Archive for October 2007

The Hispanic Columbus Day Parade Part 2

October 17, 2007

My previous posting on the Hispanic Columbus Day Parade was a little longer than expected, but for someone who was there for only about half of the parade, I sure have a lot more to show.

This post will concentrate on the period costumes and the dancers.  I don’t know yet whether it will be one or two posts.  Let’s just say that there were a lot of reasons to take a lot of pictures.

The first part of the parade had little music.  There were a lot of delays between the groups and I was a little depressed at how sedate it was all going.  Over time, the energy began to ramp up until it was…well, a great little parade going on.

First, the costumes and the dancers were highly correlated.  At first, there were some people posing nicely in native national dress.

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And there were occasional floats, including this odd one that had a small secret packed in there (the second picture)

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The secret:  kids in costume.

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The costumes/native dress were straight out of the picture books.

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And other times they were just wildly, wildly colorful.  That was especially true with the dancers…and kids like the following.

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But it was the dancers that really showed their stuff.  The only real problem I had was that I could never figure out who was from where.  It seemed like Bolivia showed up a lot.  But some were obviously from some other countries.  It actually doesn’t matter.  What mattered was their enthusiasm and it was great.  Another item that was great was that all ages and types were part of the routine.

Here a few pictures of some of the dancing sequences.

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The thing that was amazing is that they just kept coming and coming and coming.  And they all seemed to be absolutely independently costumed.

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Oh, and high-heeled.  These ladies danced their way for a couple of miles…except they kept going back and forth across the street so that added a lot of distance for them.

The ones you’ve seen so far are just small groups, but sometimes they came in much larger numbers.

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Colorful, colorful, colorful.

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Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Stay tuned for part 3.

-H

The Hispanic Columbus Day Parade (Part 1)

October 16, 2007

I didn’t have high expectations of the Hispanic Columbus Day Parade, but I’m happy to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.  Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the whole thing.  For the second time in two weeks, I just got weary of the standing around.  It was cool and windy, which were a little irritating two hours in (I was only in a long-sleeved shirt) but the fact that it started 90 minutes late (and I got there 30 minutes before that) that was the deciding factor.

Anyway, enough complaining about how the NYC dot gov “events calendar” got yet another parade time wrong!  In any event, it looks like parade season is slowing down so that’s becoming a moot point.

Back to the parade.  This was one of your top-of-the-line Fifth Avenue parades that starts at 44th Street and goes up to 86th.  That takes it right past Central Park.  I wasn’t up that high.  In fact, I stood at 57th right outside the Apple Store and right across the street from the Plaza Hotel (still closed for huge renovations).

The crowd was pretty good, but the cool wind may have kept a lot of others away.  The crowd waxed and waned during the parade, but it was never close to being deserted.

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It started in typical fashion:  cops on horses, and then a parade standard:  a marching band from Mother Cabrini High School.  They’re good, but sometimes you wonder if the poor kids in that band ever get to have a weekend to themselves.

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I’m expecting to break this parade into two parts, so let me get something off my chest before I get into the typical descriptions that I do.

Hispanic Columbus Day?  As opposed to Columbus Day?  At first blush, I sympathize:  the Italians have co-opted Columbus Day and turned it into their celebration.  But it was Spain that sent Columbus.  The people of Central and South America want their own parade to celebrate and that’s great with me.  But why call it “Columbus Day” as Columbus was definitely not there for the two hours or so that I observed.  The closest they came was in the name of the country of Columbia.  No mention of Christopher at all.  It is a reaction to the perception of his being the spoiler of pristine cultures (not that I accept that view, myself)?  As you’ll see in some of the pictures, there’s very little of the European descent in a lot of the participants, but I’m not the one who named the parade after the guy they are ignoring.

End of my minor rant.  You know, I’ve done two complaints so far, which is a bit ridiculous.  The parade was fine.  In fact, it was mighty fine.  The crowd looked pretty sedate, and mostly remained sedate; but I tell you that the marchers made up for it.  I don’t know if there was something special about being at the location I was at, but when the bulk of the parade came by there was a bit of a “dance storm”.  You just couldn’t hold those folks back.  They were terrific and their enthusiasm was more than enough to make up for being late or ignoring the parade’s namesake.

I said the crowd was “pretty sedate”.  There was one character who wasn’t.  Not even close.  This guy went the extra mile in showing his enthusiasm.  Did he dance?  No.  Did he call out to the crowd?  Nope.  Did he wear a funny costume?  No…but he had enough piercings to qualify.  So, what did he do?  Well, he played the conch.  Yep, a conch shell.  I don’t know how many times the guy let loose with it, but well over a dozen.  The poor guy would get so red in the face that you’d worry for him.

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The little girl and I share and appreciation of a unique enthusiast.  I wouldn’t have any for someone blowing a horn or, worse, using an air horn.  But a conch blower?  That’s class.

Of course, how that item coincides with some of the cultures (including the landlocked Bolivians who took up a huge portion of the marchers that I saw) is a bit problematic.  Nonetheless, it was great.

One of the first marchers was a bit of a herald for what was to come…Bolivians.   Yeah, that’s what she was advertising…Bolivians.

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The parade started with a lot of the usuals:  delays between floats, a lack of music (until the dancers showed up), and the usual groups of unrecognizable (to me) dignitaries.

It also had that very Hispanic sort of group:  bagpipers.

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But these bagpipers were unique:  no kilts!  They didn’t even have a tartan!  Has the bagpipe truly transcended cultures?  Actually, I’d say it has.

Other significant items the parade had were cars.  And these cars had a difference.  I don’t know if this is some sort of cultural issue, but their hoods almost always looked like this:

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Sometimes, like the above, it was household knickknacks like the llamas and musical instruments.  But I seemed to notice a lot of them with kitchenware.  The next one is from Argentina.

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There were quite a few beauty queens (they were always referred to as “Reina”).  Here’s one of the few named ones:  Mayra Alexandra.

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Here’s another:  Elizabeth Vila.

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The Daily News’ beauty queen.

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A queen from Argentina.  (She was perched in a car that was advertising a Honda dealership.)

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 The next were from Chile.

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And from Ecuador…or is it Equador?  No matter:  they had two.

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And some young “reinas” who may have been Ecuadorian/Equadorian.

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And some from El Salvador.

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And, also from El Salvador, Reina Margarita Martinez.

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Much like the “Miss Polonias” of my previous posts (here and here), these nations just love to show off their attractive young ladies.  And we just love being shown off to.

So, it is at least two posts.  Tomorrow I hope to post the native costumes and dancers.  They were so very, very, very good.

-H

A Battery Park Ankle

October 15, 2007

Battery Park is southern Manhattan.  That is, it’s south of everything else in Manhattan.  You can say it has several parts:  the wooded and pathway-rich park, a section of monuments including the battery itself, and the waterfront.

I don’t know quite how large it is, but it’s a very cozy park with relatively little noise and the only traffic one typically notices is the boat traffic.

Typical of NYC parks, there are lots of trees.

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And some interesting statues and monuments.  The most recent one is probably “The Sphere”.

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Its a remnant from the World Trade Center.  It was in the WTC’s plaza for nearly 30 years and was badly damaged at 9/11.  In 2002, an eternal flame was lit (not a good picture of that, but it’s at the lower left).

There’s a nice traditional statue of John Eriksson, the inventor of the screw propeller and the designer of the Union Ship “Monitor”, the Union’s iron-clad.  That’s a model of the Monitor in his left hand (it’s nickname was “the cheesecake on a raft”, which just goes to say that the word “cheesecake” is very different 140 years later).

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The namesake of the park, the battery, is a circular structure that was being used to issue ferry tickets when I was there, so I didn’t get inside.  There are spots for the large cannon, as I recall.

There’s also a huge monument to World War II’s soldiers, sailors, and marines that died “in US Coastal waters.”  the names of those that died are listed by their military branch (Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Army-Air Force).  This picture captures only about half the monument.

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Here’s a closeup of one of the stones.  You can see that it’s a lot more than just names.

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In the center of this stone monument is an eagle statue.

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The text at the bottom reads “1941 * * * 1945   Erected by the United States of American in Proud and Grateful Remembrance of Her Sons Who Gave Their Lives in Her Service and Who Sleep In The American Coastal Waters of the Atlantic Ocean    INTO THY HANDS, O LORD”

Now that’s an inscription!

Finally, there’s the waterfront.  It’s very nice, lots of seating, and a view worth traveling for.

Here’s the walkway.

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And a couple of pictures of the view.  First, the Statue of Liberty.

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And Ellis Island.

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-H

CultureFest 2007 in Battery Park

October 14, 2007

Just a quick post on Saturday’s wandering down to Battery Park.  I’ll be posting more on that area soon, but Battery Park is at the absolute southern tip of Manhattan.  The “Battery” is actually the site of an old fort that protected Manhattan from enemy navies, should they want to invade (and, on occasion, they did).  Nowadays, it’s a wonderful little park and a jumping off point to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Anyway, every year the city holds an event called CultureFest.  It’s actually a pleasant and popular event with an emphasis on kids.  Not that it is geared toward kids, but that there are definite kid-friendly items including some of the bigger names.

Mostly, the event is a place that national cultural centers love to exhibit their paraphenalia.  Mostly, that’s just brochures, but it can veer off into actual items.  Some of the national groups that exhibited this year were the French, Irish, Germans, Japanese, Spainish, Chinese, Mexican, and Tibetian.  Some not-quite one-nationalities also exhibited like a Carribean group, a Hispanic group, and Scandinavia House.  I was speaking with the woman working the Scandinavia House exhibit and, noticing her very black hair, asked if she were a descendent.  “No,” she answered, “all the real Scandinavians are working today.”  I just loved that response.

And then there were the museums.  I’m not even going to try to name them.  Dozens.  All sorts of museums (to re-classify such things as zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens in addition to more traditional museums) were there, but all they had were brochures and kid stuff.  Lots of kid stuff for them.

The fest was performed along a series of walkways within the park.  Each of the groups had their own white tent.  It was pretty nicely done.

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There were also some exhibits.  The flax works were moderately popular.  Okay, for me it was fascinating.  I’ve seen it before, but the process and the results are fun to watch.

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The woman would pull the flax through the nails and it would slowly align all of the strands.  Eventually, it looked like hair (that’s a final sample drapped around her neck).  This would later be spun and woven to become linen.  It seemed like a lot of work.

There was a small group of these Historic Richmond Town re-enactors.  At one point, they did a little dance performance.

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I didn’t think of it at the time, but I don’t know the time period they are enacting.  When I first saw them, I thought instantly of the Amish so that was sort of the mindset I had for them, although I knew they were acting.  Later, I saw one of the their number, in full costume, going by carrying some Starbucks for the group.  It was a moment of cognitive dissonance that made me smile.

My favorite moment of the wandering was a very simple one.  I was looking at a Battery Park Conservancy group’s exhibit and the two of them and I started conversing.  Just a very simple conversation where they talked about how much better the weather was than it had been the previous day.  Their friendliness was very engaging and they really seemed to be happy to have all of the people wandering around their park.  Nothing notable was said, but their attitude was really pleasant.  New Yorkers are really nice people. 

-H

Ankling to Herald Square in Manhattan

October 13, 2007

Just a short post to point out a famous landmark in Manhattan:  Herald Square.

You know it from “Give My Regards to Broadway” by George M. Cohan and the line that says “remember me to Herald Square” sung by Jimmy Cagney (okay, that was in the movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy”).  But, what’s the deal behind it?

Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid with the streets going east-west and the avenues going north-south.  There’s the one big exception:  Broadway.  Broadway goes mostly north-south, but with an east-to-west drift.  The grid makes square blocks, but everytime that Broadway crosses an avenue, it causes one of more “splinters” of the blocks to be left over and those bits and pieces are called “squares”.  I’ve yet to see one that’s square, and most of them are pretty much smallish islands.  Of course, Times Square is the most famous (where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue), but Herald Square is probably second (where Broadway crosses 6th Avenue).

Here’s a picture of it from just north.

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Nobody would call it big, but they have put some effort to making it look good.

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The square is named after the old newspaper “The New York Herald”, just like Times Square is named after The New York Times.  Well, the Herald is long gone, but the Times is still around (however, the Times is moving its operations a little more distant from its current 43rd Street location to 41st Street and a bit further west from where it is now).

Anyway, Herald Square does have a famous neighbor:  Macy’s.

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The square’s tower is a monument and celebrates…the New York Herald (actually, its founders).

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A closeup of the plaque at the bottom.

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You may need to click the picture to be able to read it.

-H