The Resident Geckos

I was seated in the verandah, enjoying my view of the garden, when I first sighted one of the resident geckos. It sat perfectly still on the side of the trunk of the tree beside the small gate in front of the house. It would have been very easy to miss. It was perfectly camouflaged against the brown background, and the only reason I had noticed it was because it had made a movement that had caught my attention. The gecko stayed perfectly still most of the time. Unfortunately, I was caught unprepared, without my camera in hand.

I made sure that I kept the camera with me when on the verandah from that time onward. And I waited patiently for a few days. Sure enough, a gecko made made its appearance close to the location of my original sighting. It was clear that the lizard considered the place to be familiar territory. Perhaps it had its home somewhere in that space. I managed to get a few pictures over a period of time, once even following the gecko as it made its way across the garden, hiding from me within the branches of a shrub, and then rapidly withdrawing further away from me. If you have not seen one of the Indian geckos before, this is your opportunity to do so!

From the length of the tails, I think we are looking at two different geckos in these pictures.

Of Returns and Beginnings And Endings

I am in the middle of a familiar trip once again. I am back in my hometown, the place where I grew up, the place that I departed many years ago when I was still a young laddie. It is a place I departed without a second thought, without hesitation. I am back to visit the folks I left behind, my parents.

Last time I came to India, I fell quite sick on my way back home. One might ask: why is one silly enough to take a risk once again, so soon after the previous experience. Perhaps only the heart knows,

But this is also a different kind of trip – a meeting once again of the generations. It is the determination of the young people – my children who are traveling with me – to visit the grandparents who are in their fading years, to show them that there are people in distant lands who remember them fondly and care for them. One does not forget. These young people – from the distant lands – are old enough to have memories of their own, memories of their visits with their grandparents when they were younger still. They are determined to demonstrate their love by their mere presence. Remember that there are people who care, do not despair. Love is in the air. I am asked – is it too much to come out and explicitly state that we are here because we love you. But it is not in the nature of this family to go there.

Yeah, it is certainly turning into a different kind of trip. And my role this time may only to be a guide and chauffeur. And I would be glad of it.

Charging Through The July 4th Weekend

Out on the trail very early in the morn,
Tearing through the cobwebs that the biking paths adorn,
We are the first riders of the day in these parts it would seem,
Pedaling through the quiet of the cool woods as if in a dream.

We have been biking regularly the last few weeks, including a ride yesterday that will in all likelihood be the last one in a long while. I even took my bike back to the store for some adjustments during this regular spell of exercise, and we also did a complete tuneup of the old bike. A few parts ended up needing replacement on the old bike. It turns out that I had worn out the inside of the back tire of the old bike and did not even know it!

It has been a eventful few weeks recently, about to culminate in a trip to India next week. There have perhaps been plenty of things to write about, but the opportunities for introspection and access to a creative space have been few and fleeting. There are the distractions that do not allow me to stay in a quiet space for too long. The attentive motivation for writing has been lacking, and that is still the case today. So, I am going to keep this sweet and short.

Here is a picture taken during a hike with visiting family to Maryland Heights during the July 4th weekend. The view is of Harpers Ferry, a favorite place for us to visit.The Shenandoah river (on the left side of the picture) meets up with the Potomac at this river junction. It was a good day for recreation on the rivers. Perhaps you can even sight some rafts and tubes in the expanded picture.

Blind Camera Shots In Manhattan

I started taking pictures on 8th Avenue without really looking at the viewfinder or the display of the camera to see what image was being captured. I was not making the effort to bring the camera up to my face. Many of the pictures were taken while I was walking. I was surprised by the results. Here are some samples.

The last two pictures were taken in Times Square.

One of the above pictures has been extremely cropped. I took the picture with the camera pointed to my side (and slightly to the back) as I walked. You can see the original version of the picture below. (Can you guess the nature of the unexpected object that got caught the picture?!)

Perhaps some may prefer the original to the cropped version of the above picture. It is all a matter of perspective!

The Birdland Jazz Club

I was treated to my first ever visit to a jazz club in New York City for Fathers Day. The Birdland is known for its historical association with jazz, with many famous musicians having performed there over the years. The club is named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. It has been at its current location near Times Square since 1985. The club has operated in a few different locations in Manhattan over the years.

Our entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of local musicians who have an regular and ongoing gig at the club. Eric Comstock, a pianist and singer, was accompanied by Sean Smith on Bass. They were joined by Barbara Fasano, a singer who also happens to be Eric Comstock’s wife, for a portion of the show.

I enjoyed all aspects of the evening – the music, atmosphere, food, and drinks. It was a perfect blend in spite of a small miscalculation on my part regarding one of the items in the above list.

A Different Midtown Manhattan

My lasting memories of Manhattan are from a time long long ago when I was a graduate student at what was then The State University of New York at Stony Brook. It was nice to be back last weekend in Manhattan to experience the space once again.

Some aspects of the Midtown Manhattan experience have not changed with time. There is the palpable energy of the city which remains the same as before. The hustle and bustle of the city hits all your senses and makes you feel alive! There are crowds everywhere. The tourist is everywhere. The sidewalks and crosswalks are filled with pedestrians dodging incoming foot traffic. Traffic on the streets and avenues looks chaotic. The place is noisy as heck. People are impatient as heck!

But, there have also been some changes to the place. During the early 1980s New York City was still in the process of recovering from the near bankruptcy of 1975. Things feels somewhat different these days. There is more of a sense of prosperity. The place is not as grungy, gritty and grimy as it used to be. The subway looked cleaner than in the past. I did not get as much smell of urine in the stairways and walkways as I used to. The subway cars looked clean. The graffiti also seems to have gone. The places where we walked felt safer than in the past. The storefronts and shops looked well maintained. There seems to be enough capital available to keep things moving. Places like Times Square and the area around Madison Square Garden appear to have been cleaned up, etc..

There were other infrastructure changes in the area that caught my eye. Our first stop in Manhattan was at Hudson Yards. There is a new underground subway station here that opened up for business in 2015. It is the new terminal for the Number 7 train, which used to operate only up to Times Square in the past. The station and its surroundings are really nice. One emerges to the street level to an area of Manhattan that will be under development for the next few years. There are already a few skyscrapers that have come up in the neighborhood.

At Hudson Yards we saw what was supposed to be the centerpiece of the future development of this area – a piece of architecture called Vessel. Vessel has had an troubled and controversial opening. One wonders how long this structure will survive. Next to Vessel is The Shed, a place for the arts (as I understand it).

After coming home, I did some research to discover that the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has a new storage yard for its trains in the Hudson Yards area. The yard is currently in the open, not covered over, but the full development of Hudson Yards will result in the railroad yard going underground – under all the new buildings that are supposed to come up over the tracks.

I also learnt that since my time in the New York area, Amtrak has restored the once defunct West Side Line in Manhattan in order to support train service from the north directly into Penn station. The connection from the new West Side Line into Penn Station goes under LIRR’s Hudson Yards, and allows Amtrak’s trains running on The Empire Corridor (into New York State and beyond) to avoid having to use Grand Central Station. This change has allowed Amtrak to consolidate all of its services in Manhattan into a single location. Previously, they had to lease space in Grand Central Station and provide shuttle service between the two stations.

We had come to the Hudson Yards area in order to get on to the High Line near its northern end. This elevated park did not exist during my time at Stony Brook. The High Line park runs on the viaduct that originally used to carry the overhead tracks of the West Side Line down to the southern part of Manhattan.

We only stayed on the High Line for a few blocks. It would be worth further exploration in the future, from end to end, if the opportunity arises. The High Line has already become an extremely popular tourist destination.

The next discovery was the new Moynihan Train Hall serving trains running into Penn Station. The hall has been built within the confines of the existing James A. Farley Building, just west of the existing concourse for Penn Station beneath Madison Square Garden.
This is an amazing change from the old station concourse.

I was already familiar with the changes that have occurred around Times Square, the next place we visited, because of a few more recent trips to the place. It has become a family friendly destination, quite different from the sketchy area that it used to be in the early 1980s. The place has become more pedestrian friendly. It always used to attract big crowds.

Midtown Manhattan today looks like a happening place. This part of town had a very different vibe to it in the early 1980s, one that was perhaps better appreciated by a young, penniless, and somewhat carefree graduate student.

Witness To A Molting

We had just stopped at the Turtle Run campsite near Whites Ferry towards the end of our bike ride in order to take a break. I happened to stop next to a tree. She had stopped further along on the trail. She turned towards me and had a reaction that I know well from past outings. I looked back to see a Black Rat snake shedding its skin while descending down the trunk of the tree next to me. I moved my bike a little bit out of the way and grabbed the camera from the backpack. This was the sight!

The snake knew what it had to do after leaving its old layer of skin behind. It slid down to the bottom of the tree, and then moved purposefully through the grass towards the edge of the trail.After making sure that its path was clear, its crossed the trail in its brand new skin!

The Swallow And Its Little Ones

We had gone to the Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Virginia for the morning. The idea was to spend some relaxation time in an outdoor environment, and to also incidentally experience something that could be possibly unique and different. It turned out to be a very nice morning in the countryside. It was early for some of the lavender flowers, but we got to pick some of the earlier flowering English Lavender. There were also other plants and flowers in the field.

In keeping with the spirit of the morning, we bought some lemonade and lavender cup cakes and wandered over to the the rocking chairs on the porch at Grandma’s house on the farm – to relax and enjoy the scene in front of us.

We found this nest on the porch.Turns out that there were some young babies in the nest. The parent birds flew in and out of the nest feeding the nestlings. The birds did seem to be somewhat distracted by our presence, but they did continue their process while we sat there.

I think these were barn swallows.

The Bunny Tale

We had just stopped at Edwards Ferry during our bike ride to take a break and use the portapotty. I spotted this little one next to the trail.I slowly walked towards the rabbit, fully expecting it to bound away into the grass. Quite unexpectedly, it just sat there – very still.I got right up to it. Eventually getting tired of my meddling presence, it decided to move away to a different location. But it did not leave the trail. It actually moved in the direction of our bicycles. It paused on the trail while I approached. I got almost right in its face.It was then that it finally decided that it had had enough of my botheration. It departed into the grass.

I also had a couple of turtle encounters on the trail during the ride. But these animals would not have been able to get away from me even if they wanted to. They just sat there on the trail watching me inquiringly.

And then there were the Indigo Buntings. There were so many of them! Some day I will be in a position to even get some more pictures of of these birds. Some day I might even run them over on my bike inadvertently. They are not good at getting out of the way.

At one point, I even had a deer keep running ahead of me on the trail for a while, while I kept catching up to it slowly but surely on my bicycle. We were moving quite fast. I had not realized until then that it was possible to keep up with the speed of a deer.

One day I will also be hit by either a squirrel or a chipmunk darting across the trail. It seems inevitable!

And one has to always watch out for those snakes!