This time of year, I’m always hoping for one last snowstorm or cold snap. I love winter, and am always sad to see it go. To give the season a proper goodbye, these links celebrate all things cold things cold and snowy:
Last weekend I stopped by Film Biz Recycling, a thrift store that sells props previously used on the sets of TV shows, movies, and plays. It’s a place I’ve been curious about for years, having heard of vintage treasures to be found amidst its workaday prop items. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and upon entering was somewhat jarred by the hodge-podge of items, arranged with no particular logic. A toy piano stood next to a stodgy-looking coffee table, which sat beneath a shelf of Cuban cigar boxes and a framed copy of the rules of the board game “The Game of Life”. Across from this tableau, on the other side of the aisle, were an egg swivel chair (like the one in Sleepless in Seattle), a wooden 1950s baby blue high chair, and slew of fake flowers.
Although I usually use this column to highlight exemplary writing about place, this month I’d like to bring attention to some of the many beautiful photo essays I’ve stumbled across in the past few months. With the popularity of slide shows on the web, it’s easy to take extraordinary photography for granted, but every once in a while, when I stop to think about what I am able witness on my laptop screen, I am blown away. An extreme example is Slate’s recent round-up of the year’s best images in astronomy. Here you’ll find photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter interspersed with earth-bound shots of the Northern Lights.
This literary map of the United States, which pins American writers to their places of birth, got me wondering if certain stories exist apart from writers, and the trick (no small trick) is in discovering them in the landscape. Huck Finn seems more bound to the Mississippi River than to Mark Twain’s imagination. And if Tennessee Williams had never been born, I wouldn’t be surprised if some other writer bumped into Blanche Dubois.
Every once in a while you encounter one of these inevitable-seeming stories, a yarn so intimately linked to its place of origin that you automatically pull up a chair. For me that happened most recently when I read the first line of Frank Bill’s Op-Ed in The New York Times:
“Used to be, every year around deer season, there was a story that got told in my family…”
I live a few blocks from a cruise ship terminal. When ships dock there, they tower above the nearby buildings, which top out at four or five stories high. At night, their decks and windows glitter in neat rows, like high-rise apartment buildings, as if downtown Manhattan has suddenly been pulled close. When the ships finally depart, their horns boom dramatically, out of place in my quiet, unassuming neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Last week, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on my waterfront neighborhood, I found myself worrying about the future of coastal areas across the country. I live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a low-lying area that has always been prone to flooding, but which saw new levels of damage with Sandy. For years, people have been predicting a rebirth of Red Hook, in part because of its spectacular ocean views, but perhaps those same views will spell its demise. Will neighborhoods like mine eventually be washed away? In short, is geography destiny?
I don’t think I understood the idea of a “love-hate relationship” until I moved to New York City. Over the years I have become one of those obnoxious people who talk constantly of leaving New York while at the same time shutting down all possible escape routes. Having grown up in a small town, I can tell you that this flavor of self-delusion is not unique to New York City, but perhaps it happens in greater numbers here, simply because New York is host to so many outsiders — outsiders who eventually become insiders.
A few months ago, while walking home from the subway in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I noticed a change in the sidewalk — four of the white cement paving stones had been replaced with darker, bluish-gray stones.There had been a lot of construction in the area, and at first I thought they were simply new stones, not yet faded to match the surrounding sidewalk. But when I got closer, I saw they formed an artwork, engraved with the silhouette of a young, leafless sapling. The etching was meant to approximate the shadow of a nearby street tree, although that tree, now in full leaf and several feet taller, was throwing its noticeably longer shadow in the opposite direction.