Visions of Christmas

Charlie Brown Xmas TreeI’ve put together a couple of videos set to pretty holiday music and tossed them up on YouTube:

here (an old-fashioned Perry Como take on a familiar tune set amidst a display at a doughnut shop) and…

here (another visit to the World Trade Center at holiday time in its all white theme with a shock of blue set to a little bit of Heart).


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Halloween is nearly upon us. Yet how far this intriguing holiday of lore has traversed from the Halloween of our pasts…

Halloween at church

(apparently there was a time I was an angel, and there I am, looking somewhat numb, lost, and not at all imbued with angel powers, seated between my Devil brother and Witch sister, at the annual Halloween party held in our church basement.)

… to the commercialized, sexy-fied immersion it has become in the U.S. culture we have now.  Halloween sexy costume joke

By “culture,” of course, I mean in the biological sense, as in the “culture” growing in a petri dish used in high school science class.

There is nowhere better than my favorite place on the Internet to lay out the precise ways in which this beloved holiday of our youths has transformed since the 1970s.

Our main goal of the night, like everyone else’s, was to compete for who could snag the most sugary junk food. My thing was Reese’s Cups. My brother always came back at the end of the night with a pillowcase full of the best junk food. My other brother’s thing was hard candy. Of course, somebody always got an apple. I don’t know what happened to the apples.

Actually, I think that Angel costume lasted a few years in a row.  I also think that’s the year my parents retired a huge plastic sailor mask my brother liked, because it had been in the attic for so long that he got (warning: link contains disgusting images of the bacteria) thrush after trying it on.

I warned you about that link.

Here is a little Halloween video I made several years ago, using the Magisto app, made up of a compilation of fun scary things.

Happy Halloween!


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Oculus at the World Trade Center

I’ve been absent for a couple of months but will be posting again soon. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, a video:  The World Trade Center has been rebuilt (and continues to be), and it is now a massive transportation hub and shopping & dining center.

Here is a short video of the main area (known as “Oculus”) on a Saturday evening in October.

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Morgan Library video montage

Addendum to last week’s post about the Morgan Library:  I’ve created a short video, now uploaded to the YouTube channel.

View it here.


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A voyage through time

IMG_4534Blood red walls.  Long, deep crimson curtains draped from high above. Vintage portraits IMG_4540 of subjects in severe poses. Black alabaster statues of Grecian figures. Spot-lit corners.

Sounds like it could be a Gothic castle in the hinterlands of eastern Europe.

Instead, it’s the library of J.P. Morgan at 37th & Madison in New York City.

Yesterday, I visited the home of this impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, and what the museum’s Wikipedia entry says was once known as “incunabula” — pamphlets and other printed materials printed before the year 1501 (the Gutenberg Bible is a well known example).

The library has three wings filled with books, manuscripts (including some original IMG_4566music manuscripts from notable composers like Puccini, seen here, at right), and some artifacts, all part of a massive collection by the banker and financier John Pierpont Morgan.

There are a lot of Holy Bibles, many many many Bibles — a Quaker Bible, a Gladstone Bible, Bibles spelled “Byble,” and Holy spelled “Holie,” some Bibles published in the 16th century — and a Koran and a Talmud.


I was there during a “free Friday” evening at the Morgan, which means there was a lot of visitor activity and hubbub surrounding these shelves and cages and glass cases, but none of this took away from the feeling of being enveloped by hundreds of years of published words in rich and beautiful bindings.

Accompanying this permanent collection was the museum’s current exhibit of paintings associated with the writer Henry James, including portraits of the writer, as well as a special exhibit on Henry David Thoreau and his famous journals.

Overall, well worth a visit, on a free Friday night or for the twenty dollar admission fee on any other day of the week.

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About 18 years ago, I felt inspired to write a strange little essay about Sam Shepard.  I don’t recall now why I composed it or what I had planned to do with it, if anything.  Ultimately, I did nothing with it, aside from file it away in some online folder.

It starts like this:

“Blame Sam Shepard for my love affair with tragedy.

His words affected me before his cowboy looks did.  It started when I was just 16, when I saw Buried Child at a public theater in Pennsylvania.

Lights slowly fade in on 16-year-old girl, sitting in theater-in-the-round, leaning forward in seat, elbows on knees, eyes fixed on stage, intently watching the final scene of Buried Child.”

Much has been written about how his plays represent the disaffected, the isolated, America’s ignored and misbegotten products of an American dream.  How they capture the violence of rootless characters’ collective psyche, characters who hold on precariously to the promise of a way out.  There wasn’t and isn’t much I could add.  I do remember this:  That when the last line of Buried Child was read and the lights faded to black, a jolt of energy passed from the stage through the floor to my feet and all the way through me like an electric current.

And I didn’t even yet know the face behind the words.

samShepardSam Shepard once said, on finality and endings:  ”The temptation toward resolution … wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap … The most authentic endings are the ones which are already evolving towards another beginning.”

As much as he left as a legacy, still how much more might he have left in our country’s current intellectual vacuum?

RIP Sam Shepard.


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Cemetery hearts

“Behold and See as you Pass By

As you are Now so Once was I

As I am Now you soon will Be

Prepare for Death and Follow Me.”


On the grounds of St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan, New York City, is a tombstone that stands upright in the earth of the chapel’s cemetery with the above inscription.  The Episcopal chapel dates back to the 1700s.

So recently as I was returning home from a dentist appointment, I stopped in to linger briefly in the old cemetery at St. Paul’s Chapel, one of my favorites, to admire the old headstones, with their antique font, archaic verbiage, and then to imagine the lives of the people who once walked around right where I was standing, and all of the layers of lives that have traversed these grounds since.

Though the church itself dates back to the 1700s, many of the headstones look much older than they are; most of the dates I read were from the 1800s.

I’ve written here before about how much I love cemeteries, though how different these IMG_3927are from the ones I viewed from afar in Africa!  These graves are in the middle of a metropolis and just steps away from the World Trade Center site (now One World Observatory).

With all this activity, I wonder, can these souls rest in peace, especially when they overlay an underground system of active trains that rumble night and day beneath them?

About a mile north of lower Manhattan’s St. Paul’s Chapel cemetery is another extremely tiny cemetery, tucked away behind a brick wall and bars in a triangular plot on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village.  The plaque outside reads “The Second Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.”  (Two others are hidden away elsewhere in Manhattan, one in Chinatown and the other on West 21st Street.)

I couldn’t get close enough to see the dates on any of the headstones in this small enclosed burial ground, but I doubt they compare to how old the graves are at the first cemetery in Salem, MassDCP_2978., known as “The Burying Point,” many of which date back to the 1600s.

Like the one of this young soul who, it says here, lived a mere “nineteen winters in this world.”

More on this one come Halloween.

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