June Noon

And just like that, it’s June.

Brooklyn, New York. June 1, 2019. Just a smattering of the numerous colorful blooms in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

The flowers in the photos above are Spanish bluebells, California poppies, Aubrieta and Primula Rosea (Himalayan primrose) respectively. Btw, “June Noon” is the name of a trichosereus hybrid flower that blooms in the cacti genus echinopsis.

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Blue skies and Freedom

February 1, 2019. New York, New York.  Ah, that majestic southern Manhattan skyline towering over the frigid waters of the harbor, a sight that no photograph can do justice to, as the scale can be experienced only in person.

The first four photographs were taken from a ferry on a bitterly cold but sunny winter day.

As I was sailing past the Statue of Liberty, it was a poignant reminder of the hope it symbolized for the many who glimpsed it for the first time as they pulled into the New York harbor, after escaping war, death, persecution with nothing but their lives, holding on to nothing but their dreams. 

(Click on any pic to start the slideshow, descriptions are underneath each photo)

In the past two days, the city saw its first snowfall, with temperatures plummeting to -14 Celsius – the coldest it has been so far this year. While the polar vortex gripped Mid-West USA, many New Yorkers – who were not so badly hit, wrote and posted and complained a lot about the cold.

And yet, and yet…… you see – I DO think it was much ado about nothing.

Because of this:

I lived in Winnipeg, Canada for around two years and lived through three of its winters. Days with -30 c and -40 c were common with the windchill factor making it even lower. 
A friend who lives there posted the temperature yesterday: -40c BEFORE windchill…another friend who lives there said it was -53 Celsius (-63.4 °Fahrenheit) WITH the windchill. In Churchill where you can see polar bears, around 1000 km north of Winnipeg, – 60c (-76° Fahrenheit) used to be common. As you can see here, it says that currently Winnipeg is colder than the North Pole and as cold as Mars https://globalnews.ca/news/4906382/prairies-cold-north-pole-mars/  and that in February, ’twill be -70 Celsius in certain cities https://bit.ly/2DOR6k7  

I lived in Montreal, Canada, for many years…the cold was wetter, and though it wouldn’t quite go to -40c, days with WET -28 Celsius, were quite common, and in some ways more agonizing than the dry Canadian Prairie winters. Days when you’d see that the “high” was -19c and the low was a wet bone-chilling -33c  Luckily, most of the city is accessible through underground walkways.

In typical hardy Canadian fashion, no schools, universities or workplaces would be closed in either city. People would be going around playing ice hockey. Outside. No, really.

I am so, so grateful for my years in Canada (along with my love for high-altitude mountaineering, which I did aplenty in the Himalayas, Rockies and northern Canada, plus an innate high-resistance to cold)…because thanks to it, any blustery wintry day in NYC feels balmy  (And yes, I do share jokes with my Canadian friends on how temperatures that would be considered “highs” in Canada, fluster many Americans.) 

Admitted, the American Mid-West were Canadian-cold for a couple of days this week. And when I lived in the Boston area, those New England winters were much colder than the Big Apple’s.
 

But thank you dear (and friendly) Winnipeg for teaching me to never, ever complain about the cold in any other part of the world – and ESPECIALLY in balmy New York City  where ’twill be a “warm” -12 Celsius overnight. 

Most experiences in life are truly relative…..☃️❄️⛄️

Thank you Canada 🇨🇦 For your cold I shall always be grateful, among of course, several other gifts from you.

But thank you New York City for that unbridled sense of Freedom one feels within your fulcrum, that infectious energy emanating from the entire City – second to no other urban center of the world, and for that sense of awe your skyline always inspires and has, for generations, for all those who land on your shores and who sail by that Lady in the Harbor.

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Year-end-year-ahead Conundrum

Gotham City Conundrum by the Gipsy GeekDecember 31, 2018. New York, New York. So here’s something to end the year with…and ring in the New Year. (I’ll spare explanations of why I’ve been tardy in posting regularly in this space….but in a nutshell – Life and Procrastination. And travel. Lots of it…..to Zurich, Bombay, Baroda, London, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Toulouse, Bordeaux in that order just in the past three months alone. And earlier in the year, time spent in New York, short stints near Chicago and briefly Montreal and Toronto.)

In early fall, before the mid-term elections, I was proud to give a speech for women’s rights and a call to political unity among liberals at Union Square, NYC, as the gathered throngs chanted in unison against the political and environmental degradation in this country, as we marched from Union Square to Times Square; And earlier in spring I joined many, many of my fellow women architects (including many older women architects I’ve long admired as inspiring icons) at the annual AIA meeting in New York to make the voices of women architects heard and to demand equity, visibility and due credit for our work in our very sexist profession. If anything at all, it is always cathartic to speak up…to speak up FACTS, that is.

Many of my stronger opinions and political views were shared with friends on my personal Facebook page (which is why, perhaps, I am guilty of not posting here), even as I continue to maintain another page on this link (this one is public and not related to my personal FB page) –  https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrumpShutUp/  – can you believe it will be 9 years since I started it?!! It was the first of its kind on social media, before pages like that sprung up aplenty in 2017.  However, I can say with certainty that early-a**hole-personality-detection runs in my DNA. My maternal forefather – a leader in European politics – had written a book, a scathing critique against fascism –  years before the Holocaust foretelling that Hitler was a grave danger – at the time when people thought he was good for the economy.

End rant.

On to reflection.

As every year ends, as we grow another year older, and often another year sadder or wiser, or for some – especially for those whose neurotransmitters+receptors (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins) are working in a balanced and healthy way – another year happier – we get into that time when we reflect on what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost, the past that cannot be changed and the future that is yet to unfold, the conundrum of the choices we’ve made or are to make, unsure at times if they are the right ones……..even as we try to keep Hope and Optimism alive as we always do when we step into something new – like a new year; in this case, the last of the teens of this century, before the start of a new decade (2020).

So to end this year, and ring it in with some New York jazz from New York – the city where I live and which is closest to my heart – here’re two videos that I edited for a very dear person and his jazz trio. If you like their music, give their official facebook page a “like” to keep up with their upcoming concert dates – https://www.facebook.com/alexskolnick/

The name of the album is Conundrum. Regarding its name and content, says Skolnick:

“It represents the sense of confusion many of us are feeling in the midst of the strangest sociopolitical upheavals of our lifetimes….This album captures many styles in an effort to channel that angst into art and inspire others to do likewise.”

The album, released in September went on to No.2 on i-tunes jazz charts on the very week of its release, preceded by Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) at no. 1 and followed by John Coltrane (the Best of Coltrane) at no. 3.  Not bad company! ;-) Of course,  the greats who always are at the top 10 soon took over their original positions but the exhilaration to see its rise upon its release was nice. If you want to support independent artists, please buy their albums – don’t stream on youtube, unless it’s a promo video – such as these ones :-) (Links to purchase are found underneath the videos on youtube and on the fb page, but as a repeat here they are as shortlinks: https://amzn.to/2Qjk1Qz  and https://apple.co/2Napfw7 )

Enjoy, expand to full screen and turn the volume up! The first is of the complete album excerpts; the second of possibly the liveliest tune of the album. (Videos edited, along with additional videography, photography, album design etc. by yours truly – Maddy, the Gipsy Geek.)

Here’s saying goodbye to 2018….and reflecting on the conundrum in the year that was and the year(s) to come…..and, in the process, using music as therapy.

The 2nd video is the full performance of a lively song “Culture Shock” which has received thousands of views and is one of the album’s favorites…the music combines eastern (you can hear the Oriental and Middle-eastern melody) and western (jazz and Americana) styles, along with a dash of southern bluegrass and blends them into a harmonious whole. The title of the track also loosely references Herbie Hancock’s “Future Shock.” The guitars used are a semi-hollowbody-acoustic & a vintage telecaster.

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Alexander’s Guichet

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

December 9, 2017. How often have I passed by “Le Guichet” – a 1963 sculpture by Alexander Calder! Located in the plaza of the Lincoln Center in front of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. And how often have I passed by without pausing to take a photo or post one. Until now.

During daytime and evenings the plaza is bustling; its lively fountain and surrounding performance halls drawing in large omnipresent swaths of people like moths to a flame. But I like wandering there at night, at times just before midnight. When the crowds have lulled, the patrons of the theater long gone, the library closed and the plaza stands near-empty except for a handful of people passing by…..

In that solitude of night, in that vacancy and stillness of space – a rarity in a city that never sleeps, I like to walk around Le Guichet, taking in its sinuous curves and voids, its alienesque tentacles tiptoeing on the concrete pavers, a silent witness in stoic steel, unlike Calder’s playful mobiles; painted pitch dark like a galactic black hole unlike his vibrant red Flamingo and Eagle in Chicago and Seattle respectively. This one is not about to soar off; it has just landed. A “box office” selling tickets to another world. Far away.

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 


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“What Happened” last night

Around 6:15 pm September 27, 2017. At the Greenlight independent Bookstore in Brooklyn. Got to meet and speak with  Hillary Rodham Clinton and get a signed copy of her new book. 

Meeting Hillary Clinton

Me, all smiles after meeting HRC and making her laugh. She was so gracious, dignified and warm.

She was very gracious and spoke with all who came. I blurted out a few sentences that I can’t fully recall, as I felt quite overwhelmed seeing her again. She always looks very well-coiffed, elegant, soft, feminine and delicate in person and does not photograph as well as she looks in person.

But best of all, she cracked up and guffawed loudly when I said I’d started the page Donald Trump SHUT UP nearly 7 years back because I couldn’t stand his idiotic rants. That while I’d adored her since the ’90s, I found him utterly repulsive from even back then.

We got lucky to get in early in the line. That’s Huma standing behind me in white, while I’m speaking to HRC – in the 2nd pic. The bookstore staff did a great job to accommodate everyone despite the long lines and keep things running smoothly. Right in front of us in the queue was a tiny 4-year old girl – Grace Payton-Lafferty – dressed up in a white pantsuit and a string of pearls who stole hearts and ended up being featured in several media outlets, including a tweet by Ms. Clinton herself. When I saw little Grace in the line – where we’d been waiting for an hour and a half, I told her that I hoped in 25 years I’d see her running for office. She is too young now to understand a lot perhaps, but one of the most heartening aspects was to see how inspiring Hillary has been to little girls, raised by rational parents, many who lined up outside the bookstore to get their own signed copies of “It takes a village.” Since Grace was right ahead of us we saw Hillary herself light up, stand up and and hug the little girl.

I remembered how seeing Indira Gandhi as a little girl I’d immediately thought that a woman could hold any position she wanted to. (We won’t get into what I found out about Indira later – nothing that male politicians haven’t done themselves.) But Hillary was more qualified, capable, kind-hearted and deserving than IG, and a self-made woman from a middle-class family instead of being born into a political dynasty like IG. And yet, in this topsy-turvy world the highest post in America was denied to her, despite being ahead by more than 3 million votes. Do you think that instead of Donald & Bernie, if it was trashy Donna Trump (pic) or hysterical Bernadine Sanders (pic) running, they’d EVER have been even taken seriously, let alone get a following??!! 

What a different state we’d have been in today if even a fraction of the votes wasted on 3rd parties or by abstainers had gone to HRC (or if Huma had dumped her sick hubby a long time back so a last-minute Comey investigation/announcement was avoided…. I’m not even getting into Trumpers, BernieorBusters, etc. For that you can read my detailed houghts from last spring here – https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/the-real-revolution-hillary-clinton-elizabeth-warren/ )

Instead of this intelligent, articulate overqualified and literary woman with incredible strength, resilience and pragmatism, we now have the most disgusting, vapid, stunted “peesident” in US history – an excuse of a “man,” a scourge on the planet. 

I would rather see HRC in the White House than in a bookstore…I saw her earlier up close during her victory in the NYC primaries last spring, but this time I was able to speak to her. The woman who should have been the President. The woman who should have been the President of the United States had sanity, rationality and fairness prevailed.
#HillaryClinton #WhatHappened

Hillary Clinton 1992

Hillary Rodham Clinton: The woman who should have been President

After the Rain

Rainy days in New York City….
A walk through Central Park
to soak in th’sweet scents o’ rain-brewed-earth
and the Chartreuse green leaves of Spring….

 

(click on any image to start slideshow)


This video has been taken from the rustic pavilion that punctuates Wagner Cove – a secluded spot at the edge of The Lake in Central Park.

(Geeky facts: The Cove, formerly known as the Cherry Hill boat landing, was renamed after former New York City three-term mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. who was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and known for disrupting the Tammany Hall structure ending the reign of clubhouse bosses in city politics and leading to a stronger city democracy.
His father – former NYC mayor Robert Wagner I was known for his support of the labor movement and FDR’s New Deal, and was instrumental in writing the Social Security Act.)

These are the some of the tucked-away spaces in the big noisy city where one can find moments of calm and solitude, of peace and serenity and just an avenue away from the harsh cacophony of traffic – bask in the nook of a welcome relief: the sounds of birds singing joyously….after the rain.

For music for a rainy day, here’s Bill Evans’ piano solo “Here’s that Rainy Day” from his Album “Alone” (Verve Records 1968) – an instrumental jazz interpretation of the popular song composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke published in 1953.