Last Summer

I was in Starbucks in Town Square, a two-minute walk from my apartment. The coffee store is not spacious, and is part of a high-rise building, sitting on the first level in a corner by the Hudson River. It has a restroom that remains open to all, although the Restroom only for Customers marker on the door is missing.

This coffeehouse has long remained my first stop to drink any espresso. My favorite spot inside is a corner at the far end of the store.

After the barista, Stacey, filled my tumbler with blonde roast, I walked a few steps before peeking to my right to see if the brown chair and table at the far corner was occupied. It wasn’t.

When I sat there, the restroom was to my left. People walked toward me before turning around to wait in line if the restroom was occupied. The bottom half of the wall lining the length of the passage was wooded, matching the brown hue of chairs and tables; the top half was an off-white coat suggesting completeness; the ceiling – an unadorned stretch of pipes and cables – infused rawness. Next to the restroom was the Employees Only room, where stocks of beans, muffins, croissants, cheese Danish lay fresh on iron shelves; although the room remained locked, employees accessed it also to change when their shift was over.

The more professional they looked, wearing green over black with a Starbucks cap crowning their pride, the more casual they were, sashaying around when it was time to head home. Employees – young or old – mostly wore ganjis and shorts after the completion of their shift in the dying weeks of summer. I remember a girl who had a language makeover, too: at work, she’d welcome everyone with a smiley “Hello” – post which, a cheerful “FO Dude” when a co-worker teased her.

To my right was a big stained window, framing not only downtown Manhattan but part of the Hudson River, where rich people had docked their yachts.

The blonde roast tasted more pungent. The rays of the setting sun outside were almost dead in their reflections off the mast of a three-level luxury yacht, docked very close to the window. The river ripples, serenely pallid under dock lights, moved in the direction of the sun, which, now devoid of its rays, looked a tint of orange.

Glancing at the bottom of the yacht, I saw a head pop out of the first level. He was a yacht cleaner in a white V-neck and yellow pajamas, with a piece of cloth in each hand. He replaced the pieces of cloth with a muffin in his left and coffee in his right hand. His Starbucks cup startled me. I wondered as to when he’d visited the store: it would’ve taken him ten minutes of a U-turn walk from where he was. But if I could open the window that Hurricane Sandy couldn’t break, he’d be in the store in ten seconds. He shifted his half-eaten muffin to his right hand, holding it along with his coffee, leaving his left hand to wave at me.

He appeared to be in some discomfort, jumping up and down. Then, gripping the US flagpole that was tied to a railing, he looked stiff in an army posture, as though ready to negate a drone attack. I cursed the insensitive yacht owner who’d probably locked the restroom in the yacht. How could a poor soul disobey nature’s call?

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I was helpless, but soon he wasn’t. His face glowed under the orange sky. His smile appeared to grow into muffled laughter; he blew me a kiss – which I rejected – and when he blew me another, I thought that was enough. But when I watched him closely through the developing blurriness of my contact lens, I learned that his gaze, its line of sight, was angled a few inches away from me, in fact over my head to a target perhaps to my left. Just then Stevie Wonder crooned I Believe on the jukebox. As I turned to my left, I saw Stacey standing right outside the stockroom, blowing kisses back, which again went over my head.

She smirked at me, indicating that I’d made a fool of myself. I stared at my computer before closing my eyes; the sound of her footsteps receding. She’d disappeared for him, and he was also not there, anymore.

 

Sweet with Valentine’s sugar (Photo Challenge)Suspicious, I was (Daily Prompt).

Window To Man’s Soul

There’s something about windows. In the words of Quentin Blake: You see, I don’t draw from life at all, but I do look out of my window a lot.

A window is alluring as it gives us a view. What we access through it may have varied overtones: a life away from life, the blossomings beyond our reach, frightening us as much, the high altitudes.

Here, I captured the little dragons through the window of their Taekwondo class.

 

Racing upwards at 14 miles per hour in a glass-fronted elevator, it took us 59 seconds to reach the observation deck (116th floor) of the CN Tower. For more CN Tower posts, visit CN Tower defies gravity and CN Tower in Toronto.

 

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From atop the CN Tower, and as the sun peeked through the clouds, Billy Bishop Toronto city airport (center-right) looked abandoned.

 

I’ve said this several times, and am saying it again, that we are lucky to be living in this apartment. For almost a decade now. What you see here: Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River, Brooklyn, Marina yacht club in Jersey City. -It was early morning Sunday. The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was returning to Manhattan from the Bahamas. We’d taken this ship for our Bahamas and Florida tour some years prior. See Life on board the Norwegian Gem and Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas.

 

The window that gave us the utmost happiness also worsened our fears during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The effects were severe in NJ and NY: businesses lost billions of dollars, half a million homes were destroyed, around 50 people were killed. I took this picture around 9 pm. Storm surge/strong wind pounded Newport, flooding the walkway up to ten feet. Sustained wind speed: 75 mph. We’d taken this advisory from our building management seriously: “…all windows in the apartment are maintained closed, locked and the blinds in the lowered position…that the wind is not permitted any opening, which if allowed, can potentially result in the further opening of window or, worse yet, ripping out the entire window.” Though we’d lost electricity and the fire alarm beeped all night, we survived unhurt.   -Strange that I remember what Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said: Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?

 

We had fun riding this tramway that spanned the East River and connected the Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island. Midway to the island and at the tram’s highest elevation of 250 feet, we saw another tramway journey back to Manhattan. The window overlooked East River, the Queensboro Bridge and Roosevelt Island.

 

As we approached the Toronto-Pearson International airport in Canada, the pilot’s reminder that we fasten our seat belts matched these bumpy clouds we saw through the window.

 

At Mount-Pleasant station in Brampton, Ontario, the windows of this moving bus reflected the not-so-clear activities behind me. Billy Wilder had said: An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.

 

Mail trucks do not use window doors in summer. Here I see the driver’s seat and its blurry ambiguity.

Windows to a soul (Photo Challenge). Witty with attitude (Daily Prompt).

The Empire State Building

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Clouds may gather, dusk may approach, people may whisper – the Empire stays true to its name.

For Day 4 of my B/W Photo Challenge, I show you the 360-degree views from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Seeking happiness among the concrete?

South view: downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hudson River, New Jersey. The Freedom Tower stands tall.IMG_3046

North view: midtown, uptown, Central Park (oasis among the concrete).IMG_3078

East view: East River, Queens, Brooklyn.IMG_3148

West view: New Jersey, the Hudson River (a beautiful river separating Manhattan from New Jersey).IMG_3066

A panoramic view encompassing East River, downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River, New Jersey, and a slice of the observation deck itself.IMG_3051

I link Sabiscuit for this challenge. Sabiscuit is an impressive blog.

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

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.

 

 

From Resilience Of Ground Zero To Reality Of 9/11 Memorial

We visited the 9/11 Memorial soon after it opened to public on Sep 12, 2011. These pictures were taken then.

I’d like to quote what Barrack Obama, President of the USA, said on the occasion:

When people visit the 9/11 memorials in the future, they will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America. They will be reminded that we are not perfect, but our democracy is durable, and that democracy — reflecting, as it does, the imperfections of man — also gives us the opportunity to perfect our union. That is what we honor on days of national commemoration — those aspects of the American experience that are enduring, and the determination to move forward as one people.

The South PoolIMG_3870

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The North PoolJanuary 2012 063

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One of the WTC buildingsIMG_3865

Survivor TreeJanuary 2012 087

Transportation HubJanuary 2012 099

January 2012 108

HeroismJanuary 2012 095

The ParkJanuary 2012 106

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How Thick Blanket Of Fog Obscured Manhattan Today

It felt surreal as I clicked these from our apartment.

A thick blanket of fog appeared out of nowhere, as though a jet whooshed past inches above the Hudson River leaving contrailsphoto 3 (2)

The more the fog thickened the less the sun’s intensity; the downtown Manhattan skyline is bracing for impactphoto 5 (3)

The sun’s misty brightness; its rays’ reflection in the river were drops of sparkling pearls. But where’s the skyline?photo 3 (1)

The sun and the fog: Will they or won’t they…?photo 5

They met and merged. Every obscurity may not mean enmity. There’s life, love. Any of our interpretations is only reflective of our identity photo 1