July 27, 2015

Gloucester, MA. July, 2015

For those of us of a certain age, it's almost impossible not to have some emotional reaction to memories of the Vietnam War. (I had won the era's draft lottery -- my birthday had come up #16 -- and I was summoned for my physical. Which I failed. A long story.) Earlier this month, 'The Wall that Heals,' a Vietnam Veterans traveling memorial came to Gloucester and I went to see it just as it was opening to the public one Saturday morning. Of course, I got teary. And so did another early visitor, a big, butch Vietnam veteran who seemed mighty uncomfortable letting people see him cry. The Veterans Aid volunteers approached him gingerly, and it was touching to hear them ask, "Are you OK, buddy? Can I help you out? Want to take a walk?"

July 26, 2015

New York, NY. June, 2015

The eye craves symmetry. Even if it's just to violate it. Even if it's in a series of windows and fire escapes on a brick apartment building in lower Manhattan. Now if we could just do something about the placement of those air conditioners.

July 25, 2015

Brooklyn, NY. June, 2015

Andy Warhol famously once said that people would rather look at something than at nothing. Perhaps that's one reason that the developers of the Waterwalk (along the Upper and Lower Bays separating Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn) included a few informational displays to show what creatures live in the waters below. Like this one.

July 24, 2015

Brooklyn, NY. June, 2015

When I was visiting my friend Nick at his new home in Brooklyn, I spent a few mornings walking along the water near (and under) the Verrazano Bridge. On the same trip, I heard a woman talking about how drunk-driving arrests are much stricter these days than they were when she was a young drinker. She said she'd be partying with friends in Staten Island and when she'd head home to Brooklyn, she'd be so looped that she couldn't maneuver her car through the bridge's toll booths. Today, she'd be apprehended. Back then, the toll booth attendants would emerge to guide her so she could manage to make it through and continue on her way home. Times have changed. And, mercifully, so has she.

July 23, 2015

New York, NY. June, 2015

Too many people talk about "branding" today. Every company isn't a company anymore, it's a brand. Please. Still, there are certain names that conjure up luxurious and nostalgic associations. Cunard is one, don't you think? And, to a lesser extent, Cipriani may be another.

July 22, 2015

New York, NY. June, 2015

When I was growing up in Springfield, NJ, way back when, you could see the New York City skyline from the top of our hill. I saw it first without the World Trade Center, then watched the twin towers being built. On a visit home years later, I saw it again without the towers. When I was in NYC recently, my friend Nick encouraged me to go to see the memorial to 9-11 at Ground Zero. I had avoided any visit, figuring the scene would be heavily touristed and a cheap, commercial exploitation of the events. I was wrong. I was moved beyond description. Here is one of the two identical reflecting pools, each occupying the footprint of the original towers. You can see from the size of the people just how monumental these sites are. Streams of water cascade down the sides, gather below, then disappear into a center pit whose bottom is unseen. The message is clear. (Go to YouTube for more.)

July 21, 2015

New York, NY. June, 2015

Neon sign. Rainbow flags. Beer endorsement. Pride sign. Big picture window onto Christopher Street. Hmmm. That's not the way I remember the Stonewall when I used to go there with my friend Nick back before the 1969 riots. It was thrilling and dangerous and creepy then. Clearly mob-run. On more than a few occasions, all of the overhead lights would come on, the bartenders would take the cash trays out of the registers and quickly scoot out the back door. Then the cops would come in just to intimidate, to check to see if men were dancing with each other...as Nick and I nonchalantly (right!) made for the front door, hoping we'd be able to just walk away. Dancing? To give you an idea of what that was like, even now when we pass the place, Nick will remind me of something I always said on our way in: "Hold my glasses."