5 Flights Up

View From Dan and Britt’s New Apartment

Earlier this week, I had republished a photo of one of the stainless-steel eagles that adorn the Chrysler Building. Coincidently, Dan texted us the above photo that shows the view from his and Britt’s new East Williamsburg apartment. It sits atop a five-floor walkup, the penthouse sort-of-speak, in a building without any taller neighbors nearby. In the picture you can see the Chrysler Building sticking up in the distance. In 1930, at over a thousand feet, it was the tallest building in the world, but by 1931 that title transferred to the Empire State Building. The much taller building in the photograph is One Vanderbilt (1400’), which only opened last fall. I bet its owners are scrambling to fill the place. Dan and Britt are going to take the month of April to move into their new place and hire movers to haul the heavy stuff up those five flights of stairs.

In their new accommodations I am reminded of a movie that I once watched called 5 Flights Up, now on Netflix. Starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman as an elderly Brooklyn couple, who are some 40 years into a loving and happy marriage. The movie’s premise it that they have decided that they are getting too old to climb those stairs. This decision plunges this couple into the dog-eat-dog world of NYC real estate, with its cast of annoying characters. In the end they decide they’re not too old yet and do not sell their apartment after all, which pisses everyone else off, but at least they’re happy.

The Dig

Sutton Hoo Helmet

A few years ago, when we visited London, we spent a day at the British Museum. After our visit I came away with the opinion that if any indigenous peoples, anywhere in the world, were ever missing any of their valuable cultural artifacts, the British Museum would good be a good place to begin looking for them. However, one of the museum’s most valued artifacts was not looted from some faraway land, but was discovered less than a hundred miles distant, in neighboring Suffolk, England. During the summer of 1939, on the eve of World War II, an amazing archeological find was made. An Angle-Saxon hoard was discovered, beneath a mound, on the country estate of Edith Pretty, nestled in the remains of a ninety-foot long boat. The most famous item from that hoard is the pictured Sutton Hoo helmet. A replica of this helmet was later fashioned by the Royal Armory that gives one a better idea of how it originally looked.

Sutton Hoo Helmet Replica

Netflix has just dropped a new movie that portrays the events of 1939 at Sutton Hoo. Called The Dig, it stars Ralph Fiennes, who plays the middleclass Basil Brown, an amateur archeologist who unearthed this treasure. Ms. Pretty held a life-long fascination for archelogy, in particular for the mounds that dotted her estate. She hired Brown to excavate them. Pictured below is a contemporary photograph of the dig. After more than a thousand years, the pictured outline of the long ship is little more than an impression in the sand, but Brown was able to uncover it and bring it once more to light.

Excavated Sutton Hoo Long Boat

The initial part of the movie covers the initial discovery of the long ship and is primarily fueled by the mystery of the unknown and the excitement involved in piercing it. After the boat is unearthed the British Museum catches wind of this find, arrives onsite and proceeds to take over things. In the movie Brown is initially pushed aside by these professionals, but an account of the events of that summer on the official Sutton Hoo website offers a more nuanced description of their relationship. It is in this portion of the movie that the hoard is found. The rivalry between the local Ipswich museum and the British museum is accurate. This conflict came to head at an inquest that held that the hoard was the property of Ms. Pretty. This rivalry became moot when Pretty decided to donate all to the British Museum. Rising above all of these petty professional jealousy’s are the twin themes of the panorama of history and an individual’s place in that picture. Set on the eve of war, these people are trying to find their place in the world.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Big breakfast, no lunch, our morning meal kept us motoring all afternoon. We walked Forest Park. Searching out its empty quarters, as best we could. The warmer weather brought out the throng. Always avian alert, in addition to the usual fowl, we spied several special species. Pictured is one of two Peregrine falcons that we saw. The other one looked immature. In addition to these sighting, we also saw a Kingfisher and a Green-winged Teal. Quite the haul.

I had brought the drone along, but did not fly it. Nothing photogenic enough presented itself. Probably a good thing, because Wiki nicknames the Peregrine the duck hawk. Just below it is where we saw the Green-winged Teal, which was hanging out with a bunch of Mallards. Smaller than the Mallards, it would be a likely target of these falcons, but if I flew, it might decide that a drone is just as good as a duck and one near miss is enough for one week.

I read today that the Trump administration has sanctioned DJI, the manufacturer of my drone. It turns out that they have been selling drones to Chinese officials, who use them to spy on the Uyghurs, as part of that government’s oppression of this minority. This will make it harder for DJI to get parts. The actual drones being used this way are a more expensive model then the one that I have, so maybe only that version will be sanctioned. Too soon to know.

For television, we watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. New on Netflix, this delightful holiday musical features an all black production, starring Forest Whitaker. Set in a fantasy Steampunk Victorian world, this movie tells the story of Jeronicus Jangle, toymaker extraordinaire. Great music accompanies fabulous production numbers and makes this heartwarming tale an instant Christmas classic, but I almost ruined it for Anne by asking her too much if she liked it. Who knew that Whitaker first trained as an opera singer?

It was too cloudy last night to observe the Great Conjunction, but today looks much better and tomorrow is the big day. Hopefully one of these two days will be clear. There is always afterwards too. The planets are not going to be moving apart that quickly after Monday. Tomorrow is also Winter solstice, for all you druids out there, the shortest day, longest night and the first day of winter.

I’m So Dizzy

Watch the above movie and it’s easy to feel dizzy. It was shot with the drone spinning above the Compton Heights Bandstand in Tower Grove Park. There is no sound, because that really would be too much. No wonder I crashed the drone soon after. I need to give Anne a major shoutout for coming up with the idea to use a tent pole from Ole Yeller. She must have remembered how long that they were from the countless times that we struggled to set up that tent. Its poles were so long that it practically required a whole high school ball field to set it up in. She was a little leery of using the rest of the tent as a giant cushion for catching the drone, because she did remember what a pain it was to setup. After a couple of years of doing those week long Michigan bike tours, we hit upon the idea of first setting up our camp chairs and sitting for a while, before tackling the tent. That idea put an end to all of the fights that we use to have. There is something to be said for taking a break after riding seventy miles.

Crashing the drone was certainly a boner, but there is no reason to dwell on it. No sense living in the past, time to look forward. Today’s boner is a real turkey though. I had ordered a turkey breast for Christmas dinner. It was supposed to be less than eight pounds. What I got was a full turkey that weighed in at twenty-two pounds. We’re going to have turkey all winter. It’s a good thing that I ordered it when I did, because it is going to take until Christmas to thaw.

We watched Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom last night. It stars Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Set in 1920s Chicago, the movie is based on a play by August Wilson. You can tell that is was first a stage play, because of the way the action flows. Almost all of the action occurs within just two rooms of a recording studio. Davis plays Ma Rainey, a blues singer with an attitude and a bit too much eye makeup. Boseman in his final role plays a young up-and-coming trumpet player with enough attitude to match Ma. It was not what I had expected, but it was a good movie. It should have featured more blues though.