May 31, 2018

It's All Happening At The Zoo

by Steve W

As big fans of the the Animal Planet program "The Zoo", which gives a behind the scenes look at the Bronx Zoo, we knew we had to visit. Jim Breheny, director of the Zoo, has said that if you asked a child to draw a picture of a zoo, it would be animals behind bars. He and his staff have worked to change that image.

Just outside the Zoo were some public restrooms, which had some interesting information.

Who knew?
Just inside the gates, you get a great view of a section of the Bronx River, which flows for 24 miles through southeastern New York.

A river runs through it.
One of the first animals we saw was the bison, which was recently named the national mammal (no, I didn't know we had a national mammal, either).

Next came the World of Birds, with many exotic species of birds from around the world.

Guira Cookoos

Western Caspercaillie

We saw some Pere David's Deer, who were almost extinct but have made a remarkable comeback.  They have an interesting habit of using their antlers to throw mud on themselves for cooling.

Next, on to Tiger Mountain, where we saw a tiger romp in a pond and come right up to the glass window, putting his huge paw on the glass as children on the other side put their hands up to try to touch it. This went on until the tiger left the pond and walked around the enclosure.

Who said cats don't like water?

Often times, the male and female of a species will have different coloration. A good example is the Ebony Langur, from Java. Despite the name, these are not black, but reddish brown.

Meet the Gharial, a crocodile-like creature from Nepal.

The big cats like lions are always a popular attraction. As it was a hot day, they were kind of lazy.

Let sleeping cats lie.

The Nubian Ibex has an impressive set of horns.

Who said size is not important?
We felt safe in the zoo, protected from the animals, until we saw these creatures running wild throughout the park.

"Born Free"
We also saw Grizzly Bears playing in their pond and romping with each other. These guys are huge!

Note the differences between the Cuban Crocodile (top) and the American Alligator. Despite these differences, these two species will sometime mate with each other.

On our trip to Tanzania over 15 years ago, we saw some Colubus Monkeys. Saw them here also. Just a coincidence, or are they stalking us?

One of the more unusual animals we saw was the Okapi, which is a species of giraffe, despite the hind quarters looking like a zebra. But note the shape of the head and you can see the resemblance to a giraffe.

What committee created this animal?
There are several species of guinons in the world, but this one is the Wolf's Monkey, named after the naturalist who discovered them.

From small to large, we moved on the the gorilla enclosure. From large male silverbacks... younger animals, they are always fun to see.

Hitchin' a ride.

A little "me" time

Jim Breheny has said that they thought that they were building an exhibit where people could see the gorillas, but soon realized that it was for the gorillas to see the people.

Up close and personal
We spent a whole day at the zoo, leaving just before it started to rain. Another "don't miss" if you get to NYC.

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May 29, 2018

The Sidewalks of New York

by Rosemary

On one of our many long walks in New York, we strolled through a small section of Central Park.

Horse-drawn carriages are available to take tourists into the park.

People in Sheep Meadow enjoying the warm weather.

Daniel Webster looks stern, but he gently cradles a bird's nest.

We visited Strawberry Fields, a small garden that includes the "Imagine" mosaic, installed to honor John Lennon, who was murdered not far from here in 1980.

Architectural detail on the railing outside the Dakota, an apartment building known for its many celebrity residents, including the late John Lennon.

Our hotel was in the Garment District, and we spent a lot of time walking its streets on our way to other locations. The self-service information booth is next to a huge sculpture of a needle threading a button.

"The Garment Worker" is a 1984 bronze sculpture by Judith Weller and A. Oltavino.

This area now has its own walk of fame, with button-shaped sidewalk plaques commemorating fashion designers.

We weren't far from Times Square. This was once a dirty, disreputable area, known for its high crime rate. A cleanup effort starting in the mid-1990s has made it much more tourist friendly, resulting in the inevitable accusations of its having been excessively "Disneyfied". There certainly are plenty of cheery costumed characters, but there are also plenty of panhandlers, people under the influence, and the occasional topless lady. (One of those ladies offered to pose for photos with us, but we declined.)

This is where they drop the ball on New Year's Eve.

This 1959 statue of George M. Cohan (by Georg John Lober and Otto Langman) is captioned "Give My Regards to Broadway".

A trip to Manhattan would hardly be complete without seeing a Broadway show. We chose "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," a "juke-box" musical based on the highlights of King's early life and career. It was nicely put together and very well-performed.

Also within waking distance of our hotel was Macy's. It claims to be the world's largest department store, and at 2.5 million square feet, it just might be.

Macy's, viewed from the Empire State Building.

The store has been here since 1902, and although it has been updated since then, some of the escalators looked like they were originals.

It rained off and on while we were in town; despite getting caught without an umbrella, we just kept on going.

If only my glasses had windshield wipers!

The marble arch in Washington Square Park was built in 1892 to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's 1789 presidential inauguration. Architect Stanford White modeled it after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Steve poses with a memorial tree.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral is a famous New York landmark. Not everyone realizes that it is the second New York cathedral with the same name. Old St. Pat's was completed in 1868, on the site of a previous structure that had been built between 1809 and 1815 and destroyed by fire in 1866. In the meantime, work on the new cathedral had begun in 1858, and was completed in 1878. The old cathedral is still active as a parish church. Its Gothic-revival style is reminiscent of many of the churches we have seen in Europe.

Of course, we also visited the "new" St. Patrick's. Its spires were the tallest structures in the city when they were added to the building in 1888. There have been a number of additions and modifications over the years, and the church underwent a major restoration between 2012 and 2015.

Big-screen TVs make it possible for those in the less advantageous seats to see what is going on.

As we walked around the city, we remembered to look up at the architectural details. Buildings that date back to the early and mid 1800s have been updated on the inside, but often retain the decorative exteriors that were typical of the period.

Many have been repurposed.

The Beaux Arts style Charles Scribner's Sons building is now home to an apparel store.

In the West Village, we found the building where my paternal grandfather lived in 1918. A hundred years ago, this was not a fashionable location. According to census records, there were three or four families per building on this street, which provided affordable housing for the working poor. This one was built in 1899, and there are buildings nearby that date back to the 1860s or earlier. Of course, these have all been renovated inside (and often outside as well), and are now single-family townhouses. Zillow estimates the current value of this former tenement house at $4.2 million.

The quintessential mid-century New Yorker just might be Ralph Kramden, the fictional bus driver star of "The Honeymooners". Next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a larger-than-life statue of Jackie Gleason as Kramden, dressed in his work uniform. It was placed there in 2000 by TV Land, the same people who brought us the "Bewitched" statue in Salem.

We were in New York for just a week, but there was so much to do and see that we have to keep writing about it. Another New York story should appear in a few days.

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