Sunday, January 31, 2010

Watercolor Therapy

One of the nice things about this blog is the people I have "met" along the way. I am not sure how Joey (AKA Whitemist)  and I first learned of each other's blog, but I would guess it was through BlogStamford. A native of Texas, he has been working as a local health department chemist for over 30 years. Some of his posts bring a scientific angle to the world that I do not possess.
As I followed his blog more, I realized he wasn't just some guy in a lab coat writing about the chemical compounds of sewage. His blog became a way to share many of the thoughts he had about life. I also learned that he was a painter who had lost his ability to paint. A short time after starting his blogs, doctors found a large, operable tumor in the back of his head. He is still going through recovery a year and several months after an operation that left him with double vision. According to Joey, his blogs became an outlet for him to share his recovery and find, to great surprise, that he could paint again.

Some of you may recognize the top painting of the Schooner Harvey Gamage. This was inspired by a photo I posted last June of her entering the Mystic River. The bottom watercolor is not of Long Island Sound, but instead it is a scene from Chesapeake Bay. Nonetheless, I think it captures the same imagery that many of us here often think of.

Joey K's Place
Joey K On The Environment
JKP: Paintings

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Showboat

Tucked behind a storage warehouse on the Byram River, separating New York and Connecticut, is a replica paddlewheeler known as the Showboat. It is a replica only in the loosest of terms since there is no engine aboard, and the boat is actually a barge with a riverboat style structure built atop it. Despite it's fictional purpose, the Showboat has a long history.
The Freedomland Amusement Park was built in the early 1960's where Co-op City and Bay Plaza in the Bronx now stand. In Disneyesque fashion, the history of America was cleaned up and presented  as entertainment with  attractions such as the Great Chicago Fire and the San Francisco Earthquake. The Showboat (then known as the Canadian) was one of two boats that carried passengers through the Great Lakes and Mississippi River region of the park. Visitors ( apparently with extremely short memories after arriving via the Cross Bronx Expressway) could also view a futuristic city  highlighting all the glory and wonder that modern highways promised.
Freedomland closed after the 1964 season and the fake paddlewheeler eventually ended up moored off the Showboat Hotel and Restaurant in Greenwich. In a very un-Greenwich-like atmosphere, complete with fake celebrity photos on the walls,  patrons enjoyed their cocktails and cigarettes while looking out at the make-believe riverboat from an ersatz Bourbon Street.
The Showboat Hotel closed in the 1980's, and is now the more blue-blood appropriate Delamar Hotel. The riverboat of the same name however, lives on as a dockside party barge on the Byram River. A half-century old, the Showboat has outlived many boats from her era which were built to perform real-life seaworthy tasks, but met their demise years ago. The Showboat is a reminder that fate is much more random than we want to believe.  Longevity and third acts do not always go to the worthy.

YouTube: Freedomland (boat is shown at 2:54)
FLICKR: 2002 photos
Showboat: Website
Bowery Boys: Freedomland USA

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rye Town Park Centennial

Whenever I hear the name Rye Town Park, I always have to think for a moment. It always takes me a few seconds to remember that Rye Town Park is the official name of Oakland Beach. I have always had difficulty with alternate or changed names:  I still refer to the Met Life Building as the Pan Am Building, and the Patriots play at Foxboro, not Gillette Stadium. Houses still carry the last name of  the owners who lived there 25 years ago, but have long sinced moved on.
Rye Town Park however, is a name that has been around a long time; certainly longer than I have. In 2009 the park celebrated it's 100th birthday, and continues to be one of the nicest town parks along this stretch of Long Island Sound. During our recent January thaw, I found her looking much like she did in an early 20th century postcard.

Rye Historical Society: Walking Tour Script
Rye Patch: New Dog Running Area At Oakland Beach
Painting Rye: Crescent Of Rocks
photo credit: Penny Postcards (top)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Underneath The Charles W. Morgan

"There is but a plank between a sailor and eternity"

Thomas Gibbons: Boxing The Compass

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fort Mansfield


At the western end of Napatree Point in Watch Hill are the ruins of Fort Mansfield. This was a fort constructed during the Spanish American War to defend the northeast entrance to Long Island Sound. It consisted of three gun batteries that could fire upon enemy ships in the narrow Watch Hill Passage that separates Fishers Island from Napatree Point. First manned in 1901, Fort Mansfield was found to have serious flaws and vulnerabilities. With all of its guns and cannons aimed to the south and west, a ship could approach from the east and fire upon the fort's blind spot. Rather than correct the flaws, the U.S. Government closed the fort in 1917, upon entrance into World War I.
In the summer of 2001, I walked out here, but never got too close. The overgrown brush and vines made the paths difficult to follow, and I was worried about ticks. During a recent winter visit the ruins were much more accessible, but dangerous nonetheless. Much of the concrete remains were covered with a thin film of ice, so I made sure not to walk to close to the edge. I avoided the tunnels and shafts as well.
Hurricanes and time have taken their toll on the old fort, leaving not much left to see. Unfortunately, what does remain of the structure has been heavily vandalized. Broken glass was everywhere, and nearly every wall contained grafitti telling me that Kevin is a #%@*! (I already knew that), and Susan %#@*'s.
There is something about ruins that makes people want to ruin them even more.

Ghost Town: Fort Mansfield
Ghost Towners: Code Of Ethics
Wikipedia: Fort Mansfield
SOUNDBOUNDER: Napatree Point

Friday, January 8, 2010

USCGC Morro Bay

While visiting the USCGC Eagle in New London last September, I was able to get a close-up view of the USCGC Morro Bay, as well.  Built in 1981, she is a 140 foot tug with a beam of 37 feet. The ship made headlines in 2008 when she was involved in a collision with one of the Block Island ferries.  Her duties include enforcement and coastal patrols, but her primary function is icebreaking during the winter months.
This month, the Morro Bay is busy keeping the channels on the Hudson River open for navigation.

Below is an excellent photo gallery and video of the Morro Bay working on the Hudson. Unfortunately, to view them you need to be an Optimum Online or Newsday subscriber.

USCG: 140 Foot Bay-Class Cutters
Newsday: Photo Gallery
Newsday: Video
YouTube: Morro Bay Icebreaking
YouTube: Morro Bay Icebreaking On Kennebec River, Maine

photo credit: Newsday (bottom)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Byram Park

In the mid 1990's, my Sunday morning routine during the winter months consisted of grabbing a coffee, roll, and newspaper in Port Chester, and taking them to Byram Park in Greenwich. I would usually spend about an hour here reading,  interrupted only by occasional glances at the harbor. With the exception of a few early risers, the park was a quiet and appealing place to start the day. Eventually the quiet began to disappear, and I stopped visiting. I never made a decision to stop going; it just lost it's appeal.
A van started showing up and the driver would rev his engine nonstop. No matter where I parked, he always seemed to be within a few spaces of me. Weeks later, a man began pacing in front of my car arguing with someone over the phone. He seemed to have the same argument every week. With time, the car stereos began to be played louder and louder.
I never could figure out what happened. Had the noisy guy in the van opened the floodgates by reving his engine? Once one person makes noise, the second and third feel less restrained. Or was everyone trying to drown out the other noise by increasing their own volume? Or was it all just a coincidence? I do a good job at recognizing human behavior, but I get failing grades when it comes to understanding it.

Byram Park includes a swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball fields, a beach, and a small marina. It is operated by the Town of Greenwich and a visit requires a permit from May through October. When I visited this week, the driver reving his van and the man yelling into his phone were neither seen nor heard.