Category Archives: Observations

COVID-19 Info and Resources (USA)

keep-calm-wash-your-hands_8.5x11Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones

It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted anything. I noticed I keep emailing this info to people and update it every couple of days when someone sends me something of value. Silly me! It’s easier to put it on the blob. So here it is…

March 22, 2020, A doctor in New York recommended this video by another doctor. A bit long, PLEASE watch the whole thing, important and hopeful information throughout. “Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City shares information in a Mar. 22 Zoom call with family and friends on empowering and protecting families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 17, 2020 Web Blog entry, by Dr. Hyman. Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.
March 24, 2020, The Guardian, web page article.
March 26, 2020 New York Times Web Page, broken into 4 sections:
  1. Prevent Infection
  2. Prepare
  3. Stay Home
  4. Recover from Illness

April 19, 2020, Web Page is dynamic, I can’t find the “permalink” so you might have to follow it from this page. If you don’t want all the latest news, scroll down, to the bottom of the page to “Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions”, and click “Read More” and pick a topic.

April 1, 2020 Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen

April 18, 2020 Supermarkets, grocery stores are shifting hours, adding hours for seniors and have purchase limits. What you need to know. – nj.com
— Read on www.nj.com/business/2020/04/supermarkets-grocery-stores-are-shifting-hours-adding-hours-for-seniors-and-have-purchase-limits-what-you-need-to-know-april-18-2020.html


No-Sew Face Mask with Handkerchief and Hair Tie-2
April 1, 2020 Article, No sewing required!!

How to keep your glasses or sunglasses from fogging up while wearing a face mask – nj.com
— Read on www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/04/how-to-keep-your-glasses-or-sunglasses-from-fogging-up-while-wearing-a-face-mask.html


April 1, 2020 A computer model. Only look at this if you can handle the news. Big numbers. Fascinating and depressing information.

After that serious model, everyone should watch this!!

BTW: No. COVID-19 is not caused by 5G. Seriously? C’mon people, now, smile on your brother, everybody get together (with social distancing), right now.

 

Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands, and Wear a Mask! — Christo

 

#5G RU TV Drama—is the controversy really about Russian Trolls??

back1Saturday May 25, 2019 — The New York Times published a front page article, Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise.” It reads like a marketing piece for Verizon. Maybe because NYT has a 5G Joint Venture with Verizon?? Then, the Wall Street Journal, responded, with “Russia and the 5G Cancer Scare—America’s cell-phone industry couldn’t be happier about the Kremlin’s meddling.” And you can’t read the whole article unless you have a WSJ subscription…but you can read it if you go to the link the WSJ provides in their “CIO Journal” newsletter, where the WSJ article is described as “debunking” the NYT article.

But does the WSJ really “debunk” the NYT? Or just stir up the drama pot? Let’s remember, the WSJ is a Rupert Murdoch paper. That is, it might as well be a Fox News paper. Reading the “debunking” article takes you to a site called “Fierce Wireless“, clearly a marketing mouthpiece for the telecom industry, which seems to end each article with an explanation that there is no definitive proof of the dangers of cellular radiation!!

Do you feel “whipsawed”? Does jumping around from article to article remind you of trying to figure out what happened in the final weeks of the election in 2016? Does all this drama remind you of reality TV? Do you feel like you need to wash your hands? Do you have that uneasy feeling in your stomach like the one you get when you have been spending too much time on Facebook? That queasy feeling that you’re being used, or played, and that something you are doing is wrong? Pay attention to that feeling, and spend less time on the Internet!

Because have you ever had to work this hard? To find out the truth? To get people to see that you are calm, and reasonable, and believe in facts and science? Had to work this hard to get your friends, neighbors, colleagues to understand that you agree with them? That you have common ground? Mutual goals? Our opposition—the trolls, the haters, the deceptive marketers, the monopolists and corporate shills, I lump “them” all together—they would like us to just say, “Screw it! I have no control, the monopolies are gonna ram this through, I don’t know who my representatives represent.” The opposition have managed to make us distrustful and antagonistic even of people who AGREE with us!!

Now take a deep breath. Fortunately, distrust of others, including of our own government, is one of the seeds of our (mostly, still) democratic system!! There are processes and inputs and options. Wahoo. Really. So hang in there and talk to your neighbors. And I mean talk, not text, not email. And go to meetings. You won’t agree about everything. Who does? And you can always back off, regroup, compromise—the opposition wants you to quit—but don’t, don’t give up!

Now, let’s get back to facts and articles…

I like the Environmental Health Trust. They may have a slightly slanted view, but the “slant” is towards facts and health and safety! EHT Founder Devra Davis, PhD. responded to the clearly biased NYT drama-mongering piece with a thorough link-laden article of her own. Now, before you dive down that rabbit hole, READ THIS ONE.

After searching and reading until I am sore in the head (can you tell?), I found one article that I recommend to everyone. This is really for the skeptics. There’s a ton of great material on my 5G page, but just read this one article. After that, if you are so inspired, then off you go. Here it is, and please read ALL the words:

A comprehensive guide to the messy, frustrating science of cellphones and health” from VOX.  https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17067214/cellphone-cancer-5g-evidence-studies


I am about to retire from this topic, I hope…
Peace Out — Christo

The Lambertville Swallow Sign Decline

2017/4/23-Swallow Sign Decline-02

Whatever happened to the Cliff Swallow colony that lived under the Lambertville-New Hope Bridge??

Friday, April 19, 2019— This Spring I saw Cliff Swallows at Center Bridge (at Stockton) and Bulls Island, but are there any Cliff Swallows nesting on the Lambertville-New Hope Bridge any more?

In short, yes. At around 10:00 am today, I counted 10 Cliff Swallows plunging from the underside of the Lambertville New Hope Bridge, flying erratically and quickly out, and up, and away, as they do, before you can snap a photo. That’s good.

But as recently as 2013 there were 75-100 Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge and following those crazy flight patterns to catch insects and return them to waiting chicks. I’ve checked a couple more times, at different times of the day, but the news is no different. There is a small colony beneath the bridge. I will, check again later in the Spring. Meanwhile check out the slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Here’s what happened in the six photos above:

  1. The Frame started to come off the sign.
  2. Someone pushed the frame back on, and stuck a brick under it to hold it in place.
  3. The frame came off completely
  4. Something happened to the sign, it was removed, and the supporting panel remained.
  5. The metal panel attracted stickers and graffitti
  6. The graffitti-ed metal panel was removed, leaving just the sign post.

May 1, 2019 — I promised an update. In March I wrote a query on the Contact form at the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission web site.

DRJTBC Contact Form – Christopher Plummer Submitted Web Contact Form

Submitted 2019/03/05 9:13 PM on:

Regarding the New Hope – Lambertville Bridge: Around 1981 the DRJTBC placed an informational sign for pedestrians on the Lambertville side of the bridge that commemorated the bridge as a home for the Cliff Swallows (birds) that have maintained a colony under the bridge, returning every Spring. (The Center Bridge- Stockton Bridge also has a similar sign.) The sign in Lambertville has fallen into disrepair in the past few years and has now disintegrated into a shiny steel rectangle plastered with stickers and graffiti. There is a DRJTBC number and barcode on the back of the sign by which it can be identified.

As a long time resident of Lambertville, I would very much like to see the sign restored with the art and information about the swallows that it once had. (I have photographs I’d be happy to share.)

Is it possible that DRJTBC could find a way to repair this sign?

Thank you.
Christopher Plummer

 

And then on April 1 (I’m not laughing), I got this response:

From: Joseph F. Donnelly jdonnelly@drjtbc.org
Subject: Response to your inquiry to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge CommissionDate: 04/01/2019 at5:53PM

Christopher Plummer:
Thank you for visiting the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission’s website and using the “contact us” portal.
Please be advised that the New Hope-Lambertville Toll-Supported Bridge sign you referenced in your message no longer exists and was not produced by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC).
As I recall, the sign promoted how proceeds from the New Jersey Wildlife Income Tax Check Off were utilized to place artificial nests at the New Hope-Lambertville Tax- Supported Bridge after the bridge’s concrete walkway was replaced by a laminated timber deck walkway in 1982 (subsequently replaced with the current walkway in 2004). (Note: The formal name of the bridge in 1982 was the New Hope-Lambertville Tax-Supported Bridge since it was jointly owned by the two states until July 1987, when its ownership was transferred outright to the DRJTBC.) The Commission, which controlled the bridge at that time on behalf of the two states, cooperated in the post-project remediation efforts regarding the migratory swallows.
Please understand that there is nothing in the Commission’s meeting minutes or in our engineering department’s records that support your assertion that the sign was placed at the location by the DRJTBC. I found nothing in the official record that shows the Commission requisitioning, procuring, or paying for the sign. Regrettably, it’s unclear who exactly produced the sign.
What I can tell you is the following:

In conducting research for an historical account that I compiled on the bridge crossing’s200th anniversary in 2014, I noted that the sign had the headline “Cliff Swallows Benefit from NJ Wildlife Income Tax Check Off” and its content explained a swallow-nest remediation effort that took place at the bridge back in the 1980s (over 30 years ago). For your edification, the sign’s credit line said the illustration and design were by Doreen Curtin with a copyright of 1984, suggesting the sign was placed at some point during or after that year. It also said “Screen Printing by Aztec Graphics.” But the sign did not cite what agency or group produced it.

That said, the Commission is not in a position to repair the sign for the following reasons: 1. It had fallen into disrepair and had outlived its purpose in promoting a project that took place more than three decades ago. 2. The Commission did not produce the sign. 3. Whatever entity did produce the sign never maintained it after its installation.

While I can’t speak unilaterally for this agency on a matter such as this, it’s certainly conceivable the Commission would be open to considering installation of acceptable signage referencing the bridge’s swallows and/or swallow nests if some organization or entity were to again shoulder the time, effort, and costs of design and production.

– Joe Donnelly
Deputy Executive Director of Communications DRJTBC
New Hope, PA.

 

So…we have more information. I had forgotten the initial connection of the sign to the appreciation of the nests disturbed beneath the bridge and the careful restoration of ceramic nests in the hopes of maintainting the colony. I am quite sure that subsequent “upgrades” to the footpath over the bridge—which is now some kind of plastic-paint-covered metal—were not so attentive to the colony.
The sign disappeared mysteriously shortly after I sent my query. I don’t believe in coincidences.
Maybe we can get someone to step up and restore the sign as suggested by Mr. Donnelly? But first, I think it’s more important to restore the appreciation for the birds themselves, the Cliff Swallows of Lambertville, which appear to be in decline to the point of non-existence.
Peace Out,
— Christo

 

Lambertville Tree Clearing Update—Coryell to Bridge, and South

March 26, 2019

In previous correspondence,  NJWSA stated they would,

“Thin-out the underbrush and small trees on the western bank and in and on the stone wall between Coryell Street and Bridge Street.”
In fact nearly every tree between Coryell and Bridge has been eliminated, and if not for citizen and mayoral intervention, the large tree near the Bridge Street bridge would have been removed. (Photos forthcoming, details below).
From: Judy Detrano
Date: March 23, 2019 at 9:53:57 PM EDT
To: Christopher Plummer, Julia Fahl
Subject: Re: Trees along the canal (info now on my blog)

Hi Chris,

I have but a bit more information which I will email you tomorrow.  I was with them as they cut away and with the help of Mayor Julia and Cindy Ege we saved the tree by the canal at the bridge alongside the Princeton Bank.   Michael A. Sellar was the Facility Manager , Delaware & Raritan Canal Office, that I spoke with on site.  <snip> The destruction of our trees in and around Lambertville has become an issue to be addressed and we need the support of a number of departments, including NJ DEP.

 

March 25, 2019

Hello again Chris,

FYI…
Upon speaking with Michael Sellar of the NJWSA on-site the day they cut down the trees from Coryell to Bridge Street in Lambertville the following answers to my questions were as follows:
1.  The cutting of the trees was to prevent them from falling into the canal which would undermine the drinking quality of the water
2.  They believe the trees and shrubs are destroying the structure of the stone wall along the canal, river side of the canal
3.  They are not fixing, replacing or relining the stone canal wall (even though the stones are there in the canal) because the budget allotment  does not cover the expense to do so.  It is faster, easier & cheaper to cut down the trees.
4.  He has no explanation for why a tree here and there was left uncut but they would be happy to come back and cut them down.  (3 trees remain by the River Horse Brewery building)
5.  He is not aware of any advance notice required to the city of Lambertville as that side of the canal falls under their maintenance obligations.
6.  The towpath side of the canal will not be sheared by them as that side of the canal is under the authority of NJ State Parks Commission.
7.  They admit that their maintenance of the canal has been neglected for close to 25 years due to budget constrictions
8.  They can be stymied by the Shade Tree Commission from cutting down a tree that falls under the Shade Tree protection.
+The NJWSA supposedly has a Capital Fund Component for Capital Improvement..where is that money and why not fix the stone wall
+They are indeed required to notify the public if more than 1/2 acre is to be ‘deforested’ with 60 days to hold a public hearing
+ I have not ascertained their responsibility to notify the City of Lambertville
+ They might have had to submit a tree cutting plan to the Division of Parks & Forestry as the property is also NJState Park property. (or should have)
+ It may be possible to demand some sort of replanting to refurbish the embankment via the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
+ There were no Project Updates or notices on the NJWSA website referring to Lambertville that I uncovered
+ There appears to be no coordination/integration/communication between the various commissions to control either of  committees/authority/commssions to review, supervise or hold to any aesthetics of proposed work, nor review of the destruction of wildlife habitats, particularly to bird species and bats.
+ If the DRCC has jurisdiction over the entire state-owned D & R Canal, should they have not been notified and required to offer approvals of the NJWSA ?
+ Also, where would a public notice appear that would reach the residents of Lambertville without their needing to search for such a notice.
+ And, I have heard, with no further information, explanations or confirmations, that the railroad had leased the property to which the rails are on, but that their lease had/has expired and there is no current enforceable lease at this time.  Does that not restrict them from doing anything along the tracks through Lambertville until that is made more clear and current in their authority to do so.  AND that the railroad does impact our wildlife habitats, noise and air pollution…..and what input do the residents of Lambertville have, if any, to curtail their work in our city.
Regards,
Judy Detrano

 

Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact their representatives:


The City of Lambertville
Mayor Julia Fahl
City Hall
18 York Street
Lambertville, NJ  08530
Telephone:  609.397.0110
 “Ask the Mayor”


John Hutchison
Executive Director
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
609-397-2000

John.hutchison@dep.nj.gov


Clinton Administration Building
1851 State Route 31
P.O. Box 5196
Clinton, NJ 08809
P: (908) 638-6121
F: (908) 638-5241

info@njwsa.org


Patricia Kallesser
Park Superintendent
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609.924.5705

Peace Out
— Christo

Ready or Not

Friday, March 15, 2019
Work continues on clearing the rails for the Lambertville Tourist Train. No estimates on actual arrival of an engine with cars. Maybe they want to have one on display in time for Shad Fest? But maybe the crumbling canal walls and collapsing roadbed should be shored up first?


“You call it progress. I call it destruction.”— Comment of an anonymous five-year-old on watching the take-down of large tree.


 “They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum…”

—🚕 “Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

PEACE OUT

— Christo

Wake up and smell the 5G — Not for me!

 

back1

Wednesday May 8, 2019— Some new links…

1) The EHT “Fact Sheet” —Better than the printed version because all the links in the PDF are live.
2) The “Sample Code” for small city ordinances (the PDF is helpful for copy/paste if actually crafting an ordinance)
3) “Generation Zapped”— the movie I would like to get the Lambertville ACME to show.
4) “The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network”, by Sue Halpern, in The New Yorker, April 26, 2019, recent article recommended by a #StopPennEast associate—

April 2, 2019 —Update: Verizon wants Lambertville to be a “Smart City”. Want to be smart? Learn about 5G! Lots of great information from the Environmental Health Trust.  Keep it simple, and start here:


Saturday, April 20, 2019Update: Thank you to Nancy Kay Anderson for sending me an informative fact-based link from Physicians for Safe Technology, about Wireless Technology and Public Health“.

— Christo


March 12, 2019 — My first pass at summarizing 5G…do we really want this hazardous electronic junk cluttering the streets of our quaint, historic city???

Verizon, Verizon, put away your new 5G.
No more cell towers, just leave me the birds and bees, please!

At the March 5 working session in Lambertville, I asked Mayor Julia Fahl if she had any information about the possible health threats of the 5G technology promoted by Verizon. Verizon claims “Right of Way” to add Cell Tower electronics to an unknown number of existing telephone poles in Lambertville. I gathered the information on this page for the Mayor. To avoid the conspiracy theories and extreme ideas that plague the internet, I sought information that is:

  • About 5G (as opposed to just cellular or cell phone)
  • Current
  • Fact-based (with sources),
  • Covers the efforts by industry (telecom companies) to aggressively “roll it out”.

If you only look at one thing, please watch the first 10 minutes of the video below!

Washington DC Council 5G Small Cell Roundtable
https://youtu.be/ljLynbr5iPc <—Watch the first 10 minutes. (After other speakers, Mr. Motus speaks a bit more at the end.)

Physicians for safe technology – A good written summary which contains many additional sources. There are several studies about adverse health effects of MMW (millimeter wave-length) as well as cellular (microwave) radiation established as carcinogenic.
https://mdsafetech.org/5g-telecommunications-science/

Environmental Damage— Insects, birds, other wildlife at risk? Don’t miss (or be put off by the title of) the “Insect Armageddon” 7 minute video, referred to, and with sources in the link above.
https://youtu.be/zwo2E9b9CiU

The Industry hard push for legislation to ensure adoption—“Verizon, AT&T and other wireless providers have pushed such legislation here (in California) and elsewhere to ease deployment of so-called small-cell equipment that boosts coverage provided by larger cell towers, particularly in urban areas and in anticipation of fifth-generation (5G) network technology. The bill would have granted the companies rights similar to those of utilities, leaving local governments with limited power to set fees or restrict placement on streetlights and traffic signal poles.”
http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-Gov-Brown-right-to-block-industry-12282623.php

According to Mr. Mottus (from the video, above) the National League of Cities and League of Mayors are opposed to “small cell rollout” which is promoted nationally in U.S. S3157 . <—Click here to check status and read the bill.

At time of writing, S3157 is “in committee” with U.S. Senate “Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee”.  In one committee hearing, Senator Blumenthal asks industry representatives about Health Risks:
https://youtu.be/ekNC0J3xx1w

The push by industry is happening globally. Similar discussions are occurring in Canada…
Canadian Senate Bill 637—Senator Patrick Colbeck Testifies Against 5G: Hearing 2018
https://youtu.be/j-UEuOYOED4

Despite the 5G hype, there is no clear need for it:
“What can 5G do that other systems can’t? This is where there is no clear answer,” said Hemant Minocha, EVP for device and IoT at TEOCO. There is no 5G requirement for IoT [Internet of Things], he points out, and the business case hasn’t yet been proven out for ultra-low latency (not to  mention that LTE is capable of lower latency than it has achieved to this point in networks).”
https://www.saferemr.com/2017/11/5g-wireless-technology-cutting-through.html

How many towers are we talking about?
“While early work estimated that as many as 40 to 50 homes could be covered by a single fixed wireless site, according to Rouault of EXFO, that number has turned out to be around five in testing because of the complexity of beamforming necessary to support multiple homes.”
https://www.saferemr.com/2017/11/5g-wireless-technology-cutting-through.html

What do the towers look like?
“Mystreetmychoice” is a web site in opposition to the 5G roll out in California, see the photos on their home page.
http://mystreetmychoice.com/index.html

Rarely mentioned, Data Security risk— “5G has 200 times more access points for hackers than existing networks, experts warn”, Financial Post
https://business.financialpost.com/telecom/attack-surface-has-multiplied-5g-networks-more-vulnerable-to-hackers-conference-told

Some additional links:

Scientists and Doctors Demand Moratorium on 5G

5G Wireless Technology: Is 5G Harmful to Our Health?

5G Wireless Technology: Millimeter Wave Health Effects

5G Wireless Technology: Newspaper editorials oppose “small cell” antenna bills

Cell Tower Health Effects

International EMF Scientist Appeal

An Exposé of the FCC: An Agency Captured by the Industries it Regulates

FCC: Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations–Key Testimony

Cell Tower Radiation Affects Wildlife: Dept. of Interior Attacks FCC

 

PEACE OUT,

—Christo

Tree Stump Gallery #1

Photos of Delaware Canal Tree Clearing in Lambertville, New Jersey 2018-2019

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
— 🚕 “
Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


No, this has nothing to do with the “Emerald Ash Borer”. For information about this Tree and Brush Clearing Project go here.


Tree Stump Gallery #1 — 53 Photos

 

 

Peace Out…

— Christo

A day it was, and what a day it was!

🇫🇷 The Great France Art Tour of 2017

It was the longest day in Paris, starting with a grand tour, followed by Monet’s Sunrise and so much more. What a joy it is to travel with an agreeable and flexible companion. That was my thought as Deb and I, now back at the Hotel Bercy, planned the remains of the day. It was a great plan! A magnificent plan! We were in Paris. How could it be anything less than a wonderful and successful plan?

"The Raft of the Medusa", by Eugene Gericault

“The Raft of the Medusa”, by Théodore Géricault

She had no great interest in the Louvre. Nor did I. A decade before, in my fifties, I had stumbled there upon the enormous and magnificent “Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault. I stood speechless, with tears embarrassingly welling in my eyes, a reaction inspired partly by the monumental size of the work, but more from its significance as a time portal, for I had stood at the same place, in the Louvre, forty years before that. In 1972, I had been overcome by waves of emotions: awe at the work, wonder at my fortune in being there seeing it, the loneliness of an adolescent far from home and family for the first time, experiencing something that ought to be, but due to circumstances, and the formidable magnificence of the art, could never be clearly communicated, much less shared, an experience condemned to always remain deeply and intensely personal. Thrust backward, then suddenly, flashing forward in time, instead of seeing more of what I wanted at the Louvre and processing that adolescent visit, instead, I spent way too much of that day dragged by an acquaintance through the endless sandstone monotony of Egyptian and Middle-Eastern architecture, of which I had in comparison to the Impressionists, no interest whatsoever.

MuseeDeOrsayThis time, I was in no hurry to enter the Louvre. If I were to pass through a time portal it would be at my choosing, and with opportunity to process the odyssey. Musée D’Orsay, was a possibility, although on yet another Paris trip, a redeeming one, alone, and only a few years before, I had made a thorough survey and with great satisfaction sought and found the Van Goghs, and so, even Orsay I could forego for something previously unseen, perhaps the gardens of Giverny? Or Musée Marmottan Monet?

MonetsGardenMercerville

Giverny replica, “Grounds for Sculpture”

An uneventful 45 minute ride from Bercy discharged us from the train at the La Muette Metro station. We walked through a few typical urban Paris streets, then with the assistance of our paper tour map and Google Maps—for neither by itself seems sufficient until you can get them both to agree—we passed thru the Jardin Du Ranelagh—on the map, a small isolated green blotch before all the grey and white of Paris is surrounded on the western flank by the very green Bois de Boulogne – so very much green!

What is the “B-d-B”?? I don’t know. Don’t think I have ever been! It incorporates the Hippodrome de Autreil – which appears to be a horse track. Was this where Hemingway so smugly bet on horses, bragging about his successes, while living in supposed poverty on Hadley’s trust fund? And there on the map(s) in bold print is the A13, the route to the Chateau de Versailles. Is that the same as the Palace of Versailles? But I digress…

The Jardin was walkable in the overcast and humid late morning, slightly green, but suffering the trampled haggard look of excess foot traffic as only a city park can. Gravel walkways lined with green wooden-slatted benches. A few couples with long black umbrellas, more children with mothers nearby and nannies rolling the small ones in blue prams, and us stopping at the intersections of every odd-angled street, re-checking our orientation and looking for signs to the Musée.

It began to rain softly before we arrived at the steps to Marmottan, an unimposing old building of brick and faded white trim.

bdbinparis.pngThe Bois de Boulogne, as research has now revealed, is the second largest public park in Paris – bordering the west side of the 16th Arrondissement and containing not one, but two horse tracks. And yes, the Chateau de Versailles is in fact the one and same “Palace of Versailles” to us Americans. No, like the Louvre before it, and to the dismay and puzzlement of some, the Chateau de Versailles was rapidly discarded as a destination for “The Great Art Tour” – we had no interest. Been there, stood in line for hours, inside and out, and agreed with myself to never return. Never. Lavish, extravagant furnishings and homes of the royals and super-wealthy, past or present, do not do much for me, nor warrant a second visit.

WaterLilies

“Water Lilies” by Claude Monet

While we sidetrack the narrative with our decisions-not-to-see, a more difficult decision was the potential visit to Monet’s Giverny. The garden documented in books and film, and memorialized in uncountable blurry-until-viewed-from-the-proper-distance “Water Lilies” painted by the aged and near-blind Monsieur Claude. Definitely a place worthy of an Art Pilgrimage, but from our perspective requiring a Full Day traveling and touring outside of Paris with the strong potential for RAIN. We chose to hang closer to the City of Lights.

An excellent choice as it turns out. The next morning we learned that our traveling nemesis “Donald” and his long-suffering wife, hired a car with the aid of our excellent and very French guide, Christine, and we would likely have spent the day with them. From their anguished reports, it was a day mostly memorable for “Impressions of Rain and Mud” as opposed to Water Lilies.

What did we choose? As previously disclosed, a visit to Musée Marmottan Monet, which by chance included a selection of Sisley and Pissarro (among others) in addition to our target of “Impression: Sunrise”. And from there? Well, how about Montmartre? And the Latin Quarter? The Seine. And I have yet to get to the near disaster on the late night Metro.

Oh there is so much more. So much more. Such a long day. The longest day in Paris, with more to come.

…to be continued.

— Christo

Four nights in Nice (Parte un)

🇫🇷 The Great France Art Tour of 2017

Nice With Las Vegas Interlude
View of Nice from Parc de la Colline du Château

View of Nice from Parc de la Colline du Château

I knew vaguely of Nice by way of a Frenchman, George, who I worked with at a men’s clothing store on Fremont Street in Las Vegas when I was sixteen. George was a flamboyant character; an excellent salesman with a heavy accent. It was the early seventies, and George almost always wore the brightly colored, tight fitting, and highly flammable acetate shirts with long pointy collars that we sold at the “Knight and Squire”. In his mid-thirties with hair in long dark curls that trailed down his neck, a slightly large rounded nose, full lips and a prominent chin, he had an annoying habit of patting me on the ass. With his rich accent he spoke often of his vacations in Nice, explaining that Nice was a stylish, elegant, beach city in France, where the wealthy dined at fine restaurants, played on their yachts, and in clubs, and in the casino in nearby Monte Carlo. But unfamiliar even with beach towns in California, I was too young and naive to be impressed—which was a great disappointment to George.

He was eventually let go for some reason or other. Maybe for the long unscheduled vacations? Or his tendency to return after long lunches with alcohol on his breath? Through a gossipy co-worker I heard that George had fallen on hard times and was working maintenance, “cleaning rooms and emptying garbage cans at the MGM Grand Hotel”. But never one to fall too far, George, who appeared nearly the same—except for his nose, which was taking on the size and veined red glow of one belonging to an alcoholic—explained to me one afternoon some years later when we ran into each other at a gas station on Flamingo Road, that he now worked for “Lee”.

“Uh, sorry, I don’t know Lee. Who is Lee?” I asked, holding a bright yellow helmet under my arm with one hand, and with the other clenching the gas pump handle to fill the tank of my Suzuki 250cc “Champion” dirt bike.

Preceded by a classic nasal snort of French disdain, George patronizingly explained, “Liberace of course!”

I had no reason to think George’s relationship with Liberace was a lie. George was wiping gas-pump-grime from his hands with a dainty white handkerchief, standing outside a huge limo with the Nevada vanity plate “88 Keys”. This was Las Vegas, and as I did live in the neighborhood, I had driven past the Liberace house many times, around the corner from the one where Redd Foxx was occasionally seen in his driveway shouting at his neighbors to “…get your car washed! You’re givin’ the neighborhood a bad name!”, the house with a black grand piano cutout on the garage door, where everyone local knew “Lee” lived.

He told me he was Lee’s “personal dresser”. I didn’t know what that meant, and didn’t care to ask, although I was a little curious if Liberace himself was sitting in back behind the heavily tinted windows, half dressed. But it didn’t matter, because George made it very clear: I was far below his station in life now, and he could hardly admit he had ever worked retail, selling clothes on Fremont Street, much less waste any more time on a lengthy conversation with me at a gas station. That was the last time I saw him in person, and it was many years before I ever heard anyone mention “Nice” again.

Monday, In France, On the Road to Nice…

Nice was a surprise. I had little idea of what to expect, even having read about it in the tour books. This was after all, the “French Riviera”–whatever that means. Christine informed us the name is anathema to the French, mostly because it was coined by the Brits, who discovered and bought and built up much of Nice as a resort for who else? Themselves. The wealthy Brits. For the French, this was the Côte d’Azur.

We arrived by coach after a few hours on the sunny highway from Avignon. Descending into the mountainous dry east, catching occasional glimpses of the Mediterranean to our right, dark blue slivers between the hills, or as we got closer, silver shimmering behind the enormous sprawling developments and skyscraping townhome complexes. As we passed, Christine pointed to the vineyard of “Brangelina”, remarked that the wine was in fact reputable, despite being owned by Hollywood moguls, (with a few of us wondering what happens to it after the divorce), and she mentioned Cannes, St. Tropez and a few other well-worn and familiar names of communities we would not visit on this trip, advising us of the models and movie and rock stars who frolic in this Southern sun, enjoying the lavish homes and splendid company their fame has purchased. But not to worry, she advised, we would be taking a day trip to Monte Carlo, the capital of Monaco, where she would tell us the real story of the tragic death of Princess Grace.

Eventually we emerged on the Promenade Des Anglais, the main drag, at least four lanes of traffic that runs the length of the Baie des Anges, along the tremendous beachfront crescent from the airport, past all the hotels and resorts to the hodgepodge of bars and restaurants that mark the perimeter of “the old city”, where the road changes its name to the Quai des Etats-Unis, and where the beach abruptly ends, severed by the intrusion of Port De Nice on the right, and steeply on the left, a very old hilltop ruin the Parc de la Colline du Château.

The road continues wrapping to the left around the base of this mountain, with a massive monument to the war dead embedded in the side, and on the right, luxury liners, yachts, or other vessels parked at the Port De Nice before moving on to Monte Carlo or other Mediterranean destinations.

Did I mention surprises? Oh yes. First, the water is the bluest you can imagine. Deep, not exceptionally dark, but luminescent. Next, Nice is huge. An enormous beach city. Not a town. City. With dirty steaming streets and tiny cafés, restaurants, computer stores, plumbing supply shops, architectural and real estate offices, the ubiquitous artisanal ice cream, pizza joints, and every imaginable type of storefront you might find in New York or Los Angeles or Taipei. The “old city” nestled between the beach, Parc de la Colline du Château, and the hotel row of “new” Nice, gives the opposite impression. Not of a city per se, but of an ancient, but large, village, pungent in the mornings on certain days with the fruit, vegetables, and baked goods of the open market, its old concrete, plaster, and brick buildings fronted tightly with bars, restaurants, brasseries, patisseries, charcuteries, and other “ies” that face onto the walking streets and squares.

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence

Though for many the beach is the main attraction in Nice, we put it off a few days, it wasn’t until after we saw the castle town of Eze, and the one time home of Matisse, St. Paul de Vence, and yes, Monte Carlo—which as far as I can tell, consists of one gaudy casino, one hairpin turn, and one big bay for oligarchs and their pretentious yachts—that we ventured to the beach. Having both proclaimed, for reasons I can’t recall, that we would not be swimming in the Mediterranean—even if it was the Côte d’Azur—we found a path down from the wide pedestrian walkway and the Quai des Etats-Unis.

This busy way, straining with pedestrians of all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages, bicycles, Segues, tours of out-of-town tourists, skateboarders, roller skaters, and punctuated by the constant attention of fully dressed French commandos in green fatigues or camo with dark bulletproof vests and carrying automatic rifles and capped in their classic burgundy berets, always traveling two or more, never walking alone, reminded us that to the French we were heroes. We were tourist heroes, crazy Americans foolish enough to brave not just France, but the Riviera, and the same stretch of Nice beach front road where almost exactly a year before, an angry terrorist had squashed sightseers and locals alike, indiscriminately, with a truck, on his mis-guided journey to what any sane person would agree will be his own hell, Islamic or otherwise.

The wide sidewalk, this busy parade route, borders the beach for the length of its crescent, the beach itself broken into public and private subdivisions, the latter discernible by the presence of umbrellas and chaise longue, fenced or walled in, much desired, especially on the hottest, sunniest of days, and which of course must be rented. These private spaces sometimes also have bars or restaurants with expensive and exclusive views of the beach.

Beach and walk, Quai des Etats-Unis

Beach and walk, Quai des Etats-Unis

Public beaches frame the private, with public outdoor showers and toilets, and concrete indoor buildings embedded in the hillside and presumably (since I can’t say that I investigated one..) running under and supporting the walkway above. Instead of sand, the beaches are notoriously covered with round hard gravel: gray, white, black, mottled stones of mostly 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter, but present in many sizes. To enable approach to the beach, authorities, or someone(?) provides a faded, maroon, walkway carpet.

On this aging rug we left our sandals and stepped carefully onto the stones near the lapping water. The feeling was as one might expect. Unfamiliar, prickly although not painful, and with the shifting gravel, a bit unstable. Stepping gradually into the water we found it surprisingly cold.

Its touch was magical.

Standing there, my feet shifting as the waves sucked at the rocks beneath, I felt quickly transported to another place. Or perhaps more accurately, to a realization of where I was, actually standing ankle deep in the Côte d’Azur, the breeze cooling me, the bubbling rasp of a motorbike fading away, my arms comfortably baking in the sun. Far off to my right, a huge plane lifted itself from the Nice airport, like a giant raising its head, upper body, and finally arching sharply over the sea, pushing off the runway, into a sky of blue more faded than the sea and free of all but the most distant clouds.

The  morning bustle slipped away along with all sounds but for the hissing water as it wandered through the rocks, and the giggles of two small children who we’re working hard to bury my sandals, pouring wet pebbles and water onto the rapidly disappearing Keene’s. Standing next to me, Deb appeared to have fallen into a similar reverie.

There was nothing else, just us, the beach of rocks, the warming sun, and the lapping waves of the sea.  Just these.

Still to come, Van Gogh, Avignon, Arles, Matisse, Chagall—the road goes ever on!!

…for Dick Kocher

— Christo

 

In Las Vegas When I was Growing Up

…and now for a brief diversion from The Great France Art Tour of 2017…

In Las Vegas when I was growing up, the Atomic Energy Commission was always blowing up the desert with underground nuclear blasts that would roll through town at dinnertime, making you feel a little dizzy, until you’d see the chandelier slowly swinging and remember, oh yeah, bomb today.

And the mob was always blowing up somebody–generally a competitor or someone that wasn’t playing by their rules I guess. They’d blow up cars, or a motel, maybe a house. But I didn’t know much about that or pay much attention to it.

Then there were the planes. There was the military plane that famously crashed into Mount Charleston. And the small one that blew up in the desert way out past Rainbow Road on the way to Red Rock.  Where we used to hike, looking for rattlesnakes and Collared Lizards. It was pretty eerie out there, tiny little dime sized pieces of aluminum sheet metal, sometimes bigger, with rivets, scattered across the desert when you stood in the middle of it crunching under your feet and visible as far as you could see in any direction. Sometimes we’d find something bigger, like a wing strut or a piece of landing gear, once, even a briefcase, but it was warped and sunbaked, and if it ever had anything interesting in it, it was long gone. Pretty much all that was left out there was tiny little pieces. It must’ve been some explosion.

Seemed like things were always getting blown up in Las Vegas. Pet World, the store where I bought mealworms to feed my lizards and worked briefly, cleaning dog cages and aquariums, went up in a weekend fireball supposedly from a gas leak, although I had my suspicions. Two goldfish survived.

There were blasting caps at the construction sites, which were all over town, and ads on all of the daytime TV shows warning kids not to touch them or pick them up, which made kids really want to find one, and kids always getting blown up when they did.

And fireworks of course. Cherry bombs and M-80s and kids blowing off their fingers when they tried to throw an M-80. Whoops. It went off too soon.  Like that kid Ken Revis who only had four fingers on one hand. In high school he showed me the photo he always carried in his wallet. A Polaroid of his bloody hand spread out on the  surface of a table and the blown off middle finger on the table separated from its previous home by about 4 inches. Why did he always keep that picture? Did his dad make him keep it, to torture him for the rest of his life? He smoked a lot of dope that guy. He smoked more dope, more dope than anybody I’ve ever known.

I wonder if he is still alive.  I wonder if he still has that picture in his wallet.

If I were him, and I was still alive, and I still had that picture in my wallet, I’d blow up that picture.

—Christo