Archive for the ‘Wanderings’ category

Film Shooting on Sixth Avenue

August 15, 2008

Every so often when you’re walking around, you run across a film crew. This happened last weekend when I was on 6th Avenue near 52nd Street. I was on the west side and I noticed a huge group of people on my side looking directly across the street. I looked and saw the following sight:

Yeah, it doesn’t really stick out that much, does it? If you look a little closer, you can see a cameraman and some guy holding a big reflector. Okay, I did a little zooming in.

The next shot is actually during some of the filming. It only took about a minute and then they started to just sort of standaround and discuss whatever it is that they needed to talk about.

I tried to figure out who they were and whether it was a movie, TV, or commercial. I seriously doubt it was a movie. Generally, you can spot the trucks and the caterers and all those guys just up from the filming. It’s possible they were around a corner, but if it was a movie then it may have been some ancillary shots or maybe a smaller budget shoot. I’ve seen some movie stuff where there were entire semis stationed around all over the place.

It could have been a commercial. If so, its the one of the first times I saw any action on a commercial. They do a lot of preparation.

My guess; a TV shot. Maybe Law and Order or something like that. In any case, it just goes to show that we are all unreasonably besotted by the entertainment business. There wasn’t really anything to see but we all stood and watched; and I even got a post out of it.

Whatever.

Minor point: the area they were filming in is filled with tall buildings and several big plazas. I’m sure it was put to good use. If I ever see it on the screen, though, I guarantee that I won’t realize that I may have seen the live version.

-H

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Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village

August 14, 2008

At the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street in Greenwich Village sits a very beautiful building. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a church.

When I first did a little bit of exploring, I found that it was actually a former courthouse and library and who-knows-what-else. It has quite a few plaques on it describing what it was and the like, but I don’t know if it is functional in any capacity nowadays.

As you can see from the above, it does have the “New York Public Library” carved into some of its stones and there’s a plaque below it that details its use as such. But its when you go to the front that you find the best plaques. I only present one of them below. It details the history of the Jefferson Market Courthouse and says it was “designed along Victorian Gothic lines by Vaux & Withers. Was constructed in 1876 and served as the women’s court until 1932.” There’s a little more to it, but it is pretty standard stuff.

Another plaque actually details the names of the bell ringers. The plaque is from 1996 and details the names and hourly times of the people who ring the bell. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it ring, so I don’t know if it is still functioning.

One thing I’ll say about it, other than what a grand building it is: I don’t ever recall not seeing it surrounded by scaffolding! Ever. It just seems to be in perpetual repair or perhaps I don’t wander by often enough.

-H

Abingdon Square Park in Greenwich Village

August 13, 2008

Somewhere in Greenwich Village…okay, at the corner of 12th Street and 8th Avenue…is Abingdon Square Park. It’s pretty nondescript, but is graced with a Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I’ve been by there a few times and the place is pretty traditional for NYC parks. It’s nice, well attended, and lots of seating.

Another thing it has is a statue to local soldiers who fought and died in World War I. It’s not particularly disconcerting, but I always smile about war statues when I’m in Greenwich Village, one of the last enclaves of the counterculture. Or it would be if it hadn’t been thoroughly involved in the real estate runup of the past couple of decades. Expensive homes in the area, don’t-ya-know?

Like I said, well-maintained and rather lush with plantlife. Notice the flagpole in the next picture. It has a sign saying it was dedicated in 1933 by the Michael J. Lynch V.F.W. in memory of “our departed comrades.” It’s a nice and useful item in the park.

The farmers’ market is not in the square itself. Instead, it surrounds the park by being on the encompassing sidewalk. As such, it isn’t a particularly large market, but it seemed rather popular with the locals that day.

-H

2008 Dominican Day Parade in NYC – Part 2

August 12, 2008

This is the second of two posts on the Dominican Parade.

The next picture was just one of those things. This guy may have been associated with some group, but I sure can’t figure out who. He and another cyclist were in an open area of the parade and they just kept doing some circling around in the street while waiting for the cross traffic at 46th to go by. In the meantime, this guy was doing the same trick again and again. He was pretty good at it, but it was obvious that he was still practicing. I gotta admit that I enjoyed the trick even though he seldom could hold the position for more than a moment.

A mambo group that didn’t mambo came through after the cyclist. But they didn’t dance at all while I was watching. The one photo that almost worked was accompanied by half the flag of my neighbor as she waved incessantly…so, no photo. Sorry.

Another group followed them that I sure don’t understand. It’s called “Grupo De Lechones” and had a sign mentioning Carnaval. Fine. But what were the Egyptian masks on the sign for? I just don’t understand. But I did like the weird skateboard used by one of the marchers. He’s below.

But following him was the parade highlight. I had seen these guys last year and just thinking of what they did raises the little hairs on the back of my neck. They were the “beasties” I mentioned in yesterday’s post, but beasties with weapons! Well, sort of. They had bullwhips and they were cracking those whips constantly. These weren’t little snaps and the like. They were loud and…well, they were really loud and close to the crowd at times.

The next picture shows one of the close ones. These guys were vigorous in their whipcracking. And very skilled. And loud.

The next picture shows two of my favorite beasties. (I have no other name for them and I kinda like “beastie”.) The guy on the left was very friendly and came over and was posing and talking with some of the people to my left. The guy on the right had the most interesting hat in the entire parade.

I enjoyed the next group that followed, too. It was a Dominican Tae Kwon Do group that did some moves and the like in front of us. The best part was what I took the picture of: one of the more skilled guys (I presume) leapt over the hand-held sign and broke a board being held by one of his fellows. A nice little trick, and very effective.

The group itself had people of a wide range of ages. Quite a few kids.

There was even a mention of the Iraq War issue by some military members and their families. The next picture shows some people carrying a picture and placard. The sign held by the soldier and the family(?) members are identical and state “I am Boricua Air Force Reserve Sgt. Daniel Jorge and I am headed to Iraq. Please don’t forget the sacrifice of my military borthers Dominican soldiers Alex Jimenez, Juan Alcantara and Marine Rian Tejada and Columbian Jonathan Rivadineira and pray for my safe return.” God bless you, them, and your families.

Incidentally, “Boricua” seems to be a word for the Puerto Rican people.

Some more beasties. Ah, they were ever present in the parade and I got so few good shots of them. They are just so colorful and weird that I don’t know why it really doesn’t come out better.

During much of the parade, there were lots of political candidates present and/or being represented by lots of supporters. Except for Mayor Bloomberg, who had no overtly political signs around (he marched in the “dignitary” group); every single politician was a Democrat. But that’s so very typical of NYC. I really have no interest in showing their signs and the like, but two of the three usual group was in the parade: Charlie Rangel rode in his convertible and Anthony Weiner did his bullhorn bit. No sign of Chuck Schumer.

But the one political display I will show is the next picture. I just looked at it and laughed that State Senate candidate Monserrate viewed this as a parade vehicle. There were lots of his supporters around and I doubt the candidate was in this stretch limo, but I can’t resist putting this into the posting. I presume it is rented, but the idea of this being one of his vehicles is a hoot. How much do we pay State Senators here, anyway? (I googled it and it seems to be just below $80K, but it is only a part-time position.)

So, there was candidate after candidate. To tell you the truth, the weather was looking a bit iffy and I wasn’t very happy with the caliber of the displays. But then some dancers showed up and made me perk up. This group was quite good. As I always say, combining native costumes and dance is always a real plus in a parade.

There were some more floats and some were fine. There were politicians and money order businesses and the like. But after that last set of dancers it wasn’t until 14 minutes later than I found a group I enjoyed enough to write about: models. I think it was some sort of model school, but maybe not. The thing I really liked was something I really couldn’t capture: they spent a while standing and doing this sort of weird wave that reminds me of Queen Elizabeth when she waves to crowds. A sort of minimalist twist of the arm more than a wave. These young ladies were more than a little bored although one of them is giving me a bit of a saucy look. Well, maybe to someone on my right…

The parade itself was very good. Too many politicians. Not enough dancing. But those are quibbles. The crowd’s enthusiasm was wonderful and a sight to behold. The ear-splitting cheers and flag waving and the like were a delight. It’s a good thing to be compared to the Puerto Rican Day Parade and this parade is getting into that class. It needs a few celebrities and maybe about 10 more decibels, but that’s probably about all.

-H

2008 Dominican Day Parade in NYC – Part 1

August 11, 2008

Sunday had the annual Dominican Day Parade on Sixth Avenue. Like last year, it was big, it was loud, it was loud, and it was loud. All in all, a good parade with an enormous amount of audience enthusiasm and, as can be expected, a lot of politics in an election year.

The parade did start on time. The crowd was large, but I did manage to get a front row position. That’s the good news. The bad is that I was right next to a young Dominican lady somewhere between 15 and 19 years old (I’m guessing, of course). She seems to have spent the previous year in a training program in professional screaming. And wild flag waving. She must have been tops in her class. My right ear is still suffering. And about 1/3 of my pictures ended up with part of her flag in it.

The parade started with cops on horses and cops on motorcycles; but my first picture was one of the highlights of the parade. These horses have some sort of equestrian training. They took very quick little steps in a prancing motion. Very cool, and impossible to capture in a picture.

The horses were followed (at a discrete distance) by the dignitaries including Mayor Bloomberg.

And that group was followed by some guy who appears to be the king ‘o the parade. I presume he’s a local character of some sort or the figure may be some sort of cultural icon. In either event (or neither), he got a lot of enthusiastic yells from the crowd. Of course, with this crowd you could have walked an chewed gum and the audience would have been leaping in joy. They were really, really wired up for this parade. And that’s the fun in parades. Almost never the participants alone, but in the give and take between paraders and watchers.

Goya foods is one of the big supporters of the parade. They had a number of floats. As is the Famous Ankles tradition, beauty queens get pictured. Here’s the first of many.

One of my best memories from last year’s parade was centered on what I can only think of as “beasties”. These are some sort of devil critters that seem to be very prominent in the culture. Whoever creates the costumes can be proud of how imaginative they are. There were lots and lots of beasties. Some of them came over very near me. Some will show up later; others are pictured with a young lady’s flag between them and my viewpoint.

Well, here are some more Goya beauty queens. And I should mention that everytime you see a float; think in terms of 120 decibels of fun streaming from them. Very loud. Not quite Puerto Rican Day Parade loud, but getting close.

A dance troupe called “Little Dancers of Borinquen” performed very nicely. Ah, but discerning readers may note that Borinquen is in Puerto Rico, not the Dominican Republic. Hey, it’s a probably a case of any opportunity to dance in public to very loud music. The group’s picture below is just of the youngest, but there were young ladies of every age in the group and they all did just fine.

Well, we’ve gone long enough without some beauty queens. Here are two from the New York Daily News. Nice smiles, ladies. I really am pointing out the “beauty queen” bit here because it nearly vanished in the last half of the parade. That’s when things got a lot more political…and boring.

One of my favorite bits in any parade is native costumes matched with vigorous dancing. It’s one of those things that riles up the crowd just right and brings out the energy. There just weren’t enough of these groups in the parade, but I did appreciate the ones that were there. And the crowd did, too.

The next picture shows a child in one of the same sort of costumes as above. But there was something a little different. Right before she and the boy behind her came up was a man in the same costume doing a comedy act. Not a transvestite, but some sort of Milton Berle in drag sort of comedy routine that I saw a couple of times and made me think there was a cultural in-joke that the crowd knew, but I didn’t (well, except the comedy was broad enough for anyone to catch). The fact that these two followed them so closely had me thinking that they were part of it, but it’s hard for me to remember why I made that conclusion. She may have been just too young or too tired to do the dance routine and her proximity to the comic may have just been coincidental.

More dancers showed up. These ladies were great and very energetic. I have several pictures of them with the girl-to-my-right’s flag in front of them. She was a waving machine with them.

As always, I like to get a good photo of the crowd. It was big. I was around 46th Street which means this wasn’t anywhere near the most crowded part of the route and just look at them!

I’m going to finish this part of the coverage with another beauty queen. I haven’t any idea of who she is or what she represents. Okay, she’s representing the Dominican Republic and doing a very fine job of it.

There were still a number of big things to come in the parade. I’ll cover the most interesting ones of them in tomorrow’s post, but a lot of it became very political. Lots of politicians and their supporters. And every single one of them was a Democrat. Welcome to NYC, what did you expect?

-H

Jonas Brothers at Bryant Park for Good Morning America

August 8, 2008

Late yesterday I got a tip that there was something special going on. A friend from work called to let me know that the Jonas Brothers were going to be doing a concert in Bryant Park early Friday morning for Good Morning America.

Not news to me. I had already attended and blogged on the Chaka Khan show. I had heard that the Jonas Brothers were going to play.

The news was that the attendance was going to be overwhelming. I found out from my tipster that people were so eager to get in that they were camping around the park overnight.

Wow.

So just after 6am on Friday, I found myself wandering near Bryant Park to see this sort of thing. I say “near” because getting in would have entailed a long, long line with some very excited youngsters and their more tired parents.

The police had completely cordoned off the park area. I did manage to get within visual range of the stage (that’s it in the background in the above picture), but I couldn’t have stopped there as the fenced area I was in was strictly for walking through.

And there were cops everywhere stopping people from jumping the barricades. I don’t know how many times I heard a cop say, ever so politely, “EXCUSE ME!!!!! THIS IS NOT AN ENTRY AREA!!!!” All of the talking cops were graduates of the Big Booming Authoritative Voice University of Life. It got the line jumpers attention and acquiescence.

I did find the area that there were lots and lots of overnight sleepers.

I kept trying to get a shot that showed the people. Man, there were a lot of them. The next picture is about the best I got. Well, it is the best I got.

What I should have gotten was one visual that I saw when crossing the street. There was one mystified, slightly terrified, somewhat excited woman coming by and she was very tightly clutching the hands of two extremely excited and joyous young girls. It seemed to capture the moment.

Instead, I kept walking. I did an entire circuit of the park and the next photo is about as close as I could get to the stage.

As a bonus, I was getting ready to leave the area when I saw this bus pull up with a two car police escort. The windows, the few it had, were pretty opaque. However, as I was going, one girl in the company of some others seemed to spot someone in the back of the bus and just started squealing with joy and jumping with excitement. It coulda been them, but I really don’t know.

I only hope that the fans got their wish and had a great set with the Jonas Brothers. I’m not in their demographic so I really don’t know anything about them, but it seems like harmless fun for the kids and their parents and it may even be good music.

-H

Father Fagan Park in SoHo

August 7, 2008

I seem to be doing a lot of posts on squares and parks recently. I guess it comes from the lack of parades and my inveterate cheapness. Parks and squares are free to visit.

When I first spotted Father Fagan Park in SoHo, all I could think of was Fagin from Oliver Twist. That’s unfair to Father Fagan himself. He died in 1938 in a fire after saving two of his friends.

As parks go, this is one of the least “green” that I am aware of. It has some trees, but not many. I don’t think there’s a blade of grass on it. It’s all paved over.

The park is located at 6th Avenue and Prince Street, very close to the SoHo subway station. There’s a nice little bodega right there. I went in, but it was jammed so I left for less popular climes.

I’m so predictable in this next item: like virtually all NYC parks, it has lots of seating. Of course sitting next to busy 6th Avenue isn’t something I’d do to relax.

-H