Tonight marks the opening of the 46th annual Lincoln Center Out of Doors cultural festival. For three weeks there will be daily performances of music, dance, and the spoken word. The festival is free, but seating may be limited, so attendees should arrive early—at least one hour in advance. Check the website at www.lcoutofdoors.org for additional information.
Today marks the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. The words of Thomas Jefferson are just as important today as they were when he wrote them “all of those years ago:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
A little rain won’t dampen my spirits as I continue to celebrate the principles upon which my great country were founded. As I prepare to vote in my first presidential election, I will cast my vote for the candidate who I believe will uphold these ideals.
The quaint village of Sag Harbor, New York, settled before the American Revolution, was once an active whaling port and in its early years rivaled New York City as an important international shipping hub. The village has retained its old world charm, with many of the buildings dating back to the eighteenth century. To celebrate American patriotism on this July 4th weekend, shopkeepers and homeowners have festooned their buildings with flags and bunting and village fireworks are scheduled in the harbor tonight.
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 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.
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.
And the road trip continues: Just a few final shots before departing for St. Louis!
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!
(Courtesy Cincinatti Zoo)
There has been a huge public outcry over the shooting death of Harambe, the majestic, seventeen-year old silverback gorilla at the Cincinatti Zoo. Let me start off by saying that my family and I are ardent animal-lovers. We love our dog and we travel the globe to view (not kill) animals in their natural habitats. Having said this, I believe that the zoo was justified in the action that it took. Here are the facts of the case: A little boy, perhaps three or four years of age, climbed into the gorilla enclosure and was being tossed and dragged through the water by Harambe. The gorilla may have been playing with the child or trying to protect him, but no one can be sure what his intentions were. The gorilla handlers successfully called two female gorillas out of the area, but Harambe did not heed their commands. The zoo had two choices — neither of them good. The first choice was to shoot the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart, which would have agitated the gorilla and taken too long to take effect, possibly leading to the death of the child. The second choice was to shoot the gorilla to death and rescue the child. The zoo staff chose to put the life of the child before the life of the gorilla, a choice that while tragic, was the right one to make. I am saddened by Harambe’s death, but I completely understand why this was the only sound option.
People have been calling for the arrest of the parents and have been vilifying them in the press and on social media. Whether the parents are awful – I have no reason to believe that they are -is irrelevant. The gorilla enclosure should have been impenetrable — no ands, ifs, or buts — especially to children. There should have been absolutely no way to get into that exhibit. Children can tear away from any kind of parent — bad, good or great — for the seconds that it took for this child to climb into the unsecure exhibit. The zoo needs to re-evaluate its safety barriers and upgrade them so that accidents like this can never happen again.
We should mourn the loss of Harambe. We should question the legitimacy of zoos that fence in animals. However, we should not lay blame on the parents. I have read posts by people claiming to be super-parents who could never have an accident occur on their watches. I believe that this accident could have happened to any child or any parents. Let’s hope that better barriers are built to prevent future tragedies.
Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Derby
Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who was the grandson of American explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, founded the Kentucky Derby in 1873 after attending the Epsom Derby in England. He returned to Louisville, KY determined to build a similar venue for thoroughbred horse racing, stateside. He obtained land from his maternal uncles, the Churchill brothers, and built Churchill Downs, which he fashioned after Epsom Downs. The dress code at Churchill Downs is similar to its English counterpart with women and men, smartly and elegantly attired with hats complimenting their ensembles.The tradition of donning elegant millinery has continued to this day, with some women wearing elaborate creations festooned with feathers, ribbons, and/or bows.