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A Spring Sailing Around Manhattan

My wife and son and I had been wanting to see New York’s five boroughs from the water, so last Friday we took the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan, which does offer views of each borough. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. We arrived 45 minutes early for the 11:30 AM sailing, only to find that all outdoor seats on our boat had already been taken. Worse, the guide on our boat was a pompous jerk who droned on ceaselessly during our 3-hour circumnavigation of the island. He had no feel for the history of the city; scolded passengers like a control-obsessed school teacher (“Don’t stand there!”) and was fascinated only with money. (“An apartment in that building sold for $20 million last year.”) Fortunately, about halfway through the cruise, I found us three seats on the open deck, and Kyle, Ewan, and I escaped the guide’s physical presence, if not his amplified voice. From this perspective, we were able to view Upper Manhattan, Sputen Duyvil, the waterway that connects the Harlem River to the Hudson, and the little red lighthouse as we sailed beneath the George Washington Bridge, aka the Great Gray Bridge. We also were able to ID our own apartment building from the river, a neat trick.

The best part of the afternoon came when we got home and downloaded the photos each of us took turns snapping during the cruise. Even if the boat ride regrettably didn’t feature much of the timeless magic we identify with New York’s waterways, harbor, and shoreline, such as that seen in the 1920s short film “Manhatta,” it was a grand day and we took away some great images, many of which are included here. // many pictures following . . .

Men in Trees

Riding my bicycle uptown on Riverside Drive in Manhattan on Wednesday, parallel to the Hudson River at around 119th Street, I was surprised to see a convoy of vans all parked on the sidewalk adjacent to the road, where one usually sees dog walkers and strollers. I pulled over to ascertain why this posse of vehicles might be there, and then heard voices and shouts from overhead. I looked up and saw men in hard hats with ropes tied around their waists way up in the high limbs of the trees. There must have been ten of these guys, all a good 40 to 50 feet above the ground. They were wielding handsaws and trimming limbs which then fell to the earth below. Over the past couple years, New York City has suffered some tragic incidents where tree limbs have fallen on pedestrians and killed them, so I figured I was witnessing the trimming of dead limbs for public safety. The amazing thing was there was no cherry picker at hand, or FDNY vehicle that had helped them attain those heights–these guys all looked as if they had rappelled up in to the trees, or somehow hauled themselves up to where they could stand on those distant limbs. I took out my IPod Touch and against the backdrop of the late afternoon sky, took a couple pictures, hoping I would be able to view them later and assure myself that I had not just seen a New York apparition. After taking those shots, I got back on my bike, marveling that the New York City I love is always capable of presenting me with another unexpected sight. I never know where the next one might come from, right in front of my eyes, or up above me in the trees.

How This Blog Got its Name

In a previous blog post, “An 80th Birthday Makeover for The Great Gray Bridge,” dear reader, you will note I’ve borrowed the name for that entry, and the name for this very blog, from a nickname for the George Washington Bridge first used decades ago. My source is the 1942 children’s book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge written by Hildegarde H. Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward, creator of the remarkable wordless novel, God’s Man, which was published in 1929, the very week of the stock market crash. It is a source of joy and pride for me that I am able to borrow from that classic the name for this blog “spanning urban life, books, music, culture, current events.” Below are some pertinent photos I’ve taken of the bridge, the lighthouse, the river, and the grounds surrounding them on the Manhattan side of the Hudson. I take pictures during bike rides I take from my NY apartment to upper Manhattan. I’d understand if some of these scenes surprise you with just how sweet, bucolic, and pretty the city’s Hudson shoreline really is. That’s New York City, for you, full of surprises for the eager observer. / / more with photos . . .