Archive for September 2007

Flowers on Taxis in NYC

September 23, 2007

All cabs are yellow…unless you look at the hoods/trunks/roofs nowadays.

It seems that something like 5% to 15% of all cabs have this sort of flower stencil on them nowadays.  I started noticing it a couple of weeks ago and it turns out that from Sept to December, the taxicabs are celebrating 100 years of motorized service in NYC with some colorful additions to the topsides of some cabs.  The painting is done by a group of disabled children and their supporters.

The paint job is a handpainted decal.  It makes for an interesting sight to see on an occasional cab, although I think it’s better to keep them non-universal.  That would be a bit much.

I’ve only seen one taxi with the hood, roof, and trunk decorated. If it has the decal, it will always be on the hood. The ones with just the hood and not the trunk decorated seem to be lessening.

I don’t know how many patterns there are.  I’ve seen as few as one flower to as many as three.



You can see writing on them.  It’s from the children that paint the decals. 



Ankling through Greenwich Village in the rain

September 22, 2007

The weather has been so good for so long that I barely check the weather anymore.  A few days ago I had seen the all clear for another beautiful weekend…and got surprised.

I initially went down to Union Square and found the usual artists and farmers markets in full bloom, but nothing else of any particular interest.  One artist’s work caught my eye and that of others.  He was painting a nice depiction of Union Square.

Although in a wheelchair, he stood up a moment later and did some moving around.  I don’t know if he uses it as a medical necessity or just to cart his stuff around.  I suspect the latter.  And…if I were really cynical I could make a further guess.  I won’t…at this time.

Anyway, I wandered off to Greenwich Village (AKA West Village, AKA the Village) just to do some wandering.  Okay, right now the purists are shouting that “Greenwich Village” is the whole area east to west.  True in definition but not really in practice.  If you want to talk about the East Village, you say “the East Village”, but if you’re talking about the West Village, you can use any term you want.

The Village was, as always, wonderfully calm and cool (in all the senses).  The best part of the area is how weird the streets are laid out.  If you know NYC, you know that avenues go north-south and streets go east west.  So how do you get an intersection of 10 Street and 4th Street?  I’m not even going to try to explain the layout.

As I was wandering, it started to rain.  At first, lightly.  Later it grew to moderate size.  I found myself at the corner of Charles Street and Hudson Street under some scaffolding (it does come in handy sometimes even though it usually annoys me).  For a long time it was just me, a little traffic on the car and sidewalk, and a teenage candy vendor trying to sell his wares to passersby.  Very, very relaxing.

It seemed that only about 60% of the pedestrians were using umbrellas.  A lot of them had abandoned themselves to a wet fate.

After a while, I decided to get my own umbrella and then did some more wandering.  Here’s Waverly Street.

And, of course, now that I had my umbrella, the rain lessened.  It did kick up now and then, but no problem.

12th Street is one of those streets in the Village and SoHo that have the old paving.  It has to be a pain for the streets department, but it is very cool.

So, my wanderings around and about the Village were cut a bit short, but it was pleasant and I have to admit after last weekend’s wall-to-wall events, it was nice to stop and just watch a pleasant rainfall.


More on Brooklyn Heights

September 21, 2007

I’ve gotten so involved in parades and the like that I’ve neglected a post I’ve been planning to write for a couple of weeks.  At the beginning of September, I ankled my way around Brooklyn Heights and I’ve written two posts about it (here and here).

But there was more and I wanted to give a little more information about this very attractive and well-positioned place.  So far, I’ve written about Borough Hall and the Promenade, now let’s see what was in-between.

Brooklyn Heights is quite historic.  As mentioned before, its favorite son is Henry Ward Beecher from Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims.


It’s an attractive an modern-looking church that belies its actual age.

A plaque on the church reads “Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims founded in 1847 as Plymouth Church and built in 1849 from designs by J.C. Wells.  This Congregational Church became a center of anti-slavery sentiment preceding the Civil War.  Henry Ward Beecher was its first minister, 1847-1887.  Abraham Lincoln worshipped here twice in 1860.  A fragment of Plymouth Rock is in an adjoining arcade.  In 1934 it was united with Church of the Pilgrims, founded in 1844.  Plaque erected in 1961 by The New York Community Trust”

Inside the courtyard (where I couldn’t go) was another statue of Beecher.  And a frieze of Lincoln.  And of a familiar figure just to the side of Beecher.


You may have to enlarge it to see better (just click on the picture), but it’s another slave figure like in the original Brooklyn Heights post I did.  I have some very mixed feelings about the positioning, but can’t figure out where I stand.  I presume the statues are much older and putting “the great man” on a pedestal next to lowly nobodies is probably par for its time.  But I don’t know if Beecher wouldn’t complain about his relative elevation.  (Of course, I honestly don’t know that he would complain.)

In any event, it is odd that the Heights essentially has the same statue twice within a few hundred yards.  (Note that the statues are very different versions of Beecher, but with the same idea of him elevated next to a downtrodden slave figure.)

The Lincoln frieze is good, but it doesn’t show up well on the picture.

It’s been said that Brooklyn is the land of churches, and I think that’s true.  Both Manhattan and Brooklyn are filled with churches some well attended and some not.  But a lot of them are quite spectacular.  Also in Brooklyn Heights is the Episcopal Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity.


Yeah, there’s scaffolding in the front, but the church is big and grand and has a great front door.


But there’s more to the Heights than just that.  The streets are incredibly quiet and pleasant and the buildings are first rate.  Here’s some Pierrepont Street brownstones.


Pierrepont Street also has the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Historically, there’s a spot in the Heights where George Washington was leading the American revolutionaries during the Battle of Long Island.  He eventually had to withdraw in the face of superior force and successfully evaded the British and preserved his army.

There’s a street called Remson Street that had a variety of different architectural types in the same block.


It’s not as evident in the picture, but there is a definite difference among the line of townhouses.  And all, apparently, were build long ago during their respective dates of the style.

One weird thing did happen, the only thing out of the commonplace during my visit.  I was walking up from the Promenade and smelled smoke.  I had noticed a homeless guy about 20 yards ahead of me slow down for a moment or two and then walk on.  And then I smelled smoke.  When I got up to the area he had slowed/stopped, I found a newspaper on fire!  Just a few pages of it and just burning in the middle of the sidewalk.  I let it continue to burn for a few seconds, but once the wind kicked up, I stomped it out.  I don’t know if the guy started it or just observed it as he was going by (kind of like I did).  Hey, it could have been spontaneous combustion for all I know.  It sure did make for an interesting moment, though.


Fireworks at the United Nations

September 20, 2007

I live in a east-side section of Manhattan called Tudor City.  I was working on a post this evening and heard a loud explosion.  And then another, and another.  I’m a stone’s throw from the United Nations and they’re all in a tizzy regarding opening of the general session and visits from President Bush and the president of Iran (I’m not going to google his name just to get the spelling right, though).

So, I thought something was up.  I grabbed my camera and went to the East River.  Okay, to an overlook in Tudor City that looks out to the East River.  It was fireworks.  Not really a huge show (the 4th of July stuff is unbelievable), but a big one.  One large barge in the middle of the East River just a few hundred yards downstream from the UN.

I wasn’t the only one there.  We had about 50 of us.  The show lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes and that was it.

I took a number of pictures, but only one was any good at all.


And absolutely no one had any idea why it was being done.  I heard speculation regarding Yom Kippur, the equinox, celebrating a presidential visit, and the opening of the general session of the UN. 


The Feast of San Gennaro

September 20, 2007

Okay, it’s September, it’s NYC, I’m not Italian; but I’m going to the Feast.

St. Gennaro (AKA St. Januarius) is the patron saint of Naples.  That’s something I just recently learned and have to admit that too many mafia movies had me thinking of Little Italy only in Sicilian terms.  The Feast of San Gennaro is Little Italy’s biggest celebration and is a magnet for tourists and the occasional ankler (your host).  I’ve been there over the past couple of years, but each time was at a quiet point at the end of the Feast, so I never got too much of a sense as to how crowded it was.

Well, this year, I bested myself big time.  I went there on the first Saturday of the festival and then I went on Wednesday night (the actual Feast Day of San Gennaro).  In a word:  crowded.  In a few words:  really, really crowded…oh, and lots of food and a carnival atmosphere.

Here’re some pictures from Saturday.



The Feast is held mostly on Mulberry Street and goes all the way from Houston Street in the north (okay, about 20 yard shy of the end of the block) to Canal Street in the South.  This is traditional Little Italy, although it used to include a couple of other blocks, but which are now mostly Chinatown and a bit of SoHo.

Saturday’s crowd was massive.  But I suspect there’s a bit of trick to it.  Mulberry is a pretty thin street, but they add all the stands to the edges of the street.  That makes a thin street even thinner.  It would have a crowded feel if there were just a few dozen people and not a couple of thousand (I guess).  The crowding drives up the energy, of course.  And that’s the sort of thing I thoroughly enjoy.

Parts of the Feast are totally dominated by food vendor after food vendor.  The best of them are ones that are just extensions of the restaurants.  Lots of NYC restaurants dominate the sidewalks outside, but in the Feast they get to take over a lot of the street.

As I was exploring on Saturday, I became a bit discouraged with the situation.  I kept seeing a lot of standard NYC “street fair” vendors.  I see street fairs each and every weekend.  You wanna buy socks?  Wallets?  Linens?  The street fairs have them plus a lot of other boring stuff.  The fairs also have a lot of food vendors, typically dominated by gyro, smoothie, and crepe suppliers.  Boring and repetitive and not attractive to me.  And I was seeing some of these same food vendors at the Feast (thankfully, no sock and wallet guys).  One thing that the Feast of San Gennaro has done that’s warmed my heart is to not have that junk.  Instead, they are very ethnic.  And, yet here they were.

So, I wandered down to the lower reaches of Mulberry and thought I’d check out a bit of authentic Little Italy:  the Church.  When I’ve seen it before, they’ve had money next to the statue of the saint.  This time there was more.



I’d seen the bills attached to some cardboard before, but this time it was on the statue.

The statue of Mary was similarly bedecked.


So, I left on Saturday feeling a little discouraged.  The street vendors had busted through and it seemed to be a really nice version of a street fair, but a street fair nonetheless.

And then I went on Wednesday night and the Feast was back in order.  The vendors didn’t get up quite as near Houston as on Saturday, but it seems that most of the street fair places were gone.  Good.  (Hey, I know those people work hard but I see them everywhere on the weekends and the repetitiveness is not to my taste.)

Lots of games and other stuff for the kids.20070919-feast-of-san-gennaro-01-game.jpg

They didn’t seem to be doing the business they had on Saturday, but fewer kids were out on a school night.  That’s fine with me.






One character I certainly didn’t see on Saturday.


Two snakes, one iguana, and two parrots.  I would have noticed him Saturday, don’tchathink? 

And there was food.  And more food.  And a bit more.  And after that, more food.

The mainstay of the Feast of San Gennaro is?  (Answer:  sausage and peppers!)  It’s everywhere.


But don’t let the “peppers” fool you.  It’s about 95% onion.  They’ll put a few bell peppers on the top, but it’s onions all the way down.

Okay, what do you think this guy is selling?


It’s the other mainstays of the Feast:  zeppoles and calzones.

Now, zeppoles are a mainstay, but they ain’t the only choice for dessert.


The above is just one of many.  The cannoli people are everywhere, too.  I love me a good cannoli.

The Feast doesn’t cover a big area, but it covers the area it does have very tightly.  I do enjoy it and am delighted that my initial concern didn’t hold for the whole Feast time. 

I haven’t mentioned that it does encompass parts of some of the sidestreets, but it does.

And I’ve saved the “worst” for last.  Everyone reading this blog who has been to the Feast is wondering when I’m going to mention him.  Drown the clown.  Or, drown the insulting clown.  He’ s a clown figure who sits in a dunking booth and spews out minor insults to passerbys, or more directly at the people who are throwing baseballs at the lever to send him into the water.  As I was walking nearby on Saturday, I was right behind a family and the kids saw him and got excited.  “Mom” said something like “Oh, your father can’t stand him” and “Dad” responded “He always makes fun of my nose.”  The kids laughed and the last I saw they were on their way to try to drown the clown.


Taiwan Protest March in NYC

September 19, 2007

On Saturday, I was leaving my apartment to go to the Steuben Day Parade and saw a long line of marchers dressed mostly in green coming down 2nd Avenue and then turning west on 42nd Street.  It took me a moment to realize that this was a Taiwanese protest march that I had seen announced a few days ago.


They were very orderly, had a few chants, stayed on the sidewalk, and had a bunch of people.  I don’t think they’re going to ever get what they want, though.  They want to have recognition of their independence and a seat in the United Nations.  Not likely.  The U.S. is their best friend and even we oppose it.  Too bad.

Actually, I visited there long ago in 1972.  A beautiful island that had a lot of wonderful things for a teenager to see and buy (they didn’t recognize copyrights and you could buy a whole album for about 50 cents; you can imagine how many albums my brother and I brought back).  Whenever I mention my visit to a Taiwanese, he/she always, always, always says something like:  “It’s changed a lot from back then.  It doesn’t look like that anymore.”  It’s almost scary.

Some more pictures of the group.  I’ve no idea of the size, but they stretched way, way out.




I feel for their situation.  They’re an extremely prosperous nation with a wild and wooly democratic system that occasionally includes fistfights in their government’s chambers.  And the rest of the world thinks of them as a rebellious region of mainland China.  Just like Chechnya, which is what these protesters really fear. (For the reasons of that fear, see here and here.)


Ankling to Harlem’s African-American Day Parade

September 18, 2007

You can’t keep me out of Harlem too long.  And I had a great excuse for going back:  a parade.

A strange parade.  A political parade.  A pretty fun parade.  The bad part:  it was on the same day as the Mexican Day Parade and one day after the Steuben Day Parade.  I was pretty much paraded out.  But I had to go, if only to complain about having too much to do on a NYC weekend.  And NYC can keep you very busy, even if you don’t go clubbing or whatever.  Hey, I’m cheap and the parades are free.

Another bit of bad news.  In the two days of parades, I had neglected to re-charge my camera’s battery.  It started getting low during the Mexican Day Parade and I had to conserve power.  That’s one of the reasons that my Mexican Day pictures were more sparse than the Steuben Day Parade and why this post will also have relatively fewer pictures.

On the other hand, the African-American Day Parade had fewer can’t-miss-this-picture shots.  The parade was interesting, but the best parts were all about movement and it’s hard to capture the movement in a shot.

For example, one of the first sights was this group.  (REMEMBER, you can enlarge the photo by clicking it.)


Great music, but the dance sequence they did, where they all did a sort of “bust-out” move was unexpected and way too quick for me to capture.  I tried, but the move was sudden as they all moved to the side while playing.  They were a little distant from me when they did it.  I waited for another, but no-go.

Some of the costumes were great.  There was a lot of Egyptian motif stuff at the parade.  This group had the best of the costumes, but they weren’t alone.



Note the group toward the back.  Recognize what they’re carrying?


Yeah, Anubis and Sobek and others….escorting a version of the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant.  A little bizarre bit of mix and match, methinks.  (You know it’s the Ark because of the Cherubim are on it.  Yeah, Famous Ankles knows of the cherubim.)

One of the more disconcerting moments came shortly after the Egyptians.  It was a pretty small group, but very loud.  They were calling for reparations in a call-and-response with a bullhorn.  Some members of the crowd joined in, not many.  But when people start calling out “They stole us, they owe us” with me there, I get a little uneasy.  Hey, I didn’t do it, folks.  They also showed signs saying “Mugabe is right”, and I’m no fan of the president of Zimbabwe. 


A couple of them were really photogenic and I would have loved a photo.  But I thought it was the better part of disgression….

They also were calling for Harlem to be left alone (“They are pushing us out of Harlem” was repeated on the bullhorn a number of times).  They don’t want it developed.  Sorry, folks, but that ain’t gonna happen.  Harlem’s way too interesting to be left a backwater.

The African-American and the Steuben Day Parades both shared a large measure of traditional parade type displays.  I really, really liked this group on all levels.


“Miss Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens” all done up and looking very retro.  Very cool.  There was a larger group behind them.  The most fun part is that they had developed their own way of waving to the crowd.  It looked very much like a variation on how Queen Elizabeth does is (by holding the hand and wrist steady and just twisting the forearm).  There was a slight other arm movement that I can’t quite remember, but I think you can tell I had a fine moment waving to them.

The majority of the parade was civic minded, very unlike the Mexican Day Parade.  There were several groups with similar name variations.  The first and the one that the crowd seemed to cheer the most was called “100 Black Men“.  It was a pretty well spread-out group so I only got a quick photo (and my battery was showing near empty).  There were groups with names like 100 Black Women and, I think, 100 Black Young Men.


There were a couple of African Chieftan versions.


The guy above never looked in my direction.  I kept waiting for a good shot, but apparently he knew some people on the other side as he greeted one guy and two children with him.  But the guy below was a big hit with the crowd.


It was a very traditional parade in another way:  politics.  They were everywhere in the parade.  Anthony Weiner did show up.  He didn’t have a bullhorn so I guess it wasn’t his favorite kind of parade.  I’ve noticed he has a trick when he goes without the bullhorn:  he does a lot of running.  He’ll meet and greet members of the crowd (always being followed by a staffer with a sign saying “Meet Congressman Anthony Weiner”) and then he’ll suddenly take off at a sprint to a distant part across the street.

In other politics, there was a group that did a Hillary Clinton versus Barak Obama question that was kind of loaded.


The backs of the shirts said “Let the people decide between Clinton and Obama” and some placards that read something like “Who says that Clinton represents us?” or something like that. 

As I always say, the crowd is half the show.  One thing about this crowd was they had no compunctions about their comfort or in making themselves heard.


Notice the chairs.  Lots of the first spots next to the barricades were held by people who had brought chairs from home.  Some were nice chairs, some wicker, some were cheap.  But all looked relatively comfortable.  For a while, I stood behind a woman who had a chair that looked designed for the day.  Lightweight, with a high back and even a cupholder.  I was rather envious.

The crowd did a fair amount of whooping and cheering.  Lots of whistles and the like.  Behind me, there was a line of vendors plying their trade.  A lot of people would get up from their chairs to grab something to eat/drink and then go back to their seats.  You can’t do that at most parades as people will stand where you were standing.


There were a number of other groups.  Lots of civil service groups, including the transportation workers.  Well, I’ve seen them at other parades, but they never paraded with a bus!


 Actually, they had two.  There were large groups of police marchers, corrections officers, sanitation workers, and educators.


The group below is associated with some civic group called “North Star”.  It was more than the wheelchair group, but they were the most interesting part of it.


The Muslims were present, too.  But I noticed very few Christian Church groups.  In fact, I only spotted one.  It was the only group that was calling for peace in Darfur.  I would have expected more mention of Darfur, but I think I only saw one other placard in a different group.

The NAACP had a fair sized group under the banner of “Legislate justice for all.”  (I don’t think a lawyer wrote that slogan.)  There was a cancer survivors group and a HIV-awareness group.

McDonalds sponsored a dance group, complete with Ronald McDonald.  The dancers were great, but Ronald was the crowd favorite in that group.

There was one very odd group:  Brahma Kumaris.  They appeared to be almost all of India nationality.


One odd group (hey, it’s a NYC parade and it needs lots of “odd groups”) was some bodybuilders and physical fitness types who carried a pullup bar and did exhibitions of strength.


A bunch of them also did pushups and some general running around.  No placards identifying them, but they did appear to be a Muslim group.

Another group identified with American Indians.  They didn’t mention any tribal identifiers so I don’t know if it is an official association with them or not.


You know, I’ve gotten this far and barely mentioned the music!  It was loud and continuous.  There were lots and lots of marching bands and quite a few radio stations blaring out rap and the like.  Fun stuff, I just wish I had remembered ear plugs.  I think everyone can enjoy every kind of music at a parade, it passes by quickly and is often replaced by something altogether different.  The crowd was into it.  You could always spot someone doing some bouncing/dancing to the music.

I did mention the vendors.  I walked the parade route from 125th down to 110th (it actually did go up to around 140th – it’s a big parade).  There were vendors all along the way.


They sold everything.  For a while there was a young girl walking back and forth calling our what was for sale.  Always one item only (an air horn or camera were what she was selling).  She seemed to be doing a good business.

After a while, the sun was getting too much.  I ended up close to the beginning point of the parade where there was some nice shade.


I finally ended up walking through the setup area of the parade and on the other side I saw an unusual sight.


I don’t know if they had been at the very beginning of the parade and I missed them, but saw them coming back to load up; or whether they were scheduled to go later on.  In either case, I was tuckered out and needed to go home.  And did.

Overall, a wonderful parade.  Big and loud with a crowd to match.

When I first contemplated doing three parades in the weekend, I thought about ranking them.  The more I thought about it the more I realized such a ranking couldn’t capture the ways that the groups attempted to portray themselves to the viewers and to their peers.  Each had elements that I really liked, but for different reasons; and each had points that I couldn’t really get into.  But they’re free and they’re the creation of a whole host of individuals who are just trying to put forth their best face.  And I think they do.