My biggest week

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Trumpeter Swans at sunrise, Maumee Bay State Park

The Biggest Week in American Birding takes place each year in the flat, marshy expanses of northwest Ohio. That’s where I grew up, where I fell hard for a singing house wren, and where millions of birds and I return each May – the birds as a quick stop on the way to their summer breeding grounds, me for Mother’s Day.

Until very recently, I was unaware that the Biggest Week in American Birding was going on during those May visits. I’d bird from the back deck of my parents’ house, which was gradually falling apart around them, or in nearby parks. Occasionally I’d meet warbler aficionados who’d traveled long distances to look at birds in the Toledo area. That surprised me a little; it surprised my parents even more. “They must have meant Oregon, Ohio,” my mother stated decisively of the Oregon couple I’d met at Sidecut Metropark and was describing to her. “Not the state of Oregon. Why would anyone come here from there?” Continue reading

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Brooklyn vs Portland

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We surrender

Okay, Portland, Maine: you and your wood-roasted beans win the  hipster coffee throw-down.

You place well in the doughnut competition, too, with your potato-based Holy Donut (especially the maple-glazed ones, with or without bacon). Continue reading

Race report: the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half (May 18, 2019)

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The Brooklyn Half memorializes its entrants

Ah, the Brooklyn Half! This used to be my favorite race, an un-ironic celebration of all things Brooklyn. Then it became my favorite race as an ironic celebration of a very specific Brooklyn, the Brooklyn of curated food trucks, craft beer, and made-for-Instagram photo ops.

So what happened this year? My lack of excitement was matched only by my lack of preparation. I was running, because, well, that’s what I do – but honestly, I would really have rather spent the morning birding.

In the end, I did a bit of both. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: migrations

458ECDBE-EC23-4B77-9D3D-4735D6D62419I’m in northwest Ohio this week for the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” returning to the streets and landscapes of my childhood to watch thousands of birds make their own journey north. I’ll have more to say about my trip in a post-to-come.

In the meantime, here’s a series of poignant, hopeful murals that make the connection between the migrations of birds and people. They’ve adorned the exterior of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park for years now, and while time has worn and faded them, they’re still beautiful.

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Street art Sunday: Brooklyn at work

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A proud Sunset Park machine shop

In honor of May Day, also know as International Workers’ Day, coming up on Wednesday: images of work and workers from around the borough.

The first couple of examples aren’t street art proper, but I love them anyway. The gears and fasteners at the top of the post aren’t retro, or ironic, or historical: they decorate the walls of a small machine shop on the northern edge of Sunset Park. I choose to believe that one of the workers there – a skilled painter as well as a machinist – suggested festooning the outside walls with images of precision tools and quality products. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: Red Hook

IMG_5736 (2)Red Hook has long been one of my favorite running destinations. When Eric and I were first together, and I was using my visits to explore Brooklyn, Red Hook seemed to me like the quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood: low-rise, industrial, unpretentious, tight-knit, nautical.

Once I moved here for good, I decided that I loved it because those same attributes reminded me of Detroit.

It’s also a great neighborhood for street art, and over the years, I’ve compiled quite a gallery of snapshots taken on the run. Some of the works still exist in more-or-less their original state, some have gone the way of the old Revere sugar refinery, and some are weathered and tagged-up (kind of like me).

A sampling follows. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: self-referential irony

IMG_5760 (Edited)Today’s look at Brooklyn street art focuses on street art that’s not only aware of itself as street art, it demands that you be aware of it, too.

Like this late, great piece in Gowanus, dripping with irony as well as gold.

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Then there’s this contribution, which can still be seen in Bed Stuy.

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And this from Bushwick, with extra irony courtesy of a passerby.

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But my hands-down favorite is the piece at the top of this post, found in Sunset Park. I like the fact that there’s nothing ironic about it. It’s clever, sure, but it’s cleverness that celebrates creativity, not the other way around.