Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Creative Time to Me!

Roar! Today I finally received my prize from Creative Time for visiting all of the Key to the City locations back during the summer! In case you missed it Key to the City was this great public art project by Paul Ramirez Jonas where during the summer any one could go get a Key to New York City from a kiosk in Times Square and it would let them into 24 different locations spread through out all five boroughs of NYC! It was a whole lot of fun and if a person visited all 24 locations Creative Time would send them a special prize! Now I can finally see what it is!
Inside the package I received was a note from Creative Time and an official Creative Time book! Neat!
This is a pretty excellent letter! I think I'll get it framed to remind me of all the fun I had during the summer exploring NYC and earning sweet prizes! Roar!
The Creative Time book was really neat! Here is a picture of me holding the softcover edition of the book which has a picture on it of someone holding the hardcover edition of the book! Crazy!
Turns out the Creative Time book has more than just a sweet cover! It details the history of Creative Time as an organization for its first 33 years. Apparently there are a bunch of public art projects in the city I have experienced over the years that I never knew Creative Time was responsible for! I'm really going to enjoy this book and I can't wait to see what new art projects Creative Time will come up! Hopefully a Key to the City 2 is on the way! After all sequels are all the rage these days! Roar!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Dark Night Out on the Solstice

Roar! Monday night was the eve of the winter solstice and also a night of a full lunar eclipse! It was a rare occurrence where the longest night of the year was also the darkest night! On a night like this I decided to revive the long forgotten role of lamplighter and help bring light to the darkness here in Brooklyn! Last year I celebrated Prometheus this year I was going to be him! It was going to be quite the challenge, so first I decided to head over to a couple of local eateries and fuel up for the night ahead of me!
Here I am in front of Chimi Mundo on Myrtle Ave by the corner of Wcykoff. Chimi Mundo is a Dominican hamburger joint that serves some really delicious burgers! I got a regular beef chimi  and it was absolutely delicious! The burger was ultra thin and had this amazing vinegar coleslaw on it. With food like this it's sure going to be easy to fight the cold!
Next, I headed over to Chimi Loco which is on Wyckoff Ave right by the corner of Myrtle. It sure is bright at this place! I guess they won't be needing my help around here! Their chimi was also awesome! Their bread is amazing and is definitely one of the things that makes a chimi a chimi!
After all that delicious food I got suited up in my lamplighter uniform and prepared to head out to bring light to NYC! Roar!
Here is my lamplighter torch! It's a pretty neat tool and is just like the ones the 19th century lamplighters used to light gas street lamps all over the city!
My first stop during my role as lamplighter was over in the neighborhood of Park Slope. A good number of people there have restored their old brownstones to the point where they have gas lamps out front again! They're definitely going to need my help tonight!
Oh no! It looks like this lamp is out! This is a job for... Lamplighter-Rex! Roar!
My torch seems to be doing the trick! Burn, baby, burn! Roar!
Now that's more like it! Looks like my work here in Park Slope is done! All the beautiful old gas lights are flickering away, adding to the curb appeal of the neighborhood, and spreading their warmth near and thin! From Park Slope I decided to head south through Brooklyn and help spread light throughout the rest of the borough. But it turns out some neighborhoods weren't going to need my help at all!
Here I am down at "Dyker Lights!" Every December all the houses in the neighborhood of Dyker Heights put on a series of elaborate Christmas light displays. There were so many lights I don't think anyone around here will be having trouble on the darkest night of the year!
The houses down at "Dyker Lights" were so crazy! There were all sorts of wacky animatronic displays! It was just like being on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan! Roar!
The homes down in Dyker Heights were also pretty crazy all by themselves! This one had a fancy fountain that was still running despite how cold the weather was! It had even completely frozen over! Maybe I can go ice skating with my claws! Roar!

There were so many neat things to see in "Dyker Lights" that I ended up taking a ton of photos! Here is a slide show of all of them!
A lot of the houses also had nativity scenes set up in their yards. In all the nativity scenes people were really strict about keeping baby Jesus out of the manger until the 25th of December. Yet in most of them the three wise men were set up and they didn't get there until January 6th! Roar!
Despite how serious people in Dyker Heights were about keeping baby Jesus out of the manger before Christmas, the St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church doesn't seem to have a problem with it! Roar!
A bunch of the shops in Dyker Heights were even getting in on the Christmas displays! Just get a look at the windows of Samurai Sushi! Talk about festive! Roar!

I had a lot of fun down in "Dyker Lights" and for a moment I even forgot about my job for the evening. But then around 2:30 the eclipse happened and I was abruptly reminded of the task before me! I decided to head down to the darkest place in the city and bring light to the darkness there!
Here I am at Floyd Bennett Field, the darkest place in the city. I'd been here once before on my one year anniversary. That was during the day, now I can barely see my claws in front of my face! I hope there isn't anything spooky around here!
Roar! What was that?!

I aint afraid of no ghosts! Roar!
Things got a little dodgy there towards the end of the night while I was at Floyd Bennett Field, but I was able to successfully vanquish the darkness! The moon came back out and before long the sun was rising over the field. It sure was a beautiful sight! There was a moment there when I was afraid I might never see it again! Roar!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Journey to the Center of New York!

Making the discovery!
Roar! The other day while visiting an abandoned apartment building I saw advertised on Craigslist, I made a most amazing discovery! Buried within an old trunk I found a book that recounted the exploits of a noiseless visitor to New York City. Between the books pages was an article recounting the location of the fabled geographic center of New York City! Long thought to be lost, the geographic center of the city would prove quite the challenge to get to--possibly taking up to two transportation routes and maybe even an hour of travel time!

I showed the article to my colleague Hippo and proposed we set out at once on an expedition to reach the center of New York! Hippo was skeptical and insisted in a city as vast in scale as New York, a geographic center was meaningless, claiming that the true "center" of New York lay within one of its various cultural hubs. I wasn't too sure what Hippo was going on about, so I insisted we journey together to the center of New York and see once and for all what is really there!

Packing our supplies!
Hippo agreed to the expedition and we at once started gathering provisions for the journey! Besides the standard day’s worth of rations-- 100 pounds of roast meat, 12 cases of smoked fish, a large box of strawberry wafers, and a full thermos of Darjeeling tea, we took the following: a thermometer which would read to 150 degrees centigrade; a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure; a good watch; two compasses; and two Ruhmkroff's lanterns. Our arms consisted of two rifles and two revolvers. I wasn't sure that we needed them but Hippo insisted, claiming we might run into wild beasts on our journey!

We set out in the morning from my apartment in Bushwick and followed the old trolley line, first heading south down Knickerbocker Ave and then turning west and continuing along Dekalb Ave. What once had been a straightforward trolley ride has now been replaced by a series of buses! Could it possibly take us more than two transportation methods to reach the center of New York?! Oh, how times have changed! After crossing Broadway we turned south again on Malcolm X Boulevard, in some places still known as Reid Ave, and after a few blocks we arrived at the fabled center of New York City! Wow, I guess that really wasn't that hard after all! Roar! 
Here are Hippo and I at the geographic center of New York City! The article I found placed it in a yard on the block between Reid and Stuyvesant Ave, Van Buren Street and Greene Ave in Brooklyn. This section of Van Buren Street no longer exists and has been replaced by Jesse Owens P.S. 26; so now the geographic center of New York lies in the southwestern corner of the schoolyard!

Visiting the geographic center of the city sure was fun but I suppose Hippo is right and a city like New York will never have just one center (Despite what those living in Manhattan might think). The population center will always shift over time and the cultural center can vary widely depending on both location and the groups people belong to. Despite all that, while the geographic center may not hold much meaning, I'm still proud to know I live so close to the middle of a city as culturally vast as New York! Roar!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visions of Sugar Plums at the New-York Historical Society

Roar! This evening I went over to the New-York Historical Society on the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West to see an exhibit called It Happened Here: The Invention of Santa Claus. It was all about how New York City created the modern version of Santa Claus! As mythic a city as New York is, I had no idea the role it played in creating what is probably the largest of modern myths! This should be a great exhibit!
Here I am in front of the New-York Historical Society. Friday nights are pay what you wish and sometimes it can get a little crowded! They also have a great library and archive collection but it's by appointment only, I guess I'll have to come back here again sometime in the future!
The Santa exhibit turned out to be only a small display in the foyer. I was a little disappointed but there was still some really cool stuff to see! It turns out the modern Santa first appeared when New York's favorite author, Washinton Irving, published the manuscript for Knickerbocker's History of New York. Then in 1823 Clement Clarke Moore wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better know as "T'was the Night Before Christmas." Turns out this poem, which practically everyone has heard, is where the modern image of Santa as a jolly, fat human in a red suit comes from! Roar!
Here are some more of the cool things they had at the mini Santa exhibit. The first is a painting by Robert Walter Weir that he did in 1837 based off Moore's poem. The second is an engraving by Alexander Anderson from 1810 depicting the historical Saint Nicholas. What a huge difference! I think Washington Irving and Clement Moore must have been hitting the egg nog pretty hard because their depicitons of Santa are nothing like the real St. Nick! Roar!

One other thing I would have liked to see at the Santa Exhibit would have been a section about how the myth of Santa continues to evolve in the present day with the works of authors like Robert Devereaux. That would have been a pretty amazing exhibit to see! Roar!
Near the Santa Exhibit the New-York Historical Society also had this neat display about American Dreamers. Next to it was this screen with a camera on it that would take your picture and add your picture to the collection! Here I am getting my picture taken as well as the end result! Maybe I'll try dreaming of being Santa! Roar!
Woah! It totally worked! Now I'm a real Santa with a sweet beard and a red hat! I guess you really can be whatever you want in America so long as you dream hard enough! I wonder what I should call myself, Rex Cringle? Oh I got it, Santa Claws! I bet no one has thought of that before! Roar!
The second I turned into a Santa all the people in the museum started giving me cookies and sweets! Being a Santa is awesome! Roar!

Ugh... That was way too many cookies... Now I don't feel so well... roar... My blood sugar must be all out of whack!
Luckily for me the New-York Historical Society also had an exhibit all about the history of insulin!
Just what I needed! Some patented Lilly's Iletin! This should cure me right up! Roar!
The exhibit about the history of insulin was actually really cool! Overnight, insulin basically turned a deadly disease into something completely managable. That's pretty amazing! Here is a display featuring all the empty bottles of insulin that were used by one person for over 60 years! Though I'm not exactly sure how all this fits in with New York City it still was really cool to see! Roar!