Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thanksgiving in New York City

Another trip to NYC. And we were really looking forward to it. No disappointments at all!

We saw, in no particular order, family, friends (one of whom we hadn't seen in 30+ years!,) places, John Lennon (sort of,) new stores and lots of restaurants.
But first, the journey. Monica (please visit her web site at and I traveled to Laguardia Airport and despite enduring a ground hold in Dallas, due to wet weather in New York, arrived just about on time. I love taking pics out of airliner windows and this time we were treated to a beautiful light and color show off the port wing.

The next deal was the taxi ride to the hotel.What with the rain and arriving during rush hour, we figured we were in for a long and expensive trip. In fact, as you can see, the adventure started with plenty of affirmation that our sojourn would be all of the above. But, it turns out the taxi driver (yep, the same one with an expired taxi and limousine license) picked a route that I never would have (Queens Mid Town Tunnel) and BAM, quicker than you can say "Lagasse," we were at the hotel. That driver got an OK tip.

Monica had said before the trip that she really wanted to see the John Lennon exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of  Fame annex, so off we went to So Ho.
Turns out that John must have heard Monica from the beyond, as he presented himself to us exclusively, as you can see here from the irrifutable photographic evidence.
Just kidding, as though you didn't know.
However, the exhibit was excellent and the music outstanding. the most poignant part (I know I might lose a few of you here) was at the end where there was a large pad of white paper hanging from the wall with an appeal to  write a message advocating stricter gun control and include your signature. When the paper filled, it would be sent to Congress. The paper was placed to the immediate right of a paper bag containing Lennon's clothes and contents of his pockets when he was shot. These effects were presented to Yoko the following day by the NYPD. I had no trouble signing the paper.

We love to walk around the city and fortunately so does our son Brett. After the Lennon tour, we stayed in and around SoNO and SoHo. The shops and street activity were amazing (as it is all over the city.)
This shot was taken on the main floor of the Pearl River Department store, a place that features Asian goods of every description. The shot proves that you need eyes on top of your head, as well as in front, side and behind. These paper parasols were hanging from the ceiling.
The store, located on Broadway, has three floors and is a block deep. You could get lost in this place!
Finally, after a long day of pounding the pavement, Monica and I decided a good Italian meal would be great. So, while Monica was perusing the goods in a wonderful fabric store located in the Garment District, I found a seat and pounded on my iphone to discover a restaurant. And find I did.

La Zie, located in Chelsea, specializes in dishes found around Venice, was terrific! The appetizer was the best part, as you could order a sampler. Out came about ten small dishes with everything from fresh sardines to grilled squid. Sort of like Italian tapas. Also reminded me of Chinese Dim Sim because of all the little white dishes we were accumulating on the table top. The picture here of course isn't the restaurant. It was taken (from E. 23 St with Madison Square Park just behind the subway stairs) on our walk to pick up the number 6 subway. You can always tell you're in NYC during a holiday period by finding the Empire State Building. Just look for the colors. This time, yellow and orange for Thanksgiving.
Now, what would a trip to NYC be if it didn't include a visit to the center of the known universe (aka, Grand Central Station?)

 The funny part of this picture is the sign which emphatically states that sitting on the stairs is STRICTLY forbidden! But, everyone sits there. Maybe mesmerized by the beautiful main rotunda, or people watching or just waiting to meet a friend or relative at the precise center of it all, the clock. That's why we were there, to meet Leslie (and Harry.) We hadn't seen Leslie in over thirty years and we had a wonderful time catching up and meeting up with Ben (and Betsy,) our other college chum.

One day, Brett suggested we take a stroll on the Highline. Sure I said, quickly followed by, "where?"

Little did I know, that the abandoned elevated railroad tracks on the far west side, the ones that I had walked under countless times (wondering where the heck they really went to) was converted into a long thin park two stories above the streets of Manhattan. As did the long disused railroad tracks, the park now winds its way over the streets and under buildings near the Hudson River.

Originally built to bring food directly into the city, the park is now a pedestrian only mall. Complete with an outdoor coffee shop, free Wi-Fi, beautiful plantings and unexpected views from a unique vantage points, the park was enjoyed by people strolling in the really fine late November weather.

I love the colors of the reeds surrounding the small trees.

Brett and Monica, looking uptown from the Highline. Uh, wait a moment. They're actually looking downtown. I'm looking uptown.
I know, who cares which way. Just wanted to get it right.

New York is full of unusual concepts. Here's one of them. This is a "Pop Up Store." A place that literally pops up and then is gone withing a couple of months (intentionally, not out of business for you wise guys out there.) This is the store, in the old meat packing district, for the magazine called Wired. A really interesting place featuring cutting edge concepts in computers, bikes, games and all things new. But you'd better hurry. It closes on December 27.

 Next up, a picture, that taken out of context, might lead you to believe you've landed in the unknown. Just a poster, for something that I can't remember. But I loved the poster!

As I said before, you really need eyes in front, on the side, behind and above your head in NYC. Now let's add one more place. Under your feet. While crossing a street downtown, I noticed two photographers taking pictures straight down. One look and I knew they were onto something interesting. Having to admit that I was about to copy them, I complimented them on their powers of observation (figuring that entitled me to horn in on their discovery) and promptly found myself engaged in conversation about their new lenses.They had just come from B&H Photo and were trying out their new glass (and very impressive it was, Nikon 24-70mm, f2.8.) As I had just come from the very same place (although I had escaped with my life-I purchased nothing,) we conversed for several minutes before they left and then I started shooting the wet pavement. I later learned that during this time, Brett turned to Monica and said, "we've lost Dad." Monica, without hesitation, replied, "Oh don't worry, he'll show up soon." She knows me well, this one!

Finally, I leave you with one more shot and a regret that I didn't get in line with the rest of these folks
This is the West Village and that innocent looking store is the Magnolia Bakery. And New Yorkers don't line up for much, except maybe the cross town bus.
Now, you may think that your fine city has the best cupcake bakery in the world (tucsonans take note- our few cupcake locations are puny and feeble compared to this one,) but you're wrong. I had some really good cupcakes on this trip (thanks Jim and Ann Marie) but Magnolia is, well, Magnolia. You'll have to try it yourself.
And if you do, drop us a line. Monica and I wouldn't mind joining you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sedona and Jerome Arizona

Monica and I have just returned from a wonderful drive vacation through Northern Arizona and New Mexico, including Sedona, Canyon De Chelly, Santa Fe and Taos and I wanted to share some of the highlights with all of you. This post will feature Sedona and environs.
I gotta be honest and say that Sedona itself didn't overwhelm me. Waaaaaay too commercial for my tastes, but the beauty of the red rocks and surrounding areas made it worth while. As did the really terrific B&B that we stayed at. This is the view from Grace's Secret Garden B&B, run by Grace (tough to figure that one,) a Polish ex-pat who adopted Sedona and has come to know the ins and outs of the area. The picture shows the view from the front of Grace's property, although in truth, the horses are boarded on an adjacent parcel.

Oh, and not to be outdone by the horses, Monica insisted on me taking her picture as well.
OK, that was a joke.
See, Monica is smiling?
Anyway, this is on Grace's property.
And by the way, Grace will prepare almost any kind of breakfast. Meaning, it doesn't have to be the heavy and sweet stuffed french toasts that we normally find at B&Bs. A nice touch from a nice lady.
Now, on to Sedona and the surrounding area.

As mentioned, the red rocks are really beautiful. We decided to visit the Bell Vortex and I insisted we do it close to dusk (or magic hour as we pretend photographers like to state authoritatively.) Wellllll, this did cause a problem. Dusk falls quickly and we weren't at all familiar with the trail out to the vortex. Or, more importantly in our minds, the way back! This shot gives you some idea of the trail and our objective some distance up ahead. This trail was blocked by a beautiful but ancient tree. Off we had to go in another direction, wondering if this was such a bright idea at all. But we were determined! A photographer and his unwitting assistant will do anything for the one and only shot.

Here you can see the type of terrain that yours truly and company had to traverse. This steep canyon must have been at least 100' to 200' feet deep, with treacherous loose rocks everywhere just waiting to send us tumbling. However, my Sherpa, I mean Monica and I kept going and the light was fading fast!
OK, I seem to be getting carried away.
Time for a confession.
This canyon was only about 10' deep.
But, as Monica pointed out to me, we did have to enter it.
And cross it. And it was really slippery in the failing light.
I just couldn't get over how the camera made it look so deep and foreboding.
Hey, this would be a great place to film a Godzilla scene.
Sorry about that. I won't let that happen again.

Well, the light really was failing, but we made it and we did get that one shot of the day that really sings.

And, we actually found our way out, in the company of several equally wussy tourists and got back in time to enjoy a well deserved Italian meal at a very nice restaurant that Grace suggested. A perfect end to a lovely day.

I must say that if you're in Sedona, instead of spending a great deal of time downtown, you should instead head out of town and visit the quirky and wonderful old mining town of Jerome Arizona. For all of you South Westerners, the best way to describe Jerome is to bring to mind Bisbee Arizona. And then, think what Bisbee would be like if it never grew up (as though it ever did.) And for the rest of you, think Quirky! 
This might give you some idea......

Yes, it's a bar. And a skull.
And no it's not. I think.
It's name is 15.Quince. During the day, a lunch and espresso joint (very, very good Cafe Latte)
By evening, a bar. Judging by the bar decorations, perhaps a pretty scary bar.
In all fairness, this was taken very close to Halloween.
But, I'm not so sure that quite covers it.
Jerome has so many back streets and alleys, some of which makes you wonder if you can get your car through them (and I certainly don't

have a large car.) Not to mention that Jerome, like Bisbee, is built sort of straight up and down.
Makes for fun, whether you're getting around on foot or by car.
And some of these old mining towns were the center of civilization (as ornery as that could be) for vast areas of wilderness. This helped create some of the most striking grand hotels.
Bisbee has its' Copper Queen Hotel (hey, Monica and I have stayed there. In the John Wayne room. They told us John stayed in that room. No way to tell, but it did have corner windows so the view was outstanding. We enjoyed it.)
Jerome's hotel is aptly named the Jerome Grand Hotel.
Really handsome on the outside (and really decked out for Halloween,) with a beautiful and ornate grand entrance staircase out front. However, after wandering around the inside, I wouldn't book a room too quickly. We've been told that the restaurant is pretty good.
And I'm still not going to try it.

Lastly, I'm going to leave you all with an interesting shot taken in Jerome. Monica has become most interested in owning a Harley motorcycle ever since we moved to Tucson (must be the wide open spaces and the wind in your hair and Easy Rider and....oh, you get it.)

Well, look real close in the above shot of the Harley, just above the Harley logo.
Darned if it ain't Monica. This could be as close as she's gonna come to one of these hogs.
Or, maybe not?
My next post will be about Canyon De Chelly. The canyon was one of the real highlights of our trip and we think that it's a must see for anyone visiting Northern Arizona.
And don't forget, for a full size view of any picture, just place your cursor over the shot and click on your left mouse button.
See you soon.
Leigh and Monica.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


OK, We need a little help. We were sitting outside this morning on the back patio, eating breakfast, when we looked up and saw a beautiful hawk perched on the railing behind the pool. I quickly got binoculars, bird books in hand and the trusty D300 w/70-200mm lens and snapped away. There it is on top.

Here's another shot of this unknown (to me) hawk.
Now, you have to understand that although we had our bird book open to the hawk section, we were stumped. Not hard to stump me. I could have a bird in one hand and a picture of it in the other hand and still fail to recognize it. I've got to get some remedial bird recognition training here.

OK, last look for all of you birders out there.
What type of hawk is this?
Is it a Coopers Hawk?
If not, I'm done.

Just drop a comment and we'd be much obliged.

We've positively identified this hawk as a juvenile Coopers Hawk.
Thanks to all who helped.
Case closed!