Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mets finish second!

Yes, only in a division as bad as this year's NL East could a team ending the season five games under .500 earn a second place finish, and yes, they have to share this honor with their frequent nemeses, the Braves. Still, just a few weeks ago I would have been happy to see them equal their third place finish of last year. Indeed, it seemed more likely than not that they'd sink to the dismal fourth of their preceding three seasons.

But unlike so many previous seasons, the Mets sparkled in September, going 15-10. On the 15th of the month, rookie pitcher Jacob deGrom (photo) started against the Marlins and struck out the first eight batters, which tied a Major League record. As a precaution, management took him out of the rotation for the remainder of the season. After that, the Mets were 7-4, including a three game sweep of the Braves and a 2-1 series with the Astros to finish things off.

The Mets also ended the season with a six run advantage in overall scoring, despite their difficulties in bringing in runners in scoring position and their still sketchy bullpen.

Looking ahead, the Mets have a promising set of young arms, including deGrom and Matt Harvey. Some fans are complaining about Harvey's having attended Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium instead of being with the Mets in their game against the Nats that evening, despite Harvey's being on the DL. I say it was a classy move, although I do wish he'd have worn his Mets cap instead of a Knicks one.

Image: By slgckgc (Jacob deGrom) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 26, 2014

Postscript to Picasso story: a bittersweet conclusion.

Back in February I posted about a threat to La Tricorne (image above), a Picasso curtain that has hung for over 55 years in the Four Seasons Restaurant, located in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Aby Rosen, a principal of RFR Holding LLC, which acquired the Seagram Building in 2000, wanted to remove La Tricorne, ostensibly because it was endangered by steam leaking from the wall behind it. After experts testified that there was no possibility of that, because the wall contained no steam pipes, and others testified that removing the curtain could cause irreparable damage to it, a court issued a temporary restraining order. Despite this, Mr. Rosen finally prevailed, and will now be able to fill the space once occupied by La Tricorne with works from his collection by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

The good news, to the extent there is any, is that La Tricorne was removed without damage, and that the Museum of the City of New York has agreed to take it and to keep it on public display as a part of the city's heritage, now rudely displaced.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jo Stafford, "Autumn in New York."

Jo Stafford was one of my parents' favorite singers. They owned several 78 RPM records of her songs, one of which was "Autumn in New York." The video clip above has her singing the song, along with a montage of photos of the city in autumn, and of the singer.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The American Victory floating museum in Tampa.

American Victory is one of three surviving examples of the "victory" class of cargo ships built near the end of World War Two to serve in the Allied war effort. They succeeded the liberty ships, of which 2,710 were built in the early war years; certainly the greatest feat of ship mass production in history. While the liberties were, as FDR called them, "ugly ducklings," the victories were, in my opinion, among the handsomest of twentieth century freighters.

I've known two men who served on American Victory. One was Paul Schiffman, whom I knew over the course of many years when he served as afternoon and early evening bartender at the Lion's Head. Paul was a mate on her maiden voyage in 1945, when American Victory was used to ship cargo to American forces in the Pacific. The other is Mike Wholey, whom I met at a memorial gathering for Paul, and who served as a mate on her final voyage in cargo service, delivering supplies to American forces in Vietnam in 1969.
After that final voyage in 1969, American Victory was mothballed and put into the reserve fleet.  She was kept at anchor in Virginia's James River. In the late 1990s she was due to go for scrap, but in 1999 she was acquired by a private company, The Victory Ship, Inc., and brought to Tampa. She is docked there, at a former commercial dock adjacent to the Florida Aquarium, where she serves as the American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship. She has been maintained in seaworthy condition, and makes occasional short cruises. She is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As I approached her from the stern, I saw a laughing gull perched on her rudder.
View of the ship's bridge and funnel from the main deck.
Seen from the main deck, the tug Brendan J. Bouchard and a barge were docked across the channel.
One of American Victory's antiaircraft guns, seen from near the stern, looking forward.
The ship's bridge. Note the wheel at right, the compass and radar screen housings, and the engine room telegraph with the dial face, used to send instructions to the ship's engineers below.
Outside on the bridge.
The galley.
Seamen's stateroom.
Looking down to the engine room, from a catwalk.
Looking aft from American Victory's stern, a  cargo ship is docked further up the channel. Beyond, the tug Sea Eagle is in drydock.

American Victory is one of several victory ships that were named for American colleges and universities. She is named for American University, in Washington, D.C., in recognition of that institution's contributions to the war effort.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Jean Redpath, Scotland's singer, 1937-2014

No, she wasn't the only Scottish singer, but in my opinion she was the finest vocal interpreter of Scotland's traditional ballads, jigs, and reels, as well as music based on the poetry of Robert Burns. I learned yesterday of her death on August 21.

In the video above, made in the 1960s when she was living in Greenwich Village with other young folk singers, she's sitting at a table with Pete Seeger and Roscoe Holcomb (with hat), and sings five songs. "The Beggar Laddie" is a lively ballad about a beggar wooing a pretty woman; it's one of many variations on this theme found throughout Britain and Ireland. "The Skye Fisher's Song" has a slow melody that evokes the landscapes and seascapes in and around the Isle of Skye; on the video it's accompanied by a montage of photos. "I Lost My Love" seems the title of a mournful ballad; actually it's a sprightly dance tune that ends in a port a beul, or Gaelic mouth music. "Miss McLeod's Reel," of which only a short portion is on the video, is another dance tune that's the source of the old-time American song "Hop High Ladies". Redpath does all these songs a capella; on her last number, Robert Burns' best known song, Auld Lang Syne, Holcomb and Seeger accompany her on guitar.

I had the good fortune to see Jean Redpath in performance at a small venue near Washington Square Park sometime in the late 1970s. There were only about twenty of us in the audience. It was a magical evening.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy 69th, Van Morrison.

It was almost exactly forty seven years ago today that I, newly arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for my first year of law school, was sitting with my newly made friend Tom McCoy in a little sandwich shop called Hazen's on one of the side streets near Harvard Square. I was biting into my roast beef on a bulkie roll (Boston's analogue to beef on weck, though not as good) when someone dropped a coin into the juke box and played "Brown Eyed Girl." Right then I knew it would be one of those songs, like "Believe Me" and "Uska Dara", that would be engraved on my memory. I didn't have to wait long to hear it again, though; it became a staple on WRKO, the Beantown top forty station to which I tuned my clock radio.

Van and I have come a long way since that day in 1967. He's made lots of splendid music, some of which I've posted here. How is it I remember his birthday? He shares the exact birth date--August 31, 1945--with someone who, unwittingly and certainly unwillingly, shaped the course of my life, just as Van helped to shape my appreciation of music.

Photo by Jarvin via Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I take the Tim Sommer challenge: here's my top ten.

A few weeks ago Tim Sommer, whose Noise, the Column graces the Brooklyn Bugle, responded to his friend Tim Broun, publisher of the blog Stupefaction, by publishing a playlist of his top ten songs on the Bugle. He concluded the title of his post with, "Now It's Your Turn."

Here's mine. If Tim should read this, he will likely be disappointed by most of my choices being what he calls "'songs' that conform to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus virus." My descent into old fart-dom has long been underway, and ingrained habits die hard. Still, I'd like to think I'm not beyond having my notion of how music ought to sound stretched a bit. Thanks to Tim, I'll spend more time listening to the likes of Neu! and Liquid Liquid, though Scott Walker + Sunn O))) is, for me, a difficult stretch (I just listened to "Soused" a second time; it's starting to grow on me). I will even look back and reconsider Van Halen.

1. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Like a Hurricane. If someone told me I had ten minutes to live, and could choose one piece of music to hear, I'd have a hard few seconds deciding between this and the first movement of Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio.

2. Chuck Berry, Promised Land. I never knew, until I just looked it up, that the tune is based on one of my favorite old-time country songs, Wabash Cannonball. Berry wrote the song in prison in the mid sixties, when L.A. was still the Promised Land. It was also a time when to be young, poor, black, and "stranded in downtown Birmingham" was a scary proposition, but Berry didn't need to dwell on that; he just got his protagonist outta there, pronto.

3. The Astronauts, Baja. A surf guitar band from Colorado--yes, Colorado--got the sound just right.

4. Mahavishnu Orchestra, Open Country Joy. John McLaughlin and company start softly, building into a lovely opening theme that ends abruptly, followed by a ten second silence, then by a frenetic, sometimes dissonant variation that finally resolves itself into a triumphant restatement of the opening theme.

5. The Ramones, Rockaway Beach. Someone once wrote that the Ramones were New York's answer to the Beach Boys. Was "Gabba gabba hey!" our "cowabunga"?

6. The Royal Teens, Believe Me. In 1959 I was thirteen and lovesick when I heard this song, announced as a "pick hit of the week" on WDAE in Tampa. I never heard it again on radio, nor did I find it on my occasional searches through bins of 45s in record stores, but every "ooh-wah-ooh," every tinkling piano note, was indelibly engraved in my memory. Cut to the cusp of the '70s-'80s. I'm in one of those West Village used vinyl emporia and come across a Royal Teens anthology LP. I bought it and dashed home to my then digs on East 11th to play the song I hadn't heard in twenty or so years. The tinkling piano is by Bob Gaudio, who later joined Frankie Valli and the other Jersey Boys in the Four Seasons, and wrote several of their hits. According to this excellent bio by Bruce Eder, Al Kooper played guitar with the group in '59, so may be on this cut.

7. Lou Reed, Coney Island Baby. From doo-wop to an homage to doo-wop. "The glory of love might see you through." Yeah.

8. Eartha Kitt, Uska Dara. One afternoon when I was seven, and my parents and I were living in half of a thatched roof cottage in rural Hertfordshire, my mom had the radio tuned to BBC and the announcer said, "Now, here's some Turkish music." What followed was so hooky that, like "Believe Me" six years later, it got burned onto my mental hard drive--well, not perfectly; the tune I remembered, but not the spoken bridge, nor the sung words, except for the end of the chorus, which sounded to me like "nebrezary on a shoe." Cut to the Bells of Hell, circa 1978. It's four on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the place is closing, and Mike McGovern--if you're a fan of Kinky Friedman's novels, that McGovern--invites the few serious drinkers left, myself included, to his place for a morning-cap. As we sipped Jameson Mike put on an Eartha Kitt LP and there it was, that song I hadn't heard since I was seven. I got my own copy soon after.

9. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Take It Inside. The album Hearts of Stone is on my top ten rock albums list; it's the only one I've downloaded wholesale to my iPod. I chose this track for its showing of the group's versatility, from the Beatle-esque opening phrase, "Try to understand," leading into Johnny singing over a basic rock backing ensemble, then the entrance of the horns on the chorus. I also love it for its controlled but still white-hot passion.

So far, things were pretty easy. Tim suffered for his list; mine was a breeze. Then it got down to choosing that last number. I had two songs in mind. Both come from the British--one English, the other Scottish--folk-rock tradition. Well, I thought, it's possible to have a tie for ten. So, I've numbered the next two songs "10."

10. Mike Heron, Warm Heart Pastry.  Mike Heron was a founder of the Scottish acid-folk group Incredible String Band, which I saw in its death throes at the Bottom Line in the mid '70s, on a tour in which they had expanded to about twenty members, mostly by picking up musicians in every place they performed, including my native city. In 1971 Heron made a solo album, Smiling Men With Bad Reputations. "Warm Heart Pastry" is the one straight-ahead rocker on the album, with a hot backing band credited as "Tommy and the Bijoux." I later heard or read somewhere that they were The Who, playing under a pseudonym to avoid contractual problems. That proved to be partially true: they were The Who minus Roger Daltrey, but plus John Cale, who also appears on several other cuts on the album.

10. Richard and Linda Thompson, Wall of Death.  She was pregnant, and they were on the verge of marital breakup, when they recorded Shoot Out the Lights, one of the most emotionally harrowing rock albums ever. Richard was previously a guitarist and singer with Fairport Convention. The song has been described as "joyous," but the underlying tension seems obvious to me.

Top Ten List image: This Old House.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall

The sad news keeps coming. Lauren Bacall, née Betty Joan Perske, a salesman's daughter who became one of the pre-eminent women of Hollywood in the middle to late twentieth century, died today of a massive stroke at the age of 89. As a boy and young man, I was entranced by her combination of toughness and tenderness, which she shared with another favorite of mine, Katherine Hepburn.

The video above shows her displaying both qualities, playing opposite her frequent film partner and later husband, Humphrey Bogart, in To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944), based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway. She was nineteen years old when she was cast for this part.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

As most, if not all, of you know by now, Robin Williams died today. The photo at left, by Photographer's Mate Airman Milosz Reterski (Navy NewsStand) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, was taken while he was "entertain[ing] the crew of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during a holiday special hosted by the United Service Organization (USO)." His shirt says "I [heart] New York" in Arabic.

I'm late on this sad news, but my friend, fellow Brooklynite, fellow Episcopalian, and fellow blogger John Wirenius has a very good post, with two superb videos. You can read it here.

Addendum: my friend and erstwhile LeBoeuf, Lamb colleague Richard Cole kindly sent me his personal reminiscence of Robin Williams, originally written for his siblings, which he has generously allowed me to share:
In the late '70s or so, Mom came down to NYC, where Doug and I took her to the Improv comedy club on her birthday, December 28. After a few comics, a sudden roar greeted the surprise appearance of Robin Williams, and I believe that during his hilarious set while riffing on birthdays, I pointed to Mom and he acknowledged it.
During the last few years, I had numerous private as well as small group discussions and laughs with Robin, mostly at/near 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, where he often did sets and improv for fun, allowing and encouraging others to shine too. He often sat in back, spurring younger stand ups with his barking laugh. On one such occasion, a couple shyly interrupted our conversation near backstage for a joint photo on their wedding night. Happy to oblige, he told them each: "Pretend to be surprised tonight!". Only a few months ago, Robin and I walked yakking alone for two blocks to a restaurant after the Tuesday Night comedy show, discussing his Broadway show, NYC apartment and so forth. He headed the table of comics and others, and asked me to sit down next to him. For 45 minutes or an hour, we had coffee, a bite to eat and conversation. He had grown up and lived nearby, and had struggled with everything from heart surgery, depression, substance abuse and domestic challenges, usually working frenetically while remaining accessible and friendly. I saw him do a very edgy, riotous set recently and a couple of generous improv sets with rookies; when asked how he would like to be greeted in heaven, he said he hoped that he would have a front row seat and God would say "Two Jews walk into a bar . . .". Etc., etc. Many if not most comics seem to have depressive personalities, from which paradoxically the humor explodes -- think of Jewish comics in the shadow of the Holocaust. He always leapt easily among standup, improv, comic and dramatic, serious acting, with some great movies that were not meant to evoke any mirth. It may be silly to reminisce through my little lens when he knew thousands of more important people better (everybody knew him and vice versa) but he knew my name and always said hello, and it is a good indication of the manner in which Robin affected so many.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The 13th Apostle by Dermot McEvoy

One thing about historical fiction: if you know anything about the history, there are no spoilers. When I picked up The 13th Apostle, I knew how it would end. Michael Collins would die by an assassin's bullet. I knew it was because of a dispute that had torn the newborn Irish nation asunder, and that the dispute was over whether to accept the terms of a deal with Britain that would allow six northern counties to remain under the Crown. What I didn't know was Collins' role in negotiating that deal, and that he died defending instead of opposing it. What little I knew of Collins made me think he'd have been on the other side: an all-or-nothing-ist  instead of a pragmatist.

In his conduct of the struggle to free Ireland, in which his efforts were essential to bring about the conditions that brought Britain to the truce table, Collins was, as the book tells, a consummate pragmatist. He knew just what needed to be done, and how, to undermine the foundation of  British power. He was also, however, not averse to taking risk, sometimes with respect to his own safety. The lot of being the confidante who sometimes must try to talk sense to Collins falls, in the novel, on a fictional character, Eoin Kavanagh.*

The 13th Apostle is a novel told from two points of view. One is that of Eoin Kavanagh who, at fourteen, was a resident, along with his parents and three younger siblings, in a dreadful Dublin building called The Piles. The misery of his family--he lost a younger brother to diphtheria and his mother shows signs of the tuberculosis that will end her life early--makes him sympathetic to the Feinian cause. On Easter Monday 1916 he gets caught up in the excitement and joins the rebels. A bullet grazes one of his buttocks. Lying with the wounded he draws the attention of Michael Collins and of a nurse, Róisín O'Mahony, four years his senior, who tends to his bleeding bottom. From this inauspicious beginning he has an improbable but not inconceivable career. He becomes Collins' assistant, adviser, and a supernumerary member of his "Squad" who do the targeted killings necessary to advance the liberation of Ireland. The Squad were called "The Twelve Apostles"; hence, the novel's title. He marries Róisín, and after Collins' death they emigrate to New York. He settles in Greenwich Village, takes American citizenship (without losing the Irish, from the viewpoint of its government), gets into politics, is elected to Congress, and becomes a confidante of FDR (as Róisín becomes one of, and a ghostwriter for, Eleanor), but after the assassination of JFK decides to leave his adopted country and return to Ireland. There he's elected to the Dail (the Irish parliament) and supports the cause of liberating the Six Counties from British rule.

The other viewpoint is that of Eoin's grandson, Eoin Kavanagh III, called "Johnny Three" because Eoin, pronounced "Owen," is the Gaelic equivalent to John. He's a writer, lives in the Village, drinks at the Lion's Head, and is married to Diane, a Presbyterian who loves him dearly but is often amazed, and sometimes dismayed, by his and his family's Irish ways. Actually, Diane, along with Róisín, should probably be added as point of view characters, because their observations are vital to the development of the story.

The story begins with old Eoin's death, in Ireland, at the age of 105. As he was the last surviving veteran of the Easter Rising, as well as a distinguished statesman in his later years, his funeral is a major occasion. Johnny Three and Diane attend, and learn that the old man's legacy to Johnny included a set of diaries, kept from his participation in the Easter Rising through his years as Collins' assistant and Squad member, Collins' death, and its aftermath.

The novel's narrative shifts between Johnny Three and Diane in 2006, and Eoin from Easter Monday, 1916 to August of 1922, with a few snippets of his later life in America, including a meeting with FDR and Churchill on Christmas Eve, 1941, with the U.S. newly allied with Britain against the Axis. It's Eoin's second meeting with Churchill, his first having been during the 1921 treaty negotiations, when he served as Collins' bodyguard. With a little prompting, Churchill remembers this. Churchill and Collins, on whose head Churchill had once put a ten thousand pound reward, came to respect and like each other as men of action. The 13th Apostle includes a true anecdote featuring Churchill's rapier wit that I hadn't known before. I won't spoil it by repeating it here.

While the shifts in locale and time may sound disorienting, they provide a useful perspective. Johnny knew his grandfather had been a rebel, and an associate of Collins, but didn't know he had participated in the executions of British agents and their Irish collaborators. Diane found it hard to believe that the man she knew as a stand-in father-in-law (we learn little of Johnny Two, other than that he evidently abandoned his son) was a killer. When we see it from Eoin's perspective, we find how hard it was for him to square his moral convictions with his duty to Ireland and Collins, even when his first fatal shot is into the head of the man who tortured and killed his father.

I learned much history from reading The 13th Apostle, and got a sense of what it was like to have been in Dublin during the years that the Irish Republic, "a terrible beauty" in Yeats' words, was born. I also learned the words that must be said to make a Perfect Act of Contrition.** This book may yet be my ticket to heaven.
The 13th Apostle is published by Skyhorse Publishing, New York City (2014).
*The character of Eoin Kavanagh seemed so realistic to me that I did a web search for the name, just to see if there was someone with that or a similar name who was prominent in the Irish rebellion. I found this article by Owen Kavanagh ("Owen" is an alternative spelling of the Gaelic "Eoin") giving the results of his research into the involvement of members of the Kavanagh clan in the Easter Rising and subsequent struggle for liberation. He mentions the brothers Michael and William Kavanagh as having participated in the Easter Rising and later in the fight for independence, a Sean Kavanagh as having been Collins' intelligence officer in Kildare, and a Seamus Kavanagh as having been among the rebels in the General Post Office on Easter, 1916. Owen Kavanagh's source of information was:
a set of six...CD’s contain[ing] Dublin Castle’s secret surveillance files, known as Personality Files which were compiled by the Special Branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).
His account ends with an "Author's Note" mentioning the execution of Alan Bell, a bank examiner sent by the British government to ferret out the accounts holding Sinn Fein's funds to be used in support of the uprising. In The 13th Apostle, the fictional Eoin Kavanagh is part of the team that captures and kills Bell.  In his Note, Owen Kavanagh describes how Constable Harry Kells of the DMP, who earlier had been tracking the Kavanagh brothers, was assigned to try to find Bell's killers. This brought Kells to the attention of Collins, who had him killed. There's no indication, however, that any of the Kavanaghs were involved in Bell's execution. None of the characters in The 13th Apostle is based on any of these Kavanaghs. There is, however, extensive discussion in the novel about the intelligence operations carried out by the RIC and DMP and the files they kept on actual  and suspected rebels, as well as Collins' ultimately successful effort to gain access to those files.

**"Oh my God!  I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of  heaven and the pains of hell.  But most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clothes in pop music, part 1, 1955-63.

My friend Moira Redmond has a blog called Clothes in Books. When she started it, I reminded her that Ayn Rand heroines favored high waisted gowns in the 'Empire' style, because she had, during her term as Fray Editor, remarked that any post mentioning Ms. Rand was likely to attract lots of comments.

Thinking about clothes in books led to my remembering the spate of pop songs about clothes, mostly "novelty" songs but a few straight-ahead rockers and sock hop squeeze 'n' shuffles, that crowded the airwaves during the late 1950s and early '60s. One of the most memorable of these was Marty Robbins' (photo above) 1957 ballad "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation."

The clip above is of a 1981 live performance by Robbins, made just a year before the singer's death.

 In 1956, Carl Perkins recorded "Put Your Cat Clothes On," though the record was not released until 1970. Perkins refers to "Blue Suede Shoes" in the lyrics, a nod to another song he wrote in 1955 and recorded in January of '56.

1957 was a big year for songs about clothes. A New Jersey group called the Royal Teens had a hit with "Short Shorts." The piano player is Bob Gaudio, who would later join Frankie Valli in the Four Seasons and write several of their hits, including "Sherry".

57 also gave us "Black Slacks," by Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones.

1957 was a big year in fashion as well, as couturier Cristobal Balenciega introduced his shape shrouding sack dress. In 1958, Gerry Granahan expressed his displeasure in "No Chemise, Please."

In 1959 thirteen year old Dodie Stevens (exactly my age then) hit the charts with "Pink Shoelaces."

Bryan Hyland made the top ten and Dick Clark's American Bandstand in 1960 with "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." The woman in high tops and pantaloons who gives the spoken interjections is Trudy Packer.

Another 1960 release was the Coasters' paleo-rap "Shoppin' for Clothes," written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had earlier penned "Hound Dog" for Big Mama Thornton, later covered by Elvis. Coasters member Billy Guy was working with the songwriters, and remembered a similar piece he'd heard on the radio. They searched record stores but couldn't find it. Later they learned it was "Clothes Line," written by Kent Harris and recorded by Boogaloo and his Gallant Crew. Harris was then given co-credit for "Shoppin' for Clothes."

I'll close, as did many a school dance, with Bobby Vinton's 1963 prom belly-rubber "Blue Velvet," which later inspired a David Lynch movie.

I'll do a second installment featuring songs from the late 1960s to the present. If anyone can think of clothes-themed songs from the period covered in this post or later, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Photos from a "Hidden Harbor" tour.

A few weeks ago my wife and I went on one of the Hidden Harbor tours presented by the Working Harbor Committee. These tours, which use chartered Circle Line boats, take one into parts of New York harbor one doesn't usually see closely unless one works in the maritime industry. Our tour departed from the Circle Line pier, near the foot of Manhattan's West 43rd Street. As the boat backed out into the Hudson River, we could see Norwegian Gem docked at the nearby cruise ship terminal. A now retired Concorde SST is on display at the end of the pier that is home to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
As we moved away from the dock, we got a good view of the World War Two veteran aircraft carrier Intrepid.
Heading downriver, we passed the retired, now privately owned fire boat John J. Harvey and the also privately owned lightship Frying Pan. Six years ago I was on a cruise on the tugboat Cornell when we were called on to pull Harvey, then stuck on a mudbank, free. I recorded the incident on video. The large structure behind Frying Pan is the Starrett-Lehigh Building, (Cory & Cory, Yasuo Matsui; 1931), a striking adaptation of some elements of art deco architecture, such as rounded corners, continuous horizontal strip windows, and varying brick colors, to an industrial and warehouse structure.
Continuing down the Hudson, we saw another former government vessel now in private hands, the lightship tender Lilac. Behind her is the Borough of Manhattan Community College and the towers of the Independence Plaza housing complex.
Passing the tip of lower Manhattan we saw a skyline dominated by the new One World Trade Center (David Childs/SOM; completion expected later this year) and the newly opened Four World Trade Center (Fumihiko Maki, 2013). The low, white building on the shoreline below One WTC is City Pier A, built in the 1880s and expanded in 1900 and 1919. It was used at different times for police and fire boats, lay derelict for many years, and is now being rehabilitated as a venue for restaurants.
Looking up the East River, we could see the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as the sightseeing boat Robert Fulton went by.
We headed through the Buttermilk Channel, which lies between Brooklyn and Governors Island. The retired harbor tanker Mary A. Whalen, purchased and restored by PortSide New York, is docked at a pier on the Brooklyn side. In the background, above Mary's wheelhouse, is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building (Halsey, McCormack and Helmer, 1929), for many years Brooklyn's tallest.
A double-crested cormorant was perched atop a buoy.
Heading across the harbor, we passed the ferry terminal on Staten Island and the ferry Spirit of America.
Entering the Kill Van Kull, which lies between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey, we passed the tug Brian Nicholas pushing two barges, one loaded and one empty, lashed side-by-side.
The tanker Skopelos was docked on the Bayonne side. In the background, to the right, is a wind turbine; an effort to reduce the demand for the fossil fuel tankers carry.
King Duncan, another tanker, was berthed just beyond Skopelos.
The World War Two veteran destroyer escort U.S.S. Slater was undergoing maintenance at Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Company, Inc. on the Staten Island side. There's an article about Slater's stay at Cadell's, ending with a photo showing her after completion, sporting her bold camouflage, here. Slater is now back in Albany, where she serves as a floating museum.
A short way past Caddell's we passed under the Bayonne Bridge, which is being raised to allow the gargantuan container ships now going into service to pass under it. The project is being done in stages, so as to keep the bridge open to traffic except during late night hours. Photo by my wife.
After the bridge, we turned into Newark Bay, and passed the outbound container ship MSC Arushi R., escorted by the tug Miriam Moran.

A digression: sometime in the late 1950s, as my dad and I were tooling around the port of Tampa in our little Carter Craft runabout, I saw what struck me as a most ungainly and un-aesthetic ship, Pan Atlantic Steamship Company's Gateway City. It was a standard C-2 type freighter that had had its hull above the waterline extended in beam, so that it looked like the awkward offspring of a cargo ship and an aircraft carrier. Instead of graceful masts and booms, it had massive gantry cranes straddling its decks, and it listed noticeably landward when the cranes carried containers off the ship to deposit them on the dock. You can see a photo of Gateway City here (scroll down to 1957) and read about how she came to be here. I didn't know it at the time, but I was witnessing the beginning of a revolution in marine transportation.
After MSC Arushir came Don Jon Marine's Caitlin Ann, pushing an empty barge.
Maersk Pittsburgh was docked at Port Elizabeth.
Another Don Jon tug, Mary Alice, was headed up Newark Bay.
Ital Laguna was docked at Maher Terminals, Port Elizabeth. The First Watchung Mountain can be seen in the distance.
Elizabeth McAllister was also heading up the Bay,
Endurance, docked at Port Newark, is a rarity these days; a large civilian cargo ship flying the U.S. flag. She is a RO-RO (Roll On-Roll Off) ship, and is used to transport equipment and supplies to U.S. forces abroad.
Heading back toward the Kill Van Kull, we passed Ellen McAllister. The tug's low profile suggests she may sometimes be used on inland waterways with low clearances.
MSC Bruxelles was docked at Port Newark.
As we came alongside Maersk Pittsburgh we saw St. Andrews, the tug that had brought the barge from which Pittsburgh was taking on fuel. Note the scrape marks on the ship's hull.
Another view of the Bayonne Bridge as we headed back toward the Kill Van Kull.
The tug Houma passed us just before we reached the bridge.
We passed the Moran tug fleet's Staten Island home port. Laura K. Moran and two other tugs were docked there.
A little farther along was the Reinauer dock, where Dean Reinauer and Kristy Ann Reinauer waited for their next assignments.
Traffic was heavy on the Kill Van Kull as we headed out. Ahead of us was Northstar Marine's barge Northstar 140, towed by Reliable.
Here's a better view of Reliable as we overtook the tug and her tow.
With the New York City skyline as a background, Bouchard's B.No.280, escorted by Charles D. McAllister, headed up the Kill Van Kull.
Power behind B.No.280 was supplied by Ellen S. Bouchard.
Then came Manhasset Bay...
...which was easily overtaking Paul Andrew pushing a barge.
We encountered three tugs in succession towing barges "on the hip"; first Brooklyn, ...
...then Sassafras, ...
...then Gulf Dawn.
We almost overtook MSC Arushi R., which we had passed earlier as we entered Newark Bay, as she left the Kill Van Kull headed for the Narrows and the Atlantic.
As we left the Kill Van Kull and rounded Constable Hook, we passed the Bayonne Golf Club, with its faux lighthouse club building (2006). The Scottish style links were built atop what previously was a waste disposal landfill. 
The container ship Positano, sitting light with no visible cargo, was docked at Bayonne's Military Ocean Terminal.
Just past Positano was the U.S. Naval Ship Watkins, undergoing maintenance work at the Bayonne Dry Dock & Repair Corporation's graving dock.
The cruise ship Explorer of the Seas was moored at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne. The Kirby tug Lincoln Sea and a barge were docked at the end of the pier.
After passing Bayonne, we saw the majestic skyline of ... Jersey City, with Lady Liberty in the middle.
Hearing a droning noise overhead, I looked up and saw a World War Two vintage B-17 flying by. 
The Colgate Clock, on the Jersey City shoreline, is a memory from my childhood, when I passed it several times on ships leaving from or arriving at New York. The building on which it once sat has been demolished; fortunately, the clock (Seth Thomas, 1924) has been preserved.  We were right on time; our cruse started at 11:00 a.m. and was scheduled to last two hours.
As we approached our dock, I saw kayaks near Intrepid's stern.

There will be more of these tours, including one this Saturday, July 26.  You may get tickets here for it or future tours.