Happy Thanksgiving

 

It’s a tradition in my house except that I’m not home this year. My life has landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. So the day started in the gym, stretching. Then on to the OR for a woman who just had a baby and was becoming paralyzed from breast cancer. We saved her. No Thanksgiving dinner. No celebration. I’ve spoken to friends and family, left messages for others, and emailed my kids. It’s a funny thing because one year is so different from any other. Ninety degrees and sunny, tomorrow I’ll dive in the Red Sea. Who would believe that this is the alternative to Black Friday? The kids are traveling. My son is in California visiting his girl friend’s family. And my daughter will spend it in the Cayman Islands. I didn’t realize that dropping out of the holiday would change it so much for everyone else. In searching my hard drive, I was hoping to catch a classic shot that’s hiding there. Julia is being held by Grandpa Bill in one hand and in the other Grandpa has the Thanksgiving turkey waiting to be dressed. Julia was smaller than the turkey and it’s a priceless shot. Grandpa doesn’t even like turkey. He loved his grand daughter. So I got this shot. It’s a holiday dinner some years later. As you can see Julia is exhausted. And all she had to do was eat the dinner. We would start days in advance. It’s not hard. But you have to gather all the essentials. One year my wife bought a frozen turkey on Tuesday expecting to bake it on Thursday. She panicked upon realizing that this would not be possible. We ended up with a fresh turkey (don’t ask) and another whole turkey dinner on Saturday. So I say, go ahead and enjoy. I hope I can get a football game on TV/internet. Then I’ll remember Thanksgivings past. All the best to all of you.

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Easter, New York Style

I have come to believe that in New York City people like to dress up. And an opportunity to strut is an irresistible calling. What I wonder is that folks seem to pay no mind that their outfits must look pretty outrageous as they travel about on mass transit getting to the venue. And the tourists, what do they make of a world seemingly gone mad. I remember one Halloween when a couple of tourists were cowering in their seats peering cautiously over the top of their map at all the outlandish costumed riders that clambered onto the subway car.

Astro-turf man

Easter festivities are on Fifth Avenue near St Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Made famous from movie and song, everyone’s mission is to wear a hat and parade your stuff. There is no form and the crowd is ‘come as you like.’ So from about 11AM until dusk anyone can wander up or down Fifth Avenue. Come early, most of the photographers are there and you can be assured of being photographed into internet immortality. The headdress varied from simple bunny ears to virtual gardens atop some of the more ambitious participants. There are no rules.

Some old standbys appear. It seems that several people make it a habit to be in every parade gathering. Same costume, same shtick, it’s familiar but beginning to get worn – different day same person.

At all parades - see Chinese New Year

No themes and no organizers so there is little in the way of coherence. Some folks were really decked out. One thing I noticed this year, there were a lot of period costumes from the turn of the century. And for some reason it is attractive as a great venue for gays to be able to parade in front of St Patrick’s. There were many transvestites. Be sure to watch closely as it’s hard to tell some of them. Others were too obvious. Because you are virtually ‘eyeball to eyeball,’ a wide angle lens and close cropping were needed to isolate people. This year’s crowd was larger than I remember, perhaps because of the good weather. It was great entertainment and rich with photo ops.

You can fool some people

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St Partrick’s Day 2012

Well, the big day was Saturday. Everyone’s Irish. The gays and lesbians, ILGO, still doesn’t get to march. Just about everyone else does. They come from all over the world to march and to watch. The folks standing behind me were non English speaking and had a great time. Young, old and everywhere in between. It goes on for hours and you might think that you have heard every possible melody that can be played on bagpipes. No floats! No balloons! It’s not a Macy’s extravaganza. Ford did pony up to be the lead sponsor vehicle. And the police came by with a black SUV and cameras rolling to gather footage of the spectators, just in case…. As always, watch the kids. It’s fun to see them. And then it all gets crazy in Times Square and around the bars. No drinking on the streets… arrested. Yeah, it was a pretty crazy day. And, everyone’s Irish for a day.

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2012 Chinese New Year

Every year there is a celebration and parade in New York City. The crowds line up more than an hour before the event. It’s crowded but orderly, much more so than the West Indian Day parade. But this does not mean that there isn’t a lot of jostling for position along the rail. You have to watch out for those little old ladies. The confetti is shot out of ‘poppers’ adding a colorful feel to the celebration. It is the year of the water dragon and particularly auspicious. Although it must be said that my Aunt Fu Ching always found something good in every birth year even my brother Eric’s, the year of the rat. Anyway dragons are all about in any year because they are symbolic and ward away the evil spirits. As you can see everyone was enormously pleased.

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Occupy Wall St

I went to check up on Occupy Wall St after attending Santacon. There were more Santa and helpers than there were protesters. In fact there was one legitimate protester claiming to be a librarian. The rest were homeless and panhandling while others stood by with fringe radical agendas on their cardboard boxes. The Occupy Portland folks had it right last week. Sleep in, the revolution has passed by. The park had returned to normal except for all the barricades.

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Santacon 2011

This is a first for me. I had seen some pictures so I was curious. The online site stated that the location of the gathering would be secret until the night before. Santa and his helpers gathered at two sites one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. They then descended upon South Street Seaport. It is definitely not a bar crawl, so they claim. Since it’s against the law to consume alcohol in public in NYC, everyone who didn’t buy beer on tap, had a brown bag or the equivalent. I saw a group on the subway, pouring liquor into their empty water bottles in order to camouflage their activity. They needn’t have bothered. This was a young adult gathering of thousands spread across the city and in communication by twitter.

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Dim sum

The culture of eating has many similarities across ethnic groups. Almost every cuisine has dumplings. I am most familiar with Chinese dumplings, fried or steamed, wontons, steamed buns and so forth. Polish, Russian, Jewish, and Indian food all have some equivalent. As far as I know the style of dim sum is unique to the Chinese culture. (Tapas is somewhat similar.)

In this example the restaurant is family style. Once seated, food is brought around on carts. There are steamed and fried choices. The plates contain 3-4 dumplings. Each plate has a single price, now small and medium sized. When you’re full, add up the plates and that’s the bill. There are many choices from which to choose, all fresh and ready to eat. I have heard that some restaurants get their fare from specialty kitchens that make thousands of dumplings ready to go. Others make them on the spot. The variety is staggering and I have to say that I have not tried them all. One caveat, it’s best to bring a crowd. You get to try more varieties. This group was in honor of a visiting guest from Germany, who enjoyed the experience immensely. By the way, did I mention, all that eating and the price is reasonable.

One final stop – a local Chinese grocery – where there is a variety of sea food and protein unlike elsewhere. Here you see snail and stuff I don’t know the names for, and moreover wonder where they found it.

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New York City Night

I used my Canon G11 because it has an f2.8 lens. I let the ISO go on auto. And finally, I hold my hand steady. Some of the shutter speeds are 1/125 sec. For a while I got sloppy because the camera was so good. Now it’s back to the basics. Night shots are always a bit more exciting for me. There is no telling what the camera sensor will capture. I walked uptown and cross-town the other night. Bryant Park has free ice-skating. Everyone was out in the mild evening air to take advantage. Ping-pong in the park was new. The Christmas season has a series of pop up shops open around the park to sell holiday gifts. Night-lights are a requirement for buildings around Times Square. The brighter the better, so the glare of the neon signs is enough to get fine shots. It’s almost too bright and there is a tendency to overexpose. Soon to be obsolete incandescent light bulbs cast a harsh glare on the food vendors. I hand-hold my camera and avoid flash. It works for me.

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Cross-town New York City

The avenues are wide and the traffic lights are staggered to turn green in the direction of traffic flow. Walking ‘cross-town’ in New York City is often faster than driving. The intersections are filled with pedestrians crossing against the light. There are double-parked vehicles loading and unloading. There are cars stopped for no reason. Well, you get the picture.

When dealing with a government agency, it’s best to steel yourself for several visits. You’ll never have all the right papers on the first try. But New York is also wonderful because just about any business can be found and transacted here. No mailing and waiting for a reply. So last week, I trudged ‘cross-town’ four, count ’em, four times in order to get a single bureaucratic task accomplished. That is – four round trips. And wouldn’t you know it, it was westside to eastside almost completely – tenth avenue to second avenue. There’s only first and eleventh left. Avenue blocks are longer than streets by far.

With that background, walking was best – the subway, bus, cab, or car would all have been slower. I took along the point and shoot camera to ward off boredom. One of the first things I came across was a construction site. The crew was framing a series of peaked roofs. And, later they finished them with standard roof tiles like the suburbs. I puzzled and wondered whether the walls would be erected. Nope. It’s art!

It seemed that almost every trip had some element of rain. This worked out with more saturated leaf color and nice reflections from the pavement. This year in NY it was all yellow. There were some red leaves. But the predominant color was yellow. I mistook the 5th Avenue store to be a $5 store not a dollar store. Come to think of it, there were lots of items on sale for more than a dollar but less than five.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This is the granddaddy of the New York City Parades. It has a live television feed that goes around the country. It’s completely scripted so that it starts and ends on TV time with commercial breaks included. Santa arrives at noon on the last float and symbolically marks the start of Christmas retail frenzy. We all know the hype.

Tourists, locals, and the curious from the suburbs crowd the parade route. There are special viewing stands and invited VIP’s. The crowd forms up early. I got there about 1 ½ hours early and was ten deep from the curb. It’s not bad for the balloon viewing. I did not want to make the effort to get close and arrive earlier. It would have entailed waiting in the cold for hours. That is not a bit of fun. As it was, the temperature at 8AM was reported at 37 degrees.

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