Friday, August 29, 2008

Chelsea Synagogue

This is Congregation Emunath Israel ("Faith of Israel"), located on 23rd St. near the famed Chelsea Hotel. The building was constructed in 1863 for the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church. Congregation Emunath Israel was founded in 1865 on 18th St., moved to West 29th St., and relocated to this 23rd St. site in 1920. The synagogue runs Project ORE (Project Outreach to the Elderly), a program that founded to help homeless Jews in the community. Offering free kosher lunches, Torah classes, and counseling, Project ORE now also reaches out to non-Jews in the neighborhood.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm Shocked (Not)

I'm not surprised by this result. If you're curious about whether or not you fall into the ADD spectrum, click on the graphic to take the quiz. Realize, of course, that this is hardly a professional diagnosis.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Flowers

I haven't photographed many flowers of late, but encountered these little late summer gems over the last couple of days. The marigold (2nd photo) reminds me of my first gardening efforts as a child. I remember starting marigolds and zinnias from seed in our back yard. (I've recently learned that the marigolds are edible, with the blossoms providing a substantial dose of lutein.) Fairly easy to grow, the flowers proved resistant to our best efforts at neglect. Still, I remember watching the dirt impatiently - like watching a pot of water that refuses to boil - for the first green evidence of sprouts. Part of the problem was that typical annuals and perennials just didn't fit into the design scheme of my parents' yard, a yard dominated by low-maintenance pine trees, azaleas, and boxwoods, with a couple of dogwoods added over the years. The most colorful residents of the pine straw covered beds were the camellias, which still provide a beautiful display of blooms each year. The half-hearted attempts to grow roses were quickly stifled by black spot and moles. Thus it's no surprise that when I finally had my own garden in Tennessee, I was determined to have more variety, with annuals, perennials, dozens of tulips and roses, as well as plenty of shade-loving favorites.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Subway Ride to Coney Island, Part 1: Graffiti

I love the ride out to Coney Island on the D and F trains. Once you come up from underground, there's a great view of the diversity that defines Brooklyn. On the elevated tracks it's especially easy to get a look at the graffiti that adorns so many buildings. Some of it is actually quite artistic and rises above the level of the ordinary "tags." There are even buildings that have had nearly every square foot of available wall and roof space covered. I'm always curious about the acrobatics that must have been performed to reach some of the more precarious locations. How do they get up there?!

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I was in Brooklyn last weekend, Coney Island to be more specific, and ended up walking through "the projects" to reach the basketball courts for my son's tournament. It's dismaying to walk through the playgrounds and courtyards that link these towers of public assistance housing and find piles of garbage - trash that includes the tiny ziplock bags that are the evidence of the previous night's drug deals. While we felt entirely safe in the light of day, I wouldn't want to walk through late at night. Of course, if I had to live my life in a concrete slab like this, I'd probably turn to unhealthy vices too! These high-rise blocks of apartments would have made a city planner in Stalin's Soviet Union proud, because they remind the observer of the worst sins of Russia's postwar architects. Perhaps they provide more light and air than the classic Lower East Side tenement, but they're hardly less depressing.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Amtrak, Part 3

All photos taken from the train. (The graffiti was overwhelming in some areas.)

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Our favorite English bulldog - Otis. He looks fierce, but he's really just a baby, obsessed with balls and children. He just wants to play, and regularly pauses during his walks to observe the fun at Bleecker Playground. Sometimes he's so reluctant to leave, his owner has to pick him - all 65 lbs. - and carry him away!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Amtrak, Part 2: Richmond

Richmond offered some of the most interesting scenery from the train, mainly because the route took us through the Shockoe Bottom district, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Located along the James River, this area is full of old warehouses and buildings associated with the city's tobacco industry. The Lucky Strike complex was particularly impressive. Constructed in two phases - 1912 and 1929 - these buildings housed the headquarters of the American Tobacco Company, but until recently have stood vacant for decades. Over the last 25 years Shockoe Bottom has been transformed from blighted to reborn, as investment and restoration have made the area a hot spot for restaurants and shops. Now the Lucky Strike buildings will join the renaissance as they are converted to luxury residential units, a far better fate than the wrecking ball, which has claimed much of Richmond's riverfront building stock thanks to flooding and neglect.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Amtrak, Part 1

The boys and I traveled down to Virginia on Amtrak last Monday, returning Saturday over the same route with major stops in Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia (with a host of smaller, shorter stops as well). I was struck by several things during these eight-hour journeys. First, Amtrak was a perfectly pleasant experience. I didn't have to drive, making periodic stops for snacks and bathroom breaks. Second, the cost was reasonable - and far, far cheaper than flying. And third, the scenery was interesting, offering up a view of the country one wouldn't see on a highway or from the air. (In the year 20 years following World War II, the railroads trumpeted this very asset - scenery - in their attempts to combat decreasing ridership and compete with the legions of new car owners who were taking advantage of cheap gas and interstate highways.) Our route took us through bits of the old industrial heart of the northeast corridor and upper South. Richmond and Baltimore in particular presented poignant images of blighted industry and decaying residential sections far removed from the auto-fed suburbs. I've never seen so many empty warehouses, rusting, grass-filled rail spurs, and quiet factories. Seeing the back side of Washington's southeast section, with the Capitol dome and other government buildings rising in the background, reminded me of the city's older, more southern qualities, while giving those of us on the train a picture of the stark poverty missed by the armies of tourists. Of course, most people on the train were probably less enamored with the industrial scenery and more appreciative of the nice views around the Rappahanock, Potomac, and Delaware Rivers. But for a historian long interested in the contrast between rural and urban, pastoral and industrial, the trip offered views well worth the ticket price.

I'm breaking these photos into several groups, from these sepia-toned images, to color in later posts, for example.

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