A small collection of photographs of modernist architecture in Barcelona.
November 2012 Archives
"Those shoes," said the man with the white mustache,
"are good for La Rambla or Passeig de Gràcia. Not here." A few moments later, watching M. vigorously powering up the slope, he muttered to himself in Spanish.
"But she does have a good rhythm."
In truth, neither M.'s little flat shoes or my DMs were really ideal for the conditions, but after a few days of plodding around the city, we weren't going to pass up the chance to do some hiking. Moreover, the looping trail from the Monestir de Montserrat up to Sant Jeroni, the highest of the adjacent peaks, was not a very demanding hike. The steeper sections had concrete steps and the muddy patches were few and fairly far between. It wasn't much more challenging than an extended stroll in a rather unkempt park.
The scenery was rather more impressive than most parks, however. The massif of Montserrat is composed of conglomerates that weather into bizarre rounded nubs and spurs whose smooth outlines give them an almost melted appearance. The higher parts offered a spectacular view over the surrounding hills.
Our new acquaintance proved a mine of information about the area. He showed us the muddy scrapes along the edges of the trail where wild pigs had rooted for nuts. When I caught up with him at the summit of Sant Jeroni, he pointed out the via ferrata (a steel cable and a few handholds dropping nearly vertically into a cleft between two outcrops) and showed me where to look for the Pyrenees, mostly lost in a blanket of low cloud.
The wild pigs proved to be shy and all that we saw of them were the scrapes they had left in the mud. We did, however, see a pair of ravens and, most impressive of all, a distant flock of ibex. The ibex were visible only as ant-like silhouettes outlined against the sky along a ridge of rock outcrops. As we watched, they shuffled down the steep rockface, tensed for a moment and then sprang, sailing through the air in a graceful arc to land on the far side.
Montjuïc and Barceloneta
A small collection of photographs from the Montjuïc and Barceloneta neighborhoods of Barcelona, Spain.
Some photographs taken in London in late Autumn. Lots of mist, not so much mellow fruitfulness.
Manhattan from the air
My evening flight out of Newark passed over Manhattan, giving a spectacular view of the lights of Midtown.
Winter Storm Athena
The weather people, perhaps excited at their new-found celebrity, energetically started naming things that didn't previously have names, such as snowstorms. Despite the hype, Winter Storm Athena wasn't a big deal, unless you'd already been made homeless by Superstorm Sandy.
I don't generally care for the sound of my own voice, but calling my apartment from Brooklyn, where I was working, and hearing the answering machine pick up made me very happy.
I've spent the last couple of days working at a colleague's house in Brooklyn, where the power is on. My morning commute, on foot across the Manhattan Bridge, is a little longer than my usual one, but it's not a bad walk when the weather is nice. It's certainly much better than trying to go the other way on public transport: the queues in Brooklyn for the subway replacement buses running into Manhattan have been insane, stretching for blocks down Jay Street.
Power in my neighborhood was restored around four or five in the afternoon, but not all Manhattan is lit up yet. After checking on the office hamster, I walked down Broadway. Power on the west side of the street was still out, making for an odd contrast: one side of the street, brightly lit, the other dark. Cross streets on the west side of Broadway were gaping black holes.
Hurricane Sandy for us has been little more than an inconvenience. We've had a few days of washing in cold water and eating by candle light. Thanks to the kindness of friends, we were able to go out of the "dead zone" to work or shower or catch up on news. I've had to walk more than usual. And that's all.
One consequence of being without power or information (lower Manhattan was temporarily rechristened SoPo - "South of Power") during the first few days is that I've only had a worms-eye view of the whole event. I still don't know the full pattern of the damage done by the storm. The pictures coming out of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn such as Red Hook, Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay are frightening. It's clear that we got off very lightly indeed. A few days of trivial discomfort while the engineers and the emergency services rebuilt our city around us, and then life was back to pretty much normal. Other people have not been nearly so lucky.
In the blackout
Lights are beginning to appear in our neighborhood. The police have installed a generator-powered lighting mast at the intersection of Delancey and Essex, creating a splash of artificial moonlight that seems blindingly bright to eyes accustomed to the darkness. Further down, sputtering red highway flares mark the corners of streets. A few shops in the neighborhood have installed their own generators, carving out squares of light in the blackness. Elsewhere, the darkness is as absolute as ever.
The Williamsburg Bridge is lit halfway. At the Manhattan end, the bridge is unlit, but as you approach Brooklyn, the first orange lamps appear. If you turn around and look back towards Manhattan, the orange-lit walkway disappears into a black void.
The darkened bridge is crowded. Fast-moving cyclists speed out of the night. The bright blue-white points of LED flashlights reveal walkers, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. Often tight-packed groups of ten or twelve people emerge from the dark, huddled together as if for security, led by a single person holding a flashlight,.
To me, the darkness feels reassuring rather than threatening. There is a feeling of safety and intimacy about moving quietly through the dark; it is the orange light of the Brooklyn side that makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. Even with no electric light, there is ample light to see by once your eyes have adjusted. My camera may struggle with the darkness, but to the human eye, the night is rich with information and strangely beautiful. Shapes and colors are unfamiliar and dream-like.
On the bridge, a Hasidic couple, the man in shirtsleeves, his wife in her black coat, march briskly to the end of the lighted section, then turn and walk back towards Williamsburg. Another man, in black pants and waistcoat, payos flying, jogs out of the darkness, his breath clouding in the cold air. Beyond the wire mesh that runs along the walkway, the lights of Midtown sparkle in the night, hovering above the black slash of the darkened zone in the foreground.
From the walkway, I can look down onto the road. From time to time a car passes, dragging a bubble of light with it as it races towards the blackness of lower Manhattan.