Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Big Four-Oh

Okay, now I am 40 years old in both Australia and the US. To celebrate my birthday, we drove (well, some of us drove and some rode their Harleys) down through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia to North Carolina for the 2006 Smokeout and, coincidentally, to visit Farmer Pete's sister and her family. Just to whet your appetite for more, here I am celebrating my age by defying death on the back of a Fat Boy (that's the bike, not Farmer Pete). You can see more photos over at my Flickr album (click on the link in the sidebar to get there), including two of the cutest boys in North Carolina.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Niagara Falls

Note: I'm having intermittent difficulties uploading pics to Blogger from my sister's computer, and today is one of those days. So I apologise for having to give you links to Flickr instead of photos right here in the blog.

Although the day started out wet and windy, by the time my sister and I got to Niagara Falls it was clearing (although still windy -- but the falls are always windy due to the huge updraft created by the massive amounts of water dropping over the edge). Those who have seen my photos of my last visit to Niagara will recall that we crossed over into Canada to see the falls from that side two years ago, so this year we decided to visit the American Falls. Goat Island is the tract of land that separates the Canadian Falls (Horseshoe Falls) from the Bridal Veil and American Falls. We parked on the Island, then walked out to the Three Sister Islands, a rather appropriate destination although only two of the three sisters were actually present. Wonder if we'll ever manage to get all three of us there at the same time?
After checking out the Horseshoe Falls from the south side and eating lunch in the Top of the Falls restaurant -- I had a local beer called the Dawn Patrol that was quite tasty -- we ventured over to the American Falls. The Cave of the Winds tour involved a 175-foot descent in a lift (or an elevator, as Farmer Pete insists) to a boardwalk that takes you right under the foot of the falls -- hence the yellow condom and strange sandals. Naturally, this didn't stop me from getting my jeans soaking wet when we went up onto the Hurricane Deck.
I am always amazed by the sheer quantity of water that goes over Niagara every second. Especially in the light of our drought-stricken continent downunder, it just seems impossible that there is enough water in the entire world to keep the Falls pumping millions of litres a second, 24/7, 365 days a year. Mind-blowing!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Animals upstate

Here's Farmer Pete mowing the lawn. It only takes him about five hours, and that's just the bit around the house. The field at the back is waist-deep in grass ready for hay-making.
Here's the supreme terror of the house in pensive mode: Sprocket the Not-So-Brave Beagle (he's quite scared of Puss when Puss is in a mood).
Puss is much more my style: he just lazes around in the sun all day and stalks the halls at night, occasionally taking a swipe at Sprocket if he gets too annoying.

Here's some upstate wildlife. The deer come down most days at dusk: on this day there were five or six in the hayfield. One spotted me with the camera and went bounding off into the trees, leaping high over the grass and showing the white underside of his tail with each bounce.

I've been trying to get close enough to a bumble bee to get a photograph for years, but they just won't hold still. These lumbering guys are about five times the size of Australian bees and make a much lower droning sound. I grasped the chance to finally get a photograph when we arrived in Colden to find a veritable graveyard of bumble bees in the side porch. Don't know why they all come to Colden to die!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Back to the blogosphere -- in New York

After several months of hiatus, I'm back! And I'm in New York!
I arrived in New York city on Friday evening, in pretty good shape thanks to a surprise upgrade to business class on my flight. The Upstaters (my sister and her husband) flew down to meet me at the airport and we dragged our luggage out to Uncle's place in New Jersey, which would be our base camp for daily forays into the Big Apple: just an hour on the bus each way.
I had a short list of four things I wanted to see or do in NY city: one of the big art galleries, Central Park, Greenwich Village and a Broadway show. We easily did all that and more, but there's still plenty to see next visit! All the photos are here, in my Flickr account.

Day 1
We headed straight for Times Square where we sipped coffee and watched the world go by. From Times Square we took a stroll uptown to the Rockefeller Centre. The Museum of Modern Art turned out to be the gallery of choice, rather than the Met, and it was all I thought it would be. Seeing first-hand original artworks that I've studied and written essays about was awe-inspiring. It's such a great collection of iconic works. When the security guards threw us out at closing time, we headed downtown to Chinatown for dinner. Much to my delight, I found several stores and street vendors who were selling the delicious hot coconut milk tea that the Dude and I fell in love with in Shanghai. I bought a cup for the Upstaters, who declared it delicious (although Pierre said it would be better without the "gloppy shit" in the bottom).

Day 2
On this fine sunny Sunday we elected to visit Central Park, only to find that half the park was closed to the public because of a Puerto Rican parade. Still, we walked through Strawberry Fields (and saw the Dakota apartment block where John Lennon was shot), strolled around the Lake to the Bethesda fountain and visited the Belvedere Castle for a great view of the Turtle Pond and the city skyline over the park. Shakespeare's garden was lovely, with lots of flowers in bloom. From Central Park we dropped in at the Waldorf ("where folks sit around all day") for high tea. Heading back downtown we went to Battery Park and visited the World Trade Centre site before going to Little Italy for dinner al fresco.

Day 3
Greenwich Village was ticked off the list today: Washington Square, NYU, the Stonewall Bar and various other sites. We ate lunch in a bar that was showing the World Cup, but just missed the Australia vs Japan game (that Australia won 3-1, and apparently John Aloisi made a hero of himself again). In the afternoon, we took the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island to get an education in local history and some photographs of an iconic landmark. For dinner we found a little cajun cafe called Great Jones, so I got my first taste of gumbo and cornbread.

Day 4
Now with thoroughly sore feet, we had tickets for a show on Broadway this evening and everything else on my list done, so our first stop was NY Choppers, a custom bike shop famous among bikers like the Upstaters. Just down the road we ate lunch at the Hello Deli, which is apparently famous because it is a regular segment on Letterman. The owner was happy to pose for photographs with the customers, all day. And the sandwiches were good. Next stop was the South Street Sea Port, where there was an exhibition of plastinated human bodies similar to the one I saw in Sydney with the Aforementioned Engineer. The Upstaters were keen, so we checked it out. Afterwards we went to Union Square to meet my fellow blogger, Kevin, and get the lowdown on what we had missed from a true New Yorker! Last stop was Times Square (again) for a piece of New York pizza and some cheesecake to complete our sampling of NY cuisine. Spamalot was our Broadway show of choice (due to a long-term Monty Python indoctrination) and we were not disappointed, apart from the fact that the big-name stars (Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria) had been replaced by lesser-known performers. We finally made it back to New Jersey and fell into bed, knowing that the next day was just for travelling.

Now we're upstate, in sunny Colden where the temperature is (uncharacteristically) supposed to hit 90 degrees in the next day or so. (That's about 35 degrees for those who think in Celsius.) The Upstaters have family visiting for the Father's Day weekend so tomorrow looks like a grocery shopping day.