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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Urban poetry

This is the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, scheduled to open in December.

It's stunningly beautiful, and I can't wait to see the inside. In the meantime, I love that orange crane poking into the side. I want to say that it looks like a baby dinosaur trying to nurse, except of course that dinosaurs didn't nurse and (probably) weren't orange, and seldom frequent Lower Manhattan these days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's something close to home: New York (or Manhattan anyway, along with portions of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and a large chunk of Jersey) photographed from the International Space Station.

It's surprising to me how bright Midtown is, compared to the rest of Manhattan, but I do love that you can easily pick out Broadway in the middle of the bright section. (It's the thick, slightly slanted line to the left -- Broadway runs at a diagonal on the grid of Manhattan.)

They say the neon lights are bright, on Broadway. Just how bright, even the Drifters may not have realized.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

A chaffinch in the garden at Cawdor Castle. He wasn't turned at the best angle but it's the best shot I could get.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


A sidewalk on Broome Street in SoHo. 

The glass circles are vault lights; they allow light into the basements, which extend under the sidewalks and were used for factories and living space.

Just one more way canny New Yorkers have squeezed every last usable inch out of a crowded city.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Two more

The light wasn't great for photographers in a hurry -- the building was only open for another fifteen minutes when I got there -- but you can at least see those luxurious Art Deco shapes.

What an entrance

The curve over the doorway, accented in ironwork and gold relief.

Jumping back several decades

This is 570 Lexington, an ordinary office building in Midtown East.

It also happens to be a fine example of Art Deco, like so many buildings in this part of Manhattan. I'd never seen it before, though, never known that there was any reason to go inside. But the lobby was on the  Open House tour and it was a short, if unexpectedly chilly, walk up from Grand Central, where the bus from the airport had dropped me off.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Curving into the abstract


I've always thought that jetway was one of those words that sounds as though it ought to mean something much better than the reality. It should be exciting -- a portal, a journey, a swish to something or somewhere magical. Instead it's prosaic verging on depressing -- a plastic-coated accordion tunnel full of grumpy people.

The photo reminds me of an old tv show from the Sixties, Time Tunnel, and you definitely have the sense in this jetway that the journey you're on may be slightly supernatural.

Staircases and a skylight

Please wait here

Everything in the terminal curves. It's simple and elegant.

I know you could never get away with a seating area like this anymore -- it's way too inefficient. Look at all that empty space! We could fit a couple dozen more seats in there easily!

It's interesting though how the oval departure sign looks so much more modern than the rectangular displays we have now. 

TWA Terminal

This was the building I was most excited to visit, and it did not disappoint: the old TWA terminal at JFK, designed by Eero Saarinen.

JFK was unusual in that each major airline owned and designed its own terminal, but this is by far the most memorable. When it opened in 1962, it was full of innovations that we now take for granted -- baggage carousels, jetways, electronic departure boards -- but it was not designed to accommodate the ever-larger jumbo jets, and when TWA went bankrupt in 2001 it was closed.

It was recently announced that it's being converted to a luxury hotel, expected to open in 2020. So this was the last opportunity to see it for several years, and the last chance to see it as an airline terminal, built for an age when flying was still fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brookfield Place

Known as the World Financial Center in the innocent days before 9/11. This wide airy atrium was, and maybe still is, called the Winter Garden.

Also not on the official tour

The harbor, as seen from the tip of Manhattan island.

Washington looks across Wall Street

I like this view, taken behind the statue of Washington, looking across Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange. I can only imagine how baffling he would find our modern financial systems -- I'm not sure anyone living now really understands them.

At least when the nation's treasure consisted of bags of coins, you could only steal as much as you could carry.

A Federal ceiling

The ceiling in the rotunda is charming, even if you don't really care for Federal architecture.


The current building was first a custom house, then part of the U.S Treasury. This exhibit made me smile; it's a little corny and reminds me of the cartoons where large sums of money were always indicated by piles of bags with large $$$ on the outside.

There were hundreds of millions of dollars kept in vaults here. I love the locking mechanism on the back of the treasury doors.

Federal Hall

This building was part of Open House New York. It's on Wall Street, across from the New York Stock Exchange, and though I've walked by it many times, I had never gone inside.

Despite the very striking statue of George Washington outside, he never slept, or for that matter, stepped inside the building now called Federal Hall, which wasn't built until 1842. The original building on the site, where Washington took the oath of office to become our first president, was demolished in 1812.

The old Federal Hall had started out as New York's city hall -- the famous libel trial of John Peter Zenger was held there in 1735 -- but had gone on to become the first Capitol of the United States after the Revolutionary War. When Philadelphia became the new capital, the building reverted to municipal government, and was torn down when a new city hall was built uptown.

More WTC

I'm not in love with the design, and though I understand the reasoning behind taking back the World Trade Center name instead of sticking with the original Liberty Tower, I'll always think of the twin towers when I hear that name. It's still a sore spot on my heart, all these years later.

Of course, what no one will admit now is that most people hated those towers, including me. They were undistinguished on the inside -- with truly terrifying elevators -- and ugly on the outside, and I will still probably cry forever when they turn up in the background in an old movie or television show.

Saturday reflections

The new One World Trade Center tower.

This weekend is Open House New York, celebrating the architecture and design of the city with a variety of spaces, old and new, public and private, available for visits.

Or not. The first place I tried to visit, the Cunard Building on Lower Broadway, was unexpectedly unavailable. But it was a perfect October day, which in New York is as perfect as days come, and I'm so rarely in Lower Manhattan that it felt like another vacation.

The new WTC wasn't one of the open houses, but obligingly posed for several pictures anyway.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

The Trifid nebula, in Sagittarius, named for the three dark lanes of dust in the center.

My brain, in search of the familiar, has decided that it looks like a giant pansy.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

A great tit, with an unusually pale belly, in the gardens at Cawdor Castle.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday reflections

Autumnal reflections to mark the shift in season. This is one of the little streams the river in Inverness is carved into by the Ness islands.

Trees aren't turning here yet, but this was the week the summer finally lost its grip and a coat in the mornings started to feel like a comfort rather than a precaution.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

Back in real life -- New York, work, Astronomy Tuesday.

Here's another stunning look at Pluto.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The poetry of place names

A bus in Edinburgh. I love these names: Oxgangs, Marchmont. I can't help believing that Monday morning would be easier if it involved traveling from Meadowbank to Hunter's Tryst.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday bird blogging

The picture is a little blurry, but here's another robin, this one in Southend.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Vaults and columns and music stands


Burns window

There was only good plain Presbyterian glass in St Giles until the late 19th century when stained glass started to be used.

This window is actually from 1985 -- it's a very modern, abstract tribute to the poet Robert Burns.

St Giles details

Some of the beautiful detail on the exterior of the cathedral.

The main church is 14th century, but it's been embellished in a way that John Knox would most likely not approve of, an astonishingly lovely blend of schools and styles.

St Giles

The High Kirk of Edinburgh, commonly referred to as St Giles' Cathedral, on the Royal Mile. That spiky steeple in the shape of a crown is a perfect encapsulation of Edinburgh architecture, and is fitting for a church that is basically the St Peter's of Presbyterianism, where John Knox used to preach his sermons denouncing that Popish whore down the street at Holyrood, Mary Queen of Scots.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Scaffolding on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. They're clearly going to be building something else behind that old facade, but for now the combination of old stone and blue sky is wonderful.

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