Archive for May 2008

The Creative Little Garden in the LES

May 31, 2008

It’s so small that it’s easy to walk right by “The Creative Little Garden“. Yet, it is so nearly perfect that it may be my favorite garden in the City. It’s located at 503 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B. It’s a block away from Tompkins Square Park which makes it a little more unlikely to find as that park is a magnet for the locals.

I was surprised how quickly I took to it. Most of these community gardens are interesting only for a couple of minutes. But this one had me sitting and resting and reading in it for quite some time.

I don’t know how thin it is, but this picture was taken while sitting on the bench in the picture above.

From what I understand, there’s a long story behind the garden. The woman who founded it is said to have been a member of the French Resistance during WWII and something of a far-left radical once she got here. The other part is that there’s some connection between the garden and the Godfather movie. I read that the neighborhood was used for some of the exterior shots for that movie and some of the funds were used to create the garden.

Or it could all be a bunch of hoo-hah.

But it is a great little garden.

-H

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10th Street – A good street for a good street fair

May 30, 2008

I usually hate street fairs. If I need a pair of socks, I’ll go to a store. I don’t like to eat the food at them as it looks…a little unclean.

But there are some good street fairs. They’re the ones that keep out the sock merchants and the gyro places and the like. I’ve really only known one: in the West Village.

And now I know a second. The 10th Street street fair between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue was quite good and nicely done. They had a couple of the usual horrible merchants. But mostly it was artists and homeowners selling stuff out of their homes like a garage sale. Well, this was pretty good garage sale stuff.

I saw a bunch of LPs and the like. I think a number of the people were artists. The area is pretty artistic, so I presume that they were the participants.

The most interesting stuff was some presentations by actors and poets. They seem to be associated with the Theater for the New City, which is where each of them emerged from to give their recital. This guy was doing a Shakespearean-style speech. I came in late on it and didn’t recognize it. He seemed very sort of old-school Shakespearean. That is, very deliberate and systematic recital; a recital for a real audience and not for the inner muse sort of thing.

There were a couple of poets that came up afterwards. Very…typical. This poet gave a recital of a work about people who accomplish things and ends with a Wall Street type who is mulling over who to put out of business.  Bleh.

And then there was the poet in the picture below. He’s the very first poet I have ever heard who used sound effects as part of his recital. He seems to have hooked up some sort of echo process to the amplifier. It was nifty, but awfully artificial. Of course, maybe that was his point.

-H

Fleet Week and the USS Kearsarge – Part 2

May 29, 2008

It was Fleet Week. In yesterday’s post, I talked about the outside and the inside of the USS Kearsarge, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, or a LHD. It took me a while to find exactly what “LHD” stands for. I found it in a GAO report that states: “Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships are the Navy’s new class of amphibious assault ships to support a Marine landing force. These ships can accommodate three landing craft, AV-8B Harrier aircraft, and the full range of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters. Commissioned in 1989, the U.S.S. Wasp (LHD 1) is the lead ship of this new class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships. Between 1992 and 1998, the Navy added five more LHD ships to its fleet. LHD class ships can accommodate 104 officers; 1,004 enlisted sailors; and 1,894 Marine Corps troops.”

Anyway, I finally got to the flight deck. It is mildly impressive. Or massively impressive. Depending on if you can be impressed by something more than three football lengths long and holding really cool aircraft. But no Harriers. Unfair! I wanted to see me a Harrier. Anyway, I was ready to be impressed and was impressed. It’s just big.

In the above, not the small circles on the deck. More tie downs. These guys are serious about wanting to secure stuff when necessary.

There were several types of helicopters on display. Below is the CH-46 Sea Knight.

And then there was the MV-22B Osprey. It was at the front part of the flight deck. They allowed a walk-thru and I managed to get a picture of the cockpit. You weren’t allowed to sit up there, but it was cleared for viewing.

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft. Eventually, it may replace many/most/all of the helicopters. It has a lot more range and a lot more speed than the copters. I, for one, am still a bit concerned about them. I think the Osprey was cancelled at one point due to concerns over the complexity of the engineering and testing failures. They seem to have worked them out, but you never know.

Here’s the view from next to the Osprey. I really like the view of the conning tower from here.

There wasn’t free reign to wander around. Lots of secured areas. I imagine all the coolest stuff is behind here…but then the Osprey itself is awfully cool. There were a number of secured areas below and no ability to see the crew quarters and the like.

But the coolest I saw was the MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter. This one is used in sea rescue. I talked with one of the guys doing the public relations stuff. He was a Navy rescue jumper. Yeah, one of the guys who jumped into the ocean to rescue people. We talked for a while. He was still in training (it’s about a 1.5 year course) and had done a lot of interesting stuff. The biggest seas he’s jumped into? About five or six foot swells. If it’s only your head above water, them’s mountainous waves. He expressed a lot of interest in getting into the artic training. That’s apparently the creme-de-la-creme of the job. Unreal stuff.

Just in case you don’t know, you’re warned…

After I left the ship, I was going through to the exit and saw something that interested me. The bomb disposal display. I talked with another of the crew. They had just gotten back from Iraq and had done a lot of work finding and disposing of bombs. Nicely done, guys.

I don’t know their names, their classifications, or anything about them. The below ships weren’t set for tourist like me. I presume they are cruisers.

As I was walking away, there was an overflight. No, they didn’t land on the carrier.

-H

Fleet Week and the USS Kearsarge – Part 1

May 28, 2008

Memorial Day weekend always marks NYC’s Fleet Week where New York is visited by Navy ships and sailors and Marines are spotted everywhere. It reminds you how casual the city is and how grimy the streets are when you see the sailors in their blinding white uniforms.

This year, the City was visited by the USS Kearsarge, a helicopter/Osprey/Harrier carrier. As Navy carriers go, it’s no Nimitz-class ship; but it is big. Baby, it is big!  (844 feet long and 106 wide.)

Even the entrance-way is huge. Forgive my poor picture taking. There’s just no way to do justice to this ship without special equipment and a lot more talent than I have.

Getting in was a little tough. The ship was all the way on the West Side at 12th Avenue. You had to go through security and their metal detectors seemed to be pretty sensitive. At least I didn’t go when it was really busy as I had to go through it three times. The last time I removed a nickel and two pennies from my pocket. That seemed to do the trick.

Once inside, it’s a whole world in there. They were all set up to give us a song and dance. Fortunately, there was no singing nor dancing. The crew was on their very best behavior. Everyone was unfailingly polite, courteous, and friendly.

Note the circular items on the floor/deck. They were everywhere. I found a crew member and asked about them. They are tie-down sites. Apparently they can be easily raised and used to secure anything and everything in the event of heavy seas.

They had lots and lots of weapons and equipment out for public inspection and the like. Look at this place. It’s huge, even though it is just an entryway to the downstairs/below area of even more stuff. That’s a ramp at the middle front of the picture and even it has tie down points. They are everywhere.

The Kearsarge is an amphibeous assault ship, in addition to its carrier duties. That meant there were boats within the ship. And there were a number of these boats. Some may have been ships.

This young man appears to be getting educated and maybe recruited. There was a virtual reality training system that he was testing out. It looked pretty cool.

And by amphibeous assault craft, we mean this guy. Big. Wow, it was big. If it didn’t have the weirdest ramp for getting into it, you’d think in was part of the carrier. It was that big. I think everyone had trouble getting up that ramp. It seemed designed to require the stiffest shoe soles that you could imagine. It was all about traction for the vehicles that would be loaded/offloaded from the craft.

Here’s another shot from the inside. You know what those fans mean? I think it means I was on a hovercraft.

They are proud of their work. Here’s their patch: Amphibeous Work Horse of the Fleet – Assault Craft Unit Two.

My next post will take us up onto the flight deck. That and a little bit more was the highlight of the visit.

The Kearsarge appears to be the only one of the ships that gave tours. There were a couple of cruisers (or whatever) docked nearby.

-H

Memorial Day at Kimlau Square

May 27, 2008

This is my second time going to Kimlau Square for a holiday observance. The first time was in 2006 when I was wandering through Chinatown on Veterans Day and ran into the American Legion performing an observance. I was thoroughly touched by it and thought I’d do the same thing this Memorial Day.

Kimlau Square is another name for NYC’s Chatham Square. It’s located in the depths of Chinatown. I knew the observance was at 12:30pm, but was surprised when I got there and saw virtually no one. There were a few other people scattered around, but we’re only talking five or ten people. I wasn’t the only caucasian, but I was certainly one of the few.

A bit late, the Vets arrived. It was a minor parade. I hadn’t expected that. I just thought they gathered and celebrated and then went to lunch.

It was just the American Legion. I didn’t expect and didn’t get fancy stuff. Just a small marching band, a color guard, and a bunch of veterans. Good enough for this day. More than good enough.

There were a series of speakers. The one below was the main guy (I think he was the head of the American Legion outpost). There was also an Assemblywoman and a Supreme Court (of NY) judge. All Chinese Americans and all speaking in English. It was interesting in that. When I was standing around with other people waiting for the events, most of them were speaking Chinese. Once the veterans showed, everything was in English. I’m sure some spoke in Chinese amongst themselves, but I didn’t hear any. (And some were a bit chatty. Respectful, but they did do some schmoozing.)

Here are some of the dignitaries.

I don’t know how many vets were there. Maybe 70 to 90? Maybe.

The best moment came when the judge was speaking and he called out for a show of hands for those who served in the different wars. He called out WWII (a few), Korea (quite a few), Vietnam (a whole bunch), Persian Gulf 1 and 2 (some). When he called out “Korea”, an older vet near me whooped out “That’s mine!!!!” and started waving and kicked up his feet. I wish I had been quicker with my camera. It was a good moment.

I like this last picture. The arch has the text “In memory of the Americans of Chinese ancestry who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy.”

Lt. Benjamin R. Kimlau (class of Dewitt Clinton High School 1937) was a Navy pilot killed in WWII. I really have never thought of the square as Chatham Square.  To me it is and always will be Kimlau Square, a place that I wandered past one day and stuck around for a very memorable Veterans Day and now for an equally memorable Memorial Day.

-H

Memorial Day

May 26, 2008

My family was military. At least, my dad and brother made it their life’s work. Neither died in battle and so aren’t really honored by this day, at least formally.

And the military didn’t begin with them. My Grandpa, a man I barely remember, was also military; at least for a lot of his life. And he came close to being a formal part of Memorial Day.

Here he is in 1918. Second row, second from the left. This is the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics in Illinois (I can’t read the name of the place but it looks like “Champanoy”) on May 1, 1918.

Here’s another picture of him with another group of pilots. This photo was taken July 29, 1932. He’s in the back row, fourth from the left. (The first guy with part of his head in front of the prop.)

He did have a very nasty accident in an airplane. Below is the front page of the Detroit Times from February 20, 1933. That’s him in his hospital bed and that’s his aircraft (and another guy’s) as a complete wreck. It reads that Captain Henry M. Tunis and Lt. Raymond D. Robison collided and both had to take to their parachutes after a mid-air collision. They were flying in formation and at about 3,000 feet they veered together and collided. My grandfather broke his shoulder and the other pilot suffered some lacerations. Both men were members of the Air Corps Reserves and were keeping up with their flying hours through weekly flights.

He was a good pilot with a lot of hours. But he almost became one of the “no old bold pilots” that day and would have left a wife and eight-year old son in the midst of the Depression.

-H

Bad Apple in the Big Apple

May 25, 2008

We’ve all seen the cool Ipod ads from Apple. You know the ones: the dancing silhouettes. Very funky, right? Nah. It’s not even close. They are as stodgy and as corporate as an ad for a Ford truck. At least, that’s what came to mind when I was wandering through a very, very cool area of the Lower East Side and saw that Apple had put up a billboard right on top of some local art.

Tell the truth. Which is better? Which is the true bit o’ “art” here? I don’t think it is even close.

Look at all the local art and how the Apple ad doesn’t even begin to fit in. Who’d a thunk that Apple would look so…horrid?

You know the solution someone will find, don’t you? White paint on the old stuff and a few more corporate ads that pay the owner as opposed to the local art. I’ll be sad to see it go. And go it will, don’tchaknow?

Come to think of it, for Manny’s Auto Repair, a Ford truck ad wouldn’t be bad. Not if the same artist did it.
-H