Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall Flowers

I've said more than once that I was never a big flower person until I moved to New York. You might not think that flowers and the city necessarily go hand-in-hand, but everywhere you look there are beautiful blooms to match every season. I've really been noticing and loving the transition from summer to fall in the gardens around the city, particularly the Conservatory Garden in Central Park and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

While summer flowers are bright and cheery, I definitely prefer the deeper shades and more interesting mixes that start popping up when the weather turns chilly. I just can't get enough of the dark reds, bright purples and of course oranges, mixed with neon greens, grays and deep, dark purples. I also love the weirder looking plants—the things with spikes and veins and spots and fuzz.

It seems like suddenly every sidewalk and stoop is overflowing with the most beautiful mums, and the NYBG has an entire show devoted to the weird and wonderful things people can make them do. I went to the Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden Show this year and last year, and I am continually amazed at the variety and complexity of nature. Hundreds of blooms growing from a single stem, intricately layered petals that go on for days, honeycomb-like centers and the most breathtaking color gradations—just a few more reasons why fall is the fucking best.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Staten Island: Moravian Cemetery

One of JMP's requirements when she was in town was that we explore a cemetery. OH OK, IF WE MUST I said, and got to work trying to find a suitable cemetery that I hadn't been to before. She also wanted to ride the Staten Island Ferry, so I started my search in New York's most overlooked borough. I'd been to Staten Island a few times to explore Sailor's Snug Harbor, but never to a cemetery (unless you count Snug Harbor's tombstone-less potter's field).

Moravian Cemetery, the largest on Staten Island, was the ultimate winner. It's 274 years old, "often heralded as New York's most beautiful memorial site," and fairly close to the Grant City stop on the SIR. Moravian ended up completely exceeding all of my expectations and definitely shot straight to the top of my favorites list.

We spent about four hours walking through almost the entire cemetery and more than once I found myself saying "this cemetery has everything!" They had clean, convenient bathrooms when we needed them most, some of the oldest tombstones I've seen in the city (1770s), fascinating new (and incredibly gaudy) mausoleums and the largest concentration of ivy-covered tombstones I've ever seen in one place. I love, love, love a good ivy-covered anything but it adds a creep-factor to tombstones and cemeteries that is almost too much for me to handle.

A section of the cemetery houses the Vanderbilt family mausoleum, constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt and landscaped by Frederick Law Olmstead. Unfortunately the Vanderbilt section is private—I was hoping that we could at least sneak a peek at the (supposedly haunted) mausoleum, but the area is heavily wooded and guarded by a barbed-wire fence. They do offer tours that often include the Vanderbilt section so I'll definitely be coming back to test out that haunted theory for myself.

Moravian has an amazing receiving tomb (beautifully labeled as such), a hillside mausoleum with incredible views of the water, the only headstone I've ever seen with the word "bones" on it, and some of the most beautiful fall foliage I've seen all year. East coast Octobers were positively made for afternoon cemetery strolls, and the day we went was perfect fall weather—sunny, yet chilly at the same time.

Moravian also gets the distinction of having the single most disturbing gravesite I've stumbled upon in my cemetery travels thus far. JMP pointed it out to me, and I don't think I'll ever be able to forget about five-year-old Harry B. Cairns—or stop wondering how he drowned, why someone felt the need to permanently etch that grisly fact on his headstone, why the 80-year-old grave looks so fresh, or who left that super creepy and tattered fairy doll behind.

And because I don't wish to leave you on that distressing note, I give you some of the other headstones that we came across at Moravian (although, unfortunately, not right next to each other):

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coney Island: October

This weekend my friend JMP was in town from Ohio. While brainstorming potential adventures, I discovered that she'd never been to Coney Island. I confirmed that the parks were still open and when I read that they would be decorated for Halloween I knew we had to go. I've lost count of how many times I've been to Coney Island (or blogged about it) but it's just so endlessly photogenic that I find so many new and interesting things every time I go.

The biggest difference between this trip and all the others is that it's no longer summer, so Coney Island wasn't crowded. Not as desolate as I kind of expected, but a lot of the rides were sitting empty. Since the worst part about most places to me is the other people, I loved being able to get up close to the rides without having snotty kids run into my photos.

All the people that were there were in the festively-decorated Luna Park, leaving Deno's Wonder Wheel Park looking like a ghost town in comparison. Some of the rides are pretty terrifying (why does Donald Duck have Satan eyes?) but I'll always prefer the weird and old to the new and bland.

I'm not really a ride person but I did make an exception for the Spook-a-Rama, one of the few remaining "dark rides" left in the country. We paid $7 for about 45 seconds of creepy skeletons, gnarly creatures and screaming ghosts. I wish it was longer, but as with most relics of a past time—and Coney Island in general—I'm just grateful that it still exists at all.