Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July in Riverdale Sunsets

Riverdale is the very quiet Bronx neighborhood where Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica come from. I often attempt to transform Riverdale into the Key West of New York City sunsets. From my window you can see the Hudson River and then the New Jersey Palisades. In this diary you can see the best 31 days of sunsets I've ever seen and the views have been whittled down to just 88 photos.

Because a year ago last week I wrote The Riverdale Tornado: A Disaster Photo Diary I want to start off with an old sunset photo. It took just about one minute for 850 trees between my window and the river to die that day. Here is a photo of where the trees met the water in the end of July of 2010. You can compare the present tree line in the photos below.

But here is the view yesterday afternoon to see the new treeline and as an excuse to show what the Palisades looks like when the sun is shining on the escarpment. Before the tornado the steeple of the Spellman Retreat House looked like a church in the wilderness. The view has changed on this side of the river but across the water the Palisades still seems like it has been spared from the white men's footprint. That is what I love most about my view.

These July sunsets from the Bronx are for my Mom, my Dad and my neighbor, who I think just watched her very first month of sunsets. As this long hot month began I had an elevator conversation with that neighbor who lives in the same apartment line and has almost the same view as I do. Inquiring about the Nikon D7000 hanging from my neck, I explained that I have no photographic specialty but the last on my list was "our wonderful views of sunsets."

To explain why she had never watched a sunset from her window she said "If you see one, you've seen them all." So in less than fifteen floors I tried to summarize eighteen years of sunsets from my window. I was feeling a bit like a sunset missionary as the conversation didn't end with the elevator ride. She was fascinated and wanted to continue the sunset conversation in the lobby but I was all out of steam and anxious to get out in the sunshine.

My Dad, he is pretty much the same way. He closes the western blinds to keep the Florida sun from fading the furniture. Now Mom, she calls on the phone when there is a nice sunset to watch from her Ocean County, New Jersey kitchen. Often we have the same view. Sometimes ninety miles makes a big difference.

And now the July sunset and weather history for the Bronx. I've never actually been able to pin down a best month for sunsets but since July and August are usually the months with the most rain and that rain is most often late afternoon rain storms after steaming hot days, I never thought July would be in the running. Perhaps it was the extreme heat or maybe July is the best month for sunset views.

I often wish I could write what was going on in these diaries on the night of each sunset but I never remember. This month was easy. With each passing day, whatever respect Americans still had left for the elected officials in Washington, it seemed like that respect was seeing a final dull sunset. But on July 1st as I took these three, I was wondering if my neighbor a few floors below was watching her first Skyview sunset.

July 2nd, opportunity knocks. I was working and on a well timed coffee break but without a camera. I asked one of my co-workers "May I borrow your telephone?" Snap, snap, snap followed by "Will you email these to me?" Sundown on West 65th Street.

On July 3rd the maximum temperature was 74° and there was almost an inch of cooling rain. After the July heat wave such a day is hard to recall. The end of a dull but cool day.

But the Fourth of July afterglow offered a fireworks show.

The 5th of July, that always reminds me of Christopher Reeve, had an orange glow with a crescent moon for the end of the show.

And on July 6th, we were in the pink. Frida Kahlo was born on the 6th of July "They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

July 7th began a two day heat wave that nobody remembers. 92° was the high on the first day of the month that the thermometer broke ninety. Seems like a cake walk now. Obscured by clouds, it was an early sunset.

July 9th I remember well. With the temperature down to 88° I got out of the apartment for a three island tour followed by Patsy's Pizza. Then I came home to a big sail boat, the rays of the sun and the shadow of the Palisades on the water.

And an interesting vertical cloud that stayed through the whole sunset show.

July 11th I was working but I saw an interesting view down at the end of 66th Street. So I hustled the two blocks with my pocket camera, then through Trump City and down under the West Side Highway to see what it looked like down by the riverside.

July 12th was a 93° day. It was a bright clear day with a bright clear finish.

July 13th was one of two days each year when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan. It is called Manhattanhenge and as usual I remembered but was to lazy to go downtown. The sunset from my window didn't line up with nything in particular but dinner at home was tasty.

July 14th, bright sun and a bright moon.

July 15th, the sun came through the clouds for a bright orange mid-July finish.

July 16, the real beginning of the heat wave.

July 17, a hot summer day but the heat was just getting started.

July 18th seems like a cool view but looks can be deceiving. Smoking hot, 95° was the high on that hazy, hot and humid day.

July 19th, air so thick you could cut it with a knife. The maximum temperature and the maximum humidity matched that day. 94° and 94% offered a sun that set into a blue soup.

July 20th, only 89° for the high but once again the sun actually set into a fog of humidity.

July 21th, 97° and once again the sun set well above the horizon into low lying humidity.

July 22nd, 104° without the heat index. The record was set for the date and that day registered as the second-hottest day in the city's history.

July 23th, down to 100° what a relief? It was so hot "that Anthony Wiener went back to Congress for the cold shoulder."

July 24th, down to 91° and it felt really great! I turned off the air conditioners, threw open the windows and took a long walk in a steaming hot forest felling like it was a soft and cool day. The haze that prevented the sun from making the horizon was finally gone.

July 25th was an amazing view. It was the day that the New York heat wave really broke and it cooled off so fast that steam could be seen rising out of the Palisades. The clouds also seemed to be reacting to the violent change in the weather.

July 26th, just before a welcomed rainstorm there was some good rays.

July 28th was a great view.

With a nice golden afterglow.

But on July 29th in the pouring rain, I was very pleased to get this shot.

And then the sky cleared for the sun. It didn't stop raining so the view seemed a bit hazy but a sunset in the pouring rain is a very rare view.

July 30th was another perfect day for a walk in the park.

And yesterday July 31th seemed like the perfect afternoon for an end of month sunset.

But the clouds rolled in and July sunsets ended early.

I think I picked a good month to talk my neighbor into opening her blinds and watching the sunsets. If she did watch I doubt she will be saying "If you see one, you've seen them all." Or perhaps I'm just too visual.

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