New York

From The Air: Boston to Chicago

Regular readers and friends will have figured out that, in this smartphone-in-your-pocket era, I’m always on the lookout for views lovely, strange, new, interesting or otherwise engaging to photograph. Unlike most airplane travelers, I stare endlessly out the window when I’m fortunate enough to have a window seat. Below are shots, mostly in chronological sequence, as my plane from Boston to Chicago flew along the northern edge of the Finger Lakes in NY State, over Buffalo (pictured also in the out-of-sequence large photo at the top of this post), then over the southernmost part of Ontario in Canada, between Hamilton & Detroit, then across the US state of Michigan, the Great Lake named Lake Michigan…and north of a fog-and-rain-bound city of Chicago, into O’Hare airport. For readers who’ve not explored the Great Lakes regions of the US and Canada, or the Finger Lakes region of New York State – do. There’s a lot to see and do. ūüôā


NYC & NJ In Winter & Spring

Every photo in this post was taken between March and May, in NYC or the area in northern New Jersey which my mother called home for the last forty-five years. Having returned early from my work in Bangladesh in order to be with Mom, I’ve now seen this part of the US through a cold, snowy late winter and into a wet, green spring. Between trips around various parts of the city for medical appointments with Mom or meetings with friends and colleagues, I‚Äôve been around much of Manhattan and northern NJ when the trees were bare and snow was on the ground, through the first blooming of snow-bells and forsythia, to this past week of alternating thunderstorms and clear skies with brilliantly green trees and now the irises starting to pop out. Before leaving this area for more or less the last time after clearing out Mom‚Äôs house, it seemed fitting to do a final ode to the sights and seasons of a region that I myself have also called either first or second home since Mom brought us here during the Ford administration‚Ķ


NY Harbor to SF Bay in a Day

So last week I flew home to the bay area after a month with family in the NY/NJ region. I always love flying into SF from NYC: the route very frequently goes more or less directly over my home town of Santa Rosa, then cuts down along the beautiful coastline in Sonoma & Marin counties, more or less directly over the Golden Gate Bridge and then in some manner or other executes a circle in order to line up for landing at SFO. These photos were all taken in the space of one day when I’d returned from my assignment to Central African Republic last year. I landed late at night at JFK, woke up near the NYC office for my debrief meetings and a bit of a presentation to the office team, then hopped directly on trains to the plane for the flight. Since it was a clear day on both coasts, I got morning photos from a walk along the shore at Battery Park & views of the Statue of Liberty; then took photos of Santa Rosa from above, Point Reyes, San Jose & silicon valley at dusk, and the coast south of SF as the plane began its circle toward San Jose then back up to land. Air travel remains a gift which I enjoy on days when the view out the window is so spectacular, even if the in-airport experience long since stopped having any pleasant elements whatsoever :-). Enjoy!


Autumn Leaves, Snowy Trees & Old Friends

I’m in Bangladesh, doing the kind of work I love – planning to stay for quite a few more months if possible. Even as work occupies and inspires me here, many things draw my thoughts home as well. Next week is Thanksgiving, the most family-oriented of our US holidays — and I’m rather sad to be away yet again on this holiday, even if my vegetarian-ness means the traditional main course doesn’t float my boat. ūüôā My mother expects to start a new treatment the following week. And back home in California, many more lives have been lost and communities harmed by another record-breaking wildfire.

Plus, I already missed Halloween and the joy of watching kids go sugar-crazy… So I’ve sorted through photos I took during the autumn and winter seasons last year, when I was able to spend much good holiday and other time with my family and my friends on both coasts back home. These photos were all taken in NYC and NJ last year in October – December…aside from a few from CT in May 2017, a paean to a loved mentor and friend now gone. Andrew & Tom, I hope you don’t mind…or anyone else. (Tell me and I’ll take photos out if you wish.) Fond memories for me, and I hope you. Much love to you all, this holiday week. Peace, health, human dignity.

 


Upstate in Autumn

First, full disclosure that these photos were all taken in the autumn last year, not this year. ūüôā Since I didn’t post them right away last year — too busy with family and personal health stuff, plus chronicling the fires around my home out west — I decided I’d post them as the autumn months returned, this year. In this post are many photos taken in and around Syracuse and Skaneateles, in the northern region of New York State known as the “Finger Lakes.” You’ll also see a few photos taken as I walked around Binghamton, in central-southern New York State at the confluence of the Susquehanna River with its lesser-known tributary, the Chenango. I imagine Binghamton was an important manufacturing town and transit hub in earlier eras, although I admit I do not know its history in any detail. I went to Syracuse for an excellent seminar at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School; and I passed through Binghamton with extra time awaiting a connection, during the bus journey from Syracuse back to visit my mom in Northern New Jersey. It’s certainly true that Syracuse is a lovely city whose past – a key city on the all-important (in the 1800s) Erie Canal – was more economically robust than its present. Those seeking explanations to my homeland’s current highly-divided political climate might well find some explanations in such towns as these, and the changes in economic models represented by a former Erie-Canal hub town as compared to, say, Silicon Valley where there are many ideas but very little actual manufacturing. For what it’s worth.

You’ll notice I was particularly taken with vistas of lovely Lake Skaneateles and the village of the same name, situated at the northern end of this long beautiful “finger lake.” Enjoy!

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Art in Nature (Storm King 2)

Sculpture in nature, plus the Moodna Viaduct (just below) which isn’t in the park but on a lovely winding route we took home, much to my smartphone’s map’s discontent. This is the second set of photos from our completely lovely day in Storm King two months ago – the first set was published here:¬†https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/12/13/art-family-in-nature-storm-king-1/, and you can find many other entries from Storm King in past years. It and the Hudson Valley’s many other art centers are well worth a visit. ūüôā



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Art & Family in Nature (Storm King 1)

Ok,so since I’m on a roll I’m putting up the first photos from a completely **glorious** day at my own personal very-favorite day-trip location near NYC: Storm King Art Center, which I certainly remember visiting in the early 80’s if not before. As you’ll see here, and in upcoming posts, we had simply the most perfect possible weather, and Mom mustered the energy to hold up more than her half of the sky, even as she juggled a few health challenges of her own. If you’ve not been to Storm King, do go. And support your own local gardens & arts places :-). Peace, out.

 

 


Enjoying Beacon (NY)

Another thing our mother loves is art and exploration. Beacon, NY is a great place to visit whether for art, history, or views of the Hudson from its foot bridge park over the river. By car Beacon is the eastern terminus of the Newburgh-Beacon bridge across the Hudson. DIA Beacon is a fantastic contemporary art space in a repurposed factory of some sort or other, which we’ve visited a few times before; this time I brought out my camera in the rooms they told me I’m allowed to. I hope I’m allowed to post these here – if not then I guess I’ll have to drop this post since nearly everything was taken there. ūüė¶ Its large rooms are full of very atmosperhic, immersive and thought-provoking or meditative work that I really enjoy.¬†

We try to get out for art with Mom any chance we get (just browse through the index for other outdoor art we’ve enjoyed on a few continents — ¬†consider this post from nearly a decade ago: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2007/12/23/yorkshire-sculpture-park/) …and this was a good outing with her and my brother Steve. I’m still catching up with life – these photos were taken in late May, and in the interim much has happened, but we’ll slowly catch up and put the photos that seem interesting here. For now, I’m working from the motto “take pleasure in art, beauty and friends where you can.” May we all do so. ūüôā


Bridges, Buildings & Skylines of NYC

Central Park - Early SpringI’m back from a short assignment in Sierra Leone, furnished with a new computer and the renewed ability to get photos off both my camera and my phone and then edit them more or less as I like. So I’ll be trying to update my readers – be you known friends & family, or some of my many much-appreciated but unknown viewers from around the world – with all the various things I’ve been seeing and doing in recent months. A thing I’ve learned from my many MSF friends and colleagues is that, even for those who could afford the airplane flights to the US, the idea of visiting the US is very unappealing to many in the world. Either the active adventure travelers assume it’s a destination for one’s older age when the energy to hike and live rough is reduced…or many of my friends and colleagues are understandably concerned about the warmth and humanity of their reception in a country whose “elected” government has gone so bitter, angry, and unwelcoming. I find that a pity since there’s so much worth seeing in the US and also so many people of all backgrounds and perspectives, many or even most of them really quite lovely as individuals, even in states currently driven by the most angry and unwelcoming people. All but one of these photos were taken on the island of Manhattan, the heart of New York City, between April and June. The photo just below, in which my brother Steve & I join our old family friend Jill to celebrate my mother’s 81st birthday, was taken on the far side of the George Washington Bridge (see the slide show below), in New Jersey. Since the GWB is Mom’s favorite bridge in the world, the gallery is a small tribute to her also. Though I love my work and how it exposes me to the realities of a world beyond our shores here in North America…well, it’s always nice when I get back to my family, even if being here means living in denial about the fact that our classy, smart & cosmopolitan President Obama seems to have left the white house… As usual, captions will try to tell you what each photo is, and I’ll write nothing more but let you appreciate NYC and its architecture, skyline and hidden corners.

GWB 6

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Statu‚Äče & Harbor from Whitn‚ÄčeyYes It's Manhattan


I’ve Looked At Clouds…

160730-stormclouds-pap-mia-11Sunday afternoon in Port au Prince. There’s a great big mass of clouds, wind and rain named Hurricane Matthew, currently a few hundred miles south of us in the  Caribbean and slowly working its way north. Seems that tomorrow, parts of Haiti will see massive rain, probably flooding, and very likely substantial risks to homes and lives and communities. For now, not much to do but wait: hasn’t yet started raining. My tennis buddy is taking a weekend in the mountains, so I’m at loose ends while also behind on both sleep and de-stressing recreation.

So I started thinking about all the clouds I’ve looked at from airplane windows the past two months. Figured I’d share some of them with you.

Trip one: late July (all the files are named yymmdd so you can tell which flight it was, and numbered in sequence, so if you think of the plane‚Äôs route, you can guess as I do roughly what we‚Äôre looking at ‚Äď some landforms are obvious, others less so), the first time on a flight from PaP to Maimi that we went as far east as we did. Usually, the flights have passed just west of Ile la Tortue; this time the plane clearly diverted to the east, and I think it must have been to avoid a storm system: I think the first photo you see above is that storm system. Nothing like Matthew‚Ķbut certainly on that day, flights were delayed all across North America due to storm systems, and we here had our little flight adjustments as well.

Trip two: the return leg from Miami to PaP, from the same vacation trip, in later August. I just love looking down at the islands, sandy bottoms and coral formations of the Bahamas. Then watching the shores of Haiti creep slowly closer and become landforms, towns and cities that I recognize and can place on a map.

160821-mia-pap-3

Trip three: from JFK down to PaP this time, leaving quite early in the morning on a clear Sunday. Saw the moon rise; saw rainbows in clouds as we approached a somewhat cloudy Haiti. Saw deforestation runoff coming into the bay near Port au Prince, and the bump of the Commune de Carrefour just west of downtown PaP. Saw the mountains to the south of downtown PaP, which I‚Äôve explored a bit by car and on foot. Again ‚Äď numbered in sequence from sitting on the runway at JFK, to a view at Jamaica Bay as we took off‚Ķand all the miles of ocean, clouds, moon and rainbows and bays and islands between.160918-jfk-pap-9


Remembering in December

My wandering field life passed the ten-year mark earlier this year. That’s ten years of finding¬†my way into a new work environment and getting to know new colleagues once a year or so. In a more mundane way, it’s ten years worth of photo files to keep up-to-date and to try to remember to share on my blog. A cousin (thanks, Juliette!) noticed that the entries from my earliest days had lost¬†their photos: mine was a rather early blog, and the ways of uploading photos have changed since then. ¬†(Many¬†of those earliest posts¬†appear¬†frankly so embarrassingly shallow to me now that I’m tempted to simply wave my editorial wand and have done with them…but thus far my sense for historical accuracy is controlling that temptation…) If my continued research succeeds, many of those photos will be directly restored onto the blog as I find their originals in backup hard drives and other obscure locations: ah, new year’s resolutions before the old year has even wrapped up!

In the meantime, I’m uncovering little treasures that never made it up here, while¬†fondly remembering where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I was recently¬†saddened to learn that Nancy Schrom Dye, former president of Oberlin College, had passed this year. During my years of active alumni-association work I greatly appreciated her contributions to my alma mater – so¬†I was proud to join some other colleagues in taking her for an end-of-year meal which, the digital date stamp tells me, occurred in Beijing on December 31, in 2005. Up above are also a few rediscovered December 2005 Beijing-area¬†shots which somehow didn’t get posted at the time. (Posting photos was more challenging in those early days…)

Just¬†below are some previously-unposted 2015 shots: early-morning moonset at my home here in Haiti; me with my brother and a colleague when I gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year; and some shots from the lovely Frick House & museum¬†in Pittsburgh, from the¬†same visit. And since this put me in the mood, I’ve wandered through the many countries & continents, family meals & trips & assignments on four continents that have filled the years between these two sets of photos so very fully. Assembling them’s been fun for me so I hope viewing them is fun for you too :-).

This time last year? In December 2014, I returned from Sierra Leone & later went with great friends to enjoy the Ai WeiWei exhibit on Alcatraz Island (more photos from that one in the original post….though that particular set of great friends – you know who you are! – are remarkably camera-resistant):

Where’d I spend 2013? Living in PNG, participating in meetings in Amsterdam & dive trips in Australia, then¬†celebrating the holidays with Steve & Mom in New Zealand:

I began 2012 in the US (where I visited Washington, DC in cherry-blossom season), turned 50 in the company of Howard & Gene at Kakadu National Park in Australia, and finished the year in PNG:

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2011 was mostly Mweso, a little Lamu, a little London and a year-end back home seeing Frank Lloyd Wright homes of Pennsylvania with family:

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2010…wow, what a year. Just seeing all the continents and countries where I spent time (actually meaningful time, with friends and family and work) makes my head spin even now. The photos evoked so much for me that I just couldn’t narrow it down to three or four…so I’m giving you a lot from 2010, a mix of Manipur (start of year) and Mweso (end of year), with a sprinkling of Sweden, Berlin, Paris¬†& California in between:

House, Valley, Hills on Hike - Pre-Monsoon Season

I entered 2009 in Tahiti, yes it’s true: during the year I took off from work to help Mom with her house, I dedicated two months to exploring Australia (and watching the Australian Open!) and New Zealand, flying in via Tahiti with a few nights in Papeete, just because I could. The year ended, of course, in Manipur and included a great trip to see excellent sites of Rajasthan with Howard & Gene:

Ngauruhoe Summit View of Lakes & Clouds

2008 started in Nigeria, and ended in Tahiti…with a lot of good work in Nigeria, a short assignment for the earthquake in China, visits in Germany with my exchange family friends there….and a good deal of time in and around NYC (Mom, aunt Judy & I enjoyed a harbor trip past Ellis Island where our own immigrant ancestors entered the country, and also a trip to our favorite sculpture park up th Husdon)…with a side trip for some hiking in Sequoia and other California adventures:
Rivers-Abia Border Boats & River

2007…I began the year based in Colombo but spend the new year’s period with Mom & Steve at ¬†Angkor Wat, returned to Colombo to finish out an assignment, headed on for training in Paris where I also got celebrate Mom’s 71st birthday…back to the US to reorganize my life after my first two years in the field, and then off for a new assignment in Nigeria. At the time it felt big. Now it’s all fond memories:

…which¬†will bring us back to year two of this current phase of life’s great adventure, the lovely year 2006. From Beijing & Yunnan in¬†China,¬†to¬†Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (where I was based at year’s end), with family time on Cumberland Island (Mom’s 70th birthday dinner!) and in Germany in between. With a special souvenir from¬†Seoul, where I had the opportunity to work a bit with the young ladies pictured with their daffodils. In a small-world twist, I had dinner with one of those two young ladies just a few nights ago in Port au Prince, which she visits sometimes in her current work with the CDC. So much small world, so little time for it all. Happy end of 2015, and many good hopes for a 2016 of more peace and health to everyone, everywhere.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


Legacy of Leadership in Upstate NY

Seneca Falls RiversideSF Stanton HouseSeneca Falls SignSF Nat Park Stanton HouseMuch of the world uses “New York” as shorthand for the city of New York. Those who grew up or spent chunks of time in or around the city remember that New York is also a fairly large state (by east-coast standards) which stretches from the Atlantic beaches of Long Island to the shores of lakes Ontario and Erie. NYCity folks tend to call the rest of this vast area, once out of the 5 Boros, “upstate.” And it’s through “upstate” that my Mom and I travelled on the first leg of our cross-country adventure last month.
Mom w Susan B Anthony & Frederick Douglass Statue

High on her list was Seneca Falls, seen in the disused riverside-factory shot above & site of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. In my school days little or no mention was made of the fact that women were not permitted to vote until the 19th amendment finally passed in 1920. In upstate New York of the 19th century were the leaders who stood early and proud for women’s rights, and finally pushed that amendment through after many decades of trying. (And oh by the way, the state legislature in good old Mississippi, ever the thought-leader here in the US, didn’t get around to ratifying that 19th amendment until…wait for it….1984. But, hey, even Switzerland didn’t get around to agreeeing women deserve¬†the same full citizenship rights as men until 1971, and¬†the last cantons didn’t get with the program until 1990. And I need to fact check whether women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia yet or not…but Wikipedia does tell me that they’ll be permitted to vote there in 2015…)

Rochester FL Wright House

Here on the ¬†home front, Susan B Anthony got arrested & convicted ¬†for voting in 1872, in her home town of Rochester not far from the statue of Anthony & Frederick Douglass (good friends and intellectual sparring partners) with which my Mom is posed, two photos up. So anyhoo, we wandered through Seneca Falls, spent time in Syracuse exploring the history of the Erie Canal – which propelled NYC to the dominance it achieved in the 1800s, driven by a state government visionary & capable enough to establish a well-maintained and regulated system to bring boats, people and goods from the Hudson river (and, by extension, the Atlantic Ocean) all the way over to Lake Erie. We continued our exploration of the leadership tradition in Rochester, where we visited both Susan B Anthony’s house (and the statue!), and spent time at the Eastman House learning more about George Eastman’s impact on the popularization of photography. Enjoy the shots – and do consider a visit to upstate New York. Each time I’ve been anywhere from the Catskills north, I’ve wished I could linger longer and explore more. There’s a ton¬†of natural beauty throughout, plus much interesting history scattered just about everywhere.

Rochester Eastman House

Rochester Eastman Hse Front Rochester Eastman Sunflowers Rochester Eastman Travel WindowsRochester Eastman Boat WindowRochester FLW House WindowThe study in Eastman House has lovely windows featuring all the modes of travel George Eastman had personally experienced – and flight is missing, since the house was built right around the time of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. This is my little “windows” section, with a detail also from the lovely¬†Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Rochester, which Mom and I drove past in Rochester. It’s privately owned but you can still drive by and look.
Seneca Falls ClockDSC04671 Tiger Lily I thinkBlue FlowerEastman House Arbor Eastman House Compass Mom on Canal Boat

Paul & Mom at Erie Canal LockRochester Eastman Garden


5 Views of the Statue, 3 of the Tower, and other odd angles on NYC & Environs

Liberty 2Syline from Reservoir

OK, so I figure if off-angle shots of SF seem to have appealed to ¬†enough of my viewers a few weeks ago, I’d finally put up the grab-bag of odd shots from NYC and its region which couldn’t be made to fit in that last entry from Storm King. What you’ll see here are shots from a flat, gray day in Red Hook, which used to be a rather gnarly neighborhood when I lived in Brooklyn. It now seems to be hipster central, and has a few big box stores (most of these were shot in and around the Ikea parking lot), which were not yet permitted inside the 5 boroughs¬†by the time I went west in the late 90s. These shots include some odd views of Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and the lovely new One World Trade Center building. Some people are calling it, in classic American let’s-use-terms-without-considering-what-we-mean-by-them manner, freedom tower. I never quite get¬†which freedoms that kind of folks mean,¬†since they’re always wanting¬†to take away my own freedom to disagree with the foreign wars they like¬†to start start (or to take away my friends’ freedom of choice in matters of reproduction or of life & love partner)¬†– but hey, who ever expected words to actually mean something?!

Tower 3

Pano Paterson Great FallsPaterson Great FallsLiberty 3

OK, off that soap box for now. Other things in this entry: the impressive Great Falls at Paterson, NJ; a couple shots from the reservoir in central park; and pond scum at a wonderful bird haven in northern NJ. Paterson began its life¬†as an important and powerful mill town, driven by the force of these waterfalls and the river that creates them. Its manufacturing glory days are long since past, but these falls, like the history of the Erie Canal which I’ve been visiting¬†& will document later here¬†on the blog, remind me of how the country was built and grew and prospered in our formative years.

I’ve noticed a lot more views and viewers on the blog recently, and I want to thank viewers both new and old for your interest. I hope you’ll come back, and I hope you’ll leave comments and let me know what you’d like more (or less!) of. Ciao.

Paterson Great Falls - Top Pond Scum Can Be Lovely

Pond Scum Can Have ShadowsPaterson Great Falls w FlagVZ BridgeSelfie 2Tower 2South-looking skyline at Sunrise

 


High Summer ‚Äď Storm King

Storm King LawnStorm King Columns and Sculptures

Perhaps my single favorite place to visit in the NY Metropolitan area is Storm King sculpture park, which is something like two hours or so north of the city itself. My mother, who dearly loves grand sculpture of the Calder, Nevelson and Noguchi ¬†style, first introduced¬† me to it back in the 1980s, or perhaps even earlier though I believe my first visits would have been early-mid 80s. I have fond memories (and photos) of visits there with a dear friend now long-dead of HIV; such is the nature of places one’s visited again over decades – and I also appreciate the new large works or temporary displays that appear every time I visit, about which there’ll be a caption or two scattered throughout.

In season,¬†no visit to my mother feels¬†complete unless we also head up to Storm King for a day. And you do need to allocate a full day for this trip, especially if you are coming from NYC…and please¬†do try to get here , even if it feels like one thing too much ‚Äď if you love nature and abstract sculpture, you won‚Äôt go wrong. So in early July we headed up with my brother for an afternoon of enjoying the art, the flowers, the nature. They‚Äôre not open during winter months, and my recent visits have been in the shoulder seasons, so this was my first chance to appreciate the glory of the wildflower beds at their summer peak. Hope you enjoy these views ‚Äď and do visit, or support your nearest arts institution instead. ūüôā

SK Mirror Fence
Storm King Pano 2The mirrored fence was newly refurbished for this season so truly stands out at one edge¬†of the lower lawn area (far center in the panorama above) – they have a more formal name for it, but I think of it as the route¬†I I typically take toward Andy Goldsworthy’s wonderful wonderful two stone walls at Storm King, both additions of relatively recent decades…you can see shots of those in an entry I made in December 2011), and so I had fun with some arty selfies with it, though this is a piece you really do need to experience in person.

SK Mirror Fence Selfie Storm King Pano 1SK Mirror Fence Selfie 2SKChinese Gate Sculpture



And since it was high summer, we saw a good bit of floral and natural beauty. Some time a decade or two back, they started letting large areas of the lawn flourish with higher wildflower patches rather than always mowing it all down, and the results are wonderful. I also did my usual up-close-and-personal study of a few little vegetal items that grabbed my imagination.

Storm King Pano 3Storm King Sculpture &  WildflowersThe piece above is isn’t my favorite – tends to give me the willies a bit too much – but I do love the wildflowers. The lawn full of Mark di Suvero scultpures, shown below with a foreground of black-eyed Susans, certainly is one of my favorite spots here…though that could be said of nearly all corners at this truly wonderful place…SK Black-Eyed Susans &  Grand Art


I Love NYC In the Spring

This is it, folks…smw, slt is leaving NYC after a year on these shores. Tomorrow I’ll start moving again, exploring a few parts of the US before I leave in late July to take up my next post with MSF. There’ll be more information later about where I’m going, and probably another blog entry from my travels in the US before I leave for briefing in Amsterdam, but I want to take a moment to honor the city which I knew so well from the 70s through the 90s, but haven’t spent more than a week in since 1997. Having spent the 12 years since then largely in mediterranean climates (LA and SF) or in the tropics, I’d truly forgotten the robust bursting expressions of life and color that characterize the temperate spring. So herewith an ode to NYC in spring, now that summer has come and I’m leaving NYC. Enjoy. Stay tuned for more regular updates and photos since I’ll be traveling again.
…Yes, Brooklyn is part of New York City and dear to my heart as my home for a decade. Above and below – Brooklyn Botanic Garden during cherry blossom season, and Grand Army Plaza in the heart of Brooklyn by Prospect Park & the Brooklyn Public Library.



Some of my readers haven’t been to NYC and I’ve mostly aimed my NYC blog posts at folks outside the US who might consider visiting some time. I’ve always told European friends, in particular, that American cities are nothing special compared to European cities, and I stand by that; it’s our vast natural landscapes of endless variety and (underfunded) national parks that make the US a top-notch tourist destination, in my view. That said, the US has several cities that are chock full of great architecture, museums, parks, restaurants and people – even if none can hold a candle to ‘old-world’ cities like Athens, Istanbul, Varanasi or Beijing when it comes to history. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens were one of my favorite weekend haunts when I lived in NYC. You see why, I’m sure.




Since April I’ve taken a weekly conversation class at the Alliance Francaise – French Institute in NYC – another of those great NYC resources that everyone should check out, with really excellent classes and good membership benefits and programs. Every Saturday morning I’ve taken the A train to Columbus Circle, beautifully renovated and now a lovely magnet for strollers and walkers at the southwestern corner of Central Park, and walked through the park to my class over on Madison Avenue, past (Manhattan’s) Grand Army plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park, home to NYC’s famous Plaza Hotel and, on the day I took the photos below, many beautiful April tulips. (American history lesson for the curious: the Grand Army was the Grand Army of the Republic, aka the Union or northern army which deafeated the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, which for those of you who don’t know was an indescribably deadly and prolonged war from which the country took many decades to recover, and in some ways still has not. NYC’s population and economic might were important assets for the Union side, the city supported the war effort, and thus NYC has two famous Grand Army Plazas in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, which until 1896 was a separate city. The history of the names is more complicated, but go to Wikipedia if you want more.)