The Ant and the Grasshopper

    Clocking in at half-past eight      
The ant is never ever late
No time for laughter or for play
  He scrimps and slaves his life away.  

The grasshopper basks in the sun
His work is never ever done
Yet he has time to smile and dream
And softly play a summer theme.
A red ant known as Q4AP,
Was one of a large colony,
And until he was hit
By falling bird shit
He believed in equality.

The grasshopper enjoyed leisure
And played music purely for pleasure.
As he earnt not a cent
And never paid any rent,
His wife left him for good measure.

Doggerel and image © Mirino (PW). July, 2013

The Lady

Oscar Wilde was already very much aware of the power of the media in the 19th century. His famous reference to Burke regarding journalism as being 'the fourth estate' was amusingly followed by: '(...) That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. (...)'.

When one considers that there was obviously no television or Internet in the 19th century, Oscar Wilde's appreciation of the power of the press even then, does credit to his foresight and intelligence.

Today the media have the power to undermine greatness and promote mediocrity. We have witnessed this here in France. Everything depends on what the media concerned believe to be in their interests. This power, or its abuse, also includes the exploitation of certain words and ways of thinking, either decreed as 'politically correct', or not. Indeed the politically correct seem to be persuaded that words are far more important than even the most violent actions.

I refer to this somewhat belatedly, because whilst we were in Savannah there was a certain case of such abuse which was particularly unwholesome.

Sixty-six year old Paula Deen had to struggle hard to build up what she now has. For this she is an exemplary lady. She has become a celebrity more for her impressive achievements, than for the despicable treatment she has been subject to recently. She is an excellent cook, hostess, restauratrice, authoress, actress and television personality. She has won the Emmy Award and has published several cookery books. She lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she manages The Lady & Sons restaurant together with Jamie and Bobbie Deen, sons from her first marriage.

Just to see her, without being otherwise acquainted with her, is enough to reach the conclusion that she has a positive, affectionate and spirited nature.
But certain establishments don't always encourage individual initiative and enterprise. They seem to think that the success of the individual represents a threat. They prefer the idea of mythic equality, which by extension determines an unimaginative, mediocre society. In their eyes, power and fortune should, in principle, be limited to the establishment, or- unavoidably so- to multinational corporates. So if a successful individual becomes the victim of a slur campaign, you can be sure that the establishment, as well as the multinationals, will do absolutely nothing about it.

Certain media, those who thrive on what is judged to be politically correct or incorrect, seem to have targeted Paula Deen for using what today is considered to be a rife, racially prejudiced word. What's more, she happened to commit the apparently unpardonable sin some twenty years or so ago..
Use of the 'N-word' would be acceptable if one were Afro-American. But it seems to be regarded today as a crime worse than that of charging into a bank and holding a gun to Paula Deen's head, when, several years ago, she was working in a bank. She may have committed the inexpiable by referring to the bank robber (who it would seem, deserves so much better) in such a derogatory way at that particular time.

Today words can apparently cause more serious injuries than the largest sticks and stones. Certainly not to the person the word might be addressed to, but to the person accused of having uttered the word, be it as long ago as two decades. 

Most intelligent Afro-Americans would scoff at such a dated word, shrug it off, or freely use it in self-derision, but this is not the case for the more mercenary hypocrites who believe they must act in strict accordance with what is considered politically correct. They are even free to use this as a commercial pretext in order to try to bring down the person charged with such a 'heinous crime'.

For example on the 25th June, 2013, the world's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, dropped Deen as their spokeswoman. In Keira Lombardo's noble statement on behalf of Smithfield, she affirms that Smithfield 'condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language of any kind. Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader, and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly alligned, therefore we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen'..  How upright and admirable! How Tartuffian! (One is tempted to use the adjective 'piggish', but it would be unfairly pejorative and discriminatory to pigs).

Savannah Morning News of June 28th reports 'Deen's corporate losses continue'. Target Corp. and Home Depot have cut their ties with Paula Deen. Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk was 'suspending for now' its patient-education activities with Deen. And Walmart Corp., the world's largest retailer based in Bentonville, Ark., 'announced it will place no new orders beyond their current commitments and will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements', according to a Walmart Corp., spokesmen.
Over six important companies have reacted extremely negatively because of this ridiculous, dated charge.

Would it be due to fear or hypocrisie, or both? Or do the politically correct have ulterior motives for going to such absurd and harmful extremes? It would seem so.
(By the way, the opinion: 'Cup of forgiveness' of Savannah Morning News of June 26, 2013, could do more harm than good, in my own humble opinion, because it seems to go along with the political correctness, or maybe I missed something).

Let us also refer to certain words used by the noble hearts' club. 'Discriminatory', for example. Putting aside the obvious hypocrisy, is it not the essence of discrimination to judge, sentence and condemn, perhaps even with intent to ruin, someone who deserves far better, either on hearsay, or whatever one wants to believe or call it, rather than risk the fearful possibility of getting a tiny bit splashed by a little bit of media muck?

If we were to do away with words that could be interpreted as racial or discriminatory, the printed dictionary might well end up being far more economical to produce. Whole forests could be saved.

In France the government is considering excluding the word 'race' from the French constitution. In that case, without going geo-politically too far, words such as- 'French', 'Polish', 'Russian', 'Turk', 'African', 'Dutch', 'Arab', 'German', 'Italian' and certainly 'Irish', etc., should be generally done away with as well. 'Fish', 'dog', 'cat', 'ape', 'donkey' and 'ass', of course, should go. 'Frog', 'toad', 'skunk', 'gorilla', 'snake', 'shark', 'snail', 'pig', (naturally) 'vulture', 'rat', 'hyena', 'sloth', 'crab', 'wasp', 'worm', 'louse', 'slug', 'leech', 'spider', 'cock', 'golliwog', 'black', 'white', 'yellow', 'red', etc., are also examples of discriminatory words that should be eliminated post-haste, to be replaced with the original Latin terms, if that's possible, and deemed acceptable by the deciding powers of political correctness.

The word 'nigger', (there I've written it, God forgive me) is still often found in most good dictionaries. It is in fact, a neutral term and variant of the Spanish/Portugese 'negro', or the French 'nègre'. It obviously originates from the Latin 'niger' or root 'nigrum' (black). It is now judged to be extremely pejorative and racist, without there really being any underlying reason or justification for reaching such a judgement.
Mark Twain freely used the word in his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, and to my knowledge no one, as yet, has managed to censor any of Mark Twain's books. Should they not all be thrown out of windows and burnt in the streets?
To quote Mark Twain- 'Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it'.
(Apparently the 'N-word' has been changed in some of Mark Twain's reprinted books. He would never have approved of course. The title of Joseph Conrad's 'The Nigger of the Narcissus' has been changed to 'The Children of the Sea'. And Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Niggers' has been changed to 'And Then There Were None'..).

We are, however, living at a time when one might be able to make a fortune by producing A First, Concise Politically Correct Dictionary (to be revised biannually). Although it could hardly be a thick volume, it would be a must for ambitious young journalists who wish to be included in the august retinue of the most politically correct politicians.

Text © Mirino. To whom it may concern. Please note that although I have taken the liberty of using the above photographs without first seeking permission, I hope that my using them will not be judged by those directly concerned as unfavourably negative. Naturally I will remove them should this be required. With thanks in advance for this consideration.   
Thanks also to Wikipedia for additional information. July, 2013

Views of the USA (5)

 The Yosemite, California and Sierra Nevada

A three to four hour drive from San Francisco Airport to the Yosemite.
The scenic route. When you see this valley, and stop on the way where white waterfalls constantly refresh a deep blue pool gradating to viridian, there's a little beach of white sand. In July the sand is often too hot to walk on with bare feet, but you can cool off by swimming in the pristine river, and let yourself be taken a little by the current. You would think you are in Paradise. And you are.

'Yosemite' originates from Yohhe'meti (Southern Miwok) or Yos s e'meti (Central Miwok). Yos, means 'to kill', Yos e meti therefore signifies 'those who kill'. The Miwok tribes designated this term to tribes of the Yosemite Valley whom they feared. It's said that the Miwok were more peace loving than the Yosemite tribes. But history also depends on who records it.

The Yosemite National Park has always attracted artists and photographers. I recently read an article in the summer 2013 magazine, 'National Parks',  kindly given me. It referred to Chiura Obata, a Japanese water-colour artist who moved to San Francisco in 1903 from Tokyo where he had studied art.
He fell in love with the Yosemite, and was so taken by this fabulous master-piece of Nature, (the most determining work of which spans more than ten million years) that based on what he saw and was inspired by, he accomplished what is considered to be his best work.
It's said that he combined Asian techniques with Western techniques. It's true that he applied his washes freely on rice paper, and later produced wood-blocks, but I'm inclined to believe that in his own personal way he simply painted what pleased him. Naturally the Yosemite can't be really be compared to natural Japanese landscapes, although certainly the latter has inspired many great Japanese artists over the centuries, who also immortalised the sources of their inspiration.

With Obata one also alludes to Zen philosopy, but no matter an artist's origin, sincere appreciation and respect for the unfathomable works of nature, has to englobe the essence of most philosophies, as well as a profound spiritual perception. 
But before attempting to immortalise anything, one first has to learn how to see. In 1932 Obata was employed to teach art at the University of California. The most essential aspect of his teaching was how to see and appreciate the works of nature.

In spite of the alleged ferocity of the native tribes, a reputation which curiously clashes with the beauty of the Yosemite; on seeing such magnificent landscape, it's not hard to imagine why the natives of such parts of North America, the 'Indians', as we still erroneously call them, (thanks to Christopher Columbus who preferred to pretend he had reached the East Indies rather than claim to have made the glorious discovery a great, new western continent) had such a deep respect for nature and its laws. It's not hard to appreciate why they would so closely identify themselves with this beauty, and integrally develop their culture, philosophy and deep, spiritual faith in total harmony with their environment, its wild life and its seasons. It's not difficult to understand why they, the Ahwahneechee, for example, felt they had to try to defend their land against intruders. especially the ignorant, the disrespectful and the greedy (contenders of the gold rush). Although
in the middle of the nineteenth century, European settlers and opportunists, would be far more inclined to defend the right of gold miners, than the natural, usufruct right of the native Ahwahneechee or Yosemite tribes.

Yet in spite of the ignorant and the greedy, those incapable of really appreciating any form of earthly Paradise, such beauty is conserved for posterity so that future generations can see, feel and appreciate. And this is a very comforting thought.

This is the final sketch of a vast, triangular, three week voyage in the USA. Five incomparable locations of North America.
In retrospect, being fully aware of how much more there is to see and appreciate in the USA, how much more incomparable diversity there is in this great continent, one is overwhelmed. 
No words can adequately convey this. Perhaps it can be 'effleuré' to a small extent by evoking the reminiscences of gazing across the Grande Canyon at sunset, or by admiring a majestic, eons-old mountain towering above the Yosemite Valley, the top from which flows a glittering cascade; and simply smiling.


 Visitors to the Yosemite who would like more time then we had to explore the park, could contact John and Brenda, at Fort Nip Trail, Ahwahnee. Be assured you will be very well received by them.
Text and photographs © Mirino (PW). Examples of the water-colours of Chiura Obata (1885-1975). The above Yosemite photos include two of the Yosemite Blue Jay. 
With thanks also to Wikipedia for additional information.  July, 2013

Views of the USA (4)

 San Francisco, California

A flight from Savannah to Houston, then on to San Francisco for just two days. What can one write of any interest about San Francisco, based on a visit of two days?
A family member born here would be far more qualified to highlight the changes that have taken place over the years, but this wasn't my first, brief visit.

Fisherman's Wharf is no longer as I recall it. Then, over thirty years ago, it still appeared to have the aspect of a 'fisherman's wharf', at least it was more a wharf where one could find good, unpretentious little restaurants, than what appears to be a tourist-trap corner of a mini Los Vegas, which it seems to have since become. But there's no doubt that one can still eat well here, on the terrace, watching the pigeons and seagulls, and finish the meal with an excellent cappuccino.

San Francisco will always have its own climate, its own special charm and magic, even if one has the impression that China Town has overflowed immoderately into many parts of the city.

Even if you arrive very late, and need to get whatever for the following day's breakfast, you'll find a store open. You might be served by someone as deaf as yourself, who willingly grinds down good Italian coffee for you, so that you'll enjoy real expresso to start off the following day.
Thus it seems that San Francisco never sleeps. As restless as the active faults on which this unique city was nonchalantly built.
I once read somewhere that even after an earthquake, property prices never fall in San Francisco. Even risks have their price, a sort of carefree, status value.

Yet there are parts of San Francisco, around Union Square, for example, where one sees impressive highrise buildings that seem out of place in comparison to the typical San Franciscan private residences.
I also learnt recently that after New York City, San Francisco is the most densely populated major city in the USA.

In spite of limited time, we did board a tram- indeed briefly- because the controller, a man of few words heaving his lever, told us curtly to 'move down'. Naively I wanted to pay our fares, and no doubt didn't get the message. Does one pay a fare on trams here, or do these controllers heave their levers all day long just to give tourists free joy-rides? I never found out because his curt-'move down' mutated almost immediately to a curt- 'get off', which of course we did, to everyone's amusement.

After Savannah, the much cooler temperature of San Francisco comes as a relief. It's strange how one only needs to drive east from San Francisco for perhaps even less than an hour, to find oneself in a totally different climate. It's as though in the space of such a short time, one has moved to another country. Naturally the insular climate is also characteristic of San Francisco, and part of its intrinsic charm.

So there will always be the mists over Alcatraz, or half shrouding the Golden Gate Bridge and even the Coit Tower. It will always be a favourite cosmopolitan city, with its Lombard Street and Larkin Street that invariably bring to mind Steve McQueen's legendary Bullitt, and not only for old nostalgics.
Text and photographs © Mirino (PW) July 2013

Views of the USA (3)


Savannah, Georgia

A surprisingly comfortable twelve hour train journey to Savannah, Georgia, care of Amtrak, with a warm family welcome to greet us on arrival.

US patriotism is quite manifest here, where we were also kindly invited to a concert of the 'Savannah Winds' on 'Patriotic Day', the annual celebration of American independence, which took place on Sunday the 30th June, as the 4th July falls on a week day this year. The concert hall was full of fervent flag wavers, including a few Afro-Americans, expressing their community spirit and national pride quite naturally. And once more one's mind drifts to Europe, the nations of which still seem to continue to nurture their differences rather than any real pride of being an integral part of the old continent. Many Europeans tend to correlate patriotism with politics.

What continental Europeans do have in common, is an extraordinary wealth of history, but sometimes it seems to be treated more with irony and cynicism, than with any real pride. European history naturally includes centuries of wars and revolutions. Certain European nations still have to come to terms more honestly with their past, and this is not an allusion to Germany, one of the few nations of the world that has properly assumed this, to its honour and credit.

I had no idea that an early English explorer and military leader, General James Oglethorpe, successfully negotiated with Tomochichi, chief of the Indian tribe of the Yamacraw, to permit English settlers to start building the town of Savannah. Then, even in 1733, on reaching this haven of enormous, old oaks embellished with Spanish moss, Oglethorpe knew that he and the English settlers must first negotiate with the neighbouring Indians, the Creeks, in order to succeed in their projects.

Mediation between Tomochichi and Oglethorpe was facilitated by a certain Mary Musgrove who served as interpreter. She was born of a Creek mother and English father.
Tomochichi was a visionary who saw an opportunity for his people to step into the future. His aspirations, wisdom, generosity and tolerance, plus the desire to develop trade interests and education, encouraged him to allow the English settlers to establish Savannah, one of the first important American towns in American history as we know it.

Oglethorpe and Tomochichi became life-long friends. The Indian even accompanied Oglethorpe to England in 1734. Tomochichi then had the honour of meeting King George II at Kensington Palace, and as a token of peace, gave him a gift of eagle's feathers.
Tomochichi wanted to found an Indian school in Irene (1736) and was delighted to obtain the support of one of Oglethorpe's colleagues, Ingham, who enabled this wish to become a reality.

The old Indian chief died in his nineties (October, 1739). The colony gave him a public funeral, and with James Oglethorpe he remains to this day, deservedly commemorated.
Tomochichi's original memorial however, was callously destroyed in 1883 when another monument celebrating the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad, William Gordon, was built directly upon its emplacement. Even Gordon's own daughter-in-law, Nellie Gordon was outraged by this insult, and insisted that Tomochichi's memorial be restablished. This was carried out and his Memorial in Savannah is appropriately represented by an enormous, granite boulder.

Such an example of eighteenth century wisdom, vision and tolerance, might make one ponder on the many examples of myopic narrow-mindedness, intolerance and ignorance apparent in more recent history, including our own epoch.

The Hutchinson Island ferry that crosses Savannah River is toll free, (as is the Staten Island ferry in New York City from where one can get good views of the Statue of Liberty and the new, 'One World Trade Center'). It takes you to the majestic Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. From this plush and sedate side of the river one has an excellent view of the opposite bank. More popular and touristic, the old town riverside has a lot of cosmopolitan, carefree charm.

The old town of Savannah is beautifully laid out. It prides fine examples of colonial Georgian architecture. The more secluded residences appear to be in natural harmony with the massive surrounding oaks, some five or six centuries old, majestically trailing their Spanish moss, as if the ancient trees too continue to generously receive the settlers, shading and protecting them peacefully and affectionately for posterity.

With 'courage, character and patriotism' in mind, I should also make a special mention of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, which is not, as its title might suggest, limited to the American AF effort during the Second World War and the Japanese War. 
The Mighty Eighth Air Force was established in Savannah in 1942 before being based in England from where it greatly contributed to the allied effort against Nazi Germany.
The museum in Pooler, just east of Savannah, presents the whole episode of Anglo-American co-operation, the London blitz, a reconstruction of a Belgian room of the epoch- referring to the risks taken by certain Belgians and French who hid allied pilots whose aircraft had been shot down.
The museum even relates a moving example of German Luftwaffe chivalry during the war, when a Messaschmitt escorted a badly damaged American bomber. Seeing that the crew were in a sorry state, the German pilot allowed the bomber to fly on home to safety. Apparently the bomber pilot and the
Messaschmitt pilot met later on in this particular museum.
Everything, including weapons, personal uniforms and authentic war posters, is presented in a highly objective, and commendable way. It brings it all back also with some very interesting film footage taken during the war. It even houses the restored 'Memphis Belle', the famous B-17 that completed twenty-five combat missions, and always managed to return home. A museum
well worth visiting. 

Text and photographs © Mirino (PW). Top- The Wormsloe Plantation entry avenue of oaks. Second- A morning view at low tide. Third- A visiting Red-tailed Hawk. Fourth- A famous old oak of about 600 years old. Fifth- The Savannah River. Sixth- A classical example of the colonial styled architecture of Savannah. Seventh- Evening seascape, Tybee beach, not far from Savannah. 
(With special thanks to S & B for their kind attention and hospitality).   July, 2013

Views of the USA (2)

Washington DC

Il se peut que certains, surtout américains, soient un peu irrités par un étranger qui prétend pouvoir écrire quelque chose de valable sur les Etats Unis, seulement après une visite brève de trois semaines. Ils auraient raison d'être agacés, car personne n'est capable de mettre en valeur ainsi un si grand pays, sans y avoir vécu véritablement, au moins pour quelques années.
Mais l'objectif de ce petit hommage n'est pas d'informer comme s'il était un carnet de voyage. Il s'agit d'essayer de donner un croquis d'un trajet triangulaire, y intégrant quand même certaines informations, mais surtout en y ajoutant des
expériences, des impressions, des sentiments, des opinions et des vues (aussi en images) personnels. 
A mon humble avis le monde, et certainement l'Europe, ont toujours beaucoup à apprendre de positif des Etats Unis. 

If you go to Washington DC, and see the monuments there, you won't find party politics. If you go to the Air and Space Museum, or the Freer gallery in the Mall, (founded by autodidact Charles Lang Freer) you won't find party politics.

And what a contrast in relation to bubbling, busy, ever-evolving, sky-defying New York City! A good contrast, for in sedate and stable Washington DC one naturally steps back and takes time to reflect on the past. One pays one's respects to the fallen and the great, objectively, devoid of any political consideration, in keeping with the principles of a real democracy.

By the Vietnam Memorial there were two or three veterans kind enough to allow themselves to be photographed. I asked one how he felt, if he still harboured negative sentiments, feeling immediately stupid for asking such a question. But he seemed to understand. He just shook his head and quietly said 'no'. Then I blurted out my diehard conviction that 'there's a reason for everything,' to which he replied, this time totally convincing me that he understood, 'yes, there is, but you only find that out later', which I thought was an admirable example of wisdom, humility and strength. The sober truth coming from an old soldier who has been to hell, but was strong enough to return intact, having managed to survive the horror of it all.

It was a pleasure to return to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. I visited this museum for the first time many years ago. Obviously a great deal of technological progress has been made since then, especially regarding electronics, digital technology and image resolution in all fields. But after so many years, when once more I saw the film 'To Fly', produced in 1976 and directed by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray- who also assisted in writing the script- I saw with pleasure that it was just as fresh as when I first saw it. Imagine then what an impact it made in the seventies and eighties, because for its time it's technically brilliant, and will always remain æsthetically moving and poetical. The essence of all masterpieces.

There were many other new additions in the museum, including an enormous Google world that by means of a console you can turn, zoom down into any country, to even follow its roads and guage its landscapes. Eventually they will be able to zoom down to the image of Earth from images of the outer solar-system, to live traffic, individual houses, gardens, children in playgrounds, blades of grass bending in the breeze, etc.
Yet technology also depends on necessity. When I was young it was thought that by the year 2000 everyone would have their own private means 'to fly', and defy gravity.
Flight evolution from the Wright Brothers' kite-like flying machine to the jet fighter only took forty years, but had there not been the necessity, determined by two World Wars, it would have taken far longer. No doubt the same applies to energy. Whilst there's fossil energy and the world's economy depends on it, evolves around it, even our so called 'ecologists' will go along with the idea that there's no urgent necessity to abandon it in favour of electronic power. But this certainly won't always be the case. It also stands to reason that necessity will eventually solve the nuclear energy problems, but I'm digressing, up in the clouds drifting away in my own private balloon, dreamily looking down on 'Google Earth'.

The monuments in Washington do credit to their creators perhaps just as much as they do to those they are commemorating. The Martin Luther King Memorial is a fine example, as is of course the equally timeless Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.

Washington appears to be a clean white city for calm, moderate reflection. It's peaceful and respectful, but it's also the Capital where world important and determining decisions are made. There in the White House, obviously one is duty bound to apply national and international politics.

Yet patriotism in the USA is generally apolitical, and most Americans are patriotic whatever their origin. In many parts of Europe and certainly in France, one would be considered virtually a fascist if one dared show such patriotic zeal. Indeed it seems that we Europeans have hang-ups, or as they say in France, on est coincé. And it's true.

As it is in the USA, it should also be considered a privilege to become nationalised in a European country, so why shouldn't those who wish to do so, make a solemn commitment in return for this privilege? Yet such a suggestion would be regarded as scandalous by the 'politically correct', and one is left wondering where our values have gone, where are the solid, democratic principles that our forefathers fought and died for?
Text and photographs © Mirino (PW). Fine top photograph of the Jefferson Memorial, by Joe Ravi, with many thanks. The Capitol. Portrait of Charles Freer (founder of the Freer Gallery) by Whistler. The Vietnam Memorial. The Martin Luther King Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial. The White House.   With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons.  July, 2013

Views of the USA

New York City

The following notes were made during a three week visit to the USA, to be published in three or four parts.

Pour un Européen les Etats Unis semblent avancer toujours progressivement á cause de la solidarité et l'unité des américains, car malgré leurs origines différentes en culture et religion, ils partagent cette solidarité et ce patriotisme inébranlable- sans aucune connotation politique- avec fierté. C'est une partie essentielle de la force et de la richesse des États Unis, et ce qui différencie les américains des européens. Ces derniers, par contre, semblent vouloir se tirer chacun de son côté selon ses propres intérêts, determinés par sa caractéristique nationale, ainsi que son histoire par rapport avec ses voisins européens.


On the bus taking us from New York City to Washington DC, trying to gather some thoughts and retain certain feelings. For example I didn't know that reference to 'Ground Zero' is no longer considered acceptable, but this is quite understandable. And I never knew that the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan had in fact been replaced, not as a monument of course, but as a beautifully designed tower that is as functional (if not even more so) as were the Twin Towers. Why? Simply because New York City has to have its world commercial centre.

The memorial is there of course, way down below, the exact emplacements and base dimensions (footprints) of the twin towers,  4,000 square metres (one acre) each. On the inclined, surrounding, bronze border encasements one can read the inscribed names of the many victims (2977).
Water streams constantly down all the interior granite covered walls before pouring into smaller central squares.

It was designed by Michael Arad of Handel Architects. He worked with Peter Walker and Partners (landscape architects based in New York and San Francisco) presenting an idea of a wooded (Swamp white oaks) garden with the two square pools thirty feet below ground level. Arad's design was the winning project of an international competition. Eight finalists were chosen by a jury of thirteen members including Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, and the Deputy Mayor, Patricia Harris. As many as 5, 201 designs were proposed from 63 nations.
Additionally the idea of the water-falls of the National September 11 Memorial, 'Reflecting Absence', would be that their constant sound would subdue the surrounding city noises, and thus create a fitting sanctuary for solemn reflection.
On each anniversary, the sky is lit with incredibly high, towering shafts of light that are perhaps projected from the centre wells. The 9/11 Memorial is beautifully symbolic. As peaceful and as moving as it should be. 

But life, and business goes on, as always.
The new tower is beautiful. Apparently there was no great inauguration fanfare, otherwise even I would have heard about it. It was designed and built superbly, as a fully functional World Financial Center, (one sometimes avoids the use of the shorter word, no doubt out of respect, but the 'One World Trade Center' is often the term used instead of the over symbolic and poignant first choice of 'Freedom Tower'). It was designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. It's said that the functional name is preferred because it's 'easier for people to identify with,' and that's it.

But there are always the blasé or cynical european journalists, including one who wrote for the Telegraph, even before the completion of the building, who have nothing good to write about it. Perhaps they lack a sense of æsthetics, or just plain sense, or maybe they are simply being mean-minded.

I am certainly one of its admirers. The tower could also be interpreted as a suitable major finger gesture, the highest and most penetrating gesture in the western world. A direct sign to the poor, rabid dogs still conditioned to believe that they can improve the world by trying to destroy dreams, aspirations and democracy, substituting them with nightmares, terror and totalitarianism, and all with God's casual approval. But not even the devil would approve, yet it's highly evident that God already approves of the new 'One World Trade Center.'
As part of the Memorial there is a touching detail, the only tree that survived the terrible destruction, a Callery Pear, has its special place. After the attack it was discovered, broken, uprooted, covered with rubble and dust, but one branch was found to be still alive. It was lovingly nursed back to health by tree specialists, so the little tree's incredible survival represents undying hope.

In New York one is always overawed by the size of everything. The sky's the limit and nothing is impossible. There is also a natural community friendliness of most people of all origins, who of course, are all 'Newyorkers'. Friendliness and helpfulness which, let's face it, you don't find as often as you would like to in Europe. For example, we needed to be informed that we had been walking several blocks in the wrong direction to reach a specific subway, and as I approached someone to obtain this urgent information, (an Afro-American in fact, if any other term or allusion is now considered politically incorrect, but that's another subject I'll get round to dealing with soon) I discovered, too late with my myopic eyes, that he was engaged in a telephone conversation. I immediately whispered an apology and was about to back off discretely, when, for my benefit he stopped short his conversation, and politely asked me if he could be of any help. Such a gesture of kindness and consideration would be unheard of in Europe, but maybe one should refrain from trying to make such comparisons, even though it's natural to do so.

Nevertheless it occurred to me that Europeans 'don't dare', whereas for Newyorkers, and maybe Americans in general, nothing is impossible. You see this just from the architecture, and not necessarily relatively recent high-rising creations. Even world famous, monumental edifices built long ago like the Grand Central, or the beautiful Chrysler building, and obviously the Empire State Building, if not the very first skyscraper ever built in New York. There are other high rise buildings that are also exceptional such as the Woolworth Building (above), a sort of Gothic skyscraper with stunningly beautiful Art Deco interior decoration where no casual visitors are allowed to take pictures (as I sadly found out).

George A. Fuller (1851-1900) is famed for having 'invented' the skyscraper. He solved the problems of 'load bearing capacities' of tall buildings. One of his works was the 'Tacoma Building' (1889). It was the first example of its kind, the walls of which were not built to bear the weight of the building. Bessemer steel beams and cages supported the load, and this was the precedent 'keystone' for such buildings. The 'Flatiron Building' (Broadway and 23rd) is another example of one of New York's first skyscrapers. It was built by Daniel H. Burnham, the chief architect of Fuller's building company.

But New York City, like other prestigious North American cities, attracts the very best, because there's always a demand and competition for the very best.

In Chelsea and lower Manhattan the areas that were previously seedy and run down are now becoming increasingly fashionable due to massive investment from the municipality. Not by pulling down the old to replace it with the new, but by imaginatively marrying the old with the new in a highly æsthetic way. Thus all that is of historic value is not only retained, it's restored, highlighted and enhanced by new, tasteful additions. There's a beautiful old iron railway bridge near Chelsea market that has also been restored. I have just learnt that it's called The Highline, and that it runs from 35th street down past 14th Street. Although no longer in use, the rails are still left discretely embedded as a reminder, but now the bridge is part of a much used pedestrian path and access to the market area. It's embellished with stylish, appropriate sculptures and flower gardens. This reminded me of the dock-land conservation and renovation carried out in London in a similar vein, respecting the historic past and renovating it in an agreeable and convivial way that Londoners can also identify with.

This investment and call for real architectural talent has had an enormous effect. Young architects from all over are only too eager to accept the challenge and compete for the honour and privilege, which is also what it's all about. What it isn't about is politics, which is also generally apparent in the USA.

There's no trace of politics in beautiful Central Park, of course, with its natural forest and impressive rock formation, or in it's peaceful and exquisite Conservatory Garden. You won't find politics in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which in my humble opinion, must be one of the very best, if not the best museum of its kind in the world.

If you ever have the chance to go to a Gospel in New York City, let's say in the 'First Corinthian Baptist Church' in Manhattan, and you see the elegant hand waving, the tears, the trances, and the handing out of tissues and fans. And you hear the music, the drummer encased in a transparent booth to mute the beat, or the 'beast'. You hear the clapping and the loud and fervent singing, then the energetic, constant flow of words of the sermon made by a magnificent lady of a certain age. A sermon that is full of metaphors and simple truth. And you feel that community spirit. Whatever your nationality or 'colour', you are made to feel welcome and you will be hugged by the people near you and you will be invited to hold hands and unite. Where in Europe can you find such a willing, multiracial, community spirit of togetherness? 


As a rare postscript to this first 'View' of New York City, I've been sent an entry to a diary faithfully kept at a certain period of her life by an Italian member of the family, under the title 'My Trip Abroad'. Her mother took her to emigrate to the USA the same year she was born, in 1906. She was a beautiful girl in her twenties when she began writing her diary of her travels, especially of those in Italy. It includes the following, unchanged note on New York City. It's dated March 11, 1927. As such it's a personal and valuable historical reference. My sincere thanks to RP for confiding this to me.

'Had breakfast at The Golden Pheasant, very nice. Took a streetcar on Broadway and got off at the Woolworth Building; the highest in the world. It sure is a beautiful structure, being 54 stories to the tower and 4 stories to the top of the tower. We bought tickets to go to the tower, and believe me when one gets to the top it sure is a relief; those elevators sure are fast, (all operated by women).  When I got to the top and looked over the city I sure felt dizzy but it is a wonderful sight and well worth the price to see. Looking out from the tower I saw the Statue of Liberty, The Pennsylvania Hotel, Telephone and Telegraph Building, Metropolitan Life Inc., City Hall, mayors residence. Ellis Island, Government Island, Hudson River, East River, and across the Hudson is New Jersey. From the tower I saw the famous clock on the Colgate Building in New Jersey; it weighs about 6 tons and 60 men can stand on its hands. All this was a remarkable sight from the tower. I will never forget it. I also visited the Aquarium on Battery St. There are many different varieties of fish here (the horse fish, a very funny fish). Then I walked along the waterfront, viewed some of the piers; everything on this street is done in a rush. I then took the car and came back on Broadway then walked to the hotel and slept 'till 6:30, had supper and walked down Broadway to see the "bright lights".
    The Great White Way is quite proper for Broadway (electric lights). Went to the Paramount Theater. This is a beautiful building, not quite completed. The Grand Lobby of the theater is lined with Italian marble, imported from Italy at a cost of over half a million dollars. The Grand Lobby is 5 stories high, the ceiling is all heavily painted representing "The Spirit of Life". About eight crystal chandeliers hanging.
This is one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever seen. Walked further on down Broadway, saw all the playhouses, getting tired so I came back to the hotel.. Seen more today than ever before.'
Text and photographs © Mirino (PW) with the exception of the night scene of the 11/9 memorial anniversary, with thanks for this use. Many thanks to J for her kind and generous hospitality (and information), and to Tomas, for his gentillesse et expert guidance.
Thanks to Wikipedia for all additional information. July, 3013