Tag Archives: photos

mid-week stationary field trip No. 4

on the ferry

This is a stationary field trip to North Haven, Maine, an island in Penobscot Bay. I’ve shown you one of its esoteric little rocky beaches but there’s more to it than that. It’s very much on my mind lately because I’m headed there this weekend. Honestly it’s been on my mind all summer: I need to find a way to spend much more time there, there or Vinalhaven, a neighboring island that I love only very slightly less. A week or two every year isn’t cutting it. Do any of you need to commission a lobster- and foraged crabapples-centric cookbook, or perhaps a very niche travelogue? A series of sordid libelles about lobstermen and summer wives?

make money writing short paragraphs

I’m pretty sure I could write a lot more paragraphs if I wasn’t spending ten hours a day in an office doing something else.

For the first several years I visited these islands I wouldn’t tell people about them. Friends, yes, but certainly not the whole internet. I’ve relaxed about this because my handful of readers are scattered all over the globe, and also because it’s quite the pain in the ass to get there. If you want to fly you’ll have to charter a plane, and if you want to take a car on the ferry (which you will, unless you’re visiting someone who has one on the island), you’ll have to contend with the ferry rules, which the ferry people are serious about. The people on North Haven seem slightly less serious than the people in Rockland in this regard, but you’ll have to deal with Rockland first.

ferry procedures

North Haven ferry rules. I wouldn’t test that last one if I were you.

from the ferry

The Rockland breakwater lighthouse, from the ferry.

I suppose you could come with a bicycle, but this is discouraged: it costs approximately twice as much to bring a bike on the ferry as it does to bring just yourself. I have mixed feelings about this. I like bicycling and, to a lesser extent, most bicyclists, but the roads on both islands are a series of blind curves, and it’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t be a lot more accidents if there were a lot more people on bikes. Besides, there aren’t many places to splash money about on either island, so what’s the use of tourists? (Many years ago my parents came out to visit me on Vinalhaven for a night while I was there for a couple weeks, and my mother, determined to buy something for the occasion of my birthday, had to settle for a blueberry pie). There are other little tricks seemingly intended to discourage tourism too, such as a lack of cell phone towers. I don’t make many calls while I’m there so I don’t care much, but if you’re a first-time visitor and don’t know where the good reception spots are, this might be an annoyance. Standing very near the waterline is generally a good strategy.

Calderwood Neck Rd.

Calderwood Neck Rd. on Vinalhaven in 1907 from Etsy. It looked exactly the same the last time I saw it, minus the wood railing.

You’ll also have to find a place to stay and there aren’t many of those. There’s a very nice inn on North Haven, the Nebo Lodge, but the privacy that comes with renting a house and the immersion it offers — unmediated by a host — is a huge part of what draws me there. Maybe it’s an illusion, but I feel like I’m wringing more out of the place than the dabblers who come over for a memorable meal or three and then split. Renting a house on the island is a crucial part of my infatuation with it. I’m not sure I can truly, fully love a place until I’ve experimentally pretended to live there.

new friends

Making new friends. The caretaker is a lobsterman and these hadn’t been out of the water fifteen minutes when we met.

Happily my house of choice on North Haven is conducive to this. It’s cozy and full of texture — a sun-faded braided rug; a pair of curtains with labial ruffles that measure the salty breezes; stubborn little mosses clinging to its shingles — and possesses both a sensibly-organized kitchen and a perfectly situated hammock. As in all the houses I’ve been in on these islands, important phone numbers are written directly on the wall: the general store, the doctor, the community center, the lobsterman/caretaker. The numbers don’t ever change, so why not. It’s also got a fireplace and, to my endless delight, a little trap door for getting firewood into the house. I’ve got a routine worked out with my best friend, who I’ve been visiting these islands with for many years now: He loads the firewood in and out of the car, and I stand by the little door and stack it inside. We fuss over this daily process more than is strictly necessary, but it seems to add something to the first glass of wine by the fire each night.

digging this rug

mantle

house mosses

firewood door!

exciting firewood door

not bad for NYC people

The house also has a circle of trees to protect its hammock-inhabitants, and to provide fodder for their hippie dippie daydreams. The first year we visited I asked the owner if they’d been planted this way and they were indeed; they were planted by her grandmother, who wanted a place for her grandchildren to play in.

tree circle

foggy tree circle

a hammock I spent a great deal of time in

The hammock is here if you squint a bit.

weird insect

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boat passing by

My first order of business every morning while I’m there is to take my coffee on a walk around the house noticing things. Specifically, noticing whether any new creatures came to visit, or any edible things have sprung up or ripened. The perimeter of the house I used to go to on Vinalhaven was always good for at least a few blueberries or blackberries, and sometimes chanterelle mushrooms. On North Haven so far these have eluded me, but I remain hopeful.

morning spider web

hairy moth

afternoon snack in situ

If I happen to have dressed warmly enough, I’ll take my coffee a little further, down to the rocky beach I showed you once before.

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seaweed spot

Vinalhaven’s Main Street is charming and it has a stop light too, the only one on both islands. North Haven’s Main Street, as shown below, is quieter and more genteel. I’d always thought of Vinalhaven as a quiet place but North Haven manages to make it seem hurly-burly. Vinalhaven has a long history as a working island, first because of its granite quarries, then because of its access to cod and lobsters. North Haven has never had quarries and, in comparison to Vinalhaven, has few full-time lobster people. There are 350 people who live on the island year-round (and 1500 or so in the summertime), and I’m not sure what they tend to do for money. I like to imagine they have blogs with deep-pocketed readers, readers I’ve simply not connected with yet.

Main St., American Legion

The American Legion on Main Street.

Main St.

Waterman’s Community Center on Main Street.

Community Center board game pile

Waterman’s is well-equipped for rainy days.
It’s also got a coffee shop, a theater, and a preschool.

we missed the codfish relay race

It’s a good place to catch up on the news. Hopefully there will come a year when I don’t miss the codfish relay race.

Paine's Balsam Fir Incense

There are also two gift shops on Main St., at least one of which should be able to replenish my stash of balsam fir incense.

North Haven casino very early in the morning

North Haven Casino early in the morning. Not a gambling casino, a yacht club. It just turned 100 years old this August.

maple walnut?

Maple-walnut.

browsing real estate

A fun thing to do with ice cream in hand: browse potential locations for my aquapod / sanitorium / research and development center.

peace barn

A peaceful barn at Mullen Head Park.

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on the way

Leaving Vinalhaven, Aug. 2006.

goodbye, islands

Leaving North Haven, Sept. 2011.

I’ll be doing a separate post on the subject of eating North Haven on my food blog next week. Mid-week stationary field trip No. 3 (to the country, a bit closer to home) is here.

meats are murder

baby bologna

Baby bologna, boy or girl flavor, observed in a Brighton Beach grocery. The photo doesn’t really give you a sense of proportion but the tubes are pretty big, I’d say probably 3 or 4 babies in each one.

Sorry it’s been so quiet around here but I’ve been recovering from surgery on the side where my blogging arm is. Found the baby meats while sorting through old Blackberry photos. On Boxing Day we walked around Coney Island and Brighton Beach, concluding with mushroom soup, vodka shots, dumplings and khachapuri in a moderately gaudy Russian restaurant.

Coney Island, Boxing Day

One photo I wish I’d taken but it would have been intolerably intrusive for me to do so: the guy Putin-ishly sunbathing shirtless at the end of a long row of mismatched chaise lounges stuffed with elderly people bundled in layers of coats and blankets. I tried to find out what is the Russian word for this phenomenon, but to my complete surprise there does not seem to be a way to say “virile” or “manly” in Russian so how does one poke fun in that direction? Babelfish offered me “mужественно” but when I translated it back into English it said that means “with fortitude,” which isn’t the same at all. Google Translate suggested “mужественный,” but that apparently means “courageous.” Which is also not what I mean; sunbathing when it’s 30°F isn’t courageous. How can a culture that gives us vodka, krokodil, and a frequently bare-chested he-man P.M. who wields perpetual power not have a word for what the guy was doing in his lounge chair? If I’d taken the photo you’d know exactly what I mean.

north fork

When I said I was going to the beach last week my destination was Orient Point, at the end of the north fork of Long Island. I’d never been there before and was surprised and thrilled that it’s relatively easy to find a deserted or nearly-deserted beach there. I feel like I can tell you people — you lot are mostly continental or English and you’ve got your own lovable beaches much closer to home — but don’t tell anyone else.

let's go down there

Sometimes the nicest thing is to not have anyone else around.

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It’s all the more exciting to find a deserted beach with interesting structures on it, like this driftwood teepee-cabana.

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Or to find a beach where a sailboat with flashy silver sails appears on the horizon. My friend thought this was very Matthew Barney-ish but it remained too far away to see whether the mast was made of vaseline.

silver sailboat in the distance

Driftwood legs, agreed? The navel is low but those are legs.

driftwood legs

Our favorite beach find was this oceanographic sofa, where thoughtful beachcombers can sit comfortably and think about special rocks or driftwood wants and needs.

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My friends were directed to the beach with the oceanographic sofa earlier in the week, when they arrived and discovered that the rental kitchen lacked a cutting board — people at the Orient Country Store knew it would be a good place to forage for a driftwood cutting board. Two designers in our party were inspired by the tremendous driftwood selection and made a chair too. It wasn’t quite complete when I took this photo but you get the idea.

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If you want to commission a driftwood chair or set of chairs I could probably hook you up. It would take a week or so to make so there’s the cost of lodging to factor in, plus me to document the process, plus an assistant for me, but think of how amazing your new chairs would be. Seriously, think about it.

You can see one of our driftwood cutting boards in the photo below of some farmstand herbs I made focaccia with. The focaccia was initially a disaster (it took three women wielding spatulas and knives to dislodge it from the pan it clung to, then was successfully resuscitated in breadcrumb form and used to stuff tiny peppers) but the driftwood cutting board was an unqualified success and we brought it to the Country Store to show it off to Miriam, one of the proprietors. Manhattan desperately needs small, friendly Urban Stores where people can exchange useful information and buy whatever little things they have a pressing need for, some candles or seltzer or a slice of peach-brown butter tart still warm from the oven. We have bodegas of course but I don’t think I’ve ever obtained any truly useful information under fluorescent lights because no one wants to chat when everyone looks hideous. Plus there is never a front porch and they are not run by bakers. There are some people who built a porch on their roof in the West Village and there’s been at least one gallery porch I recall, so I don’t see why this couldn’t happen.

farmstand herbs

Also nice to have around: farms and farmstands and wineries. Here is a lavender farm where bees live in lavender beehives.

lavender farm

I didn’t see any lavender honey for sale but we did come home with a good-looking melon. Russians pickle the rind and other people make things with the seeds, but who has ideas about how to make curly watermelon tails into something?

our melon

We didn’t eat the melon tail but we did have a terrific salad with flowers and pickled beets in it, and afterwards I thought about starting a new food blog that has only remnants of food on it. There’s probably already a Tumblr called Fuck Yeah Plate Study. Hmm.

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pink remnants after beets

We didn’t spend the entire time eating salads; there was also a fair amount of bicycling around and looking at things like ospreys in their nests.

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There was a sandy beach much easier on the feet than the rocky ones we visited but it has umbrella rules.

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Do you prefer to read serious or fluffy books on the beach? I don’t think I have ever had a preference. It’s easy to get distracted by people-watching / -listening but sometimes little distractions are the perfect punctuation for serious sentences.

reading at the beach

We stayed near a marina where children sometimes practice sailing in tiny white sailboats. A fine thing to watch from a porch, but I would not want to be responsible for keeping them from heading out to sea. If someone had sat seven-years-old me in a boat just my size I probably would not be here writing this blog; I’d be on a small, grubby island wearing a seaweed turban and blogging about that instead.

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time to bring in the seaweed

I think you’ll like these photos of amasan (sea women) by photographer / sake distiller Iwase Yoshiyuki.

Yoshiyuki Iwase, Harvesting Seaweed, 1956

Iwase Yoshiyuki, Harvesting Seaweed, 1956.

Yoshiyuki Iwase, Bluff Gazing, 1935

Iwase Yoshiyuki, Bluff Gazing, 1935. Photos via Creatures of Comfort Tumblr here.

Amasan harvested things from the sea such as seaweed, turban shells, urchins and abalone. The fetching little shorts they wear are called fundoshi and I urgently want to transition into a profession where I’ll need a stack of those in my wardrobe. (For adventuring in, obviously, not serving beer and grease-snacks in). Women are reportedly better-suited for diving into the ocean for goodies than men are because we have a bit more body fat, so we can stay warmer in the cold water, even topless, without whining about the temperature. I have not yet personally tested this theory in competition against male friends but it seems sound.

among the turtles and the cacti in Queens

On Saturday afternoon I went to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. It’s near JFK airport but it’s a peaceful place. The trail is short (I think 1.7 miles?) but there are interesting creatures to meet and plants to admire, and the views of Manhattan are excitingly Wizard of Oz-esque.

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I live in Harlem so we got on the FDR at 116th St. Here’s Uneeda Check Cashing in East Harlem.

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Voila, the Wildlife Refuge isn’t very far. If you’ve got a cashed check burning a hole in your pocket there are some interesting places to eat in Queens along the way.

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A turtle depicting a turtle in the Visitors’ Center.

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Manhattan in the distance.

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Shy turtle.

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A pile of logs with snakes reportedly living inside.

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There’s cacti growing all over the place. Yucca too.

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And rosehips.

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Shore birds.

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A pair of ospreys in their nest.

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Cannoli Italian ice from Uncle Louie G’s in Howard Beach.

there and back

Clearing some photos out of my BlackBerry again. These three were next to each other and they form a sort of narrative, a journey to happy blobby fun land and back, with a pale sunrise the morning after as fuzzed as a quince. Happy blobby fun land is in fact known as Rainbow City and I did not spend the night there, but whatever.

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happy blobby fun land

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down there

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Sexy advert disintegrating into the corner of 116th and Madison Ave.

!

I went to CT for the weekend and had my first hike of spring on Saturday at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, CT. That sort of thing can be very exciting in its way. Do you people like nature? I find it tremendously restorative to walk in the woods, even when it’s chilly and damp and the trees are still bare.

exciting hidey hole

What sort of creature lives inside an exclamation point-shaped hidey hole?

bare trees

round perfect tree

snowdrops

Here’s the beguiling Flintstonian lavender floor at the Parthenon Diner, Old Saybrook, CT. While I was taking this photo my stepfather said “That is a very famous pattern. It’s called ‘bathroom floor.'”

diner floor

f / m / k The Professor, Diva, Dude, Ginormous Egg? They’re at the Stop n’ Shop in Old Saybrook.

choco rabbits

Sunday was too cold for hiking so we bundled up and went for a walk on the beach instead.

clam shells

boats, Grove Beach

sand pattern, Grove Beach

at Grove Beach

seaweed, Grove Beach

driftwood nubs, Grove Beach

Saw this on the way home on I-95. Go ahead and take down the number for your friend. You can’t really see it here but one of the people painted on the windows is saying “hey man, got a smoke?”

going to the clink

There are older photos from a similar field trip on my other blog here if you are really into having a mental visit to CT today. Playlist too.

found – two horses

found horses

I found this photo on the sidewalk this morning a few doors down from my building. It was with a bunch of not-very-interesting party shots and Trivial Pursuit cards. Did these horses wrong you somehow, neighbor?

yr silver friend is here to see you

silver man is ready for bed

Verrrrrry 70s tableau vivant from Foxylady magazine, May 1975.