Grateful for breathable air

In large cities you are immediately reminded that there are doors you will never enter unless you are wealthy or service the wealthy in some way or another. 

The above house (on Manhattan’s East Side) was for sale but guess what? No open house was scheduled. Rats. No peek into the Lifestyles of Rich and Famous for me. Here in honor of Norm Frampton’s ThursdayDoor event is another door I’ll never enter.

Below is a picture of a peculiar and apparently abandoned structure in another borough of NYC. Any guesses as to what it is?

 

Here’s a clue: It’s in the same park as the fountain below. 

Flushing Meadows, in the borough of Queens, is a world away from the east side of Manhattan. On the day we visited it was packed with families. On every field, soccer, baseball, cricket, and volleyball players either practiced or competed against each other as family members and friends watched.  Even in mid October, kayakers paddled around the small lakes taking selfies. They were mostly people from third world countries who will probably never be able to buy that house on the east side of Manhattan but they have their families and their community.  Today is Thanksgiving here in the United States. In California we are all thankful for the rain.  Our view has gone from smokey grey:


To cloudy grey. But the air has moved out of “hazardous” purple to a moderate orange.  It will be awhile before we are in the green of healthy air but we will never take fresh and healthy air for granted. Nor will I complain about the high cost of roof repairs.  At least I have a roof.

 

And of course I am thankful for you. Whether you come by once or every time I post, I am thankful for you.

 

 

#ThursdayDoors: Halifax NS

For one of the oldest cities in Canada, Halifax NS has a remarkably young and energetic vibe. 

People don’t seem rushed or anxious to be first in line. If you step off a curb, cars stop and wait patiently for you to cross the street.  Of course, we lucked onto beautiful weather.

Like Montreal, it is a city for walking with a mixture of old architecture and new.

The old Town Clock was getting a facelift.

And tourists flocked to watch the hourly changing of the guard at the fortress (Citadel) on top of the hill.

It’s not quite as formal as its namesake ceremony at Buckingham Palace, as you can see.  Of course, the fellow above is not a soldier, he’s a docent.

The Citadel was never attacked although they were prepared. Below is the entrance to a zigzag of foxholes.Aside from wandering around the streets, we did visit the Immigration Museum where I found out my ancestors came to Canada before there was such a thing as immigration.

They just appeared on early census records listing their birthplaces as Ireland.  And here I always thought they were Scottish.  Right now I’m miffed at them for ever leaving Canada.

Check out other doors over at Norm’s Place! 

Montreal, c’est si bon!

When I was a vain young woman, light years ago, a man once said to me “you’re not the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen but there’s something about you.” I was, of course, hurt because I was too stupid to recognize a true compliment.

I feel that way about Montreal. There are cities with more impressive skylines, grandiose monuments, luxuriant gardens, and iconic bridges but there’s just something about Montreal.

Take its namesake, Mt. Royal. It’s not really a mountain; it’s a hill. But what a peaceful way to spend an afternoon, climbing to the top on a gently winding path.

Of course, when I was eighteen and hungry for adventure, I’d bounded to the top on a series of steep stairs and listened to the musician, song-writer whose beautiful face now smiles down upon the campus of McGill University.

After leaving Mt. Royal, we walked down to the river through Vieux Montreal. There, in honor of that great Quebecer and photographer extraordinaire, Norm Frampton, I found a door.

And here is the plaque outside the door.

Across from the bank is Notre Dame Basilica:

We didn’t go inside because there was a line and we had a cruise to catch. But I did manage to catch a shot of the side door.

Besides being known as the city of a hundred bells, Montreal is also famous for its assortment of “quirky” buildings.

Most were built for Expos, World Fairs and Olympics. I should have been paying more attention to the tour guide but I was drinking this lovely Canadian ale and getting a sunburn.  Seriously, a sunburn in early October in Montreal? This apartment complex, called Habitat 67, was designed by a young architect as a part of his master’s thesis. Joel thought it was a little too quirky for his tastes but that’s Montreal.  Perhaps not the most beautiful city but an original.

#ThursdayDoors: Bezerkley

Looking out toward the Golden Gate Bridge which was unfortunately shrouded in fog and smoke.

Not only does the Lawrence Hall of Science have one of the most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area but every exhibit is meant to be manhandled by children, casually monitored and guided in their experiments by high school students earning extra credit in biology, mathematics or chemistry.

The hall is actually a part of the University of California Berkeley.  It was named in honor of the “Atom Smasher,” Ernest Lawrence, also the inventor of the cyclotron and the founder of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs.  Over the years I’ve met and worked with many physicists who got their start at the “Lab.”  I couldn’t understand them 99% of the time but they were never boring.

The back door leads to a chance to get wet and dirty as you learn about water management.  Downstairs are classrooms where kids learn about lizards and volcanos and all that cool stuff in a more formal setting.

For bigger kids, Berkeley offers a different sort of entertainment:

 

The Ashkenaz, which has been around since 1973, is run by a non-profit organization whose goal is to showcase music and dance from around the world. The idea is not to listen or watch but to participate and they’re very serious.  If you come, you dance.Berkeley is known for its eccentric population and if you wander around up near the campus you’ll see just about anything.  When I worked there, the most famous eccentric was the Naked Guy, a 6’5” former athlete who insisted on attending class in nothing but shoes.  Clothes, he claimed were oppressive and for a time, no one said a word.  It was, after all, Berkeley.

Then there was the Hate Man, a former journalist and Peace Corps worker who espoused the doctrine of hate and “oppositionality.” To start a conversation with him, you had to say “Fuck you.”

When he died, it made the national news and the denizens of People’s Park, a homeless encampment smack dab in the middle of Berkeley, made a memorial for him, which he would have hated.

Check out other doors from around the world at Norm’s place.  

#ThursdayDoors: Siberia

My friend, who just returned from a trip to Russia, China and Tibet, said these doors and windows reminded her of me.  How sweet!  Thank you Mary Alice!  

She was in Irkutsk which is the capital of Siberia. According to Wikipedia, many journalists, writers and artists were exiled to this city in the 19th century because they irritated the factions currently in charge.

I won’t even attempt to fathom the history of Russia.  Whites, Reds, Bolsheviks, Communists – it’s like trying to sort out the history of British Royalty.  So many rebellions and power struggles.  Ugh.

The dissidents were sent to Siberia because it’s remote and the weather can be brutal but they certainly do have a lot of style.

According to Mary Alice, these are wooden windows. She did a great job on this shot, don’t you think?  Nice reflection.

I googled Irkutsk and was amazed by how many famous people were born in Siberia, Arguably the most famous was Rudolph Nureyev, born here in 1936.

This is an interesting little cabin.  From some reason, it made me think of Lincoln Logs.

 

Check out other doors from around the world at Norm’s Place.

 

 

 

Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor #ThursdayDoors

My husband has two passions: cooking and trains.  Today he’s making his signature dish, wickedly good Garlic Mac and Cheese, and so I was able to sneak into his train room. For those of you who aren’t involved in that particular hobby, modeling is extremely detail oriented work, particularly when you’re talking about the smaller gauges.  Above is an HO gauge model of the Pacific Fruit Express which is approximately five inches long and two inches tall. It was built from a kit, as were all the trains and buildings I’ll be showing today.

Above are some of the more complicated trains that he’s put together recently.  But there are thousands more.  Believe me.

The passenger trains even have passengers however, they don’t look very healthy.  This must be the Train of the Damned.  

Can you spot the conductor at the door?  He looks like he’s either waving or trying to get out.  Perhaps he’s realized the passengers are all zombies.

The one thing model railroaders are absolutely fanatical about is realism, which means weathering. They’ll spot a rusted building on the side of the road and have to stop to take pictures.  Then they obsess for days over how to achieve that particular look.

Realism also means that buildings must have lights. This factory along the tracks contains over thirty little tiny lights that had to be hand-wired.

I’m not sure but I think this is a loading dock of some sort. I’ve been to model railroad conventions and met women every bit as gung-ho as their partner but that’s not me folks.

Actually, I lied.  I’ve only been to one convention and it was in Redding California back when the romance was fresh, if you know what I mean. If you’re not into trains, you have to be really in love to go to a model train convention. The layouts and exhibits are great but sitting through a one hour forum on  “ways to support your train guy,” well, it’s just not for me.

Below is the Cameramadoodle Ding Dong Candy Factory.

Named for our son Cameron.  Model Railroaders aren’t that imaginative and if you live with one, you’re gonna end up on a marquee.  Did I mention the second floor of Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor is a brothel?  I guess my clients enter through the back door. I don’t know how they get up to it.  I guess they must be awfully horny.

And here, just for Norm, the conductor of the ThursdayDoors challenge, is a door.

 

Riding the Zephyr: #ThursdayDoors

Dirty back window of the Zephyr

From time to time I have to travel to Reno Nevada for family business, both pleasurable and otherwise. Reno is a four hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area that used to be a fairly pleasant.  You’d pass orchards, cow pastures and rice patties before hitting the always dramatic Sierra Nevadas.  However, over the years the orchards and cow pastures have been replaced with housing developments and industrial tracts leading to massive traffic headaches. So we opt for the train when possible.

The Zephyr departs from Oakland California and travels due east to Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha and finally ends its run in Chicago three days later. It is considered one of the most beautiful routes in the world. Below is Donner Lake as taken from the back of the train.

I’ve taken the Zephyr as far as Helper, a sooty outpost smack dab in the middle of Utah so named because it’s where “helper” engines are often added to give coal carrying trains the extra oomph they need to get through the Wasatch Mountains.

We generally catch the train in Martinez, the last point of departure in the Bay Area.  Martinez is an antique-shop town overlooking the Carquinez Strait.

From there the train crosses an old iron bridge and heads inland, passing low-lying swamps which provide homes for all sorts of species of birds and ducks.  It’s one of my favorite stretches, particularly in the Spring.

Another favorite stretch is just beyond Roseville as the train begins to climb up into the mountains.  The foothills are home to many ranches and on a Spring day, nothing beats the sight of horses romping through green pastures with their tails in the air.

In the mountains, the train passes through dozens of tunnels, many built to provide refuge during heavy snow storms.

For my husband, who is crazy about trains, we had an especially interesting trip through the mountains.  On Amtrak you’re assigned seating based on your destination.  Sometimes passengers for Reno are seated at the front of the train and sometimes they’re seated at the rear.  This trip we were seated in the very last car.

We’d just reached Colfax, a town in the high foothills, when the engineer ran past us on his way to the back door.  Then he opened the door and grabbed a hose.”Set to release?” he asked over the walkie talkie.  The next moment smoke erupted from the hose with a loud hissing sound that startled all the passengers.

It turns out there was a disabled freight train on the tracks ahead.  We would need to back down the track and switch over to the westbound track to get past the disabled train.  The engineer had been testing the brakes to prevent a runaway train.

Check out other exciting door adventures over at Norm’s Place.