Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crosstown Traffic

New York City residents have long enjoyed reputations as walkers and I’m happy member of that group. For the past two and a half years there was usually a trusted friend in either my pocket or my hand. That friend has transformed many Sunday walks into many DKos photo diaries. Time has caught up with my little friend in low light situations. Now I have a brand new friend to accompany on my village walks but I've gone over to the dark side. Hopefully this little fluff piece, the swan song for my Canon G-10, will serve as a proper send off to my favorite compact camera.

I just spent the previous week working my favorite job of the year. I was setting up the Music of Lindberg, Lunsqui and HK Gruber. Working in the Metropolitan Muesum is such a pleasure, all the players involved were great company and HK Gruber's Frankenstein!! was amazing. My favorite part was the fact that each rehearsal day either started or ended on the West Side and included a crosstown commute.

I'm not sure why New Yorkers love to walk so much. Often it's a social event. Walking two abreast seeing the sights, viewing the lights and hearing the sounds, there is always something interesting to discuss. Great joy can be found in the chance to look more closely at what is going on around you. Or as Henry David Thoreau put it "Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow."

New York walkers are quick. Even when you have no place to go, outside of the Times Square tourist blockade, the pace is always fast. Jaywalking is the only time pedestrian traffic gets anywhere near the dull pace of an automobile but even then there are airborne Pinkberries and cursing out Taxi drivers as opposed to the "Big Gulp" cup holder and talk radio. I think the best comparison between the urban hiker and the Chevy Suburban can be seen in texting. People almost always stop walking to play with their telephones.

Of course the sense that everything is just a few footsteps away contributes to New Yorkers' reputation as colorful hikers but the crosstown walk almost always seems like a necessity. Perhaps the highly efficient subway system has spoiled all of us going either uptown or downtown and when we need to go crosstown, it’s “feets don’t fail me now” time for an impatient population.

I don’t think it is really because the crosstown bus is so slow and I don’t think all of those commuters pouring out of Grand Central and the Port Authority with sneakers on the feet and high heels in the pocketbook are all about physical fitness. I think the reason we walk is because walking the streets of New York is such a visual treat.

Friday's crosstown walk, nothing spectacular, just a one hour tour with a camera that gave me over 100,000 photos, began at the Hudson River. Actually it began at Riverside Drive but I took a few steps to the left for a view of the blue sky horizon.

Paying my respects at the western end of 72nd Street. I wonder what Eleanor Roosevelt would think of the state of the nation today?

A little Manhattan trivia, the easternmost point of the island is the "FDR Drive." Since the westernmost point of 72nd Street is a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt facing east,

Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

I like to think of this street, the same drive that has "The Angel of the Water" as a midpoint, I like to think of 72nd Street as a family portrait of Democratic values.

Looking back toward the western end of 72nd Street, the beginning of Riverside Park that is guarded by Eleanor Roosevelt and New Jersey in the distance.


Kiosk contrail.

The center of the square and Gray's Papaya. Actually two squares at the intersection of Broadway, 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue. To the north is Verdi Square and across the street is Sherman Square. Both were once known as by local drug users and dealers as "needle park."

WTF? The present Panic in Needle Park.

"They call him 'Tony Two Times' because he says everything twice 'Time to get the papers, get the papers.'"

Thus quotes the raven...

Fred Astaire to the left and the Bloomberg Lounge is on the right.

"Hey you guys feel like giving me a lift to the Metropolitan Museum?"

Well there is the Holiday spirit. Happy Chanukah.

The entrance to "The Dakota." This photo was actually taken on December Eight.

The 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, a study of glistening pavement.

First stop Strawberry Fields for a study of peace.

The stains in the mosaic tiles are from candle wax when the people gathered to remember John Lennon on December Eight.

The walk from Strawberry Fields down to the Lake.

Looking back at Strawberry Fields with the Dakota hidden in the trees.

If you are a tourist and having trouble keeping up with the New York walkers, we have options.

Or you could ride in style.

The Lake on a perfect Central Park day.

The Angel of the Water waiting for the fountain to flow again in the springtime.

But still watching out for the passers by on the Bethesda Terrace.

Time to veer north toward the Conservatory Water and the path to the museum.

The building to the right is Mary Tyler Moore’s home, also the home of the world’s most famous red-tailed hawks. look closely and you can almost make out the nest of Pale Male above the top center window.

The sky over the Conservatory Pond is starting to look interesting.Well okay I played around with it a bit,

Time to go to work but first a quick stop to see what Alice is up to.

Da Bears.

Art outside the museum.

And finally, work sweet work.

What do you think? Not to shabby for a one hour tour with a camera on its last leg.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Photos from the Farmer's March on Wall Street

On December 4th there was a food policy protest in Manhattan. The farmers joining Occupy Wall Street was a co-production of Occupy Wall Street's food justice committee and Food Democracy Now.

In the afternoon people came to the La Plaza Cultural Community Garden to hear local farmers and activist explain everything from why a food policy that is based on $30 a barrel oil cannot sustain itself to how much local farmers have been hurt by this industrial food policy. After the gathering to hear speakers hundreds of farmers and their allies marched to Zuccotti Park to be seen and heard.

I went along with my camera and listened as I took a few pictures of the people demanding justice. For photos and stories about the gathering and march from the East Village to Zuccotti Park.

It was a holiday season event and a La Plaza Cultural pine tree was decorated.

La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez is a green space and open air garden on 9th Street & Avenue C, a place for the people.

When you consider how many farms there are on the Lower East Side, it would seem that there was a surprisingly large turnout.

The speakers came up one by one to tell their stories. A list of speakers can be found at this link from The Paramus Post.

George Naylor - Iowa farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Jim Gerritsen - Maine based farmer who was named one of 20 world visionaries by Utne Reader in 2011 and is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Monsanto.
Karen Washington - Founder of City Farms Market and board member at NYC based organization Just Food.
Severine von Tscharner - Food advocate and producer of the film Green Horns, profiling young farmer entrepreneurs.
Jalal Sabur - Founding member of the Freedom Food Alliance and advocate working on the alliance of black urban communities with black rural farmers.
Mike Callicrate - Colorado cattle rancher, entrepreneur and rural advocate .
Andrew Faust - World renowned permaculture expert and educator. took a closer look at some of the speakers and Jim Gerritsen even has a little piece in today's NYT, A Maine Farmer Speaks to Wall Street. But there is little else from the media and I didn't see any politicians there.

This was yesterday's view of the speakers from the upper balcony.

It seemed to me that the event was mostly to point out that this nation's agricultural system is at the center of the world's global warming crisis and that the government has supported big agriculture for too long at the expense of the family farms. A quote from the Food Democracy Now invite.

Occupy Wall Street was born out of a legitimate frustration with the collusion between Big Business and elected officials of the U.S. government. And nowhere is that collusion so great as in food and agricultural production, where 4 firms control 84% of beef packing, 66% of pork production and 1 company (Monsanto) controls more than 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.

Pointing out the fact that it was "our government" that has made our food unhealthy, moved our food thousands of miles from our homes and transformed our food supply into junk that needs so much salt, sugar, chemicals and preservatives. Food that is harmful to the population in a nation where big agricultural corporations own our government. The speakers spoke and the people responded.

It wasn't just about the speakers and it wasn't all about protest protest. There were tables with useful information for small farmers, one table that was all about mulch and most everyone was exchanging ideas. You could also pick up a tee shirt to spread the message.

There was a map of America where you could post your food issue in the section of the nation where you lived. The nice lady handing out the index cards was wearing one great hat.

It was all about the people.

And the message was very clear.

Two nice drummers I met who were waiting to help bring that message to Wall Street. One of them had previously the pleasure of playing outside of the Bloomberg mansion.

Here are a few photos from the march as the protesters walked along Houston Street.

You can learn a lot from farmers.

Like simple arithmetic that even the smartest politicians can't seem to grasp.

But there are two sides to every story.

I fully agreed with both sides of this sign.

The drummers were making noise.

People were being heard.

Some were having fun.

And the march moved on, to Zuccotti Park.

There were many other topics at a gathering that was about the benefits of locally grown food. One topic discussed was the horrors of Monsanto and genetically modified seeds. Seeds that are not owned by the farmers who grew the plants that provided the seeds but are the patented property of Monsanto. Stories of how this large corporation with the help of the government has created a hostage situation for small family farms that never wanted anything to do with Monsanto.

So at the end of the march, when the protesters reached Zuccotti Park, there was a seed exchange. Free seeds were handed out, heirloom seeds and seeds that were cross pollinated by farmers, anything but the patented property of some major corporation.

The whole day was all about people helping other people. It turned out to be a good day for the people.