I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Working week, take 2

A stranded bus blocking a side street yesterday. Here's hoping the streets are a little easier to navigate today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Welcome to the working week

A snowplow on Broadway.

We didn't have a white Christmas in New York, but the day after more than made up for it with twenty inches of snow, gale winds, thunder, lightning. This morning the streets were barely plowed, and the sidewalks were knee deep in snow.  After three blocks that felt more like three miles, I was ready to give up and go home, but a car service driver stopped and offered me a ride to the office for twenty dollars. Which I accepted.

Welcome to the working week.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And so this is Christmas (Travel Flashback)

It's not quite up to submission to the Awkward Family Photos site, but here's an embarrassing enough Christmas shot from sometime in the sixties. Typically, my sister plays to the camera and looks adorable. I just look dazed. This might have been the year I had a terrible cold on Christmas. (Or maybe that's just what I'm telling myself.)

Below, another shot of Lori under the tree and, inexplicably, wearing high heels with her pajamas. I remember the doll very clearly; I think she was called Saucy Walker, though getting her to walk was more trouble than it was worth.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And so this is Christmas

Not a great shot -- it was dark and I wasn't that close. These are members of the Irish Deaf Society caroling at the end of Grafton Street. They had John and Yoko singing Happy Xmas on a boombox and they signed the lyrics. A bit of Christmas spirit that made me smile at the time, and still makes me smile, even while I'm gritting my teeth through the umpteenth rendition of Jingle Bell Rock in my local grocery.

And so happy Christmas. And God bless us every one.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome to the working week

That's the Russell Senate Office building in Washington. And we'll salute Congress this working week, since they somehow managed to do something useful this past weekend and ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell, one of the stupidest compromises in American history. And that's really saying something.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


A building at 42nd and Madison, framing the building behind it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Approaching the solstice, and the last of the year's light trickles away. Here's the opposite of reflections: the reflected, the way New York's many windows create patterns of light on nearby buildings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome to the working week

Government is a messy business. Especially this one.

I keep away from politics for the most part in this blog because there are already dozens if not hundreds of witty, insightful, indispensable bloggers focusing on the subject, and I'd rather read their work than try to compete with it. But the reaction over the past week to the tax cut deal has been fascinating, and I can't help commenting.

Nobody on the left likes the deal. They're outraged! I don't like it either. Taxes are going to have to go up in this country -- we are going to have a domino effect of state and local governments collapsing if they don't -- but the idea that millionaires should have their tax rates return to Clinton-era levels -- when if I recall correctly they were all doing just fine, thank you very much -- is political anathema.

And everyone blames the president. There is a great deal I wish that he would do differently. I wish we could have a real progressive in the White House. But we can't, not in this political climate, and I was never under the illusion that Obama was going to be any kind of saviour.

Especially given what he has to work with: a deeply dysfunctional Senate where filibusters make almost any legislation impossible, Republicans who refuse to support anything the president wants, and Democrats that for the most part have forgotten that they have spines. The expiring tax cuts should have been addressed before the election, but Democrats were too afraid of the tea party and apparently found themselves incapable of explaining the simple facts that the tax cuts add trillions of dollars to the deficit and the middle class would not have been affected.

So this is what we're left with. It isn't pretty. But I don't have much patience with the congressional Democrats who are whining about it now and threatening to derail the agreement. They knew this was coming, and if they had addressed it before the last possible minute, we might have had a better outcome.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday reflections

New York again, and the Grand Hyatt again, which does produce the most fun reflections.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday bird blogging

A seagull on the river quay in Dublin. Though you're never aware of the harbor in the center of the city, the flocks of sea birds are a constant reminder that Dublin is actually on the coast.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday reflections

Reflections in Dublin -- this is near the Molly Malone statue on Nassau Street.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Home again home again


The Lincoln Tunnel, from the back seat of a cab. At least this driver wasn't using his cell phone to make a video of the road ahead of him, unlike the one who'd brought me to the Dublin airport. We were snaking along in one lane on the highway with snow piled on either side, clearly a wondrous sight that had to be recorded for posterity, even if it meant that posterity might be coming into their inheritance a lot sooner than anticipated.

Fortunately there wasn't much traffic.

Welcome to the working week

A doorman in one of the posh stores on Grafton Street. Although Dubliners in general seem to dress up a little more than Americans (and it would be difficult not to) I didn't see anyone else as well turned out as this gentleman.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dublin geometry

A slushy slippery sidewalk window on Dawson Street.

Before and after

St Stephen's Green on Wednesday (a little blurry due to my advanced state of catatonia) and on Saturday morning.

Trinity College

Fortunately I'd planned to devote Saturday to indoor activities -- shopping and the Book of Kells -- as the streets were too treacherous to make any more long hikes across Dublin a possibility.

Outdoor photos were unfortunately all that were allowed at Trinity, so these pictures are only a small part of what I saw. The Book of Kells! I had thought I didn't really care for Celtic art, all those intricate interlocking zigzags, but the way the colors were used (still vivid after twelve hundred years) made me see the ornamental knots and swirls with a different eye. And I've always loved how you can see the daily life of medieval artists incorporated in their work -- the birds and animals peeking from the borders, the clothes and hairstyles of the saints -- while the main lineup, in this case the Gospels, plays in center court.

The Book is bound into four volumes, two of which are on display, so you only see four pages of the actual manuscript, two of text and two of the full-page illustrations, but the accompanying exhibit includes photos of many of the illustrations, along with information on how the sheets of vellum were made, where the materials for the paints came from, how the book was bound, and its history. I was especially fascinated by the way the initial words on the text pages were decorated. Et for example is the first word in many of the paragraphs and it's never painted the same way twice.

You leave the Kells exhibit through the Long Room, part of the Trinity College library, with hundreds of thousands of books in shelved alcoves with vaulted ceilings. There are marble busts of writers outside each alcove, a wonderful spiral staircase going up to who knows what, and the air smells of wood and old books. It's the most wonderful library I've ever seen, and I wanted to sit there forever and read. Just read.

One oddity: the books are arranged by size, with the shortest books on a shelf closest to the ceiling. Each subsequent shelf is a little taller than the one above, and the books fit the shelves exactly. It's a very efficient use of space, but you'd have to have the world's most detailed card catalog to be able to find anything.


The news has been full of the early winter storms raging across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while I've had three days of sunshine in Dublin.

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard rain against the windows and thought my luck had finally run out, but when I got up this morning and looked outside, the skies were mostly clear and the sun was peeking through.

But I didn't look down, and it wasn't until I was walking across the lobby on my way to breakfast that I noticed the four or five inches of snow on the ground.

The good news is I didn't break my neck, despite having only sneakers. And everyone in Dublin seems so delighted with the snow it would be rude to complain. (The snowman is at Trinity College.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

The streets of Dublin

The New York influence

Two shops on the same block with New York names.

I understand why you would advertise Ray's Pizza as A Slice of New York. There are almost as many pizzerias called Ray's in New York as there are McDonalds. It's just that none of them are very good.

But Bed-Stuy is not an association you are likely to brag about. It's poor and crime-ridden and there's nothing remotely glamorous about either the poverty or the crime.

Sad stories of the death of kings

Some of the really beautiful decorative elements at the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. They're early nineteenth century although they look much older.

Dublin Castle

It wasn't the kings of Ireland who made their home here. This is where the English authority was based, and I have to say as a symbol of oppression by imperial overlords in the middle of an otherwise charming city it works very well.

Not that my Irish ancestry in any way influenced how I felt about it, or the pictures I chose to take. No. Not at all.

Except for the chapel, which has lovely windows and statuary, this really does have all the appeal of a minimum security prison. The only sign of color other than brick and stone were these lights outside the Garda (police) office.

The eyes of God are on you

I love the way the windows on the covered passage by Christ Church cathedral above look like eyes. They're rather owlish and benevolent though, nothing that would scare you into skipping a sin or two.

Here on the right are the flying buttresses on the cathedral itself. I didn't go in -- six euro charge, and I have a deep-rooted belief that churches ought to be free. (I can hear my mother hissing in my ear that of course it's a Protestant cathedral but we won't go there.)

Lunch special

The Irish seem to take breakfast very seriously -- every grocer and hole in the wall news agent advertises their deal on a full Irish breakfast -- but lunch is apparently open to interpretation.

I love this lunch special: three "courses," of which one is coffee, and another has the option of being a glass of wine. I think only in Ireland are the coffee and the alcohol so sacred they qualify as separate courses.


Behind the bricks and Christmas lights, Dublin is seething. The story is depressingly familiar: banks taking major risks, facing huge losses when the bubble burst. The government guaranteed their debts, and now is putting in place austerity measures that fall heavily on the middle and working classes. There are protests daily, but the government is holding firm.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

And so this is Christmas

Dublin is already decorated for Christmas, with trees and ornaments and sparkling lights everywhere, and it took me a while to realize that the lampposts aren't part of the holiday scheme -- they're dressed for Christmas all year round.

Below, the lights on Grafton Street at dusk.

North and South

Like most European cities split by a river, Dublin north of the Liffey has a very different character than south of the river. Most of the tourist attractions and upscale shopping streets are on the south side, and that seemed to have more of the charm as well.

But when you're on one of the bridges or quays, the north side (above) has a kind of Parisian look to it, while the south side looks more gritty.

Canal Bank Walk

                     the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me

 -- Patrick Kavanagh, Canal Bank Walk    


Redemption is a lot to ask for. But for a place to sit and daydream and figure out how to redeem yourself, I don't think there's a better choice.

Grand Canal

Twelve hours of sleep and four cups of strong Irish tea with breakfast turned out to be all that I needed to regain my bearings, and I walked miles across Dublin today, hands jammed in my pockets, nose running from the cold, but wanting to see everything while I could.

This is the Grand Canal, where a statue of Patrick Kavanagh sits in perpetual peaceful observation. The towpath was an unexpected oasis, and I sat on the bench one over from Mr Kavanagh and watched the water and the moorhens until the chill from the metal ate through to my bones and I had to walk again.

There were a dozen or so stands straddling the canal a few hundred feet away, selling Thai food and burritos and bratwurst along with the Cornish pasties and grilled lamb you'd expect. And though part of me just wanted to be snarky about the selection and mutter There's nowhere that isn't everywhere anymore, I was grateful enough for a hot sandwich to warm my hands on.

But I loved being in a country that honors its poets (well, eventually - Kavanagh's neighbors in County Monaghan were not exactly respectful of his literary aspirations.) There are huge posters of Yeats everywhere, and amid the buskers and the shoppers on Grafton Street, there was a man selling books of poetry.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Alive alive-o

Well, just barely.

It's less than seven hours from Newark to Dublin, and I was in Business First, so comfort and leg room weren't a problem, and when I arrived at my hotel at 7:30 this morning, they let me check in immediately.

So I should have felt reasonably refreshed when I woke up at around one and headed out to see a little of Dublin. Instead I found myself unable to interpret a simple map and wandered around in a kind of daze hoping that I'd manage to find my hotel again some day. Dublin seemed a little like London, a little like Paris, a little like a dozen other places I've been.

Except for these hallucinatory clouds over the Liffey, and the constant crying of the sea birds, which kept reminding me that I wasn't in Newark anymore.

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