New York, New York
Headline CNN: Markets across the world made impressive gains Monday after European banks followed Britain's lead and announced huge bailouts for their banking sectors. European, Asian and U.S. markets closed higher with the New York Dow Jones scoring a record point gain for a single day of 936. Go ahead, feel good about yourself again. Maybe a toe wrap - a baby brazilian - or an alpha beta triple face peel. Come on - you deserve it - do it now cause you know it won't last. But promise me you'll save the oxygen nail therapy for January when we can all take a deep breath of fresh air knowing that our Mangler-in-Chief, Dubya, will continue to say stupid things but we will no longer have to care.

13 October 2008

back in brum

O'Neills Pub / Birmingham, United Kingdom
One of the benefits of being back in Birmingham (locally known as Brum making reference to the city's original name of Brummagem) is being able to walk across the street to O'Neills and tip back a pint of Guinness Red - or two. It is the same formula as Guinness Stout with hops, water, yeast and barley except that the barley is subjected to a lighter roasting, giving it a rich reddish complexion. Interestingly, there are no plans to actually sell Guinness Red in Ireland; it has been brewed specifically for sale in select pubs in Britain. And note the shamrock in the head - formed by the tap during the final pull by a skilled bartender. The test of a perfect pour is no air bubbles in the head, no spillage over the rim and a shamrock that maintains its form until the last sip empties the pint. There are numerous legends as to the origins of forming a shamrock in the head; however, I have come to the conclusion that it's nothing more than a clever marketing gimmick. Cheers!

12 October 2008

take that, mr. frank lloyd wright

House on the Rock / Spring Green, Wisconsin
Spring Green lies about 45 minutes west of Madison, Wisconsin and is better known as the home of Taliesin, the one-time home and communal school of architecture founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. But just a few miles from Taliesin, one can find the House on the Rock - pure schlock, in a fun, delightful sort of way. What started as a Japanese style house built in the 1940's to spite Frank Lloyd Wright, has grown into a complex of art, architecture and memorabilia of every type - 1940's meets 1960's meets the new millennium head on. This photo is of a stained glass window wall in the main house's living area which is characterized by exposed stone, low ceilings and dark woodwork. But getting back to the tiff between the designer/owner Alex Jordan and Frank Lloyd Wright, the story goes that Jordan was a devotee of Wright's and at some point drove from Chicago to Taliesin to show Wright the plans for a building, the Villa Maria in Madison, which Jordan had designed. Jordan was hopeful of Wright's approval. Instead, he took one look at the plans and told Jordan "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable." Fuming, he left Taliesin and within a short distance pointed to a spire of rock saying that he was going to put up a Japanese house on the pinnacle and advertise it for the world to see. Welcome to the House of Schlock (errrrr Rock) Mr. Wright.

11 October 2008


Broadway-Fulton Street Subway Station / New York, New York
Last night when coming home from lower Manhattan, we got on the subway at the Broadway/Fulton Street station. And while waiting for the A train, this desperate golfer pulled out a club and began swinging. It's not like there was a foot of snow on the ground - it was in the 70's! I've seen driving ranges stacked like cubicles, I've seen virtual driving ranges - but 30 feet underground in a subway station - gosh, I love New York. Get this guy a Wii!

10 October 2008

who is buried in grant's tomb?

Grant's Tomb @ Riverside Park / New York, New York
To some critics and many local Upper West Side residents, the colorful mosaic tile benches that snake around Grant's Tomb in Riverside Park at 122nd Street are a pleasing example of folk art. But to some Civil War buffs and the National Park Service, which maintains the monument, they were viewed as a clash with the site and trivialized the Tomb's historical significance. Commissioned in the early 1970's by the Park Service, in part to discourage people from scribbling graffiti on the monument, the benches were made with the help of hundreds of local adults and children. The undulating benches surrounding the site, with references to the Civil War, have been compared to an unfolding comic book. In 1997, coinciding with the 100th anniversary celebration of the monument, the Park Service was intent on removing the benches as part of a $1.6 million renovation that began in 1995. A test was conducted by the Park Service workers, cutting one piece from a bench and then hoisting it in the air a few inches to see how difficult the seats would be to move. This widely publicized experiment galvanized local officials, preservationists, artists and others who began writing letters, passing out petitions and vowing to fight the benches' removal. They ultimately won - and the benches remain. And who is buried in Grant's tomb? According to Woody Woodpecker in an episode called Ballyhooey, when asked by a trivia game show host, he responded, "Napoleon!" Wrong answer.

09 October 2008

sweeping into york

York Train Station / York, United Kingdom
Upon stepping out of the train from Edinburgh to York, I was immediately captivated by the sweeping lines of the train station's roof. I felt a clear sense of movement and direction - so unlike our own Penn Station in New York. The curved glass clerestory roof was somewhat typical of station design of that era, bringing natural light into an otherwise dark and sooty area caused by the locomotives passing through. The present train station serving York, the historic walled city in North Yorkshire, was put into service in 1877. On completion, it had 13 platforms and was the largest in the world. The building was subsequently damaged during the Second World War and extensively repaired in 1947.

08 October 2008

pick a peck of purple peppers

Dane County Farmers Market / Madison, Wisconsin
The Dane County Farmers Market is held every Saturday, rain or shine, on the block surrounding the Capitol building with the magnificent landscape and stunning architecture offering up a spectacular backdrop to the popular marketplace. It was a beautiful crisp Fall day - perfect for wandering amongst the hundreds of vendors selling their produce. The market is reported to be the largest producer-only farmers market in the country. All items must be grown or made by the vendors behind the tables - no resale is allowed. And unique among the items for purchase were these Nu-Mex Twilight hot peppers. These are an ornamental pepper that start with a purple fruit that then ripens to yellow, orange, and finally red. This variety is one of the few that has fruit in all four color states at the same time. Very striking!

07 October 2008

an evening in middle america

King Street / Madison, Wisconsin
We just returned from a lovely long weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. It is a very progressive (read: left of center) city that has been able to hold onto its small town charm. We had dinner at a fantastic sushi place - Restaurant Muramoto - on King Street from where this shot was taken looking up towards the State Capitol. Construction of the present capitol building, the third in Madison, began in late 1906 and was completed in 1917 at a cost of $7.25 million. The architect was George B. Post & Sons from New York. The Capitol is 284' 5" tall from the ground floor to the top of the statue on the dome, making the building 3 feet shorter than the nation's capitol in Washington D.C. The Capitol was constructed out of 43 kinds of stone from six countries and eight states. The exterior dome is the largest granite dome in the world.

06 October 2008

the first of many

Central Park / New York, New York
A sign of the pending Fall season - leaves on the sidewalk. And for whatever reason, Ginkgoes are usually one of the first to start dropping their foliage. Fossils recognizably related to modern Ginkgoes date back some 270 million years ago. But advancing to more modern times, they have become very popular as an urban street tree. I suspect because of their hardy nature and upright form. You can spot them all over the city by their distinctive fan-like leaf shape.

05 October 2008


On the Trail / Floreana Island, Galapagos
No, gecko. Geckos are small to average sized lizards found in warm climates throughout the world. They were abundant in the Galapagos, especially noticeable on Floreana Island. Geckos are said to be unique among lizards in their vocalizations by making a chirp-type sound in interacting with other geckos. There are estimated to be more 2,000 different species of geckos worldwide. Geckos have have no eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane which they lick to clean. Sort of of like sticking your contact lens in your mouth to clean it when nothing else is available - I guess.

04 October 2008

quito colors

Plaza San Francisco / Quito, Ecuador
The Ecuadorian woman's traditional dress is the closest to the Incan costumes worn in the Andes. A white blouse, dark skirt and colorful shawl is usually worn. Jewelry is very important, with layers of necklaces consisting predominantly of gold beads and red coral bracelets. But perhaps most distinctive are the brown, black or dark grey fedoras worn. This was shot on a sunday morning - the women obviously dressed for the occasion - perhaps gathering before entering the church in the background.

03 October 2008

left turn to jersey

Under the Riverside Viaduct on West 12th Avenue / New York, New York
Every weekday morning, I drive along West 12th under this viaduct to access the West Side Highway on my way to work. I continue to marvel at the engineering feat of this and other viaducts of similar design in the city - I never seem to tire looking at them. The Riverside viaduct was built in 1900 to connect the Upper West Side with Washington Heights, essentially extending the then-existing Riverside Drive along the Hudson River. An issue of the Scientific American magazine in 1900 remarked that the Riverside Drive Viaduct's completion afforded New Yorkers “a continuous drive of ten miles along the picturesque banks of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.”

02 October 2008

looking back

Bratislava hlavná stanica / Bratislava, Slovakia
Since the Middle Ages, Bratislava has served as one of the primary traffic crossroads between Budapest, Vienna, Prague and other cities to the north. The capital city sits on the banks of the Danube River and is the only national capital that borders two countries - Austria and Hungary. We made a brief morning stop in the capital city while traveling from Vienna to Budapest. It was a very wet, dreary sort of day - not particularly conducive to walking though we did our share. Most of our time was focused on Bratislava Castle and nearby Old Town which was very medieval in its architecture and street design. After several hours of wandering, we grabbed a cab to Bratislava hlavná stanica where we stood and waited for the 12:30 to Budapest. The train was nearly as empty as the train platform.

01 October 2008

haro kiti

Storefront Greeter / Vienna, Austria
Say "hello" to Ms Kitty White, the best known of the characters produced by the Japanese company Sanrio. Hello Kitty was first introduced in 1974 and for inexplicable reasons became an instant phenomenon, appearing on everything everywhere! The first item produced to bear the familiar feline was a vinyl coin purse - with the fat cat now generating over $1 billion a year in sales. And just in case you weren't aware, Ms Kitty has an extended family including her father George White, mother Mary White, twin sister Mimmy, and her grandparents Anthony and Margret White. On the more productive but equally silly side, Thai police officers who have committed minor infractions such as showing up late for duty or parking in the wrong place are forced to wear Hello Kitty armbands for several days as penance. Bad kitty!