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FATE on the Gowanus

FATE on the Gowanus Canal , work in progress- 140# Arches Coldpress

The Husband and I have just returned from a trip to California.   We went for a family wedding and stayed to celebrate our own wedding anniversary.  I have to say, I love California. Other than the mega-drought, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, taxes and traffic, it’s a wonderful place.  I really would live there if I could afford it and wasn’t constantly in fear of the above named items.  We were in San Francisco and Napa Valley and did all the touristy things we could in San Francisco including walking the Golden Gate bridge and riding a cable car.

Then we were off to Napa Valley which is gorgeous.   Not a place for a non-wine drinker like me, but I learned a bit about wines. One of the more interesting things, for me at least, was reading the descriptions of the wines or more specifically the “Tasting Notes”.  For example:  brims with classic, savory aromas of boysenberry, ripe red plums and black cherries which is then complemented with hints of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon. Concentrated blackberry jam, coffee, black pepper and tar.  TAR?   What about the descriptions that include “cat pee”.  Yep, you heard me right, “cat pee”.   Who, may I ask, is drinking cat pee and admitting to it?

Confused and fascinated I finally found this article from The Week which was quite helpful.   Still not drinking cat pee, but was more informed.  17 disgusting descriptions for delicious wines.

What about a NYC wine?  What would the tasting notes be?   Opens with a splash of gunshot residue, followed by the buttery sweetness of hipster beard, ripe, red sidewalk bloodstains and the leathery taste of back-seat taxi sweat.  High kicks of Broadway and soaring notes of skyscrapers & diversity. Hints of subway overcrowding and non-affordable housing.  Finishing notes of  despair.

Finally to add to the list of things I hate (flying was listed in the previous post) we can now add daylight savings time (yes, I know it’s officially “daylight saving (NO “s”) time).   I get home from California which is 3 hours earlier than NYC only to have to change my clocks back for Eastern Standard Time.  “Spring ahead, fall back”.  I changed all the clocks and I bet you can guess what happened! Every clock in my apartment is wrong and now I have jet lag combined with SAD.

The painting above is of the extremely polluted “Venice of Brooklyn” a/k/a the Gowanus Canal, a superfund site of seriously polluted water.  The graffiti on the corrugated metal said “hate” but I didn’t like that so I changed it to “fate”.   Who believes in fate?   Are things destined?    I would rather contemplate fate than hate anyway.   I need to make this painting a little “dirtier” and add more graffiti. Then it will be finished.   Like NYC wine.  I need to finish it with some despair.

Gowanus Boat 3-23-2014NYC boat, maybe in the Gowanus.  Watercolor on 140 1/2 sheet Arches coldpress
NYC claims to have some of the best drinking water in all the land, which might be true—until it reaches the city. Then it’s stored in tanks that haven’t been inspected or cleaned in years. Here are some of the yucky bits that appeared in the NYTimes article:
    • There are thick layers of muddy sediment in the tanks
    • Even some that are routinely maintained contain E. coli (a microbe carried in the feces of mammals and birds)
    • Dr. Stephen C. Edberg, a public-health microbiologist at Yale University who invented the now-standard test for bacterial contamination in drinking water, was so alarmed by the results that he immediately alerted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
    • Building owners are not required to submit proof to the city that cleanings and inspections have been conducted, as they do for elevator and boiler inspections. Until recently, they did not have to provide evidence of the inspections to their tenants.
    • Another potential concern is the use of an epoxy called Sea Goin’ Poxy Putty, which is not approved for use in drinking water, a violation of the city’s health code.
    • One day he found a pigeon bone in the strainer of a resident’s kitchen faucet.
    • Tank cleaning companies have an inventory of stories about finding dead birds, mice and animal droppings. One cleaner discovered a homeless person living in the attic space between a tank cover and the roof.

I still drink the tap water.

And apropos of nothing, the water itself is not Kosher because of copepods found in the water!  I’m not kosher or even Jewish, but now I always check my water to see if I can see those little critters floating around.  (So far I haven’t seen a thing.)  Still, with all of this info, you can’t beat our bagels.  And why?  Because they are boiled in NYC water.  Maybe the copepods give them some extra flavor?

Speaking of water, the Gowanus is still a filthy, polluted superfund site.  I remember when I first moved into my current apartment I would hear fog horns late at night.  Those were from the boats passing through the canal.  I have no idea what this boat would be used for on the canal, but I thought it looked cool and colorful.  I used artistic license and made the water look cleaner than it actually is.  I was going to put a little water tower far in the background in the upper left corner.  I still may.  But for now it’s done.

Carroll Street Bridge 9-15-2013Late afternoon on the Carroll Street Bridge – watercolor on 140# Arches

Guggenheim start 9-15-2013The Guggenheim – first wash

Flossie and her portraitFlossie and her portrait

I completed the Carroll Street Bridge painting and taking the advice of some of my blogger acquaintances I was careful not to overdo it and muddy it up. There are, at most, two to three washes of any color in this painting.  I’m pleased with it and may try it again.  I accidentally bought some Arches hot press paper.  Never having used hot press, I have no idea how it takes watercolor.  I am looking forward to trying something new.

Lest you think I’m just laying about eating bon-bons I also started a new painting of the Guggenheim museum.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright it’s interesting both inside and out.

Also, I posted a portrait of my brother-in-law’s kitty, Flossie.  She’s a beauty. She’s not Siamese, but something like that.  I did her portrait when she was a young kitten.  As you can see her face got a little darker.  I guess she’s out in the sun not using 50 SPF sunscreen.  I have no idea who is holding her up next to her picture, but Flossie doesn’t look that happy.

I’m off to the gym.  I don’t want to go, I’d rather nap.  But I just read yet another article on how the best thing for an aging brain is exercise.  I thought the best thing for an aging brain is chocolate.   I’m also reading “Drop Dead Healthy” by A. J. Jacobs. I’m only up to Chapter 5, The immune System.  I can tell you I’m already stressed by reading this book.  I do none of the things that are supposed to make me healthy. And high stress levels can make you sick or cause you to gain more belly fat.  (I already knew about belly fat since that seems to be every other ad on Facebook or Gmail or yahoo, or, you get the idea.)  But Mr. Jacobs does make me laugh and that’s good for you. I particularly liked the section where he talked about getting some raw cacao which was “certified organic, raw, low fermentation, non-fumigated, fair traded, strict farming standards, training and equipment provided, fair wages, profit reinvestment plan, purity tested, cruelty free, free range cacao.  Ok, the last two I made up.  But still.

Mr. Jacobs also has a treadmill desk where he wrote his book while walking. Apparently sitting is bad for us.  Since I sit at a desk all day I’m clearly doomed.  I wonder if the City will pay for a treadmill desk so I can walk and fill out paperwork at the same time.  I’m gonna go with no.

Finally, I would like to say that if you see an ad on my blog, I did not approve it. I guess WordPress needs to make money so they are putting ads on blogs on their own.  I could, of course PAY for the ads not to be there.  Ugh.

Gowanus Canal Union Street Bridge 6-30-13Gowanus Canal at Union Street looking North 1/2 sheet 140# CP Arches

Misty Trees 6-30-13Misty trees – 1/2 sheet 140# Arches CP

Lately I’ve noticed so many young men with big, full beards.  I am not a fan of big, full beards.  They look itchy.   And I always think food gets caught in them. When I see someone in the neighborhood with a big beard my mind goes through the following list:

  • Hasidic? – Probable considering where I live.  There’s even a site called hasid or hipster.
  • Muslim? – Ditto.
  • Amish?   – Possible but not probable.
  • A member of ZZ Top?  Doubtful.
  • Hipster?  YES!!!

What is up with beards lately?  And why are so many of them red?  Even when the guy’s hair is not.  Why do hipsters embrace beards?   And why are they all so skinny.  (The hipsters, not the beards?)   And why do they often complement that look with a fedora?  I have so many questions.

Now of course there’s another definition for a beard.  That’s the lady friend of a gay man who does not want to be seen as a gay man.  But there were no beards out today during the always fun and amusing Gay Pride parade today in Manhattan.

I’ve completed these two paintings and now need to start something else. I find it interesting that the palette in both paintings are similar.  The Husband, who has been making noises about moving out west even noticed it.  I told him we can frame them together as a country/city duo.

Happy 4th of July to all of you in the USA.

Union Street Bridge over the Gowanus WIP 6-16-13View of the Gowanus from the Union Street Bridge – W.I.P. 1/2 sheet 140 # Arches coldpress

“Victoria Beckham arrives with her son Brooklyn on her arm” screamed a headline on one of the grocery store magazines. It was at some idiotic awards event.

Do NOT even get me started.   Victoria Beckham named her son Brooklyn. Ashlee Simpson named her kid Bronx.  Do these people have a clue?

I will bet you a million dollars (from the trust fund I’m still waiting to inherit) that neither one of these people have ever been to Brooklyn or the Bronx.   And if they did, it was only to go to Yankee Stadium, or the Barclays Center. And I bet they went in a limo.  Puhleeze.  Let them take the 3 train to 148th Street and walk around for a little while.  As a life-long NYer, I take umbrage at the fact that these celebrities named their children after boroughs of NYC, while not even knowing one thing about them (or us).

I talked about kids names in a previous blog post called “Who named that kid rain?”  However, I think if celebrities want to name their kids after NYC boroughs I think perhaps they should drill down a little and continue with names based on the final destinations of subway lines.

Since I’m here to help, I’ve started a list of possible names for future celebrity babies:

  • Harlem
  • Haarlem (with two “a”s if you want to go old school Dutch)
  • Euclid
  • Wakefield
  • Flatbush
  • Rockaway
  • Canarsie
  • Ditmars
  • Coney (Island)
  • Flushing
  • Pelham
  • Mosholu
  • Woodlawn
  • Van Cortlandt
  • Inwood
  • New Lots

CELEBRITIES:   your’re welcome

I started another painting of the lavender lake, um, I mean the Gowanus Canal.  I did a painting of it here called “Reflections on the Gowanus” that I really liked. The painting is of the Gowanus Canal looking north.   I’ve just laid in the first washes.  I sent the photo to my ex-dog walking buddy Charlie who now lives in Maine and he said I’ve made it look like paradise.  Unfortunately we both know it’s incredibly polluted so it’s no paradise at all.  But it’s fun to paint.

 Reflections on the Gowanus Canal on 1/2 sheet 140lb cold press Arches

Ah, the Gowanus Canal.  A local joke.  In 1636, Gowanus Bay was the site of the first settlement by Dutch farmers in what is now Brooklyn.

And look what we’ve gone and done.

Now it is a “Super Fund” designated by the Feds as being one of one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies. Contaminants include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics. The contamination poses a threat to the nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation.  But that doesn’t stop realtors from calling it the “Venice of Brooklyn.”   Growing up it was known as the “Lavender Lake” and it was not unusual to hear about a criminal element getting rid of a body by dumping it into the Gowanus.

I do have to say that the Gowanus, the neighborhood around the canal, has become quite trendy with clubs, bars and restaurants opening all around the canal.  Those hipsters will party anywhere!

The reference photo was taken by the Husband on one of his walks.  For some reason it just struck me as funny knowing the history of the canal.

It’s always interesting when I go for a walk or a drive with the Husband.  On a trip to the Museum of the City of New York not long ago, he and I took the subway to 103rd Street on east side of Manhattan and began the walk up to 5th Ave.  As we walked across a large open parking lot attached to some projects urban developments, the Husband turned to me and said:  “we got called for two people shot here once.”

Yep,  that’s what you get when you’re out with him.  Another time our lovely nieces Caroline and Monica had visited us for dinner.  Since they are in their 20’s they were going out later that evening.  (I was going to bed.)  Monica was going to hear a band in Willaimsburg, the trendiest place in the city and Caroline was going back to her apartment on the lower east side in Manhattan.  As we drove them to their respective locations, the husband gave the girls a tour of a lifetime.  They got to see where their uncle got called for shootings, bomb threats, EDPs (Emotionally Disturbed Person) who barricaded themselves in apartments with weapons, sometimes with hostages.

And I complain about my job.   Hey,  I got a paper cut last week!   And another time I was bored out of my mind.

It’s dangerous out there.

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