Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgivings in New York

 There is so much to New York City that a lifetime can be spend there and never get to know the city.  Taking a walk in the cemeteries revealed historical personalities that I never knew were sleeping in this city.  What a surprise of encountering the burial place of John James Audubon, who had done more for the promotion of wildlife through his paintings than any other conservationist.  Yet, he killed lots of birds and then brought them back to live in the canvases that he painted.  Curiously the bird carved above him in the monument is a vulture, what revenge.  I found him in the Church of the Intercession at 155th Street and Broadway.

 This Church was originally part of Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan and when they ran out of burial space there, they opened the Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum across Broadway and bound at the opposite end by the Hudson River.  Here some of the socialites from the Big Apple are buried such as the Astors, Gallatins and others.  There are modern square mausoleums where the late comers are buried; real estate is expensive here too. One could spend hours looking at the names and then searching Wikipedia so figure out who they were.

 Nearby is the Jumel Terrace Historic District where a wooden row of houses are located in Sylvan Terrace.  These were built in the late 1890’s and went through a time of neglect but were renovated recently.  House # 18 (in one of the images) was sold in 2003 for $10 and is now for sale for about $1,000,000.  Nearby is the Norris-Jume Mansion that was used by George Washington as its headquarters in 1776 during the American Revolution; I was not able to visit it because is undergoing renovation.  What is peculiar about this Mansion is that the white walls are made of square timbers but look as made of cement.

 Moving down to Brooklyn one encounters the living; this is an area undergoing gentrification although it has a way to go.  Most buildings are still from late XIX century vintage with a few new ones such as the Thaddeus School for gifted students.  I walked up Stuyvesant Avenue to catch the train at the Myrtle Subway Station.  In the way there I ran into the first graffiti at the Liberty Tax business where the creature appears to be eating the trash.  Going up the stairs to the elevated platform was surprised to see the colored glass window in perfect conditions; appreciate the vandals that appreciate art and did not destroy it.  While in the platform I took a few shots of the city landscape.

 Boarded the subway and got off the subway in the Bowery where I found a flood of people, since it was Black Friday, the streets were congested and most incredibly, it took inquiring at 7 restaurants until I found a Brazilian one that had a table in the back…here I downed crafted beers and a Brazilian sausage sandwich.  I continued roaming the streets capturing the impromptu works of arts and weathered posters that caught my eye. I wonder how that bicycle is still there or the flowers all not gone?

 It got dark and about to lose the light, just time for a few shots; it is time to go home.  New York offers great photo opportunities, no wonder B&H, the paradise of photographers is here.  My motto about this city is:  “If you do not find it here, it is not made”.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fort Jefferson

 Located in the Dry Tortugas Islands about 70 miles southwest of Key West.  They were discovered by Ponce de Leon back in early XVI century and were named due to the abundance of sea turtles that used them as nesting sites.  The dry connotation came because there is no source of fresh water available and perhaps now also because no alcoholic beverages are sold there J.


 The islands were taken from Spain in 1822. Since they are strategically located at the maritime entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, the United States commenced to build a fort there in the late 1840’s but it was never completed. It was mostly used as a coaling station for the Navy and a prison during the Civil War.  The only notable historical note was that Dr. Samuel Muck and two others implicated in the assassination were incarcerated there.

 Fort Jefferson was built using 16 million bricks and the outer walls are now in a state of disrepair and crumbling down, particularly around the opening used to fire the guns. The bricks came from Pensacola and New York and the labor from slaves and prisoners.  The wives of the soldiers were employed in cooking and washing.  It is the most impressive brick structure I had seen along with the Coca Castle in Spain.

 It has been visited by some pirates of prominence such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway.   The only ways to get there now is mostly is by seaplane or boat.  I went by boat and it takes about 2 hours of navigation.  Once you get there is plenty of time to explore the fort.

 One of the beauties of this park is that unlike others, you can virtually walk over without restrictions.  Other than sightseeing, there is bird watching and snorkeling as well as just plainly relaxing. The islands have large rookeries of birds and are a major migration route. John J. Audubon while visiting there painted birds for his book.  To this day, it reminds a center of attractions for birdwatchers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Short Tour Around the South

 Atlanta is the most vivid city of the southeast.  I first set foot here in 1970 and the changes have been extraordinary as in other cities in the South but in a greater scale.  Nothing is the same, not even the Varsity, it has been modernized, and the skyline, it was not there before, not to mention the airport...the busiest one in the nation as they claim!  The most impressive location for me was the Aquarium, it the best of the one I have visited and the tunnel across the major tank was impressive.  It is a place to just look and not photograph but I did it anyway…with not great results due to the reflections of the glass walls.  The porpoise show was different, it was all indoors as in a theater seating.

Would there be an Atlanta without Coca Cola?   John Pemberton formulated it in the 1880s and the original formula included morphine and was marketed as a medicine.  He was a physician and a pharmacist and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel fighting for the South during the Civil War.  Later on during prohibition the formula was changed to remove the alcohol content, the current formula is treated as a trade secret.  The Coca part of the name was derived from cocaine and the Cola from the use of caffeine extracted from the kola nut.  Below is a statue of Mr. Pemberton in front of the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta; he died poor. I recall seeing another museum with a large bottle of Coke in front in LasVegas but do not know if that museum still stands.  I prefer Pepsi but Coke will do.

 Driving across the south, one finds a Barbeque places in all towns who claims that they are the most famous, the ones with the original recipe and the best barbeque sandwiches.  I just stopped in the one below in the city of Sumter, South Carolina who claimed all of the above.  Was it?  Well it was good.  But the building is the most elaborate I have seen and the interior decoration was also great; from that point of view, Maurice Piggy Park is the most luxurious I have visited.  Another item that I have never seen in a Barbeque Place was a buffet line…and there were some customers pigging out.  I tried their mustard barbeque sauce that was very good; it can be found in supermarkets.  The chain has about 14 locations mostly in South Carolina.

Next I visited Huntington State Park, a place I had visited regularly since the early seventies and the most rewarding place to photograph birds, even better than Sanibel Island.  This is a smaller park and the birds are accustomed to people so they are easier to approach. In this occasion I captured a roseate spoonbill taking a bite of a snowy egret.  The spoonbill was doing his feeding business of moving the bill underwater right and left and suddenly the egret landed in front of it.  It appears that latter did not like the former to mess with its meal.  It seems that the wood storks and an anhinga found the occasion funny and were laughing about it.  The shaken snow egret was not pleased.

There are not only birds but the other most common species are people. But they may not be too appetizing to alligators.  The wannabe Rembrandt seemed annoyed by the paparazzo that was targeting his landscape painting.  But I did capture the gentleman who has recently entered the South Carolina Beard’s Club 2014 beard, moustache and facial hair competition.

 Driving south from Huntington State Park, Hobcaw Barony is found before crossing the bridge into Georgetown.  This property was purchased by Bernard Baruch, originally from South Carolina who was an entrepreneur and political figure during the first half of the 20th century.  He entertained famous people such as Winston Churchill and advisor to presidents Woodrow Wilson and t President Roosevelt during the First and Second World Wars.  The property of approximately 16,000 acres is located in the Waccacamau peninsula, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Wynjah Bay to the west, and came into the property of his daughter Belle who upon her death, deeded it to a foundation.  There various structures in the property and at one time, rice were the major agricultural crop back in the 19th century that was tended by slaves.  Some of the structures such as the Hobcaw house and the Bellefield house can be visited with prior arrangements.  There are also guided nature tours, I choose to take the one of the beach which is part  nature reserve and borders a new development to the north; these houses are subjected to beach erosion as is the situation along the majority of the length of the Atlantic coast.  Erosion is very obvious inside the preserve as can be seen from the base of the dead tree, farther inland the palmetto, the state tree of South Carolina is abundant.  Plan your trip there before going.