Exotic Infrastructure

There is so much beauty in modern infrastructure. No wonder I take so many pictures of that stuff.

Admittedly, I’m obsessed with subways. I could fill a whole other blog with subway photos and videos. (<– Hmm. Am I the only one who thinks that’s a good idea?) Meanwhile, here’s a recent moody image from NYC:

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This power line runs through my neighborhood (although not precisely at this angle):

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Can you guess what this is?:

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It’s the crumbling (sideways) letters of a storm drain warning. NO DUMPING DRAINS TO OCEAN.

And how about this?:

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Well, if you’ve been a reader of this blog for long, that’s an easy one to answer. It’s part of a pair of decaying sea walls that fascinate me. (Fascination is a kinder word than obsession.) Here’s a wider shot of the same wall (earlier that same sunrise):

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If you ever want to visit this wall, it is just east of East Beach in Santa Barbara, CA.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Abstract.)

 

 

 

 

Phototravelog: Williamsburg Bridge Walk

The Williamsburg bridge connects Brooklyn with Manhattan and is a marvelous application of Erector Set construction principles:

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My latest trip to New York, I walked the Williamsburg bridge on a dark but lovely afternoon. To my left, I saw its more famous cousin, the Brooklyn bridge, along with the Manhattan skyline:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, the pedestrian walkway is a cage. The human eye quickly adjusts to this and ignores the bars, enjoying the view beyond. My phone camera, however, ignored the bars only in the few places where I could position the camera smack next to the grid, lens between bars:

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Even when the cage is not prominent, the view is cluttered, which adds a distinctive industrial beauty:

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Pedestrians walk above cars here:

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And alongside trains!:

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It turns out the subway is not just subterranean. Here are two trains passing, bread-‘n’-butter, in opposite directions:

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This video almost catches a train exchange. Behind the trains, note some reasons not to drive:

I think I remember reading that a public art project made some pink decisions:

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The public art continues to evolve:

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Underfoot I found my favorite:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, even the eroding asphalt paint looks good:

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Angular.)

Subterranean Fear and Wonder

The New York City subway system is awesome.

Awesome (adjective), causing feelings of fear and wonder – Merriam Webster Online.

I love the New York subway. Sure, it can be noisy and crowded and dirty. Subway cleaning crews are as rare as baby pigeons and they seem to keep missing cesspools like this one:

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On the other hand, sometimes on the platforms there are musicians – damn good ones! – who improve your day with their music, whether or not you toss them any money. And the stations have a grimy beauty, thanks to many generations of tile art:

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When I tell you I’m a writer, I also admit to being a voyeur and a snoop. The subway is a great place to eavesdrop and observe (although it never takes long for input overload to occur). I look at all the people around me – well, one doesn’t look directly, one glances and senses – and I try to figure out who they are, what they care about, what their lives are like. Trains go by, more people framed in the windows, like sideways-advancing filmstrips.

2014-10-07 08.55.30As a novice rider, I took great pride in decoding the station and route map, negotiating the turns and turnstiles and signs — in actually getting where I intended to go. Now that I’ve had some practice, most of my trips are successful, and on brave days I try tricky transfers. Nonetheless, each visit to New York brings at least one time when my target station flashes past, the train doesn’t stop and I realize, oops, I’m on an express train. I get out my subway map app to determine how far out of my way the train is taking me. On the map, white dots show stations where express trains stop.

I have always appreciated the subway, but my current interest falls between preoccupation and obsession. This began on the day I glanced out a train window and saw another train that was at eye level, until suddenly it descended. Or my train ascended. Or both. How many levels are there down here below ground? I wondered, and I still don’t know the answer. When I went to the Transit Museum (yes, I went to the Transit Museum), I asked the bookstore guy if they had any 3D models of the system. He thought that was a cool idea for a future product and passed it along to his boss. In other words, nope, no 3D model.

Use of public infrastructure requires trust and perhaps ignorance. The transit museum exhibits confirmed the engineering brilliance of the system – and showed me the decrepit-looking control box that ran the system until way too recently. When I step into electrical gadgetry that shoots me around underground, I don’t want steampunk involved, thanks.

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At the Transit Museum I learned that New York’s millions of buildings and people are suspended above antique cavities that were tunneled long ago, through stone and under water, by methods crude and jury-rigged. Well, I guess if it were going to collapse it would have happened by now.

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Achievement.)

Travelog: Cities With Snow

Long time ago, I had a boyfriend stuck in Michigan one winter and when he went outside one morning, it had been so cold that his car tires had frozen square. That is so. Awesome.

For this southern Californian, cold weather is a remarkable novelty. Those of you in places where winter is more than sweater weather may struggle to share my fascination.

In January, I went to Reston, Virginia and Manhattan. My trip occurred in between their brutal snowstorms of this winter, but I did get to see some snow, and experience single digit temperatures.

At my Reston hotel I thought, If only I’d brought my swimsuit! I didn’t know the hotel had a pool. Complete with lifeguard chair.

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The Washington D.C. Amtrak station was warm and inviting:
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I saw some regulars inside:
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Through a bus window I saw the Potomac, an ice sheet with bridges:
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My first night in Manhattan I saw no snow, just the usual thrilling sights of so many people in so small a space:
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Here is what snow looks like outside Grand Central Station:

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The Upper East Side had a more refined patch:
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The wind came from between the buildings and made this visitor understand why no one else was in this park:
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It was warm inside my hotel. Hotel corridors make me wish I’d never seen The Shining.
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The January sky cast an austere glow:
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New York is beautiful no matter what the conditions.

The View From High and Far

I can stare at a city view for hours, studying the structure, sensing the underlying chaos, sensing the history and the stories, hearing faint distant sirens and that lowgrade perpetual hum that comes from so many people in one locale. Below are shots of

  • Chicago adjoining Lake Michigan,
  • Boston at sunset across the Commons,
  • midtown Manhattan,
  • the East River and Queens as seen from the Empire State Building on a very clear day, and
  • downtown Los Angeles as seen from the hiking trails at Griffith Park at dawn.

I will leave it to you to figure out which is which.

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Boston

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This post responds to this Weekly Photo Challenge.

Manhattan, Very Early

Last year I got to take my kids to New York for a few days. Our return flight was early one morning. I love this shot of my son – up way before his body clock would usually allow – taking in his last views of Manhattan before we departed. We were almost the only ones up…

Goodbye, New York.

Goodbye, New York.

Another crack-o’-dawn morning on the trip, my daughter and I walked out to the East River to watch the sun rise. That’s my daughter huddled on the side of the photo – it was colder than we had anticipated.

OK, we saw the sunrise, now let's go back to bed.

OK, we saw the sunrise, now let’s go back to bed.

(Posted for the latest Weekly Photo Challenge.)