Thanks, mom, for finding this within the covers of Martin Parr’s Boring Postcards USA!

Boring Postcards Catskill

Boring Postcards USA is a great colorful book full of postcards shoing Army barracks, motel rooms and, yes, highways. I would love to see the reject postcards.

I don’t know how old this picture is, but I think Exit 21 looks pretty much the same but my boss, a life-long Catskill resident, commented on how it has changed. I don’t remember his exact words.

I wonder how much tolls were back then.

Well, Catskill, N.Y. has earned its place in boring postcard history.

I just finished C.J. Sansom’s first Matthew Shardlake mystery, Dissolution (Penguin, 2003), which I liked very much.

I was initially drawn to the world in which Shardlake, a hump-backed lawyer in Tudor England, lives. I studied English and early modern European history in school and I enjoy reading historical fiction with settings that fit my old studies.

But, I very quickly became interested in what Shardlake would find at the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant of Scarnsea when he arrives to investigate the murder there of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioner.

He must catch the murderer and complete the task charged to the dead commissioner, securing the Abbot’s surrender to Henry VIII’s new authority.

Shardlake is accompanied by his assistant Mark Poer, who has been cast out of his position in Cromwell’s Court of Augmentations.

As the body count in Scarnsea rises, Shardlake and Poer uncover evidence of theft, sexual misconduct and treason among the monks who are struggling with each other while trying to survive the reformation in England.

Cromwell, himself, makes an appearance in this novel and the imprisonment and execution of Mark Smeaton, who was accused of committing adultery with Anne Boleyn, influences the actions of some cloistered in Scarnsea.

I am not sure whether I like Shardlake as a character. He follows Cromwell’s instructions without question and believes in the reformation, or will do anything to stay in the minister’s favor, I haven’t decided, to the detriment of his personal relationships and ability to see truth about Cromwell’s machinations. That having been said, Shardlake does feel disgust at some of Cromwell’s treatment of skulls, bones and other human remains that were relics.

Although I had worked out part of the “whodoneit,” I did not expect the twist revealed in the last 30 pages.

Sansom has written three other Matthew Shardlake mysteries, Dark Fire, Soverign and Revelation, as well as Winter in Madrid, a thriller set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

I just returned from a short trip to the Bay State. Here are some observations I’ve made to help all of you embarking on similar journeys from New York through Hartford, CT to Massachusetts (684 to 84 to 91).

First, Route 84, which crosses from New York to Connecticut, can be crowded and tricky to navigate because the left, or slow, lane frequently becomes an exit, whereupon the road narrows and then widens to three lanes again. But, then the left lane becomes another exit, etc., etc., etc. So, stay in the middle lane if you don’t want to have to change lanes to avoid accidentally leaving the highway. Of course, I didn’t know this on my way up, which made for some quick merges as traffic increased. Coming home was much easier.

Massachusetts must not have a law stating that when it is raining, and drivers are using windshield wipers, drivers must also turn on their cars’ headlights. I happened to drive home Friday in almost constant rain, and most of the cars in Massachusetts did not have headlights on. It’s very hard to see a dark vehicle without lights on coming up behind you through the driving rain and rising mist. I noticed that MA cars were light-less in Connecticut and New York, too.

I also noticed that many drivers in Massachusetts do not use blinkers when changing lanes or making turns. Be on alert.

This drive home was challenging because of the rain and my car’s pull to the left, which was probably caused by the off-road driving I did (a road being paved had a large section just of gravel) and hitting a few unavoidable raised manhole covers.

The drive was challenging, but not all together bad. I wonder when my next trip out will happen.

But, while I was in Worcester County, I stayed at the Wachusett Village Inn, where I ate the most amazing penne with shitake mushroom sauce. Yum.

Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki at the New York Athletic Club

Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. Pataki talk before Bloomberg’s keynote address to the Green Business Summit Wednesday at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke this afternoon of the environmental goals for the city and city agencies and about the relationship between green initiatives and business.

Gov. George Pataki opened the summit Wednesday morning by saying that new green regulations and technologies will provide a wonderful opportunity to the energy sector.

Read about their addresses.

The summit was held by Chadbourne & Parke LLP.

Rewind three weeks.

That’s when I graduated. Part of the graduation festivities was a Journalism Day, the day honors are awarded. On that day, Michael Paulson, of The Boston Globe, won the Mike Berger award for his series, “Ma Siss’s place,” about a woman, her church (located in a repair shop) and her neighborhood.

The award, named for Pulitzer Prize winner Meyer “Mike” Berger, who’s New York Times column “About New York” set the standard for thought-provoking human-interest reporting about the lives of ordinary people.

Hearing about Paulson’s work and a refresher biography of Berger, I decided that I would read more of his stuff. I read “The Eight Million” last summer. (It was the best book on the J-School summer reading list.)

The next day, I got my chance.

Fast forward to now. I am only 17 pages into New York, A Great Reporter’s Love Affair with a City, but I am hooked. I’ve already learned about the New York of the 1950s (or, “before [my] time,” as a former employer would say it) through Berger’s columns about leeches, liquor licenses on trains passing through Penn. Station and the storage spaces withing the Brooklyn Bridge.

Many of Berger’s columns look back into the city’s history, showing a very different region than known today.

Anyone who is interested in city history should check this book out. Anyone who’s interested in reading really well-written, short stories should check this book out.


More posts to come once I figure out my new company’s blogging policy…

In the meantime, if you live in New York City, you know the storm raging outside.

I lived in Ohio and ONCE (maybe twice) a tornado threatened our area (I’m no expert, in other words), but this–living next to 808 Columbus Avenue, which is about 20 stories now, is scary. I just watched a large bag of something fly off one of the floors and crash on the ground below and a ladder go flying.

I’m more nervous about this than the Kodiak crane erected at the site. (I’m sure the disaster across town was not a specific Kodiak problem and not all Kodiak cranes are damaged.)

Seriously, I hope the rigging on the safety net is secure, because if not, that is going to come crashing into my living room!

Stay safe, New York!

Polar bears have been placed on the Endangered Species List today, according to MSNBC.

More to come…

Last night, Univision reported that the government of Cuba has opened its long-shut doors to the world.

Cuban people are now free to leave the nation and go abroad without needing an exit card or foreign invitation.

Some Spanish-language news outlets are reporting the story (such as El PaĆ­s), but so far, no English-language organizations have picked up the story.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer attacked the New York City Department of Buildings tonight at a meeting of concerned Upper West Side residents at a local church, saying that the department had to change the way it reviews permits and carries out inspections.

Stringer and concerned residents of Park West Village and the surrounding apartment complexes turned out to discuss a recent lawsuit filed by one Village resident against New York City Department of Buildings. The suit claims that the department improperly approved building permits for new developments along Columbus Avenue.

Stringer called a department inquiry report into the collapse of a retaining wall at 808 Columbus Avenue in July 2007, a “57-page whitewash,” and criticized the manner in which the report was publicized. The report, dated February 16, 2008, was not made available to elected officials until mid-March, and then, it was only because officials asked for it, he said.

“We released it,” he said, precipitating applause. “This is a disgrace.”

Stringer said that the only way for the city to respond to the need for review of protocol is a sense of urgency, which, so far, the situation at the Village lacks.

However, hours earlier, Stringer visited a construction site on the East Side of Manhattan where a worker was killed when he fell nine stories, according to the Associated Press, after his safety line snapped.

Stringer said that his office was investigating that incident, telling community members at the Second Presbyterian Church this evening that though the department was unable to name any hazards or violations, his office could name 36 open violations.

Paul Benten, who filed the lawsuit last Friday, said he hopes the suit will result in greater public participation in future development decisions.

The suit, Benten V. DOB et al., names 11 other entities as defendants and 20 “John Doe” defendants,to be named at a later date as seen fit.

“All the people who live and work in a place should have an influence on what happens,” he said. “Full participation has waited far too long, and it begins right now,” he continued, slamming his finger down on the altar.

Benten said that he hopes the New York Supreme Court, the court with whom the suit has been filed, will compel the agency to conduct a broad environmental impact review of this project and projects in the future.

But some residents doubted that any change would come from the involvement of elected officials in the suit.

Maria Watson said that she and others had tried to bring their concerns over the development of the Village’s open space–a parking lot and three tennis courts–to the attention of elected officials two years ago, before construction began, but was met with indifference. Now, she distrusted their pledges of support.

“Those who would have had significant sway missed their opportunity. Now we have to help ourselves,” she said.

Brad Brewer said that change would only come with the support of a court ruling, and that legal battles, such as this one, required significant funds.

“If you don’t produce money, you’re not going to win,” he said.

But Cheryl Strong urged the audience to take action and put pressure on officials and the media to call for a change.

“I do believe that we do have power. We have the power of the vote. We have the power of the pen,” she said.

Work along the west side of Columbus Avenue in April 2007 (top) and April 2008 (bottom). Pictures taken from 784 Columbus Ave.

Saturday evening, I was lucky enough to attend an open rehearsal of the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Conor McPherson’s show “Port Authority.” The rehearsal took place at the Richard G. Rosenthal Y.M.-Y.W.H.A, in Pleasantville, N.Y.

In the show, which will open in at the Linda Gross Theater later this month, John Gallagher Jr., plays the role of Kevin, a young man who has just moved out of his parents’ house and into a house he shares with friends in Dublin. Brian D’Arcy James plays Dermot, a man hired for a job for which he is unqualified. Both actors, along with director Henry Wishcamper and other production staff, took part in the rehearsal and a Q&A session with the audience afterwards.

Chairs stood in for a bench, the set’s only dressing. Gallagher and James sat as still as possible while the other told his story, standing downstage or pacing slowly. (A former stage manager, I usually go see shows to critique the technical aspects, the set design and scene changes, the sound elements and the lighting.) With nothing to see or hear but the actors, there were no distractions Saturday night. Just Kevin and Dermot, and the truths they tell.

I, for one, thought the stories were funny, thought-provoking and well played, although I didn’t make the connection between the two character’s life paths and choices until discussing the common threads with friends afterwards. (This might be because I’m slow and didn’t understand what one character meant with his great revelation at his grandmother’s funeral. The connection might be clearer with the inclusion of the third character, Joe, played by Jim Norton. Norton originated the role. He did not take part in the rehearsal.)

An audience member from Ireland complimented Gallagher and James on the accuracy of their accents and mannerisms.

Gallagher, James and Wishcamper said that the completed show would be different from the rehearsal, as the production was still evolving…what teases! I thought the show looked and sounded pretty good Saturday (with the exception of a few missed words and calls for lines–it was a rehearsal after all). But, they voiced discontent with the way some of the moments were played or staged. Even so, and still incomplete, it was pretty powerful. I’m curious to see how the final show will play when the curtain opens.