Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the lights of NYC (as seen from the 86th floor)

Happily, my attempt to conquer my fear of heights continued a few days after the trek to Lady Liberty's crown, and we went to the 86th floor of the good 'ole Empire State Building.  We planned to go during daylight hours, however as fate would have it rained all day Thursday so Friday was much busier than we planned.  We were at the Cort Theatre by 10:00 to buy rush tickets for No Man's Land, walked to Rockefeller Plaza, St. Patrick's Cathedral, met my godmother and family for lunch, saw the Rockettes show, and then made our way to the ESB to (finally!) make this happen.  I fully intended to stay inside the viewing area and not venture outside, however the construction was so well done I felt remarkably secure. (the picture below may tell a slightly different story!)  I was okay walking around the perimeter and taking in the gorgeous view of my favorite part of NYC: the lights. Seeing the Chrysler Building from this view at night was breathtaking.  So was the Brooklyn Bridge.  And the ice rink, parks, Met Life Building, and lights!  Lights everywhere!  I'm so glad I didn't allow fear to hold me back and saw this for myself.

Aside from the fact it was freezing, I look a little unsure about standing this close to the edge...

thought of the morning

Friday, November 15, 2013

poem for the ages

No matter how many times I read this, I never tire of these beautiful words.  Especially the part about "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Or this awe-inspiring view. Sometimes I wonder if I would have the courage to start over in a foreign land and how it would feel to see this beacon of hope for the first time.

my date with liberty (otherwise known as how to climb a corkscrew)

Heights and I DO NOT get along.  I've made it a point throughout my entire life to avoid these extremes and have gladly kept my feet on the ground while family and friends have reached for the stars.  (Fortunately for me, they've shared their fabulous photos of trips to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Rockefeller Plaza, etc, etc!)  That said, I've missed out on some incredible views and several months ago decided to take the plunge: purchase crown access tickets to the Statue of Liberty!  I've been to Liberty Island twice, however both times I've only gone up as far as the pedestal.  This time around my dad and brother wanted to go all the way, and since it was only an extra $3 I figured I could back out at the last minute with minimal financial damage.  :-)

Finally, the day came.  It was a sunny Tuesday morning, and I was determined to finish the day knowing I had conquered this fear.  I even decided to disclose my ambition to the world and posted the following on Facebook - Today's objective: conquer extreme dislike of heights and climb to the top of Lady Liberty. Everything went smoothly, and when we climbed to the pedestal I made it a point to NOT look up. I knew if I saw how far it was to the top I would lose my resolve and all would be lost.

After walking around the base of the lovely lady and taking several photos, it was time.  We showed our crown reservation wristbands to the park ranger on duty, and he slowly and very deliberately gave us the following instructions: take your time, watch your head, and use the handrails.  I remember thinking that sounded a little odd.  I mean, really, what's so hard about climbing a few hundred stairs?  There were over one hundred to get to the pedestal, and I wasn't too out of breath after that set so I wasn't very concerned. Now, have you see this page?  I swear I read the info about how to book tickets, locker requirements, number of steps, etc, but somehow I have absolutely no recollection about this staircase.  Double helix? What the heck is that?  Well, it took about ninety seconds to figure out, and let me tell you, I was having some serious second thoughts about this expedition.  The stairs were steep, staircase dark, and handrails were an absolute must.  About halfway up we stopped for a little meeting and the discussion began.  "Do you think we should continue?"  "I'm freaking out." "I'm not too sure about this."  "Can we go down the up?" You get the idea.  I was already feeling very out of my element and wasn't too sure how stable this staircase really was.  I honestly didn't think I could do it and didn't really care if it was against the rules to go down the wrong way.  Not to mention how foolish I might look.  Did. Not. Matter.  Fortunately, about this time, Adam decided he had come all this way and was going to make it to the top.  He grabbed hold of the handrail and went for it.  His action gave me the courage to continue, and Dad followed suit.  Something about all these stairs reminded Dad of a song he sang on long car trips as a child: 99 bottles of beer on the wall / 99 bottles of beer / take one down and pass it around / 98 bottles of beer on the wall.  Well, as a joke he started singing it, I picked it up, and crazy as it sounds that song was my lifesaver. It distracted me long enough to not think about how high up I really was (and how there was nothing on the other side of the barrier) and let me focus on the lyrics (which I usually mess up).  The next thing I knew I was there!!!

Proof I did indeed make it to the top.  (I look so proud of myself. :-/)

Unfortunately, the view left much to be desired. Yes, you could see part of the harbor, but it wasn't the pretty part, and in order to see the torch and tablet you had to literally get down on your knees to see out those windows.  For someone already sure the catwalk she was standing on was unstable, the idea of bending way over wasn't exactly the best idea. :-)  We stayed in the crown area for several minutes (I may or may not have hung onto a supporting beam for dear life) and chatted with the two park rangers stationed at the top.  When two other brave souls arrived for their moment of glory in the crown we decided it was time to go down. I honestly thought this part would be easier, but it was WORSE!  Not only was the incline extremely steep, but you couldn't see the steps. I gripped both handrails and felt my way down hoping I could correctly judge where the next step was.  Arriving at the pedestal level was the best feeling ever.  The three of us walked outside for some fresh air and congratulated ourselves on this seriously amazing accomplishment.  I did it -- and survived with quite the story to tell -- but who knew the experience would be so crazy!

Looking up

Looking down (this was the section that actually had lights)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

meet charlie

This is Charlie.  We met him on chilly fall morning in New York City when we decided to enjoy breakfast in Central Park.  There we were seated on a park bench eating bagels and drinking coffee (well, two of us were enjoying coffee -- Dad had hot chocolate.) when we noticed a lady walking a very cute dog.  The next thing we knew, this little guy planted himself right in front of me and started making doe eyes at my bagel. Obviously, I'm not about to give human food to an unknown canine so the three of us made small talk and engaged in a rather one sided conversation with Charlie while his doggie mama made little to no attempt to move him along and continued her phone conversation right in front of us!  So there we are awkwardly trying not to eavesdrop on what was clearly a business call while Charlie watches us eat.  The woman apologized a couple of times and told the person on the other end of the phone that her dog was, "begging food from some people in the park," but she still didn't try to move him along.  When she eventually off the phone she apologized again and explained that while Charlie had eaten breakfast, food was his weakness.  Duh!!! I think he liked us because he still wouldn't move when his mama tugged on his leash and suggested they continue their walk.  You can tell who rules the roost in that household!

(Charlie & Mama eventually moved on and only made it to the next bench before the little canine found someone else with food.  What can I say, the guy thinks with his stomach!)

This is a not-so-flattering picture of us with Charlie

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

ellis island and a used bookstore in greenwich

I am finally the proud owner of this book!  

I first became aware of Wilkes work several years ago.  I was fascinated with the idea of photographing the buildings of Ellis Island as they are today: dilapidated, forgotten, and yet, hauntingly beautiful. At the time, Ghosts of Freedom retailed for $60.  Then it went out of print, and the cheapest I could find it for on line was $100!  Well, much as I wanted to add this to my collection, I'm not wasting a perfectly good Ben Franklin on a book that probably isn't worth that much, no matter how amazing the photography.  :-)   During my most recent trip to visit Lady Liberty I noticed they were selling it in the gift shop, but again, it was $100.  Fast forward two days and we were traipsing through Greenwich Village (in the rain no less) looking for a used bookstore so my brother could buy a book on NY art deco for Le Girlfriend.  A friend of his recommended a specific store, and let me tell you, it was quite the find.  It was cramped, a bit dark, and seriously smelled like old books.  The storekeeper was not the most friendly individual I've ever met and pretty much ignored us the entire time we were there. So much for the iconic NYC used bookstore experience depicted in the movies.  Anyway, after doing a little browsing myself, I sat down to wait for my brother to make his selection, and it was then I saw it.  Wilkes book was sitting right there in front of me.  I may or may not have done an internal happy dance when I saw it was only $35!!! Naturally, I bought it...on the day we walked 42 blocks to Grand Central the rain.  (We won't even talk about the shenanigans I went through to get it home in a suitcase with my other literary finds. Thank God for brothers who pack light.)