For the Birds

I am kind of afraid of birds, but this birdhouse was so perfect I had to share it. The roof is made of a vintage copy of  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the entrance is a mockup of the cover page of an early edition of the book.

Yesss!

Yesss!

Colorful Construction

This has to be the most colorful scaffolding and construction site I’ve ever seen.1017141412_1

California Dreaming

Tomorrow, I head to California to celebrate the wedding of a close friend. In honor of my California trip, I thought I would take a look back on a previous wander in Southern California.

Gratuitous pelican photo

Gratuitous pelican photo

Almost a year ago to the day after a delicious brunch, we took a  saunter down to the Hermosa Beach pier. Having lived in California I usually am not terribly impressed by the beach views. However, that day was different. It was windy so there was clear skies, no smog and a decent break in the surf. There were loads of surfers out and we took some time to enjoy watching the action.

Clear skies in Hermosa Beach

Clear skies in Hermosa Beach

One surfer in particular intrigued me because I noticed that he was paddling out wearing a trucker hat. Who does that? Even great surfers bail out of waves and I was sure that he was going to lose his hat. I managed to capture a great picture of him as he cut under the pier to catch the break.

Tracker hat surfer

Trucker hat surfer

We watched him for a while, but he never did lose his hat.

Saving the Salton Sea

About 11 months ago I visited California to see friends, do some hiking/wandering and ending with a business trip. I spent three years in California while in law school so on this trip, I wanted to do some off the beaten track tourism and see some new things. At the top of my list was to pay a visit to the Salton Sea Recreation area. I had been hearing about the Salton Sea for years but an article in Vice had really piqued my interests.

The Salton Sea, past its prime

The Salton Sea Recreation Area sign has seen better days

So, what is the Salton Sea? It’s an inland lake in the Coachella Valley area inland in Southern California near Joshua Tree National Park. The lake was accidentally created in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were being dug from the Colorado River into the valley. However, there was an engineering error caused by a heavy rain and millions of gallons of water flowed into the previously dried out lake bed.

In the 50s and 60s, it was a booming tourist attraction that attracted families and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono. It was “marketed as a ‘miracle in the desert’” it would regularly attract over half a million visitors annually. It was a full service resort town complete with shops, hotels, yacht clubs, fishing and water-skiing.

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

However, the success of the area was short-lived. The Salton Sea lacks an outflow, which means that runoff and contaminants that enter the lake, have no exit or means of dilution. The Salton Sea is surrounded by nearly half a million acres of agricultural land and its runoff, includes salt, fertilizers and pesticides. By the 1970s, the salinity of the sea was so drastically increased that the water was becoming too hostile to support the life of most freshwater fish. Currently, the salinity is increasing at about a rate of 1% annually and it is more salty than the Pacific Ocean. This caused a die out of fish, elevated bacterial levels and algal blooms that began to rot giving off foul odors.

The Salton Sea Today

The Salton Sea Today

Today, only a few species can survive in the lake. The shores are littered with dead and dedicated fish and the beach is covered with barnacles and fish bones.

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

It wasn’t only the wildlife that suffered. Tourists stopped coming and revenue for resort areas dried up. Most people have left the area but a few still eek out a living. Many areas suffer from blight and vandalism with many vacant homes. I visited the community of Bombay Beach which is a prime example of such abandonment. There are still a few residents, but it is a desperate and desolate place.

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Vacant home in Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

But, good news may be coming soon to the residents of the Salton Sea area. Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California announced this week, an initiative to institute a quarter-cent sales tax in the Coachella Valley. The money raised would pay for an earth dike to be constructed across the northern portion of the Salton Sea. The purpose of the Dike would be to create a new body of water the size of Lake Arrowhead that would be fed by runoff and preserve the northern shoreline. The cost of this restoration project could range from $225 million to $510 million.

For more information about the Salton Sea you can check out the following links:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2014/10/20/orig-sinatra-hangout-becoming-toxic-threat.cnn.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Restoration-Project-Proposed-for-Salton-Sea.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140218-salton-sea-imperial-valley-qsa-water-conservation/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=639

Nature in Newark

I was driving back into NYC the other day via the Lincoln Tunnel sitting in traffic in Newark, NJ.  The sun was setting and somehow I ended up lined up with these three metal tower structures. Newark is know for many thing but not generally  for its beauty. I have no idea what the purpose of these towers are, but they created a very beautiful view, juxtaposing human structures with nature in a very unlikely place.

Technology meets nature

Technology meets nature

Jackhammer much?

Only in Park Slope do the construction workers get their coffee at Whole Foods while leaving their jackhammers abandoned in the street. Seriously. I went to Whole Foods for coffee this morning as per my weekend tradition. I noticed that the line at the cafe was unusually long with city construction workers.

After leaving, I spotted an abandoned street work site complete with unattended jackhammers.

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This is risky for a variety obvious reasons. Given that this is Brooklyn, it is also risky for a reason less obvious if you arent from the area. Brooklyn loves to upcycle. Rather than throw anything useful away, we put it out curbside for free taking. I’ve claimed all manner of useful things in this manner, from tomato cages to chairs to kitchen appliances.

Indian Summer in the City

It may be mid-October, but today feels more like late summer in NYC. People are out in tank tops and short, enjoying the sun. Enjoy it while it lasts!

How I wish I could be basking in the sun like this guy

Poconos Paradise

Last weekend I traveled the short hour and 30 minutes from New York to the Poconos to enjoy a bit of rustic relaxation and get out of the city for a few days. This was not my first visit to the Poconos so I was excited for some relaxation but not really prepared to be impressed. I was totally mistaken.

Picture Perfect afternoon in Stokes State Forrest

Picture Perfect afternoon in Stokes State Forrest

Somehow, we timed our trip perfectly to get the best of the autumn leaves without the frigid temperatures. Though we lit a fire in the fireplace every night and even attended a bonfire, we were able to eat dinner al fresco and spend most of our days outdoors.

In Brooklyn we build furniture out of pallets. In the Poconos they are used for bonfires

In Brooklyn we build furniture out of pallets. In the Poconos they are used for bonfires

On the first day, I spent four hours solo kayaking a distance of about 15 miles  through the Delaware Water Gap. The views were spectacular! In those four hours I saw only five other people using the river, and you couldn’t even hear cars near by. In my alone time I glimpsed turtles, fish, hawks and a majestic bald eagle gliding over the water.

The prettiest moment in my kayak

The prettiest moment captured from my kayak

We quickly learned that taking the back roads were the best way to see the leaves and absorb the beauty and peacefulness of the area. Personally, I love to drive the small winding roads (the faster the better), but the views and wildlife, made it worth slowing down.

River Road

Single lane road through Worthington State Forrect

Its now a week later and serious thunderstorms  in the area have taken down most of the leaves. Right before I left to catch my bus back to NY, I was driving down River Road for probably the 6th time in two days and happened upon this little bear.  Sometimes, you just get lucky I suppose. It seems like we were just in the right place at the right time in so many ways.

Visiting with a bear

Visiting with a bear

Getting directions from the locals

Getting directions from the locals

Mother Nature is a Rad Lady

If you missed tonight’s sunset and clouds in NYC you missed out. Never fear, I captured it all for you.

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That Fish is Too Big

Anyone who knows me knows that I love sea creatures. My favorite movies growing up were Splash and The Little Mermaid. I don’t now, nor have I ever eaten seafood or anything from the ocean including seaweed.

So, a while back, I was wandering through the Union Square Whole Foods and saw this fish (see below). My immediate thought was “That fish is too big! No one is going to buy that fish and it will all be a waste!” I’m not the only one who was astonished by the fish. More than a few other shoppers stopped to take pictures and laugh about the Too Big Fish.

A fish too big

A fish too big

Really though. Think about it. Would you want to be the person who asks for a slice off of an otherwise fully intact fish of that size? Part of his body is hanging off the ice! Wouldn’t you be worried about his freshness? This is the way my mind works. I wondered what Whole Foods was thinking with this marketing. Was there a reason why they displayed this whole rather than cut into easily purchasable steaks or fillets?

I don’t know what happened to the Too Big Fish, but I hope that he wasn’t wasted. If he had to be caught and put on ice, I hope someone made a nice dinner out of him.