Monthly Archives: June 2016

Birds of a Feather

I was taking my morning run along Fifth Avenue when I came upon a woman walking with a giant macaw on her arm. I have seen macaws before, in the rain and cloud forests of Costa Rica but never on the streets of NYC.  I wondered what kept her bird from flying away and how large an apartment she lived in to afford the bird ample space and freedom to get around, but she told me that her bird cannot fly.  It was bred in captivity and had its wings clipped, so it does not take flight either on the streets or in her home. This bird is beautiful and exotic, but it seems somewhat cruel and unnatural to keep a highly intelligent, social bird, accustomed to living in the canopies of cloud and rain forests, in a small NYC apartment where it cannot fly. The owner pictured above is pregnant with twins, to boot, so I wonder how the bird and the twins will get along.  Macaws are known to scream frequently and loudly, so between the babies and the bird, it could get quite noisy in her apartment. Imagine what the neighbors will think.

The Boating Life

The Conservatory Water in Central Park (just north of East 72nd near Fifth Avenue) is a boat pond that has hosted model boating for 135 years. The boats are remote-controlled but they are environmentally friendly because they rely on wind power rather than fuel.  You can rent a boat at the boat house and an instructor will give you a quick tutorial on sailing it. The remote control actually operates the sail and the rudder, but it is fairly simple to do. It is a fun activity on a summer’s day, but it is equally enjoyable to sit on a park bench and admire the beauty and tranquility of the pond, while others do the work.  Check out the website www.sailthepark.com for hours of operation and pricing.

Meet Me In St. Louis


Heading southwest from Chicago to St. Louis, we drove along stretches of the nostalgic Route 66. We passed through miles upon miles of cornfields and wind farms until we reached the Gateway City of St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was often called the “Gateway to the West” during the pioneering era, when western bound settlers stocked up on provisions before departing for the frontier. In 1804, the famed explorers Lewis and Clark set off from St. Louis on their journey west to survey the Louisiana territory that President Thomas Jefferson purchased from France.

Architect Eero Saarinen designed the Gateway Arch to symbolize America’s expansion westward. The Arch holds many records: it is the tallest arch in the world, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and the tallest accessible building in Missouri. It opened to the public in 1967, with a tram ferrying passengers to the top of the 630 foot structure, where visitors can get a bird’s-eye-view of the city from one side of the arch and can even catch a glimpse of a St. Cardinals game at Busch Stadium below. The windows on the other side offer views of the great Mississippi River.

I love interesting architecture and this building ranks among some of the best in the world. Tickets are available online, but finding your way to the entrance is a bit complicated due to a major renovation project underway at the base of the monument. The visit to the arch and the trip to the top was definitely worth my time.

Chi-town

Millenium Park is also home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell where the Grant Park Orchestra and other bands, choirs, and theater groups perform in an open air setting. The architecture of the bandshell, as well as the  serpentine bridge nearby, is the work of Frank Gehry, the famed architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. His use of stainless steel has become his trademark and in this structure he created strips that appear to be pulled back by a can opener to create the opening of the stage.  There is seating for 11,000 people — 4,000 seats within the bandshell and room for another 7,000 people to sit picnic-style on blankets on the great lawn beyond the seating.  There is a trellis system of steel pipes that have speakers attached to them to carry the music out to the lawn and to create the feel that the lawn is part of the structure. I heard a choral group warming up and they looked and sounded great. This is yet another reason to return to Chi-town.

Chicago: My Kind of Town

I recently visited Chicago for the first time and, as Frank Sinatra famously sang, “Chicago: It’s my kind of town”.  The city is beautiful, exciting, and cosmopolitan.  It has fabulous architecture, a beach on the ocean-sized Lake Michigan, great food, outstanding cultural institutions, and so much more. There are grand avenues like Michigan Avenue, a river running through it with a foot path along side it and multiple bridges crossing over it, parks, zoos, and sports stadiums like Wrigley Field and Soldier Field.  I spent two days there, which isn’t nearly enough time to fully explore the city.  A re-visit in the near future is imperative.

My first stop was Millennium Park, which is one of the biggest attractions in the city. It is part of the larger Grant Park  and is home to sculptures, music venues, restaurants, an iceskating rink during winter months, and a theater. There is a giant sculpture called Cloud Gate, which is more familiarly known as The Bean.  As you can see, in the photos above, it is a sculpture that appears to be made of liquid mercury, resembles a bean, and reflects the Chicago skyline and the clouds above it.  In the era of Facebook and Instagram, it is the backdrop of millions of selfie-taking visitors, like my mother and me.  The park is also home to the Pritzker Pavillion, a music bandshell,  and a serpentine footbridge, which were both designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry (featured in tomorrow’s post).. 

Chicago is my kind of town!

Love is Love is Love is Love . . .

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There was so much anticipation leading up to the 70th annual Tony Awards ceremony last night because of the general excitement surrounding Hamilton: the Musical and the number of awards that it was in contention to win.  Tragically, the ceremony was overshadowed by the horrific mass murder that occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning. Broadway stars had heavy hearts as they attempted to entertain the audience and collect their awards while grieving and showing respect for the victims of such a heinous attack.

Hamilton did, in fact, win many awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book, and so many others. Lin-Manuel Miranda deserved all of the accolades that came to him. He is a genius — anyone who can conceive of a rap musical about a historical figure from the eighteenth century, write the book, the score, and the lyrics must be. He came to the Tony Awards, equipped with a sonnet about love, which he most likely wrote prior to the mass shooting in Orlando but which he probably adapted in the hours before the awards ceremony began. It was the sonnet heard round the world.  Here is the full text:

My wife’s the reason anything gets done. 

She nudges me towards promise by degrees. 

She is a perfect symphony of one. 

Our son is her most beautiful reprise. 

We chase the melodies that seem to find us 

Until they’re finished songs and start to play. 

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us 

That nothing here is promised, not one day 

This show is proof that history remembers. 

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. 

We rise and fall, and light from dying embers 

Remembrances that hope and love last longer. 

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; 

Cannot be killed or swept aside. 

I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story. 

Now fill the world with music, love, and pride. 

I can’t wait to see what this man comes up with next.  I am sure that it will be nothing short of amazing.

 

Stop The Madness

(Photos compiled by the  New York Daily News)

I have been slow to comment about the mass shooting in Orlando because words have escaped me following such a heinous act. The facts are that a madman entered a popular nightclub and unleashed a torrent of gunfire that killed 49 people and wounded another 53, most of them gay. Was this a hate crime, a terror attack, or the kind of mass shooting that we’ve grown all too accustomed to, recently? The shooter, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghani immigrant parents, pledged allegiance to ISIS, which immediately raised concerns that this tragic event was a terrorist attack, but the shooter has been described as unhinged, violent, and even gay. He was also known to law enforcement and had been under investigation on previous occasions in 2013 and 2014. Whatever the case, why was he legally able to obtain automatic weapons and enough rounds of ammunition to wreak such quick and devastating carnage on an unsuspecting group of partiers? Why should anyone be entitled – stable or unstable, terrorist or not – to purchase automatic weapons and so many rounds of ammunition? As I have written before, the founding fathers could never have fathomed that weapons would be invented that would be capable of killing so many people, so quickly, let alone be used so indiscriminately against innocent fellow American citizens when they wrote the second amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing our right to bear arms. They must be turning over in their graves as gun advocates and NRA members continually use their words to justify the sale of weapons and ammunition that can and have been used to inflict murder on such a mass scale. 

I Am Woman

Courtesy Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I generally avoid online conversations about politics and religion, but I do post about newsworthy events. This post definitely qualifies as newsworthy because, for the first time in our nation’s history, a woman has become a presidential candidate of a major political party.  It certainly took long enough. Our country was founded over 200 years ago and it took more than 100 years for women to even earn the right to vote and nearly another 100 years before a woman was nominated for the office of the presidency. Hillary Clinton accomplished that feat last night, when she clinched the nomination after her decisive win in California. Many other countries have had female heads of state, such as Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, and others so it is about time that the United States catch up to their international counterparts. What happens next remains to be seen, but for right now, I hope that all females take a moment to bask in this accomplishment. 

Forever The Greatest

As legend has it, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, took up boxing so that he could beat up the thief who stole his bicycle. He channeled his anger over the theft into an illustrious career as a boxer, first winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and then going on to become the most famous athlete in the world.

His career was derailed when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War on the grounds that it was in opposition to his religion. He was convicted of dodging the draft, suspended from boxing for 3 ½ years, stripped of his boxing titles, and vilified by mainstream America. He returned to the ring after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the boxing commission reinstated him.

Muhammad Ali was undefeated but out of practice when he fought Joe Frazier in a hotly anticipated fight at Madison Square Garden, billed as the Fight of the Century of just the Fight. He lost that particular match, but went on to fight many others, including a rematch against Frazier called the Thriller in Manila, and a win against George Foreman called the Rumble in the Jungle. He probably boxed well past his prime and took too much pounding to the head that resulted in Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological impairment that left him with slurred speech, accompanied by tremors, and eventually loss of movement.  

Ali proclaimed himself The Greatest and then lived up to his own hype. In addition to his boxing prowess, he was confident, funny, witty, and caring. He was also a principled peace activist and a philanthropist. My father has always been one of his biggest fans. He proudly displays an autograph that he got from Ali, when he met him aboard a plane in the 1970’s. Ali gave autographs happily because he treated people in the way that he wished to be treated. President George W. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon him in 2005, the highest civilian honor, calling him a ‘man of peace’ and the ‘Greatest of All Time’. RIP The Greatest