Best Free Ride In America

Lower Side NYC Skyline Viewed From the Staten Island Ferry
Lower Side NYC Skyline Viewed From the Staten Island Ferry

Free Ride

The Staten Island Ferry just may be one of the best free activities in all the US. These boats carry passengers only back and forth from Manhattan’s Lower Eastern tip to Staten Island. Designed as a commuter transport that run around the year, this 25 minute one way trip also attracts an inordinate amount of tourists and sightseers. Where else can you get a grand view of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in less than an hour without paying a dime, unless you splurge for a hot dog or ice cream. And don’t forget the majestic Verrazano Bridge that gateway to the sea, where all the oil tankers pass through on their way to harbor.

The Ferry at dock
The Ferry at dock

Details

During peak hours the ferry company of New York has to keep as many as five of these boats in service to service the commuter traffic. Once on board there are many places to sit indoors, where the temperatures are kept warm, no matter what the month. However, non-locals tend to flock to the open-air docks, where they can watch all the sights pass by and smell the salt air. Perhaps the best time to make the one-hour round trip is just after dusk when the lighted up buildings are accented by the dark blue afterglow of the twilight. The terminals are also an unique experience, as travelers get a chance to mingle with the large local crowds that are always traveling back and forth on the large metal watercraft.

Statue of Liberty surrounded by sailing schooners
Statue of Liberty surrounded by sailing schooners

Review of How To Become Clairvoyant

Where the sky meets the sea
Where the sky meets the sea

Notes From A Devout Robertson Fan

I have been fascinated with Robbie Robertson’s post Band solo career. This interest did not begin until he went native with the release of Music For Native Americans, which was accompanied by a TV documentary. True much of the music was performed by more traditional Indian musicians, but Robertson blends in his own musical touch quite well to complement the other performers. I always felt that the overall effect was quite remarkable. Several years later this effort was supplemented by Robertson’s own journey into his  Iroquois past with the release of  “Contact From the Underworld of Redboy”. Although at times Robertson comes dangerously close to falling in the trap of pan-Indianism, the musical quality is first-rate, as is Robertson’s ability to delve into the mystic, a trait definitely not confined to Native Americans. After greatly appreciating these two releases and went back and found more great enjoyment with Storyville and his self-titled first solo release.

Review of Clairvoyant

So with this background, I was more than happy to see Robertson team up with Eric Clapton for the just released “How To Become Clairvoyant”. The duo guitarist create an enamoring musical backdrop for most the album. As expected their guitar work is first rate and adds an additional element to “How To Become Clairvoyant”. The beginning of  “Clairvoyant” is excellent. In fact, the first four songs provide a classic Robertson nostalgic lookback at the heyday of  Rock & Roll, something Robertson was able to observe firsthand, both as a member of Bob Dylan’s first electric backup, and as a member of the much-heralded “Band”. The second number, “When the Night Was Young”, recaptures this mood as well as any song that you’ll hear. Another of my favorites is “The Right Mistake”, which features Clapton on guitar.

From this high point the album takes a downward turn. Things improve with the track “Axman” and “Won’t Be Back”, a song co-written by Clapton and Robertson. The musical journey ends on a strong note with the title track, “Clairvoyant”, and an instrumental tribute to Django Reinhardt, but yet fails to reach the expectations of the first four songs. The last piece has Marias De Vries (an English keyboardist, composer and producer) listed as the co-writer.

For those expecting a good musical listening experience from the lead guitarist of “Big Pink” and “The Band”, you probably won’t be disappointed. Though for those expecting some of the mystic world that Robertson so deftly explored in his last two albums “Clairvoyant” may be a bit more earthbound.

 

Django Reinhardt became a world renown jazz guitarist, despite a badly burned and deformed "finger" hand.
Django Reinhardt became a world-renown jazz guitarist, despite a badly burned and deformed "finger" hand. photo from Library of Congress,

A Quick Look at NYC

The Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown New York
The Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown New York

I had the pleasure of riding the Greyhound bus from Montreal to New York City and then continuing my journey to  South Carolina, where I will spend the holidays. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze a twelve-hour stopover in the “Big Apple”, where I got to partake in a busy December Saturday, when everybody was out and about. Many were Christmas shopping others were just enjoying the sunny weekend day.

First stop for me was the grand ole library at  Bryant Park. This landmark city building was jam-packed with visitors and users. An exhibition concerning the origin of three major religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) from one small region of the world (the eastern edge of the Mediterranean) was the big attraction, but the spectacularly high and ornate ceilings of the Rose Room attracted many sightseers as well as regular users.

Outside the massive limestone walls stood Bryant Park. The ice rink was filled with skaters, who struggled to navigate their way through the mass of humanity that was out on the ice. The rest of the tree-lined park was home to a myriad of artisans, who had their works out on display for all to see.

From the Public Library I boarded the subway and headed downtown to the Soho area. Next, came a visit to Katz’s on Houston Street for lunch, but a line ran halfway down the block from the front entrance, discouraged a visit to this well-known eatery.

The trees at Bryant Park
The trees at Bryant Park

Instead, a couple of slices of pizza and a Mexican beer at nearby Ray’s was my lunchtime repose. More wanderings took me further south where soon I was strolling at the base of the Wall Street tall towers. This is the lower section of tall towers, where the once majestic WTC once stood. This conglomeration of tall towers is located a good distance away from midtown Manhattan, where such giants as the Empire State Building, Pan Am building, Rockefeller Center and Chrysler Building form the rocketing skyline.

The Brooklyn Bridge was a popular walkway, filled with pedestrians despite the cold winds that carried across East Bay and the East River. As dusk approached the partially-clouded sky created dramatic lighting that filled the western sky. Even with the great view, I was still happy to arrive back on solid land, where I could seek shelter from the wind at one of the many small coffee shops that frequented the Wall Street area.

By the time I reached the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the tip of the island, darkness had set in. Even so the huge metal and glass atrium was filled with a mass of humanity, all waiting for the arrival of the large metal transport. The crowd of a thousand plus people packed into the vessel with ease and quickly departed the dock for the short crossing. I stood at the rear deck of the boat watching the Manhattan skyline recede into the distance. With the bow of the ship acting as a windbreaker the ride was much warmer than my walk upon the Brooklyn Bridge.

Upon my return to Manhattan I went underground and rode the subway to Rockefeller Center, which now had a large skating rink and Christmas tree installed at its base. However, the biggest attraction was the window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. After cruising by the glowing windows one last walk awaited me. Although by this time the night had become quite cold and windy, the neon marquees still lit up the night with their colorful messages. Finally, I entered the confides of the port Authority Building where it felt good be out of the cold.  All in all it was a busy 12 hour break from my overland journey.

Wall Street Sunset
Wall Street Sunset
Saks Fifth Avenue Window Display
Saks Fifth Avenue Window Display

First Snow In Montreal

Winter Mural in East Montreal
Winter Mural in East Montreal

Our first snow fell today in Montreal, leaving two to three inches of the white stuff all over the city. The extra few degrees of cold temperatures is a bit of a shock, to the system, but the snow looks very stately as it fills the city parks and covers the cars.

However,  the wind that whips down the cold canyons in the downtown area takes some getting used to, for it chills your right down to your bones. Actually, a warm-up is on the way, but that means all the snow will melt. Life is finished trade-offs, even among the little things.

My departure date from Montreal back to the states is getting nearer everyday. It is not an event that I wish to undertake, for I would be quite happy remaining here at the border of French-speaking Canada. I like the metropolitan area, especially the abundance of art which can be seen everywhere, such as the mural on the side of the building that is the subject of the photograph. Take a close look at the tree in the foreground of the picture, for it is not part of the painting, but a real tree growing on the street. Still, my departure my Montreal has a good side to it, for I will be in warm and sunny South Carolina for December and January. I’ll still miss the friendly city.

The Baie at Night
The Baie at Night

Montreal At Night

Night Lights on a Rainy Night In Montreal

I love walking around this city at night. So much that I often stay up to the wee hours of the morning, walking for miles on end and then stopping at an all-night internet cafe so I can communicate online. The Christmas season is rapidly approaching so by now all the stores are all decorated and waiting for Christmas shoppers. And for the most part they are not disappointed, for the Christmas shoppers are already out and about.

For you see- up here in the provinces there is no roast turkey and pumpkin pie at the end of November. That’s because Canadian Thanksgiving falls right on October 123. That’s right Columbus Day. I’m not sure I like the implication, but the home country sure doesn’t mind for the October is a long holiday and feast day not at all unlike our own Thanksgiving.

Well, anyway with no November Thanksgiving, there can be no “Black Friday” and so as a result the Christmas spirit doesn’t have to wait for the end of November to get rolling. And overall the transition is more gradual because it begins earlier.

Green Wreath At DesJardin Center

The Green wreath hangs above the entrance to the DesJardin Center. This place contains tons of glass and open space as well as a large Food Court with a free Wifi connection. It is good place to go in the morning where you can buy a cup of coffee or some sort of similar refreshment, take a seat and write meaningless blog material, just like I’m doing now.

Poissonnerie in Montreal
Poissonneriein Montreal on Sherbrooke Street
Night Lights in Montreal

And finally we come to this nocturnal explosion of color. Basically, the digital age has been a boon to nighttime image making. These cameras are not only very sensitive to night time shooting conditions, but the final image can be easily adjusted to create a more realistic color scheme.  I use a cheap Kodak Easy Share CX7430.

The camera has been good to me as it is a good nighttime shooter. However the images are not real sharp and a wicked paralax has developed so I can no longer shoot a daytime picture with a distant horizon line, for a wicked series of blobs develops towards the horizon when I do. As a result I shoot a lot of wall scenes and close-ups. I have my eye on a Panasonic Lumix with a Leica lens, but it may be awhile before I can afford one.

Hope you liked the images.

Mispelled Wurds and Why Your Cat Might Want To Kill You

Cat's Eye
Cat's Eye by Guylaine Brunet courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

There was a great post today over at BookEnd’s concerning ten words to stop misspelling. I even think misspelling was one of the mispelled words. But the best thing about the 10 misspelled wurds is that they were part of a poster published by the Oatmeal Company. You can see the poster here,; its very funny.

Now for those of you who constantly search the web, you might have encountered the Oatmeal Company, for many places have posted guidelines for submitting ideas to this company. I think they are looking specifically for writers, who could come up with good material for greeting cards, but they have great titles for their posters as well. I visited them today, and my favorite was one entitled, How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You. This web page is definately worth a visit.

And the really funny thing about the whole poster is that it is all absolutely true. Anyone who has either owned a cat or just lived under the same roof with one, will quickly understand that all the examples are truly based on a deep understanding of animal behavior, especially cat psychology.

So, for all your writers, especially those that can handle comedy, and have not fared so well in the slush pile, there is the greeting card market eagerly waiting with outstretched arms. Sounds like fun, think I’ll try writing some jingles tomorrow.

In the meantime godd luck and don’t despair Ground Hog’s Day is just around the corner.

E. Autumn

P.S. Here is a picture of a Galician cat from Spain and a look inside it’s diabolical mind, coutesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Gato_en_Marin
Gato en Marin (Galiza) by Beninho

Winter Lights

Christmas lights, Portland, Maine
downtown Christmas lights in Portland, Maine

The solstice has now passed and the days are getting longer, but the thermometer is dropping, as the New Year quickly approaches.

What better time to walk around in the freezing cold and photograph some of the seasonal creations that are on display in this northern city, where hours of actual daylight dips below ten hours.

Perhaps this explains why some of the older cultures resorted to building large bonfires to light up the winter night sky.

Nowadays, in the modern era we have the electricity to do the chore for us.

Here in Portland the popular thing to do is to decorate the tress or buildings with balls of lights. It really does look quite splendid in the long winter sky, but I have noticed that the lighting displays have become increasing thinner as the nation struggles throught he darkness of lean economic times.

Tree with lights
tree with lights in Deering Park in Portland Maine

Here is another picture taken from the city park with a hint of afterglow in the night sky. This concept of hanging lights on trees is quite unique to my eyes and quite wonderful as well.

And finally one more picture of some lights on a tree along with the moon in the night sky which is close to full.

Such is the wonder of the new digital technology, which allows me to go out and take the night picture with a hand held Kodak digital camera, come home and slide the SD card into the slot on my computer and post this picture just hours after it was taken. Best wishes and a Happy New Year, Everett Autumn

Christmas-lights-and-moon
Christmas lights covering a tree accented by the moon