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September 14th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

A Gray Day Near the Great Gray Bridge

I dodged the raindrops during my bike ride yesterday, managing to get all the way up to Hudson Beach and the GW Bridge, and have time to enjoy the view, before it rained hard.


August 11th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

Exploring the Little Red Lighthouse, a Manhattan Gem


As readers of this blog will know, I admire the Great Gray Bridge, aka the George Washington Bridge—finding in it something like my own “beau motif (beautiful motif),” the words Cezanne used to describe Mont Sainte-Victoire, the Provencal peak he made the subject of at least 60 paintings. Not to liken my picture-taking or creativity to the work of the French master, but as I imagine MS-V was for him, the bridge is for me the ideal of an inexhaustible image. Much as my visual appetite thrives on it, I must add that I also admire its fated companion, the Little Red Lighthouse, an image of which I placed at the lower right corner on every page of this site from my blog’s first days. On the right-hand rail of the blog, under the heading “Foundational Posts” is a post I wrote early on called How This Blog Its Name, about these twinned NYC landmarks.

If you’ve never had a close-up view of the two structures and aren’t certain where they are or how to see them for yourself, we’re talking about upper Manhattan on the island’s west side roughly level with what would be West 178th Street and the Hudson River. I get there on my bike, pedaling on good pavement along the river most of the way from my neighborhood around West 100th Street. The area can also be reached from Washington Heights, near 181st Street, and in both cases it’s accessible to walkers as well as cyclists. The forty-foot tall lighthouse–whose exterior is dotted with porthole windows and decked out in bright red enameled paint with a white cone and clear glass at the top–sits below the lower deck of the bridge, close to the monumental steel foot of the span’s eastern arch. According to a NYC Parks Dept web page, the two structures became most indelibly linked in the public imagination in the early 1940s, and even earlier in the city’s maritime history.15 LVD Roadway Here’s a lightly edited version of the Parks Dept. article:

“In the early 20th century, barge captains carrying goods up and down the Hudson demanded a brighter beacon. The [lighthouse] had been erected on Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1880, where it used a 1,000 pound fog signal and flashing red light to guide ships through the night. It became obsolete and was dismantled [but not destroyed or discarded] in 1917. In 1921, the U.S. Coast Guard reconstructed this lighthouse on Jeffrey’s Hook [future site of the George Washington Bridge] in an attempt to improve navigational aids on the Hudson River. Run by a part-time keeper and furnished with a battery-powered lamp and a fog bell, the lighthouse, then known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse [the name since the early 1800s for the shelf of Manhattan schist that juts out in to the river right there], was an important guide to river travelers for ten years. The George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, and the brighter lights of the bridge again made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, and its lamp was extinguished.

“The Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but an outpouring of support for the beacon helped save it. The outcry from the public was prompted by the children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, written by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward in 1942. In the popular book, the Little Red Lighthouse is happy and content until a great bridge is built over it. In the end, the lighthouse learns that it still has an important job to do and that there is still a place in the world for an old lighthouse. The classic tale captured the imaginations of children and adults, many of whom wrote letters and sent money to help save the icon from the auction block.”

Story of Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

Story of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

The Parks’ web page adds that in 1951 the Coast Guard gave the lighthouse and grounds to the City, and in 1979 the Little Red Lighthouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places. Refurbishments took place in 1986, when on the 65th anniversary the concrete foundation was restored, and in 2000 when it was repainted, true to its original shade of red.

In a real sense, the persistence of the lighthouse on the Manhattan shoreline is a product of one of the first episodes of “historic preservation” in the modern history of New York City. Too often, the city and posterity have been the loser in those battles, such as what occurred in 1963, when–unaccountably to current-day New Yorkers–the old Penn Station was torn down. More recently, fixtures of the city’s industrial and maritime past other than the Little Red Lighthouse have been preserved, such as the old railroad car transfer at 60th Street and the Hudson, which I wrote about and photographed just a couple of days ago.

With all this as prologue, imagine my surprise yesterday when, on one of my bike rides up the Hudson to the bridge, on what turned out to be one of the most stupendously gorgeous days so far this summer, I suddenly spied people walking in and out of the lighthouse doorway–something I had never seen before! Seeing my surprise, a New York City Parks employee explained that in the warmer months of 2013, on the second Saturday of each month, they’d be opening the lighthouse to visitors. As I let down the kickstand on my old Trek and prepared to enter this maritime abode for the first time, another ranger in uniform greeted me and showed me and a second visitor a burnished brass key that she explained was for a long time used to open the lighthouse’s door. It was a chunky thing with big notches and looked like it weighed nearly a pound. In my eagerness, I neglected to take a picture of it, though I hope to do that the next time I visit, perhaps next month. Entering through the oval-topped door I found a nearly-dark chamber that looked like the lower decks of a ship or a submarine, with panels of thick riveted steel plates making up the walls. As I hope the pictures below help to show, the visitor encounters three spiral staircases with sturdy metal treads underfoot and a curved railing to help you climb up them. Between each flight of stairs, you can peer out the portholes that look south, toward lower Manhattan and Jersey City, and north, up-river toward Yonkers and the upper reaches of Palisade Park in New Jersey. Now, I’ll leave the rest of the storytelling to the photos I took and the captions I write for them. I invite you to visit the little red lighthouse and the great gray bridge for yourself. They are vibrant links to our not so-remote industrial and maritime past.

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May 2nd, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

A Gorgeous NYC Day

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February 11th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Publishing & Bookselling

A Great Afternoon at Book Camp

IMG_1407Above is just one of the dozens of tweets that emerged from an event I attended today, Book Camp, known as an ‘unconference.’ The first time I heard about Book Camp was in 2010 when one was held in Toronto. I was unable to make that one, but I’ve participated in each of the four Book Camps that has been held in NYC, always on a Sunday. Here’s a blog post I wrote about last year’s Book Camp. It is a supremely ad hoc occasion where, by design, those attending don’t know what they’re going to talk about until the action gets underway. At the outset, a blank wall is at the front of the room and participants begin writing down descriptions of sessions they want to lead, taping these pages to the wall, and the schedule fills in with 4-5 sessions during each of the four 45-minute time blocks, with 10-minute networking intervals between each block. The discussions are invariably about the future of the book and publishing, whether print, digital or Web-based. Potential new initiatives are tabled that we can undertake individually or as an industry. Hosts lead the sessions they’ve offered and attendees decides what discussions they want to join, showing up at each session ready to listen and contribute. And if a session isn’t making it for you, or if you got all you needed after a few minutes, you’re encouraged to get up and move on to another one, with no aspersion cast on the host, or you for leaving. It’s like a no-fault divorce. All this stands in contrast to the more scripted annual gatherings held in hotel conference facilities, Digital Book World and Tool of Change (ToC)–with the latter handily following in the days right after Book Camp. With lots of book and tech people in NYC from out of town for ToC, it’s an ideal time for this unconference, which charges no admission, though space is limited, this year to about 125 people.

Yesterday I took part in sessions that focused 1) on how publishers can continue to make money in a world where print books, though still in demand, are harder to distribute, and where discovery of them is a challenge; 2) how the book community can build a new ecosystem from the ground up; 3) Content strategy for mobile devices; 4) developing a Reader’s Manifesto, not from the standpoint of the book biz, but that of readers. At that session, we heard about a new platform called, which will offer to make possible reading across digital platforms, obviating compatibility issues that now plague readers, who want, say to read an ebook from one online bookseller on the device of another. Valobox’s Oliver Brooks invoked the promise, “Buy once, synch anywhere.”

I also led a session of my own, this one about ‘monetizing’ a website, an ungainly term that I’ll continue using until a better one comes along. I’ve begun making money with this blog and website, and am embarked on learning more fully how to convert the Web assets I’m creating in to income, and do it with greater focus and savvy. The session drew a good turnout and I’m grateful to everyone who came, with each person around the table speaking up and participating. I learned a lot, while also taking the opportunity to talk about The Great Gray Bridge and describe the curatorial impulse that drove me to create it in 2011, an impulse that continues to fuel my writing for it virtually everyday. I explained how, upon leaving corporate publishing in 2009, when I no longer had a publishing list to assemble of 20-25 books each year, I felt bereft and for a time, oddly uninspired. After a couple years of that arid feeling, I realized I needed a new garden to tend, and what’s more, that I could plant it with the seeds of my own writing, assembling my own little blooming plot of a website.

Book Camp is organized by a posse that includes Chris Kubica, Ami Greko, and Kat Meyer, each denizens of the evolving digital book universe. This year we were fortunate to have space provided by Workman Publishing, in its light and spacious offices on Varick Street in Tribeca. If you’re interested in the concept of an unconference, and Book Camp in particular, I encourage you to visit the Book Camp website and follow today’s discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #Book2. I will try and add more to this post over the next day or two, but after a full day at it, I’m going to close my report for now, after first putting up a couple more of my grainy pictures. (Note to self: don’t forget to bring good camera next time!)IMG_1405IMG_1412

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December 19th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Please Follow Me on Twitter

I’m continuing to post and share items on my Facebook page, but in 2013 will also be ramping up my use of other social networks–especially Twitter, sharing material that I don’t always put on Facebook. If you’re on Twitter and want to follow me there, please do so–my handle is @philipsturner. You may sample the tweets on my profile page by clicking on this link or see a screenshot of the page below. At the upper right corner of this site, you may join me on any of the social networks where I’m active. I have other initiatives in mind for The Great Gray Bridge in 2013 and look forward to introducing them in the weeks and months to come, including publication of guest posts by other writers on key topics. As always, thanks for reading and sharing my enthusiasms and interests.

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December 1st, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Philip Turner Book Productions; Publishing & Bookselling

Free Demos of Speakerfile

If you’ve been interested in learning more about Speakerfile–the company I rep to publishers, authors, publicists, and literary agents, that connects conference organizers with authors and experts who do public speaking–their CMO Cara Posey will be doing free Web demos on Wednesdays from 3-4 PM, limited to the first two dozen people who sign up. If you’d like to take advantage of one of these gratis sessions, I suggest you follow this link and register at the web page Cara’s posted.

If you’re just learning about Speakerfile for the first time, you may go to their home page by clicking on the promo placed near the upper right-hand corner of The Great Gray Bridge. It’s a robust Web platform with terrific SEO capability that can really drive discoverability of authors and thought leaders. The first client I’ve signed up for them–a forward-oriented author management company called Movable Type Management–got 9 bookings for their author clients in just the first few months after creating their own mini-bureau on the Speakerfile site, a bureau MTM also placed on its own website under the rubric ‘Author Booking.’

If you’re already engaged in public speaking, or you work with public speakers, I’ll be happy to explore with you how Speakerfile can help you and your associates get better bookings. Please let me know if you have any questions about Speakerfile.

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November 7th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels


Grateful, relieved, happy, and hopeful for so many things, a handful of them below:

1) Grateful that our president will be returned to office with the support of a majority of the nation’s voters; that so many progressive women will be serving in the Senate; and that marriage equality has been affirmed on the east coast and the west coast.

2) Relieved that the policies and cohort of the challenger won’t be installed in the White House.

3) Happy that I was able to lend my support to the Obama campaign with some phone banking (not as much as in 2008, though I still made some calls); that I connected with the Obama Campaign’s digital outreach staff, especially Teddy Goff and Erica Sackin, and was able to inform this blog with their informed content; and that the curation and writing of this blog spread accurate information and motivating commentary about the campaign to a widening circle of readers and sharers. Thanks to all.

4) Hopeful that four more years of President Obama’s astute leadership will heal our economy with more opportunities for all; nurture civil and human rights; and lead to more global understanding.

As this first day after the 2012 election goes along, I may have more items to list, but for now these will suffice. As always, thank you for subscribing, reading, and sharing from The Great Gray Bridge. If you care to, please share some things for which you are grateful, relieved, happy, and/or hopeful in the comments field below.

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October 30th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

New Features at The Great Gray Bridge, One Year Old Today

Today October 30, the day after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City, is the one-year anniversary of The Great Gray Bridge. To mark this occasion, I’ve installed some new features here that will make it easier for you to to read and share the content I create and publish. First, as you’ll see near the top of the right-hand column, you may now “Sign up to get posts by email”–which means you can by signing up there  get every new post I publish sent directly to your email inbox. If you sign up for this option, you may easily forward a post to any of your own contacts, people who may not yet know about The Great Gray Bridge. If you do entrust me with your email address in this fashion, I promise to not sell or give your info to any third party. And, if, for any reason you want to unsubscribe later, you may just click “unsubscribe” at the bottom of any the emailed posts sent from the site.

I should add that you don’t have to do any of this–if you enjoy visiting the site periodically to see what’s new and surfing around, please continue doing that.

Second, above the email sign-in window, is a grid with active buttons to connect with all of my social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, tumblr, Pinterest, and an RSS feed from this site. I will be rolling out other new features in the weeks ahead, such as a youtube channel connected to The Great Gray Bridge.

After years curating publishing lists that reflected my understanding about what people wanted to read, and editing the words of other writers, it is a joy to be writing on my own, to publish it here, and to share it throughout our inter-connected world. Thank you very much for reading and sharing what I publish.