Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Summers Are Made Of

The best season ever is off to a great start (and by start, I mean the equinox was only 2 weeks ago). In and OUT of the city. The rain finally stopped, leaving us lots of lush grass in the now smoke-free parks, and millions of happily breeding mosquitos. Kudos, bloodsuckers! I don't even care. After dealing with your much more aggressive cousins near the equator, you don't bother me. To emphasize the 'OUT of the city' part, I ask, have you ever been to Tuxedo, New York? There is not much going on there. The houses (ahem, mansions) are gorgeous to drive by, and the town is very small and like a true city slicker I will say totally quaint and adorable. But what is the star of this part of this great state, would be Sterling Forest.

I spent all of yesterday torturing my legs on its 4 mile hiking trail around Sterling Lake. I know, sounds like a walk in the park? WRONG! The friendly ranger at the visitor center (who for some reason assumed I knew what I was doing, and mentioned bass season just started like 'well, I'm sure you already knew that') said it's a lovely little trail, that will take you all around the lake and back to where you start. A great loop to see the best of the park.

Childhood favorite. Calvin and Hobbes. There's Treasure Everywhere.
As a 9 year old, I never understood some of the five-dollar words in that comic.
But maybe it was better that way.

The first two miles were easy enough. Pacing ourselves, not in a hurry, stop and find a place to fish with little dinky rods we had in tow, eat some grapes, whatever. But the last 2 miles were a vertical climb.. in Keds.. up rocky slopes to the very tip top of a mountain, where we weren't even rewarded with a view of all the land we just conquered. Just an even more dangerous hike downhill. On rocky slopes.

***for those of you taking time to read this, click on some links, they are there for your viewing pleasure, and they're funny. so use them. especially if you are killing time at work***

Okay, I'm complaining. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, warm breeze, perfection. In retrospect I'm being a bit of a baby, because today my legs hurt a little, but yesterday was really amazing. It was so refreshing to get out of the city, and remember what silence and stillness sounds like, feels like, smells like. Dripping sweat and not caring, because hello, I'm in the middle of the woods, and chipmunks don't care if I reek, and eagles don't mind if I've sweat off all my make up. Because nature doesn't judge. It's like a child (under age 4) or a trustworthy blind person. Or Paula Abdul on American Idol. She didn't really judge, just smiled and nodded to whatever Randy and Simon said.

Doesn't this look like the Mufasa of chipmunks?
That IS Pride Rock

I know I said in a previous post that for a while I'd just be documenting my loafing around. But here I've attempted to connect some important artwork to the beauty witnessed in everyday life. No, I do not see nature like this everyday. But some (most) people do, and that is a wonderful thing. Just don't rub it in our urban noses!

The scenery up here was like something out of a John Constable painting.
Minus the livestock.

Flatford Mill (a scene on a navigable river) John Constable 1817

SO many lily pads. I liked it when the dragonflies landed on them.
Like little helicopters on landing pads. We totally ripped that off from mother nature.

So of course, you know what's coming.

Monet's lily pads.
Go figure. Sorry for the predictability,
but I totally understand why he'd choose these plants as a subject so many times.
They really are amazing. But, kind of a pain in the ass when you're fishing.

I literally stumbled onto some wildlife along the way. Inevitable when its 4 miles of forest, I suppose. Once I say this guy, I saw hundreds more along the way. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the toads I did not see before I picked up this wee fellow.
They will be missed.

Here's a bigger one that I somehow found despite his clever natural selection camouflage.
Take that, Darwin, you nerd!

I was SO excited to see a beaver dam. I really hoped I see some busy beavers building things. They are so hardcore, they don't get credit. They take out fully grown trees with their teeth.
Their teeth!
If thats not the most gangster thing you've ever heard a river-dwelling mammal do,
I just don't know what is.

By the way, upon sighting this marvel of modern mammal architecture, I shouted
'Look! A beaver dam!'
only to be corrected
'I believe its pronounced Amsterdam'.

Yea, that one doesn't get old, does it?

Shortly there after I spotted one of the creepiest trees in America! Why in a green forest, full of life and leaves, does this tree grow straight up and have broken off, straight, leafless branches? It was a little eerie. But made me think of Pocahontas.

How creepy does the Sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you'll neverrrr knowwww!

Also, it brought to mind those terrifying books read aloud to me in elementary school, which I'm sure have since been outlawed in public schools. Because they are too scary.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Haunting illustrations done by Stephen Gammell. I had multiple reoccurring nightmares thanks to this man's talent. Well done, sir! We all have you to thank for terrified kids afraid of the dark! They don't make them like this anymore.

Speaking of creepy, check out this creepy crawler I came across:

I think Tim Burton created this insect,
and let it loose all over the world.

Or just liked it a whole lot and put it into everything he's ever done.
I believe the creation hypothesis more though.
Seems easier and more plausible.

The best photo of a toadstool I've ever taken.

The best watercolor I've done of a toadstool (the only one) from a few years ago.

As I swung from a less than 100% safe rope over the rocks and lake, I thought much about Joan of Arc. Not the woman. The painting. I've stood before it many times at at Met and its size always overtakes me, and places me in a tranquil wood, being visited by various ghosts and angels, telling me to join the French army, and lead it to victory, only to be burned alive at a stake by the English. Ah, Joan of Arc. That broad sure was crazy.

It was a wonderful day, as you can see. My dogs may be barking today, but it was well worth it to see Turner-esk skies in the middle of the day, 40 minutes north of Manhattan. Cheese and grapes in tow. We didn't catch anything fishing, but that's all the reason to go back someday soon.

Blue Rigi (Lake of Lucerne), JMW Turner 1841

Norham Castle, Sunrise, JMW Turner 1845

Sterling Lake, yesterday.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's About Time!

Yesterday, Friday, the 24th of June, 2011, Gay Marriage was finally legalized in New York State, making it the 6th state to do so. Tomorrow is Gay Pride Day and the Parade will be bigger and better than ever! I'm so thankful that all the people who needed to come around finally did, to pass this fantastic law.

Included in this post are photos I took at the parade back in 2007. Look at how happy everyone was, when they still couldn't marry... I can only imagine how happy a day tomorrow will be!

I won't try to get too personal or too political in the post, or on this blog in general, and I am well aware that this has little, if nothing, to do with artwork, but I feel strongly about this decision. An expression of love, is still self expression, after all.

Gay couples across America, not just in the Village, or in Chelsea, or in San Francisco or South Beach, but everywhere, have been begging and pleading and trying to convince officials to legalize homosexual marriage, not civil unions, marriage, for decades. Well, we are one state closer to getting the whole country on board- and it's a big one!

Thinking about it rationally and as non objectively as possible, I believe this will help America's marriage statistics, which are going downhill and have been going downhill, for what seems like forever. Don't quote me on this, but a huge percentage of marriages, heterosexual marriages, something along the lines of half, end in divorce. Now, these things happen. Marriage is available for anyone and everyone, and has been available to anyone and everyone who is straight, and above the age of 18.

This includes drunk people during bachelor parties, strippers, celebrities on drugs, and knocked up 19 year olds who's religious parents force them into it to avoid their own shame, to name a few. ANYONE, basically, and for SO long, our government decided to overlook and then deny same sex couples, some already together for decades, some with children, the same right as everyone else, the simple right to marry each other.

Now that homosexuals can marry in one more state, after being denied for so long, isn't it likely they will stay together, and not get divorced? Since many of them have been waiting the better part of their relationship to get married? Why fight tooth and nail your whole life for something if it's not going to mean anything in a few years? A couple can be together, living together, day in day out, for decades, and never have had the right to get married. Now they can. Won't they continue to live happily in their relationship, only made stronger by the bond of marriage? This blogger certainly thinks so.

When a community as large as the gay community in this country, asks so willingly of their government for a simple right, a right that everyone else has except them, and is repeatedly denied, it makes me question the leaders of this country, not to mention sick to my stomach.

They are not asking for money, they are not asking for weapons, they are not asking for or oil or gas or even less taxes! They are asking to have a wedding, in front of their families and friends, who love and support them, and to take those vows, to love each other, through good times and bad, for better and for worse, and that, my friends, is the most beautiful right to receive at long last. There are much much much worse things the government could be doing, than letting these happy couples vow to love one another for the rest of their lives. Much worse.

That's why I'm tearing up right now thinking about how happy this has made millions of people. Yes, it's only one more state, but it's my state, and I couldn't be more proud to live here at a time like this. The MTA can continue to take all my money, Bloomberg can continue to deny the homeless epidemic all he wants, public schools can continue to fire half their teachers and cut most of their budget, but now I can say that everyone who wants to get married has the right to do so, everybody, and that, my friends, makes my heart burst with joy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

7 Days in an Undisclosed Location

Back from a lovely week in a classified spot in the caribbean. Here's a photo recap, day by day. Since a picture says a thousand words, here's about twenty thousand words on the subject... And no, you still can't know where it is. Enjoy the view, though!

The First Day

I flew shotgun (co-pilot!) over the crowded beaches and high-rise hotels of the main land, through a tropical storm. Nothing would stop us (my sister and I) from getting where we needed to be.

Even though the plane was very small, the amount of controls and toggles and odometers and things was like that gag in the movie Airplane! Where they just keep panning the camera, and its endless blinking lights haha

Look Mom! No hands! As we headed in for a landing...

...on a clearly much more rural island.

The Second Day

I took a walk across the street from my house, down the dirt path,
only to be charged by some very over-protective mother equines.

Hey, they have to grow up sometime,
don't stomp me out because you're an overbearing maternal horse mom!

Later that night, we headed down to La Nasa
and played Dominos in the dark.
With beers.

I got a really good hand.
Dominos is an underrated game, and an overrated pizza operation.
The game is so simple, you can play it after 40 beers no problem. No confusion over rules or anything. Loser buys the next round!

The Third Day

This crab got too close for comfort while I sunned on the pier.
Although he's kind of cute in retrospect.

Had a Parcharita at Duffy's.
Parcha (passionfruit juice) + tequila + rock salt =

The sunset that night was one of the most beautiful
and most pink I'd seen down there.

This island just goes to show you
that wonders can be both big...

and small.

The Fourth Day

We woke up early to walk along the south side of the coast...

To get to THIS beach. Sun Bay.
Not the most creative name, but when it looks this good,
who care's about originality?

We were accompanied by a pervy beach bird.

On the walk back I disturbed horses lunching.
They didn't mind. A dozen or so blank stares,
then they went back to munching the grass.

The little one didn't even bother to get up.
He's not dead.
Just hot and sleepy. And adorable.

The Fifth Day

We hitched a ride with Lou and Nana to a very off-road beach.
Where we boogie-boarded and sipped cold beer from a can.


Then when I got home I plucked a mango from our tree in the backyard,
put it in the fridge for an hour,
and ate that thing like it was the last fruit on Earth.
Best mango ever.

The Sixth Day

Lou was gracious and awesome enough to give us another ride.

He showed us a house he was doing some landscaping work on, across from Hacienda Tamarindo. It's a huge sprawling piece of property, with separate poolside casitas and a glorious view of the south side of the island.

The pool, by the way, is saline, and not chlorine, which is worlds milder and better for you, and after you get out of the water, you feel like your whole body has been rejuvenated! Soft skin and hair, and no gross smell or taste.
Saline, all the way!

We had to get a cooler for our beer,
and the watermelon,
so we stopped by Lou's place
and he showed us his exotic bird collection.

Loco, the Cockatiel
(just like my 3 back home!)

It was as extensive as it was beautiful.

Then we proceded to go back to my favorite beach, and beer-boogie-boarded until the sun hung low in the sky. I even saw a rainbow. Forgive me for the lack of pictures of these events. It would not reflect well on any persons involved. Trust me.

That night, our last night, Claire (who graduated high school today!) we walked down to the pier, Coronas in hand, and sat down dangling our feet over the edge. Like some kind of omen, the biggest sting ray I ever saw swooped underneath us. Not a manta ray, not a spotted eagle ray, not things I have knowledge of getting that size, a circular STING RAY, 4 feet in diameter, was having a midnight swim for our viewing pleasure. I got a quick picture, but it does no justice to its size or beauty.

The Seventh Day

We woke up early, got the house clean and organized, had a lovely breakfast down on the Malecon, and took the scenic route to the airport. Our plane took off at noon, we left the island, and landed in Isla Grande at 12:30pm and were miraculously on our flight back to the city at 1:30pm. This included getting from one airport to another, checking our bags, going through security, and getting to our gate, in 60 minutes flat. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Though, say we had missed our flight. Would it really have been so terrible to kill a few more hours in San Juan? Probably not. But once I'm in travel mode, I prefer efficiency. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the girl. Without a lobotomy.

I would just like to note further... Did you notice the lack of people in my pictures? That's not a strategy, there are just not many people down there, a very low population. Yes, we did deal a little bit with throngs of people from a drunken wedding party on the weekend, but that was it really. That's why I'm keeping the island a secret. I'm not about name dropping when it comes to traveling, especially this place, because a good secret is a KEPT secret. If you really want to know, I've sprinkled in a few key words for you nosy google detectives out there, and people who are reading this who may have already been.

The term 'keep it on the down low' was made for this place.

Hope everyone's summer is kicking off nicely. I know I was greeted by torrential downpours on my way home from the airport last night, and have yet to see the sun, as they continue all day today. Where are you Mr. Sun? Mr. Golden Sun? Won't you shine down on me?