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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Springsteen on Broadway

Broadway doesn't officially reopen until the fall, but Bruce Springsteen is doing a revival of his show over the summer, and I saw it last night.

It felt too soon for me to be sitting in a theatre with 1700 strangers, even if all of them had provided proof of vaccination. But then, everything feels too soon to me these days. (Until I do it, and then do it again, and do it one more time...) So even though I still regret not seeing this show during the original run, and I am so very very tired of missing things, part of my brain was saying Of course I'm going! while another  part was screaming Absolutely not!  Of course, the rest of my brain was busy chanting Bruuuuuce! and there's simply no arguing with that. I compromised with my anxiety by keeping my mask on for the entire show.

It was wonderful. I may come up with more to say about it later, but his amazing command of language -- supple, wise, funny -- appears to have stripped me of my own. What I can say is that I came out of the theatre understanding that each of our lives is a poem. We don't all learn how to tell them. But maybe we could.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

Messier 99 is a beautiful spiral galaxy, and this Hubble image shows a closeup spanning 70,000 light years.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, Janice Lee; Processing and Copyright: Leo Shatz

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

A damp and spiky-feathered starling in Central Park last week. That punky hairdo makes the starling look young to me, although it's an adult -- juvenile starlings are a dull brown without the iridescent feathers or distinctive white markings. 

I am feeling, if not quite old, at least somewhat venerable these days. When I applied for this master's program I had visions of being decades older than everyone else in my classes, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the students have a broad range of ages and backgrounds and I'm not the only retiree looking for a new occupation.

But not in the Sociolinguistics class I am taking this summer, where most of the students are in their early to mid-twenties and I'm reasonably confident that I'm the only one over thirty.

It's been more amusing than anything else, though I am occasionally called upon by the professor to give the official old person perspective. For example, when we were discussing the degrees of formality of different ways of apologizing, I was asked if I would ever use “My bad.” I would and have, occasionally, but it sounds flippant to me while most of the other students thought it was informal but quite acceptable.

(Also, although they mostly remember 9/11, most of them were in preschool at the time. That's unnerving.)

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Saturday reflections

Summer in the city.

It doesn't feel anything close to normal, but compared to last summer it's Shangri-La. I went out earlier to the dry cleaner's and the grocery store, and ran into a couple of neighbors I hadn't seen in many months, and we just stood on the sidewalk chatting.

Okay, we were all wearing masks, but those routine encounters, the little bits and pieces that add up to a life, are one of the things I missed most during the long, long lockdown.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

I've posted images of the Tadpole Galaxy before, but this is a particularly good one.

In addition to the wonderful variety of galaxies dancing in the background, this photo really highlights that amazing tail -- the result of a galactic collision long ago -- and all those bright blue baby stars going about the endless business of being born despite being yanked away from their galactic home.

Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing: Amal Biju

Monday, June 21, 2021

Continuing adventures at l'école des sorciers

I just wanted to note that I have continued to plug along in Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers, and I'm almost halfway through now. Harry has finally arrived at Poudlard, and met Ron and Hermione and Malefoy -- whose name is so much more sinister in French, as is the French equivalent of Slytherin, Serpentard.

I have been charmed to discover that a wand in French is une baguette magique. (And yes, I do occasionally picture the young wizards waving loaves of bread, which are their own kind of magic.) 

Here is Ron's rat Scabbers, um, Croûtard, making the acquaintance of Malefoy's sidekick, Goyle:

Croûtard le rat était suspendu à un doigt de Goyle, ses dents pointues profondément plantées dans une phalange. Crabbe et Malefoy reculèrent d'un pas tandis que Goyle, toujours hurlant, agitait la main en tous sens pour essayer de se débarrasser de Croûtard. Le rat finit par lâcher prise et fut projeté contre la fenêtre.

Even a rat bite sounds better in French! Ses dents pointues profondément plantées...

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Apologies for the (lack of) quality of this photo -- it was taken through a window, and that antenna is on the other side of the yard.

But after my comment last week maligning the intelligence of mourning doves, this made me laugh. That's an American Kestrel (99% sure -- it's a bad picture) on the left, eating another bird for breakfast. At one point there were feathers poking out of its beak.

And though the kestrel was already eating, and not likely to go after something as large as a dove anyway, most birds very wisely flee whenever a hawk or a falcon shows up. But not this mourning dove, which sat there placidly in the sun, ignoring the carnage a few feet away.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Saturday reflections

This is probably more of an abstract shot than a reflection, but I love it, so here it is.

The old station

As an example of what replaced the original Penn Station: a walkway between the train station and Madison Square Garden. Efficient, maybe. Even utilitarian. But not in any way attractive or appealing.

Meet me under the clock

Every self-respecting train station needs a giant clock.



Our state motto, inside the main atrium.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Moynihan Train Hall, inside


Moynihan Train Hall

The old Pennsylvania Station vanished many years before I arrived in New York. The Beaux-Arts building was considered a masterpiece, but the decline of train travel and all that unused airspace above the station led to its being demolished in 1963, with a new Madison Square Garden and some nondescript office towers being built over a much smaller, completely charmless train station.

Our late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to be a shoeshine boy in Penn Station during the Depression, and he proposed turning part of the old Main Post Office building across Eighth Avenue into an annex of the station. That has finally been completed, and the new Moynihan Train Hall opened in January. When, of course, we were in the middle of one of the pandemic's many surges and I wasn't going anywhere I didn't have to.

I finally got to see it on my birthday, stopping in to take a few pictures on my way home from breakfast. I've always loved the Post Office building -- it was designed by McKim, Mead and White, the architects of the original Penn Station, and still has the old Post Office motto above the Corinthian columns: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. 

The retail spaces aren't open yet; with so many people still working from home, I'm not sure when they will be. But there were people there checking the schedules and dashing for their trains through the glass-roofed atrium. Not too many people -- I wasn't tempted to flee -- but enough to make it feel like New York, like home, full of the familiar hustle and hurry that is so much a part of life here. That maybe is coming back a little. That maybe can come back a little. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Life in the time of coronavirus

This is the picture I should have used for the previous entry, but I forgot I'd taken it: a movie theatre on 42nd Street announcing its reopening a few weeks ago.

I will not be going to the movies any time soon, maybe ever, but I am supposed to go to the theatre in a couple of weeks, a prospect that has me more than a little anxious.

Urban poetry

A typically unlovely West Side street, with a jumble of architecture and those odd beams connecting the fences. But it's hard for me to express how beautiful I found it, walking home from breakfast on a lovely spring morning.

All Covid restrictions have been lifted. Of course I'm still free to take as many precautions as I like, and it will be a long time before the world feels less dangerous to me, so not much is going to change in my life at the moment. 

Still. I just hope the millions of idiots who refuse to get vaccinated don't drag us all down with them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

Jupiter's Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System. In this image, taken by the Juno probe last week, you can see the ridges and craters that are the geologic wear and tear of life in our universe. It makes me wonder what the Earth would look like without the camouflage of oceans and icecaps and forests and cities, if we could see it stripped to the naked rock.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; Processing and License: Kevin M. Gill;

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sunday bird blogging


I will always be grateful for the sparrows and titmice and mourning doves who visited my fire escape and windowsill when I couldn't go out looking for them.

I do love mourning doves. You aren't likely to find many of them qualifying for the avian equivalent of Mensa, but there's something so reassuring about the way they just plod along, looking quite contented with their lives despite singing such a sad, sad song.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Saturday reflections

This gorgeous car reflection is so abstract you can hardly see the car.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Street photography

A woman sitting on her stoop on East 88th Street Saturday night. I will always be able to identify this picture as coming from the Late Covid Era by the fact that she's wearing a mask but it's pulled down around her chin, and that she was able to buy a six-pack of paper towels.

One thing that I missed even more than going out for breakfast was just walking around with a camera in my hand, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. I could, and occasionally did, do this pre-vaccine, but I always felt as though I needed to have a reason -- and a good one -- to justify leaving the sanctuary of my apartment and venturing into the virus-ridden world outside. (Being so overwhelmingly busy with school was a factor too, of course.)

It's not just that I can wander around; it's that I finally have the energy to look at the world again. It's wonderful.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

The Necklace Nebula is only about 5000 years old, so quite a newcomer in galactic terms. Planetary nebulae like these are formed by the gases emitted by stars near the end of their lifespan -- in this case the star at the center is actually two stars, orbiting so closely they share a common atmosphere.

Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA; Processing: K. Noll

Monday, June 7, 2021

Urban poetry

It isn't officially summer, but this past weekend was certainly steamy enough to qualify. When I was on the Upper East Side Saturday night, I noticed that suddenly masks were being worn pulled down below the chin. Sure, the CDC said we didn't need to wear masks outside if we're vaccinated, but most people in New York had still been wearing them. 

Then the heat and humidity arrived and suddenly we were all saying, You know, I think I'll just pull the mask down until I have to go inside.

Here's the golden light near sunset on West 43rd Street.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Sunday bird blogging

Here's a grackle, showing off those iridescent blues and greens and purples.

I've been celebrating my birthday all weekend; after last year when I barely remember having a birthday, and certainly didn't celebrate, being able to share two meals with friends -- and hugs! I've actually been hugged! -- made me tear up more than once.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Saturday reflections

 The Upper West Side, as seen in the frames of a car.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Zoom life


Shortly after I started school last summer, I started shopping for a desk so I could sit somewhere other than my bed for Zoom classes.

I have a small apartment, and far too much stuff in it already, but I finally found a leaning desk-bookcase combination at Crate and Barrel, and I ordered it. There were shipping delays because of the pandemic, and I waited for delivery. And waited. And waited.

The furniture eventually arrived in three separate deliveries in the middle of last semester when my life consisted of writing papers, and then writing more papers. So it wasn't actually assembled until last week, and I finally managed to figure out how to anchor the desk to the brick wall Tuesday.

So last night was the first time I zoomed into class from my brand new desk.

Fortunately on Zoom, no one can see your floor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Astronomy Tuesday

Mars, of course.

And I love the fact that the many landers and probes have now made me familiar enough with the surface of a planet millions of miles away that I can say, Oh, that's Mars, the same way I might say, Oh, that's Central Park.

This particular image from the Utopia Planitia was taken by Viking 2 in 1976, showing that unlike many places on our home planet, Mars hasn't changed much in the past 45 years. It's not far from where the Chinese Zhurong rover landed earlier this month.

Image Credit: NASA, The Viking Project, M. Dale-Bannister (Washington University)

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