Weekly Photo Challenge: Weightless

In response to the Post Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weightless

The first thing that came to my mind on this subject, and of something that I might have a photo of, was clouds.  Especially clouds at sunrise.  When it’s a new day and the weight of the world has not yet hit us.

These photos I took on Raritan Bay in Staten Island, NY, where I used to take my dog for walks early in the morning and watch the sun come up.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

The following are photos of 2 animals who were once a big part of my family, whom I loved with all my heart,  and whom I will never forget.

Mary
My dog Mary (1995-2007).
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My cat Rosebud (1985-1995) on my front porch on Layton Avenue in Staten Island. Hand-tinted photo.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in my Life

Actually, this is a typical morning in my life.  My day begins at around 5:30 a.m. when I rise and go downstairs to the backyard of my building where I feed 3 hungry cats, and put peanuts/nuts/seeds out for the squirrels who visit just after daybreak.

Little grey cat of the night.
Little grey cat of the night.

Although homeless, the cats are well fed. I provide them breakfast, but another woman in my building gives them dinner. I also think they have

Bobbi, my own cat who lives  with me.  Where I live we are only allowed on pet.
Bobbi, my own cat who lives with me. Where I live we are only allowed one pet, but I compensate by feeding strays.

other places where they get food, because they don’t act as though they are starving, and don’t look it. I was worried about them being outside during the cold winter, but I don’t think they were as worried about themselves as I was. Cats can survive the cold as long as they have good food, because their bodies use their food to heat themselves from within.

Amongst the cats, it is easy to see their group status. The smallest cat is also the weakest. He is so full of fear. Even though I’ve been feeding him for months and months, he still won’t let me near him. The middle cat is also grey, but much prettier than the smallest cat and has much less fear. He has just started to let me touch him. He slightly intimidates the small grey cat, but one can see how the small cat struggles to not let him inimidate him.  They mainly just ignore the other. Then the last cat to join the group is a

I feed this guy every morning.  I think he knows me.
I feed this guy every morning. I think he knows me.

larger black cat who is the most dominating and aggressive of the 3 cats.  I put their food out in three separate piles, otherwise the black cat will chase the other two away. These cats really show how strength is based on amount of fear.  Besides all these cats, I also have a cat of my own in my apartment, whom I feed first.

The Greenbelt, March 2013
The reason the Greenbelt looks so bare is because of Hurricane Sandy. All the old and dead trees fell down, which I think is a good thing, because now there is room for new growth, but all the fallen trees and brush need to be cleared out.

After my morning backyard- wildlife-breakfast duties, I’m awake enough to hop on the #57 bus (between 7-9 a.m) on Port Richmond Avenue going to the Recreation Center in Staten Island’s Greenbelt area, where I workout in their gym for about 45 minutes. This further wakes me up, but sometimes, if I’m really having a hard time getting started, I stop off for coffee at a Starbucks on Victory Avenue and Bradley Ave. It’s about a 30-minute ride on the bus to the gym only if I don’t stop for coffee.  After deboarding the bus, I have about a ten-minute walk through the Greenbelt area to the recreation center.

After my morning workout at the Greenbelt Recreation Center, I walk down Rockland Avenue to Forest Hill Road. This winding, narrow strip of Rockland Avenue has no sidewalks and has the Greenbelt on both sides of the street.  The cars whiz by me.  Off to the side of the street, I visit a particular tree log where I put out peanuts and back-yard seeds/nuts for the squirrels and birds.  After I bus home, a group of pigeons are waiting for me for their breakfast.  (I spend a lot of money on all this animal food.) By this time, I’m fully awake, Thank God.

Self-Portrait
I also have my camera with me every morning to take photos. I’ve seen deer lately on my morning walk to the recreation center, but haven’t been able to get a photo of them yet, because they run away so fast. I can’t wait to get their picture.  [The Greenbelt in March 2013–Hurricane Sandy thinned out the trees and brush considerably.  Spring has not yet arrived to Staten Island’s Greenbelt.]
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Encounter with groundhog on my walk to the Greenbelt Recreation Center.
The Greenbelt Recreation Center, Staten Island, NY
The Greenbelt Recreation Center, Staten Island, NY

A Wonderful Dog Story

I received this story today by email from my cousin, Dorothy Myers, who lives in Derby, Kansas, USA, which is a suburb of Wichita, where I was born, but left when I was 7.

I know it takes a lot of patience to read a story on someone’s blog, but if you read this, I am sure you won’t be disappointed that you took the time.  It’s a dog story, as well as a human story, but if you love dogs, it will be even better for you.

_________________________

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie,

as I looked at him lying in his pen.

The shelter was clean, no-kill,

and the people really friendly.

I’d only been in the area for six months, but

everywhere I went in the small college town, people

were welcoming and open. Everyone waves

when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle

in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt.

Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen

Reggie’s advertisement on the local news. The shelter

said they had received numerous calls right after,

but they said the people who had come down

to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,”

whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me

in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted

of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were

brand new tennis balls, his dishes and

a sealed letter from his previous owner.

See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home.

We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter

told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it

was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.

Maybe we were too much alike.

I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten

about that. “Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see

if your previous owner has any advice.”

_____________________

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this,

a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by

Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it.

He knew something was different.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes

that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier.

Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hoards them.

He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get

a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where

you throw them, he’ll bound after them, so be careful.

Don’t do it by any roads.

Next, commands. Reggie knows the

obvious ones —“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.”

He knows hand signals, too: He knows “ball”

and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular

store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet.

Good luck getting him in the car. I don’t know how he

knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. It’s only been Reggie and

me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me,

so please include him on your daily car rides if you can.

He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark

or complain. He just loves to be around people,

and me most especially.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…

His name’s not Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it

and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn’t

bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this …

well it means that his new owner should know his real name.

His real name is “Tank.” Because, that is what I drive.

I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available

for adoption until they received word from my company commander.

You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve

left Tank with … and it was my only real request of the Army upon my

deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter …

in the “event” … to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.

Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon

was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this,

then he made good on his word.

Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long

as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that

you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust

and come to love you the same way he loved me.

If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming

to the US I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and

of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter

off at the shelter. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got

that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and

give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory

_____________________

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure,

I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him,

even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few

months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star

when he gave his life to save three buddies.

Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my

elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears

cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor.

He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name

he hadn’t heard in months. “Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time,

his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed

as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked

his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into

his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.”

Tank reached up and licked my cheek.

“So whatdaya say we play some ball?”

His ears perked again.

“Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Hurricane Sandy–the Next Day

A firefighter will risk his life to save more than humans during this hurricane (photo taken from Pinterest):

My power went off in Staten Island where I live, and it just came back on, but may go off again, so I hold my breath. Staten Island was badly hurt on the south shore. Three years ago, I moved from Midland Beach, on the south shore, to Port Richmond, on the North shore. I now live on high ground, on the third floor, in a brick building, but it was still scary. I thought it might blow the screens off my windows, and maybe break a window, but it didn’t.

On the radio yesterday, they were saying that Con Edison said that power would be back on in Manhattan and Brooklyn in 4 days and in the other Burroughs in a week. Since I live in Staten Island, I was preparing for a week without power, but it came back on, after being off only about 18 hours. You can’t believe everything you hear.

This is a tree in the next block on my Street.  The police have now blocked off that area of the street from traffic.  The tree has fallen against telephone lines knocking out phone service.  That would have been a great tree to decorate for Christmas.

After Sandy in Staten Island’s Greenbelt

My Day in the Big Apple

Looking back at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from the Ferry. Blimp in sky.

In my last post I wrote about going to the Met and seeing Cloud City, yesterday, Friday.

This post is about all the other things I did yesterday, other than the Cloud City experience, while in Manhattan.

The ferry was chockablock with tourists with cameras.  Because I always carry a camera with me, I am often mistaken for a tourist and treated like one, which doesn’t bother me.

During the delightful 3-mile trip from Staten Island to Manhattan, a blimp flew above us, a beautiful sailboat floated in the harbor, and a bright green motorboat raced by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  (Watch following video clip.)

After arriving in Battery Park, I boarded the “R” subway train up to 23rd Street and from there transferred to the Madison Avenue bus up to 78th Street.  I’ve found that this is about the best route for me to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, since it requires the least amount of walking.  I try to save my legs for the museum.

While walking through Madison Square Park, to get the Madison Avenue bus, I took the following photo in the park. I think it shows a good view of the Flatiron building (built 1903) (building in middle).

Madison Square Park, June 15, 2012

Madison Square Park also has a dog run that I always check out.  (see following video clip.)

I finally caught the Madison Avenue bus up to 78th Street.  Walking across 79th Street toward the museum, I saw three boxes of books on the curb that were destined for trash-pickup.  I always keep my eye out for trash that might contain something interesting, or something that I might be able to use in making art.  I’m a dumpster diver, but I don’t actually dive into them.  I think “dumpster diver” is a term for anyone who rummages through trash, either in a dumpster or otherwise. I especially like boxes of discarded books.  In these 3 boxes, I only found one that interested me, but it turned out to be a jewel.

It’s called Introducing Kierkegaard by Dave Robinson and Oscar Zarate.  This book explains Kierkegaard, his life and philosophy in a simple, east-to-understand style.  Each page has a cartoon-like illustration that is often hilarious.  I love Kierkegaard more than any other philosopher because he and I are one mind on religion and just about every other thought.

Page from “Introducing Kierkegaard”

I finally made it to the museum and saw Cloud City, which I wrote about in my previous post. However, I saw some other things at the museum, too. I especially liked this Peacock chair (see photo below).  This chair is made out of felt , obviously a soft material, but when it is folded as you see in this chair, it becomes just as stable as a harder material.  It’s a case of physics meeting art.  How many living designers get a chair on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?  And yet this designer is very young.  His name is Dror Benshetrit.  There is a video on his website of a half-hour talk he gave about his work which was really fascinating.  He has a studio in NYC.

Peacock Chair, 2009. Felt with powder varnished metal base. By Dror Benshetrit. Israeli, Born in 1977. Manufacturer: Cappellini S.p.A.  (you can actually buy one of these) (you should check this guy out if you are interested in design.)

After experiencing Cloud City (as I wrote about in my previous post), I left the Met behind me. Extremely tired and hungry, I caught the Crosstown bus (78th Street and Fifth Ave.) heading toward the Westside with the intention of getting something to eat at Fairway Market on Broadway. I don’t eat at the museum, because it’s so over-priced. They charge $15.00 for a hamburger and it’s not even very big or very good. You can get a much larger and better one for $5.00 at the Boathouse in Central Park, which is only about a 5-minute walk from the museum.

Then something kinda interesting happened before I caught the #1 subway to the ferry:

I was sitting on a bench in front of the subway station on the Westside at Broadway and 72nd Street, eating the food I had bought at Fairway Market. People were walking by me, but they were like shadows passing. As I was concentrating on my yogurt and granola. I saw a young man pass with lots of camera equipment, but I hardly noticed him. About five minutes later, I realized that there was a tripod standing by itself next to the trash can, about 6 feet away, directly opposite me. No one was around it. I remembered this man and looked around for him, expecting to see him taking photos near by, but he wasn’t there, and this nice tripod was alone. People walked past it without noticing it. After retrieving it, I half-expected this man to come back and yell at me for taking his tripod, but that didn’t happen. I even waited a while in case he did return, I could give it back to him.  Maybe he had just set it down for a minute and had forgotten it.  I did that once with a cell phone. It’s a sturdy metal tripod, but small enough to carry in a backpack. I couldn’t see any defects in it.  I finally took it home with me. This opens up to me night- photography, which I haven’t been able to do because I didn’t have a tripod.  Life is Good. God provides and shows the way.

[I wrote a previous post called “Subway Adventure Story” about being on the subway when a man stuffed a hundred dollar bill into my hand and then ran off the subway.  This post is so wordy that I don’t think anyone has ever read it.  It starts out with my going into Manhattan, having an Irish Coffee at the Boathouse in Central Park, then the subway incident, then it ends with my ruminations on Aristotle, whom I started thinking about after the man stuffed the $100 bill into my hand.]  Not everything that happens on the New York subway is bad.

I love this city.

In Summation:

I experienced Cloud City at the Met.  I viewed a chair that could possibly achieve immortality, I became in possession of a great book and a tripod, gratis, I took two boat rides, two subway rides, two bus rides, I visited Madison Square Park and saw beautiful children and dogs.  Many things I still left out:  my purchasing two beautiful coffee mugs at Mika on Madison Avenue for $1.00 total, taking photos of the beautiful plants at Madison Square Park, other great art objects I saw while at the Met.  A few people in passing.  The beautiful sun shining down on me.  I leave you with these guys whom I will remember as much as everything else I saw today:

My New Year’s Day 2012

Since this was the first day of the year, a holiday, I wanted to do something that I would enjoy–that’s feasible I mean. I decided to go to Central Park, eat lunch at the Boat House, and then walk around and take some photos along the way. I didn’t get any earth-shattering photos, but it was a beautiful day considering it’s winter in NYC. The Pond in Central Park had water in it, which it never does in the winter, although there were no model boats, probably because no one expected it to have water in it at this time of the year. It was warm today, considering it’s winter–around 50 degrees–and sunny with no wind and few clouds. Anyway, below is a video I made and some of my photos. I added the Gershwin background music to try to make it more exciting.

You will notice that it doesn’t look like all that many people in the park, but I think because it was New Years, people get going later in the day. As I was on the bus going home, the streets in Midtown and downtown were extremely crowded. People in the park seemed bored. There was a squirrel in a tree and many people–including me– were crowded around taking photos of it as if that was some big thing.  Not very many street musicians out in the park.  Perhaps they were taking a holiday, too.

Happy New Year from Central Park!

My Day Today in Central Park

Today was the first day of sunshine all week, and the streets of Manhattan were very crowded as well as in Central Park. So much traffic that I had a hard time getting home because the busses couldn’t get through all the traffic. I finally got about the last seat on an express bus home to Staten Island.

Going through downtown Manhattan on the bus, I saw news trucks from all the major channels; ABC, NBC, CNN; parked on Broadway and wondered what was going on. Once home, on the news, I heard that it was all about Strauss-Kahn who finally found an apartment in downtown on Broadway. I don’t understand why all the newspeople are bothering him so much only to get another photo.  We all know what he looks like already.  If the media hound him too much, he will start to attract sympathy.  I think that if Strauss-Kahn manages to get out of this mess, the money that it is costing him is a lot of punishment. However, I doubt if he will get out of it.  This seems to me another episode of that modern phenomenon  “The Good Wife.”

I also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, which was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it.  That was mainly because of the exhibit, aptly titled “Savage Beauty,” of Alexander McQueen’s dresses.  The line for this exhibit was so long that I didn’t want to wait in it, but I plan on going back next week when it isn’t so crowded.

I managed to glance in the exhibit room while walking by and saw a couple of his dresses.  Totally gorgeous.  I can’t wait to see the exhibit.  If McQueen had known that he was about to get an exhibit at the Met, he probably wouldn’t have killed himself, on the other hand, if he hadn’t killed himself, he probably wouldn’t have gotten this exhibit at the Met.  I’ve never witnessed before such instant fame so soon after someone just died.  Before he killed himself, he was just another haute designer for the wealthy.

[I wrote another post (with slideshow) on the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, after I saw it, that you might be interested in reading]

Visited the roof garden at the Met that just opened for the season on May 1.  It’s usually open only from May 1 until around November, depending on the autumn weather.  This year they are showing steel sculptures by Anthony Caro on the roof.  The sculptures are nice, but nothing terribly exciting like they had last summer–a house made from Bamboo.

Visit my new post on the Anthony Caro exhibit on the roof garden at the Met.