Monday, August 31, 2015

Smithtown Bull

The village next to mine is named Smithtown. It contains a big statue of a bull. Why a bull? Because the town has a creation-myth.

The town was settled in 1665. Legend says that after rescuing an Indian chief's daughter, the town's founder Richard Smith was given a reward -- the chief granted him title to all land Smith could encircle in one day while riding a bull. Richard Smith rode the bull on the Summer solstice (which is the longest day of the year) to have the longest ride. The land he acquired is the current town's location -- all 54 square miles of it.

The bull statue is fiercer than most, don't you think?


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks died today. He was a famous doctor who wrote numerous books and articles. His specialty was neuroscience; he focused on the brain and its workings.

I mention Sacks because you might have seen a 1990 movie about him. His book "Awakenings" was made into a movie starring Robin Williams (playing Sacks) and Robert DeNiro (a patient). It described Sacks's effort to get patients who were thought to be brain-dead back to normal life. The book was based on Sacks's true experiences at a hospital in the Bronx (NY).

I read many of Sacks's newspaper articles over the years. He was an excellent writer who engaged your interest and explained things you wouldn't ordinarily care about. He was as good a writer as he was a physician.

In February, I read an article by Sacks in The New York Times where he revealed that he was in the final stages of terminal cancer. He wrote at the time:

"It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers."

In his personal life, Sacks was a shy person who didn't reveal that he was gay until this year. It wasn't until he was 82 years old that he came out of the closet. That's profoundly sad, but I understand it. He grew up in my parents' generation when homosexuality was considered deviant and even a crime. It's hard to adjust and accept that society's attitude has changed when most of your life you're taught that you'll be punished for revealing yourself. That's not an unusual perspective to have.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I went to the creepiest place on Long Island today. And took pictures.

After World War I, the State of New York built a psychiatric center for veterans returning with mental problems.  It was built in Kings Park, only ten minutes from where I live.

Over time, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center grew and started to house very troubled individuals.  Early in my career, 25 years ago, I visited the Center to represent a man committed there.  He had  killed his mother in a psychotic rage.  I was shocked at what I saw at the Center.  Not only were the living conditions horrible but the "patients" were irretrievably lost.  They were so far beyond what we call normal that they couldn't communicate.  Their misery was palpable. I was deeply disturbed by the visit.

The Psychiatric Center was closed in 1996 and the State didn't know what to do with the property so it just laid abandoned.  Three years ago, the State converted the place into a "park" -- but without doing anything to the Center.  The old buildings are still there; the bars on the windows are still there. There's no publicity about the park and barely any signs. Today, on a beautiful Summer day, I was THE ONLY PERSON THERE. That is super-spooky.

The park has a haunting, eerie atmosphere. I sought to capture it with my camera.

What do you sense from these pictures?












Friday, August 28, 2015

Anxiety and Perspective

I tend to work too hard. It's my natural inclination. My gears get stuck in overdrive.

As a result, my physical health gets strained and I often get sick. I've noticed that when I'm ill, life gets gloomy. Problems seem bigger and badder than they did before. My perspective is affected in a very negative way.

Then, gradually, my health comes back -- and, with it, a new perspective. The sun shines brighter, people seem nicer, and the universe feels more welcoming. Problems I was obsessing over recede in importance. Life becomes... easier. And more enjoyable.

Repeating this cycle multiple times has taught me that my problems aren't the cause of my misery. The real cause is my distorted perspective. The same difficulties are lighter and easier to bear once my health returns. So I need for focus more on maintaining my health than flailing at exaggerated anxieties.

Does this happen to you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is This Halloween Costume Offensive?

I love Halloween and dress up all the time.

This year a company is selling a costume that some people believe is offensive. It's a Caitlyn Jenner costume. Some believe the costume mocks Caitlyn and is transphobic -- it portrays a brave soul striving to be authentic as a ridiculous-looking man in a female swimsuit and cheap wig. Others, such as the company selling it, contend the costume is humorous commentary on a celebrity in the news.

What do you think? Do you believe the costume is offensive? Or is it acceptable humor? Does the answer depend on who wears it and their intent?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


We think according to modern conventions. Life hasn't always been like this, however; looking back in time can enlighten when it changes our perspective.

A healthy person today who avoids stepping in front of a moving truck can expect to live into their eighties. A century ago, average life expectancy was only 48. Most people did not live into their fifties back then. When I was young in mid-century, most people died in their fifties and sixties, hacking away from cigarettes.

Even scarier is a century earlier. In 1800, average life expectancy was 25 years old. Which means most people did not reach their thirties. Imagine that. Today we don't think of people becoming mature until the age when they died for most of human existence.

Another corollary to this startling fact is what we think of as "human nature," the qualities that define our species. For the entire existence of mankind until very recently, people lived and died in 25 years. How developed were they before Nature took them away? Can we really say qualities now associated with middle-aged maturity are innate to humans if they rarely existed before now? Most people during their short lives were undeveloped. As Hobbes noted, life in the state of Nature was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

It's understandable that we're myopic in our view of humanity. When we look back in time, the reality of our animal species is surprising. Can you imagine a world where most people are under 25 and few older people are alive? Sounds like "Lord of the Flies" to me.

(P.S., The baby is me, many many years ago. They didn't have color film back then.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Life At Wide Angle

My approach to photography has always been to find something visually interesting, get close to it, and focus your attention on it. To do that, I use several telephoto lenses (up to 300mm) that enable me to bring objects into close range even when they're far away.

I've decided to try something new. I just got a wide angle lens, my first ever (18mm). Wide angle lenses push you back from individual objects and focus, instead, on an entire scene. The scene itself becomes the subject, not anything particular within it. It's a different approach than the one I'm used to.

I played around with my new lens at Sagamore Hill, the famous home of Teddy Roosevelt. The results are quite different from my normal shots. I'm sure that a little practice will improve my skill at this new visual style.

Have you ever used a wide angle lens?




Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Paris Fashion

I'm on the cutting-edge of fashion here, wearing the latest style from Paris called "Poubelle." It's a new look from the legendary House of Rubbermaid, a famous French designer. It comes in an elegant shade of Midnight Black.

I'll admit the outfit is a bit avant-garde but most great art is. The best thing is it's one-size-fits-all.

What do you think? Would you wear this to a fancy cocktail party? Does it need a belt?

For those of you with long memories, I wore this once before. Searching through my old photos, I saw it, laughed and thought I'd share it again.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Is Summer Over?

Several of my favorite bloggers took off for the Summer. (I'm lookin' at you, Two Birds.) Instead of entertaining us with unpaid work, they're lounging on beaches, visiting new places and yelling at their kids to stop eating sand. I miss them. (The bloggers, not the kids.)

When will be Summer over? When will my blogfeed fill up with pretty outfits and light banter?

I just planned a trip to Niagra Falls for a month from now. I've learned from experience that the best time to go to a tourist location is AFTER children have returned to school and before the cold of Winter arrives. That way you get the lingering warmth of the season without the crowds of children. Sept-Oct is ideal.

Have you ever been to Niagra Falls? I'm going to spend time on the Canadian side 'cause I love Canada and still have some plastic money from Vancouver. I hear the Falls are the most popular attraction in their entire country. There are some cool things to do that I plan to explore.

P.S., These cool shoes aren't new but I like wearin' 'em.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Humans are social creatures. We pay attention to each other. As a result, we influence others and they influence us.

Our strongest influence is in childhood. Parents influence their children directly and often. Later, in school, peer-pressure persuades us to do uncharacteristic acts as we struggle to fit into the social environment.

In blogging, we watch others and get inspired by their fashion-choices. Our friends influence us and we, in turn, hopefully inspire them.

Who influences you? Fashionistically and otherwise? Do you believe you influence others? In what ways?

I wonder about this. Because I'm quite different and open about that, I wonder if my existence affects anyone. Does it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dolls and Childhood

Doesn't this look like Suzanne? Imagine her hair dyed red ombre and a Canadian accent. Now?

When I was young, I was raised a boy. With trucks and sports. And no dolls. My parents policed my gender-behavior and nudged it into socially-approved conduct.

I was taught that feminine activities were off-limits. No dress-up play, no dolls, no talk about becoming a mommy. No princess dresses, no tiaras, no girlfriends.

On a motorcycle trip to Daytona for its infamous Bike Week rally, I spotted a helmet-sticker. It said, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." That made me wonder if I could enjoy what I missed the first time around despite being old. I believe it's never too late to have fun.

I bought this doll yesterday at Target. Like a twirling baton I got a few months ago, the doll is already making me happy. Objects that cost as little as $10 can mean the world to us when they represent something more valuable, like a lost childhood.

Is there anything you wished you had when you were young that you didn't? Is there any impediment to you getting it now?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Life In The Surreal Lane

I had two bizarre experiences last week. Both made me shake my head in disbelief. Normally I lead a careful, organized life that contains routine experiences. These events were surprisingly different from that.

A concept emerged in art a century ago called Surrealism. Large-scale massacres in World War I traumatized people and, reflecting on those, artists viewed life differently. A notion of surreal experience emerged, referring to times when life seems odd. When events have hallucinatory qualities of dreams. You believe life is normal but absurd things occur without reason. Last week was full of surreality for me.

There's a nearby farm that, in the Summer, serves lobster rolls at a counter in a farmhouse. The lobster roll is delicious, plus you get to watch chickens in a coop while you eat. There are about twenty chickens and they're very large. You see them battle for dominance as they strut and peck at each other.

On Tuesday I went there for lunch. Got my sandwich, sat down and... no chickens? The roost is empty. I wonder about their absence and pick up my lobster roll for a first bite. Before I sink my teeth into it, I hear some clucking and, suddenly, there are twenty chickens running around the corner of the barn toward me. They're out of their cage and in the dining area. I wonder why that is.

I'm quickly surrounded by a bevy of angry birds. They look mean. And hungry. I reassure myself that I reside on the top of the food-chain so there's no reason to get scared of a bunch of birds. Before I finish that thought, two of the biggest ones jump up on my table. They walk toward me with menace in their beady little eyes. Up close, they are much larger than you expect. One lunges toward my sandwich and pecks at it. No! I am not surrendering my lunch!

I push him back and despite my shove, he doesn't budge an inch. He's heavy, like those weight-balls at the gym. He feels rock solid, and looks around 50 lbs. I realize I'm not going to be able to fend off the angry birds on my table without someone getting hurt. They again advance toward my sandwich.

I scoop up my lunch, stand up and back away from the birds. Simultaneously I start to laugh. I'm being attacked by chickens! Nobody will believe this happened. Everyone thinks chickens are cute little creatures; few know the menacing evil that lies in the heart of these fowl beasts. I didn't want to hurt them but I also lost the tranquility of my workday lunch.

My second surreal experience has to do with balloons.

Did you ever see the 1970 movie "Airport"? Not the later satire, "Airplane," but "Airport." It was a scary film about an airplane disaster. A fancy new Boeing 707 jet is flying to Rome with Dean Martin as its Captain and beautiful Jacqueline Bisset as Chief Stewardess. Martin and Bisset are having an extra-marital affair and Bisset is secretly pregnant with Martin's child. A suicidal passenger locks himself in the bathroom and blows up a small bomb. The bomb ruptures a small hole in the plane wall through which things get sucked out by the difference in air-pressure. I'll never forget the image of Jacqueline Bisset, hanging sideways in stocking feet, clinging to a seat to avoid being sucked out of the plane. The scene was a terrifying illustration of physics.

Anyway... on Friday of last week, I went to a party store and bought four balloons for Robin to celebrate our upcoming anniversary. I stuffed the balloons in Gina (my Fiat Abarth) for a ride home.

It's hot and the air in my car feels stifling. I ponder whether it is safe to open the passenger-side window. Recalling the horrifying scene in "Airport" gives me pause but I overrule my caution and suspect the cinematic disaster was exaggerated movie-magic. So I push the window-button and hear the window go down a few inches.

WHOOSH!! Instantly, all four balloons are sucked outside the car. I frantically grab at their cords while trying to steer the car. I get the cords but am unable to do anything for several seconds -- I'm in heavy traffic and need to keep my eyes on the road. When traffic slows, I look sideways and see only cords stretching out the window. I gently pull them in and... three balloons. There had been four. I spy out my rear-view mirror and see a red balloon dancing gaily in the wind as it rises and rises. The escaped balloon's movements look joyful and conscious. As if they are deliberate communication. "I'm free!" the red orb exclaims, "I'm flying in the wind, not trapped in some lousy house!"

It really felt like the balloon was talking to me. Realizing the absurdity of that idea, I laughed. Again. For the second time in one week.

Do you ever have surreal experiences? Tell me about yours.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


I haven't dressed in any Summery outfits this year and want to try one before the season ends. We're halfway through August for goodness sake.

I bought something playful in a thrift-store but sadly it didn't fit. That happens to me a lot 'cause I'm too shy to on try clothes in stores. As a last resort, I pulled this interesting number out of my closet. I've never worn the dress before. Its dramatic print is appealing even though most will say the style is too "young" for me. Youth is merely an attitude. Summer is for playing around and that's what I'm doing here.




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Heaven and Earth

While in Vancouver, I hiked around Stanley Park. The park is surrounded by water and has beaches. I snapped the photo below which has since become one of my favorites. The image works both visually and metaphorically. I'm very happy with how it turned out and want to share it with you again.

What's your favorite picture?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In The Red

It's been a long time since I've done an outfit-post. At least it feels that way. Conceiving an outfit, putting it together, donning and photographing clothes are joyful experiences for me. They create a peaceful serenity. They're also fun. So today I carved time out of a busy day to restore balance to my psyche.

Since I've been away for a while, I made an extra effort to impress you. What's more impressive than the boldest of colors -- fire-engine red? That's the hue of a new dress I picked up thrifting yesterday; it cost only $12. Plus, I love its attitude -- mature yet playful. Like me.

What do you think?  Too bold or just enough?





Sunday, August 2, 2015

Old Bay Seasoning

Have you ever tasted Old Bay?  If not, you're in for a treat.

Old Bay is a collection of spices that is hugely popular in Maryland and the surrounding area. People down there sprinkle it on crabs and seafood. The seasoning is equally good on everything else. It's like salt with superhuman flavor.

Last night, I sprinkled it on buttered corn-on-the-cob. It was amazing. The corn was delicious. Bursting with flavor. And the seasoning costs only $4 a can.

It's impossible to identify the main flavor in the combination because the ingredients blend and form a flavor all its own. The seasoning mix includes celery salt, bay leaf, mustard, paprika, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger.

Like many things, there's an interesting story if you look close enough. Old Bay was invented by German immigrant Gustav Brunn in 1939. He was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany to avoid persecution. In the U.S., he founded a company that prospered for decades. In 1990, he sold his company to spice-giant McCormick & Company which continues to sell Old Bay.

You can find Old Bay at Target and other stores. Just look for an old-fashioned yellow tin-can.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Car Eyelashes

I rode my motorcycle today to Port Jeff. It was a nice sunny day and Port was crawling with tourists. Walking the street, I spotted a car with fake eyelashes. Really! Don't believe me? Pics below.