Friday, June 29, 2007

Midsummer Night Swing, dance 'till the cows come home, or they turn off the lights whichever comes first

Like dancing?

Like things that are free, or inexpensive?

Like good music?

Well do I have the thing for you, Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center, a perfect combination of all three.

Last week after work, I was strolling down Broadway minding my own business and snapping pictures when I heard music. So I did what any self-respecting camera carrier would do, I followed the sound, hoping to find a photo op like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

I rounded a corner and scanned the Lincoln Center Plaza and was pleased to find a crowd milling about, a dance floor set-up, and people learning how to swing. Last year I stumbled upon this same scene except it was Latin Night and everyone was dressed up in spangles and sassy skirts and learning to cha-cha and mambo.


This night, they were learning how to swing. Lyndie style. I love swing dancing. I can Triple-step, Jive, and West-Coast (my favorite) with the best of them. But I’d never really learned to Lyndie. It was fun to watch everyone learn the basic steps and fumble through the moves. People of all ages were laughing, twirling, and having fun.





Even the pregnant lady was dancing, and boy could she move!


The good thing about Midsummer Night Swing, it will continue for almost a month. From June 19th-July 23rd every Tuesday through Saturday night, there will be dancing at Lincoln Center. Check the schedule here.

If you want to pay $15, you can dance on the dance floor, if you don’t, you can dance on the plaza. If you don’t know how to dance, but want to, come and learn. Show up at 6:30 for the nightly instruction. And if you just want to listen to great live music, show up early to grab a spot to sit and watch, or plan to mill around the crowd (7:30-10:00).


What kind of dancing will there be? Well tonight is country night, so come prepared to dance some Western Swing. But through the 23rd there will be everything from Ballroom, tango to the waltz, to Salsa, Swing, and Two-Step. They even have a Rock and Roll night, although I’m not quite sure what kind of dancing that will be. Check the calendar of events and come enjoy your NYC summer nights by dancing the night away.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Haru, yum tastes great

Yesterday as I left my air-conditioned office at work I was shocked when I walked into a wall of steamy heat. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna to die.”

The second was, “Don’t breathe.”

The third flittered across my mind just as quickly. I still needed to get home. “Maybe if I don’t move very much,…and move really slowly it won’t be as bad.”

The subway was worse. Hot and sticky, the trapped heat pooled on the platform with nary a breeze to stir the air. After a long wait, my train arrived and I managed to grab a seat in the air conditioned car, not that it helped much. Sweat ran in rivers, people’s motions stilled, and grim thoughts surfaced each time the subway car doors opened and the sweltering heat from outside rushed in.

Summer has begun, and it is doubtful we’ll have respite until fall. Knowing the heat was coming, I saved this post until now. On hot days the thought of heating up the stove to cook a meal makes me shudder, and the though of eating out becomes more and more appealing.

And so with pleasure, I bring to you Haru. A great sushi restaurant open in the evenings up on 81st and Amsterdam.

Before you run away because you hate fish, let me just say that not all sushi includes fish. I myself only like the vegetarian varieties. No, I’m not vegetarian, I’m just not to partial to raw fish.

Let me take you on a brief visual tour before I sign off for today.

They have nice outdoor seating if the weather happens to be nice.


They have nice spring rolls.

Vegetable Spring Roll with pickled plum sauce.

This is usually what I order. A vegetable roll and cucumber avocado roll.


Here’s a closer look.



And this is what the couple sitting next to me ate. Quite a feast for the eyes, isn’t it?


They are friendly, the food is yummy, and the ambiance is perfect for sushi. Just keep in mind that they open at 5:00 on weekdays, and 12:30 on weekends.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blackouts in the City, and so it begins

Only the second day of 90 degree weather here in the city and the blackouts have begun. This summer is going to be a long one.

This report from the NY Times blog, the City Room.

This one from MSN.

The Mermaid Parade, a fabulous time all around pt. 1

They said about a quarter of a million people would come.


I think at least that many, maybe more came. The above photo was taken from inside the F train, unfortunately through a dirty window... For those of you who don't know, that's Surf Avenue and Astroland in the background.

This is one of the first sights I saw. :) This happy Lady was one of the first picture I took.



The self-proclaimed Squid Boy was a favorite. As were the sea horses below.




There were marching bands being attacked by giant squids.


And accompanying flag girls.


Dead brides, and seamen.


And stinky fish. Yes, there really were dead fish in that tank. I was glad there was a strong breeze that day, and pitied the parade entrant behind him.


Stoic Captains and a first lady.


And cries of Joy!


They even had a fabulous accordian marching band. And yes, they were fabulous. Being the owner of a coupld accordian CD's I know. (don't ask)


It was a grand day altogether.


I have another few hundred photos to sort through before I have all my favorites up on flickr, but if you would like to see the first half that I've posted, then follow the links below. Just a word of caution, not all photos contain clothing, just paint and stickers of some sort... I've posted them in batches of thirty or so.

Mermaid Parade slideshow 1
Mermaid Parade slideshow 2
Mermaid Parade slideshow 3
Mermaid Parade slideshow 4


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Phone Jack in My Apartment, not included

Problem solved!, originally uploaded by HOARY HEAD.

Due to the fact that none of my neighbors with unsecured wifi decided to be online last night, this post comes to you a little later than planned.

As you might have guessed from the paragraph above, I don’t have internet service at home. And yes, I’ve been one of those people, using the open Wifi connections from my nice neighbors, whether they’re in my building or the one across the street, to check my email and blog an occasional post from home. Hey, they’re either leaving it open on purpose to share, or don’t know enough to password protect it. I always assume it’s the former, because in this day and age, gheesh, securing your networks are one of those no brainer types of things.

However, I finally reached the point where I need a constant, stable, connection that runs faster than 11 kbps. Yes, you read that right. 11.

You see, I have grand plans for my site, and lots of cool stuff to design, upload, and give away for free. But it requires a connection of my own.

So like any self-respecting paper-pusher, I researched my options for the cheapest connection possible. Yes, I even looked up free-wifi spots in the City. But unfortunately, most of them are in mid-town and below. And no, I don’t want to haul my laptop out 100+ blocks at 11:00 pm to check my email or blog a new post. Let alone, the thought of me and my 20” iMac G5 sitting on a bench in Bryant Park. Can you picture it? I thought not.

I looked at cable options, they want you to buy the TV, phone, and internet combo for $100/month. Um, no thanks. I haven’t used a land line as my primary phone since 2002. And haven’t plugged a phone in the wall since 2004. Besides, I don’t need cable tv. As an aspiring author, the time suck that happens when I sit in front of that beautiful glowing screen is impressive. Whole weeks disappear at a time, unaccounted for. I think it’s a conspiracy.

So, no. No TV, no need for a land line, so I don’t need my internet provider to be cable.

And then I found Verizon. If I signed up online, I could get DSL in my apartment for $25/month without local phone service. It was perfect, sign me up, I want it now.

I opted for the free DSL router. If I ever decide to get wifi, I’ll invest in a wireless router later. (And yes I’ll share, and yes I’ll block people that hog my bandwidth, and yes I’ll permanently block people who watch porn over my network. It’s my bandwidth, I’ll share, but only a little. The phone company won’t like me, but tough.)

I scoffed at the $199 option to have a phone tech come to my apartment to check my lines, and run a line to wherever I wanted my computer. Being pretty handy, I decided that if I wanted my computer connection in a different room, then I’d just buy a 25 foot phone cable and run it there myself. So I clicked, no thanks.

A warning box popped up. Was I sure that I didn’t want someone to come? And second, was I sure that I had a phone jack?

I know where the cable wires run in my apartment. I’ve seen them in my bedroom, and how they run through my kitchen to the front room. So I knew the phone line couldn’t be too far away.

I clicked yes I’m sure. And another prompt come up announcing that if I changed my mind and had a tech come to my place, a fee would be assessed later.

I laughed, clicked okay, and continued my merry way through the rest of the contract.

I should have known better.

As a writer, couldn’t I have seen the foreshadowing? Why the multiple notices and offers to come check the phone line in my apartment? Why the exorbitant charge?

But now I know. Not having a phone jack in your NYC apartment must be a lot more common that I thought.

When I saw Spiderman 3 a few weeks ago, I thought it was quaint when Peter Parker called Mary Jane from the payphone in his hallway. I remember thinking, are there really places still like that?

No, my apartment isn’t as bad as Peter’s. It is at least two times better, the layered paint is there, the bowing lathe and plaster walls, the smells of old building, but it’s larger, my door opens quite easily, and with the two dead bolts I installed myself, quite safe. (Yes they work.)

But both Peter and I have no phone. I searched high and low, along baseboards, and through cupboards. In the back of my mind I knew it must be there, that I’d find it eventually. How could I have missed something so simple? Maybe it’s behind my bed, and even though I’ve already moved the bookcase in my front room, I feel the urge move it again.

How is it I wonder that an apartment could make it to 2007, and antiquated as they are now, still not have a phone line installed? I think the line should have been installed in the 50’s at least. Right?

So a few NYC rental questions for you all you ‘in the know’ out there. If there is no phone jack in my apartment, is it legal? Is my landlord required to have one installed? And I suppose more to the point, who should pay for it? Me or my landlord.

On a side note, I saw my Super this morning on my way to work. I asked him in passing, “If I were to have a phone jack in my apartment, where would it be?” He suggested the front hall closet, and said he would check with the management. The hall closet. I never would have thought about that.

Tonight, when I get home, I’ll be going through all my closets. Particularly the one in the entry way, the one I haven’t opened since I sealed it shut.

Why did I seal it shut? Well, because it sucks all the smoke from the inscent burning lover that lives below me and sends it up to mine. Sans scent, aka smoke only.

And why does my super not know where the phone lines are? Well, I think he only uses a cell phone like me.

Welcome to the 21st Century, caught between the old and the new, moving forward one jerky step at a time, while trying to save a buck.


Update 6/28/07: I found a phone jack in my front hallway, now I just need to see if it works. Cross your fingers for me.

Ode to Paris Hilton! a musical tribute

Courtesy of Fern, here's something to keep you occupied and entertained until I've posted later today.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Three Steps More Ghetto, than harlem ever was

, originally uploaded by Susan NYC.

Earlier today I surfed by the Inwoodite, an online spot for news in my hood, and found out that first, gunfire must be a lot more common in my neighborhood that I thought. And second, that like, Inwood is like “3 steps more ghetto than Harlem ever was.” (see number 43)

I guess my moving checklist back in January should now be expanded to five items.

  1. Stay in Manhattan. -Check.
  2. Find, at least, a 10 by 12 foot space to rent. -Check
  3. That won’t leave me broke at the end of the year. -Semi-check.
  4. Dump roommates. -Check.
  5. Move to ghetto. -Check.

4.5 out of 5. Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

On a side note, it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to ride the F and A trains home from Coney Island on Saturday night… On a brighter note, Mermaid Parade photos coming soon, stay tuned. :)


Friday, June 22, 2007

Photos, theme backlit

What is backlit you may wonder, it is when light comes from behind a "subject, toward the camera lens, so that the subject stands out vividly against the background. Sometimes produces a silhouette effect."


Kitten, and his box

Yea! for the weekend. I'm thinking about going to the 25th Annual Mermaid Parade out on Coney Island tomorrow. If I go, I'll post some photos next week.

In the meantime, enjoy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Race Across the Sky, and how i missed it

With the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station flying across the sky in mind, I grabbed my camera and tripod and hoofed it over to the Hudson River to take pictures of the sunset and get ready for the fly-by.

People were fishing, others were staring off down the river idling the night away. Kids dressed in their little league outfits played ball on a field just a stone's throw away, and off in the distance a car stereo played salsa music.

I watched fishermen impale worms on ugly metal hooks then cast their lines far out into the river, weighted by diamond shaped blobs of lead, with murmurs of catfish. Bells anchored to the end of their poles tinkled every now and then when some fish decided to take a nibble, but nothing was reeled in while I watched. And though I don’t speak Spanish, I now understand that the look ‘My fish got away!’ is universal.

I set-up my tripod and started taking pictures of the sunset and its reflection across the water, then as the colors faded, I turned my camera south, toward the George Washington Bridge, happy that the bridge lights were on and that there was still a bit of color on the horizon.

Long after the sun had set and the soft yellows had begun to turn into the muted grays of night, a single engine prop plane flew up the river. With one of its lights out, it looked oddly asymmetrical as it flew overhead. It wings wobbled back and forth as it made a U-turn over the river and headed back to the Jersey shore and lower Manhattan.

The guy next to me spoke the first and almost the only English I heard that night. “That’s illegal you know.” The Spanish accent fit with the music quietly drifting over the cove.

“What?” I said.

“They’re not allowed to turn right here, they’re supposed to fly further up the river.” He turned to point north, up the Hudson to where the sky had dimmed to dusky purple and the river narrowed.

I nodded my head and said, “Oh.”

“Did you see how it was wobbling in the sky?”

“Yeah, maybe he was saying hello to someone.”

He looked at me like I was crazy and shook his head.

I explained. “My grandpa was a pilot, he used to wiggle his wings when he flew over his house to say hello.” We talked a little more, but I could tell he was unconvinced by my story. I had to admit I agreed with him. In hindsight, it was probably some inexperienced pilot bending the rules to hurry and land his plane before full dark.

By this time, I had taken roughly three hundred shots of the bridge, varying the length of time for each exposure, while hoping I would stumble upon the best one for the moment. Lacking technical experience, I had covered my bases by taking multiple shots with different exposures throughout the evening. Once I review the photos, and discard the ones that don’t work, I’ll learn what works best.

About forty minutes after the sun had set and the last bit of yellow and orange had disappeared from the horizon, I turned my camera to face north-west eyes strained and watching. The lap of water against wooden beams and the shore soothed as I waited for two lights to appear that would stream across the sky like shooting stars.

Every thirty seconds or so, I would check the time on my cell phone, five minutes to go until 9:20. I took a couple pictures of the moon and set my camera to manual focus.

I checked my phone again. It was only 9:16.

I attempted to take a shot pointing upriver, framing the river, and a person leaning against a railing looking over to the cliffs across the river. It most likely didn’t turn out. I checked the time again, 9:17.

It was a long five minutes.

9:20 finally arrived, and I renewed my watching. I looked in the direction of where the sun had set, west north-west. And watched, and watched, and waited, and nothing appeared.

Just about the time I gave up, a man nearby pointed to the sky in the east. His Russian accent lay heavy on his words, but I understood his meaning completely. I followed his pointing finger and found the space shuttle Atlantis and International Space Station streaking across the sky at a fast clip. I held my fist to the sky, they really were a fist width apart, a thrill of excitement raced through me.

And then reality hit, I’d missed my photo op and the entire arc across the sky. I should have been looking more to the north. I hurriedly pivoted my camera around and snapped three shots just before they hit the tree line. Of the three, one worked out.

For those of you who missed it. Here you go.


Shortly thereafter, I packed up my tripod and schlepped my stuff home. Happy that at least I’d spent a pleasant evening near the water, gotten to see what I’d waited for, and managed to get a shot of the moment. Not the best shot, nor the one I’d planned, but a shot none-the-less.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Calling all Sky Watchers, thats you bub

Credit Astronaut photograph STS110-717-17 was taken with a 35 mm film camera and is provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA-JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

From Neil deGrasse Tyson, Department of Astrophysics & Director, Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, comes this little bit of news. "Hayden Associate and intrepid sky watcher Joe Rao" has alerted him that the space shuttle will be visible to people in NY, NJ and CT tonight. All you star-gazers out there, plan to stay out late and avoid Times Square.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007
As many of you may be aware, during the past week the Space Shuttle Atlantis has been docked to the International Space Station (ISS). Yesterday, at 10:42 a.m. EDT, Atlantis undocked from the ISS and pulled slowly away. Atlantis will still remain relatively close by to the ISS (within 46 miles) through the remainder of its mission, which is scheduled to come to an end tomorrow afternoon.

Periodically, when the ISS (or other, smaller artificial satellites) move across the sky within a couple of hours of sunrise or sunset, they will appear to shine by virtue of reflected sunlight off of their metallic skin or solar panels. This gives the appearence of a "star" moving with a steady speed across the twilight sky.

When the ISS makes its scheduled pass over the Tri-State region this evening, however, we'll be getting a view of two space vehicles for the price of one! Instead of the usual view of one large "moving star," we'll be looking at two: the ISS and the Atlantis Shuttle! The ISS will actually appear to "lead" Atlantis across the sky . . . but since it is not as big as the ISS, Atlantis will appear a little smaller in size and brightness. They'll be separated by about 10-degrees -- roughly the width of your clenched fist held at arm's length.

So where and when should you look? Get outside this evening by 9:15 p.m. Get your eyes adjusted to the night sky. Then, start concentrating on the northwest part of the sky. Over toward the west you'll see the brilliant planet Venus (unmistakable) and above and to its left, the fainter planet Saturn. Less than an hour earlier, the Sun set will have in the west-northwest. So that's the general area of the sky to look.

Atlantis and the ISS will first appear at, or shortly after 9:20 p.m., moving up and toward the right; two bright "stars" moving with a steady speed across the sky. The ISS should appear very bright with a yellowish hue; Atlantis will seem pure white. By 9:22 they'll be reaching their highest point, more than halfway up from the horizon to the overhead point in the north-northeast. Around 9:23 they'll be descending, but should pass close to Vega, a bright bluish-white star. By 9:24 they will have dropped low to the east-southeast horizon, when they'll suddenly fade out . . . as they pass into the Earth's dark shadow.

Both space vehicles will be moving along a track from Watertown, NY down to Cape Cod, allowing us to see them from our area. Spread the word and tell your friends and neighbors about this unusual sight.
-- Joe Rao

The Great Wall of China, and my mom's engagement photo

A few years ago I got the brilliant idea that I would start a photo re-touching business. Not retouching glamour shots, and making 110 pound women look like they’re 85, but fixing old photos that had scratches and tears, color shifts or exposure problems. Saving the past for the future.

I never did launch my business, but I’ve gotten a lot of practice under my belt in the mean time, and have been bitten by the Photoshop bug ever since.

Last Friday I was out minding my own business snapping photos of the sunset on 72nd Street and Central Park West and was taking a short break to buy a GREAT burger from Big Nick’s –the one on 71st NOT the one on Broadway –when my mom called.

So, my mom and her fiancé, (they’re getting married in August) went on a trip to China a few weeks ago and had a blast. She said that she found the shot they wanted to send out with their engagement announcements and wanted to know if she should put a black or white border around the edge.

“You’re going to send it to me first aren’t you?” I said.

A long moment ensued, twenty cabs zipped by and joggers aplenty while I listened to her brain click through the reasons why she should send me the photo in the first place. Once she remembered that I’m a little handy with Photoshop, she readily agreed. Promising that she’d email it to me right then.

This is what she sent me.


Bad photo. Great potential. Crappy picture taking conditions.

The good thing, I could fix it, for the most part.

In China, at least in Beijing, one only sees a blue sky every once in a long while. (This is according to my Sister the Expat who lived in China for two years.) Well, mom and her fiancé were lucky, the only blue sky they saw during their entire trip happened the day they went to see the Great Wall.

Critique of the photo
Things working well in the photo: Blue sky, great framing with the wall in the background. They look happy and relaxed, nice pose.

Things not working in their favor: The humidity and the harsh mid-day sun. The sun cast harsh shadows particularly on my mom and her fiancé, and refracted off every particle of water in the air, turning everything in sight a grey and muting all the colors.

This is what it looked like when I finished tweaking it. Still not great, but it’ll work. At least you can see their faces, and get an idea at how wonderful the day must have been.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bronx Week, part two


Photographer's note: Don't ever look through a camera lens when taking a photo of the sun, unless, that is, you want to permanently damage your eyesight.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight. Wait, I guess there were a few. Here's the view looking toward the inflatable trampoline. What a sight, clear blue skies, sunny, warm with just a touch of wind to keep you cool.


Booths were setup to share all sorts of information from a down and dirty how to compost, to the Red Cross and Ready NY.


They gave away free water and apples.


But the lines for the free flavored ices were the longest.



Reader poll: Which do you prefer? Large photos, or small?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bronx Week Festivities, part one

The roses were calling me last Saturday, (they’re in full bloom right now) so I charged my camera battery, packed a couple of water bottles, and caught the #12 MTA Bus out to the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx.

The Bus drops you off at the corner of East Fordam Road and Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Blvd. so you get to walk a couple of blocks north to the garden entrance. So there I was walking along, minding my own business, when I hear this fabulous music wafting from the other side of the fence.

All I could think was, I wonder what’s going on and I hope it’s still playing by the time I get inside. I got my ticket and wandered back through the garden toward the roses and the music got louder. As I approached a tingle of excitement raced through me. The music was LIVE.

Don’t ask me how I know, I just do. Any musician can tell you, and most music aficionados can do the same. No, they hadn’t stopped to speak to the crowd, it just had that quality to it, a certain je ne sais quoi.

And they were good. No. More than good. They were fabulous!


And the place was packed!


I spoke to Danny Mendez, one of the leaders of the seven piece combo, El Projecto Caribe, and he said the combo was pulled from two larger combos. One called The Latin Project, the other Son Del Caribe. Both of them have albums you can buy, and can be booked for events. I myself will be strolling over in a moment to pick up a new CD or two.

It turned out that Saturday was the beginning of Bronx Week. If you live in The Bronx, or are interested in attending, here’s a link to the planned festivities.

Casito Maria an after-school organization that engages youth in the Arts was highlighted when one of their youth groups demonstrated the Salsa, they were great, and most of the kids looked like they were having fun.

Casito Maria

Mind-Builders, also an organization for youth and the arts, had a group perform a few hip-hop routines. Quite the popping group of kids. :)


And did I mention there was dancing?




and more dancing?


It was fun.

Wish you could have been there, if not, then there’s always next year. If next year’s too far away, then plan a party, book The Latin Project or Son Del Caribe, and dance the night away. Meringue and Salsa style of course.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Photos, the hike up to the cloisters

This set of Friday Photos is brought to you from The Hike, straight up the hill, to The Cloisters through Fort Tryon Park.

The Beginning.


The First Set of Stairs.


The Stairs Begin to Curve.


The Spot Where You Stop and Pretend to Admire the View, as Your Heart Jumps Around in Your Chest.


Oh Good, One Last Set of Stairs Until it's Over.
Editor's note: If you double click on the photo then open the original size, at the top of the stairs to the left near the lamp post, you'll see a perfect stone for sitting. Not that one needs a place to sit for a while, I'm just mentioning another spot to admire the view.


Unfortunately, When You Get to the Top of the Stairs, You See This.


Fortunately, It is the Last Set. Once More, Here's the View from Above.


And Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Climb these Stairs? Why to See The Cloisters.


And then Suddenly it Turned to Night, so I Snapped a Shot of That Too.


Question: Is there a way to see The Cloisters without climbing the stairs?
Answer: Yes, but it is the wimpy way. Take the A train to 181st Street, take the elevator up to the top of the hill, detour around the panhandler asking for $$, then walk through the park 15 minutes to The Cloisters.

Question: Isn't there something that can get me closer?
Anser: Yes, a cab..................Well, actually, there is a bus, but you're on your own figuring out which one.

............Okay, okay, I'll play nice. Use THIS, to help find your way. There. Are you happy now?