Richmond Virginia Vacation – Friday

The final day of my vacation was spent on a road trip. I got to see some rural areas of Virginia including a plantation instead of just the city of Richmond. The road trip was to the Northern Neck, a peninsula between the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We must have gone on Interstate 360 East because our first stop was at NN Burger in Tappahannock to get a milkshake. I got a coffee milkshake but it tasted slightly like peanut butter. Next we stopped off at some acquaintances of June’s before proceeding to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.

George Washington Birthplace

George Washington Birthplace

At the visitor center we watched a short film on George Washington’s family farm. June decided against a house tour because she said it would be boring. Instead we walked around the grounds. First we saw the herb garden which wasn’t very impressive compared to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In going over my photos I do see that I managed to snap an excellent photo of a Monarch butterfly. Nearby we saw the memorial house which we did not enter. Beyond that was two horses in a corral. Near the corral was a white outbuilding which contained a restroom. I had to use the restroom which proved to be surprisingly nice inside, but this was a national park after all. Then we walked over a long wooden bridge to see a log house with a good view of the Potomac River. We retraced our steps instead of completing the long hike around the island. After that we walked around the farm and saw some farm animals like pigs and steers.

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

The next attraction we drove to was Stratford Hall. This plantation is where Robert E. Lee was born. The gate keeper kept us at the gate for over fifteen minutes relating the family history of the Lees of Virginia. Again, June opted not to tour the Great House so we only bought ground passes at the small visitor center and museum. At the gift shop I bought a book, Robert E. Lee: A Biography by Emory Thomas. I’m not terribly interested in Robert E. Lee but he was a major figure in the history of Richmond and Virginia. He also suffered a major defeat at Gettysburg and I explored Gettysburg in 2017. The Virginia Monument in Gettysburg has a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveller. So I kind of kill two birds with one stone by learning more about him. We saw the stables and the Great House. I was very impressed by the view of the North Lawn with its rolling hills, wood fence, and woods. We saw the Octagon which was either an orangery or a garden folly. And we saw another garden and a hedge maze. In a fenced in field I even saw a llama with brown hindquarters that made it look like it was wearing pants. I’m not sure if Robert E. Lee ever owned a llama or used them on the Civil War battlefields. Later we drove to the overlook to see the Potomac River which was so wide that it looked like an ocean. On the way we drove past some cabins that looked like they were available for renting or lodging. We did not spend much time at the overlook because June was worried that the gates would be closed on us before 5:00 p.m. I saw a fox on the way back to Stratford Hall.

After leaving Stratford Hall our next destination was Urbanna for dinner but first June stopped at Montross Virginia because some murals caught her eye. Montross is a small town with just a few establishments on its main street. I did not mind this detour because I often explore small towns in Pennsylvania. We saw Angelo’s Restaurant, the Historic Westmoreland County Courthouse, Courthouse Corner (aka Carrot Cottage), the Art of Coffee, and the Westmoreland Mercantile General Store. At the general store I bought a bag of Butterscotch Sanded Hard Candies because they were packaged as Pennsylvania Dutch Candies. We also visited the Art of Coffee to look at their artwork but the coffee shop was closing. Then we went browsing at the Carrot Cottage which had a large selection of kitsch souvenirs. I saw lots of puzzles, sports memorabilia, and assorted crap. Most of it was the sort of thing you would find at a yard sale but everything was brand new. The only thing I bought was a bookmark but I was still entitled to a free gift so I also got a sports branded keychain bottle opener. After taking photos of everything in sight including many more morals we went on our way.

Montross Virginia

Montross Virginia

Somewhere near Kilmarnock we stopped to visit Eugene’s grave where we got stung by wasps. There was a small wasp nest under a plaque resting on his tombstone. I got stung on the hand but fortunately the pain did not last long and my hand did not swell up. Finally we drove to Urbanna Virginia after crossing a long bridge over the Rappahannock River. Urbanna is a small town on the Rappahannock River with a town marina. We saw a lot of boats tied up at the town marina. There were no large ships but some of the boats where fancy luxury crafts. Urbanna Virginia seemed like one of those picturesque small towns that are popular with tourists but there was not a lot there. We had dinner at the Virginia Street Cafe. I got a glass of champagne for 50 cents because they were celebrating their anniversary. I ordered the crab cakes which were really good. It came with clam chowder without milk and really good onion rings.

Urbanna

Urbanna

I had to get up early the next day to catch my Amtrak train to Philadelphia and then another train to Harrisburg. On the train I finally finished reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet and I ate most of the Milk Coffee Candy. This vacation went as well as any of my other vacations. I found Richmond Virginia to be a worthy destination with plenty of interesting sights. This was also a very affordable vacation since I was staying with my sister and did not have to pay for a hotel room.

 

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Thursday

On the fifth day of my vacation, my sister had to volunteer at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden so we went there. While my sister did her volunteer work I strolled around the gardens. First I explored the conservatory which has a tropical orchid wing, a palm house, and a cacti and succulent collection in its West Wing. The conservatory also had live butterflies in another wing. I had to be let into and out of that room to prevent the butterflies from escaping. After leaving the conservatory I did not get far before it began to rain. It was only a light drizzle which lasted for fifteen minutes but I waited it out in the Robertson Pavilion. Next to the Robertson Pavilion was a kaleidoscope sculpture by Matthew Leavall. I did not know that you could turn its wheel until June mentioned it later. I found the nearby Tea Garden but it was closed so I only went out on its deck. I saw a small creek with a plaque that read “Dot’s Garden”. After going through an area known as the Asian Valley I came across the Bloemendaal House which had a gazebo. It looked like they were setting up for an event, maybe a wedding. Next to the Bloemendaal House is the Children’s Garden where I saw a 100-year-old Mulberry tree that kids can climb on. Near the water play area I found the restrooms and some vending machines. Later on I bought a bottle of Pepsi and a package of cookie snacks from the vending machines and ate on the covered walkway up to the CWDKids Tree House. I explored the tree house which overlooks Lake Sydnor. After walking all around Lake Sydnor I arrived at the Louise Cochrane Rose Garden. I think I had time for another stroll around the entire garden before returning to the conservatory where I immediately found June. June wanted to walk through the grounds before we left so we essentially retraced my steps. This did give me a chance to take lots of photos of Lotus blossoms along Lake Sydnor which I had not given enough of my attention. June pointed out a few other things to me. Before leaving we browsed in the gift shop. I was not going to buy anything there but June left to go change her clothes so I had plenty of time to look around and eventually bought a book, Gilded Age Richmond by Brian Burns. After touring the Maymont Mansion I was a bit more interested in the Gilded Age.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

I forgot to mention that June 13th is my sister’s birthday so we finally went somewhere for lunch. We went to Lulabelle’s Cafe in the West End Antique Mall. I ordered Virginia Biscuits which where small buns, not biscuits, containing bacon and cheese spread. It came with a leafy salad and a small bowl of Thai Chicken soup. For dessert I had an ice cream sandwich with peach and cinnamon. I drank two cups of coffee to keep myself awake on this day. It turns out there were more buildings that are part of the West End Antique Mall. We only saw the furniture on our previous visit. The other parts of the antique mall were more of what you would expect in an antique mall, but the merchandise was high end stuff, not much junk. June bought a Murano glass bowl which was a good buy if it is genuine.

After lunch she drove me to Carytown for some shopping. Carytown stretches along West Cary Street and is similar to South Street in Philadelphia. Both streets are packed with boutiques and fine restaurants and serve as bohemian shopping destinations for the big city. First we saw artwork at Chasen Galleries because it was located right behind the parking lot where June lucked out finding a parking spot. We also saw a brightly colored building with a small mural, Ellman’s Dancewear. We went into a big candy store where I searched for a bag of candy to tide me over on the train ride home but I could not find anything suitable. As we were walking down the street, a car knocked over a motorcycle rider and started an argument. I used this opportunity to slip away and crossed the street to enter World of Mirth, a toy store. I was looking for some STEM toys and while they had a few things, there was nothing interesting for a serious maker. Next I went to the Plan 9 Music store where I bought a The Future Sound of London CD, The Isness. I was vaguely familiar with this British electronic music group and took a chance on this album. I listened to this CD on the long car trip home from Harrisburg but I did not care for it.

Chop Suey Books

Chop Suey Books

I crossed the street to meet up with June and we walked to the Byrd Theatre. I was eager to take photos of this cinema because the art print I bought as a souvenir featured the Byrd Theatre. Across from the Byrd Theatre was Chop Suey Books where I spent quite a bit of time browsing, trying to find just the right book. June was kind of rushing me so eventually I settled for The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer. But this was a good choice since I am reading his book on creating imaginative fiction, Wonderbook. We had ice cream at Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream. I had coffee ice cream in the hopes that it would keep me awake. June insisted that we go to Tokyo Market, a cool Japanese grocery store, where I bought a bag of Milk Coffee Candy. That was mostly what I ate on the long train ride back to Harrisburg. After that we browsed Bygones Vintage Clothing, Askby, and The Clothes Rack. There were two art galleries I suggested but June determined that it would have been a long walk to find them.

Byrd Theatre

Byrd Theatre

Before 6:00 p.m. we drove to Agecroft Hall. I picked up our “will call” tickets at the box office, which was located in the Agecroft Hall office. Our tickets turned out to be nothing more than the theater program. I treated June to her ticket since it was her birthday and seeing this play was my idea. I think doing something unusual like seeing a play is an excellent and memorable way to celebrate a birthday. We ate on a seat in front of the
sunken garden since you were allowed to picnic on the grounds before the performance. I ate a roll filled with chicken salad and some cheese crackers, plus a small bottle of Sprite. A few people set up their picnic in the sunken garden where they were serenaded and entertained by a roving band of young actors dressed in Shakespearean costumes. I got to hear a brief recitation of some lines from Hamlet. This was neat because I was currently reading John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. June went back to the car and I eventually went back to the box office to use the bathroom.

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival

At 7:00 p.m. we took our seats and at 7:30 p.m. the outdoor performance of The Tempest began. The performance was very professional. I especially liked the character of Ariel who wore body paint and moved like a puppet. The actor playing Propsero looked a bit like Pierce Brosnan. It was interesting to see a play performed outdoors in the dark. There was a moon that night which added to the magic. Agecroft Hall was the perfect stage set in which to see a play by Shakespeare. I was worried that I would not be able to follow the story very well but I remembered a movie version of The Tempest. That helped me to anticipate the scenes. Seeing the play was definitely the icing on the cake of my trip to Virginia.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Wednesday

On the fourth day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Agecroft Hall. Agecroft Hall is a Tudor manor in Richmond. It looks like some place Shakespeare would have lived in so it is used for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. We saw the stage and the seating all set up for the 2019 Richmond Shakespeare Festival. But for this day we were just there to tour the mansion and to see the gardens. First we watched a short film on the history of Agecroft Hall and how its materials were transported from Lancashire, England to Richmond. We were not allowed to take photos in the house which was furnished according to the Tudor period. But we saw beds, tapestries, old books, and portrait paintings. After the tour we went out to the sunken garden and the herb garden. The sky was overcast so I could not take any photos that do justice to the greenery but at least it did not get hot. The stone patio at the back of the house overlooks a field and some woods. It really gave me the impression of a grand estate. A yellow cat began to follow us around, meowing for attention. At the gift shop I bought a pack of cards, Shakespeare’s
Quips, Cusses, and Curses, Library of Congress Knowledge Cards for $10.50.

Agecroft Hall

Agecroft Hall

Next door to Agecroft Hall is the Virginia House, another manor house. June opened the front door to make inquiries but they no longer offer public tours. We could only take photos of the exterior.

We then drove to Carytown and stopped in at Montana Gold Bread Company to pick up some rolls and chicken salad with dill. We had a picnic lunch at the William Byrd
Park, near Swan Lake. From there it was short drive to Maymont Park. At Maymont Park we saw the herb garden, a carriage collection, and a water fountain before going on a tour of the Maymont Mansion.

Maymont Mansion

Maymont Mansion

The Maymont Mansion was my favorite house tour of the trip since it was a really grand place. Built during the height of the Gilded Era, the interiors were lavish and impressive. These rooms were designed to convey the wealth of James and Sallie Dooley and they certainly gave that impression. Our tour guide was a retired English teacher, or maybe it was a History teacher, who was really into history. He led us through a parlor, a library, the dining room, a foyer, and upstairs to some bedrooms. One of the bedrooms had a fanciful swan shaped bed. After the tour of the house was over we went through further exhibits in the basement where the servant quarters were located. After that we took pictures of the exterior and the front entrance and even ventured onto the veranda.

Maymont Park Italian Garden

Maymont Park Italian Garden

The rest of the day was spent strolling through the Maymont Mansion gardens. We saw the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden which had a winding watercourse that leads to a waterfall and a large pond. The pond had Koi fish of course. Every Japanese Garden is going to have Koi fish.

We did do as much on this day because touring the grounds of Agecroft Hall and Maymont Park took up most of our time.

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Tuesday

On the third day of my vacation, my sister took me to the Virginia Holocaust Museum. I did not include this museum in my notes since I think the Holocaust is too depressing but it was near the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is housed in a former tobacco warehouse. Admission was free and there was free parking. As you walked through each room the motion detector would turn on the lights. We saw exhibits on the Kovno Ghetto, the Nuremberg Trials with Nazi war criminal mannequins, displaced person camps, the SS Exodus ship, concentration camps, etc. There was also a synagogue and a Jewish Wall of Fame where I saw a plaque for the playwright Arthur Miller. Outside of the museum there was a cattle car or freight train car from Deutche Reichsbahn which was used to transport victims to the concentration camps. The exhibits were of some slight interest to me because I was currently reading a biography of Stella Adler and she was involved in the effort to smuggle displaced persons to Palestine.

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Next we went to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, something I really wanted to see. I’m not a particularly big fan of Edgar Allan Poe but he really got around the East Coast. I’ve seen his grave in Baltimore, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia, and a recent statue of Edgar Allan Poe in Boston. We entered the museum through the gift shop. Making visitors enter through the gift shop seems to be a popular strategy for museums. While you are waiting for a tour to start, you are expected to browse the merchandise. Often you have to pay the admission fee in the gift shop as was the case for this museum. There were three separate buildings to enter although I expected everything to be in the Old Stone House. First we went out the back door to the Enchanted Garden, the courtyard which is surrounded by the museum buildings. The Enchanted Garden had a small fountain in its center and a Poe Shrine towards the back. Unfortunately the Poe Shrine was taken over by a tour bus group who appeared to be entertained with a dramatic telling of Poe’s short stories. First we entered a room which appeared to be an exhibit devoted to Poe’s days in Richmond. This room mainly had furniture like his bed, a chair, and a piano. The next room we entered had a more elaborate collection of artifacts and impressive displays like a large Edgar Allan Poe Memorial sculpted by Richard Henry Park. This large sculpture was originally on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’m not sure if this was a copy or the original. This room also had an upright coffin which you could stand in to have your picture taken and a seated statue of  Edgar Allan Poe missing its left hand. I also saw Poe’s chair. Up the stairs was the reading room which only had one shelf of books. But there was also a Poe portrait gallery over the stairs and a few movie posters. The film poster for “Der Rabe” puzzled me but this turns out to be German for “The Raven”, the 1963 film starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson. The final room was devoted to Edgar Allan Poe’s death. I mentioned to my sister that I had visited his grave in Baltimore. I also mentioned that I had read part of a biography on Edgar Allan Poe which I never finished reading. This was the book Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance by Kenneth Silverman. When we returned to the courtyard we saw two black cats which live at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. At the gift shop I bought the book Great Horror Stories: Dover Thrift Editions by various authors, a collection of classic horror short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Before leaving the Shockoe Bottom we saw a freight train go by, pulled by a CSX locomotive. The next museum we visited was The Valentine. June had trouble finding a place to park but eventually she found the rear parking lot where a valet parked the car for us. This was another museum with its gift shop at the entrance. Right off the bat we got a
tour of the Wickham House even though there was just the two of us. The Wickham House had an impressive spiral staircase and various furnished rooms to see. We learned about the Valentine Meat Juice which was the basis of the Valentine fortune. I liked the dining room which had old engravings of scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays. A Google search reveals that these are prints from The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of Shakespeare. See Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. We heard the story of how John Wickham defended Vice President Aaron Burr during his trial for treason. This was part of the same story we heard at the Virginia State Capitol. When the tour of the house was over we saw the rest of the museum which featured large display cases full of artifacts of significance to Richmond’s history and culture. There was a Woolworth lunch counter display to represent the Civil Rights Movement. Downstairs we saw lots of black and white photos of Richmond landmarks. They even had a costume department with a woman to explain how they preserve and research costumes, although I did not see that much need for costumes at this small museum. As far as I could see, they only use a few mannequins.

The Valentine

The Valentine

We had lunch in the garden behind the Wickham House. I had a toasted cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato which June said was a Southern touch. I also had French potato salad, and a plastic cup of iced coffee. They gave us wooden utensils and cardboard straws which I did not like.

Wickham House

Wickham House

After lunch June drove down to a parking lot next to the James River so we could walk across the suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge to Belle Isle. Belle Isle is used as a city park and it appeared to be quite popular. There were many people sun bathing on the flat rocks in the James River. Other people were walking their dogs or strolling along the trail. I saw many great blue herons in the James River who did not seem too shy of humans. There was a large quarry pond. After walking clear around the island we went back over the suspension footbridge which afforded a great view of the Richmond skyline. Then we walked to yet another footbridge, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, and crossed the James River to the other side before turning back. Even then we proceeded to walk a little ways along the Riverfront Canal Walk. I saw the Headman Statue on Brown Island.

Belle Isle

Belle Isle

Finally we we visited the Virginia War Memorial. We could not find anywhere to park while we visited the Virginia War Memorial so June parked at the bottom of the hill where a couple of other cars were parked. Then we walked up the hill to the Virginia War Memorial. Park of the hill was covered in small American flags which looked like a field of flowers. Unfortunately the Virginia War Memorial had some construction going on but we were still able to go inside and see the Shrine of Memory, the glass walls, and the statue Memory. After that we called it a day since we had managed to visit three museums and did a lot of walking.

Virginia War Memorial

Virginia War Memorial

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Monday

On the second day of my vacation in Richmond Virginia my sister drove me to the Virginia State Capitol for a free tour of this government complex on a hill in downtown Richmond. Richmond is the state capitol of Virginia. We had trouble finding street parking downtown so my sister eventually had to park in a public parking deck. After parking the car, we walked to the Capitol Square and took photos of various statues on the grounds. I found the Edgar Allan Poe Statue under the trees in the north west corner of Capitol Square. We couldn’t miss the Washington Monument. I also saw the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial and the Governor’s Mansion.

We used the Bank Street entrance which leads to an underground extension of the statehouse under the hill. While June used the restroom I browsed the gift shop. While we waited for the tour to begin, we looked at some costumes in a display case. A tour guide lead us through the modern underground lair, under the steps of the statehouse, and into the actual building which Thomas Jefferson designed. There was a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the stairwell. Once inside the building we entered a room with a large statue of George Washington. George Washington was born in Virginia so the state is very proud of our first President. After that we were led to the Old House and Old Senate chambers where we saw a model of the Capitol building and various historical paintings. Then we were led into the Old Senate Chamber room dominated by a large statue of Robert E. Lee standing with his hand on his sword hip, looking before him as if to say “Well lookie here”. We were told the story of how the third floor collapsed killing 62 people. Next we were allowed into the House Chamber where actual state legislative business is conducted. The tour guide mentioned that the 2012 film Lincoln was shot in this House Chamber room so I have since bought a DVD of that film.

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

It cost June $30 for the parking garage since we were there for over two hours. She was indignant over the amount and I agreed to cover half of the cost. Next we went to the Science Museum of Virginia. We ate lunch in the car before entering the museum. At the Science Museum of Virginia June rushed to the special exhibit, Pompeii: The Immortal City which featured a few artifacts from the ancient doomed city and even two plaster casts of bodies. Then we went outside and saw the steam locomotive and the Aluminaut, the world’s first aluminum submarine. We also saw an IMAX movie, Volcanoes – The Fires of Creation, at 2:00 p.m. Before the film began, the screen was advertising other museum offerings and the Forge, a maker space, caught my eye. I was expecting this to be a workshop for open source hardware and Arduino electronics but it proved to be more material oriented for wood working and the like. The museum gift shop also disappointed me with its poor selection of science books and no maker books. The Science Museum of Virginia is really just a kiddie museum with no exhibits on hard science, computer science, or any serious stuff. After that we wandered around some more and found some aquariums for lizards, snakes, turtles, spiders, and other small critters.

Science Museum of Virginia

Science Museum of Virginia

Next we drove to the Crossroads Art Center, a gallery for hundreds of artists where they can present and sell their work. This was like a free art museum with affordable art work. First I bought some Tums antacid tablets and Invisible Solid Powder Fresh anti-perspiration deodorant at a Bremo Pharmacy next door. At the Crossroads Art Center I bought a Byrd Richmond International Film Festival art print for $35.00 and a bunny card for $4.00, ZouZou’s Basement. We browsed the West End Antiques Mall next door which looked more like an interior designer’s showroom. Curiously there was a cafe in the store, Lulabelle’s Cafe.

Crossroads Art Center

Crossroads Art Center

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Richmond Virginia Vacation – Sunday

My vacation actually began on Saturday with a drive down to Harrisburg PA to catch an Amtrak train to Richmond. I made it to Harrisburg without incident and managed to get across the bridge, but I did have some trouble navigating the streets to the train station. There was some road work going on which added to the confusion. But eventually I managed to find my way to the Transitpark parking lot. I could not find a way to walk from the parking lot to the train station. You actually have to walk around the block and down a tunnel under the bridge. I tried to check in my baggage but you actually have to handle your own baggage. It has been a long time since I used Amtrak to make day trips to New York City so I was uncertain about many aspects.

30th Street Station

When the train arrived in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station I had an hour before I had to transfer to the Northeast Regional train. I used the restroom and had lunch at a Pret A Manger because there would be no wait for my food. Pret A Mangers are like cafeterias where you just select packaged sandwiches, cans of soda, and deserts like yogurt parfaits. That is exactly what I got. I took a few photos of the 30th Street Station since it was featured in the recent film Glass. Also, on NYC day trips I don’t think I ever got off the train to see the interior of the train station. After getting settled into a seat on train 195 I was waiting for the train to depart when they announced that everybody had to evacuate the train. At first I thought it was just my car, but everyone had to get off due to a fire scare. After about an hour we were allowed to reboard the train. I sent my sister June some text messages to let her know that I would be delayed.

During the long train ride south I read the book John Dover Wilson’s What Happens in Hamlet. I didn’t even use my smartphone or Kindle because this book kept me entertained for most of the down time on this trip. The train took me through Baltimore, Washington DC, Alexandria Virginia, and Fredericksburg Virginia so theoretically I could visit any of those cities. I saw lots of giant condominium apartment buildings in the vicinity of Alexandria Virginia. June was waiting in the parking lot for me at Staples Mill Road Station and pulled around to the curb to pick me up.

Sunday, the first full day of my vacation, began with a prayer meeting and hymnal singing in June’s living room. Due to my interest in comparative religion, this wasn’t as boring as it would be for a dedicated atheist. I observed everything with a clinical eye and found the short ritual especially interesting. This ritual was the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine which seemed to be based on the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. A ritual is a symbolic action, a gesture that is meant to demonstrate something. Various other aspects of the service seemed to function as an emotional support meeting for the care of the soul with individual testimonials. There were no ecstatic moments during which the Holy Spirit could be said to enter into someone. I would have found that interesting for its shamanic aspects.

After the meeting was over we went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the best experiences of my trip since I love art museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was large enough to satisfy me with a wide variety of artwork. This was the only day of my trip when rain was a problem so I had to carry both of our umbrellas in my pant pockets.  I saw a Salvador Dali painting. He is one of my favorite artists. I saw some Fabergé eggs which the museum is famous for having. There was a monumental statue of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. I found Henry Prellwitz’s painting Lotus and Laurel which I had in my notes, a great painting with classical figures. One piece that really caught my eye was an Art Nouveau female portrait bust by Alphonse Mucha, Nature. Alphonse Mucha is the artist who designed the poster of Sarah Bernhardt which is used on the book cover of Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, the book I bought in Eagles Mere. We also marveled at the Mughal Garden Pavilion which I thought was some kind of Islamic arcade. More precisely it is a Persian style of architecture used for the walled enclosures of gardens.

Alphonse Mucha’s Nature

From the windows of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts I saw a small church which appeared to be open to the public. We checked it out and it was the Confederate Memorial Chapel, with a Civil War canon on its grounds.  We went inside and saw its stain glass windows. Also in the vicinity of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the Robinson House, a historic house which is now being used as a visitor’s center with a few small exhibits. We picked up many brochures at the Robinson House and I kept dropping brochures as we visited the Virginia Museum of History and Culture next door. At the Virginia Museum of History and Culture we saw coaches, rifles, an art gallery of paintings, a streetcar, a Conestoga wagon, and Civil War murals. I was amused by an exhibit of old technology and media which included things like an IBM XT, a Windows XP laptop, a Walkman, a Gameboy, a VHS tape, and a Zip Drive. They even had a smartphone on display which isn’t exactly obsolete yet. Some of these history museums are getting way ahead of themselves and display contemporary artifacts as if they were trying to make you feel old.

Virginia Museum of History and Culture

Next we drove to the Hollywood Cemetery were June parked by the gates. We walked a little ways along the cemetery roads but it began to rain so we went back to the car and then drove along the cemetery roads. We managed to find the mausoleum of W. W. Pool, aka the Richmond Vampire. We also found the memorial of the Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. Nearby was a chapel with a great overlook of the Richmond skyline. We also found the mausoleum  of Lewis Ginter which was of interest to June because she volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Finally we found the President’s Circle after much driving around and saw the graves of James Monroe and John Tyler. We were still in the Hollywood Cemetery after 6:00 p.m. when it closes so a guard chased us out, but he was nice about it and opened the gates to let us out.

James Monroe Grave

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New York City Theater Trip

Yesterday I went on yet another bus trip to New York City. This trip went perfectly and I found it to be exceptionally inspiring and invigorating. As I’ve mentioned before, New York City makes a very powerful impression upon me. And I have to be there to experience this. I can scarcely remember this feeling when I am not there. It is an inexplicably impactful emotional response, like an expansion of consciousness. To a certain extent this can be attributed to New York City because the city is the hub of human achievement. New York City is where everyone goes to make a big impression upon the world so everything from the architecture to the art in the museums is top notch and designed to impress. But I’m not sure this fully accounts for its thrill. The topic of New York City can bore me at times so I think my imagination and expectations are also contributing something to the mix. I am always puzzled and maddened by what is intrinsic beauty and what is heightened by what I’m seeing into an object of contemplation. Suffice it to say, New York City is a world of wonders in my eyes.

We arrived in New York City at around 9:45 a.m. My first objective was to visit the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle. The bus literally left us off right in front of the subway station entrance I needed, the 50th Street Station for the C Line, although this particular entrance is on West 51st Street. I only had to go one stop uptown to reach Columbus Circle. The first thing I saw at Columbus Circle was the enormous silvery globe at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. I took some photos of that even though it might have made me look like a Trump fan. But Donald Trump has been a fixture on the New York scene for decades so he still represents some aspects of the city. At least there were no garbage trucks parked around Columbus Circle to protect his property, the real sign of just how much the public hates this man. I also took some photos of the Christopher Columbus statue, the Time Warner Center, and the Shops at Columbus Circle entrance. I’ve been to Columbus Circle before but that was years ago and I only have a few photos of its landmarks.

The Museum of Arts and Design is a pretty minor museum. I would call it a third rate art museum, or maybe a second rate museum, but definitely not second tier in a city with so many great museums. So I had never visited the Museum of Arts and Design. It isn’t necessarily a bad museum. There are just so many other NYC art museums you would put on your list before it. One of the pleasures of making so many trips to NYC is that I can explore the more obscure establishments and see things that the majority of tourists overlook. But the big attraction for me was a special exhibit currently running at the Museum of Arts and Design, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986. This art exhibit featured many Punk Rock posters that were quite familiar to me. You know you are getting old when your favorite music and youth culture shows up in a history museum as artifacts of a forgotten era. The Museum of Arts and Design is not exactly a history museum but you know what I mean. This exhibition was meant to look back on a cultural movement that has had its day. They had two record bins for the obsolete media known as the vinyl record. Visitors could browse through the records for that experience of record store nostalgia. Virtually every record I saw was one that I once owned, although I have most of them on CD now. In fact, my smartphone has most of that music stored on its microSD card. I saw a few Blondie posters and some rare Blondie memorabilia. It occurred to me that at least one piece of rare Blondie memorabilia could even be from my extensive collection which I sold off years ago.

Museum of Arts and Design

Seeing everything at the Museum of Arts and Design only took a half hour. The next item on my agenda was a Broadway play at 2:00 p.m. so I had hours to kill. First I went to the Shops at Columbus Circle and found the Amazon book store on the third floor. I just can’t resist book stores, even though Amazon is responsible for killing most of them off. I didn’t actually buy any books there. I just browsed the titles for books that I might want to buy later on Amazon. See what I did there?

There isn’t that much to see at Columbus Circle so I walked over to Central Park and took a long stroll through the park. It was a beautiful summer day and I took many iconic photos of Central Park. Several skinny skyscrapers are still being built to overlook the park so they kind of  ruin some of my photos. Even when completed, these skinny residential towers will be an eyesore. Central Park was downright idyllic but it occurred to me that I did not visit the big city to enjoy nature.

Central Park

Central Park

By Noon I was starting to worry about getting to Midtown in time to see the Broadway play so I walked back to the south end of Central Park and entered the first subway station entrance I found, which was the Fifth Avenue – 59th Street Station for the N Line. I took a N train downtown to 42nd Street Times Square. I almost made the mistake of retracing my steps and returning to the 50th Street Station, but the 42nd Street Times Square Station is actually closer to the Broadway theaters.

I arrived at 42nd Street – Times Square around 1:00 p.m. with plenty of time to spare but I was starving. I don’t think I was really hungry, but my doctor prescribed some medicine for my arthritis, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAI)  which may have given me a stomach ulcer. My stomach is frequently rumbling and I feel severe hunger pangs by the end of the day. I’ll probably have to see my doctor about that. Anyways, I had to visit a McDonald’s to grab a filet-o-fish and a cup of coffee. I hate McDonald’s but I didn’t have time for a long wait for my food. My coffee did not come with cream or sugar which annoyed me. I drank it black because I was hoping it would help to keep me awake during the show.

There was a surprisingly long line for the Broadhurst Theatre where the play I came to see was being performed. Several hundred people where lined up half way down the block. The line didn’t move at all until about a half hour before the show was to start. The play I saw was Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally. This is a play I read a long time ago, so I had some vague idea what it was about, but I didn’t really remember it. Most plays only run for two hours and you can read a script in less than a day so they don’t really stick in your memory. The big draw for this serious drama was the great actor, Michael Shannon. Michael Shannon has long been considered a major theater actor, is more or less a major movie star now, and also an established Broadway actor since this is the second time I’ve seen him on Broadway. I also saw Michael Shannon in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night. It is quite a thrill to see him in the flesh on stage. And by in the flesh, I mean buck naked because there was a lot of nudity in this play! In fact, the play began with both Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald stark naked in bed doing a simulated sex scene. I was pretty shocked. I’ve seen nudity on stage before but never actual sex. The lights were kept low and I assume they were only simulating sex. The audience started giggling so they were more amused than shocked. When the lights came on there was some effort made not to show full frontal nudity but it took a while for them to get decent. Other than that, this was a very serious play with plenty of humor to keep it from seeming too dark. Michael Shannon shambled around the stage in a strange manner which may have been his way of portraying a character who isn’t meant to appear very intelligent or sophisticated. Nevertheless, his character, Johnny, was fond of Shakespeare and prone to misquoting him. Personally, I’ve never heard anyone quote Shakespeare in real life, not even a professional or somebody involved in the theater, so quoting Shakespeare does seem awfully pretentious to me. Now that I think of it, maybe I should do that myself. If there is one thing you can do to introduce an element of the dramatic into mundane life, it is to shock people with an unexpected quote from Shakespeare.

Broadhurst Theatre

Broadhurst Theatre

I loved the stage design which was very realistic and drank in every detail of the theater itself. The back wall was a brink apartment building facade which didn’t really fit the design of an apartment interior. I didn’t really notice this until the end of the play when they unexpectedly drew back the back wall. It was slowly pulled back into the wings. Then I realized it didn’t really make sense as part of the set. There was also a fire escape that they never really used even though some publicity photos showed Frankie and Johnny on the fire escape in each other’s arms. What I want to remember was the sight of all the stage lights covering the entire space of the area over the stage with that background of a brick facade. This really seemed quintessentially theatrical to me, New York space made sacred in a theater space.

Sardi's Restaurant

Sardi’s Restaurant

I had a dinner reservation at Sardi’s after the show. Sardi’s is conveniently right across the street from the Broadhurst Theatre and the play ended just in time for me to make my reservation. Sardi’s is a bit more formal than I like. The waiters are all in uniform and the maître d’ is very smartly dressed and strikes you as a very serious and reserved sort of man. The service is also ridiculously attentive with a waiter rushing to refill your water glass only minutes after you’ve taken a sip. But Sardi’s Restaurant is an old Broadway mainstay and reeks of good old-fashioned theater tradition and history. The place was pretty empty at first but eventually it filled up with after-matinee theater goers like myself. I ordered a chicken club sandwich which arrived as a stack of food. The large pile of French fries made this a mountain of food. I wish I had just ordered an appetizer since I was not that hungry. I also had a single glass of Chardonnay which made me surprisingly tipsy. I really don’t like feeling woozy and sleepy when I am on an adventure.

After dinner, I had left plenty of time for shopping. First I went to BookOff on West 45th Street. This Japanese used media chain store sells used books, DVDs, CDs, and other media formats. I found two DVDs that were on my shopping list: As Good As It Gets and The Thirteenth Floor. After looking down every book shelf aisle I eventually found their meager selection of Drama and had to settle for a translation of Racine’s Phedre by the poet Ted Hughes. Next I went to the big Barnes & Noble book store on Fifth Avenue. I was surprised to find they did not have a book shelf devoted to Science or Non-Fiction. They did have a decent section on the performing arts where I found Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights. I’m becoming a bit more conservative in my tastes now that I no longer trust progressive theater artists to be sensible. I question their devotion to the arts so I would rather read something written long ago. I think I can trust Stella Adler to focus on what is really important to the human spirit. There is not a single female playwright on her list! That is being a little too conservative, but she was a product of her time. Although I did not browse the science fiction titles, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word For World Is Forest was prominently displayed and this book was on my shopping list so I snagged it.

After making those purchases I made my way back to the bus pick-up spot near the Times Square Church. I got there almost an hour early but I didn’t really try to wander off to take any more photos. I was pretty satisfied with what I had accomplished on this trip and quite frankly the entire Times Square area has become too familiar to me.

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Eagles Mere and Worlds End State Park

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to get out of the house for the day. But I did not want to spend a lot of money so I relied on my previous experience to put together a cheap day trip. First, I drove to Eagles Mere which is a small village in Sullivan County. I often visit Eagles Mere on my way to Worlds End State Park. There is not much to do in Eagles Mere except to visit the book store and the sweets shop. Fortunately, the book store was open but the sweets shop was closed. At the Eagles Mere Bookstore I bought the paperback book Medea and Other Plays by Euripides, Penguin Classics. I selected this book because I’ve been reading multiple translations of Euripides’ The Bacchae and thought it would be useful to read some of his other plays. I was tempted by a large hardcover book Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, but I was reluctant to commit to reading a long book. Now I kind of regret not buying that book so I may buy it later.

Since The Sweet Shop was closed I decided to spend a little time exploring Eagles Mere just to make stopping there worthwhile. I went into the park to photograph the gazebo and then walked down one side street, Jones Avenue, to takes photos of the Eagles Mere Post Office. I noticed a large blue house which was being remodeled. It was big enough to be a hotel. I don’t know if I’ve seen it on previous trips. It may have been obscured by more trees and landscaping. At the end of Jones Avenue I saw the Episcopal Church and two benches overlooking a field. There was a bit of a vista view there so I walked over to the benches. I saw a strange sight in the grassy field below, a vintage pickup truck stuck high on a pole. It looked like somebody’s idea of art work, a sculpture. The residents of Eagles Mere are very wealthy as evidenced by the splendor of their summer homes. This statue was down the hill from a particular large and fancy ranch house so it may have been artwork on the grounds of this country estate. Nobody was in sight so I walked down the hill to take a few closeup photos.

Eagles Mere Vintage Truck Sculpture

Eagles Mere Vintage Truck Sculpture

After that I proceeded to Worlds End State Park. I didn’t intend to do any serious hiking. First I stopped in a pull off near the Loyalsock Creek to take some photos of the boulder strewn creek. I saw a pure white piece of quartz rock which I took as a souvenir. Most of the rocks are unremarkable but this one looked like a chunk of ice, rough but with no blemishes. Then I pulled in at the parking lot for the Canyon Vista Trail trailhead and walked a short ways on the trail along the creek. This part of the trail is perfectly flat and goes through some thin woods. It was very tranquil and relaxing without required much physical effort. Next I drove to the main parking lot and used the restroom. Unfortunately the Snack Shop was closed, maybe because it was Mother’s Day. There were surprisingly few people in the park, probably because it was Mother’s Day. Ordinarily, the parking lot would have been full on such a nice day. I walked down to Loyalsock Creek and shot lots of photos of the cliffs and the boulders in the creek. This is the most picturesque place in Worlds End State Park. It is also the area with the most picnic tables and camping grounds. Before leaving the park I checked out the beach area and walked across the bridge to find a trailhead for the High Rock Trail which I did not know was there. The High Rock Trail is a very difficult trail according to the warning sign so I was not tempted to try it.

Worlds End State Park

Worlds End State Park

On the way home, driving south on Route 220 I made two further stops just to avoid ending my adventure too quickly. First I stopped in at D&D Brew Works. This is a restaurant and bar located in a large red building which I have not seen in operation on previous trips. I ordered a coke, a grilled cheese sandwich, and some French Fries. This meal cost less than $10.00. A but further along Route 220 I drove to the Overlook and checked out Wrights View. This vista overlook is nothing fancy and the view was not particularly fantastic but it is the sort of humdrum attraction that feels authentic.

D and D Brew Works

D and D Brew Works

My final stop on the return trip home was Walmart in Montoursville where I bought a new dress shirt and two inexpensive DVDs, Tomb Raider and Murder on the Orient Express. Both of these films are newer versions of the old classics. I bought a new dress shirt for my upcoming trip to New York City because I want to look presentable for dinner at a good restaurant where I have a reservation.

When I got home I dragged out my bike for a long ride along the bike path, aka the Lycoming Creek Bikeway. I rode all the way to the end of the bikeway in Hepburnville. This bike path can be found at the end of my street but I usually access it by going to the end of the gravel lane behind my house. The bikeway is somewhat scenic although I think it could be better since you mostly see nothing but grassy fields along a long stretch. The best part is the railroad bridge over Lycoming Creek. For me it is a very convenient recreational activity and it would probably add a lot of value to my property if I lived near a bigger and more prosperous city.

Lycoming Creek Bikeway

Lycoming Creek Bikeway

In conclusion, I enjoyed a perfect Spring day without spending a lot of money.

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Jetson Nano Developer Kit

I recently bought my first single board computer, the Jetson Nano Developer Kit. This single board computer is intended for artificial intelligence development. It is sort of like a Raspberry Pi for AI. The main reason I bought this device is because it has a Nvidia GPU with 128 CUDA cores. Many machine learning toolkits can use CUDA cores to speed up the processing. You need a high end Nvidia graphic card for that and they can be quite expensive. So at only $99.00 the Jetson Nano is a bargain.

Jetson Nano Developer Kit

Jetson Nano Developer Kit

I’ve been thinking of buying a Raspberry Pi and getting into the maker community but the Jetson Nano seemed a little sexier with its AI capabilities. Unfortunately it does not come with everything you will need. I had to buy a MicroSD card for the operating system. Then I had to buy a 5V 4A (4000mA) switching power supply from AdaFruit. I bought a Edimax EW-7811Un USB Wi-Fi wireless dongle to give my Jetson Nano wireless connectivity. But the biggest additional expense was a monitor with a HDMI connection. None of my flat panel monitors had that so I spent another $100 on a Spectre monitor. You also need a mouse and keyboard with USB connections but I did have those.

So far I have done absolutely nothing with my Jetson Nano because I’ve been busy. But I have been studying machine learning so I will put this device to its intended use. I will do something serious with it. At the very least it will allow me to run some demos that require CUDA cores. I might try to use it for natural language processing, computer vision, or computer graphics. Later on I may buy a Raspberry Pi since I have the equipment for using other single board computers.

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Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I made my first trip to New York City in 2019. It is getting hard to find new things to do in New York City since I go there so often. But on this trip I decided to concentrate on the art galleries in Chelsea. Most of these art galleries are concentrated between West 24th Street and West 22nd Street to the west of the High Line. I must have visited between fifteen or twenty art galleries but I was not keeping track so it will be hard to document exactly which galleries I visited.

The bus left us off outside the Times Square Church just like they used to do. Maybe they will go back to using that as the drop off and pick up spot. I quickly found a subway entrance for the C and E lines 50 Street Station but this was in the direction for uptown, not downtown like I wanted. When I tried to use my MetroCard it read Insufficient Fare but before I could refill it somebody called me over and opened the gate for me. I should not have done that but I was thinking there may have been a malfunction or something. Although I was on the wrong platform for going downtown, I decided to go uptown and visit the Sony Plaza Public Arcade which has public restrooms. Unfortunately I found the Sony Plaza Public Arcade was closed because that building is being remodeled. I did take a photo of Paley Park as I walked past it on East 53rd Street. Actually it was not Paley Park, but some waterfalls on the side of the building that houses Burger Heaven. Anyways, I found a Fifth Avenue – 53rd Street Station entrance and took an E train downtown to the 23rd Street Station like I originally intended.

Reconstructing exactly which art galleries I visited is going to be difficult but I do have my photos as a rough record of where I went. For example, my first photo is of the Empire Diner which had a mural painted on the wall of the building behind it featuring the artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. This seemed very appropriate for the Chelsea Art District. I remember that I tried to visit the Fremin Gallery but it was closed for a private event. I must have walked down to West 21st Street because my next photos are of the Gagosian Gallery entrance, Kravets Wehby Gallery, and Paula Cooper Gallery. The Gagosian Gallery was closed for installation. One of the art galleries I can confirm that I entered was Miles McEnery Gallery on West 21st Street which had the work of John Sonsini as its current exhibition.

Empire Diner Mural

Empire Diner Mural

I must have walked to West 22nd Street after that because I took a photo of the JoAnne Artman Gallery and the Danese/Corey Gallery at 511 West 22nd Street. Confusingly Miles McEnery Gallery is also on West 22nd Street. Several galleries are located at 535 West 22nd Street including DC Moore Gallery but I did not try to enter since there didn’t seem to be any lights on. But I’m pretty sure I went up the black stairs to visit this second location of the Miles McEnery Gallery. According to their web site I saw the work of Tomory Dodge. I know I entered the JoAnne Artman Gallery because I have their business card. I only collected two business cards. I definitely visited the Yancey Richardson gallery where I saw some huge photographs by Victoria Sambunaris. These high definition photos were taken in Utah according to the web site. I thought they were photos of some desolate region in the Middle East. I especially like the photos of railroad tanker cars in Utah. That photo had nice composition. I did not try to take any photos of the artwork in any of the galleries because I did not know if that would be allowed. I did see a few people take photos with their smartphones. Also on West 22nd Street is the Sikkema Jenkins & Co art gallery which had their door open. That was the gallery where I saw crude paintings by artist Louis Fratino. I found these paintings slightly distasteful since they were gay erotica featuring the male body, but I dutifully examined each one. Personally I find greater beauty in the female nude and this can be understood once you realize that beauty actually lies in what represents a wonderful possibility for us. The Dia Art Foundation also seems to have a gallery on this street but it did not appear to be open.

Miles McEnery Gallery

Miles McEnery Gallery

The High Line appears to have inspired a building boom in Chelsea. I saw various condominiums being built and many of them seemed to be in a competition for the most modern and sleek building design. So I took a few photos of the more striking examples. In particular, there was black building with rounded corners behind the Guardian Angel Church. I didn’t do too much research on the neighborhood but I did see the Highline Hotel and the Star On 18 Diner on my way to West 19th Street where I located and photographed The Kitchen, an Off-Broadway theater that has been on my list of places to photograph for quite some time. I never got around to it because I’ve rarely been in the vicinity. Two very large condominiums with a striking design are being built on this block so I had to walk around some construction. Since I was in the area, I crossed 11th Avenue to the Chelsea Piers and took many photos of the IAC Building and the 100 Eleventh Avenue residential tower. I got some really great photos of these two buildings because the sun was shining bright. I will replace the photos in my notes with these better photos.

IAC Building

IAC Building

At this point, I finally decided to visit a book store in the neighborhood, 192 Books on 10th Avenue. I found their small theater section and bought the book Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine by Simon Critchley and Jamison Webster because Hamlet is my favorite play. I can tell by my receipt that I bought this at 12:57 p.m. 192 Books is a fairly small book store with just one large room. You have to wonder how small stores stay open in New York City where the rent is so high. They did have an extensive selection of art books so they must get most of their traffic from the Chelsea art gallery crowd.

Next I visited three art galleries on 10th Avenue; Taglialatella Galleries, Chase Contemporary, and Jim Kempner Fine Art. I took a business card for Taglialatella Galleries and postcards for Chase Contemporary and Jim Kempner Fine Art. Chase Contemporary had some really cool art like a giant matchbox car model and portraits by Ole Aakjær of models with yellow noses to make them look like clowns, gorgeous clowns. Jim Kempner Fine Art is an impressive gallery with large windows just under the High Line on West 23rd Street. They were showing map design art by Paula Scher.

After that I went to West 24th Street which is the street with the most art galleries. I visited the following art galleries for sure based on my photos and recollection; Marianne Boesky Gallery, Pace Gallery, Gagosian, Bryce Wolkowitz, Metro Pictures Gallery, Lyons Wier Gallery, C24 Gallery, and Lehmann Maupin. At the Pace Gallery 537 West 24th Street I saw the most impressive artwork I saw that day, landscapes by Raqib Shaw. These landscapes where highly detailed and very exotic. They were landscapes of fantasy realms populated by mystics and people with bird heads. I had to spend several minutes with each painting just to take in all the detail. The Marianne Boesky Gallery was showing large sculptures of Frank Stella and I saw a tour group being shown around. I think it was a tour being run by an art institution since Frank Stella is a major artist.

Marianne Boesky Gallery

Marianne Boesky Gallery

At around 2:00 p.m. I began to walk east along West 23rd Street in order to make it to the Irish Repertory Theatre to see the play The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey. I didn’t want to be late because this was the highlight of my trip. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Chelsea art galleries to 7th Avenue. Along the way I passed the famous Chelsea Hotel. This place still has a little scaffolding on its facade but less than I’ve ever seen so I took several photos. It does look like they have cleaned and repainted the facade pretty well. Once I was near the theater I took photos of Champignon Restaurant and Zagara Wine Bar since I might want to eat dinner in this neighborhood after a show. I’ve been going to the Irish Repertory Theatre often enough to make this a concern.

Irish Repertory Theatre

Irish Repertory Theatre

The Irish Repertory Theatre has become my favorite theater in New York City. This was the third time I’ve seen a show there. The reason for this is their conservative approach to the fine arts. Every other theater in New York City seems to be too intent on showing how progressive they are with their casting and choice of material. Now, it is not that I seek a politically conservative theater, but I do want to see classic European dramas with sensible casting decisions. I feel I can trust the Irish Repertory Theatre to put sound artistic concerns over the prissy moral concerns of the political activists. Theater is the one art form which I prefer in its conservative form because drama works best when it observes all the rules. I would like to see some avant-garde theater but it has to be mystifying and strange, not merely politically radical. I suppose the Irish Repertory Theatre can get away with being so conservative because it is a theater devoted to an ethnic group. I don’t really get how the Irish are a downtrodden ethnic group. I think of the Irish as white Europeans just like the English, the French, or the Germans.

I had to use the restroom at the Irish Repertory Theatre because none of the art galleries had public restrooms. They only have two unisex restrooms, each just one room with only one toilet, so there is always quite a line before a show. Fortunately I only had to wait on two people before me. I had a seat in the balcony since that was the only seat left for this particular show.

Anyway, The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey is a fine old play. I read it a long time ago in a collection of Sean O’Casey plays but I really remembered nothing about it. Just past the balcony was a small room which they made into a museum on Sean O’Casey. The exhibit consisted mostly of paper items like old playbills, books, and newspaper clippings. But they also had some large poster boards made up to show the history of Sean O’Casey and his work in the theater. There were two display dummies in costume. Overall it was an impressive little museum devoted to a playwright.

The production was very high quality with elaborate sets and period costumes. Most of the actors spoke with Irish accents. There were several set changes during the show and they even used a turntable to revolve the set from a tenement room to a bar. I thought that was quite impressive for such a small theater with a small stage. Unfortunately I did doze off briefly during the show because I have to get up too early for these bus trips to New York City. Then when I get into a quiet, darkened theater I just want to close my eyes for a minute. Fortunately I cannot sleep sitting up but I do nod off briefly.

When the play was over I went to the Champignon Restaurant because I was starving. I ordered the Steak and Frites. I ordered my steak well done but it was still a little stringy and a bit raw. Unfortunately the meat clogged my esophagus so I had to rush to the bathroom to vomit as I was gagging. This is a rare medical problem for me, but I have to be careful when eating very moist dough or stringy meat because it may clog my esophagus. This meal only cost me around $33.00. I only spent $17.37 for the book I bought so this was the cheapest trip I’ve ever made to New York City. I hardly spent any money while I was there.

Champignon Restaurant

Champignon Restaurant

Before leaving the Chelsea neighborhood I walked down to West 19th Street to take a photo of the New York Live Arts performance space. I thought I had taken a photo of this place on a previous trip but I guess I always forgot. This performance space appears to be more devoted to dance than theater. I even saw a ballerina in the window.

When I finally arrived back on 5oth Street, taking an E train from the 23rd Street Station to get back uptown, I walked down to West 47th Street to take a photo of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, probably the only theater in Hell’s Kitchen which I’ve overlooked. Then I located the Broadhurst Theatre. The Broadhurst Theatre was advertising Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune which I will see on my next trip to New York City. I already have my ticket. The Broadhurst Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theater so this will be a thrilling experience for me. The play stars the movie star Michael Shannon who I’ve already seen on Broadway in Long Days Journey Into Night. It is always a thrill to see a movie star in the flesh on stage, right in front of you. However, I don’t know what else I will do in New York City on that trip. I’m kind of all out of ideas.

I walked to the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue hoping to buy another book before going home but by the time I got there I was worrying about missing the bus so I didn’t take the time to make a purchase. I might have been able to squeeze this in but there would have been no time to browse. Fortunately I made it back to the Times Square Church with plenty of time to spare and managed to take a few photos along the way.

I have a few notes about the bus trip itself. I bought a new travel bag which is larger than the shoulder bag I’ve been using and this worked out well considering how many devices I take on a trip. I also managed to watch movies on my smartphone using a Leizhan USB OTG Flash Drive. I was able to watch Ironman and Ironman 2 on my smartphone which really helped to ease my boredom. Before this I was listening to music for four hours on end and that gets a little tedious. We stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at Delaware Water Gap for the comfort stop. I bought a chocolate bar from the vending machine but it turned out to be partially melted. That really pissed me off. I had to put it in the freezer when I got home to make it solid enough to eat. So note to self, do not buy chocolate from vending machines.

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James V. Brown Library Spring Book Sale Haul

Last evening I went to the Spring Book Sale held by the Friends of the James V. Brown Library. I found the following books:

  • Nocturne by Adam Rapp – a play by a playwright I am familiar with
  • Moon-Child by Derek Walcott – a play by a playwright I am familiar with
  • Theories of the Theatre by Marvin Carlson – seems to be more of a historical review of the theater than a book about theater theory
  • Watchers by Dean Koontz – you see lots of books by this author but this one in particular comes highly recommended and I can never seem to find it. This book was on my shopping list so I was pleased to find it at the book sale.
  • Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda – I have not read much poetry by this poet
  • The Origin of Humankind by Richard Leakley – I have been reading more science books with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, or evolution.
  • The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker – one of my favorite science authors. This book is about what language reveals about how the mind works. A good book for an aspiring writer.
  • Science Fiction Handbook, Revised by L. Sprangue de Camp – an old book on writing science fiction

That is only eight books. I only bought books I thought I might want to read. Since I already have stacks and stacks of books to read, I really didn’t want to commit to reading even more books. My house is already so full of books that it looks like a library. They are piled up everywhere since my bookcases are full.

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Oleanna – A Misunderstood Play

This evening I saw the David Mamet play Oleanna in Lewisburg, as performed by the RiverStage Community Theatre. I did not realize it, but I have seen this play before. I keep a list of all the plays I’ve seen and this play is number seven. I probably saw it years ago at the Community Theater League. As usual, I did not drive all the way to Lewisburg just to see this play. I took the opportunity to do a little shopping and dining just to make the long drive worthwhile. I stopped in at Barnes & Noble which is the Bucknell University Bookstore and bought a paperback book World Without Mind by Franklin Foer. This is another nonfiction book about the threat of Big Tech. I have been reading many books like this of late. I had something to eat at the bookstore cafe, a yogurt and a cup of coffee.

RiverStage Community Theatre seemed to think Oleanna was a timely play because it supports the #MeToo movement but I think they have misunderstood this play. I interpreted the play as a clever critique of social justice warriors. The playwright’s hostile intention is made clear by the ambiguity of the situation and the outrageous nature of the student’s behavior. If David Mamet had really wanted to argue in favor of social justice he would not have made the student’s actions so questionable. It amazes me that people can misread an author’s intentions so badly, but I have seen it before. What you have to understand is that a writer can play God. He will construct the story to support his viewpoint. Even a seemingly impartial story will be constructed according to the author’s secret intentions. This is an old play which I have not seen or read in many years, so I was surprised by much it predicts the current social justice warrior controversy. But I guess that nonsense has been going on for a very long time in academia.

One of my full length plays, Charcoal Sketches, is somewhat similar to Oleanna but my intention was very different. In my play a blameless college professor is accused of giving inappropriate attention to a female student, making her the teacher’s pet, but I was interested in the subconscious motivation in self-sabotage. My protagonist shoots himself in the foot to get himself out of a stagnant situation without being consciously aware of making such a decisive decision. Unconscious determination is a subject that interests me a great deal. But I suppose my play would also be misinterpreted as supporting a feminist narrative.

After the play was over I stopped in at Wendy’s for a Big Fish sandwich and a small vanilla shake. I don’t like most fast food, but fish sandwiches tend to be really good.

The next play I will see is The Plough & the Stars by Seán O’Casey at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. This will be the third play I’ve seen at this theater. It has become my favorite theater in New York City because all the other theaters have abandoned artistic excellence in favor of demonstrating how politically correct they are in their casting and material. I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that, but it has clearly replaced every other consideration so you get trivial plays attacking the basis of national holidays and other crap. When the theater gives up on art, artists must give up on the theater, or find some smaller theater that keeps up the tradition.

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Rabbit Hole – A Very Bunny Play

On Sunday evening I saw the play Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire at the Community Theatre League‘s Moyer Studio. This was the first play I saw this month. I shall see three plays this month after a long dry spell. This is one of the plays I have read. It is a serious drama, really heavy, and not all that bunny. There were not very many people in the audience so half the seats were empty. I really liked the set design which was very realistic. It included the kitchen for the classic “kitchen sink” drama and the living room. The television set was an old cathode ray tube display instead of a modern flat screen TV. The set design really made me feel like I was spying on people in their home. It would be a very typical middle class house so I felt this was the drama of everyday life as experienced by real people. The acting was pretty good with only some occasional excessive expression.

I was able to park in the parking garage across the street without getting a ticket or going through the toll gate. I guess there is free parking on Sundays.

The next play I shall see is Oleanna next Sunday in Lewisburg PA. Then on April 27th I am going on a bus trip to New York City where I will see The Plough and the Stars at the Irish Repertory Theatre. The Irish Repertory Theatre is now my favorite theater in New York City because I can trust them to make good artistic decisions. Every other theater seems to have become too morally prissy to do European plays with traditional casting.

My playwriting is kind of on hold but I did complete my forth full-length play this year to submit to the major playwriting competitions. My next play is going to be a completely new play on shamanism to replace my previous attempt. After that play is written I will concentrate on marketing since I will finally have enough literary property to implement my marketing strategy.

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The Painter 8 Wow! Book

At work I usually read a book during my lunch break after eating my packed lunch. I sometimes pick a book that I just want to finally get through. But often I read a technology book that will be seen as vaguely work related. Currently I am reading The Painter 8 Wow! Book by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis. I bought this book way back in October 29, 2003 on Amazon but I never got around to reading it. I decided to finally read this book due to my new interest in creative coding.

Although I had a few notes on how to do things with Painter 8, I have been adding even more pages to my notes while reading this book. I have added topics on aligning shapes, the color set tools, blending colors with pastels, cloning and tracing, color masks, feathering, liquid ink, masks, and sketch contrast.

Painter 8 offers limited options for scripting although you can record your actions. Gimp seems to have better scripting options using Python so I will learn how to script drawings using Gimp. This will give me the ability to do creative coding using natural-media brushes, something that Processing still lacks.

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YouTube Data Backup Tool Bug Fix

Today I fixed a bug in my YouTube Data Backup Tool. The problem was the view count for a video could be larger than the maximum size of an integer. The solution was to change the data type for the view count variable from integer to long. I also made this change to the like count and comment count. The current version of this program is 1.3.6.0.

My YouTube Data Backup Tool is the only Windows application I have developed to sell. As a passive form of income it is only good for “beer money”, not that I drink beer. The problem with this form of passive income is that an application must be maintained. Any sort of paid work would pay better than working on this Windows application. I sell the YouTube Data Backup Tool for only $5.00 because it does not do anything except make back ups of your YouTube playlists. Eventually I will add more features.

I use Visual Studio 2013 for this project even though its Git support is buggy.
InstallShield Lite for Visual Studio 2017 is not supported for the Visual Studio Community Edition so I cannot migrate this project to Visual Studio 2017. I have a private GitHub repository for this project but I am distributing the software using Google Drive.

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Learning Fortran

Lately I have been learning the old programming language, Fortran. I don’t particularly like Fortran or plan to use it, but I have run out of things to learn about C++, Java, Python, or C#. So far I have learned how to work with numbers, loops, and arrays. Today I have learned how to work with strings. Formatting numeric output in Fortran is a little tricky so I will have to create a separate topic in my notes for that. I am running Fortran using GNU Fortran or GFortran which is part of my Cygwin installation.

I was using Visual Studio Code as my code editor but it does not integrate well with a Fortran compiler. I have discovered that the NetBeans IDE works a lot better. NetBeans will run my code by creating the necessary make file automatically. I had to create my own Fortran syntax highlighting file, shBrushFortran.js, to use with SyntaxHighlighter 3.0.83, the old JavaScript library developed by Alex Gorbatchev. This gives me Fortran syntax highlighting in my HTML notes.

The only mildly useful thing I have learned so far is that Fortran supports complex numbers. I have been working with complex numbers to reproduce some geometric designs which are based on the complex plane. I have been improving my math skills and learning Fortran may help with that since this programming language is mainly used for science.

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Creative Coding

I have almost finished reading “Processing for Visual Artists: How to Create Expressive Images and Interactive Art” by Andrew Glassner. And not a day goes by when I do not learn how to do something new in Processing.js. For example, today I learned the formula for finding points on a bézier curve given the anchor points and the control points. This will come in useful when I attempt to reproduce curves that must hit certain points.

Although Processing is somewhat limited to geometric art, I continue to find interesting projects within this limitation. Some of my recent projects in sacred geometry have included; Metatron’s Cube, the Seed of Life, the Flower of Life, and a shaman’s dreamcatcher. I plan to explore other possible projects in gem or crystal geometry, Art Deco geometry, Islamic tile geometry, and various signs or symbols. I share a few of my sketches at Open Processing.

Processing gives me a fun way to solve programming challenges that involve some math without getting bored. It is a great way to learn more about computer graphics without being overwhelmed by technical material. Sometimes I figure out how to do the same thing in Python using its Matplotlib plotting library.

I think this is the ideal way to express my creativity using my existing professional skills. I bought a lot of books on figure drawing but I never get around to reading them and it would take a lot of practice to improve my drawing skills. Drawing would also lack the problem solving that Processing requires. Messing around with Processing is almost as fun as playing a computer game because you are dealing with the same kinds of computer graphics, only with more creative control.

Some of my work is cutting edge even if it isn’t all that spectacular. I have figured out how to do some simple things in Processing that have never been done before. I am still in the process of exploring various ways to produce basic shapes.  Eventually I will seek to promote my work in the greater art community.

 

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New York City Art Museums and Art Galleries

Yesterday I made my 50th day trip to New York City. On this trip I managed to visit three art museums and six art galleries. Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad with strong wind and rain throughout the day. But I actually had this art museum itinerary prepared as an alternative itinerary for a rainy day. I only took 76 photos on this trip since the rain made me reluctant to take out my camera.

The Susquehanna Trailways bus that took me to New York City was advertising the Penn College Wildcats sports team. I took several photos of the bus with this design. I arrived in New York City at 10:00 a.m. and immediately walked to the nearest Times Square 42nd Street subway entrance. The Times Square station is truly immense. I must have walked several blocks to find the 7 train. Unfortunately, the 7 train was not running over the weekend due to scheduled maintenance. My first goal was to go the MoMA PS1 art museum in Queens and I not know how to get there except by taking the 7 train. I had to take an N train to Queensboro Plaza in Queens instead. But that placed me one station beyond the Court Square Station and the 7 train was not running between these stations. I had to take a free shuttle bus to get to Court Square Station. This was the first time I’ve taken a MTA bus on these day trips. I did not have to swipe my MetroCard or provide any proof that I was transferring from the subway.

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1

I arrived at MoMA PS1 around 11:00 a.m. but discovered they did not open until Noon. I also thought the ticket price was $25.00 and not $10.00. My confusion on this score was probably caused by the MoMA web site which shows you the opening time and ticket price for the main museum in Manhattan. I was also confused about where the front entrance is located. It is actually along Jackson Avenue in what appears to be a gift shop. After buying your ticket in the gift shop you walk outside through an open courtyard to the actual entrance of the museum. It was all very confusing. I had to spend an hour in Queens in the rain waiting for the museum to open. Ordinarily I would have walked around a few blocks exploring the neighborhood but the fierce wind prevented that. I found my way to the nearby John F. Murray Playground and stood under some trees for about a half hour before returning to the museum which had a few tourists waiting for it to open.

The main exhibit at MoMA PS1 was Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts. Bruce Nauman is perhaps best known for his neon sign artwork “The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths” in which that phrase appears in a spiral. I saw a copy of that in the exhibit. The rest of the exhibit was like a fun house of bad art and bizarre experiences. For example one room featured television sets playing videos of a clown screaming “No” repeatedly. That would be Bruce Nauman’s Clown Torture (1987) piece. I saw Learned Helplessness in Rats (Rock and Roll Drummer) (1988). Pacing Upside Down(1969) 60 minutes with his arms held over his head, hands crossed, Nauman is moving jerkily around a perimeter defined by a square drawn on the studio floor, filmed by a fixed camera, placed upside down. There seemed to be more recent versions of this work including one in 3D which you had to watch wearing 3D glasses. I also saw his Black Balls video which appeared to be Bruce Nauman massaging black makeup onto his testicles. Gross! An audio piece Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room 1968 was actually kind of creepy. So basically this exhibit was a lot of conceptual art which makes you wonder at what can pass for art.

I had lunch at the M. Wells Dinette within MoMA PS1 since I did not want to go back out into the elements. This cafeteria-style restaurant is designed like a school cafeteria since the museum is located within a deserted Romanesque Revival public school building. I entered the cafeteria and took a seat but it did not look as if a waiter was going to come take my order so I got up and took one of the clipboard menus and placed my order at the counter. I ordered the skirt steak and a cappuccino. The skirt steak came with scalloped potatoes (aka Potato Gratin) and some greens (Beurre Rouge). Beurre Rouge must have been the dressing on the greens. It was really good and definitely gourmet quality for under $25.00.

Before leaving the museum I visited the Artbook book store which is something separate from the gift shop at the entrance to the museum. They had a vast selection of art books with maybe too many on politics but after browsing I eventually settled on Goodbye World! Looking at Art in the Digital Age by Omar Kholeif. This book cost me $30.00 even though it is a small paperback book. The art world has been slowly embracing the Internet and digital technology. At this point it is really hard to deny that online culture is a big part of everyone’s life and our art can hardly fail to reflect that. I’ve been a bit too conservative in feeling that anything online isn’t real art but digital art now appears in art galleries.

I think I left MoMA PS1 at around 2:00 p.m. and my next goal was to return to Manhattan to visit the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Once again I could not follow my trip directions. I was going to take a F train from Court Square Station but this did not appear to even be an option. The F line does not go to the Court Square Station. I wound up taking an E train towards the World Trade Center. This train didn’t really take me anywhere near the New Museum of Contemporary Art so at the West 4th Street Station I got off and transferred to the F train to go to the Second Avenue Station. That was a pretty expect navigation of the subway system so I was mighty pleased with myself.

New Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum of Contemporary Art

I arrived at the New Museum of Contemporary Art at around 2:30 p.m. They gave me a plastic bag for my umbrella. I tried to leave my umbrella at the coat check counter but they would not accept it. I did eventually talk them into accepting my book and hat. The major exhibit at the New Museum of Contemporary Art was Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. Sarah Lucas is a controversial British artist, part of the generation of Young British Artists who emerged during the 1990s. Much of her work was obscene and angry but in a way that I liked since it was more outrageous than transgressive. I watched two of her videos. One video was Sarah Lucas reading some poetry and the other video was Sarah Lucas giving a nude man an egg massage. This video really bordered on being straight pornography.

The New Museum of Contemporary Art does not have any permanent exhibits so if you are not interested in the current exhibit then you should not go there. In the South Galleries I saw Marguerite Humeau’s “Birth Canal” which was a sculpture and sound installation. The sculptures where in the shapes of prehistoric Venus figurines that you encountered in a dark gallery. I also saw a bit of a film Marianna Simnett’s Blood In My Milk which was being shown on multiple walls of a gallery filled with people lounging on the floor. There were a lot of people sitting on the floor so I had to stand. I didn’t watch much of this film because it looked stupid and I felt a little uncomfortable. I would say my visit to the New Museum of Contemporary Art was a bit of a bust except for the opportunity to see the work of Sarah Lucas. I checked out the gift shop but I could not find a small, reasonably priced book.

After leaving the New Museum my goal was to visit some art galleries because there are actually many art galleries along the Bowery. First I entered the Soho Contemporary Art gallery which wasn’t even on my list. Since it was dark and stormy out every establishment had its light on and you could easily spot the art galleries and see people inside. After crossing Houston Street I visited the Hole gallery next. This is an art gallery which I must have walked past on my way to see the Blondie mural without even noticing it. The Hole gallery had some interesting geometric art and some rather crude but colorful art. Naturally I took another photo of the Blondie mural since it was just around the corner and I took a few photos of the Bowery Electric, a rock music venue.

The Hole Gallery

The Hole Gallery

The next art gallery I visited was Pop International Galleries which is south of the New Museum on the Bowery. Pop International Galleries had lots of interesting artwork including New York City street scenes done in a graphic arts design and art made out of pushpins with glittery heads. From Pop International Galleries I walked west on Spring Street even though I had intended on walking along Broome Street. Spring Street was probably better since I came across more interesting stores like Amazon 4-Star and the MoMA design store. My goal was to walk to the Drawing Center on Wooster Street.

The Drawing Center on Wooster Street was an art museum I attempted to visit of my last trip to NYC. Unfortunately they were closed for an installation back then but I found them to be open on this trip. Inside I saw an exhibit entitled For Opacity featuring the art work of Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn. I was expecting to see drawings arranged on tables but I saw large works of art hanging on the walls. I bought the book Drawing Papers 138 which was a publication featuring photos of the artwork in the exhibit.

AFA Gallery

AFA Gallery

The AFA Gallery is not far from the Drawing Center so I went there next. I saw fantasy paintings by Nicoletta Ceccoli and Bill Carman which looked very surreal. Bill Carman’s art in particular had a steam punk aesthetic and struck me as being very imaginative. While walking back towards Canal Street I came across yet another art galley, the Jeffrey Deitch gallery, which was not on my itinerary but I entered this art gallery as well. The Jeffrey Deitch gallery had a variety of art work in a large space which included a second level.

To get back uptown I walked to the Canal Street Station in the Tribeca neighborhood which I remembered from my previous trip. Only an E train was available to take me uptown so I got off at the 42nd Street Station but around the 44th West Street area. From there I walked to the Drama Book Shop. I wasn’t planning on going to the Drama Book Shop but it is on my list of secondary things to do on my itinerary. I didn’t really want to buy any more plays so I looked for books on playwriting which I might not have. I found Jon Klein’s Life as a Playwright: A Survival Guide which seemed right up my alley. I’m definitely interested in any book which covers the career side of playwriting. Most books only tell you how to write a play. This book was kind of expensive at $29.95 so I paid for it with my credit card. The truth is that I’m getting a little discouraged with playwriting since the theater is being invaded by social justice warriors. That is why I made art the focus of this trip.

The final art gallery I visited was Last Rites Gallery on West 38th Street. The Last Rites Gallery is my favorite art gallery in New York City and for a long time it was the only one I ever went to, but it is still the best. The Last Rites Gallery features morbid art that appeals to the Goth in me. You can always expect to see at least one corpse portrait at the Last Rites Gallery. They were preparing the 10th Annual 13th Hour show which appears to be some kind of competition. I saw a variety of work by various artists but everything seemed to be the artist’s strongest work so everything was amazing.

I left the Last Rites Gallery around 6:00 p.m. and still had two hours to kill before catching the bus home so I decided to look for a place to eat. Eventually I decided to give the Playwright Celtic Pub on 8th Avenue a try since I’ve walked past this place many times. I don’t think the Playwright Celtic Pub has anything to do with playwrights. It is more of an Irish bar kind of place but they do serve food like a restaurant. I ordered the Celtic Pub Burger and an Irish Coffee followed by raspberry sorbet for dessert. The Celtic Pub Burger was pretty large and I could not finish it. This meal cost me $40.00 with tip. I would have left a smaller tip if I had smaller bills but I only had two twenties.

For the rest of the evening I briefly walked around Times Square and took a few photos as the rain had died down a lot. On the ride home they played the Back To The Future movie which I ought to buy on DVD. I couldn’t really hear the movie well enough to watch it on the bus. We did make a comfort stop at McDonalds where I bought a small milk shake.

This was another inspiring trip to New York City even though theater was not part of this trip. I still found the art museums and art galleries inspiring. I managed to meet every objective on my itinerary and even squeezed in a little more. I’m not sure if there is anything left for me to see in New York City, except for art galleries in Chelsea. Maybe I just need to be more adventurous and consider going to establishments that I’ve never considered before like the Playwright Celtic Pub.

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Pajama Factory Guided Open Studio Tour

Today I attended the first guided open studio tour at the Pajama Factory. I always keep my eye out for any opportunity to check out the Pajama Factory. So far I have seen a couple of plays there and I still remember a burlesque extravaganza which was really cool. But otherwise I have neglected to attend many of their public events. This open studio tour appears to be an attempt to get the community more involved in the arts community at the Pajama Factory. Unfortunately, less than ten people showed up for the tour so there does not seem to be much interest. But that did make for a reasonably sized tour group.

The Pajama Factory is a massive complex of brick buildings in a residential area which used to be involved in the manufacture of clothing like pajamas and underwear. The shop floors have been converted into various artist studios which have a creepy industrial aesthetic. The staircases in particular still seem haunted with their industrial decrepitude. This is a space that has been put to new uses and that complements the artwork which is also made of materials put to new uses.

Brian Spies did not show up to conduct the tour so we were shown around by artist Joanne Landis instead. First we saw her artwork hanging on various hallway walls which served as her gallery. Then we saw her studio which had a view of the back alley. I especially liked her large, elaborate paintings based on The Odyssey. Three of her larger canvases were in a new gallery space, a darkened room we looked into through some hallway windows. This made an interestingly creepy impression because the vibrant images were sealed away in another room. Peering into an unfinished space to view art is like peering into the creative mind which hasn’t put its imagery out into the world yet.

I don’t remember if we visited the Factory Works Gallery first or after Joanne Landis’s studio, but this seems to be the place where the Pajama Factory has its exhibitions. The exhibits change every month and are open to the public so this might be my best opportunity to see art at the Pajama Factory more often. The current exhibition was collages by Ana Vizcarra Rankin, an artist based in Philadelphia. I picked up a catalog and a pamphlet entitled Williamsport PA Gallery Guide. I didn’t think Williamsport had enough art galleries to need a guide but there was one, Gallery 425, which I had never heard of and I guess I should finally visit the Gallery at Penn College some day.

Next we saw the Factory Works Clay Studio. This studio provides kilns, clay, and glazes for anyone wishing to work with clay or make pottery. I have not seen clay since kindergarten. This reminds me that we are often introduced to many forms of creativity during our education only to lose all sight of them after graduation. It is sad how your world narrows to encompass nothing besides your career and a few interests. One of the reasons I love travel is that is restores novelty to life but you also have to actively seek out novelty to avoid a stagnation of your imagination.

After that we visited the Bicycle Recycle studio where old bikes are restored and sold to the public at a discount. This was not particularly arts related but I suppose it represented creative re-use of old materials, but without transformation. There is an excellent bike path behind my house but I have not used it all summer.

Then there was a break for refreshments but there was nothing on offer except coffee at Way Cool Beans. I went back to my car to leave the catalog and brochure I was carrying there and then used the restroom before heading into Way Cool Beans. Way Cool Beans is a coffee shop located in the Pajama Factory. They did not seem to have anything except coffee and tea, no pastries or baked goods, but otherwise it looked like a nice place to chill. Way Cool Beans looks like a cool community space, like a lounge area, but not a full-fledged coffee shop.

When the tour resumed we visited the Factory Works Photo Lab which offers a public dark room. Photography is one of my major creative pursuits but I am exclusively into digital photography. Technically I don’t take photos as art, but to document my world as I explore it. I’ve been taking a lot of photos of small towns in Pennsylvania. Since I photograph many buildings and establishments which nobody else notices or bothers to photograph you could say it is an expression of my capacity to find aesthetic pleasure in forlorn scenes. For example, I recently took some photos of the Station Gallery in Lock Haven, a former railroad station being used as an art gallery. I heard it mentioned many times during the tour. But has anyone ever bothered to take a photo of this refurbished railroad station? Apparently not because I could not find a single decent photo of the place online.

Next we went to the studio of Chris Hayward. Chris does freelance writing, tarot readings, Reiki healing, and fortune telling with runes. I was a bit surprised that she could afford to maintain a studio for her freelance writing since that does not strike me as being very lucrative, but she also does tarot readings. I recently bought a pack of tarot cards and a book for learning how to read the cards. I don’t take tarot reading too seriously but it does tie into my interest in symbolism and Jungian psychology. She showed us some runes used for rune casting as a form of divination. I don’t know much about these runes but I did recently buy some Wardruna CDs, a shamanic Norwegian music group dedicated to creating musical renditions of Norse cultural and esoteric traditions. Their albums are based on the runes of Norse mythology. Chris Hayward also mentioned having written a play which was performed at the Pajama Factory. This was news to me but I have missed many performances of plays at the Pajama Factory which are poorly advertised. It must have been Alice, an Immersive Wonderland produced by Studio 570, a new theater company based in the Pajama Factory. The fact that this theater company could escape my attention is a sign of how mysterious the Pajama Factory can be to the surrounding community. We just don’t know what is going on there.

The next artist we saw was Todd Rice. I really liked Todd Rice’s work which includes references to horror and science fiction movies. I saw his many paintings based on Mexican folk art, aka Day of the Dead, which included the silhouette of Godzilla on the horizon. I love Low-Brow Art and Pop Surrealism.

The final studio I saw was the Rita and Steve Bower studio. Rita Bower is a retired art teacher who still gives a few classes at the Pajama Factory and Steve Bower is a professional watercolor artist although much of his work seemed to be detailed drawings of trees. Apparently they like to travel and have done many paintings of Italian scenes which look very traditional.

In conclusion, the guided open studio tour was a fascinating glimpse of an art world which is hidden from me even though it exists right in my neighborhood. Unfortunately I was totally uncommunicative during the tour which is something I should work on. I didn’t reveal anything about myself. Recently I have been making some effort to combine my interest in art with my professional skills by learning how to make generative art using Processing. Processing is the main software tool in the creative coding community, artists using technology to create art. There are now art galleries devoted to technology based art like Bitforms Gallery on the Lower East Side and research groups like the School for Poetic Computation. I like Processing because it can run right in your browser using the JavaScript library version. Most modern browsers support WebGL and can perform sophisticated 2D and 3D graphics rendering.

Next week I am going on a two day Susquehanna Trailways bus trip to see Fallingwaters, the famous house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Tribeca, SoHo, and the East Village

For my 49th trip to New York City I concentrated on exploring the Tribeca, SoHo, and East Village neighborhoods. My main goal was Tribeca since I’ve rarely ventured into that area. SoHo is just north of Tribeca so it made sense to see a few things there. I had recently finished reading St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun so I was keen on going back to the East Village. I didn’t see any plays or shows on this trip because I could not find anything worthwhile to see.

The bus dropped us off at West 49th Street near the Eugene O’Neill Theatre which is still showing the musical “The Book of Mormon” and the Ambassador Theatre where “Chicago” is playing. Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church is also on West 49th Street so I went in there and sat in a pew for a few minutes while waiting for bus to take us home that evening.

I tried to take a C train downtown to Canal Street but the weekend schedule changes meant the train did not stop at that station. Instead it seemed to follow the F train route. I finally realized the problem when it reached the York Street Station in Brooklyn. I got off the train there and took an A train to the Jay Street – MetroTech Station. Then I was able to get on a C train heading towards Manhattan which did stop at the Canal Street Station. I don’t have the A Line in my custom travel guide so I should add that. Even though we arrived in New York City early at 9:30 a.m. it took me a hour to get to Tribeca.

The first thing I saw in Tribeca was 56 Leonard Street, the so called Jenga Building because of its cantilevered balconies. It is the tallest structure in Tribeca and makes a good landmark for navigating the area. I exited the subway on the corner of the 32 Avenue of the Americas Art Deco building so I was able to immediately go down Walker Street to find the Soho Rep theater and the art galleries Bortolami Gallery and Alexander and Bonin. Both of the art galleries were closed. The nearby Postmasters Gallery was also closed so my trip was a bust as far as visiting art galleries went. I did see the small art gallery on the second floor of the Pearl River Mart.

I saw Casey Neistat’s 368 on Broadway. Casey Neistat is one of the most popular YouTubers and many of his vlogs concern his video production studio at 368 Broadway in Tribeca. I didn’t see anybody hanging around 368. My next goal was to check out the Flea Theater which had moved to a new space on Thomas Street. I could have seen a show at the Flea Theater but like most theaters these days they seem more concerned with virtue signaling their politics than with producing great theater.

Casey Neistat's 368

Casey Neistat’s 368

I had an early lunch at Odeon Cafeteria. This is a swanky restaurant but I did not have any problems getting a table at 11:20 a.m. I ordered an omelette with mushrooms, onions, and bacon plus some French fries. I immediately used the restroom before my food arrived. This meal only cost me $24.00 with tip so that was quite affordable. My secondary choice would have been the Square Diner which I photographed.

The Odeon

The Odeon

Next I walked back east to find the former location of the Mudd Club, a nightclub during the late days of New York Punk Rock when New Wave was replacing that music scene. Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, and Deborah Harry used to be seen at the Mudd Club. I recently bought a book on the Mudd Club by Richard Boch. There isn’t really anything to see there now except an empty storefront and a plaque honoring the Mudd Club.

After that I found the Ghostbusters Firehouse, aka Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8. From there I walked south many blocks to find  The Mysterious Bookshop on Warren Street. I’m not a big fan of mystery novels, but I did find a book to buy; The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher. This is a non-fiction book about Harry Houdini’s attempts to debunk a medium in Boston. I should have read this book before my trip to Boston. I don’t know why magicians feel the need to debunk mystics, psychics, and spiritualists but many of them seem to take offense at occult magic. After buying this book I found a nearby Barnes and Noble but I did not feel the need to buy more books just yet. Instead I found the campus of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and took some photos there. A security guard there made me a little nervous but college campuses are public spaces and I was making it obvious that I was a tourist just taking photos.

Federico Garcia Lorca Mural

Federico Garcia Lorca Mural

That was the last thing I wanted to see in Tribeca but I also photographed anything I came across on my way north to Canal Street. Walking east on Canal Street I quickly found Wooster Street which I  entered to find the Performing Garage and the Drawing Center. Unfortunately the Drawing Center was closed with police tape stretched across the entrance although a sign indicated they were only closed for an installation. The Performing Garage is the theater owned by the famous Wooster Group. There aren’t many photos of this theater because all there is to see is a black security gate. Also in the SoHo area is a huge mural of Federico Garcí­a Lorca. I only discovered this while researching the Canal Street Station entrances for the 6 Line which I was going to take to Astor Place to visit the East Village. I’m not terribly familiar with the work of Federico Garcí­a Lorca but I read The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Expression by Edward Hirsch which includes much about Federico Garcí­a Lorca’s concept of duende. While planning my personal tours of New York City it is always great to find something obscure that is significant to me. These are the things that make a trip seem special and worthwhile.

As I mentioned my next step was to take a 6 train to Astor Place so I could walk around the East Village. I got there at around 1:15 p.m. so I had plenty of time to explore the East Village neighborhood. This wasn’t really necessary because I’ve made special trips to the East Village before. But after reading St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun I was eager to walk that street once again. One of my goals was to take much better photos of the major landmarks. While doing some additional research on the neighborhood I found that many of my old photos were not particularly good and did not represent a thorough documentation of the streets and establishments. For example, I took photos of Cooper Union and the St. Mark’s Hotel which I did not bother to photograph on previous visits. I also made more of an effort to enter a few establishments like Gem Spa and McSorley’s Old Ale House. On the street St. Mark’s Place I was particularly eager to photograph Arlington Hall where Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground staged the Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the location of Club 57. After reaching Tompkins Square Park at the end of St. Mark’s Place I went up East 9th Street to find Enchantments Inc. Initially this was the only reason I was going to revisit the East Village. Enchantments Inc. is a retail store specializing in occult products for witches and tarot readers. I was hoping to find some books on shamanism but they don’t seem to be into that. They also did not have as many tarot decks for sale as I was expecting. But I did find an interesting book to buy; The Best of the Equinox, Dramatic Ritual: Volume II by Aleister Crowley. This book appears to be volume two of The Best of the Equinox so there isn’t another volume on dramatic ritual. This struck me as the perfect book to buy because I’m very interested in how ritual functions as a form of symbolic action which can be used in the theater.

Enchantments Inc

Enchantments Inc

I didn’t leave the East Village until 4:15 p.m. and I got there at 1:15 p.m so that was three whole hours which gave me plenty of time to photograph the entire neighborhood. I made sure to find Trash and Vaudeville’s new location and took photos of the exterior but I did not go inside since I’m not in market for rock musician clothing. I did go into East Village Books which has a nice selection of books for the intellectual. I bought Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play by L. M. Bogad which seems to be a theoretical book on theater for social justice. Although I have soured on social justice warriors who are only interested in identity politics, I’m not necessarily opposed to all types of political theater. I took lots of photos of St. Mark’s Church, Tompkins Square Park, and the St. Mark’s Place intersections. I walked a few blocks west to find the Wild Project, a performance space used by some theater companies. As I mentioned previously, I entered McSorley’s Old Ale House but it was crowded and there was no place to sit so I went to Le Petit Parisien instead and ordered a cold brew. Later on I had some ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s on St. Mark’s Place.

East Village Books

East Village Books

After spending three hours in the East Village I finally ran out of things to photograph and was feeling utterly exhausted. I wasn’t planning on heading uptown until 6:00 p.m. but I felt like I had spent enough time in this neighborhood. But instead of returning to the Astor Place Station I walked up Broadway to the Strand Bookstore. I was hoping to find the book I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography by Richard Hell but I could not find this book anywhere at the Strand. After browsing for a long time I finally settled for Silent Screens: The Decline and Transformation of the American Movie Theater which is a photography book. I’ve taken a few photos of shabby movie theaters in Pennsylvania so I figured this was a book celebrating the sort of artistic work I do too. I don’t really consider myself to be a photographer but it is something I do. On this trip I even tried to capture more interesting people or scenes in my shots.

From the Strand Bookstore I walked to Union Square where I took  a train uptown to the 49th Street Station. I was going to get off at Times Square but the 49th Street Station was closer to where the bus would be picking us up. I went to Two Boots Pizza on 9th Street for a slice of cheese pizza and two cans of soda. Mostly I was just thirsty and didn’t want to deal with the complicated process of getting something to eat at a better restaurant. Since I still had almost two hours to kill before the bus arrived, I wandered around Times Square as usual and tried to take better photos. Eventually I walked further up Broadway to see the Broadway Theatre which was playing “King Kong” and the Ed Sullivan Theater, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I had to spend a lot of time on West 49th Street waiting for the bus to show up so I sat for awhile in the Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church and took many photos of a limousine parked outside the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

Times Square

Times Square

On the way home the bus stopped at the Liberty Travel Plaza in Mifflinville which has a Burger King. This was the first time I’ve ever found them to make a comfort stop there. I liked it because I was able to select from a wide variety of beverages in the convenience store.

Unfortunately I did not find this trip as inspiring as previous trips. I think exploring several neighborhoods doing little besides taking photos was a little dull. I will have to go back to exploring Brooklyn on future trips to New York City. But my next bus trip will be a two day trip to Western Pennsylvania to see Falling Waters and the Flight 93 National Memorial. This will be a more expensive bus trip since it includes an overnight stay in a hotel but it will be more like a vacation.

 

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