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Photosbycate Weblog

A Photo Essay Blog

Archive for the category “Travel”

A Park Grows in Governors Island

Last year I visited Governors Island for a sneak preview of the creation of a new 30 acre park on the south end of the Island. I was there in October, on the last day before the Island closed to commence full construction operations (click here to read my blog post of that day.) Governors Island has now reopened.

My friends and I put our walking shoes on and boarded the Governors Island Ferry at Pier 7 in lower Manhattan to see what was new, revisit the old and enjoy a sunny summer Sunday wandering through this new park. When we exited the ferry at Soissons Landing, we passed through the 19th century, Castle Williams, a circular red sandstone fort that can be seen jutting out from the island and is a familiar point of historic reference in New York Harbor. Exiting the fort we walked south along the river promenade that would take us into the newly created Governors Island Park.

If you love to walk or ride a bike, then this park is perfect; spacious, unencumbered by crowds and vehicular traffic with beautiful water front views. Smooth new paths have been created that flow through play grounds, ball parks, and seasonal gardens which, at this time of year were full of bright purple and yellow cone-flowers, busy with bees and butterflies.

The children’s play lawn has huge cobwebs of rope and wood to climb on and plenty of grass to run wild. Governors Island is known for showcasing unique art and sculpture as a kind of open air art gallery, and across from the playground is a wide expanse of lawn where a huge sculpture of a giant twisted hanger is on display, dotted all around with old-fashioned Adirondack chairs to sit and contemplate. Liggett Terrace boasts a giant blue telephone receiver, hung up on a tall forked pole!

In my opinion the best part of the park is Hammock Grove. Yes! Ten acres of open grassy space (when the trees grow up around it, it will be a shady grassy space) peppered with bright red rope hammocks strung between wooden poles. My friends immediately made a bee line for them. The Hammock Grove is such a novel idea and much better than hard park benches. How nice to be able to come to a quiet outdoor spot, stretch out on a gently swaying web of comfort, rocking away the time reading, taking a nap or counting the clouds in a blue sky. And, they are wide enough to snuggle up with your favorite someone.

Further on, we entered Liggett Terrace where my friends spent a few minutes, (while I ran around taking photos), sitting under the shade of the trees, sipping cool drinks, listening to the cry of seagulls and admiring the newly landscaped grounds. Passing through Liggett Arch, on our way back to the ferry, we walked along Colonels Row and I took a few minutes to photograph some of the old mansions, built at the end of the 19th century that, were homes to the commanding military officers and their families of that period.

The park is not complete yet, but is still growing and by next year new man-made hills rising 80 feet above the harbor, will have sprouted up on the island offering an incredible 360 degree view. I’ll be there to take it all in.

The Trust for Governors Island

Enjoy the tour.

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Surf, Sun & Fun

Fourth of July was grey and rainy all day but, the Fifth of July was blue skies and plenty of summer sunshine. I put on the bathing suit, filled the back-pack with goodies, sunscreen and a towel, grabbed the beach chair and away I went to Coney Island to spend the day lounging in the sun and swimming in the deep blue sea.

I had not been back to Coney Island since I captured the ice encrusted pylons and snow covered dunes on a frigid day back in January so, it  was a pleasure to be there again when it was all thawed out. The waves lapping lazily against the shore line, people in all shapes, colors and sizes diving into the cold but refreshing water, Luna Park alive and kicking once more and the boardwalk packed with strolling crowds of fun seekers.

I settled myself right next to the pier close to the water’s edge, reveling in the sounds and smell of the ocean that stretched out before me.  For the next four hours I swam, walked, napped, read, ate and of course took photos. I did not bring my DSLR with me but, I did have my iPhone. I walked among my fellow beach bums and sun worshipers, observing humanity at its best; doing nothing but relaxing and having fun.

There is a brand new attraction on the boardwalk and it is a huge orange twisty, turning, swirling, heart stopping ride called the Thunderbolt! I watched as people sitting three abreast climb straight up towards the sun and then plummet straight down only to be pulled up and looped around and around and around then swoosh! Up and down and up and down then shot straight back to the starting gate. There was also a new kick to the age old and nausea inducing Tilt-A-Whirl. Instead of tea cups the riders sit in the belly of  big fat brightly colored dragons swirling around in a dizzying spin that made me queasy just standing there taking photos.

Sun-kissed and tired I brushed the sand from my feet, combed the salt out of my now crisp hair, and left the sun and fun behind me walking back to Stillwell Avenue where I boarded the N train for home and a welcoming shower.


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Viva St. Antonio Abate

“Summer’s here and the time is right, for dancin in the streets!” *** Last night on the first night of the first day of the summer solstice I strolled along Ditmars Boulevard to join in the festivities of the annual St. Antonio Abate Feast!  Each year at this time in this small village of Astoria, from 35th to 38th streets the neighborhood comes out to enjoy this annual Italian feast with games, rides, music and food.

I arrived there around 9:00 pm just after sunset, and the streets were jammed packed with crowds of happy people eating, laughing and dancing. There were gaggles of giggling girls showing off their youthful figures, bunches of bashful boys dressed in teenage attire of T-shirts, shorts and sneakers. Toddlers wide-eyed and adorable clutching newly won prizes. Parents and their children playing games of chance and skill. Elder couples holding hands and listening to the band playing Italian songs.

The aroma of frying onions, peppers and sausages rose up around my nose as did the fried chicken and cheese steak.  But, my favorite Italian festival food is the Zeppole. I patiently waited in line, my mouth-watering as I watched the vendor fill a white bag of these fried pillows of dough and then shower them in a snow storm of powered sugar. That first bite is absolute caloric heaven.

I made the mistake of taking my Sony A-77 which does not do well, at all in low light conditions and therefore my images have deafening noise.  I thought at first of just trashing them but I really like the excitement that I caught. So, I gussied them up a bit and I plead artistic license in presenting these images.  Just put your fingers in your ears to drown out the digital uproar and enjoy a few moments at this, the first of the summer fairs.

***”Dancing In The Streets” was written by Hunter, Ivy Jo / Gaye, Marvin P / Stevenson, William. Recorded by Martha And The Vandellas.

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Up On The Roof

Oh, what a glorious day it was on Sunday.  Not only was it Father’s Day, but it was 80 degrees, low humidity, plenty of sun and I was strolling along the Manhattan Bridge.

I exited the #6 train at Canal and Lafayette Streets and continued walking along Canal until I got to Bowery where the pedestrian walkway begins.  It is right across the street from the land mark building of the former Citizens Savings Bank (now occupied by HSBC) with its beautiful gold domed roof and huge clock sculpture flanked by two beehives; symbols of thrift.

Like the Williamsburg Bridge the Manhattan Bridge walkways are protected by high fencing on either side. But, unlike the Williamsburg, the top half of the fence is chain link and the bottom half is open metal work in a lattice pattern. The spaces between the metal slats were big enough for me to poke my camera lens through and get unobstructed shots. Unfortunately, I had to squat down to take the photos; walk- squat- shoot; walk- squat-shoot; walk- squat- shoot and so the day went. Oh, my knees and thighs; they still hurt! The N, Q & R trains that run across the center of this bridge seemed to barrel through every five minutes and resting my lens on the lattice-work was out of the question unless I wanted “artistically blurred” images. When I needed to stand and stretch I would take photos of the bridge’s trusses and towers, graffiti marred columns and archways.

The views of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo and basically a good portion of NY Harbor were gorgeous but, I so enjoyed the views of the roof tops. As you ascend up along the bridge’s walkway you get a terrific view of the apartment roofs tops above the busy bustling streets of China Town. The typical urban roof top is a world of black tar, clothes lines, satellite dishes, rusted antennae’s, broken ladders, crusted paint cans, bric-a-brac, and old shut up chimneys all covered in the pervasive graffiti.  Urban roof tops can be a great place to sit for a few minutes to get away from it all “when this old world starts getting me down” as The Drifters sang in their 1963 hit, *Up on the Roof.  When I moved into my first apartment, at age 19, it had a large spacious roof that over looked a good part of Queens and the Manhattan skyline. During the summer I would climb up the stairs with my beach chair and a thermos of iced tea to spend a few peaceful hours with myself and a good book.

There is a marked difference in the roof top demographic when you cross over to the upscale Dumbo section, (i.e., a brand new enclosed rooftop tennis court with lounge chairs!) I saw a woman and her Siamese cat on their spacious lanai sunning themselves above the dusty streets of Brooklyn. She too, had her iced tea.


* Up on the Roof, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Are ya singing it?

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Fenced In

I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, this past Saturday, entering on the Manhattan side at Delancey Street and walking until I reached the end stepping into Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The weather was perfect and I was looking forward to shooting the aerial views from the pedestrian side of the bridge.  This proved to be a challenge since the entire walk way is protected by chain link fencing and that there was no opening in the middle of the walkway, as there is in other bridges I’ve wandered over. I was definitely disappointed but, looking around me I saw that this bridge is truly amazing in that it seems as if you are walking through a giant Erector set.  I was enclosed in a webbing of steel girders and metal fencing.

The traffic on this bridge is equally amazing. Aside from the two walkways on either side of the roadway; one for bicyclists and one for bipeds, running straight up the middle on the upper lever is the J, Z  & M subways and below that, cars, trucks and other vehicular traffic. When a train shot past, the whole bridge seemed to rattle and shake and I thanked whoever it was who invented image stabilization.

Overhead was a maze of crisscrossing metal, at my feet a worn graffiti painted road and from left to right more steel and the ubiquitous chain link fencing.  It was time to get clever with the camera as it was going to be an abstract kind of day.  I saw lines – lines running vertical, horizontal, perpendicular, parallel, at right angles, forming triangles and bisecting each other as they curved into arcs.

As I mentioned before, the hardest part was keeping steady as I squinted and focused my lens through the tiny square fence links to capture maritime vessels sailing up the river or, one of the huge globe lights that sit on the outer edge of the bridge; making sure the background was sharp and the foreground, the fence, in soft focus.  I managed to keep my balance as I bent back in a dizzying stance shooting up into the many riveted trusses and making starbursts of the sun peeking through them. The people crossing the bridge were great subject matter too, with bikers, runners, skate-boarders, and walkers like myself, in all manner of dress and all happy to be out and about on a gorgeous spring day.  Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge is less crowded and attracts more locals than tourists and since the bikers have their own lane there was less chance of getting run down, allowing me to divert all my attention to my photography.

Until one day, when you can walk the bridge yourself, walk with me now through my words and imagery across this notable historic New York City Landmark.

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Remains and Reminders of the Past

My friends, Claudia, Janice and I took the ferry to Ellis Island this past Saturday. It had rained in the early morning but, for the rest of the day we had brief periods of sun and BIG sky. The clouds were just wonderful; ominous and huge like hovering spaceships. The sun, fighting for dominion would slice through a purple-grey mass illuminating the water and causing nearby clouds to turn bright white as they ballooned above our heads. The boat was packed with a happy excited tourist crowd as we pulled away from the shores of Battery Park heading out along the wide deep Hudson River to spend the day walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.

When we arrived on the island we stopped at the entrance to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum; here I separated from my friends to spend a few moments walking around the perimeter of the island and getting some photographs as the sun won a temporary battle with the clouds and shone with a warm determination.

Admiring and photographing the beautiful views of the Manhattan and Jersey City skylines, I came upon the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. A large silver oval wall behind the museum,  inscribed with the names of hundreds of immigrants that passed through Ellis Island; only a fraction of the twelve million people who graced its halls and entered into a new life in America.

My last name is Franklyn, my father was Maximillian Peter Franklyn and it says so on my birth certificate, but we found out through a family genealogist, my nephew-in-law, Damian DeVirgilio, that my father’s real name was in fact Feinstein and his family was from Warsaw Poland. He had seven siblings; six brothers and one sister. Even with Damian’s detective skills we could not discover if he was born here or if  he, with his family, immigrated to American and if so, when? Or why, he chose to changed his name and never once mentioned his large family or his past to either his wife or  his four children. And as he deserted us when I was nine, leaving for work one day never to return or be heard from again, until his death, his past will always remain an enigma.  But, curiosity got the better of me and I walked along the wall until I came to the F’s and found a few Feinsteins and a Max Feinstein Family; if these are relatives of mine I’ll never know but, in a quirk of sentimentality and for family posterity I took a photo of these names. Walking further on I reached the R’s and ran my finger down the list until I found the Ryan’s. These were my mother’s people, she being Mary Camilla Ryan, she went by her middle name Camilla and her friends called her Cam. My brother was named after our great-grand father Patrick  H. Ryan who in the 1870′s founded the Ryan hotel in Blanchardville, WI. My maternal great-great grand parents immigrated to American from Ireland long before Ellis Island opened, they most likely passed through Castle Clinton. Again, I enjoyed looking at the names and taking a photo of the Patrick Ryan’s to show my brother and sisters.

I walked back through the  front entrance, so I could experience what it was like to walk through those huge doors into the Baggage Room, where so many wide-eyed people from far away lands walked with all of their worldly belongings clutched in their hands. This is where  they dropped off all of their suit cases, trunks, boxes, valises, baskets, and bags for safe keeping before being herded into the Great Hall, a.k.a., the Registry Room.  I found this formidable hall just fascinating with vaulted ceilings, where two flowing American Flags hung,  and large arched windows where light poured through igniting my imagination. This was the room where the immigrants were “processed” and where the urban legend of name changing  or rearranging happened to either make it easier for the authorities to pronounce or to suit their new American lifestyles. I walked through a doorway that took me upstairs where there were rooms full of incredible photos of people. Hundreds of faces peered out at me their large glassy eyes following me; these were eyes of wonder, bewilderment, fear, excitement, courage and pride. I stood staring back trying to feel what they were feeling; wondering what they were thinking.  These were they eyes of people who gave up everything they had, said goodbye to everyone they knew to sail away to a world as foreign as the moon; It was a last chance, a roll of the dice. They were young, they were old, they were poor but, they all shared a dogged determination to make it.

There were rooms that held the old relics of the dormitories, hospital and kitchen that served the islands immigrants before they took the ferry to New York or New Jersey, or sadly, were sent back where they came from.  These items were still covered with the dust of memories. An old decrepit piano stood behind a wicker chair, who played it?  A rusted muffin tin hid next to an enormous cooking pot with giant ladles hanging by its side. A medical table with privacy curtains  like dried mummy skin next to a peeling supply cabinet.  The dormitory room held rows of cots that hung by chains from the ceiling; a scant woolen blanket folded at the head of each bed. Porcelain communal sinks and old subway tile glistened in the sun. I was lost in another time.

I eventually met up with my friends again as I walked through the Peopling of America section behind the Baggage Room. Here we learned of the real history of the immigrants as they tried to assimilate to the new culture and how they met with derision and prejudice, failure and success. In other words the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America. Sadly, I learned that Africans passed through Ellis Island not as immigrants but as property to be sold at auction and to begin their lives here in this new world as dehumanized slaves. We learned of the plight of the indigenous people of this country and how they watched as their land was sold in cheap parcels to anyone who had the cash in hand and the grit to travel across the West. We listened to the many stories of the animosity and fear towards the Chinese. But, through it all these people, these tenacious, ingenious, wonderful people persevered and grew strong, worked hard and made a better life for themselves, their children and their children’s children and consequently for all of us living here now.

The purpose of  history is to learn from the past. There is a saying; history repeats itself. I don’t believe that. I believe that we make the same mistakes over and over again. We want to forget and sweep the past under the rug. That is why a place like Ellis Island is so important because it does not let us forget but instead teaches us to correct our errors of the past and to look forward to the future and not be afraid of  but, to embrace  diversity.


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Historic Monuments Old and New

This past Saturday, I took the tramway to Roosevelt Island for a late winter wander around South Point Park and, to see for the first time, the just opened FDR Four Freedoms Park.

The sun was shimmering in a cloudless blue sky and I took advantage of the large windows and fantastic aerial views, as seen from my side of the car, to capture the urban scene below me as the tram silently, smoothly sailed across the Island of Manhattan to the Island of Roosevelt.

When I alighted from the tram I headed south toward the infamous Renwick Ruin walking along the river, enjoying the suns rays on my face and the expansive views of Manhattan.  Although warm, there was still enough snow on the ground to add to the composition of each image; this was my first time on the island during the winter months. The trees on the island were absolutely beautiful in their bare natural state with twisted bows and gnarled trunks; these abstract designs against the morning sky accented the foregrounds or acted as frames for the shots.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I love to photograph old, crumbling, rusted, broken-down, laid-to-waste, structures and the Renwick Ruin, a.k.a. The Small Pox Hospital has all of the aforementioned elements. Designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., it opened in 1856 as a hospital and later a nursing school, finally closing its doors a century later where it has sat secluded, on the end of the island, slowly deteriorating.

The building is now under re-construction with future plans to reopen it to the public. But, for now, it is protected by a strong black wrought iron fence, and its skeletal remains held up by steel brace supports. Still, amidst all of the decrepitude and dilapidation the beauty of the neo-gothic architecture can be seen and admired.

Through the pane-less windows, I sensed the spirits of the forgotten looking back at me as my lens focused on fragments of this monument’s past. The sun illuminated the roofless interior and I saw part of a wall from what might have been a patient’s room. Looking up I saw the rusted remains of a staircase still climbing toward a nonexistent floor.  Vines and weeds, growing with complete abandon, have pushed, shoved and squeezed their way into every brick nook and cranny yet, this natural destruction only added to the haunting mood of the ruins.

Adjacent to the Renwick Ruin is the newly constructed FDR Four Freedoms Park, designed by architect Louis Kahn, which sits at the southernmost end of Roosevelt Island with a memorial to FDR capping the tip. The park is a narrow long spear-point of four acres bordered by a regiment of Little Leaf Linden trees. You can access the park along the river promenades on either side or walk up the wide open-air staircase of white Mount Airy granite at the base of the spear point, facing the memorial and New York Harbor behind it. The trees were the most striking part of this park at this time of year because, the bare branches were bright red contrasting sharply with the snow covered lawn and the white granite that is the foundation of this park.  The memorial, also made from this same stunning granite, is a three sided roofless enclosure cradling a floating bronze bust of FDR, who was up to his neck in snow, though still conveying his leadership and vision adroitly captured by the artist Jo Davidson.

Walking back toward the tram, I came upon a large gaggle of Canadian Geese enjoying a sunny day in the park, nibbling at tiny bits of vegetation that the melting snow revealed, curled up with beaks under their feathers taking a nap or walking up the pathways two by two. They did not seem to be bothered by me or my camera and I happily spent an hour following them around like a paparazza.

The afternoon was waning as was my energy nevertheless, before boarding the tram back to Manhattan I spent a few minutes shooting towards the lowering sun creating starbursts and silhouetting the landscape.

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A Wee Walk in the Woods

Saturday morning my lady friends and I were off again via the Metro North railroad bound for Hastings-On-Hudson, where we spent the day walking  the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. It took us a bit to find the actual entrance – a bit meaning walking up San Francisco style hills –  but once found, it was an easy trail to follow – meaning flat.

Not as scenic as I had imagined unless you count the back yards of people homes to be a scenic view but, the weather was gorgeous and there was still quite a bit of color on the trees that lined each side of the trail. Our goal was to walk from Hastings-On-Hudson, through Dobbs Ferry and ending in Irvington; a total of 7 miles. As we walked, the air was redolent with the smells of autumn, the breezes gentle and the sun lit up the trees like Christmas. We met locals running or riding their bikes, some with family and others with their dogs, all very friendly, making this trek in the country a hospitable one.

As I mentioned in the above paragraph the trees were the dominant photographic subject along the trail, therefore, my goal was to find trees that had not only color but abstract shapes or something different about them, like a green beard of ivy, or pronounced knot, or a huge corner shelf of brown fungus. In composing a few shots I used the trees to frame a distant view as seen only from the trail. Some trees were already denuded of leaves and the dark arthritic limbs stood out in contrast to any surrounding color and made for a “Halloween-esque” photo.  We did find a spooky abandoned old home complete with peeling paint, broken boarded windows and doors and a forsaken wooden porch, which I just loved.

After a few hours our stomachs began to protest loudly and we left the trail walking through the town of Dobbs Ferry in search of a place to eat, drink and be merry;  after all Olga and I were celebrating our November birthdays and we wanted a place that would delight our palettes. On Chestnut Street off of Main we found The Cookery and oh, what a find this place was. An incredible mix of flavors, the like we’ve never tasted before: French toast topped with fresh made smoked mozzarella and green tomato jam, cauliflower ravioli in lemon brown butter with candied pumpkin seeds that made me moan with every mouthful, a crostino of fresh ricotta and drizzled with sweet truffle honey, fried Brussels sprouts that were light, crisp and salty. Every ingredient was a taste sensation to the mouth and every bite savored, and those were just a few of the delectable delicacies on the menus.  It is worth the time and ticket to take the train up to Dobbs Ferry just to experience a meal there.

Stomachs satisfied we waddled out of the restaurant and into the sunshine and made ready to get back on the trail and walk off the mountain of calories we happily consumed.  I took a few shots of the town before we trudged up another of those steep, lung bursting hills where we found the trail again and continued our walk toward our final destination of Irvington. Wending our way along, the late afternoon sun shone with an Alpenglow that turned the leaves to deep rich gold, red and bronze. The trees cast long dark shadows along the trail and crows cawed as they prepared for end of day.

We exited the trail as the sun began its evening decent and entered the town of Irvington walking at a leisurely pace, enveloped in the small town atmosphere, eventually arriving at the train station which would take us back home to the hustle and bustle of city life.

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Alien Bubbles, Goats and a Ghost

At 9:54am Saturday, I boarded the first ferry from Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City sailing to Governors Island. This was my first time taking the East River Ferry from LIC and I enjoyed a 60 minute ride on the river instead of on the subway, making stops in Brooklyn and Manhattan before arriving, via the Buttermilk Channel in Upper New York Bay, at Governors Island.

The day was beautiful with clear blue skies and cool autumn temperatures and all was sublime as we sailed along until……..…we were boarded by Alien Bubbles of Hope from another planet!!! Yes, I’m telling the truth! There they were just waiting for us at South Williamsburg’s Schafer Landing. All green and bubbly with snow white beards, they clambered aboard and before we knew it we were surrounded. These neon green bubble beings claimed they came here to give hope to the people of planet earth. Fortunate for us earthlings the bubbles were very jolly and pranced and danced around the deck of the ferry making everyone smile and laugh. As we reached Pier 11 they said farewell and took leave of the ship running merrily down the pier towards Wall Street to spread more hope, and God knows Wall Street needs it.

We made it to our final stop, Governors Island without further alien intervention and as I walked up the path from Yankee Pier towards St. Cornelius Chapel, I saw a goat prancing on top of a steaming pile of compost. After the bubbles of hope this did not surprise me so, I wandered over to the chicken wire and wood enclosure for a closer look. The goat was a resident of the Earth Matters Composting Farm which sits across from the Chapel. This tiny farm offers urban composting lessons to children and adults and has a small “zoo” of 2 goats and a smattering of very colorful chickens. I was smitten by one chicken or rooster in particular, with an unruly feathered afro. Talk about an alien being. It looked like a feather duster with legs. It was quite fast and not at all a willing photography subject, the same could be said of the rest of the fowls, and I had to chase it around before I could get a decent shot. The goats were determined to escape the enclosure and made sure they stood right at the gate entrance. If anyone came in or out they would push past their legs and make their great escape only to be caught by the keeper and carried back in, complaining all the way. This went on all day long. The goats were indeed very sweet if slightly stupid with surprisingly soft hair and hypnotic horizontal eyes. When it was my time to leave I manage to back out an inch at a time with a goat snout pushing against my crotch. When I felt the gate was open enough for me to pass through I gave a final shove on the goat’s head, bid him adieu and made a clean get-a-way.

After the farm I walked through Nolan Park, surround by the stately old Governor’s mansions, where the Fete Paradiso was in full swing with children and their parents riding on vintage carnival rides and carousels. These museum quality 19th & early 20th century machines made their debut at Governors Island this summer. They are beautiful whimsical works of art and are a delight to look at as well as ride. The one-of-a-kind Bicycle Carousel was just gorgeous and my favorite of all of the rides. This was a truly unique attraction with a Parisian flare.

My final destination for the day was Fort Jay; here you step into a time capsule filled with the remnants from the Revolutionary and Civil wars. In the quadrangle you can walk on cobble stone streets, climb up to the porches of the old barracks and walk along peeping into windows or relax in a white wicker rocking chair. Walking through the old parade grounds one can imagine sights and sounds of soldiers being put through their daily paces. In its military heyday the fort was protected by 10” & 15” Rodman Canons. Today there are only a few still standing as sentinels but, at one time, these mighty canons lined the entire perimeter of the fort as evidenced by the many empty platforms encircling the grounds.

I had just finished taking some photos of said canons and was walking along a grass verge when out of the corner of my eye a wisp of filmy skirt floated behind a wall. I immediately followed it and saw a woman dressed in 19th century costume with a long white veil covering her face walking away. Did I just see a ghost?  She moved quickly and seemed as if to disappear behind a door, window or wall whenever I was but a few feet from her. At one point out in the middle of the quadrangle, she flew right past me, her skirts and veil billowing out behind her. I fumbled with my camera and managed to catch her blurred image as she passed through an open door that led down to a dark, dank cellar. She beckoned to me and in trepidation I followed. As my eyes adjusted to the dark I saw I was in a cold damp empty circular room of crumbling brick, with black heavy metal doors in the walls. The ceiling was vaulted and crisscrossed with rotting timber beams. And then I saw her, a diaphanous figure searching in vain hope, for someone or something, I knew not what, and then she was gone. I looked around me and no one was there. I was all alone.

Bootleg Booze and A Cuppa Tea

Welcome autumn!!

My girlfriends and I kicked off the advent of autumn with our first fall Metro North One-Day-Get-A-Way or ODGAW as we call it, with The Farm Fresh Organic Food, Prohibition Moonshine, & Fine Tea tour. The six of us met at Grand Central Station, purchased our breakfast goodies and boarded the train for a two hour trek up to Dutchess County. Upon arrival at the Wassaic station we were picked up by a tour bus that would take us to each of our three destinations.

Our first stop was in the Village of Millerton, where we stretched our legs while sauntering through a local green market with each vendor’s table spilling over with organically grown vegetables and flowers, bars of fragrant homemade soaps and my pick of the lot; sweet delicious maple syrup, a dollop of which I add to my morning coffee. As my friends were browsing the shops and talking to the locals, I wandered into a big red house known as the Florist Shop filled ceiling to cellar with twiggy baskets, dried and fresh flowers, potted plants, wreaths, knick-knacks & gim-crackery of every description. I was in a photographic wonderland and the proprietors were gracious enough to allow me to walk around and take my fill of photos.

Around 1:00pm we met at Harney & Sons, Fine Teas and settled down to a lovely lunch of tea and sandwiches. After a short while I left my friends to finish their meal so I could prowl the little shop, camera in hand. I spent a few minutes talking with the proprietor Brigitte Harney and with her permission took photos of the many delicate tea cups, saucers and pots decorating the room as well as the array of teas, sweet syrups, cookies and coasters on display and all available for purchase. With full bellies and a slight reluctance we left this place of cozy gentility and boarded the bus for our next adventure.

Our second port of call was the most intriguing of the three stops and located on a farm in Pine Plains: Dutch’s Spirits Moonshine distillery. When we arrived we were met by Lydia Higginson, the Deputy Director of Dutchess County Tourism and Ariel Schlein, president of the distillery. Ariel guided us on an incredible journey back in time via a maze of tunnels that had been dug out under the direction of the infamous 1930’s gangster, Dutch Shultz. Dutch created an underground bunker to hide his illegal but very profitable bootlegging business. This bunker has recently been designated a national historic place by the NYS Historic Preservations Office  and Ariel is in the process of building a museum dedicated to the bootleg error of this part of the country. The farm acted as a natural facade to this whole booze making enterprise. The raw product was created in stills in an old cow barn and then the distilling, bottling, and distribution operations were done down in the bunker. The barn and a few dilapidated chicken coops are still standing and were all a part of the pretense of a functioning rural farm.

After the tour we were invited to a tasting of alcoholic beverages produced by Ariel’s company, Dutch’s Spirits and as we boarded our bus for the third and final leg of our trip, found ourselves in a very jovial frame of mind.

Last stop: the McEnroe Organic farms and as the name implies this farm produces organically grown produce and meats and are the makers of premium compost and soils. We were given a tour of the composting facilities and the green houses and nurseries, which were quite impressive and grew some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. After the tour we had an hour to run around the farm and or shop in the McEnroe Market, but of course I chose to stay outside and photograph this peaceful farm-scape with acres of wide open fields and a sky filled with gray, white and purple clouds. A few minutes into my walk I found a few farm animals. A variable gaggle of gobbling white turkeys greeted me being very excited to meet someone from the city (and a vegetarian too!) and have their pictures taken. Right next to them on the other side of the fence was a whole pile o’ pigs, grunting and snuffling and eating a late day snack of over ripe mushy tomatoes tossed on the ground.  Some of the pigs were shy and others pushed their muddy snouts up to the fence to investigate the camera. There were some sheep and they decided to keep their distance but I managed to get a nice picturesque shot of two of them in the foreground and actually looking toward me. The rest of the group just kept their faces buried in the grass. I took the hint and made my way back to my friends who were boarding the bus and we bid farewell to Dutchess County until our next ODGAW in October.

Enjoy the trip.

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