“Lanterns”

When I hear lanterns, I think of nighttime in the Old West and a barn fire from a horse kicking over a kerosene lantern and then an old man in a nightgown grabbing his own lantern and running onto the porch and his eyes going wide at the blaze and then cowboys and lanterns and fire.

Also, I think of Chinese lanterns. Those are pretty!

Winter Lantern Festival sounds like the pretty kind. Over in Snug Harbor on Staten Island, lanterns were ablaze! Except that they weren’t kerosene fueled and weren’t really lanterns. S and I headed out on a not-too-cold winter night to see the lanterns which turned out to be lights, and the lights were pretty, so it all worked out.

Snug Harbor is pretty small compared to the number of people who were swarming to see the pretty lanterns. That meant a lot of driving in circles. When I was about to make a fifth loop, the security guy beckoned my car over and asked why we were there. S was like, To see the lights. He was like, Okay there’s no parking inside but you can park right in front of my car. He indicated a very tight spot for which I would need to parallel park. And it took me under five minutes, which is highly impressive. I also sweat out maybe a pint of parking sweats, which is expected. (If y’all thought there would be no sweating, y’all have forgotten key elements of my soul).

Not pretty was the soft mud beneath our feet as we walked through. We wore boots. We were smart. I’m including this link here– https://gothamtogo.com/winter-lantern-festival-2018-on-staten-island/ — to show how the photo envisions the ground as magic unmuddy tiles, which is the opposite of what we were walking on. There were paths made of some sort of outdoor pathway building materials, but to get closer to some of the displays, there was lots of mud in the dark. But it was lit by these pretty non-lantern lights, so, in turn, it was kind of pretty, too!

The lights were LED sculptures and Eastern themed. There were large flowers, a panda, and a dragon at the beginning. The Chinese zodiac lit up another pathway. There was a shimmery peacock, which I suppose is not necessarily Chinese, but more worldly. Other worldly things were the Christmas tree and some butterflies. And we walked through a shark. It’s hard to explain, but it was also pretty.

A small section of candy appeared, and we saw it from across the way. I was like, That was made for you. S was like, for sure. When we got to it, she kept turning towards me as I was taking pictures of her from behind, and finally I was like, Hey you’re ruining it! And she was like, Ohhh, yes, good idea.

A few years back, we went to a Will Cotton exhibit and I snapped a quick photo of her from behind looking at the painting, and it was pretty amazing. Since then, whenever we come across a candy-themed exhibit, I usually recreate the magic of S In Awe Of Sweets. Here in the dark backlit by candy, it does the trick.

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#SouthpawSweets

Then there was another panda. Like a person in a costume panda. I stopped short and then told S we had to walk quickly. When she saw what I was avoiding, she cackled and then tried to get me to go back twice to take a picture. No, no thank you. I am not going near adults in costumes that don’t speak. It’s weird and awkward and I stand by my choice.

She also found some lanterns for me! Lantern success!

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Look At All Of These LANTERNS!!!

After we were lanterned out, we headed to the car. Only we couldn’t find the car because once we were out of the exit, I was like, We’ve never been on this street before. S asked a security guy about exits, and he was like, Did you park on Blah De Blah? And I was like, I have no idea. So he was like, That means you did. He gave us directions back into the park and then out again. I had to parallel out of the space halfway because by the time I’d maneuvered back and forth a bunch of times, the other security guy pulled his car away. More success! Very little sweating!

And all by the light of the pretty lanterns.

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All About The Benjamin. Franklin.

Art. Fitness. Drizzling. Parks. Sweets. History. Philadelphia has all this stuff in a very walkable way.

Side note: Every time I write Philadelphia, I can’t spell it right the first time. What vowel would you like to put after the L? I like every vowel that isn’t A first. Why is this happening? Anyway.

S and I have been attempting a day trip since February. Finally, we found a day in July. Then we had to move the date again because I pulled my neck out by taking out my ponytail holder and couldn’t drive for a few days. True story. This is what a grieving body feels like.

In a rather straight-shot-quick-drive, we got to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, late morning. Very exciting! We parked in the space I reserved in a garage in the city’s hub. Very exciting! We walked out of the parking garage. Very exciting! We walked right into the middle of a protest that was toeing the line between super-activist and semi-hostile. Very terrifying!

Right down the street, however, were some lovely statues dedicated to some of our Founding Fathers! Very exciting!

Public art is one of my favorite things, so we found sculptures and statues (many of Benjamin Franklin) and seemingly permanent sidewalk art. I definitely wanted to see the Love sculpture to see what it was like compared to the one in NYC. We quickly found that there’s an additional love sculpture in translation! And we found a banner that I was convinced said love. And it did not.

Also, there are fountains. One in particular you can swim in even though the bottom of it has big black lettering that says No Swimming. Maybe only kids can swim in it. Maybe the lettering should say No Diving. On a super hot day, this is the place to be because there’s a really nice mist that comes off the jets, and it smells like chlorine, so I didn’t feel as if I were contracting malaria as I walked around.

Philadelphia has an art museum! We didn’t go into the art museum. I didn’t see a whole lot of people go inside. Instead, most people ran up the steps because that’s what Rocky did and everyone loves Rocky. The Rocky statue is not at the top as I thought it was. It’s on the sidewalk next to the museum, so if you want to meet Rocky and not climb the steps, you’re welcome. S ran up about four times in total and then a few more in just the top half. There are a lot of steps and a lot of landings and then a lot more steps. I ran up the second two sets once. Same Rocky vibe.

While we missed hearing the Wanamaker Organ, we saw it. It’s in Macy’s. Also in Macy’s is a gigantic eagle that’s so heavy that the floor under it is reinforced. That’s German artistry for ya.

We found our way to a bank of sweet shops and had at it. Franklin Fountain has a bunch of different ice creams and intriguing drinks that include phosphates. I don’t know what the heck that means, but I got a Hemingway’s Dream because, you know, Hemingway.

Shane’s Confectionery neighbors the fountain, so we went there and saw all the candy in the world. A few blocks away is Rocket Fizz that also sells candy in addition to toys and weird flavored soda–like Ranch Dressing flavored soda.

Two history-related activities for us were seeing the Liberty Bell (Me: Did you want to see the Liberty Bell? S: Uh, sure) and seeing the Betsy Ross House from the outside (Us: Hey, there’s Betsy Ross’s house.) The Liberty Bell wasn’t crowded, but no one really felt the need to wait their turn to take a photo. My photo captures that essence perfectly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Philadelphia shuts down pretty early. We criss-crossed the city all day and towards dusk, we found one more love statue. Then we headed home after a day of dabbling in almost every category a full vacation week might include. Much needed and a long time coming. Great day. Great friend.

 

 

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part III

After a long night of nothing followed by a morning of nothing, it was time to climb out of the bathtub, open the curtains, and start packing for home. The morning was sunny but chilly. Not that it mattered. My morning was to be spent answering emails and then heading to Shreveport. When I’d landed, I picked up a map of close-by things to see, so I figured I’d see some things before checking in.

Shreveport was pretty deserted on an early weekend morning. I wonder if it’s ever not deserted because it seemed more like a ghost town than a sleepy town. What made it more alive was the public art, which was really what I was there to see. I also became mesmerized by the passing trains. Once again, it was as if I’ve never seen a train before, never been on a train, and don’t have a train so close to my house that I can hear it sometimes pass by.

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This is art on art.

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This is me getting my fingers in the way of the art.

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I usually blur out license plates, but that would defeat the purpose here.

The art didn’t take all that long to see, so I headed to the airport. You know how they tell you to get to the airport two hours early? Yeah, that’s helpful if you go to an airport that has more than like 5 gates. Shreveport’s airport has like a one-lane road in and out that is wide open. I practically had a personal TSA agent going through security because I was the only person going through security. There were three gates where I was waiting, but really, it was only one gate. Only one door to the airplane with three different waiting areas for the one door.

Across the waiting area sat a group of men clearly going somewhere for a round of golf that day and most likely heading home later that day by plane. I waited a pretty long time since I was there so early, but that meant more reading time. Then I landed in ATL and read some more while avoiding all the people in the waiting area who thought putting bare feet on seats was an okay thing to do.

 

Then I flew home on a rather large plane where I realized I’d prefer an aisle seat rather than a window seat next time. You know, like next time I go to Texarkana and there’s no tornado and I actually get to read and talk to people about poetry. Some day, Texarkana, some day.

Wave Walk, or To Complete A List

S likes to finish lists. I like to find public art. La Mer’s Wave Walk seemed to be essential to live our lives happily. A way to promote the UN’s focus on clean oceans, La Mer Blue Heart Ocean Fund teamed up with Project O to find celebrities to create pieces of artwork about the ocean. Most are circular waves. A few are surf boards. La Mer posted an interactive map on their website to boast these sculptures.

Fact: This interactive map is the worst map. No matter when or how you open it, it always starts on the sculpture in the Bronx in Yankee Stadium. When you click on it, it sometimes goes to where you want it to go, but mostly, it does whatever it feels like doing.

Fact: The waves are numbered in a way that seems random. I’m guessing they are numbered by how they were commissioned, and then they were placed across the city. However, the placement and the numbers don’t line up, so like #1 is near #45.

Fact: One of the waves listed is not the wave that exists. The lobby of the James Hotel has a fabulous sculpture, but it’s not the one listed on the site.

So the goal to see all the waves also became a project I’m very fond of: map making. I stepped away from using maps for a while–I used to use them in creative writing and literature classes but because the Google and the Flickr change how their map tech works often, I stopped because relearning and reteaching how to make a map takes too much time. Now, however, it was me, the Google, S’s neat organized list of wave sculptures, and a dream.

I saw my first wave by accident. When Eddie and I waited for the right bagels at JFK, I found one. It’s past security, which means public art in this case is open to all those who might have a plane ticket and are flying out of Terminal 4. Finding it was a delight, though.

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Only a few days later, S found some on her own at Albee Square.

Then came our first jaunt out into the wild together. First stop, Sugartarium at Unix Gallery. This has nothing to do with waves and everything to do with her love of sweets and my love of free things to do.

Next stop? Well, that’s when we were using the terrible interactive map that barely works on a desktop computer let alone a cell phone. So we zig zagged through the city and found some near the Flatiron, Brookfield Place, the Oculus, FIT, Wall Street, and Whole Foods on Greenwich. It took hours of confused subway rides and turned around street crossing.

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Near the Flatiron, basically hidden next to a large truck. Also, we couldn’t find the subway downtown after seeing this one so we crossed the same street maybe five times.

At Brookfield. Walked in, out, around, down the promenade, and then across the patio. It’s clearly inside but not on the side where we were inside.

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Down on Wall Street, we made a friend. (The wave is actually outside of the front of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian).

We walked by the Oculus and then back by it again. We went inside because S said I should see inside. Then we went outside. Then we looked at the picture on the interactive map and saw that they were actually inside. The address didn’t say that.

Oh sweet magnificent Whole Foods. They had a sign explaining the entire Wave Walk and Project 0 as well as where to find the wave.

The next week, we embarked on Day 2 armed with a better list of our own, a better map of our own, and pure moxie. Day 2 was about 100 degrees.  Thank you, summer, for arriving on the very day we’d be running around from north to south. First stop, Harlem.

It’s 125 under the tressle and not the address they give, but close.

Into the lobby of Sotheby’s where this surf board doesn’t look like the photo on the map.

We then made our way to the UN. We walked uphill and downhill and across streets and back across. We looked at the map. We looked through fences and gates. Finally, S climbed the stairs and peeked inside beyond security to find that they were actually inside the complex.

The security guard told us to simply go across the street and get a pass. It would take five minutes tops. Then we could get inside to see them. Ohhh. Okay. We went across the street, and S went inside while I waited outside as per the guard’s instructions. She came back out holding a blue paper bracelet and said, You wear the wristband, and I get this. She indicated the sticker on her shirt. Hahahahhahahahaaaa.

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We went back across the street and the guard smiled and welcomed us through. Security was quick. The waves were right there along with the other permanent sculptures. Also, there’s a ghost in one of these photos.

As aforementioned, the sun blazed, I sweated a lot, and so the memory of where we went and how we got there drifts fuzzily in my head. At one point, we got on a subway car that was not air conditioned, but we got to sit for a while. A balanced trade. So here are some waves we saw, possibly not in the order we saw them, but since the official map is terrible, this is still better.

Three waves along Madison.

Inside Vivienne Westwood

This one is called Mushball. It’s on either Madison or 3rd. It’s a blur. If it’s on Madison, then one of the ones above listed at Madison is on 3rd. This is very helpful, I know.

The one listed at 611 5th Ave is actually inside Saks. Why not just say “inside Saks?”

We did the hotels together: The James and then Crosby. As indicated before, the one in the lobby of the James is not listed, and the one listed on the map as the one in the lobby is not apparent anywhere in real life. The guys at The James Hotel were really helpful in simply offering up how to see the other two without our asking.

Three at The James Hotel

One at Crosby Hotel

There was also this one outside of the American Folk Art Museum.

Six at the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. Oh sweet mercy of air conditioning.

Drenched, thirsty, starving, we headed to Cooper Square at some point. Along the way, I bought some fruit and a protein bar that had chocolate because I was craving both along with a third or fourth bottle of water. We sat in Cooper Square while I ate. The sun had started to set, so it was around only 90 degrees at this point.

S found a 7-11 to get a Coke slurpie. I saw a Vivi’s and got a bubble tea. Oh sweet mercy of air conditioning and ice cold drinks. We also saw some typical NYC scenes along the way.

The Tide Is High wave is listed at The Kimmel Center NYU. We found the Kimmel Center. We walked around the Kimmel Center. I suggested we go into the park across from the Kimmel Center, but the map on the phone told us we were going the wrong way. We went into the Kimmel Center. I sat on the stairs of the Kimmel Center as S climbed them to look around. One of the guards spoke to her about the waves and he was like, I’ll show you. She beckoned me, and I climbed up after her. He took us up the escalator and indicated, It’s through there.

We walked down a hall and entered a room and there it stood. It wasn’t a special wave or THE wave we were looking for. However, something felt magical about it. Maybe because I was about to pass out from heat exhaustion. Maybe because it didn’t have a rope around it as most of the indoor ones do. Maybe because it’s orange and I like orange. Maybe because in the fading light, it glimmered. Again, that could be the onset of dehydration, but still. Magnificent.

We thanked the guard, who had seen quite a few on his own, and called it a day. We’d spent about ten hours searching for waves in NYC summer heat. It was time to pack it in for  now.

As a follow up, S got to see more in Brooklyn, on Roosevelt Island, and in other parts of Manhattan. The outliers are the ones in Yankee Stadium and Staten Island. The list may not have all checks by the time the sculptures come down, but it was an honest and determined effort to finish it.

I realize it’s for a bigger cause. However. The next time anyone wants to set up statues across NYC, call us. We’ll make a map and checklist and maybe we’ll offer prizes. Okay, we’re not offering prizes, but we can make a list and a map. It’s really simple. See?