Category Archives: sometimes I leave the house

Foggy thinking

I went to see Her yesterday, which I liked a lot (in contrast to the elderly couple sitting next to me, who openly scoffed at every plot development and half the lines of dialogue). I’m a sucker for movies that take a slant-wise approach to human connections, and I thought the movie was beautifully designed; the color palette (corals, lemons, grassy greens, azures, and taupes) was fresh and pretty, and the way it mixed vaguely futuristic design with the openly nostalgic (that initial shot of the beach could have been a photograph from the early 60s) was very effective and appealing. The extremely long rise on the men’s pants was a bit jarring while I was watching, but the thinking behind that choice makes sense.

Then I walked home through Prospect Park, which was the foggiest I’d ever seen it. It was a little eerie and very, very lovely.





November in Green-Wood

This past weekend, Rob’s band was playing out of town (at the bachelorette party for this wedding), which gave me the opportunity to do some of the things I used to do more when I was single, such as eat a pile of crepes with jam and sour cream at 3:00 in the afternoon or spend a few hours wandering around a graveyard by myself.

It’s no secret that Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is one of my favorite places , and I especially like it this time of year when the light is low and the shadows are lengthened and the fall colors are spectacular. I was re-listening to the audiobook of Gillian Flynn’s debut, Sharp Objects, while I was walking, which is not a particularly scary book, really, but it is intensely creepy and makes a deeply satisfying background narrative to feeling one’s way through the ankle-deep leaves on frost-heaved paths (is there solid footing under there or am I about to twist an ankle?) and filling one’s pockets with shiny, useless conkers, should you be looking for one this fine November.

The teeny-tiny speck in the sky is one of half a dozen red-tailed hawks that were lazily circling near the entrance where the wild parrots live

New York day trip: Dead Horse Bay

I remember hearing about Dead Horse Bay ages ago and thinking it sounded interesting. Then this past Friday I followed a link from somewhere and ended up here, at which point I said to myself, Self, you should go there and see what that’s all about. So I did.

Dead Horse Bay is out on the far eastern edge of Brooklyn, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was home to a number of horse-rendering plants, where dead horses were taken to be turned into glue and fertilizer and whatever else one can turn a dead horse into. Post-processing, the bones were just dumped in the water. Once automobiles became more popular and there were fewer horse corpses to go around, the area was used as a landfill. The trash heap was capped in the ’30s, but exploded onto the beach a couple decades later and because of whatever tidal oddities go on there, a lot of it remains to this day.

It’s actually pretty easy to get there: take the 2 train to the last stop, then pick up the Q35 bus right outside the station. I asked the driver to give me a head’s up when we got to the last stop before the bridge, which he was nice enough to do after double-checking that I knew where I was headed. The trail leads off right from the bus stop and it’s about a ten-minute walk before you hit sand. I’d checked the tide tables beforehand to make sure I’d arrive around low tide, since there didn’t seem to be much point if everything I wanted to look at was under water. There were a handful of other people walking around, but few enough to really feel like I’d somehow managed to remove myself to a different place and/or time entirely.

Early on in my wanderings, I met a mysterious old man who gave me this clay pipe he’d just found. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday, there’s pretty much no way it doesn’t have magical properties.

Oui! C’est une pipe!

I’d read accounts of other visitors finding horse bones on the beach, but this was the only evidence of that part of the area’s history that I came across:

I did find a fair number of intact old bottles in the midst of all of those shards, but honestly, I don’t really have any use for old bottles. So the only things I brought home with me were the pipe and an interestingly calcified clam shell. I don’t know that I’d necessarily be in a hurry to return, but I’m glad I went. It was a fascinating glimpse into a little-known piece of New York history, as well as its potential future (hundred-year-old glass on the beach has a certain kind of charm; this much modern garbage decidedly would not), and gave me a chance to explore a part of Brooklyn I’d never visited. If you do decide to take a trip out there, wear your absolute sturdiest shoes. I was wearing hiking shoes and was fine, but I think walking over that much broken glass would have ripped normal sneakers to shreds.

Infinite Variety: detail shots

As I sifted through my photos of the Infinite Variety exhibition, I realized that the only detail shots I took were of allover embroidered quilts, ones with pictorial or text elements, or both. This is something that I’ve noticed before, the way themes emerge from a body of photos I take without an agenda, generally indicating interests I wouldn’t have necessarily realized I had. (Oh, subconscious mind, what are you up to back there?)

This one is embroidered with more than 100 children’s handprints, with their name and age inside. I can’t figure out what population that would have been drawn from — the ages ranged from 3 months to 4 years, so not a school. Hospital? Town? Church? There wasn’t any identifying information on it anywhere.

This one was presumably a fundraiser for the Newburgh Red Cross. There are a number of cutesy repeat motifs, then some random proverbs and adages (I thought I had a shot of the ‘Ill blows the wind that profits no one,’ block, but I guess not) and the occasional city name. I don’t know what that Battle Hymn of the Republic one is all about though.


This one was covered with presumably thousands of names, arranged into patterns. Again, since there was no identifying information it’s hard to know what sort of occasion this was meant to commemorate.


This one though, was my favorite. Simple whole-cloth panels covered with small, whimsical motifs: portraits, soldiers, real animals, fanciful animals, plants, flowers, butterflies, birds, scattered around without regard for scale or any relationship between the items. It feels like a sketchbook, or a diary even. Looking at it, I almost felt like I was prying into something I shouldn’t be.

Infinite Variety

Infinite Variety, the Folk Art Museum’s satellite exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory, is an absolutely stunning installation of 650 red and white quilts from a single private collection. It’s one of the most amazing textile shows I’ve ever seen, and I’d even go so far as to say one of the most extraordinary experiences that I’ve had, not least because every single one of the hundreds of people in the Armory with me last night (jaded, post-work New Yorkers, most of them) was walking around in a state of child-like wonder, just barely whispering one word: “Wow.”

A clean, well-lighted place

Last weekend, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather/late fall light combination and took a long walk around Green-Wood. I love the dramatic shadows you get when the sun is this low in the sky. The picture below was taken right around noon.

I hadn’t posted a good grave-marker-reclaimed-by-the-earth photo in a while.

That bizarre sculpture on the ground definitely wasn’t there the last time I was in this area.

I was fully expecting/half hoping to get an angry badger to the face while I was taking this. (I love badgers.)

Then I had the good fortune to stumble upon what very well might be the most beautiful tree in the world…

Day trip

Saturday, I met my mother a bit north of the city for a day of sightseeing. She really likes visiting historic homes and I’m perfectly willing to go to one once in a while, so our first stop was Lyndhurst, one-time home of Jay Gould. (I nearly typed Stephen Jay Gould, which would be a whole other story.) I thought the grounds were a lot more interesting than the house.

From there we headed over to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I’d never been there, but I’m a huge fan of Dan Barber and everything he’s done to make sustainable agriculture viable and visible and, frankly, kind of sexy. I’d been curious to see the operation for a long time. There is a fancy restaurant on the premises, but there’s also a nice little cafe where we got soup and sandwiches before walking around the grounds.

Escapee turkey (the little bastard hopped down, walked over to us and tried to peck me; I hope someone finds her delicious):

Maybe not the most alert livestock guardian dog I’ve ever met:

Then we went over to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, since we both have a thing for old cemeteries. It’s a nice one, hilly and old, with some interesting monuments. Washington Irving is buried there, and plenty of people who share names with his characters (a passel of Van Tassels, for example). At one point when we were walking around, a woman drove up next to us, asked my mother if she is of Dutch descent (she is), burbled happily about how much she loves history, and then drove away, leaving the two of us open-mouthed and giggly.

That was … weird

This past weekend, I went to the last ever performance of Angels and Accordions, the site-specific dance/music/dramatic posing extravaganza at Green-Wood Cemetery. I had won tickets through their site for knowing some things about Dewitt Clinton* and brought along my friend Anna. I had a great time, but it was due more to the excellent company and our shared love of the absurd than the performance itself, which was overly crowded and overwrought and kind of hackneyed. This photo gives a pretty good idea of what it was all about:There was some dance at the beginning and end of the event, but the bulk of it involved walking around with roughly 500 other people, looking at “angels” posing dramatically around the cemetery. Occasionally, someone playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “Beautiful Dreamer” on an accordion would be stationed nearby. We split off from the group for half an hour or so and wandered around taking pictures and picking up conkers, which I find completely irresistible both as shiny, useless objects and a kickin’ potential fake swear. If I could think of anything to do with them, I’d haul ’em home by the sackload.

I’d never seen this stone before Anna spotted it and we spent longer than I’d like to admit trying to figure it out. There’s no apparent connection between the two people. She was 13 when he died, so he could have been a grandfather, though it doesn’t say so. They seemingly had nothing in common, she being a California-dwelling pacifist and socialist, while he was a Freemason who fought in the Civil War. Even if she was a descendant who wanted to be buried across the country from where she died near this particular guy, why add him to a new stone? Presumably he had had one sometime in the more than 70 years between their deaths.

Then we accidentally stumbled back on the group just in time to catch the finale.

*VERY little-known fact about Dewitt Clinton: He was the ancestor and namesake of a young man with whom I once spent an evening in the early ’90s drinking a highly suspect concoction of malt liquor and wine coolers and because of whom I was subjected to one of my first hangovers.