Category Archives: my city and neighborhood

Kirk Douglas on the “glories” of New York

 

 

“I find myself in Albuquerque. No work, no money. …. No Lindy’s. No Madison Square Garden. No Yogi Berra. …

“You know what’s wrong with New Mexico? Too much outdoors. Give me those eight spindly trees in front of Rockefeller Center any day. That’s enough outdoors for me. No subway smelling sweet, sour. … No more beautiful roar from eight million ants fighting, cursing, loving. No shows. No South Pacific No chic little dames across a crowded bar.”

 

— Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas), Ace In the Hole

 

 

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Ace in the Hole is a 1951 American film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a hard boiled, cynical reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper. He has come west to New Mexico from New York City, out of money and options. He talks his way into a reporting job with a newspaper in Albuquerque.

Lindy’s was a restaurant chain in New York City famous for its cheesecake.

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2019

pre-spring haiku

 

 

 

all over the place

water running faster than you can walk:

snowmelt

 

 
— Ella Rutledge (posted on her Facebook page, February 2019)

 

 

I wish to thank my friend Ella Rutledge for giving me permission to post her haiku on this site.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 24, 2019

 

 
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photographs of Central Park taken February 21, 2019 by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

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a surge of positive energy

 

 

 

 

 

Being in New York City — or, more specifically, Manhattan.

Always a surge of positive energy. A sense of exhilaration A lifting of the sprits. It’s hard to be depressed.

How does one account for it?

 

 
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I would say that it’s the following.

The concentration of people. It’s why I love cities.

The concentration of business establishments; of restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable, at a wide range of prices; of coffeehouses everywhere where you can sit musing or chatting for what seems like forever; of places of interest such as libraries, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, museums.

The parks and public gathering spots, such as public sitting areas everywhere on even the most congested avenues.

The wide sidewalks, thronged with people.

The wonderful infusion of people of all races and nationalities. The immigrants. The tourists. What they contribute and share in terms of enthusiasm and amiability.

The incredible variety of languages spoken. Heard all the time, on the street and on the subway. Music to the ears.

The access to water, to the ocean and the Hudson and East Rivers, every which way one turns.

A sense of being impervious to weather. It’s fun to walk the streets on a hot summer day when everyone is without a coat. On a winter’s day when somehow an icy chill doesn’t seem to matter. When it makes your blood tingle, and when walking the streets makes you feel warmer. And when it’s raining, the rain-slicked sidewalks often have a feeling of romantic beauty.

The City. Manhattan. The energy! The fun. The sheer excitement!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    February 2019; updated March 2019

 

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, New York Public Library steps; August 16, 2018

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, August 31, 2018

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, December 20, 2016

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, March 18, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 15, 2019

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, March 2, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 6, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 17, 2017

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, April 27, 2017

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, June 14, 2018

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, September 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

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Sixth Avenue, November 30, 2018

 

 

 

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Rockefeller Center, September 26, 2017

 

 

 

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Central Park, May 1, 2018

 

 

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Central Park, August 20, 2017

 

 

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Union Square Park, June 12, 2017

 

 

 

 

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COMMENT

 

email from Mara Williams Oakes

February 20, 2019

Your observations on Manhattan are spot on.

Your phrasing creates a dynamic rhythm structure, complementing the pulse of the City.

New Yorkers

 

 

 

I was on a bus in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago.

My eyes strayed to a seat across from me, and I saw that a young woman was smiling at me.

Beaming.

She had a five or six or year old boy in her lap. It was a bit different than holding a toddler in one’s lap. The boy was restless. But the mother and her son and seemed to be totally in sync.

“Is he going to school. Or he is too young for that?” I asked.

“No, he’s going to school,” she said, still smiling.

Then, I got off the bus. She waved at me and wished me a good day. It was as if we had been glad to meet.

This little encounter — unanticipated, most would say totally inconsequential — set me up for the rest of the day. It was as if somehow I had made her morning pleasurable. She certainly did that for me.

A reason I am writing about this is because this sort of thing happens to me very often in New York. I doubt such encounters would be as likely in the suburbs. (Certainly not if one were driving to work or an appointment.) Rubbing shoulders with others as a matter of course is something I love about living in NYC.

When I first moved to New York as a young man, everyone seemed to in a hurry, and the City seemed cold and impersonal.

It’s exactly the opposite. Many New Yorkers have told me that their experience has been the same.

 

 

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In his poem “Mannahatta,” Walt Whitman said something very similar:

 

Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and
steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,
strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies, …
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows,
A million people–manners free and superb–open voices–
hospitality–the most courageous and friendly young
men,

 

 

Roger W. Smith

December 2018

Sixth Avenue on a rainy afternoon; Herman Melville

 

 

 

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Sixth Avenue, New York City; Friday afternoon, November 30, 2018

 

 

I took this photo of Sixth Avenue on my way home on Friday afternoon.

It’s been raining a lot in the City this week.

Rain can be a slight inconvenience, like other weather phenomena, but I never really minded it. It can be “nice.”

When I was very young, my mother took me once to my eye doctor, Dr. Johnson, in Boston on a weekday. We went by subway.

The appointment lasted a long time. Going home in the late afternoon, it was dark and rainy. I didn’t mind. I loved having my mother all to myself. When we got home, she put me to bed. She was so kind. She kept saying that I was cold and wet and that I must be very tired: it had been such a long day and we got home late.

Re this photo of Sixth Avenue, this street scene, it reminds me of Herman Melville’s words (in Moby-Dick): “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.”

Thanks to the Good Lord that it came upon me once when I was first living in NYC to read Moby-Dick, in a library copy. What a book!

THE Great American Novel.

 

 

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Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; CHAPTER 1. “Loomings.”

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shorakkopoch

 

 

 

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Shorakkopoch (also spelled Shorakopok) stone; Inwood Hill Park, New York City

 

 

 

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SHORAKKOPOCH

 

According to legend, on this site of the principal Manhattan Indian village, Peter Minuit in 1626, purchased Manhattan Island for trinkets and beads then worth about 60 guilders.

This boulder also marks the spot where a tulip tree (Liriodendron Tulipiera) grew to a height of 165 feet and a girth of 20 feet. It was until its death in 1938 at the age of 280 years. the last living link with the Reckgawawanc Indians who lived here.

Dedicated as part of New York City’s 300th anniversary celebration by the Peter Minuit post 1247, American Legion January 1954.

 

 

 

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This marker is in Inwood Hill Park in Upper Manhattan, where I was walking yesterday. It’s a beautiful spot, and I can imagine what it was like for the Indians who lived there (sadly, once, no more).

The stone is easy to miss. It’s on one of the paths in the forested area of the park.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  November 28, 2018

 

New York sunlight (and New York joys)

 

 

 

“The grass that grows by absorbing the life-giving energy of the sun becomes [in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass] a metaphor of ‘the ceaseless springing forth of life from death.’” — David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), pg. 240

 

 

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My longtime friend Bill Dalzell, who for many years lived in New York City, introduced me to so many things when I first came to New York in the late 1960’s.

Among other things, Bill introduced me to cinema and art. We made several trips together to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bill, a New York transplant from a suburb of Pittsburgh, where he grew up, was — like many having adopted New York City as their home, including myself — an enthusiast of all New York had to offer. He knew all the inexpensive, interesting things to see and do in the City.

Bill used to say: “Would you care to hear me sing the praises of New York?” He used to marvel at the fact that so many people of all races and nationalities lived cheek by jowl in harmony. At the richness of culture. At the convenience of things such as getting around. At how much the City had to offer at what were then modest prices.

Admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was free. The main branch of the New York Public Library was open 365 days a year. The subway and bus fares were 20 cents. So was the Staten Island ferry, one of the fun, vivifying, and inexpensive things he enjoyed doing. (We would get off on the Staten Island side, walk around a bit, have a cup of coffee, and take the ferry back to Manhattan.) A meal of wholesome, plain food at the Automat (where Bill used to love to sit and drink coffee while lost in thought) could be had for less than a dollar. A glass of beer in a bar was 20 cents, and usually every third beer was on the house. Films cost less than two dollars. Rents were cheap. Bill paid twenty-nine dollars a month for a one-bedroom apartment on East 5th Street.

 

 

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Bill introduced me to the paintings of Edward Hopper, one of his favorite painters. (Hopper’s paintings are, for the most part, exhibited in New York museums.) Bill and I, at his suggestion, made a one-day excursion to Nyack, NY to view Hopper’s birthplace.

During our museum trips, he pointed out how Hopper made use of light.

“The light is different in America,” Bill would say. (He had traveled practically everywhere in the world on a limited budget.) By “different,” Bill meant brighter. More brilliant. Yes. Brilliant light. An observation which I do believe to be true. I have observed and thought about this often.

I have come over the years to be myself fascinated by light. Early morning light, daylight, late afternoon light. The light hitting the grass. Different shades of light and degrees of brightness. Summer light. Autumn light. Winter light.

While I would and could never aspire to be an artist — I have no innate talent and only a limited appreciation of the visual arts — I have been taking photographs in the City in parks, on the shorelines, and of houses and streets on my walks, I have posted below some photographs of mine in which an appreciation of sunlight as viewed from ground level is expressed in the photo. I am fascinated by the quality of sunlight in different seasons and at different times of the day.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   July 2018

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Some relevant information about Edward Hopper.

Most of Hopper’s figure paintings focus on the subtle interaction of human beings with their environment-–carried out with solo figures, couples, or groups. His primary emotional themes are solitude, loneliness, regret, boredom, and resignation. He expresses the emotions in various environments, including the office, in public places, in apartments, on the road, or on vacation. … In many Hopper paintings, the interaction is minimal.

The effective use of light and shadow to create mood is central to Hopper’s methods. Bright sunlight (as an emblem of insight or revelation), and the shadows it casts, also play symbolically powerful roles in Hopper paintings such as Early Sunday Morning (1930), Summertime (1943), Seven A.M. (1948), and Sun in an Empty Room (1963).

Hopper always said that his favorite thing was “painting sunlight on the side of a house.”

Although critics and viewers interpret meaning and mood in his cityscapes, Hopper insisted “I was more interested in the sunlight on the buildings and on the figures than any symbolism.” As if to prove the point, his late painting Sun in an Empty Room (1963) is a pure study of sunlight.

 

“Edward Hopper,” Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper

 

It should be noted that the American landscape painter Winslow Homer did similar things with sunlight in his remarkable paintings.

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

1 - Woodside, Queens

Woodside, Queens

 

 

2 - Murray Hill

Murray Hill

 

 

3- Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

4 - Central Park

Central Park

 

 

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Central Park

 

 

5 - Riverside Park

Riverside Park

 

6 - Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

 

7 - Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

 

 

 

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Isham Park

 

 

All of these photos were taken in New York City.

 

 

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Posted here below are some famous paintings of Edward Hopper that show his preoccupation with light and his mastery of representing it visually.

 

 

1-hopper-early-sunday2 - Cape Cod3 - stoop, summertime4- Cape Cod evening5- seven am6 - house by sea

 

 

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Edward Hopper’s birthplace

 

 

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Edward Hopper birthplace, Nyack, NY