Sinterklaas In Amsterdam

We were out in the evening and I saw people swarm a corner circling a god-like figure. The figure had white hair and beard, wore a red chasuble and a red miter.

He was Sinterklaas. This was in Amsterdam more than a decade ago.

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Though Sinterklaas looks like Santa Claus, he’s Saint Nicholas: a Dutch character. Legend has it that Sinterklaas originally hailed from Turkey and was a well respected and loved man. The feast of Sinterklaas is on December 6, but the evening of December 5 is when loved ones get their gifts.

 

Twists In MIT

It’s odd if there’s no oddity from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): a producer of great minds.

The Intellectuals’ Circle. 16 people can sit here. Half facing in, half facing out. Whose brains will seal the first deal?  

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Pivoting Garden Bench. Who will pivot here? Someone with nothing better to do? Then don’t wait. Image

Backless bench. For minds and spines. No old professors, with due respect. Image

 

The Honor To See, 24/7, The Tallest Building In The Western Hemisphere

I’ve had quite a journey with the World Trade Center in New York City.

When the dastardly act of 9/11 happened, I was on vacation in a remote village in South India. When the news spread in the US, it was evening in India, and since we’d been out all day and were exhausted, I’d retired to bed without watching television. Next morning, my grandfather woke me up to tell me the news, and I’d spent the rest of the day in front of the television. It was hard to believe.

In late 2002, I had an opportunity to visit Washington, DC and New York City, but couldn’t travel due to personal reasons. In 2008, my wife and I moved to the US, renting an apartment that gave us the downtown Manhattan view.

Of the four towers being built in downtown today, the Freedom Tower is almost complete and will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and fourth tallest in the world. We’ve been witnessing its growth from our apartment; the incredible progression from infancy to adulthood has been a stupendous feat; the skills, the workmanship, the will, and the conviction to regain what was lost.

Never taking the apartment view for granted, we’ve been awestruck – mornings and evenings, days and nights, weeks and months – by its evolution, majestic presence, and symbolism of hope and freedom.

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This is how it looks now from the living room.
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2008: When we moved to the US and into this apartment, there was no Freedom Tower in view, and though construction had begun, the project was taking longer due to disputes among business leaders, real estate lobby, and civic organizations. We loved the moon in the picture.
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2009: Here, we spotted the building for the first time; cranes promising speedy work.
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2010: It appeared the tower announced its arrival: start noticing me.
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2011: The structure looked tall, standing out in the twilight. Seventy floors up.
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2012: The Tribute in Light gave us hope, year after year, in the autumn. Here, the Freedom Tower is making its presence felt. Ninety floors up.
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2013: The day after the 408-foot spire was installed on top of the structure, giving the tower its 1776 feet, and 104 floors. Apparently, 1776 was when the US got its independence.
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2014: With the winter leaving us, the dawn gave this view a golden hue. Yachts were back.
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The night view

Sister Oracle At Quincy Market

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She became a work of art herself standing there hours on end, which required a lot of strength and resoluteness. This was in the summer of 2011 in Boston.

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She moved only when she had to give chits.

Place a dollar in the column and receive a fortune. Though we didn’t place the bill, the ones who did were given chits. She kept her expression intact as she picked the chit from her funnel bag, her movement graceful.

She’s Sister Oracle. Oracles are like the portals of heaven through which gods communicate directly with people.

 

Nudity

Anyone who reads this may blush or giggle, get excited or even scandalized.

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Never been a fan of public nudity but I still visited Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey. How humans looked strange!

Gunnison Beach is legal and attracts huge crowds in summer. There’s a group called Friends of Gunnison where hundreds of its members are friends in real life. Meaning: they live their city lives and meet socially fully-clothed; and when they hit the beach they’ll sit across from each other – discuss life, family and politics – without a shred of clothing on them.

Weekly Photo Challenge

Corning Museum Of Glass In New York

Founded in 1951, Corning Museum of Glass is the world’s largest glass museum in Corning, New York. We visited the museum on our way to Niagara Falls.

If you’re keen to learn the art, science and history of glass, this is the place to be. It has on display 35 centuries of glass artistry, from the Roman and Islamic periods up to modern art glass; has live demonstrations for glassblowing, glass breaking, lamp working; has exhibits showing commercial uses of glass like fiber optics, telescope lens; has thousands of glass artworks by renowned artists.

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Bronze Threshold In Battery Park

We know that the immigrants built this country, suffering years and years of toil and struggle. This bronze sculpture in Battery Park celebrates the diversity of New York City.

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The figures with their dramatic poses include a freed African slave, a worker, a priest and an Eastern European Jew. Indeed this was a threshold before the freedom beckoned guaranteeing our rights and responsibilities.

 

 

The Breakers At Rhode Island

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We visited The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, more than a year ago. We were two of the 300,000 visitors that year, which is roughly the number of visitors every year.

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The Breakers – a Vanderbilt mansion, a national historic landmark, the most luxuriant house in a summer resort, the top Gilded Age gem, considered the social capital of America – was constructed in 1895.

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Since interior photography wasn’t allowed we couldn’t take pictures, but from what we saw and learned: Italian and African marbles, and mosaics and rare woods from several countries were used to design the interior. Interestingly, the gold room in the mansion was constructed in France before disassembling and shipping the parts in airtight cases to Newport, Rhode Island, where it was re-assembled.

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View from the mansion – oasis of green and blue.

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Steel trusses were used to make the structure fireproof.

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Manneken Pis In Brussels

Though not a great picture, my rendezvous with the legend of Manneken Pis – a 61 cm tall bronze statue – happened a decade ago in Brussels, Belgium. Since the visit to Brussels was around Christmas, you could see him in a Santa Claus costume, peeing into fountain’s basin.

Among the several stories about Manneken Pis, my favorite is, When a fire awoke a young boy, he put out the fire with his urine and therefore could stop the king’s castle from burning down.

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Street Life Inequality

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about street is crowd, and how people in the crowd are either active or inactive. Other things that become part of street may lie in the periphery, adding layers and colors.

People in these pictures are impersonators from two different locations: one, from posh-yet-punishing Los Angeles in the US, and the other, buzzing-yet-backward Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic.

Los Angeles punishes strugglers. Legend has it that Brad Pitt was once an impersonator before he became what he became. Here in the picture, an impersonator has become Robert Pattinson, who looked fit and might not be a hungry man. People were paying him for a picture.313056_10150380572860625_4919311_n

Santo Domingo has a lot of hungry people. The impersonator in the picture, who looked stoned, stood in that position for a long time; the street was empty. But he performed ‘Dangerous’ moves later in the evening as people swarmed the El Conde Street. Michael Jackson later told me that he’d moonwalk all day to eat one meal at night. When I offered him Presidente beer he drank it with his meal, following which he asked me if I wanted to smoke weed.1071355_10151822514175625_2008872921_o

 

 

Great Stirrup Cay In Bahamas

We had a wonderful time at Great Stirrup Cay, which is a private, 250-acre island in Bahamas owned by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

The cay has crystal clear water and soft white sand beaches. Swim, snorkel, sunbathe; there’s a mini Straw Market for shopping; midday beach-side BBQ for lunch; Hippo water slide: world’s largest inflatable water slide – 40 feet high, 175 feet long.

Lucayan Indians first inhabited the island, followed by the Spanish explorers, and the British. Slave traders were active in the 19th century. The cay was used during the American Civil War; then as an American base to fight German submarines active in the Caribbean during World War II. And before NCL bought the island from an oil company, the US Air Force used it as a satellite tracking station.

Swim or snorkel beside a school of tropical fish; or get a photo taken with a waiter-in-water.

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Beach chairs outdo the blue of the sky.204

A lifeguard’s best rock-seat

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New arrivals

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Approaching the cay

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Coconut palm – the common treeaa

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Soft white sand beaches

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The mini Straw Market

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Calm, ocean breeze

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Hippo Water Slide

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Reflections

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In Central Park last year, I observed the bride’s costume and the groom’s coziness.

So many cameras, including mine, focused on them. The couple had their cameraman click their pictures. None – it was possible – had time for reflection.

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Later, the couple – in some uncertain corner of their subconscious – were reflecting, perhaps: where they were, when this began, and how this would end.

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But, they possibly refrained from fretting about past or worrying about future. They possibly accepted the reflections of the present.

 

My Statue Of Liberty Moment In Santo Domingo

Was when I met Montesinos.

This 150-foot stone and bronze statue of Fray Antón de Montesinos, donated by the Mexican government, is half the size of Statue of Liberty (305 feet). It faces the Caribbean sea on Santo Domingo Harbor.

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Montesinosa was a Dominican priest who protested the way the Spanish treated the New World native Indians, and in a famous sermon in 1511, he courageously spoke against this ill-treatment.

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His sermon triggered a fierce debate over the natives’ rights and their identity.

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He died around 1545.

 

They Say:

You touch the feet of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, and you’ll study at Yale.

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Did I touch his feet when I toured Yale University? Yes

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Could I study at Yale? No

Grab the bull by its balls, and it’ll bring you financial good luck.

Did I grab the balls? Yes, the cold bronze

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Did the grabbing help? No

Lastly, on a Halloween night:

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Do I need that mask to be called a devil? No

So I am a devil? Yes

Do I hate myself? Not yet

Happy Ending or Nappy Ending? Happy ending, hopefully.

Mayflower II In Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, we experienced the mystery of Mayflower.

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Mayflower II is the replica of the 17th century ship that transported pilgrims to the New World. The replica traveled from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 1950s. The project was meant to commemorate the United States-United Kingdom cooperation during World War II.

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CN Tower In Toronto

It was a day of fun at CN Tower. The view from the Observation Deck was spectacular.

Your Majesty!

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In a high-speed glass-fronted elevator. Racing upwards at 22 kilometers per hour.343434

This glass floor (1122 feet up) can withstand the weight of 14 large hippos.741157_10151422661485625_1799800368_o

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View from the Observation Deck (116th floor). Billy Bishop city airport (center-right).736008_10151422662130625_1191204972_o

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The night view

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